Saturday, April 25, 2009

Yogi Bear—The Buzzin’ Bruin

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Bick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Yogi, Joe - Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Bill - Don Messick.
Released: December 25, 1958.
Plot: Yogi takes the rangers’ helicopter for a ride. The rangers try to get him down but an empty fuel tank performs that task.

Don’t let the title of this cartoon fool you. The star isn’t Yogi Bear. The star is Carlo Vinci.

I’ve really grown to appreciate Carlo’s work in watching these first season cartoons on The Huckleberry Hound Show. Hanna-Barbera cartoons are decried for being static, uninteresting and ugly. And they became that way. But here, in the early days, the artists are still playing around with the concept of limited animation, and Carlo consistently comes up with something worth watching.

Here’s a good example. Look what Carlo does with the hands of the rangers here. He tosses in little poses like that amongst the cut-down animation. It adds to the characterisation. By the way, this being a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, the rangers are appropriately named Joe and Bill. Don Messick uses his Ranger Smith voice for Bill (Ranger Smith had not been invented yet).

Carlo gives Boo Boo his greatest acting job here. You’d never find this sort of thing in, say, a Dick Dastardly cartoon, which was carried by the sound track. The cartoon opens with Bill landing the chopper and the previously-resting Yogi and Boo Boo going to investigate. Yogi tells Boo Boo to “unlax” when the little bear warns him not to fiddle with the controls. Yogi does it anyway and accidentally heads into the sky.

Boo Boo does a leap take, dances around, then falls to his knees as he pleads with Yogi not to get out of the airborne copter. Just great stuff. You wouldn’t even find this in a Quick Draw cartoon.




Yogi, naturally, ignores Boo Boo and walks out, saving himself by holding onto one of the wheels as the chopper rises in a nice little perspective shot. Note the turned-up fir trees that Monty liked to use in his Yogi backgrounds.

Yogi zips back into the copter in one of those stretches that Carlo liked to do. One of the rangers does the same thing later in the cartoon (see below). Usually, the character turns into a thin tube but here Yogi has flipper feet sticking out.

So the rangers spend the rest of the cartoon trying to explain to Yogi how to land the chopper amidst a series of rotor-slicing gags. Here’s a bit of easy footage. The yellow and black trails aren’t animated like you’d get in a theatrical short. This is one of a number of places where there’s cycle animation of the rotor moving while the rest of the chopper is stationary in front of a moving background.

Charlie Shows tries a running gag in this one where Boo Boo asks Yogi if he can have his pogo stick after he dies in the inevitable chopper crash. Here’s Yogi’s take the first time we hear the gag.

Yogi crashes into the trees, shaves the top of the hats off the rangers (the hats stay that way the rest of the cartoon), slices the ranger station in half and does the same to some trees. Not too many yucks here, Charlie. Is Mike Maltese available yet?



Ranger Joe tries to bring down the chopper with a lasso, but ends up getting sandwiched in one of those sliced trees. Shows gets in a cute bit here. The ranger says to the audience “Just call me Shorty.” So, in the next scene, the other ranger calls him ‘Shorty.’



We get more slicing gags—first, the rangers’ jeep (with an inexplicable water-drop sound effect when the jeep falls apart), then the feathers off a vulture (who doesn’t notice), then Yogi bores through a mountain to avoid a train in the tunnel that runs through it.

One bit of odd animation is here as the rangers comment on the action. You can see Joe (the one on the right) open and close his mouth a couple of times. But he doesn’t say anything. And following a 1950s design standard set by Gerald McBoing Boing’s father, the rangers have the same shape as a cigarette.

Our final rotor gag is when Yogi carves his visage on a nearby mountain instead of crashing into it. Now we have the climax when the chopper runs out of gas and starts to stall. Yogi bails. There’s another cute bit of Vinci animation when Yogi jumps outside and halts in mid-air when the rangers remind him to get his parachute. All of his body stops—except his butt. It carries on for a little bit then snaps back into position. It’s a quick bit of squash-and-stretch but it adds to the scene.

Carlo then adds one of those vibrating scare takes you find in a lot of these early cartoons where two poses are drawn and alternated in a cycle to simulate movement.



The final gag is one I still don’t get. The rangers shout at Yogi to pull the rip-cord. He doesn’t. He thuds to the ground. Boo Boo walks up to him and tells him to pull the cord. He does. What?! That’s supposed to be funny? How? In any event, some animation is saved as the cell with the rigid chute slides down for some frames before finally collapsing on top of our hero to end the cartoon.

As for the music, the sound-cutter went for a bunch of repeats. And, unfortunately, the DVD version of this cartoon only has a truncated opening theme (and no credits).


0:00 – Yogi opening theme (Hanna-Barbera-Shows-Hoyt Curtin).
0:16 – TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Bill Loose-John Seely) - Ranger lands helicopter; Yogi gets in.
1:11 – L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) - Copter takes off.
2:20 – F-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Jack Shaindlin) - Yogi buzzes past rangers; slices trees and ranger station; ranger lassos chopper.
3:54 – F-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Copter slices jeep; buzz-cuts buzzard.
4:32 – L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) - Copter in railway tunnel.
5:25 – L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) - Copter bores through tunnel; carves Yogi picture.
5:56 – TC 219A CHASE MEDIUM (Loose-Seely) - Yogi jumps from copter.
6:49 – YOGI THEME (Curtin) - Yogi finally pulls ripcord.
6:58 – Yogi closing theme (Curtin).

3 comments:

  1. "Just call me Shorty."
    On the Brazilian Portuguese dub, it ended being: "I feel a weight on my head."

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  2. Yikes. Talking about losing something in the translation. They lost the whole set-up to the next gag.

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  3. Jesus, Dodsworth!

    When I see the final scene from this episode (after Yogi ends thuding to the ground), I laugh very much of the Yogi's dummy face, at the moment when he pulls the rip-cord of the parachute, which ends covering him and Boo Boo.

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