Thursday, July 3, 2014
Hey There, It's Not Ruff and Reddy
The idea was actually kicking around Hanna-Barbera almost immediately after the pair made their debut on NBC in December 1957. The revelation was made in a story in Daily Variety of January 20, 1958 and repeated virtually verbatim in Weekly Variety two days later.
We won’t reprint the full article, just the portion that deals with the cartoon studio. It’s interesting seeing in the earliest stories about the studio in Variety that George Sidney was the one who got the publicity. Sidney was H-B Enterprises’ first president. More importantly, he had been president of the Directors Guild of America and was known for live action films. Once Huckleberry Hound took off in popularity in late 1958, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera decided to make their names known in the popular press. Sidney kept his chunk of shares in the company until it was sold to Taft Broadcasting in the ‘60s.
This version of the story comes from Weekly Variety, as it mentions some of the studio’s commercial clients.
[Studio] Employs 25, Expanding
After less than eight months of operation, H& B Productions, cartoonery formed by George Sidney in partnership with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, is expanding its operations. Hanna and Barbera formerly produced the Tom and Jerry Animated cartoons for Metro. H& B Productions staff now numbers 25, drawn from the Metro cartoonery when the Culver lot ended animation.
Sidney, who is prexy of the firm, reported that he will use a cartoon sequence in "Pepe," his upcoming Columbia film starring Cantinflas. Sequence will be inserted along lines of animated action used in Metro's "Anchors Aweigh," which Sidney directed.
H& B now is doing commercials for Metro, as well as for Schlitz, S & H Green Stamps, Junket and others. In addition, it is doing a program of cartoons for Screen Gems, "The Ruff and Reddy Show," which started televising five weeks ago over NBC-TV every Saturday morning, 9-9:30 a. m., under sponsorship of General Foods. Total of 52 segments have been completed for SG. While H-B deals with SG includes these 52 subjects only, talks already have started with Columbia subsid for a further series. Outfit last week launched production on 78 segments for a new program.
The "Ruff and Ready" series was made in color, according to Sidney, with a view to linking a number of segments together for theatrical release in Europe later as a cartoon feature. Feature cartoon production already is being considered by the three partners, who are weighing the possibilities of three different properties. One of these will be started within the next two to three months, he declared, and it's expected [the] company will have this initial feature ready for release in early 1960. Industrial and medical cartoons films likewise are planned, Sidney stated.
52 segments of “Ruff and Reddy” could have been easily put together into a feature. Each cartoon had roughly 2½ minutes of animation, if you deleted the titles and the scene-setter re-used from the previous cartoon.
For whatever reason, the studio abandoned the idea of a Ruff and Reddy feature. But it came up with another one during yet another expansion. The headline in Daily Variety of October 20, 1960 reads “HANNA-BARBERA DOUBLES PROD.—THEATRICAL AS WELL AS TV CARTOONS.” The article on the studio is a lengthy one, and reveals a reorganisation of staff, a 100% increase in its production budget, plans to buy two acres to build a new studio, and two new syndicated series of five minute cartoons, one starring Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har and the other starring Hairbrain Hare and Dum Dum (no Touché Turtle yet). But the story also contained news of a feature film as well as the tacit admission that Huckleberry Hound was no longer the studio’s top star.
Yogi Feature Star
Company currently is in production on a "Yogi Bear" teleseries, bringing the character out of the "Huckleberry Hound" teleseries. "Yogi" also will be the star of H-B's first feature-length film, currently being written by Barbera and Warren Foster and being aimed for release next summer by Columbia.
As you know, the Yogi feature didn’t come out in 1960. Variety tracked its progress, or non-progress as was the case. It was still in the company’s plans according to two feature stories on animation in May 1961 and mentioned as in the planning stages in a couple of stories in 1962 (a second feature besides Yogi “not based on one of their vidcartoons” was revealed in the edition of November 29, 1961). Finally, there was some movement in early 1963 as Ray Gilbert was hired to write songs for it (Daily Variety, March 11). Hanna and Barbera had ambitions for it; the May 23rd Weekly Variety reported Ann-Margret, Dean Martin and Eddie Fisher were to supply voices.
The movie was put into production on August 7, 1963 with a staff of 120 working on it under the title “Whistle Your Way Back Home.” Someone must have realised the title was too vague and really poor marketing. If you’re going to have a cartoon starring Yogi Bear, put his name in the title. So by December 1963 it was known as “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear.”
Interestingly, a syndicated newspaper article from 1966 plugging the Flintstones feature revealed “Hey There” hadn’t made money at that point. And it also quoted Bill Hanna as saying the Ruff and Reddy cartoons the studio had made starting almost nine years earlier had just made back their negative costs. It is any wonder, then, why the studio took a pass at turning the characters into feature film stars.