It’s one thing to come up with loveable cartoons characters, and it’s another to package them into a programme that sponsors and stations want to pick up (and kids want to watch). But it’s yet another to have the skills to promote them. The folks at Hanna-Barbera found people with those skills in a real hurry not long after their studio opened in 1957.
Sure, the company began with the deals you might expect—for comic books, toys and records. And it grew from there. But a couple of promotions from the pre-Flintstone era at the studio (which is the focus of this blog, though we stray a bit) are admirable considering the coordination that was involved in pulling them off. One was Huckleberry Hound’s presidential run in 1960 (which combined comic books, cereal offers and personal appearances). The other is the Yogi Bear birthday party of 1961.
Yogi’s a great example of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. He was louder and brasher than the calm, somewhat naïve Huck, and pretty soon eclipsed the hound in the studio’s star system. So while he and Huck (and Mr. Jinks and the meeces, for that matter) all celebrated their birthdays on the same date—they all debuted together on TV—Yogi got the party. And the promotional people were adept enough to work out a plan to involve newspapers and television stations in their campaign; by then the Yogi Sunday comic strip was running.
Here’s a good example from the Oakland Tribune of September 3, 1961. The Yogi art accompanying the Tribune obviously came from the studio but it’s only based on a scene in the Yogi birthday cartoon, not from the actual cartoon itself (which is available on DVD but shorn of credits).
Yogi Bear Birthday Near; Enter His Coloring Contest
Hey, kids! Yogi Bear is having a birthday.
You can help celebrate it by entering an exciting Yogi Bear Coloring Contest.
Get out your crayons, pencils and paints. There are goody good goodies in store for you if you can come up with the liveliest color scheme and for the “smarter-than-average” bear.
Yogi himself, flying high with a handful of balloons, (he may be the first bear in space), is pictured in today’s issue of The Tribune.
Yogi Bear Coloring Contest entry blanks will appear again in the Sept. 6th, 8th and 10th issues. Clip yours, color it any scheme you choose and send it in with your name, age and address to contest headquarters, P.O. Box 836, Oakland 4.
WIN PARTY TRIP
If you’re age 10 and under, you can win a trip to Yogi’s birthday party. The party marks Yogi’s first year in the Tribune and on KTVU, Channel 2. Both are sponsoring the contest
The youngsters selected as the 100 best artists will be guests of KTVU on Oct. 2.
A host of lesser prizes is offered, everything from candy to statuettes of our hero Yogi and his friends, Baba Looey, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound and many others.
There are books of favorite children’s stories, too.
Every boy and girl who enters will receive a gaily colored certificate with pictures of Yogi and all his friends on it.
Awards will be given in three age groups—age 6 years and under, ages 7 and 8, and ages 9 and 10. Entries will be judged on beauty, imagination in coloring, neatness and originality.
YOU COLOR HIM
No fair! You can’t make Yogi bigger than he is in the panel. You have to color him right on the newspaper picture.
You can enter as many coloring panels as you want to but have to color them yourself.
And if you’re long on determination but short on inspiration, you can get ideas from the Yogi Bear comic strip in the Sunday Tribune or tune Channel 2 every Monday at 6:30 p.m. to watch Yogi and company in action.
Television stations on the “Kellogg’s Network” were encouraged (through Kellogg advertising dollars) to have their local kids show host put on a special early evening Yogi birthday party programme in connection with the Yogi Bear birthday cartoon, with youngins in the studio audience. Not all were tied in with a colouring contest; there was a make-a-birthday-card contest in some cities. How many stations took part, I don’t know, but one in Alaska solicited kids to drop in.
The fun didn’t stop with television and newspapers, either, thanks to those clever promotional wizards. If you happened to be at Pomeroy’s Department Store in Reading, Pennsylvania at noon on October 5, 1961, you could have met Huck, Quick Draw and Baba Looey in person opening the new toy department—and celebrating Yogi’s birthday. Yogi, presumably, was tuckered out from all the nation-wide birthday bashes and couldn’t make it. And, as we mentioned on the blog in this post, the Yogi newspaper comic was enlisted to promote the birthday, though not the ancillary events surrounding it.
Since Kellogg’s was tied into it, there were box ads in newspapers trumpeting the following: “Look for Yogi's special birthday packages of Kellogg's Corn Flakes for how to get your FREE Yogi Bear Birthday Dell Comic.” You won’t be surprised to hear a box top was involved. It must have taken a huge effort to put all the elements of the promotion together. The folks who did it (I suspect Kellogg’s ad agency, Leo Burnett, had a hand in it) couldn’t have been more facile.
The Yogi birthday party cartoon was unique. It took up all three segments of the half-hour show. Hanna-Barbera already had experience with half-hour comedies on “The Flintstones” and the new “Top Cat” series. The Yogi story (by Warren Foster, I presume) has echoes of “The Flintstones” with punny characters that very gently lampoon Fred Astaire (voice by Doug Young), Bobby Darin (it sounds like Duke Mitchell provides the voice; the swingin’ cat Darin stand-in does everything but sing “Listen to the Rockin’ Bird”) and Liberace (voice by Don Messick). While it’s nowhere close to my favourite Yogi show, it proved the bear had enough personality to carry more than a seven-minute short—something Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera likely kept in the back of their mind when they decided to make a feature film. The character who really built the H-B empire, a blue dog from the Carolinas, would have to wait until 1988 for his shot at feature stardom, and then in the lesser world of TV movies. Perhaps he deserved better but that’s show biz.