Here’s a syndicated news article dated February 20, 1960 which may give you a bit of an idea about creating new characters and how the sponsor played a bit of a role. Obviously, the author mis-heard my name when it was given by Mr. Barbera.
Snuffles was probably the best one-note character in the early H-B cartoons. Everyone loves him. Joe and Bill used him wisely. I think audiences would have tired of him if he were in every Quick Draw McGraw cartoon. The same thing goes for Quick Draw becoming El Kabong; it didn’t happen all the time. That kept the series fresh.
Among the interesting little things here is the fact that this story was written months before Yogi Bear was given his own show, but he was already being treated like a star character. It shows you just how popular he was and why Joe and Bill were probably pretty anxious to spin him off. And the George Halas story may be a new one.
I suspect the story artist being referred to is Dan Gordon. Mike Maltese wasn’t really a strong artist, and I can’t picture him designing a bunch of characters.
Animated Character No Longer A Problem
By CHARLES WITBECK
Casting an animated cartoon character used to be a long, drawn-out affair when Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera did the M-G-M Tom and Jerry movie cartoons. Nowadays, Hanna and Barbera, creators of TV cartoon characters Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Yogi Bear, cast a new character in jig time. An artist is called in and Hanna says, “we want a lively French flea.”
Barbera adds, “we found him at the Madison Square Garden dog show on the back of a poodle called Frou Frou.”
The sketcher nods.
“He mustn’t be too effeminate and he has to have that French quality,” says Hanna.
With that the artist departs and is back at the end of a day with a number of drawings of fleas with French accents. There’s a top hat flea, out on the town; a lady flea who is a ballet dancer, a beatnik flea from the Left Bank, an Apache dancer flea, and a typical French male flea with beret, jaunty mustache and scarf.
Hanna and Barbera spread the characters out on the desk and immediately picked up the fellow with the beret. He looked lively and very French. He would certainly live on a fancy French poodle. Barbera thought a moment and then said “we call him Toot Sweet.”
Toot Sweet is one of the new characters on TV this season. He’s joined Snooper and Blabber, Quick Draw MeGraw and other characters from older Huckleberry Hound shows.
Characters Don’t Die Off
“We introduce characters like Yelp [sic] the dog, Wee Willie the gorilla, ducks and hunters on Huckleberry,” says Joe Barbera, “and then the sponsors suggest we do whole shows around them. Our characters don’t die off.
“For instance, we have a new dog called Snuffles who eats a powerful kind of dog biscuit. A bad guy will eat one and he’ll immediately become a good guy.
“Well, the sponsors like Snuffles. He’ll decorate their packages and help sell their product. So we have to write three new Snuffles stories. Our character actors have become leading men.”
Hanna and Barbera’s animals are no longer restricted to the little screen. Being the only new animated TV cartoon characters, Yogi, Ruff and Ready [sic], Huckleberry and the others have become tremendously popular with the kids. The proof is the H & B characters are number one around the country in novelty sales.
There are Yogi Bear comic books, long-playing records and toy figures of every description on the market. Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear, in man-sized costumes, travel year around, from city to city, visiting stores. Each outfit costs $1,500 and new men are hired in each city to climb inside and play the TV animal heroes to the kids.
Belong To Everyone
“The novelty business is astounding,” said Hanna. “We can’t keep up with it. It’s all we can to get our stories out in time.
“We thought we could make a go of it on TV,” said Barbera, “but we didn’t dream it would become this popular.”
“You know that Yogi and Huckleberry don’t just belong to the kids,” Hanna continued. “Grownups know all about our animal friends.
“An example. In late November we had a special story on Yogi Bear and the Chicago Bear pro football team [Rah Rah Bear]. When the Bears heard about it, they were delighted. George Halas, coach and owner, said we could do anything we wanted.”
“We first got the idea,” Barbera said, “when I saw a headline in late September on the sports pages. It went something like ‘Giants to Clobber Bears.’ I saw a football story with Yogi reading the headline and saying: ‘Us bears have got to stick together.’ So Yogi goes back and helps the burly bears win. It’s kinda cute.”