Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse; Layouts – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast: Yogi – Daws Butler, Charlie, Ranger; Narrator, Joe/Melvin, Elephant – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Spencer Moore, Geordie Hormel, Jack Shaindlin.
First Aired: week of March 23, 1959.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-026.
Plot: Yogi tries to save an escaped circus elephant from men trying to bring him back.
Bill and Joe weren’t afraid to borrow from themselves if it meant getting a cartoon series on the air, but there’s some pretty heavy lifting going on here.
This cartoon has its genesis in Jerry and Jumbo (1951), where a baby elephant falls off a circus train and rolls into the home of Jerry Mouse, who hides him from Tom by disguising him as a giant mouse. Next we arrive at the second storyline of Ruff and Reddy (1958) where the lead characters hide an escaped baby circus elephant from its violent guards. That basic idea was borrowed yet again when Yogi Bear escapes from a circus as guards hunt for him in The Runaway Bear earlier in the season.
The story structure here is pretty good. It’s treated as a tale by a narrator who intros the story, lets it play itself out, then returns at the end. There’s a running dialogue gag and some violence gags. Oh, there’s an appearance by an old cartoon law: Elephants always use their nose as a vacuum (it happened in Tom and Jerry, Ruff and Reddy, and again in 1960 when Quick Draw McGraw tried to escape a doting circus elephant).
And it also has some really nice backgrounds. Here’s “beautiful Jellystone Park” in a reassembled shot. The evergreens are sketchy, and the sponged, semi-transparent clouds with an outline around them are a nice effect. You can find the same type of cloud drawings in ‘In the Picnic of Time,’ an early Augie Doggie production with backgrounds by Monty from layouts by Bob Givens.
I asked John Kricfalusi for a quick summary about the work of the three background artists at Hanna-Barbera at this time: Bob Gentle, Art Lozzi and Fernando Montealegre. Here’s how you can tell them apart:
Bob Gentle. His sponge work is softer than Monte and Lozzi’s. Like the paper is wetter when he applies it. Also he uses a lot of colored pencil lines
Monte has generally the starkest boldest graphic look of the 3. Brighter colors
Lozzi generally has more details and likes to make a lot of patterns with flowers and leaves and stuff on top of the sponged bigger elements.
The narrator outlines the wonders of the park, including a couple of animated geysers which don’t enter into the plot (but they break up the monotony of the shot in three drawings on twos), and the camera finally comes to rest on “a fantastic formation called Elephant Rock. With this strange formation goes an even stranger story—the story of an elephant that vanished in Jellystone Park, never to be seen again.”
That’s when the flashback begins. And we’re instantly greeted with cost-saving on the screen. A circus convoy is rolling through the park. Yet the trucks are just being moved across the same background being repeated. The wheels of the trucks don’t turn; Ken Muse simply draw white bars to represent light reflecting off the hubcaps and moves the location of the bars every two frames.
As you can see in the drawing, the elephant (wearing a top hat for reasons that aren’t explained) isn’t happy and escapes. It’s not animated. There’s a shot of the two circus workers in the cab of the truck talking, a thunder sound (with the camera shaking), then a cut back to a shot of the truck with the bars broken. Not only were the workers facing backward before the shot of the truck with them facing forward in silhouette, there’s a line of dialogue and no lips are moving. It’s just a static shot. Then the shot cuts back to the two workers in the cab, facing backward. We learn ‘Joe’ is the dark-haired one.
They decide to “form an elephant posse or somethin’.” The posse consists of the pair of them and that’s it. They decide to check Jellystone Park and happen across a ranger at a station that looks more like an information booth. “Pardon me, Mac,” says the red-haired circus guard, “You see a elephant go by here?” “Uh, what colour? Stripe? Chequered? Polka dot?” asks the ranger. That’s the running gag of the cartoon.
The guards pass a thin tree. The bulky elephant peeks out from behind it then makes a dash for it. Ken Muse uses outlines and brush strokes to indicate speed.
Then the elephant disguises himself as a tree. The guards buy it. Charlie Shows’ wit: “Yeah. You can’t see the elephant for the trees.” “I gotta start wearin’ bifocals.” The elephant has eyes much like Ed Benedict would design them, not quite oval and of different sizes. But despite the Benedict-like lump on the back of the head, the guards have a Bickenbach basicness to them.
Cartoon time gets eaten up with some running cycles with Spencer Moore music underneath that doesn’t augment the action at all. And we get a name change. Suddenly, the voice of the red-haired guard (Daws Butler) is calling the other one “Melvin.” But I thought his name was “Joe.” Ah, well.
The elephant runs into Yogi’s cave and hides under the bed. The commotion wakes up Yogi who jumps out of the bed, only the drop is longer than he expected. A bunch of dialogue follows (Daws has Yogi say “Necessess-arary”). There’s with a trunk-vacuum gag when Yogi walks outside his cave to turn in the elephant for a reward, but then he decides to protect the animal when he hears the guards (we learn the red-headed one is “Charlie”) promising to give the elephant “a couple of good k-nocks.”
Yogi and the guards (“Melvin” is back to being “Joe”) chat at the cave entrance and the bear pulls off the “Stripe-chequered-polka dot” line. The guards are about to leave when they suddenly notice elephant footprints leading into the cave. They suddenly notice because they weren’t there in the part of the scene with Yogi and have magically appeared. Yogi and the elephant vamoose out of the cave’s secret exit. A secret exit from a cave?? Has Yogi been watching Batman? Or did Joe Barbera need a Deus ex machina to get him out of a plot corner? I pick the latter. Whatever the case, it gives Yogi a chance to use his catchphrase: “You gotta admit. I’m smarter than the average bear.”
The bear and elephant make a run for it and jump behind the bushes when they see the ranger coming. Muse simply uses some brush strokes to indicate the quick exit. By the way, the bushes, ground and sky colour are the same in this scene as in Duck in Luck and so are some of the tree designs in the previous background drawing. The ranger meets up with the hunting circus guards and we get the “Stripe-chequered-polka dot” line again. “This bit just don’t quit,” remarks Joe/Melvin/Joe. Oh, wait. It’s actually Charlie with the wrong voice coming out of him.
Yogi shoves the elephant up a tree. The guards show up and we get the “Stripe-chequered-polka dot” line again. Charlie gives Yogi the count of three to tell them where the elephant is. He doesn’t have to. The elephant apparently can’t hold on to a tree branch and lands on top of the pair (Yogi zips away just in time). The shot cuts to a repeat of the ranger’s walk cycle and the sound of gunfire. The pair insists to the ranger they’ve been hunting an elephant, at which point Yogi shows where the bullets really ended up (these guys must be incredibly bad shots to mistake a bear for an elephant, and a bear that doesn’t yelp in pain after being shot, at that).
The circus types are kicked out of the park by the sceptical ranger and that ends the flashback. The narrator returns. The camera pans over to the rock formation.
Narrator: Well, that’s the story. The elephant just disappeared and was never seen again. If the bear did know where the elephant was, he never told a soul. A strange story.
Suddenly part of the rock formation, shaped like an elephant’s head, turns around. Why, it’s the elephant, who informs us the story is true and laughs away like characters became apt to do at the end of many a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
This was the last Yogi cartoon written by Charlie Shows to be aired. The following season, Warren Foster took over the writing and storyboarding of the Yogi cartoons.
All the music should be pretty familiar to anyone who likes the first season of Yogi cartoons.
0:00 - Yogi Bear sub-main title theme (Curtin)
0:13 - TC 204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Shot of Jellystone, elephant escapes.
0:58 - TC 301 ZANY WALTZ (Loose-Seely) – Guards at Jellystone gates, meet ranger.
1:38 - L 78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Elephant peeks from behind tree, disguised elephant, hides under Yogi’s bed.
2:30 - TC 432 LIGHT MOVEMENT (HOLLY DAY) (Loose-Seely) – Yogi stretches, talks to elephant.
3:12 - L 1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Yogi walks out of cave, sucked back in.
3:27 - TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – “Now, just a doggone minute!”, guards talk to Yogi.
4:27 - TC 202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – “If I could be of any help,” run out secret exit.
5:07 - ZR 48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – “Smarter than the average bear,” zip behind bushes.
5:18 – LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig zag strings (Shaindlin) – Ranger walk cycle, guards talk to ranger.
5:33 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – Yogi shoves elephant up tree, elephant lands on guards, shoots at Yogi.
6:30 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) – Yogi points to butt.
6:41 – LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig zag strings (Shaindlin) – Closing narration.
6:59 - Yogi sub end title theme. (Curtin)