Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse, Mike Lah (uncredited); Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi, Bunny, Yawning Lion – Daws Butler.
Released: November 6, 1958.
Plot: Yogi tries to keep a little Indian boy hunter from getting hurt.
If I asked you to name the cartoon character who calls out to woodland creatures to save a little boy from almost certain death, Casper the Friendly Ghost might come to mind. I’m sure you wouldn’t think of Yogi Bear. But that’s exactly what happens in this cartoon.
Everyone’s so used to Yogi being the happy-go-lucky rhyming schemer matching wits with Ranger Smith, they don’t realise there was a time when Yogi’s cartoons weren’t variations on the same formula (which could aptly describe Bill and Joe’s product at MGM as well). It really took a full season and a change in writers from Charlie Shows to Warren Foster to make that happen. But since Charlie started with a brand-new character, he and Joe Barbera tried him out in different situations, including several as a benevolent bruin protecting a child from harm. This is cartoon is probably the most unusual of the lot for, unlike Daffy Daddy, Barbera and Shows are going more for charm than laughs. The story builds really nicely in this one and though some of the bits in the beginning and middle are a little worn, the climax is pretty good and the ending’s kind of cute and a little surprising.
This cartoon is really helped by a couple of things. Dick Bickenbach was called on to design a pile of ultra-cute characters (somehow, I can hear Ed Benedict growling if he had been asked to do it). Having all characters except Yogi silent (until the end) enhances the plot. And (what I think is) the Capitol Hi-Q library is used to good effect. It’s strictly a mood music library, so the sound cutter set a mood by picking “Indian” cues instead of using the usual Seely-Loose material. My only quibble is I think ‘TC-219A Chase-Medium’ would have worked better in the climax scene but perhaps it didn’t mesh well with the low-key Native American beds. (TC-219A is heard in the opening of Foxy Hound-Dog when Yowp, in a sterling performance, is chasing the foxlet).
One of the ultra-cute characters is running left-to-right as the cartoon opens. It’s a rabbit who has a little jump (with accompanying sound effect) interrupting his run cycle, probably to break up the monotony a bit. As he runs off camera, our title character determinedly plods on (in a four-drawing cycle on twos) with his bow-and-arrow aimed for the bunny. Yogi is leaning against a tree and is an interested bystander at first.
First, the little boy can’t fire the arrow. He tries again and the bow thwacks him in the face. Then he gets the bow and arrow accidentally turned around and it gets Yogi in (where else in a Charlie Shows script?) the butt. We don’t see it happen. We hear the sound effect and see Yogi’s reaction. In an animation-saving device, pain is simulated by photographing one cell, sliding the cell up, photographing it again, moving it down again and so on. It’s a little faster on the cartoon than what you see below; I slowed down the simulation to let you see the drawings better.
So the bear gets involved in the plot. To the right you see one of the most glaring examples of mismatched colours in a H-B cartoon. You can tell which part of Yogi is the moving part. Anyway, the bear tells the kid to go home but he doesn’t listen and chases a skunk with a bow and arrow instead. Yogi rushes off camera to get him; Muse seemed to like ‘wheeled-feet-and-multiples’ exits as opposed to the stretch-diving ones of Carlo Vinci. Alas, Yogi’s rescue was too late.
Yogi again tells the kid to go home and keeps his bow and arrow. But the kid whips out another one from somewhere in his pants and stalks a woodpecker, who benignly takes care of it. The silent Indian boy is ready with yet another one and Muse re-uses the ‘can’t fire/face-thwack/backwards shoot/Yogi with arrow in ass’ animation. Oh, and he re-uses the wheeled feet exit as the bear spots “Hiawatha” aiming for the innards of an orange mountain lion. But then we get a nice bit of swoop animation for the rescue.
A butterfly is the boy’s next prey and Yogi stops him from going off a cliff (Muse reuses animation of putting a paw on his head and turning him around), but then the cliff gives way and Yogi zooms to the bottom as his hat serenely floats down after him.
Next comes Mike Lah’s animation; you can tell because Yogi’s drawn with staring google eyes and his mouth moving around the side of his face. Oh, and the Indian boy has suddenly gained weight because he’s developed cheeks.
“Paleface Yogi” paints a target a tree and tells the boy “wherever you see a bull’s eye, feel free to fire at will.” But, by this point, Yogi’s backed into the wet paint, which leaves a target on his rear so we know what’s coming.
The boy pulls out another arrow, and Yogi dashes behind a tree. But the arrow ricochets twice off a cliff and heads straight down a hole in the tree where a branch used to be. Yogi knows what’s next. The arrow comes out a hole in the tree right by his butt.
Ken Muse is back for the climax scene. The native boy hears a fish splashing and gleefully runs to the river to shoot at it. The spitting sockeye takes care of himself. Unfortunately, the boy is not standing on a rock in the river. He’s supported by a turtle, who responds by sinking under water, taking the boy with him.
Watching all this is the little rabbit from the beginning of the cartoon, who runs to the sleeping Yogi and, using squeaks and gestures, indicates to the bear the boy can’t swim and is in danger. They high-tail it (with three seconds of cycle animation) to where the river becomes a waterfall then spot the boy. Like in a Tarzan movie, Yogi shouts to summon the forest creatures to help. The mountain lion and skunk from earlier in the cartoon answer the call.
Yogi is now above the falls, supported by all the animals, hanging onto the tree over the river in an imaginative layout (which could also have come from Dan Gordon’s story sketches). As the boy goes over the falls, Yogi plucks him to safety.
The animals to bid farewell to the lad, as Yogi finally convinces him to put down the bow and arrow. “I don’t have to worry about that bow and arrow any more,” remarks Yogi. But then we hear a familiar sound and see more re-used pain animation. “Gee, I didn’t know the thing was loaded. Honest,” says the rabbit in a little Daws Butler voice. He’s the first character in the cartoon besides Yogi to speak. Wait a minute! If he can talk, why did he use pantomime to warn the boy was about to go over the falls? And how was Yogi able to hold the kid aloft by a feather on a headband? For that matter, where did a stereotypical native boy come from anyway? Oh, well. We’ll overlook it this time, Charlie.
The boy was known as “Lil’ Tom Tom” when used in marketing; he’s found in Whitman’s “Huckleberry Hound/Yogi Bear Giant Playbook” among other places so, presumably, that’s what he was called on the model sheet. But Yogi doesn’t call him that in the cartoon. We get “Wampum,” “Hiawatha” and Yogi’s standard “Little Bitty Buddy.”
There are only two cues on this cartoon and I can only make an educated guess on one of them. We start with the Yogi sub-main title theme by Hoyt Curtin. At the 0:15 mark (the cartoon I have has no credits), there’s a four-note minor key bridge version of the first cue, which starts with four-beat tom-toms at the :26 mark as the rabbit is running.
The flute cue changes tempo from medium to medium-fast as strings are added, and faster still with more strings in an ersatz war-dance at 1:30 when Yogi turns Lil’ Tom Tom around. The cue ends at 2:30 when Yogi is shot in the butt for a second time.
The same cue starts again at 2:32 and ends at 4:34 as the arrow goes sailing into the rocks before it hits Yogi via the tree.
A second, slower, two-drumbeat cue is heard from the 4:45 mark when Tom Tom hears the fish splashing to the end of the cartoon. This one is in a lower key and features a violin with a reed instrument at the end. It fades at 6:58. This cue, from the Capitol Hi-Q M-13 reel, is called L-744 Melodic Western Underscore by Spencer Moore and has been edited together to make it longer. I suspect the other cue is a Moore or Geordie Hormel cue but I have not been able to find it; it was used in a number of cartoons featuring native Indian characters. The cartoon ends with the Yogi sub end title theme by Curtin.