Saturday, February 26, 2011

Yogi Bear — Duck in Luck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Bick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast: Yogi, English Hunter – Daws Butler; Yowp – Don Messick; Biddy Buddy – Red Coffey.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Jack Shaindlin, Geordie Hormel.
First Aired: week of January 26, 1959 (rerun, week of July 27, 1959)
Plot: Yogi Bear begs a hunter to spare the life of a tiny duck and succeeds when the hunter decides he wants bigger game—bears (L.A. Times summary).

Bill and Joe had recurring characters in their Tom and Jerry cartoons at MGM, so it was only natural they would try to build a stable of recurring characters (which could be marketed, as they discovered) at their own studio. They mixed and matched some secondary characters in this cartoon by combining Yowp and his English hunter owner from ‘Foxy Hound Dog’ with Biddy Buddy, the helpless blue duck from ‘Slumber Party Smarty’ who later morphed into Yakky Doodle.

Biddy is far more likeable and sympathetic in this cartoon than he is in any of the others, and that includes the ones at MGM featuring his prototype. He’s trying to escape a killer. Ironically, he’s the least sympathetic when he’s whining no one loves him, he’s all alone, wah-wah-wah, in an attempt to get sympathy.

The English hunter is merely a plot engine and never appeared in another cartoon after this. Yowp, of course, is fabulous once again, as Don Messick projects emotion out of the dog’s solitary vocabulary and that great animator Carlo Vinci gets a range of feelings across, despite the confines of limited animation.

Here’s a great example in the opening scene where you can see Carlo following the basic tenets of old school theatrical animation. The hunter isn’t just standing there motionless with a zip line approximating a bullet coming out of the gun. The barrel widens and bends. The recoil moves the hunter’s hat. Yowp closes his eyes because of shock of the noise. Later TV cartoons devolved so you wouldn’t see much of that any more. Now add Monty’s scenery. The blades of grass in the foreground are several different shades. He uses brush strokes to indicate foliage on the trees in the background. All together, it’s an attractive opening scene (after some pretty ugly flying ducks).


“My word! I bagged a bird!” says the hunter in one of Charlie Shows’ rhyming couplets, and then we see Biddy falling head first. Off goes Yowp after him. Carlo’s on the job so that means we get a stretched-diving exit from the scene for the dog and a stretched-flying exit for the bird.



Yogi is snoozing against a log when Biddy skids into the scene and begs him for help. And Charlie Shows is present, meaning an ass-violence joke is present. Biddy points to his posterior as being the location where he was shot. Now the cartoon becomes a battle of wits between Yogi and Yowp. What’s great here is Shows doesn’t bring the cartoon to a stop with a bunch of unnecessary chatter like he did in other cartoons. There’s a steady stream of action as the plot motors along, with the two characters not waiting to out-do each other.

The dog wins the first round. He matter-of-factly lifts up Yogi’s hat, grabs the hidden bird and rushes off, but not before shoving the hat back on top of Yogi’s head in a bit of old school squash-and-stretch (with a cowbell sound when the hat is plonked back in place).

“This calls for Yogi-type stragedy,” we’re told. Yogi parks himself behind some bushes, grabs two leaves from a tree, puts them against his nose like the hunter’s handlebar moustache and pretends to be Yowp’s master. “Good fetching, wot? ‘And me the bloomin’ bird, boy. Pip pip!” says the bear in a scripted-sounding accent, though he doesn’t wait for Yowp. He sticks his hand through the shrubs and toddles off on his knees. The dog looks shocked then puzzled as he comprehends what just happened. Yowp clues in when he sees the bear emerge from the bushes.



The bear races to a lake, places Biddy on the water and tells him to go. Yowp skids into the scene and gives the camera a disgusted look. But he’s—dare I say?—smarter than the average duck. A rouged female duck swims toward Biddy who, being an innocent little bird, simply says “you’re cute” instead of engaging in Avery or Clampett-like man-sees-woman histronics. Ah, but it’s really a toy duck used as a lure by a very smug Yowp.



“Help! Save me!” cries Biddy. Yogi leaps behind the bushes. Here’s how Carlo does it.




This calls for the old pepper gag. But Yowp doesn’t sneeze when he passes through the cloud of pepper. He swallows the duck instead. Yogi’s hat jumps up and land in a different spot (with a cowbell clunk) during the surprise take. Yogi reaches into the dog’s stomach, smiles, then pulls out the duck. Then he leads Yowp on “a wild duck chase” by poking his head out from behind a tree, calling “quack, quack,” then hiding out of sight by the time the dog gets there. However, as we mentioned earlier, Charlie Shows worked on this cartoon so, naturally, Yogi’s butt sticks out at an inopportune time and chomp goes Yowp.



The next gag has Yogi emulating a carnival barker conducting the old shell game, complete with “now you see it, now you don’t patter,” except it’s with Biddy and two identical decoys. Yowp guesses the right duck, which is more Yogi can do, and takes Biddy to the hunter. “Hold it!” cries Yogi and pleads for the duck’s life.



But it turns out the hunter is a sporting chap. “Right-o. Egad, I feel like a cad,” he says. “I’m through with beastly duck hunting. I’ll never hunt another duck.” With that, Biddy thanks the hunter and zips away. The hunter decides “from now on, I’m going to hunt big game.” “Uh, about how big?” asks Yogi, likely knowing the answer. The hunter holds up his hand to the level of Yogi’s head. “Ohhh, about your size,” replies the hunter. Carlo gives us a bit of a smear drawing as Yogi quickly turns, runs and jumps in the lake. An anguished Biddy swims over. “They got him! They got my friend,” he wails (or what’s supposed to be a wail; Red Coffey reads all the lines the same way). A little duck swims over. But it turns out to be the decoy that Yowp wore on his head earlier in the cartoon. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that, little Biddy Buddy,” exclaims Yogi after popping his head up. And the two of them happily quack to each other as the camera fades.

The cartoon’s a welcome change from the Yogi vs. Ranger shorts that became the basic template by the time the bear got his own series in 1961. There’s no need for a ranger here; Yogi already has an antagonist and it appears the bear is in a generic woods anyway, not Jellystone Park. Boo Boo would clutter the plot, too, so he’s wisely out of sight. Conversely, once the Yogi-Boo Boo-Ranger Smith formula was permanently in place, there was no place for plots involving the previous incidental characters, thus ending the screen careers of the English hunter and Yowp (who appeared in one cartoon the following season, the last without either Boo Boo or a ranger).


0:00 - Yogi sub-main title theme [vocal] (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin)
0:14 - ZR 48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Hunter shoots at Biddy, Biddy pleads with Yogi to save him.
1:20 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Yowp goes to Yogi’s hat, grabs Biddy.
1:34 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – “Capital fetching!”, Yogi imitates hunter, Yowp grabs Biddy from water, Yogi jumps behind tree.
3:05 - bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Yogi gets out pepper, Yowp swallows Biddy, Yogi runs off scene.
3:28 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) – Yogi looks down Yowp’s throat, rescues duck.
3:43 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Yogi runs with Biddy behind bush.
3:48 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Yogi talks to duck, hides behind tree, Yowp bites Yogi’s butt, shell game.
5:20 - TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Yowp grabs Biddy, Yogi pleads with hunter, hunter releases Biddy and decides to hunt bears.
6:30 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Yogi runs into water.
6:37 - bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Duck swims into scene, Yogi pops up out of water with decoy on head.
6:58 - Yogi closing theme (Curtin).

2 comments:

  1. Yowp, Yowp! Yowp, Yowp! This IS a much better "Biddy Duckling" short, and much more memorable shots than in "Slumber Party Smarty"..

    Nice to see what the duckling yelled out before Yogi comes with the decoy on his head: "You got my friend"..

    ReplyDelete
  2. One of my favorite cartoons...
    I loved Yogi, thought Yowp was a riot, and was CRAZY about the duck. Drew pictures of all three a lot. Of course, the duck turned into Yakky Doodle later on...I love that little guy!

    ReplyDelete