Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A Trick Question

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.

11 comments:

  1. At least Mr. Lusk managed to pull in there, though sad if he ended up on stuff like Yo, Yogi anyway.

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  2. Jesus! I'm recognizing these images!
    They're from the 1st The Beary's Family Album theatrical short, Fowled-Up Birthday, produced by Walter Lantz for Universal Pictures in 1962, having the Disney disciple Jack Hannah on the direction, with the animation done by two other Disney disciples: Don Lusk (who worked years after on Hanna-Barbera) and Roy Jenkins.

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  3. I never even heard of Yo, Yogi until now. Just saw clip on YouTube. Stuff like that is why H-B have gotten bad rap from most animation historians. It was real sad to see what they had become by the end. For me, Hanna Barbera's best years were the Screen Gems era (1957-1965). After that things really went downhill.

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  4. Well, Wayne, the studio had a bad rap before that. But no cartoonist, in their right mind, would come up with the concept. It reeks of TV executive logic.

    I feel bad watching credits and seeing the names of fine veteran animators who were reduced to churning out bastardisations of funny cartoons. It’s certainly never their fault.

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    1. They sorta fell into it by necessity really.

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  5. And seeing any golden age credit is just as bad on ANY later carton, regardless..even if the idea never existed before the show (Beverly Hills Teens & TUrbo Teen being jsut TWO 80s examples of cartoons with no characters previously existing, an eighties oddity in itself, that were crsapy carotoons yet had--or, rather, wasted--so many veterans.) And the just-deceased Lucille Bliss may be better known for the rather infeiroir (apologies forthcoming) "The SMurfs", not for "Crusader Rabbit" (though that, admittedly, was at last count 60 years ago.)Steve

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  6. To be fair to the Lantz's crew, this was just the latest case of the studio following what had been successful elsewhere -- they tried to mirror the Disney style in a few late 30s color cartoons, and Shamus Culhane brought over more of a Jones-Tashlin stylization to the studio's efforts in the mid-40s.

    For the 60s work, it wasn't as much the H-B style that made the Lantz shorts on the whole annoying; it was the ill-conceived characters (obligatory Paul Smith bad animation directing reference here) and weak stories that turned them into six-minute time killers for 'B' movie theaters or drive-ins still showing cartoons. If the studio had retained their 1950s style (which had its own problems) or even luxuriated in the animation $$$ MGM was shelling out to Jones to revive the Tom & Jerry series, the cartoons with the same storywork and character personalities still would have been failures (kind of like Jones' T&J stuff -- at least if someone had given Chuck the Beary Family he could have simply turned into a revival of his Three Bears cartoons of the 1940s).

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  7. The only one to blame for The ''Yo Yogi'' concept is ''Muppet Babbies'' that led to an odd trend in cartoons which is called babyfication. For example: ''Jungle Cubs'', ''Baby Looney Tunes'', ''The Flintstones Kids'', ''A Pup Named Scooby Doo''. By the way the last two were actually very pleasant to watch.

    Would jump at joy if we had Yo Yogi on Boomerang channel.......if anything Hanna-Barbera made was currently on Boomerang and if Puppy in Pockets wasn't, Garfield wasn't, The Batman wasn't, Ben 10 wasn't, if Cow and Chicken wasn't, if Cartoonito wasn't and definetely if Almost Naked Animals wasn't. Not only should the cartoons be as they used to be, but Boomerang should be as it used to be.

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  8. Yogi my favorite cartoon character, love to watch him and his show, and never miss any of the soap, it is always a fun loving experience every time, always excited to watch him.

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  9. To be honest, I thought the first few Beary Family cartoons were decent, thanks to both Jack Hannah (who directed the first shorts) and the Disney writers, Dick Kinney and Al Bertino. The series went way downhill once both Dick and Al stopped writing for Lantz and Smith was getting very bad at directing.

    Why Sid Marcus didn't direct any is beyond me. I guess he was like everyone else here and didn't think the series had potential.

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    1. "To be honest, I thought the first few Beary Family cartoons were decent, thanks to both Jack Hannah (who directed the first shorts) and the Disney writers, Dick Kinney and Al Bertino. The series went way downhill once both Dick and Al stopped writing for Lantz and Smith was getting very bad at directing."

      It's definite to see how the decline happens.

      "Why Sid Marcus didn't direct any is beyond me. I guess he was like everyone else here and didn't think the series had potential."

      Funny if they didn't force it on him, though it would've been interesting to see what he could've done with it.

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