Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse; Dialogue – Charlie Shows; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice cast: Narrator, Tall Circus Worker, Clown, Dog – Don Messick; Yogi, Col. Packingham P. Putney, Short Circus Worker – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely; Jack Shaindlin; Geordie Hormel.
First aired: week of January 5, 1959 (rerun, week of July 6, 1959)
Plot: Yogi tries to avoid being turned into a trophy by a wealthy hunter.
You can’t get farther away from the typical Yogi Bear cartoon than this one. There’s no Ranger Smith, no Boo Boo, no pic-a-nic baskets and no Jellystone Park. Instead, Yogi is the World’s Greatest Skating Bear. Yogi wasn’t chained to the same format until he got his own show in 1961, though parts of it appeared in many cartoons before that. In fact, elements in this short were not new in the Hanna-Barbera world and would continue to surface through the 1960s. The “escape from the circus” idea was used in the Yogi cartoon Hide and Go Peek later that season; it was ripped off from the starting point in the Pinky story arc on The Ruff and Reddy Show the previous year, which was ripped off from the Tom and Jerry short Jerry and Jumbo (1951). The lineage can also be traced to the T & J cartoon Down Beat Bear (1956) where a bear with Ed Norton’s vest and porkpie hat escapes from a carnival.
A lot of people growing up today must reel in shock at the idea of a wild animal being killed just for the fun of it, then having its head stuffed and mounted on a wall. “Animal rights” and “endangered species” were not commonly heard terms amongst the general population before the mid-1950s. And so it was cartoons written by men from an earlier generation featured animal characters pretending to be, or avoiding becoming, trophies. This is one; another example at Hanna-Barbera was Major Operation (1961) with Snagglepuss and Major Minor. It, like this cartoon, featured an English hunter, something already familiar to Yogi viewers from the two Yowp cartoons in the 1958-59 season. Don Messick uses the same stuffy English voice as Yowp’s owner in this cartoon and the character looks similar to him; he has the same moustache and size but is missing the monocle. A few years later, the idea of a rich Englishman hunting an escapee was the premise of the Wally Gator cartoon Droopy Dragon (1962). So Hanna and Barbera managed to wring a fair bit of mileage out of this idea fuel tank.
Hanna and Barbera also managed to save money by having no animation in the first 38 seconds of the cartoons. All we see is pans over background drawings that act as sight gags over Don Messick’s narration. Is it my imagination, or did Ken Muse cartoons feature a lot of non-animation? The gags are the same kind that Warren Foster used in Showbiz Bear the following seasons, showing wealth through exaggeration. They’re pretty cute, actually. “Double-decker tennis courts. A pool for each foot. Dozens of big, shiny cars. With a little car in each big car.”
After a pan of Colonel Putt-Putt’s trophy room we get ‘50s minimalism at its best. The floor of his mansion is indicated by squares on a green background. And, just to compare character designs, here is a drawing of the Englishman from the Wally Gator cartoon four years later.
After we learn from this scene the Colonel wants a bear head to complete his collection, we switch to more non-animation. For 10 seconds, we get stationary shots of circus tents then a pole with a poster before Yogi peeks his head out. The bear is on the lam. It was decided to draw the circus workers and their not-Yowp tracking dog in silhouette. A couple of nicely-drawn clowns spot Yogi as well. (Fans know Yowp has a forehead, a tail that points in a different direction and only says “Yowp!”)
Yogi escapes by skating away while the background dissolves from the circus grounds to a countryside. It’s the only time I think they tried that kind of effect in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Yogi decides to hide out in the mansion. He meets up with the Colonel, who is pondering how to get a bear head. Let’s go through the scenes.
● The Colonel sneaks off to get his rifle when he realises he’s not imagining a bear is in his home, then blasts the chatty, joking. “Hey, watch it, will ya?” says Yogi. “You almost blew my head off.” Which was the idea. Except the Colonel realises that would have ruined the head. So he tries another tactic.
● Putt-Putt sits Yogi one end of a table, then goes to the other end and pulls out a bow and arrow. But the bear ducks under the table because he dropped his napkin so the arrow lands instead in the back of the chair where Yogi was sitting, picking up some fruit on the table along the way. Yogi pops his head back up. “How about that. My favourite goodie. Shishkabob!” Yogi begins heating the fruit with a lit candle that somehow suddenly is on the table.
● The Colonel tricks Yogi into laying down for a nap. A guillotine is rigged above the bear’s neck. “Chin up,” says the Colonel, which is Yogi’s exact position. Then Charlie Shows comes up with a line that’s either a subtle pop culture reference or purely coincidental. Putt-Putt remarks “It’s later than you think.” The phrase was the tag line of the radio horror show Lights Out, sponsored at one time by the maker of Schick Blades. Anyway, this blade misses Yogi because he sits up, somehow the wooden stocks his head was in comes off the guillotine.
● The old covered-cannon-disguised-as-a-camera trick. However, the Colonel tilts the cannon up, the ball goes on the air and lands on him. “Shee. Too bad. The little guy saved my life. Oh, well. C’est la guerre. That’s the way the cannon ball bounces” is Yogi’s uproariously funny response from writer Charlie Shows. Paging Warren Foster! You’re wanted in dialogue!
● The old midway shooting gallery gag. The Colonel shoots Yogi over and over. Instead of pain or blood or death, a ‘ping’ sound is heard and Yogi mechanically changes direction every time he’s hit. To top the gag, Yogi skates off stage, comes back with a rifle and does the same thing to the Colonel.
Putt-Putt raises a white flag of truce and the two work out a deal. Yogi now resides in the mansion with his head sticking through a hole in a wall, and displayed on a plaque (when he’s not eating lunch). “Well, anyhoo, this beats working in the circus,” the bear tells us and laughs before resuming his dead-eye trophy-like gaze as the iris closes.
The music cues here are from the DVD version of the cartoon. There has been a version on the internet recorded from Canadian television which has a different music track. Jack Shaindlin’s ‘Toboggan Run’ has been deleted, other cues have been moved up and ‘L-78 Comedy Underscore’ by Spencer Moore has been added until the regular music track is rejoined for the final cue. Perhaps there’s a rights issue with Shaindlin’s music in Canada.
0:00 - Yogi Sub Main Title theme (Curtin-Hanna-Barbera)
0:14 - ZR 49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) - Shots of Putt-Putt’s mansion, Yogi decides to scram.
1:51 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Yogi skates toward clowns, skates away, stops at mansion.
2:28 - no music - Yogi at mansion gate.
2:34 - TC 201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Yogi at window, blasted by Putt-Putt, Yogi at table.
3:52 - TC 202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Putt-Putt pulls out bow and arrow, bed scene, cannon ball drops.
5:17 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Yogi looks in hole, “shooting gallery” scene.
6:26 - TC 436 SHINING DAY (Loose-Seely) - Putt-Putt in chair, Yogi in plaque.
6:58 - Yogi Sub Title End Theme (Curtin).