Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yogi Bear — Stranger Ranger

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Tony Rivera; Story – Warren Foster; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast: Yogi, Circus Truck Driver, Bird, Picnicker, Car Driver, Police Officer 2 – Daws Butler; Ranger Smith, Wee Willie, Police Officer in Car, Police Officer 1 – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore.
First Aired: week of November 2, 1959 (rerun, week of June 6, 1960).
Plot: Yogi mistakes escaped gorilla Wee Willie for Ranger Smith’s replacement.

Thanks again to reader Scott for the bug-less title card.

There might not have been a more thankless incidental character for a writer to be saddled with in the first few years of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio than Wee Willie. Unless your idea of humour is a character with no personality, who bashes people around for no reason while crying “Eek! Eek!” then Willie just simply isn’t funny.

He was featured in the first Huckleberry Hound cartoon to be aired. When Warren Foster was hired to write in the second season, it seems there was a deliberate attempt by him to build stardom, or at least find a home, for secondary characters from the first season. So it is that Willie is transplanted into Yogi Bear’s world. It’s a losing cause. Foster even attempts to build some drama near the end of the cartoon with a chance the gorilla could burn down Jellystone Park. Instead, it’s played for laughs with the punch line being Willie picking up Yogi and putting out lit matches by bashing the bear on top of them over and over. Foster did better with Huck and Ladder in the third season (Willie has no name and his design is more streamlined), but in that one he toned down the violence and added other characters with silly lines.

Yogi doesn’t even have Ranger Smith or Boo Boo to play off in this cartoon. Boo Boo’s nowhere to be found and Mr Ranger is taking a fishing trip, which sets up the plot. The background artist has an almost jungle-like scene in the ranger’s window. But the shots on Tony Rivera’s layouts don’t match. When the scene switches to Yogi looking in, he’s on the wrong side. And it looks like the window is boarded up.



There’s a sloppy colour error in the next scene. The ranger’s pants change shades of green. It’s not a case of the bottom half of his body has stopped moving and is therefore on one cel, either. He walks a few more steps afterward.



The ranger tells Yogi a new ranger is coming and drives away. Meanwhile, at the park entrance, a truck driver in a phone booth is assuring Joe at Armand and Daily circus that their prize gorilla Wee Willie is safe in the truck. Cut to shot of truck with its bars bent. All gorillas in cartoons have the strength of King Kong, you know.



A really lame bit of animation follows. Whether Foster wrote it this way, I don’t know, but Willie’s very countenance scares a bird into a faint. There’s no take or reaction or anything. The smiling bird simply faints. Then Willie walks into the ranger station, grabs the ranger’s hat, shirt and tie and puts them on for no reason, other than we wouldn’t have a cartoon if we didn’t (yes, Willie somehow ties a tie). He then saunters into Yogi’s cave, jumps in bed with him and sleeps for no reason, other than it gives Yogi the chance to mistake the gorilla for the ranger so we can have a cartoon.



We’re about a third of the way through the short. I’ll whip through the gags.

● Yogi insists that Willie get out. Willie throws him through a tree. “Gee, can’t he take a joke?” is the weak reaction line.
● Yogi tries kissing up to the “new ranger”. He gets thrown into a lake. Noting the gorilla’s bare feet, he says “What other ranger has thumbs on his feet? You can comb your hair and play the piano at the same time.
● Willie steals a picnic basket from a camper and throws a blueberry pie in his face. The camper gets out the word “blueberry” after being hit.



● Yogi winkingly tells Willie he’ll accept a bribe of a chocolate cake from the basket in return for not snitching on the filtching. The violence is off-camera. Yogi is flung into the scene, twisted in knots.
● A compact car runs into Willie. He removes the car’s body. The driver Joe (the second one in the cartoon) backs up. A book of matches flies out. Willie starts lighting them. Yogi gets angry and demands Willie put them out (“o-w-t,” the standard cartoon spelling). He does, using the bear’s body.



● A police car rolls through the same background we’ve been seeing all cartoon. The officer on the loudspeaker (the third Joe in the cartoon) warns people there’s an escaped gorilla. Yogi goes to warn the “new-type ranger.”
Here’s where the use of stock music really hurts. Yogi reads the reward poster for the gorilla, looks at “the new ranger,” then looks at the camera, realising what’s going on. But through it all we hear Geordie Hormel’s fast strings sawing away, providing no accent to the realisation at all. The music doesn’t fit the scene to begin with.



It now enters into Yogi’s head he can collect the $1,000 reward. So the final scene has the gorilla swinging from tree to tree in cycle footage, holding Yogi who’ll bring him to the cops once he tires out Willie. And because it’s Warren Foster writing, he drags out a moniker from his Warner Bros. days, calling Willie “Nature Boy” (like he did with the aborigine in Bushy Hare (1950).

Nat King Cole’s ‘Nature Boy’ didn’t make the soundtrack, but lots of Jack Shaindlin music did.

0:00 - Yogi Bear Sub Main Title theme (Hanna-Barbera-Shows-Curtin).
0:13 - ZR-51 LIGHT ANIMATION (Hormel) – Scene with ranger, Yogi goes into cave, shot of park entrance.
1:33 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Driver on phone, shot of truck.
1:43 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Willie walking, Willie in bed with Yogi, Yogi demands Willie leave.
2:43 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – camera shakes, Yogi kicked out, “you are the strong silent type.”
3:13 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Yogi flatters Willie, Willie grabs Yogi.
3:30 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Willie spins Yogi, throws in water.
3:40 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – “He’s a strong one,” bribery scene, car honks at Willie.
4:50 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Car drives into Willie, lights matches, Yogi tells Willie to put them out.
5:27 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Willie uses Yogi to put out fire, Yogi figures out “new ranger” is Willie.
6:30 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Shot of armed police officers.
6:40 - LICKETY SPLIT (Shaindlin) – Yogi and Willie in trees.
6:58 - Yogi Bear Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

7 comments:

  1. Probably the weakest cartoon of Season 2. Foster should have expanded on the end part of the story (borrowed from Tedd Piece and Bob McKimson's "Ducking the Devil") and made the whole short about Yogi dealing with and trying to avoid the abuse in bringing Wee Willie back to collect the $1,000 reward.

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  2. It's certainly my least favourite of the Yogis that season.

    I can just picture a story meeting.

    Joe: So, we have this gorilla character, Wee Willie.
    Warren: And you want me to use him. What does he do?
    Joe: He goes "eek eek" and beats up people.
    Warren: And??
    Joe: Uh, that's it.
    Warren: You want a story with that?

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  3. It's 8:20 P.M. and I'm finally back again.

    I can totally agree that I think this is my least favorite Yogi Bear cartoon, all thanks to Wee Willie, who just simply goes "Eek Eek!" and beats up people like you said. I could really picture that story meeting you made up.

    Anyways, I figured I'd wait until this cartoon was posted so that I'd give you an angry letter about it, and I finally have the opportunity to do so.

    Later!

    Ryan

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  4. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    Some years ago, the Cartoon Network sites from the USA and Australia depicted the storyboards from this Yogi Bear episode.
    I've found, via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine (http://web.archive.org), the storyboards from this Yogi Bear episode reported here on this topic. They're on an old issue from the Cartoon Network (USA) site (dated from 2001), which's located on the following link: http://web.archive.org/web/20010418042555/http://www.cartoonnetwork/doc/yogibear/feature_episode2/sb/ybsb_80_pg001.html.
    It's on this address that begins the storyboards from this Yogi Bear episode. Enjoy to check them, OK?
    That's all, folks!

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  5. Rod, thanks so much. I had these storyboard panels somewhere but couldn't find them or the URL (I have the Australian one).

    Ryan, nice to see you're still around. Visit any time.

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  6. I had thought this was a Season 1- i.e. written by Shows- episode due to the lack of Boo-Boo and the rather primitive animation. But then when I heard "Lickety Split" (not knowing the title, of course) at the end I knew it had to be a later episode.

    You are correct that Wee Willie is much more appealing in "Huck and Ladder", one of my favorite Huck shorts. Messick manages to give him some character in his extremely limited vocabulary, saying "Eek-EEK?" when confused, and mimicking Huck's 'shave and a haircut' routine. "Eek-Eek-Eek-Eek-Eek/Eek-EEK!"

    Willie would actually put in more appearance thirty years later in the misbegotten OY! YOGI! (sic), one of the very last H-B series made for Saturday mornings. He plagued a teenage Huck Hound (less violently, of course) and was still voiced by a noticeably older Don Messick.

    ReplyDelete