Saturday, January 31, 2015
Yogi Bear — Batty Bear
Credits: Animation – Bob Bentley, Layout – Ernie Nordli, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi Bear, Bat Guy, White Hat Tourist – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Ranger Smith, Announcer – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Yogi dresses as Bat Guy to steal picnic baskets.
Want to see a cartoon with what became the quintessential Yogi Bear plot? This is it. Yogi tries to steal picnic baskets and Ranger Smith tries to stop him. The sceptical ranger disbelieves calls reporting the thefts until he sees something for himself. The gimmick this time is Warren Foster has dressed it up in TV kids show super hero garb, a plot device not unknown at Hanna-Barbera.
The cartoon has its moments. Bat Guy addresses his fickle young TV viewers:
Yogi’s outfit arrives in the mail.
Yogi: It fits, Boo Boo. How do I look?
Boo Boo: With that mask on, Yogi, you look like a fat raccoon.
Yogi lets the comment slide. Not even an annoyed reaction take. Too bad.
Once airborne like a bat, Yogi flies toward the picnic area.
Yogi: The batty bear moves in on his prey. Hey, hey, hey!
Boo Boo (to himself): “Batty bear” is right.
Boo Boo doesn’t make observations very often, but they’re funny when he does. Mike Maltese always had Blabber or Baba Looey make comments about the starring character to the camera but the tone was kind of bemused. Foster uses a different attitude. Boo Boo’s making a verbal eye roll at Yogi, essentially saying “Yogi’s being an idiot again.” When he was at his best, Foster’s writing at Hanna-Barbera strikes me as more cynical than Maltese’s, who was quite content with oddball wordplay instead. As a side note, Don Messick turns in another fine performance. His read of Boo Boo’s line here couldn’t be better, and I love his vocal attitude change when Ranger Smith becomes clearly annoyed at getting a phoned complaint about a flying bear (“Gonna stick with it, eh?”).
Art Lozzi is the background artist. Here’s his Jellystone background used in a number of scenes, with rocks on an overlay.
More Lozzi. The vines over the cave entrance are a nice touch. And we all missed those colours in the shot of the bluff when watching this in 1961.
Ernie Nordli, who did some wonderful work for Chuck Jones at Warners, laid out the cartoon. My favourite layout is the scene from Yogi’s perspective looking down at Boo Boo on the bluff. Yogi, in shadow, crosses the screen. I wish the studio did this kind of thing more often instead of treating the action as an audience watching a stage with characters moving horizontally. A nice setting by Lozzi, too.
Yogi and Boo Boo have rounded jaws in profile. Bob Bentley is the animator.
Back to the plot. It’s a draw. Yogi agrees to give back the picnic baskets he stole if Ranger Smith doesn’t write a report about what he did. The tag scene has Ranger Smith trying on the Bat Guy suit to see if he can fly because of the “strong up-draught” at Lover’s Leap. It doesn’t work. Smith crashes to the sound effect of a ratting garbage can. Bentley gives us teeth.
“That Lover’s Leap is mighty steep. Nyea-hey-hey!” Yogi rhymes to end the cartoon. The solo trumpet cue accompanying it doesn’t really work me; I’d expect something with a positive, major chord to finish things off. I’m not crazy about the “March of the Duplicate Fred Flintstones” cue used when Ranger Smith’s on the phone. I mentioned earlier the ranger’s mood changes; the mood of the music doesn’t change to match it. A hazard of using a cue library.
I’ve avoided a comparison to Batman in this review. There really isn’t one. Foster’s story owes something to Superman (Batman didn’t fly, did he?), but it’s more inspired by the 1940s radio and TV late afternoon kid shows where the main character would hawk premiums. The mention of box tops is more a cultural reference, and a brief one, than a parody. Mustn’t upset that nice sponsor Kellogg or its ad agency. The Jay Ward studio, with its counterfeit box top plot-line on “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” learned that the hard way.