Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Many Lives of Ranger Smith

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.

25 comments:

  1. The idea to standardize the ranger's look seems to have been concurrent with the final group of Yogi cartoons (episode 49 and on) done specifically for the new Yogi Bear Show. That was also the moment when the Yogi cartoons also started to feel more standardized in plot format -- with either Yogi scheming to outwit Ranger Smith or vice-versa -- which would become the template for all Hanna-Barbera comedy conflict cartoons to follow. 'A' doesn't exactly follow 'B' in that a more standardized Ranger Smith equals a less funny Yogi cartoon, but there's no question the bear's best work was done during the two-year period where Mr. Ranger was going through a bit of an identity crisis.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember " Cartoon Network " back in it's salad days ran a funny promo on " The Many Faces of Ranger Smith ". It's interesting watching him morph as time goes by. Happy New Year, Yowp!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kinda like Joe Rockhead or Mr. Slate on 'The Flintstones'. So confusing to a six-year old!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ranger Smith's jodhpur pants show up more than once; the ranger wears them again in "Disguise And Gals", also layed out by Clint and animated Patt.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Did Iwao base the design on what Gene Hazelton was doing into the comics?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good question -- I am not sure. The feature would have been in production in 1962 - 63 for a 1964 release, I would think -- at least for pre-production & design. Did Gene Hazelton work on the Yogi strip that early? BTW: Harvey Eisenberg also had a lot to do with the Yogi comic books (not sure about the strip). He primarily handled the Yogi Yuks that appeared in books. Scott :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. LOL, Zarktok--jodhpur..very purrfect name for the ranger's clothes.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I was just quoting Yowp from the post.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is a good article on Ranger Smith's design. I have always been intrigued with how many different looks they were able to come up with over the years. When "Yogi's Gang" came on the air in 1973, Ranger Smith all of a sudden had blonde hair but still the same look as the 1964 film "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear." Throughout the short cartoon runs in the 1950's and 60's, Ranger Smith had black hair but for some oddball reason he became a blonde only for the "Yogi's Gang" series.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Scott, going by this site, Gene was supervising the comics at the outset but I don't know whether that's correct.

    P.S. I've had to repost everyone's comments. I ended up erasing them much to my surprise. I was at least able to get them back; I lost another article I was working on and had saved, and have no idea what it was.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Interesting how Mr. Ranger's appearance changed so dramatically, even when animated by the same person in back-to-back-to-back cartoons. And that each layout artist could design the same character- or at least the character's wardrobe- so differently.

    By the fourth- i.e. Curtin-scored season, it seems that the ranger replaced Boo-Boo as the second most prominent character in the Yogi shorts. (However, the ranger doesn't appear in "Acrobatty Bear", the episode that introduced Cindy.)

    I'd never noticed any overt written fan hate for "Queen Bee For A Day", or Don Williams' animation- if that's the reason for said hate. Granted, Williams does make the characters' faces look a bit off-model. My then 9-year-old son, while watching a TOP CAT episode with animation by Williams, commented that the characters look "Chinese".

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow! I didn't know the Yogi strip went as far back as 1961. I don't see as much about the Yogi strip as I do The Flintstones. I do remember that Iwao Takamoto did quite a few of them, though.

    I am not sure if the comic books through Dell and Gold Key were handles by Gene Hazelton. I do know that studio artists such as Harvey Eisenberg and Pete Alvarado worked on them, though. Harvey's work in particular on the Yogi comic book, as well as most of the Tom & Jerry stories were amazing.

    Scott

    ReplyDelete
  13. First Sunday Yogi was Feb. 5, 1961. Smith, by the way, has a turned-up noise in that one and the belt is the same colour as his uniform.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for this! Always wondered what was the deal with Smith. Now you have cleared it up.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jesus, "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth!

    If John Kricfalusi saw this topic...
    I remember from that sequence of the variation of the Mr. Ranger's designs on the short A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith (directed by Johnny K. in 1999), which involves the Mr. Ranger's designs made by Ed Benedict, Dick "Bick" Bickenbach, Walter Clinton and Tony Rivera. Alias, Ed Benedict was involved on the making of this short.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I Know why Most Yogi Fans Usually Hate Queen Bee For A Day, It's Because of Don Williams Ugly, Terrible And Really Sloppy Animation. Apparently It Shows that he wasn't a very good animator at all, very weak. And Apparently Dan Noonan's Layouts Were No Pinic Either, Not Much Better Than Tony Rivera IMO.

    But The Other Rangers by Clinton, Ed Benedict and Dick Bickenbach are Fun to Look At Though, they all look diffrent and that's what i like seeing.

    Asim.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Well, Williams was certainly around long enough. He started at Warners in '33 having come from Walter Lantz, was working at MGM in the early '40s (Pete Alvarado was one of his assistant animators), moved back to Lantz animating for Culhane during the war, then back to Warners under Art Davis.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Yes, Yowp, I Am Aware of that and the Fact that Some (like Thad) Say he Did some Stylish Animation at Termite Terrace and Lantz, But the Animation he Did for the Hanna Barbera cartoons in the early 1960s before moving to Depatie Freleng was Absolutely Painful to Watch, Very Ugly and Really Sloppy Compared to Geroge Nicholas, Don Patterson, Dick Lundy or Carlo Vinci.

    However, Les Kline's Animation for Paul J Smith's Dull films were Much, MUCH worse, Though, The Way The Characters Move in his Scenes There Is Too Many Anticipation Poses , Even When There is No Antics to Be Called for And It's Just A Very Big Huge Mess and Looks Very Amateurish and The Characters in Kline's Scenes Look like they were done by a Kid, Awful.

    Sorry for Going too Off Topic, Hope that Did not Bother You, Asim .

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh, no, it doesn't bother me, Asim. My point is he couldn't last that long if "he wasn't a very good animator at all."

    If you watch the 1960s Spiderman, you'd think the people who worked on it were horrible draftsmen. When you look at the credits and see the names, you'll know otherwise. Many great people who worked on these cartoons worked on Hanna-Barbera cartoons a couple of decades later and you'd never know it was the same veterans.

    It could be Williams had trouble adapting to limited animation. Or perhaps he was enjoying a snort or two at the wrong time, I don't know. But I like Nicholas' and Carlo's early work at H-B. Williams not so much. At least 'Queen Bee' has some absurd dialogue in one scene I laugh at; Williams' Cousin Batty cartoon barely has that.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Yowp, I've Also Read that Don Williams Was Also A Huge Alcoholic at One Point, So Maybe that's why He Had Trouble Adapting to Limited Animation and His Skills deteriorated at that point As well.

    Well, Enough of that, Lets Just Focus On the Good Things as well as the Posivitive.

    Asim.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Queen Bee had Boo Boo imitating a bee running at one point.

    ReplyDelete
  22. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    There are more references of several Ranger Smith's designs which were seen on the Yogi Bear classical episodes. And here are some of them:

    - Threesome Gleesome. Layout: Tony Rivera. Animated by Carlo Vinci.
    http://www.cartoonscrapbook.com/03pics/yogibear49.jpg

    - Genial Genie. Layout: Paul Sommer. Animated by Dick Lundy.
    http://img142.imageshack.us/img142/4136/testbz1.gif

    - Ice Box Raider. Layout: Tony Rivera. Animated by Ed Love.
    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v514/BlackPaws22/YogiBear.gif

    God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Actually rodineisilveira, Ice Box Raider Was Animated by Hicks Lokey, The Current Credits for that Short on DVD were taken from Yogi in the City.

    Asim.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Probably Hanna-Barbera commited a mistake on the credits from the episode Ice Box Raider.

    ReplyDelete
  25. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    More references of the various Ranger Smith's designs seen on the Yogi Bear classical episodes:

    - Bears and Bees. Layout: Tony Rivera. Animated by Bob Carr.
    http://sharetv.org/images/yogis_gang/ranger_john_smith-char.jpg

    - A Pair of Bears. Layout: Tony Rivera. Animated by Kenneth Muse.
    http://www.tvsinopse.kinghost.net/z/zecolmeia_arquivos/yogibear2.gif

    - Touch and Go-Go-Go. Layout: Tony Rivera. Animated by Bob Carr.
    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_FUk-TpPbxNc/Syf-ybGa4mI/AAAAAAAAAo0/UK6uM3fZ3B0/s320/ze+colmeia+15.jpg

    God bless you!

    ReplyDelete