Saturday, April 25, 2015

Yogi Bear — Bear Foot Soldiers

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Bob Bentley, Layout – Iwao Takamoto, Backgrounds – Neenah Maxwell, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi Bear, Blue Lieutenant, Bear Soldier, Man Picknicker, Charlie, Ranger Schultz, Orange-Hair Ranger – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Ranger Smith, Blue General, Bear Sergeant, Woman Picnicker, Louie – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62.
Plot: Yogi Bear unwittingly becomes part of a war game in Jellystone Park.

The U.S. military is kind of clueless. Warren Foster buried that message—but not too deep—inside a number of Hanna-Barbera cartoons that aired in the 1961-62 season. Three of them have “missile” in the title (“Meece Missiles,” “Missile-Bound Bear” and “Missile Bound Yogi”). Then there’s this one.

Here we find military commanders and soldiers who are so wrapped up in their war, they can’t tell the difference between bears and guys in bear costumes, or park rangers and “enemy” soldiers dressed as rangers. In fact, there were no soldiers dressed as rangers in the cartoon. It was a snap judgement by the general in this cartoon based on his own version of military logic, the same kind of logic that breeds the attitude of “shoot first and ask questions later.”

The plot starts out with the simple premise (the same one in “Missile Bound Yogi”) that the Army is, for whatever reason, holding war games in a national park. The lieutenant in charge of the “Bear Patrol” mistakes the lounging Yogi and Boo Boo for lazy soldiers and orders them to get with the other “bears.” The two civilian bears are immediately compliant to military demands and remain so throughout the cartoon; this isn’t the late ‘60s, after all.


Yogi: Uh, things must be pretty bad, Boo Boo, when they start draftin’ animals.
Boo Boo: I thought the next war was gonna be a push-button war.
Yogi: They must have run out of buttons, so they start pushin’ bears.

Yogi helpfully urges the hungry patrol to help themselves to picnic baskets. The armed outright thievery is heartily endorsed by the lieutenant. “Livin’ off the country is necessary sometimes,” he declares. Meanwhile, the bear patrol members fire their weapons at Ranger Smith, knowing full well he’s the park ranger, to “scare him off.”

All this does is result in a military escalation, with Smith and his armed rangers shooting at his country’s own soldiers. “But we scored first,” says the lieutenant, as if that were somehow important. The lieutenant orders Yogi and Boo Boo to get into a tank and chase the rangers. “An order’s an order,” says the unquestioning Yogi.

Suddenly, the military goes home.


Lieutenant (on phone): What’s that general? Call off the war game immediately? Uh, why sir? A new missile has made the Army obsolete? Yes, sir!”

And the lieutenant hangs up the phone as Hoyt Curtin’s soundtrack plays one bar in a minor key of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.”

But no one tells Yogi. Cut to him in an out-of-control tank, firing at the rangers, who take refuge in their cabin. Smith’s heroic speech:


Smith: We’ll make our last stand here, men. And let us conduct ourselves so Ranger Station Number 4 will go down in history with Custer’s Last Stand, and the Alamo...

At this point the tank that threatens to mow down the ranger station stops in front of the door. Yogi praises Boo Boo for, in essence, saving the rangers’ lives. Don Messick was a wonderful tone in his voice, emphasizing the fact Boo Boo didn’t do anything. “It ran out of gas, Yogi,” he deadpans. The military didn’t provide the necessary fuel to “do the job” and Foster leaves the audience to draw its own conclusion.

“Missile-Bound Bear” ends with the Army trying to cover up its failed mission through intimidation (yet another military “order” of civilians), followed by a bribe by Ranger Smith to Yogi (who realises what it is but gladly complies since it means lots of picnic baskets). This cartoon ends with the rangers conspiring to cover up their own mistake (shooting at bear-costumed soldiers that some tourists told them were real bears) and bribing Yogi and Boo Boo into silence with picnic baskets.



There’s nothing much about the artwork in this cartoon that stands out. It’s one of the first that Iwao Takamoto worked on at Hanna-Barbera. Everything looks shot like it’s on a stage. Incidental characters have the studio’s “look.” The lieutenant could be a jar-headed distant relative of George Jetson.



Iwao’s designs for the military vehicles are solid (note that the dust whipped up by the moving tank is animated).



There’s a cute bit of animation by journeyman Bob Bentley. When Ranger Smith cries that the bears are “armed to the teeth,” he shows his teeth.



I also like how the lieutenant is standing at attention while talking with the general—even when he’s on the phone.



And what would a Hanna-Barbera cartoon be without a running cycle? Here are the three rangers, running past the same tree forever. The cycle is four drawings on ones. It takes 24 frames for the background to start over again. It’s a little slower than in the actual cartoon.



Incidentally, you’ll notice the middle ranger is out of step with the others, for aesthetic reasons I imagine.



“Ours is not to reason why,” paraphrases Yogi from Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade, “ours is but to do or diet.” Thus ends the cartoon. It’s hard to go on after a pun like that so we conclude our final review of the seven-minute Yogi cartoons.

Late note: Howard Fein noticed one Yogi short wasn’t reviewed (no, I don’t mean the half-hour special). We’ll try to get to it.

4 comments:

  1. Hey out there...this has been Yohhhhh-geeeee Bear (as only Daws Butler himself could pronounce it) and all the reviews of the Quick Draw, earlier Huck (and title segments post-1960), and Yogi shows (Yogis only), as all brought to you eveyr day by KELLOGS and distr.by Screen Gems. And I guess no review of the half hour "This Is Your Life" or feature Yogi attempts.

    This is sort of a companion to whatever was the one where Yogi gets caught fouling up the war games one.SC

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  2. I saw this cartoon when it originally aired, when H-B was still making great cartoons for a more adult audience, and a lot of it went over my middle-single-digit year old head. But, what some decision-making folks in TV fail to realize is – that’s okay, and it’s not a sin!

    Because there will be two possible outcomes:
    1: I ask a parent about the stuff I don’t get – and might actually learn something.
    2: I don’t do that, and there will be some funny stuff waiting for me when I’m older.

    I call that win / win! Pity, that would change pretty soon.

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  3. "I saw this cartoon when it originally aired". I did, too...(I think the other one where the military visited Jellystone, the war game one, was Missile Bound Bear.

    Before that in 1960-61, there was "Missile-Bound-Cat".

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  4. Not sure if this is the one, but I was looking for the cartoon in which Yogi yells, "Tanks, Boo Boo! Tanks!" and Boo Boo replies, "You're welcome, Yogi."

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