Today marks 54 years since “The Yogi Bear Show” first appeared on TV (WPIX New York was among the stations which broadcast it on Monday, January 30, 1961).
The Yogi show came about because a deal fell apart between UPA and ad agency Leo Burnett over a half-hour syndicated Mr. Magoo show to be sponsored in the early evening hours by Kellogg’s. The cereal maker quickly turned to two guys named Bill and Joe, and trade papers announced in October 1960 that Yogi would be filling the time instead. That gave Hanna-Barbera roughly 3 1/2 months to write, draw and shoot secondary cartoons to put in the two non-Yogi slots on the show, and the studio assigned to Mike Maltese to bang out some stories (Tony Benedict eventually replaced Maltese on one series). But time ran out so, for the first while, not all of Yogi’s advertised stable-mates (Yakky Doodle and Snagglepuss) appeared on the first few Yogi shows (similarly, Yogi remained on the Huck show for a time after his own show’s debut because the Hokey Wolf cartoons apparently weren’t ready to replace him).
Here’s Variety’s review of the Yogi premiere, published in the daily edition on February 3, 1961 and the weekly edition on February 15th by the pseudonymous “Tube.”
YOGI BEARIf you own the DVD of “The Yogi Bear Show,” you’ll notice something is amiss. The DVD has something billed “the original pilot episode,” but that doesn’t appear to be the case. For one thing, no Augie cartoon is included on the DVD. For another, the animation credits in Variety include Brad Case and La Verne Harding. Neither are credited on any cartoons in the DVD “pilot” and Case’s name isn’t mentioned in the credits at all. Neither is Doug Young’s, while the DVD end credits show Vance Colvig and Jimmy Weldon even though Yakky wasn’t, according to Variety, on the debut show. The DVD appears to be using closing animation with gang credits made some time later.
KTTV, Los Angeles (film)
Producer: Hanna-Barbera Productions; Production Supervisor: Howard Hanson; Animators: Lew Marshall, Laverne Harding, Brad Case; Voices: Daws Butler, Don Messick, Doug Young; Writers: Warren Foster, Mike Maltese; Distributor: Screen Gems; 30 Mins.; Thurs., 7 p. m.
Funniest and most inspired of all the charming, contagious Bill Hanna-Joe Barbera cartoon characters is Yogi Bear, lovable veteran of H-B's “Huck Hound” series hereby elevated to star status. Enormously popular in support, he should be an even bigger favorite in his new prestige category. The beauty of “Yogi,” as well as most of the other H-B creations, is that he can be appreciated wholeheartedly by adults as well as children. In the world of animated animals, he has no peer.
Animators on this premiere were Lew Marshall, Laverne Harding and Brad Case. First-rate character voicing is by Daws Butler, Don Messick and Doug Young. Music is incorporated with taste and sense by Hanna and Hoyt Curtin. Production supervisor is Howard Hanson. Series should be a winner for sponsor Kellogg's and is, of course, a merchandiser's delight. Tube
So what cartoons were on that first show? Well, the Los Angeles Times listing for Thursday, February 2nd reads:
DEBUT. Yogi Bear, the popular cartoon buddy of Huckleberry Hound, now has his own half hour. Tonight’s episode finds Yogi inspecting a tourist’s cabin for leftover delicacies and finding a genie in a teapot.The problem? “Genial Genie” was animated by Dick Lundy, who isn’t Marshall, Case or Harding.
To add to the confusion, there’s this favourable review from Harry Harris’ column in the Philadelphia Inquirer of February 14, 1961. Yogi debuted a week later in Philadelphia than in other parts of the U.S.
ANTI-MONOPOLY probers—and the Society for the Prevention of Unemployment for Human Actors—might take a look at Friday nights, wheret the Hanna-Barbera cartoon factory has staked out claims on three—count 'em—three time slots.So now Snagglepuss is missing, but Snooper and Blabber appear. My only thought is the Philadelphia station, since it started a week late, debuted with the second Yogi show sent to stations. The Los Angeles Times TV listings of February 9th show “Zoom Zoom Blabber” airing along with “Yakky Doodle Duck” and “Cub Scout Boo Boo.” We do know the cartoons in the third (week of February 13th) and fourth (week of February 20th) weeks of the show. The third week featured Yogi, Snagglepuss and Augie while the fourth aired Yogi, Yakky and Snooper cartoons. So it appears there was a bit of a rotation until enough Snagglepuss and Yakky cartoons were available (which was no later than the week of April 17, 1961).
There's "Quick Draw McGraw" on Channel 6 at 7:30, "The Flintstones" on the same station at 8:30 and, as of last week, "Yogi Bear" on Channel 3 at 7.
Don't get us wrong. We don't begrudge Yogi, the picnic basket-swiping Scourge of Jellystone Park a show of his own. He’s far and away one of the most ingratiating performers on TV today, and such fun-making talent should be encouraged and rewarded. But isn’t three pen-and-ink entries from the same shop on the same night a little too much, fellows?
Besides, it’s a long time between laughs from Tuesdays at 7:30 when their stablemate, “Huckleberry Hound,” cavorts on Channel 10. Why not spread the jollity? And jollity is what the new “Yogi Bear” program dispenses. In addition to the adventures of Yogi and his sidekick, Booboo, there will be segments about Yakky Doodle, a trusting little duck, and his dog pal Chopper, and about Snagglepuss, a Bert Lahr-like lion.
On last week’s premiere, Snagglepuss’s segment was pre-empted for a “Snooper and Blabber” episode, in which the mouse sleuth, subbing for TV hero Capt. Zoom-Zoom, halted a “human fly burglar” seeking to steal the Paskoonyak sapphire first by squeaking “Stop in the name of Channel 32,” and then by wielding a huge fly swatter.
Such antic are a darn sight more imaginative than what’s being dished up in TV’s people-only situation comedies—and a darn sight funnier.
Well, enough of the confusing cartoon historical archaeology. Yogi may not be getting the 1961 kind of exposure he had on TV every week or on cereal boxes, but no one can claim he’s not popular today. Do a search of Twitter and you’ll find references, albeit rather unorthodox ones, to the character’s name (why do people name pet dogs after a bear?). Do a search of news sites and his name pops up, too, usually in stories involving rogue bears stealing food in residential areas. A Yogi Bear balloon was part of the Hollywood Christmas Parade. A recent limited edition print of Yogi and denizens of Jellystone Park by Andrew Kolb sold out. Smokey and Paddington may disagree, but it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bear.