A lead character that’s a thief is a good example for kids?
Today, someone would likely object, resulting in networks, producers and potential sponsors running around in fright, issuing panicked “cancel” orders to keep avoid upsetting even one crackpot. But in 1961, they gave the character his own show. His name was Yogi Bear.
Yes, in 1961, cartoons could show Quick Draw McGraw shooting a gun in his own face. Doggie Daddy could be clobbered with a mallet. And Yogi Bear could steal someone else’s food and even get away with it. It was just fine. It was all innocent fun.
Here’s a syndicated story that appeared in newspapers on December 15, 1960 praising the “child appropriateness” of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
Best News for Children Since Big Bad Wolf Days
By DICK KLEINER
Newspaper Enterprise Assn.
NEW YORK - (NEA) –About the only good news for children since the Big Bad Wolf met up with the Small Smart Pig comes from Joe Barbera.
Joe is half of Hanna-Barbera, the outfit which produces The Flintstones, for adults, and Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw for kids. The good news is that early in January, there will be a third children's show from Hanna-Barbera. Yogi Bear, one of the Huckleberry Hound people, will have his own show.
Now what makes this good news is that the children have become the neglected people on television There are shows for men, shows for women and even shows for bowlers. But the poor tikes and tikettes get short shrift on a large screen.
Of course, there have been exceptions. Peter Pan is one, even though it was on so late that by the time Captain Hook went over the side most of the youthful audience had conked out.
But, on a regular basis, you can count on the fingers of one dimpled hand the programs which are halfway decent for children to watch.
There are Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin and perhaps National Velvet. There are Fury and Casey Jones and possibly Dennis the Menace. (OK, so this a six-fingered dimpled hand.)
Then there is ‘The Shirley Temple Show,’ which generally provides a good story. But they had a ghastly slip a few weeks ago, when all of a sudden, in the middle of “Tom and Huck,” the plot thickened and we were in the middle of some business about grave-robbing.
Did you ever try to explain the fine art of grave-robbing to a five-year-old? The best thing to do is switch over to another channel and give the kid some tranquilizers. And take a few yourself.
But by far the majority of the programs which are supposedly designed for children should be shunned by all children and all but thick-skinned adults.
There is violence by the bucketful, blood is thicker than water and the writers out-do each other in inventing novel ways of committing mayhem. All this, of course, has been commented on repeatedly without any noticeable improvement.
I remember talking to Walt Disney about the problem of children's programs on TV. I asked him about the criticism of most of his works—there is almost always a part of the show that frightens children.
"Children like to be frightened," Disney said, "and I actually think it's good for them. If they see the program with an adult, or go to the theater with an adult, they are OK. It's only the kids who watch by themselves who could be affected by it."
That's all well and good, of course, if your TV set has a governor on it, and doesn't function unless there is an adult within squeezing distance of every child. But most TV sets are not that advanced in construction. They work no matter whose hand turns it on.
And so we have the spectacle of kids watching old movies or new TV shows (about the same quality) and seeing things that children simply should not see.
Parents, of course, should assume the responsibility of censoring the set, but frequently they don't—the TV set is the best baby-sitter ever invented, and many grown-ups let their children watch anything and everything. They must pay the price for their indulgence.
It is the parents’ job, not the TV networks’. But the networks could, at least, hold a firmer hand over the programs which they bill as children's fare. If Hanna-Barbera can do it, so can the others.
Tony Benedict was hired as the third writer at Hanna-Barbera around the time this column was published. What guidelines did he keep in mind when writing those helpful shows done in a good spirit?
“I had to please Joe, he was the only one. And he spoke only to God.”
Leaving the cartoon-making up to veteran cartoon makers. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? A shame it never stayed that way.