Saturday, January 31, 2015

Yogi Bear — Batty Bear

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
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.
Production: R-59.
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:


Bat Guy: Now, remember kiddies, keep those box tops coming in. 10,000 box tops will win you a genuine Bat Guy suit like I wear. Smaller, of course. Please send them in, kids. I implore you. It’ll help your uncle Batty. You see, since I wear a mask, I can be easily replaced and I know you keen boys and girls wouldn’t want that (nervous laugh).

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.



Brushwork.



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.

8 comments:

  1. The comparison with the suit is probably closer to Maltese's Batman costume the Coyote donned in "Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z" (one of the Road Runners Nordli worked on) -- Maltese had the costume work, but fail because the overconfident Coyote doesn't pay attention. Foster goes back more to his "Everything works for Bugs/Tweety and doesn't for Sam/Sylvester" routine here with Yogi and the Ranger, where the bat suit's success depends on who's wearing it. It's not as good as example of personality animation as with the Warners' effort, but since Warren had to squeeze five minutes instead of 30 seconds out of the plot device, it's also understandable.

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  2. Not knowing any better, for years I assumed BATTY BEAR was inspired by the 1966 BATMAN television series craze! When I finally found out that it was made in the early sixties I was astounded as to how ahead of its time it was!

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  3. 2/1/15
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    Christopher, the Batman series came out in January 1966; This cartoon came out around 1961-62, so this Batman parody with Yogi came first (though it was preceded by Wile E. Coyote donning the Bat-suit in an earlier Warner Brothers Cartoon, and failing, of course by crashing into a cliff while flying, then falling to the ground. This was pointed out by J. Lee in the above comment from a cartoon titled "Gee Whizz-zzz-zzz.") Batman doesn't fly literally, but he can do terrifying leaps, fly in a Bat-copter, and has a Bat Jet-pack to elevate him. These were just some of many of the endless "Bat Objects" he was saddled with over the years. Maltese was obviously inspired by the Batman comic books, and the short-lived movie serials put out by Columbia Pictures from 1941, 1943, and 1945. "Batman" was changed to "Bat Guy" to avoid the lawsuits from DC comics.

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  4. Nice to see another review. Before I even saw J.Lee's comment ,"Gee Whizz"
    (and that scene from "Zip Zip Hooray" and :"The Adventures of the Roadrunner',a 1961 featurette, WB animation's only one, that segmented it,) came to mind when I saw the pics of Yogi. Steve J.,Carras

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  5. Reading Bay Guy’s statement, pleading for the kids to save his job “…since I wear a mask, I can be easily replaced…” reminded me of when The Lone Ranger’s Clayton Moore left the series (or was fired) over a salary dispute and was replaced with John Hart. Even though they both wore masks, the change was obvious.

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  6. There was some superhero/masked guy show of which William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were fans of. Think about it, one of the hidden and underrated symbols of Hanna-Barbera is, as they say, "the ol' kid (or bear) worships TV hero star so father dresses up and impersonate him to make kid (or bear?) happy."

    ''Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy'', ''Yogi Bear'', ''The Flintstones'', ''Magilla Gorilla'' and ''The Tom and Jerry Show'' - Spike and Tyke segment, and maybe I am omitting someone. The point is that there was some show from which they channeled all of this stuff, sure in some of the studio's adaptations the persona of the character of the actor playing the superhero was snobbish, too sick to make it but made it anyway, and finally nice.

    Does anyone know the show that caused this tsunami of these stories. Sure it took us some time to make the connection, but still, we were fed a lot of these stories. Also maybe it, in a way inspired ''Quick Draw McGraw'' with the whole masked avenger bit.-Georgi

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    Replies
    1. Atom Ant had a plot like that too.

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  7. As I recall, it wasn't that the suit perversely refused to work for Mr. Ranger; I believe Yogi told Boo-Boo that the strong updraft "dives down later in the day".

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