Saturday, November 5, 2011

Yogi Bear — Brainy Bear

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi, Ranger, Chicken – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Prof. Dingaling – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin; Bill Loose/John Seely.
First aired: week of February 23, 1959.
Plot: Yogi Bear is lured by a crazy scientist into a brain experiment.

What can I tell you about this cartoon? A mad scientist switches Yogi’s mind with a chicken’s, then switches his with the Yogi-in-a-chicken’s and... well, it’s over.

Yeah, Boo Boo, I’m looking as dumbfounded as you about the whole thing. The cartoon just rolls along and then it stops. That’s what creeped me out about this cartoon when I was a kid. It’s not scary or anything. It just ends. Yogi’s mind is in the professor, the chicken’s is in Yogi and the professor’s is in the chicken. So how do they all get back to normal? I mean, this is a crazy scientist. He simply wouldn’t say “Well, my experiment’s done. Let’s put everything back the way it was and I’ll be on my way.” Mind you, that is kind of a crazy idea.

This cartoon had a chance to be somewhat as silly as its possible inspiration, the original brain-switching horror/comedy Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein (1948). After all, the studio got some silliness out of Huckleberry Hound’s encounter with a mad scientist (and giant wiener schnitzel) two years later in Science Fiction. But that was written by Warren Foster, one of the cleverest cartoon writers in history. This one’s the product of Joe Barbera and Charlie Shows. They came up with one joke. Yogi acts like a chicken.

Hmmm. We’ve only got two paragraphs here. A review has to be longer than that. So let’s emulate Charlie Shows and pad for time by presenting some odds and ends.

● Monty has enhanced the flip-up branch evergreens you see in almost all of Bick’s early Yogis. There’s foliage on the branches. The bushes in the front of the scene are on a separate cell; you can see where the edge has been cut out on the Boo Boo drawings and that Ken Muse has tried to mask it with a black line where Yogi’s body meets it (only the head moves in the scene).



● Here’s the new 1959 Bickenbach No-Door (with trailer) driven by the nutso scientist.
● Ranger Smith still hasn’t been invented so we get a generic ranger. Bick has designed the scientist with his eyes taking up the entirety of his legless glasses.



● “You are one of the good ones.” Charlie Shows loved that line and used it in several Yogi cartoons; Warren Foster picked it up the following year.
● Shows Rhyme Time. “How selfish can you get, yet?” Yogi asks himself when the ranger tells the scientist not to feed the bears.
● Shows Ironic Dialogue Alert. “You’re a brain, Yogi.” “Brainier than the a-verage tourist, Boo Boo.” Hey, the cartoon’s about brains! Get it?
● Do chickens sit on a perch like this? Maybe the professor switched its mind with a parrot before the cartoon started.
● Shows Ironic Dialogue Alert No 2. “You’re all brains, Yogi.” Yeah, we got it, Boo Boo.
● Muse brush strokes effect on the scientist (with whooshing sound effect) for speed.
● Shows Rhyme Time. “As a host, you’re the most.”
● Did you know the cartoon is now half over?



● The minds are transferred through the metal helmets. Hey, wait a minute. Yogi isn’t wearing one. The only way he can wear it is by turning that crank so the helmet can roll down onto his head. But never happens. How did the minds get transferred?
● Why heighten the effect of what should be a dramatic mind-transfer scene by stopping the stock music or changing it to something dramatic? It whistles away, ignoring anything on the screen. The music also serves to semi-mask the sound effects, including the standard Hanna-Barbera short-circuit-zapping noise used at least into the ‘70s. The electricity lines, Yogi and the chicken are on three drawings on ones.



● Shows Rhyme Time Again. “Oh, no. It ain’t so,” says Boo Boo when Yogi’s voice comes out of a chicken.
● Why doesn’t Yogi-in-the-chicken notice that his body is going past him? Twice.
● The chicken-in-Yogi turns out to be a rooster. And he cock-a-doodle-doos like a certain rooster that’s known and loved by the show’s sponsor.



● “I, like the scientists in the movies, volunteer for the test,” the scientist tells us. He sits where Yogi was. Hey, there’s no crank handle on the wall, the helmet just falls on top of the scientist. I guess that’s what happened before. The scientist made the crank handle disappear with electricity. Or something.
● Professor Dingaling-as-a-chicken declares he’s famous. Wouldn’t someone have to find out about it first? And if he changes everyone back after the cartoon, how would anyone know what happened?
● Why would Yogi-in-the-scientist say “I am a creature of the forest”? Wouldn’t he say he’s Yogi Bear? And while we’re on the subject, how come a mind switch also results in a vocal chord switch?

I guess we’ll never know. The iris now closes with everyone gathered in Yogi’s cave.

A mere five pieces of music are used in this cartoon, four by Jack Shaindlin. The sound-cutter tends to place it there without any compulsion to time it out to end with a scene, except at the very end; a couple of times, the music runs out in mid-dialogue.


0:00 - Yogi Bear Sub Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:14 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Yogi and Boo Boo in bushes, scientist talks to ranger, car pulls over.
1:48 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag string march (Shaindlin) – Scientist gets into trailer, walks to chicken, “That, I, Professor Dingaling...”
2:14 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – “...can transfer the brain of one...”, Yogi invited in, mind transfer, Boo Boo faints, scientist wants to transfer animal brain into human.
4:48 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – “But, first, I must get that chicken...”, Boo Boo leads chicken-in-Yogi to bed, “All right, all right!”
5:48 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – “How come I gotta wear this tin hat?”, Yogi-as-chicken and scientist switch minds, everyone in Yogi’s cave.
6:59 - Yogi Bear Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

14 comments:

  1. Heheheheh...this has always been a favorite Yogi Bear
    episode of mine!

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  2. You've pretty much summed up all my thoughts here, Yowp.

    I also question the English of this sentence - “How selfish can you get, yet?” Incorrect Grammar?

    It feels rather a shame Foster never thought to remake *this* short once he took over; one I would have gladly watched knowing full well I'd enjoy it. Something along the lines of that Flintstones episode "Monster Fred" (Season 5?) would have been neat. Ah well...

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  3. I went back and watched this on Youtube and it was just as disturbing as I remembered as a kid. Not just because of the crazy mixed -up ending, but a few other things...the creepy design of the bug-eyed scientist, his deception when confronted by the figure of authority (the ranger), his luring of Yogi into his trailer with the promise of goodies (ugh-- a parent's worse nightmare). All-in-all, one of my least favorite Yogi cartoons!

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  4. ...and this was later expanded into a half-hour Flintstones show...and kept doing the same joke over and over, putting one character's brain into another...and it wasn't any better then, either.

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    Replies
    1. It was also adapted into another Yogi Bear as part of the 1988 ''The New Yogi Bear Show'' - "Clucking Crazy". It had a better ending, by the way. It had an ending unlike this episode.

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  5. I agree with Debbie Anne. Over the years, everytime I see " "Brainy Bear ", I also think of " The Flintstones " ep with the Vince Edwards, Sam Jaffe type characters arguing about the ethics of " mind switching ". Then putting the Flintstones and Rubbles under the cones over and over again. Oh well, I guess H-B can steal from H-B. Ha!!

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  6. Apparently I'm in the minority, but I always thought this cartoon was hilarious as a kid. I liked the familiar voices coming out of different characters, and wasn't at all disturbed by it. (Does that mean I was already disturbed...?)

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  7. Switching of voices/personalities between bodies has always been a staple of animated comedy, and even live-action comedy. (GILLIGAN'S ISLAND did a personality-switch episode with extremely low-tech results.) Somewhat more effective is when regular characters' personalities are switched among each other, as was done in the much-discussed FLINTSTONES episode. It also gives the animators the challenge of animating one character displaying well-known traits of another.

    And the reactions of the other characters to the situation can be quite amusing if done right.

    That said, this episode doesn't capitalize much on any potential comedy. (Maybe switching Yogi and Boo-Boo might have been a better idea, especially in a later season when we'd have Ranger Smith to try to figure it out.) We know Yogi, but we don't know the scientist or the chicken beyond their stereotypical cartoon roles. The sight gag of Yogi acting like a chicken wears thin almost as fast as the chicken acting like Yogi.

    Another huge lapse in logic: When the scientist calls for the chicken, Yogi in the chicken's body responds. "Are you addressing ME, sir?" I thought Yogi doesn't KNOW he's been turned into a chicken!

    If I didn't grow up hearing the soundtrack of this short on a Colpix 33RPM, I would have no sentimental attachment to it whatsoever.

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    Replies
    1. "It also gives the animators the challenge of animating one character displaying well-known traits of another.

      And the reactions of the other characters to the situation can be quite amusing if done right."

      Something the late 'Danger Mouse' episode 'There's A Penfold In My Suit' did a lot better. It was amusing hearing the wrong voices coming from the wrong characters, but the way the animators handled the different walks and gestures being acted out by the wrong body was fun to see.

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  8. It also doesn't help that the cartoon is 85% dialogue, 10% the sight gag of the transformed characters acting like each other, and 5% Boo-Boo's reactions. Other than Boo-Boo fainting, there's no pratfalling or any other action whatsoever. So this episode was probably perfect for adaptation to soundtrack album.

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  9. One of many things I liked about the earliest Barbera/Shows cartoons is that they just might iris-out, leaving their characters in irresolvable states. This one, “Tough Little Termite”, and others.

    After all, there was always next week!

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  10. I personally think this was somewhat good, though the complaints have validation----hardly any physical stuff, the creepiness of the "scientist", etc. But as a record--to Howard Fein: I'm not sure that it would work...imagine the characters constnatly ID'ing themselves and others in other guises.

    The Gilligan episode with that set up is pretty spooky, and is a 1966 one titled "The Friendly Physcian." The scientists's stooge evens things up with the brain switching by taking Ginger, the remaining castaway with her brain and persona, and switches her offscreen. * Also the very first Bugs Bunny short released late enough [August 21, 1948], to escape the Blue Ribbon reissue treatment, "Hot Cross Bunny", used that switch gimmick not seen until the conclusion, similiar to a 1960s HB Magilla Gorilla. And like everyone else, I have also seen the Vincent Edwards/Sam Jaffe Ben Casey episode of the Flinstones where the charfacters get switched..

    *Personally, I'd love a Ginger and Mary Ann switch, which did happen in a final season episode titled "The Second Ginger Grant", but without the "scientific switching". Both that Flintstones and this one also use an amnesia angle., Gilligan and the Skipper should have had their minds switched.Steve

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  11. Lots of similarities here to Hanna-Barbera's very last Tom & Jerry cartoon, "Tot Watchers", right down to the disbelieving authority figure who learns differently at the iris out. Bill and Joe might have wanted to offer up a "Story by Homer Brightman" credit on this one. (Also, given the lag time on the MGM releases, "Bear On A Picnic" arrived on TVs across the country just six months to the day after the T&J cartoon hit theaters).


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  12. Glad to find your documentation of this cartoon. It made a profound impression when I was a kid. I think of it every time I drain spaghetti in a colander!

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