Everyone remembers Yogi Bear mentally duelling with Ranger Smith so well, it’s surprising to realise there was a whole season of Yogi cartoons—when he rose to fame—that there was no Ranger Smith. Yogi debuted on The Huckleberry Hound Show in 1958 and in his 26 cartoons that season, nary a hair of R. Smith can be found. The first season featured rangers in various sizes, shapes, voices and names. The pair in “The Buzzin’ Bear” are “Joe and “Bill” (sound familiar?) while the Ed Benedict-designed Ranger Mack makes a couple of appearances, including one in “Scooter Looter” where he’s animated by Carlo Vinci.
When the second year of the Huck show began, it looked like the idea of generic rangers was going to continue. The debut Yogi cartoon of the season, “Show Biz Bear,” had a military buzz-cut ranger. But writer Warren Foster, who had been hired for the 1959-60 season to replace Charlie Shows, seems to have concluded a regular park-uniformed foe for Yogi would be a good idea. But that took a bit of time. In the meantime, there was no model sheet for Ranger Smith, since he still wasn’t technically a regular character, so his design varied a bit from cartoon to cartoon. Four designers worked on the cartoons that year—Benedict, Dick Bickenbach, Walt Clinton and Tony Rivera (I don’t know if Bob Givens did any Yogis). Almost all of the cartoons are shorn of credits, so don’t count on most of the layout artists listed being correct.
The first Smith cartoon to air was “Lullabye-Bye Bear,” expressively animated by George Nicholas. Smith spent a lot of time on the phone in cartoons. He appears to be a corporal in the Canadian Army, judging by the uniform. If the ranger’s nose is any indication, Bick did the layouts. That shouldn’t be surprising. Everyone’s favourite grumpy designer, Ed Benedict, once told John Kricfalusi that the ranger was the only character Bick designed.
Nicholas is back again with “Papa Yogi,” with layouts by Walt Clinton. Smith apparently didn’t comb his hair.
“Stranger Ranger” followed. The Ranger has a thin head. Tony Rivera is likely the layout man here. Ken Muse animated.
“Rah Rah Bear” technically doesn’t include Ranger Smith. There’s the Rivera-head Smith design but a different voice. The animation is by Carlo Vinci.
In “Bear for Punishment,” Mr. Ranger has a potato nose and is talking out of the side of his mouth. Note the mouth and jaw lines. The animator on this was Gerard Baldwin, who came up with a stretch-necked, rubber-muzzled Yogi in some scenes. Tony Rivera is my wild guess as the layout designer.
Here’s the most stylised Ranger Smith you’ll ever see. It screams Ed Benedict (maybe that should be “field and screams.”) “Nowhere Bear” was animated by Ed Love. Smith was never designed like this again; maybe someone thought the design didn’t mesh with the more conservative Yogi’s.
The last three cartoons aired in the 1959-60 season were all animated by Don Patterson. They don’t even look like same animator, do they? The first is from “Wound-Up Bear,” the second from “Bewitched Bear” and the third from “Space Bear.” Smith seems to have gained weight between the first and second cartoons and is wearing jodhpurs in the third (he is never shown walking in the cartoon, so Patterson doesn’t have to animate the pants). You’ll notice no line in the ear in the first design. I suspect the first was laid out by Rivera, the second by Bick and the last by Clinton, but I’ll stand corrected. There are trees in the second one you’ll find in Rivera’s cartoons.
New animators and layout people came in the following year and the design started getting a little more consistent as Smith was now a full-fledged regular character. Yogi was on the Huck show until January 1961 when he got his own programme; a look at a handful of TV listings show when new Huck and Pixie and Dixie cartoons aired, an old Yogi rounded out the half-hour and vice-versa.
Artie Davis animated a Rivera stem-legged Smith in “Bear Face Disguise.” Smith has a turned-up nose and a simple uniform in this one.
And here’s Smith courtesy of Dan Noonan in the Yogi cartoon some people love to hate: “Queen Bee for a Day.” Don Williams is the animator. Smith has a different colour for his mouth/jaw separation and his legs are longer. His uniform looks pretty form-fitting and he apparently was the victim of a tired practical joke because his tie is short like someone cut it off.
My favourite Smith visual moment comes thanks to George Nicholas in that very first cartoon. Here are two drawings from a shock take. Notice how the ranger has four fingers and a thumb.
You’d never see Wally Gator doing something like that. To be honest, Ranger Smith never did it again, either. Too bad. He had great veteran animators whose work many years ago gave him a life. Judging by the drawings, many of them, actually.