Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Cast: Narrator, Director, Actor, Ranger – Don Messick; Yogi, Quitting Actor – Daws Butler; Actress – Jean Vander Pyl.
First Aired: October 13, 1959 (L.A.).
Plot: Yogi stumbles on a TV shoot in Jellystone and is cast as The Killer Bear From Outer Space, which he soon regrets.
Thanks to reader Scott for the TV bug-less title card
Okay, how many of you have seen a cartoon where a character is suddenly “discovered” by a movie/TV director and instantly shoved in front of the camera, only to be battered around filming dangerous scenes?
Yeah, I thought so.
Well, this is another of them. Warren Foster doesn’t pull the variation where a character is hired as a stunt double, such as in Bob Clampett’s “It’s a Grand Old Nag” (1947) or Friz Freleng’s “A Star is Bored” (1956), which he wrote. It’s similar in some ways to another of his cartoons, the Jetsons’ “Elroy’s TV Show,” where the hammy George is finally replaced by equally hammy Mr. Spacely who delights at the beating his boss takes. In this one, it’s Yogi and a ranger in the George and Spacely parts.
There are a couple of things I like about this cartoon. For one thing, it’s early in the second season and presumably one of the first ones Foster wrote, so we’re not into the whole Yogi-Boo Boo-Smith-Pic-a-nic routine. The ranger isn’t quite Smith, though Don Messick uses the Smith voice, and Yogi isn’t spending the cartoon matching wits with him. Therefore, Yogi doesn’t need a conscience so Boo Boo isn’t here cluttering up the plot.
Foster uses a clever set-up. We know the dialogue Yogi will say will directly relate to how he’s going to get smashed. We have to wait to see what happens.
And the design of the TV director is great. I don’t recall a similar design in any other Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Foster occasionally shows some jadedness about show biz (the prescient opening of “Elroy’s TV Show” speaks to the PC-isation of television) and he does so with the ironic opening narration. As the camera pans over some isosceles triangles masquerading as evergreens, the hushed narrator speaks:
Narrator: Under government protection, Jellystone Park remains free from the inroads of civilisation—an area of natural and majestic beauty. In its forests, timid, wild woodland creatures silently roam through its leafy glades.
None of it true. No sooner does Don Messick say “silently” than Yogi strolls into the scene bellowing his own little melody to “Blow the Bear Down” (with Spencer Moore’s stock music still playing in the background to add to the dissonance). He’s interrupted by an out-of-scene voice yelling “Quiet!” He turns around to spot an inroad of civilisation—a TV crew shooting ‘The Bear From Outer Space.’ A disaster is unfolding.
The guy playing the title character has spent two days on set in a bear suit and has had it. The director wonders where he’ll find a replacement. Yogi taps him on the head. “Do I give you any ideas?” The director brushes him off and mutters to himself about finding a bear and then realises (in a jerky head take) the situation. “Do you think you can play the part of a bear?” We get about the best you can do for an incredulous take in limited animation. Yogi turns his head at the camera, squints, then opens his eyes wide to stare at the camera.
The director hands Yogi a script and the bear suddenly envisions himself a TV star as we see in the next four drawings.
Yogi’s snapped out of his little daydream, is handed a “space hat” and skids (a cell of Yogi sliding is moved across the background to save animation) onto the set. The movie plot is simple. A man and a woman try to stop The Bear From Outer Space, who doesn’t really seem all that threatening. A decision was made not to show any interaction between Yogi and the movie actor and actress. Both Messick, as the actor, and Vander Pyl, as the actress, speak a hammy, melodramatic style as a stand-up piano plays silent film-type music in the background.
Now we get the series of gags where we see Yogi’s cue card, the movie starts shooting, Yogi reads the line and something happens to him. The first one is “Earth creatures can not hurt me.” Yogi kicks open the door of a cabin and gives the line. The barrel of a rifle sticks out through the door and BLAM!
The second line is “Blub! Blub! Blub! Blub!” Yogi’s in a boat doing nothing. We see the rifle barrel shoot through the boat. Now the line makes sense.
Yogi – Maybe I’d better quick this racket while I’m ahead.
Director – Quit? You know there’s no business like show business.
Yogi – I know. And I think I’m gettin’ the business.
Next line: “Looks more like a sycamore to me.” The actor exclaims “I’ll topple this oak tree on him” as Yogi just stands there. Down comes a large tree trunk that plants Yogi into the ground. Now we get the line. I like the way how the glass bowl on Yogi’s head squashes and stretches.
The next scene has a balloon tied around Yogi as he floats upward toward a hideout on a “lonely, craggy peak.” The line: “Try your hat—lady!” The shrieking woman somehow decides the way to get rid of the invader is with a pin. Yogi reads the line. The woman pulls out her hat pin and holds it out the window. The crash sound effect and shaking camera lets us know the end result.
The director starts to tell Yogi about the “big, big, big last scene” when we hear an off-camera “Hold it!” It’s a ranger, who explains “exploiting the park bears for commercial purposes” is against the rules, and sends Yogi on his way. “Yes, sir,” repeats Yogi several times and his expression indicates he knows full-well what’s going to happen next. Note this is another Patterson walking scene with no legs. Yogi’s upper body is on a foreground cell that’s raised up and down over a moving background. No need to animate a walking cycle this way.
Messick’s got a really tough job here. He’s got two natural-voiced sounding characters—the ranger and the director—talking to each other. And Don M. manages to do it without making them sound the same. He gives a harder intone to the ranger and a softer, even tone to the director. The director turns away from the ranger. “If I had someone to play that scene, I could make him a television star.” Then the director’s eye moves to look behind him, knowing the ranger will take the bait. It’s pretty subtle for limited animation.
The cartoon wraps up with the ranger in a bear suit, reading the cue card “Go ahead, sir ... blast me!” The shot cuts to Yogi, pointing back toward the set and remarking to us “Better him than me.” There’s an explosion sound effect, a camera shake, then Yogi strolls off singing ‘Blow the bear down’ just like at the start of the cartoon as the iris closes.
Foster would rework the concept of Yogi, a star-struck ranger and a TV shoot in Jellystone in Droop-A-Long Yogi (1961).
Yogi has a Mike Lah-ish quality on occasion, with small eyes and a mouth drawn on the side of his face. There are a couple of spots where he has a big nose on his snout, like he did in some of Lah’s scenes in the early cartoons.
I mentioned the silent piano style music that was used in this cartoon and I can only guess at where it might have come from. I don’t believe it was used in any other cartoons. Unlike Yogi’s first season, when full themes from the Hi-Q library were allowed to play all the way, the sound cutter uses lots of music snippets in this one. We get Jack Shaindlin’s ‘Pixie Pranks’ several times.
0:00 - Yogi sub-title main theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin).
0:13 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Pan over Jellystone Park.
0:30 - L-1139 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Yogi sings ‘Blow the Bear Down’
0:37 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) – Yogi sees set, bear actor quits.
1:18 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Yogi offers to take the movie role.
1:50 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Yogi laughs through teeth, director hands over script
2:04 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) – Yogi dreams of being a star.
2:27 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – “Places everyone!”, Yogi kicks in door.
3:00 - silent film piano (?) – Hammy dialogue, Yogi blasted by cabin door.
3:15 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – “All set bear?”, Yogi in boat.
3:32 - silent film piano (?) – Hammy dialogue, Yogi sinks into water.
3:50 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Director pushes water out of Yogi, Yogi reads cue card.
4:37 - silent film piano (?) – Hammy dialogue, Yogi clobbered by tree.
4:57 - ZR-52 LIGHT QUIET (Hormel) – Director tells Yogi he’s a born actor and “smarter than the average bear.”
5:35 - silent film piano (?) – Hammy dialogue, hat pin scene.
6:02 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Director compliments Yogi, cons ranger into taking bear part, ranger blasted off-camera.
6:54 - LAF 21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Yogi walks away singing ‘Blow the bear down.’