You probably know the Flintstones were, at one point of their lives, the Flagstones. Joe Barbera revealed several names were considered for Yogi Bear—including Bumpkin, Barney and Huckleberry. Even Bill Hanna admitted the cat and mouse team that made him and his partner famous were born Jasper and Jinx. So it seems the biggest purveyors of television animation into the 1970s had trouble coming up with just the right names for characters.
There may be at least one other instance of this, if a story by Jack Gaver of United Press International is correct. This was in his TV notes column of November 6, 1960:
YOGI BEAR has become so popular as a character in the widely syndicated Screen Gems’ “Huckleberry Hound” TV cartoon series that he is being given a program of his own. The Yogi Bear series will be available in January. Two regular members of the cast, who have appeared from time to time in “Huckleberry Hound,” will be Snagglepuss, a lion, and Yakky Doodle, a duck. Yogi will be replaced in “Huckleberry Hound” by Wacko, a wise-cracking wolf.
Well, we all know that he was named Hokey Wolf. Gaver’s column is the only place I’ve been able to find in my admittedly limited research that he may have had a different original name. Gaver could have been mistaken. Or he could have been confused. There was another animated wolf who appeared in his own cartoons the following fall. There are references to him in the summer of 1961 in several news stories about Larry Harmon, who basically seized control of Bozo the Clown in the mid 1950s and produced television cartoons featuring the character. By 1960, he was sub-contracted to provide some Popeye TV cartoons for King Features. Harmon decided to expand his animated empire with drawn adventures of Laurel and Hardy. But that wasn’t all. Note this syndicated newspaper snippet from August 28, 1961:
Harmon also will continue as Bozo the Clown, adding 104 new cartoon sequences. He also will be the voice for Wacko Wolf, a western desperado.
The Hanna-Barbera influence can be seen pretty clearly in the drawing of Wacko (though it looks like the eyes were done at Gamma Productions). But did Joe and Bill come up with the name first? Or did they back down because of the stern gaze of Harmon’s lawyers?
According to “Hi There, Boys and Girls!: America's Local Children’s TV Shows” by Tim Hollis, Harmon started producing the Bozo cartoons in 1957 and gave the clown some supporting sidekicks, including Wacko Wolf (voiced by Paul Frees). So it could be that Hanna-Barbera quickly had to change their character’s already-taken name.
Or Gaver could have had his facts wrong. At this point, it’s an interesting little mystery that requires a bit more than the talents of Snooper and Blabber to solve.