Sunday, March 22, 2009

Yogi Bear – Slumber Party Smarty

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Mike Lah (uncredited); Layout – Bick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Narrator, Yogi – Daws Butler; Biddy Buddy – Red Coffey.
Released: October 9, 1958.
Plot: Yogi lets a guilt-inducing little blue duck stay in his cave while he hibernates. He regrets it and “flies” south for the winter.

Does anybody like Yakky Doodle? Really? I mean anybody besides Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.

Maybe they had duck envy after watching Donald at Disney and said “Hey, we need one of those! But let’s make his design cuter.” But while Donald is an annoying jerk most of the time (which makes him funny), the duck that Hanna and Barbera put in seven Tom and Jerry shorts is just annoying. And instead of leaving him behind at M.G.M., they brought him along, stuck him in this cartoon and called him “Biddy Buddy.” If that wasn’t bad enough, they shoved him in a few other cartoons before giving him his own new series and a new name. And a new voice.

Biddy is played by Red Coffey, who provided a duck voice for eight M.G.M. cartoons. He was a comic hired in July 1953 to replace Hank Penny on The Dude Martin Show on KTTV in Los Angeles. In 1960, Coffey was picked by Olsen and Johnson to appear in a road-show version of their hit Hellzapoppin’ and eventually took over for Chic Johnson, who became sick. It seems probable that because of the tour, he was unable to voice Yakky so Jimmy Weldon, who played a duck puppet on his TV children’s show, was hired. Coffey received a credit in the Loopy De Loop cartoon This is My Lucky Day, but his name is spelled differently; he changed spellings during his career.

Regardless of who voiced him or which cartoon he’s in, the duck is easily the most grating and unsympathetic of all early Hanna-Barbera characters. This isn’t a knock at either Mr. Coffey or Mr. Weldon, whose version of the duck eventually became less pitiable and more of an innocent but hyper type. Both are fine voice artists. It’s just I like my ducks funny (like fooling Porky by having his poker buddies pretend to be his kids), not needy (like yelling “Help! Chopper!” every couple of minutes).

Our cartoon opens, as do many early H-B cartoons, with a camera pan and a narrator. This time, the pan is down a snow-covered mountain that stops on Yogi’s cave, with Daws Butler providing a calm, quiet voice. Quiet? Why not? After all, it’s hibernation time, and Yogi is getting ready to sleep. The speckled background to the right can be found in a bunch of early H-B cartoons and I’d like to know if Monty Montealegre used a roller. Yogi still has a light brown colour around the eyes and engages in more Shows-penned rhyming dialogue, such as “I’m going to hit the hay until next May, hey.”

The blue-feathered fowl knocks at Yogi’s door (why do caves have doors?) and because he’s so small, the bear can’t see him. When Biddy pipes up, Yogi does a scare-take and borrows a line from radio comedian Joe Penner: “Don’t ever do-ooo that!” Biddy asks to stay, Yogi says no, and then the bird goes into his pity routine, whinging about the cold and how he might die outside (adding in some sudden sneezes for good measure) and how Yogi doesn’t care about him. Some characters could make this funny or sympathetic. Biddy (and the later Yakky) isn’t one of them. However, the bear gives in to the guilt-trip act and lets him stay.

Yogi should have taken his own “Don’t ever do-ooo that!” advice. The duck’s just a pain. He won’t shut up. However, he can walk in mid-air, in some of the lamest animation in an H-B cartoon. Here, he just strolls across the screen, as if that’s how someone would walk across some pillows. But then we get a funny take when the blabbermouth bird tries to wake Yogi and complain about the snoring.



Biddy takes up Yogi’s bed space and the bear lands on the floor. Here, and in a few other spots, Yogi looks more like he does when Mike Lah draws him. The blanket has somehow become more pink than before. My favourite take is next when the duck is choked by the drawer-bed that opens and closes because of Yogi’s vacuum-like snoring. Now that’s funny! Unfortunately, the drawer gets sucked out and ends up around Yogi’s head.



Not only is the duck whiny, grating, unsympathetic, and deserved of a painful death, he’s also incredibly stupid. He is staying at a bear’s home. But then he sees a bear in the home, fires a rifle a bunch of times at it, then goes to tell a bear (Yogi) he shot a bear. Say what? And can someone explain why everyone in cartoons sleepwalks with their arms out like those dead people in Plan Nine From Outer Space?



The never-satisfied freeloader complains about the cold cave, so he chops some wood to build a fire. Yes, I know the duck said it was too cold for him outside, but... After Yogi loses his mouth during an aside to the audience, he tries to get some sleep, but recycled wincing animation reveals he can’t because of the chopping racket. He goes outside to get the duck to (get ready to groan) CUT it out but gets hit by a tree and an unanimated cell of Yogi slides down into the snow (Hey, at least I didn’t say he “fowled” things up).

The bear’s had enough, but instead of kicking out the duck, he uses an inner tube tied to a tree to launch himself into the sky. Biddy innocently remarks to the viewer that he didn’t know bears went south for the winter, in some jerky pose-to-pose animation. Hey, the blanket’s back to its original colour! The iris brings welcome relief as Biddy has vanished from our TV sets, only to return in Duck in Luck where the begging bird confounds yours truly, Yowp, in my second cartoon.



All the music is from the Capitol Hi-Q library; there's nothing by Jack Shaindlin from the Langlois Filmusic discs for a change. Bill Loose (or was it John Seely?) gave the waltz you hear the original name of ‘Waltz’ (it’s BMI Work #4597771 for those keeping track). It’s also heard in High Fly Guy with the baby eagle and Yogi. Frankly, I think ‘Baby Eagle Waltz’ is a better name for the tune. This cartoon is another one that ends with the sound guy fading out Geordie Hormel’s ‘Fast Movement’ in mid-cut. Coincidentally, that’s the tune which starts Duck in Luck.


0:00 - Yogi opening theme (Hanna-Barbera-Hoyt Curtin).
0:26 - TC 204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Yogi gets set for bed; Duck asks to stay.
1:43 - TC 302 WALTZ (Loose-Seely) - Yogi gives in after kicking out sneezing duck; Duck yells in Yogi’s ear.
3:03 - TC 203 WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Duck hogs bed; Yogi falls out.
4:00 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) - Yogi’s snoring sucks out drawer with duck; Duck shoots bear “prowler.”
5:03 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) - Duck chops tree.
6:08 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) - Tree falls on Yogi.
6:18 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) - Yogi flies south for winter.
7:10 - Yogi closing theme (Curtin).

6 comments:

  1. So the "duck getting kicked out, but then invited" is TC-300 "waltz" {Seely-Loose?] I knew the others..and you're right, it was used in "High Fly GBuy".


    -Steve C.

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  2. Dodsworth,

    There's a part of this episode which was animated by Michael Lah (which seems more Tex Avery-esque).

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  3. Rodinei, in watching this again, it looks like the whole thing was done by Lah, despite the credit to Marshall.

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  4. Correction to my first post: I meant 302, not 300..

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  5. Regarding your question.
    I do. I love Yakky Doodle.
    Always have.
    Had Yakky on my wall as a kid

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  6. Heh, I'd like to see a music video of Yakky Doodle performing Disco Duck! (Ken Pruitt's duck voice sounds a lot like Red Coffeys' duck voice too.)

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