Monday, May 11, 2009

An Interview With Yogi Bear

It was only natural that Yogi Bear should get his own show. By 1960, he and Huckleberry Hound were both treated as equals if you read the popular press of the day—but it was Huck’s name that was on the show. Both characters were marketed heavily by Hanna-Barbera. A little later, I’ll post a newspaper story about the publicity and sales end at H-B of that era.

Yogi’s new show debuted on different days, depending on the city, beginning the week of January 30, 1961. In Los Angeles, it was on KTTV on Thursday evenings.

The fact that Yogi was already a star is illustrated by this “interview” with the bear himself in the February 2, 1961 edition of the L.A. Times.


THE TV SCENE
Yogi’s Bear Facts Come to Light.

BY CECIL SMITH
When the announcement came that Yogi Bear, long a leading member of the Huckleberry Hound stock company, has been elevated to stardom with a show of own beginning tonight (Channel 11 at 7) we sent our man Brian to Jellystone Park to interview Yogi and find out if stardom had changed him.
The following is Brian’s report:

Jetted to Jellystone via Hipple Airlines. Calm trip. Was met by taciturn ranger. Brightened when he heard I came from you. Said his name Jughead Smith, wondered if he was relative???? (Ed. Note: No.) Took me to Yogi’s cave. Huge. Ankledeep grass rug. Gleaming stalactites. Sniffed ranger Smith: “They're not real. Yogi had them installed. They’re platinum.” Some cave. Makes Carlsbad look like a mole hole. Yogi greeted us. Seated on velvet-covered log. Beret. Dark jeweled glasses.
“I have a hunch—here comes my lunch,” he said. Took off dark glasses and saw his error. Shook paws warmly. “Must confess—I love the press,” he said.
“Particularly,” he added, “from The Times. I’m starting in the Sunday Times comics on Feb. 12, you know.”
Complimented him on size and decorations of cave. “Just a hole in the wall—but I call it home,” said Yogi. Took me on tour of cave. As we walked, I congratulated him on being on his own show. Yogi launched into long explanation of negotiations, beginning, “Well, I told MCA . . .” and ending, “. . . and Hanna-Barbera could either put up—or get themselves another bear!”
Mentioned I’d heard he was still going to be on Huck Hound’s Tuesday show. “Couldn’t leave him in the lurch,” said Yogi. “Will stick for awhile. But I’m afraid that when I go—there goes the show.” Murmured I hoped not.
Changed subject to talk about his new show. Mentioned I’d heard Snagglepuss, the lion, will be on it, and Yakky Doodle Duck. And Chopper, the bulldog. And, of course, Boo Boo. “Let's not forget, chum, who’s No. 1—Yogi,” said Yogi. Promised I wouldn’t.
Was invited to lunch, Beetle wings under glass. Sauteed grasshoppers in lichee sauce. Broiled honey-comb a la Jellystone. Asked kiddingly about stealing picnic baskets. “Heh heh,” Yogi heh hehed. “Don't be a drip—taken in by the script.” He scowled. “That Foster. Never gives me a part with any dignity. Picnic baskets, ptui! Why, I have the finest chef in Jellystone!” He added, petulantly: “I give that Foster his best ideas.”
After lunch, Yogi took me on ride through park. Chauffeur-driven Rolls.YB engraved in gold on doors. Studied him as we drove. Decided success had not changed him. Seemed the same sweet unspoiled bare-foot movie star. Just like the ones in Bel-Air.
At airport, told Yogi I’d watch his show.
“You should,” said Yogi. “Better than the average program!”


Someone at Hanna-Barbera must have had a hand in the “interview” or writer “Brian” must have been a credit-watching geek like I was when I was a kid. He makes a reference to Warren Foster, but uses only the last name as if everyone’s supposed to be familiar with him. In 1961, that likely wasn’t the case (except amongst people in the industry or the aforementioned geeks).

Foster came on board for the second season of the Huck shows and apparently wrote all the Yogis, continuing on when Yogi got his own show, beginning with “Oinks and Boinks”, animated by Don Patterson (see first three stills). Sadly, it really was the beginning of the end for Yogi. His cartoons quickly turned into a Yogi-Boo Boo-Ranger-Jellystone formula, without a lot of the quirky poses (see still to right) and different story-lines in some of the earlier cartoons.

2 comments:

  1. Yes! It's a shame that the Yogi Bear cartoons appeared on his own show being less well animated and turn to a saddest formulation. And besides, it's being less artistic than from the Huckleberrey Hound cartoons shows and the Hoyt Curtin Flintstones' music in place to the Capitol music didn't help so much to improve.

    T'was also the beginnning of the end for the Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons like we know. Even the Huck and Quick Draw shows changed to worse.

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  2. Martin, you can trace Yogi's changes back to season two when he was still on Huck's show.

    Whether it's coincidental to Warren Foster's arrival, or because of it, a decision was made to give Yogi a permanent adversary (and setting) and make that the engine behind many of his cartoons. It's great from a structural and narrative standpoint .. certainly everyone remembers Ranger Smith and Jellystone .. but I think the cartoons lost something. It'd be like forcing Bugs to go against Elmer Fudd in every cartoon. Having solo and spot-gag formats like Yogi did in the first Huck season can broaden the character.

    Some people have speculated that the increased output by 1959 caused the cartoons to be rushed out, but HB had hired additional animators. Whatever the reason, there's a lot less interesting movement in the cartoons, though the characters themselves generally look more pleasant.

    I've always liked the Capitol library on Yogi, Quick Draw, etc., even though it wasn't used well sometimes. The orchestration helps. It sounds like real music you could listen to; Loopy's scores are made up of a couple of instruments playing bridges setting general moods. Curtin had better material later. I really like a lot of the Top Cat stuff (he used a xylophone like a real instrument instead of trying to sound cartoony) and The Jetsons background music has that spacy keyboard that would have sounded unique in the early '60s. His material for Jonny Quest had a perfect drama and urgency to it; it really adds to the scene and may be his best work.

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