Time for a quiz. See this bear with the Huckleberry Hound hat? Name the Yogi Bear cartoon he is in:
How about this one with the girl with the Paul Sommer eyes and the Tony Rivera 5 o’clock shadow?
Those of you intimately familiar with cartoons of the ‘60s already know this is a trick question. Because these characters aren’t from a Yogi cartoon at all. They’re not even in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. They’re the stars of the Walter Lantz theatrical “Fowled-Up Birthday,” released in 1962. Lantz it may be, but the Hanna-Barbera influence is unmistakeable.
It’s a matter of speculation why the studio went with the stylistic choice; the butcher shop wall even has that diagonal shadow that Bob Gentle and others used in the H-B backgrounds. Certainly the Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons were immensely popular and it may simply have been a case of following the trend. It may also been a matter of cost, something Lantz watched constantly. Streamlined characters like the ones at Hanna-Barbera were no doubt faster to draw and time saved equals money saved. In fact, “Fowled-Up Birthday” is loaded with money-saving shortcuts. There’s reused and cycle animation. Hanna-Barbera at least had an excuse. The budget for TV cartoons is nowhere near what the budget is for theatricals. But I suppose Lantz felt that if movie audiences were willing to accept Loopy De Loop on the big screen, which looked no different than the H-B TV cartoons, then it would accept H-B-looking characters in reasonable full animation.
Perhaps it’s appropriate Lantz borrowed from Hanna-Barbera considering he lost some of his key staffers to the studio. Director Alex Lovy and animators Don Patterson and La Verne Harding had jumped to H-B some time in 1958. Writer Dalton Sandifer, whose animation career began at Lantz, left around the end of 1961 or early 1962.
There’s one difference between this cartoon and Yogi Bear. Yogi was funny. This cartoon was the first in the Beary Family series, which took predictable old situations and put them on the screen, except instead of humans, Lantz used bears. The series looked and sounded worse as time progressed until Lantz finally closed his studio. One of the animators on this was Don Lusk, who later went on to an almost-30-year-career at Hanna-Barbera. Lusk is a perfect example of how the animation business devolved. In 1940, he animated on “Fantasia.” Almost 20 years later, he’s working on Beary Family cartoons. 30 years after that, his name is attached to “Yo, Yogi,” a shameful concept if ever there was one.
Lusk, incidentally, was born in California on October 28, 1913, the second son of Percy K. and Louise O. (Ross) Lusk. His father was from Brooklyn and his mother from Canada. His father died when he was young, his mother remarried and was left a widow again. Don was supporting his mother and grandmother while at Disney in 1940, pulling down $3,900 a year. Don is still with us at age 99, one of a seemingly few survivors of the Golden Age of Animation.