Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Life in Cartoons

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “Happy birthday, Yowp. Congratulations on your TV debut 52 years ago today.”

But is it a happy birthday?

Forget Marlon Brando and that “could have been a contender” speech in ‘On the Waterfront’. That contender could have been me.

My television career started out with such great promise in the Yogi Bear cartoon ‘Foxy-Hound Dog.’ Sure, Joe Barbera limited me to just one word. But it was a funny word. And I was voiced by Don Messick, one of the most versatile guys in the history of TV cartoons. In part of it, I got to be drawn by one of Tex Avery’s best guys, Mike Lah. They gave me that ‘log over the cliff’ gag that was in all those great Warner Bros. cartoons. It sure looked like my career was all set.

Then they brought me back later that season in ‘Duck in Luck.’ Sure, that’s more than they did with some of the guys Yogi worked with, like Newton Figley from ‘Be My Guest Pest.’ And they gave me the most fun animator Hanna-Barbera had at the time, Carlo Vinci. But I should have known something was up. They paired me with that Little Biddy Buddy. All I saw was some duck plucked off the unemployment line after MGM closed its cartoon studio. I didn’t see that Joe and Bill were testing him for stardom in his own series a couple of years later. Oh, well. At least I can hold my head high that I didn’t have to change my name to “Yakky Doodle.”

That and the studio politics. Yogi got ticked off at me because he thought I bit him too hard in that one scene. Maybe I overdid it a bit, but the ‘50s were a time of method acting. Ask Jinks. He was method acting all the time. And I was told Yogi complained to background artist Vera Hanson, who went to her husband Ollie, the production supervisor, and he went right to Joe and Bill. That sealed it.

Sure, they brought me back next season in ‘Bear Face Bear.’ I was hoping to get one of those funny new animators like George Nicholas or Ed Love. Nah. They gave me to Gerard Baldwin. Nice guy. But he had an odd way of drawing. I didn’t have a neck any more. And you’d think I’d gained 30 pounds. Warren Foster and Alex Lovy tried to calm me down. “You get to say ‘yowp’ a bunch of different ways,” Warren said. “It’s a really funny gag.” “Yeah, I know Joe and Bill used it in ‘Smarty Cat’ at MGM and stole it from Avery’s ‘Ventriloquist Cat’,” Alex told me, “But it’s a real chance to show them you can act.”

For a while, I looked like I was still part of Joe and Bill’s big picture for the studio. They were marketing me like a star. Check out this giant push-out playbook that Woolworth’s was selling at Christmas time in 1960.



I got my own playing card in the 1961 Yogi Bear gin rummy set. I was on rubber stamps, birthday party decorations, lamps, all kinds of stuff.

But then The Flintstones was a hit and that was it. A lot of us little guys got forgotten. Li’l Tom Tom was really bitter. “We helped build this studio,” he used to sigh. “I’m breathin’ your air, kid,” was about all I could say.

But that was it. Roles came and went. I was still at the studio but they went out and hired someone else to hug himself and float into the air in the Quick Draw cartoons. “It’s a speciality act. He’s not taking anyone’s job,” Lew Marshall told me. They even gave him free dog biscuits. And all those wheezy-laugh dogs! Man, they could have given me those parts. I even had the same voice actor. “I can’t do anything about it,” Joe shrugged. “We were told ‘Dastardly and Yowp in Their Flying Machines’ just doesn’t sound right to Fred Silverman’s golden gut.” And don’t get me started on the “We’re-going-in-a-different-direction-with-Scooby” speech I got after telling them at least I could pronounce the letter ‘r’ but they had typecast me with just saying “yowp” over and over.

The trades were just terrible. Looking for dirt everywhere. Everyone knows what they said about Snagglepuss; you still hear it today. Build ‘em up, tear ‘em down, those papers. They once ran a big photo piece on me saying Yowp wasn’t even my name, that it was another example of Joe and Bill reusing stuff from Tom and Jerry, and splashed pictures from a couple of 1948 comics as proof.


They made up a story I had been kicked out of the Moon Mullins strip in 1946.


The worst was when Hanna-Barbera Confidential claimed I was really an old comic that Jimmy Swinnerton had drawn and I had convinced Ed Benedict to give me a makeover to make me look younger for television. Just vicious gossip. Even if it had been true, Ed wouldn’t have done it. “Why bother? I can’t get those damned animators to keep you on model anyway,” he’d have said.


Try to get work after all that. It...oh, just a moment, the phone’s ringing. Hello?.....Oh, hi Yogi. You’re calling to wish me a happy birthday.....You’re reading the blog right now and say it was Iggy and Ziggy who went to Vera? Figures those crows’d be responsible. They loved practical jokes......What? They’re doing what to you?! CGI? Oh, man, that’s awful....Yeah, nice of you to call.....Uh huh, yowp yowp to you, too.

How do you like that? A cartoon icon like Yogi and they’re treating his comeback like he’s a chipmunk or something. Even when you make it real big, the studios are sticking it to you. Maybe it’s not so bad being a little guy in this business after all. And I now have this blog and all you really nice readers to thank for reliving some memories of some really fun old cartoons and their creators and the cool music in them.

Here is part of the cast of the Huckleberry Hound Show in those happy salad days. This sheet was in the George Nicholas collection, though George wasn’t at the studio when this was drawn for the first season. You’ll notice me and the little fox from ‘Foxy-Hound Dog,’ the unnamed funny mosquito from ‘Skeeter Trouble,’ Jinks Junior, Iggy the crow and a great expression on Jinks. Notice how Jinks has the attention of both Yogi and Huck.


One of animation’s fine draftsmen and historians, Mark Kausler, was nice enough to send me a copy of a Yowp sheet with drawings by Bick Bickenbach. You’ll recognise some of the poses from ‘Foxy-Hound Dog,’ including my profile picture.


He re-sent it to me after it disappeared from my files. A pretty nice 52nd birthday present, if you ask me.

12 comments:

  1. Ah well, could have been worse, Yowp - at least you didn't go the way of Cousin Batty...

    Talking of "old friends", whatever happened to that snickering Bully Dog that had nothing better to do than chase Huck around? How's he doin'?

    In the very least, hope you has an enjoyable boit'day all round =)

    ReplyDelete
  2. My Dear Yowp. One of your finest acting moments was in " Bear Face Bear ", where for 35 seconds, you go through a whole scope of emotions just by barking at the sheriff looking at you from a tree hole..Starting with Anger, then firm and resolved, to quizzical, to discouragement, to " Uh Oh!! " Now, that's acting. A performance that would have pleased The Bard. You can keep that whole bunch of today's self important, notice me, pack of A-Lister hyenas. Give me Yowp. Many Happy returns of the day, my friend!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Shame how small exposure Bill and Joe have to you Yowp. You did a memorable performance when you got the cute fox in "Foxy Hound Dog" and how you yelled is just sad because you having luck to do something other than say "Yowp!"

    This model sheet of you is gorgeous. Mark Kausler is enough brave to keep and preserve it! I remember the photo with him with Thad. They are real great gentlemans. Happy birthday Yowp! Mine's is tommorow.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The Spanish dub of the three Yowp episodes as aired on Boomerang SAP substitutes a 'realistic' dog bark- or at least a 'realistic' dog bark as performed by a voice actor. That immediately sucks a lot of the personality out of Yowp.

    Don Messick had an endearing way of having dogs literally SAY "Bark-bark!" in a few of the early Huck episodes in which he's tormented by a 'real' dog- or in your case, "Yowp".

    Daws Butler would revive this idea in 1972's ROMAN HOLIDAYS. He used his famous Bert Lahr imitation for Brutus the Lion. But instead of making him fully articulate a la Snagglepuss, Daws had him utter the words "Roar" and "Snarl" to amusing effect.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Errol, that’s another cartoon that we will doubtlessly never see released due to music rights parsimony.
    Some of Baldwin’s work is easy to spot. For want of a better way of putting it, he drew Yogi and Snooper like they were missing their upper teeth and gave them stretched necks. He certainly was distinctive.

    Chris, the bulldog was abruptly canned when Mugger came along and agreed to do his schtick for less. If cartoon characters had belonged to Local 839, it never would have happened.

    Don Messick and Daws Butler were true masters and these cartoons provide a free course on how to use your voice. Don's “bark bark” dog sounds different than Yowp; he used two different pitches. More remarkably, Astro and Scooby share the same speech impediment, but you won’t mistake one for the other. He used a different register and inflections.
    I love Daws’ “snarl” dialogue in ‘Nottingham and Yeggs’; I think that's where he first used it.

    Martin, bon anniversaire. I’ve taken down the Thad picture because Mark sent me a copy of the actual sheet again. Thad’s photo of him and Mark and the sheet (which is larger than I thought) was wonderfully considerate considering Thad is not a fan of these cartoons and I only know him from chatting with him on-line for a number of years. It’s nice he thought enough of me to have it done.

    I appreciate Mark for all kinds of things, not the least of which is a commentary on one of the Warners DVDs about Anatole Kirsanoff, who I don’t believe was ever credited on a Warners cartoon, and for his wonderful tale of Tex and Screwy Squirrel in the Avery documentary you can find on YouTube. The documentary should be required viewing for any cartoon fan. It has Mike Lah and Ed Love in it, too.

    Mark and a lot of other people, far more expert on these cartoons and animation in general than I, have unexpectedly found their way here and added their invaluable insight and facts. That’s a benefit to us all.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cute post, Yowp!

    What's the deal with music rights and that Yogi short? Is there music in it that's not cleared? I thought all of the music issues had been cleared up since the old Hucks and Yogi's have been released in Huck Volume 1?? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh, anon, I wish.

    They were cleared only for those DVDs (Huck vol. 1 and the Yogi show). If you click on this post at GAC, "Daws Butler, Jr." explains the problem with the music. In another one, he reveals Cinemusic, which owns the Shaindlin cues from the Langlois library, wanted more than Warners was willing to pay.

    This is why we won't see Quick Draw DVDs; for the first two seasons of cartoons, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Of course----regardless of the rights issue, look what H-B characters are called iconic-the Scooby format and shows - "Pebbles and Bamm Bamm" that used elements-the mascot and groups of 70s teens, then next season rock tunes, the toned down flower power imagey---really has hit with many younger Gen Y kids. Fortunately though,..Gen X and Baby Boomers know better....look at Mystery Science Thetare [now there's a mystery show we need] and their joking about what they know is garbage, though Scooby isn't on the menu.Also, the 1990s fanzineBea and Eff, known for juxtaposing odd elements of pop culture togteher to make weird stories about older cartoons, and making silly games like "Animation convention-what's wrong with this picutr" seemed to make fun of these old shows but then they INTERVIEW CASEY KASEM later..[Publ;isher Tim Stocoack published that.] However some true cartoons fans were behind Bea and Eff, out of print for years. But anyway, that's the power of the 70s "subteen girls hairstyle" that may have kept Scooby alive--in short even if the Capitol Hi Q music HAD been used Scoob would still be preferred, and after all even the early shows Hoyt Curtin scored incue Johnny Quest and Top Cat and those aren't the icons that Scooby is.


    In a nutshell, that late 60s-70s Saturday morning "bubblegum" [iotself actually a very enjoyable music style outside this shameless cartoons] and hairstyle of the eras may have attrack modern kids and thus kept these later, inferioir shows like Scooby-Doo supreme.'

    Just my observation, that's all. My own birthday is about November when Art Clokey had me paired with Gumby, which hqad its own revival problems including music rights...

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks, Yowp. I did a double-take at first as I didn't think there was a Daws Butler Jr. Then I realized it was Earl Kress using a 'nom de plum" to quote a favorite Yogi short. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Happy Birthday, Yowp!

    Perhaps it was for the best that they cast Snuffles in that particular role, considering the terrible addiction he developed.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Happy Birthday, Yowp!

    It’s really a shame modern animation shows such little respect for its rich heritage.

    Seth MacFarlane came out of Hanna-Barbera. Why doesn’t he give you a tribute guest shot on Family Guy? Imagine the fun of you meeting Brian! And, you’d probably have a larger vocabulary than Peter!

    Or, maybe after all those years of Jay Ward characters, General Mills could use you to endorse a new launch of one of its fruity cereals… “Old Dog – New TRIX”!

    Aw, just keep blogging! It’s what you do best! And I’m grateful for it!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Nice to meet you Yowp, You're A Real Smart Man's Best Friend, as some say when they have dogs, hee hee.

    Asim

    ReplyDelete