Wednesday, 2 May 2012

A Message For Kids From Yogi Bear

Cartoon characters have been used for entertainment, education and propaganda over the years. About 30 years ago, TV networks became increasingly reactionary to pressure groups and forced studios to come up with cartoons that were “educational” (or “propaganda,” depending on one’s point of view). They sure weren’t entertainment. Kid cartoon viewers are generally intelligent people who know when they’re being blatantly preached at.

Of course, cartoon characters were used for this sort of thing before the 1980s; the John Sutherland studio made its fortune producing “educational” cartoon shorts in the late ‘40s and through the ‘50s. And Hanna-Barbera’s characters made educational appearances long before they loaded into an ark.

One appearance was in 1962 on the children’s record “How to be a Better-Than-Average Child Without Really Trying!” Billboard magazine of October 27, 1962 reviewed it, in the column next to its spotlight on “Rusty Warren in Orbit.”


Various Artists. Golden LP 90—Here’s Yogi Bear, one of the most popular of all TV characters, along with a flock of his TV buddies, all created by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. This time, the tunes are based on the general theme of how to be better than you are. The title—“How to be a Better-Than-Average Child Without Really Trying”—is a take-off on a current Broadway musical hit, and it sets the tone for such items as “Everybody Makes Mistakes,” “Get Neat,” “Doodlin’ and Dawdlin’,” “Take a Little Care” and “So Many Rules.” Cute wax with a built-in lesson for the kiddies.

As a kiddie, this record would have bored me somewhere into the first song. And 50 years later, it has the same effect. Setting aside the “lessons” (any kid would rather listen to Yogi outwit someone for a pic-a-nic basket), this is a Golden Record which means the original cast of the cartoons is nowhere to be found. Instead, we get Frank Milano as Yogi (he keeps losing the voice). Boo Boo’s voice is sped up for some reason. Mike Stewart and Dottie Evans (as Julie Bennett as Cindy Bear) round out the cast.

You can click on the arrow to listen to each band on the record but I’ll tell you what you’d rather do. Skip right down to the theme songs. 1962 marked the debut of ‘The New Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Series,’ featuring Lippy the Lion, Touché Turtle and Wally Gator. “Top Cat” began the preceding fall. So, to pad out the record, the usual Golden Records chorus and combo give a rendition of them all, and toss in a previously-unknown theme for Dum Dum the Dog, Touché’s sidekick. Unlike the originals by the Randy Horne Singers, you can actually understand all the lyrics. And I like Jim Timmens’ arrangement for the Wally Gator theme better than Hoyt Curtin’s; with a few more pieces and someone really banging at the piano and less timid on the guitar, Wally could really be a “twistin’ syncopator.” Sorry the Top Cat open is crackly.

I don’t have copies of the original lyric sheets so I’ll wildly guess that Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera came up with the additional words you don’t hear on the TV versions of the themes while Jackie Relnach and Joan Lamport are only responsible for the be-a-better-kid material.


YOGI BEAR IS BETTER THAN THE AVERAGE








HAPPY AS A CLAM








EVERYBODY MAKES MISTAKES








GET NEAT








DOODLIN AND DAWDLIN








DON'T DO UNTO OTHERS








TAKE A LITTLE CARE








A LITTLE THIS, A LITTLE THAT








SO MANY RULES








THERE'S A REASON FOR THE RULES








PARENTS ARE PEOPLE, TOO








REPRISE of YOU CAN BE A BETTER CHILD








TOP CAT








WALLY GATOR








DUM DUM








TOUCHÉ TURTLE








LIPPY THE LION and HARDY HAR HAR






11 comments:

  1. Greg Chenoweth2 May 2012 at 10:06

    I used to have this record growing up. I loved the versions of the theme songs for "Wally", "Lippy" and "Touche" that appeared on this record. I wish I still had a copy so I could give you the writers credits. Sorry, Yowp! Thanks, though, for the nice memories.

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  2. The theme songs have a very nice late-1940s retro sound to them, as opposed to the up-tempo cocktail lounge sound Hoyt Curtain seemed to be going for in the 1961-62 period (kids really didn't get much from the theme songs in "The New Hanna Barbera Cartoon Show" to hang their melodic hats on, but Hoyt certainly went hard on the horns in both the Wally Gator opening and the theme for "The Jetsons").

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  3. Jim Timmens' arrangement for the Wally Gator theme IS nice!

    Timmens would later take over Phil Scheib's place at Terrytoons just few years before the studio closed down.

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  4. Frank Milano was a voice actor on the "King Leonardo" show. He voiced Mr. Lizard in the "Tooter Turtle" segments, intoning the closing lines, "Drizzle, drazzle, drozzle, drome, time for this one to come home." He died in 1962 at 44, echoing the untimely death of another Frank who did cartoon and radio voices, Frank Graham.

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  5. Yeah, that "Wally Gator" theme song validates that character's whole existence, as far as I'm concerned.

    Pursuing the album's back cover has me burning with curiosity at the other featured recording's content: Is the Jetsons' album full of moralizing and knock-off voices, too? How about that pre-Disneyfied Winnie the Pooh? And perhaps most enticing of all-the "Car 54" disc, which no doubt features the dulcet tones of the future Botch and Sgt. Flint, Joe E.("Ooh Ooh")Ross. Might be worth it if Nat Hiken wrote any of the album's material.

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  6. Jetsons? I don't have a copy but they're fake voices. Can't tell you about the others albums.

    There are 10 songs, all cut in NYC, including "Eep Opp Ork."

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  7. Gulp...Dave, you better rertractor, drizzle drazzle droine for that comment about Frank Milano [and Yowp, you paying attention]?-I made that mistake two years ago here....it's Sandy Becker not Frank. Otherwise good point.Steve C.

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  8. Being off-topic here, I'm reminded John Sutherland's company would later go on to produce several animated series in the 70's like "The Most Important Person in the World" and "The Kingdom of Could Be You".

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  9. Really enjoyed hearing these but I prefer Hoyt Curtain's versions by far...and in my opinion, the Randy Horne Singers on the original show main titles are far superior to the sleepy voices of the Golden Records chorus.

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  10. IMO, the record's concept of making you a "better than average child" seems horribly condescending, at least in these politically correct times. And the Hanna-Barbera crew in their original rowdy, boisterous, slapstick 1960s personnas seem like hardly the appropriate hosts for such an endeavor.

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  11. Hey Yowp! I'm still here (and proud of it!)

    Anyways, I happen to be a vinyl record collector myself. I began collecting last year, and I now have at least a few hundred LPs. In any case, I happen to have a Golden LP, which is the story of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" told by Art Carney (with songs included!). Most of the B-side of the record is the story of "The Pokey Little Puppy", and it happens to be told by Frank Milano himself, which I find interesting, yet not so sure of. Haven't listened to the B-side yet, but I'll have to sometime.

    Take care of yourselves!

    Ryan

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