Saturday, December 7, 2013

Yogi Bear — A Bear Living

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Art Davis, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi Bear, Dad with Camera, Charlie’s Buddy, Maître d’ – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Ranger Smith, Boy Scout, Charlie – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961.
Plot: Yogi decides to build a wishing well to earn money to buy food.

There’s not a lot of laugh-out-loud comedy in the Yogi Bear cartoons exclusively for his own show in the 1961-62 season. Most of them are amusing at best and pleasant at worse. “A Bear Living” is pleasant.

The cartoons had devolved to a point where the plots were mainly Yogi-vs-Ranger Smith, usually involving food or park rules. This cartoon contains both. Warren Foster’s story is well-constructed but the dialogue merely services the plot. There’s nothing I would really call hilarious. Even Yogi’s rhymes are at a minimum (“My conscience is clear. I have nothing to fear,” he tells Boo Boo). It’s tough to blame Foster, though. He was busy writing “The Flintstones” at the time and the workload doing that series and a dozen-or-so Yogis (plus Huckleberry Hound, plus Pixie and Dixie, plus Hockey Wolf, plus some Loopy De Loops) is just mind-boggling. A lesser writer would come up with disjointed crap like any “Bucky and Pepito” story.

Foster’s dialogue isn’t the only thing that’s tamer here. The animation is by the great Art Davis. But if you compare it to what he did on the Quick Draw McGraw cartoon “El Kabong, Jr.” the previous season, which has some neat angular poses and stylisation, there’s a lot of talking and walking and not a lot else. Davis tends to curve up the mouth high into the face in his Hanna-Barbera cartoons around this time. Here are a couple of examples.



Davis left behind some eyes when Yogi zips out of the scene.



I’ve mentioned before how the positions of the characters don’t match after cuts. Here’s a good example of consecutive frames. The shot cuts from two characters to three (I gather in layout, these are considered separate scenes).



Bob Gentle doesn’t get a chance to shine. Like the dialogue, the backgrounds service the plot. In fact, 40 seconds of screen time features a background that’s a greenish-tan coloured card. That’s it. Here are two of his drawings that are in the clear.



And here’s a basic drawing of the Ranger Station to open the cartoon. Gentle gets some varied angles in it.



There aren’t any of the isosceles triangle-shaped trees that you normally see when Tony Rivera is the layout artist. Rivera designed the cars in this.



The straight-forward story starts with Ranger Smith holding up a park rule book and telling Yogi that’s what he’s going to follow. Yogi apparently thought the Ranger was a preacher with a Bible. “But for a minute, I thought you were going to marry us.” Even Boo Boo laughs as that, not realising that a couple of generations later, people with too much time on their hands would try to read something into his relationship with Yogi. “This book won’t sell big amongst us bears,” Yogi tells the Ranger.

Ah, but smarter-than-the average Yogi has found a loophole. It doesn’t say bears can’t buy food at the park. So he decides to construct a wishing well (as a “Flintstones” bassoon underscore plays in the background) and make some cash from the coins dropped in (“The Ranger isn’t going to like that, Yogi). It’s visited by characters with pipe-stem legs (Rivera’s favourite), including a Boy Scout (Bill Hanna’s favourite) with 5 o’clock shadow.



The income from the well must be incredible. Yogi makes enough to not only eat everything on the menu the park inn “twice-t,” he can afford a sports car. After a ho-hum car chase scene, Yogi tells Ranger Smith “I got a little thing goin’ for me, sir. It’s a regular gold mine.” The ranger takes it literally, thinking there’s a mine in the park that will attract prospectors. The ranger’s offer—if Yogi fills up the “gold mine,” he’ll throw away the rule book and the bear can do whatever he wants (until the next cartoon). Before the well is bashed apart with a sledgehammer in the final scene, Boo Boo makes a wish—that the ranger never finds out about the wishing well. “That’s a good one, Boo Boo” Yogi says, looking at the camera, “because if he does, we’ll wish he hadn’t. Nyea, hey, hey, hey, eee.”

We mentioned one cue you’ll recall from “The Flintstones.” The rest of Hoyt Curtin’s music should be familiar from Touché Turtle and Wally Gator cartoons.

7 comments:

  1. It could be worse, Yowp: you could be getting formats like the 70s-80s cartoons - Jabberjaw/Scooby, Yogi's own reboot in the 70s in the ark, or half hour crowd filled Smurf or
    Flintstone Kids like stuff. So there is a silver lining here-after all, Yogi hasn't devolved entirely, it's still the con artist stuff [wait till they use the Scooby-Doo style and pop music format by 1969].

    Still the point about beig formulaic makes sense here though I still like Yogi's conniving idea to get money, though I agree it's MUCH tamer, and many other artistic aspects about this, and the end of this shows Yogi better destroy that well. We could get crap like, oh, the new Scooby-Doo movies. The ranger better not find that well, as Yogi tells Boo-Boo! But there were much better than this in the final season [Yogi in the City and whatever it was where him, Boo-boo and Ranger were in a rocket ship due to Yogi's own curiosity when he should've been hibernating.] And then one final stock music cartoon, "Booby-Trapped Bear" [with the ranger putting picnic baskets in stragetic spots and putting the old glove I n a basket joke mechanism in another....].SC

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  2. This is one of the Yogi Bear episodes which has subtile dialogues, with a touch of sitcom.
    It's which, on this occasion, Warren Foster was very involved with The Flintstones, where he was doing scripts with a sitcom treatment, where predominates the subtile dialogues.



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  3. I have to agree with Pokey in that, while Yogi has certainly lost a step or three (and has long since stopped walking with that unique drum-beat-type sound that punctuated his pace) by this time, I cannot be too critical of something like this – which was still enjoyably entertaining – when compared with the dreadful sort of things that lie in H-B’s not too distant future.

    And, yes, both Foster (especially) and Maltese cranked these series out at an almost superhuman pace – and it’s a wonder they ended up as good as they were.

    I’m also glad you’ve moved into THE YOGI BEAR SHOW era, and hope to see some Snagglepuss and Yakky Doodle soon… especially something with Alfy Gator (along with J. Evil Scientist, perhaps my favorite of the H-B secondary characters… guess that means I like Peter Lorre and Alfred Hitchcock).

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  4. Yeah, Joe, there was a downward trajectory at the studio. By the same token, Wally Gator was more entertaining than Speed Buggy and Wally was pretty average. But I'd rather watch Mr. Jinks than Wally any day.
    I really think Foster's best work was with Huckleberry Hound. Huck has some great dialogue even in the final season. By the time Yogi got his own show, Foster was so married to the Jellystone format, I think it left him less to play with story-wise. But there are still some good cartoons. Droop-a-Long Yogi may be a little derivative, but Don Messick's western hero (kind of like a stiff Gary Cooper) is pretty funny.
    As for the continuation of the blog, I've somehow managed to get posts done to the middle of next month. Normally, I'm three to four months ahead but I just don't have the spare time to blog. If I am able to last through to the fifth anniversary here, I'll be amazed.

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    Replies
    1. Yowp:

      I’m certain that everyone here will agree with me that I hope you find some way to carry on. This Blog is not only a regular stop, but a favorite one.

      As a Blogger myself, I fully understand the effort involved in “feeding the beast”, and with over 100 posts made in each full year of my Blog’s existence – meaning an average of at-or-over two posts per week, on comics, DVDs, animation, classic TV and films, and death notices for those whose work I’ve enjoyed. At least there’s a never-ending selection of topics to report on… the unfortunate reality of that last one, notwithstanding.

      And, it’s not all that easy to maintain, as the infrequent updates of many of the Blogs you showcase in your sidebar reveal – with some inactive for many months and more.

      You happen to be one of the very best at “keeping it fresh” (though NO ONE beats Mark Evanier), and I’m certain we’d all understand and appreciate if you “slowed”, rather than stopped altogether. Does the same apply to “Tralfaz”?

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  5. There's a strong base to the story here, even using the by-1961 standard Yogi-vs.-Ranger Smith template. But had Foster done this two years earlier, there would have been a more adult sense of wearied annoyance with the Ranger, in the "Here we go again" It's part of what made the early Yogis, including the Shows-Gordon Season 1 stories, fun, in that you never felt the cartoons were talking down to you.

    By the time we get to 1961, there's a certain overly-chipper/excited/expressive nature in all the characters, as if they can't be subtle because it might go over the heads of the kids, and you couldn't have Yogi being grumbly or the Ranger being world-weary, because that wasn't the best way to peddle Kellogg's OKs or any other fine product Bill and Joe signed their stars to peddle. The foundation, along with the characters and Daws and Don's voices, make up for a lot of the weakness, but transfer some of the final group of Yogi plot outlines over to, say, Wally Gator, Magilla or Squiddly Diddly, and the weaknesses would become apparent quickly.

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