The Huckleberry Hound Show was set to beam out from TV sets starting September 29, 1958 and that meant artists at Hanna-Barbera had to get busy. On June 24th, columnist William Ewald reported that the Huck show had been bought by Kellogg’s, so enough cartoons to fill 26 half-hours had to be ready fast (All must have been finished by December 1st. That’s when Broadcasting magazine announced H-B writer Charlie Shows had been signed by Larry Harmon Productions to write Bozo the Clown cartoons).
Ken Muse, Lew Marshall and Carlo Vinci animated almost all of the entire first season (23 Hucks, 22 Yogis and 22 Pixie and Dixies) while working on a second season of “Ruff and Reddy.” So a fourth animator picked up some work. Mike Lah not only animated a few cartoons (including the first Yogi cartoon in production, “Pie Pirates”) but was called on to do uncredited scenes in others’ cartoons.
Mike always found a way to inject neat looking extremes and expressions into his work; if only the studio had carried on the same way instead of making its animation smoother and blander. He also found a way to save money. A lot of the time, Mike’s characters never had jaws. He’d animate dialogue by having a black space for an open mouth and change the shape of the space for vowel and consonant movements, sometimes with a line to indicate the upper lip. To the right you see an example from his scene in “Big Bad Bully.” Notice the oval google eyes; you’ll see that in his animation of Yogi in other cartoons.
Lah draws a really fun scene where Yogi ties the bull’s tail to a stake. Unknown to Yogi, the bull pulls it out. Yogi cracks a joke about a “tough steak” and yucks it up. Yogi develops teeth when needed in a Lah scene.
The bull goes from angry to fed up as Yogi yucks away, jerking his head and moving his mouth in different positions. It’s limited animation but you can easily feel the expressions. Here are some of the drawings. Lah doesn’t use them in a cycle; he varies them so the action isn’t robotic.
The bull clobbers Yogi with the stake. The bull’s expression changes to one of satisfaction. Lah employs what must be a visual trick. The stake doesn’t actually crown Yogi; it goes past him. But the effect on the screen is he’s smashed on the head. You see the same kind of thing by animators in other early H-B cartoons.
Isn’t that last pose great? And look what Lah does with Yogi’s legs. If only Yogi were as expressive a few years later.
Then Yogi vibrates. Again, Lah uses several different drawings and not in a cycle. Here are some of them.
Readers here probably know Lah’s background. He had been directing the second unit at MGM when the studio’s cartoon division closed in 1957. Lah went into business with Bill Hanna making Crusader Rabbit cartoons before legal threats by Shull Bonsall, who claimed to own the character, stopped it. Lah seems to have worked at Hanna-Barbera through 1958, then eventually moved on to his own company, Cinema Ad. He joined Quartet Films, Inc. around March 1961 (along with Hanna Barbera’s Dan Gordon), rising to the company’s presidency. Among his clients was Kellogg’s. He died in Los Angeles on October 13, 1995, age 83.