There have been several posts on the blog about the huge money-making machine created by the humble adventures of a blue dog, a couple of meece and a bear with Ed Norton’s wardrobe (and his catch-phrase on occasion). Toys, games, you name it, Hanna-Barbera pushed it.
But there was never a push like the one connected with the release of its theatrical feature “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” (1964). The movie falls outside the time frame I’ve set for myself in this blog, but this post will be one of those periodic exceptions.
I’m pretty naïve when it comes to movie publicity. As Yowp the Consumer, all I see is maybe a commercial on TV, a box ad in the movie listings in the paper, and a string of interviews on entertainment shows, all saying the same thing and showing the same stuff from the same trailer (“Look, ma! Taylor Lautner’s turned into a CGI wolf again. And they showed it only 20 seconds ago!”). But even in 1964, Columbia went unbelievably nuts (to me) promoting the Yogi feature.
Boxoffice Magazine of May 18, 1964 outlined the blitz in the following story:
‘Yogi Bear’ 20-Point Program Devised by Columbia to Reach ‘Every Child’
NEW YORK—Columbia Pictures has prepared a 20-point merchandising program for the full-length animated feature, “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear,” which should eventually “reach every child and the vast majority of adults in the U.S. between now and the beginning of school vacations,” according to Robert S. Ferguson, vice-president in charge of advertising and publicity, who presided over a press session to show the various features of the selling campaign.
Calling the campaign for the Hanna-Barbera color feature for June, “one of the most far reaching ever devised by Columbia for a summer release,” Ferguson used multi-colored presentation boards which gave details on each of the promotional features, including “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” stars on 45 million boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Rice Crispies with a special premium offer of a Yogi Bear long-playing record containing plugs for Yogi Bear character merchandise; Yogi’s Sunday comic page, which appears in 190 major markets and will devote six weeks, beginning May 31, to his adventures in Hollywood making the picture; public service spots promoting summer safety distributed to every TV and radio station in the U.S. and Canada; a Colpix soundtrack album for “Yogi Bear,” with other music support coming from singles of the six songs in the film; a “Yogi Bear” merchandising disc program for use in theatre lobbies; a book promotion with three full-color books by Golden Books; plus coloring books; a comic book based on the film, which an initial print run of a half a million; and games by Whitman Publishing Co. based on the Yogi Bear characters.
Other campaign features are star appearances by Yogi Bear and Boo Boo in major markets in parades and shopping center shows; a Yogi Bear telephone interview campaign live from Hollywood (or Jellystone Park) to motion picture editors and radio-TV commentators; a national tiein with the winners of the Yogi Bear Jelly Bean Sweepstakes led by Screen Gems; a “pinned by Yogi” nationwide button giveaway for fan clubs; a national-local TV-radio advertising saturation; a blueprint of the “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” merchandise campaign to be sent to every showman; a special mailing to clergymen, educators and parents stressing the picture’s family entertainment value; seminars for exhibitors on how to implement the merchandising on a local level; a nationwide publicity campaign in fan magazines and other tieins, contests and special events.
Ferguson also showed a 20-minute reel with excerpts from the “Yogi Bear” comedy action and songs, this having been shown to various exhibitors and circuit heads before they booked the film. The picture will open in Salt Lake City June 3 followed by many other June dates timed to school closing for summer vacations. If exhibitors want a companion feature, Columbia is suggesting the Audie Murphy western, “Quick Gun,” also a summer release.
Although the campaign for “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” is far-reaching, Ferguson mentioned that it is rarely possible for any picture to do business without tradepaper ads, one exception being “Tom Jones” as a picture which was a success mainly on critic acclaim and word-of-mouth.
Joining Ferguson at the conference were Ira Tulipan, his executive administrative assistant; Richard Kahn, national coordinator of advertising, publicity and exploitation, and Roger Caras, national exploitation manager, as well as Sol Schwartz, Columbia senior vice-president who long been an exhibitor.
All kinds of things are interesting here, but none more so than the lack of anyone from Hanna-Barbera in the publicity photo.
By contrast, on the opposite page of the magazine is a brief blurb about Henry G. Saperstein’s company. Saperstein, you may recall, bought UPA, the darling of the ‘50s movie critics and moving-art smart set. And what was the owner of this once-lofty animation enterprise doing when the Yogi feature was coming out? Trumpeting that he had bought the movie and TV rights to ‘Godzilla vs. the Giant Moth.’