Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hit the Road, Huck

A 20-inch screen wasn’t enough to contain Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and sidekicks. Hanna-Barbera’s characters appeared on and off the screen. The characters were available for public events, sometimes involving TV stations which broadcast their shows. Eventually, an act was worked by featuring Eddie Alberian, who had played Clarabell the clown on the Howdy Doody show after Bob Keeshan.

Trade publications gave some publicity to the characters’ whistlestops. Here’s what Broadcasting magazine wrote in its issue of January 9, 1961.

Any four-foot actors?
Four-foot-tall actors stand to pick up a little work around the country this year. In fact, there is a potential of more than 180 tv dates. That figure is approximately the station line-up for Kellogg’s Huckleberry Hound and other cartoons, and they all have been offered a new costume package for “personal appearances” by the cartoon characters.
The four-foot figure is a new member of the troupe, Baba Looie. The burro is sidekick to the star of Quick Draw McGraw, and the two are set to accompany Huck on one section of the promotional tour, the characters recreated at each date by local talent.
Costumes have been prepared in two packages by Ed Justin, merchandising director of Screen Gems, distributor of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The other package features Huck with Yogi Bear and his new girl friend, Cindy Bear. In the first few days after the costume acts were offered, 27 stations responded.
Each act employs tape for lip-sync dialog and new songs. One of them, “Yogi Bear, the Casanova of the Cave Set,” is a duet for two bears. The other is an equine duet, “Quick Draw’s A-Comin’ and Baba Looie Too.” Kits also contain suggested formats and production run-down.
Air dates are being coordinated with department store promotions which tie in cartoon merchandise with the tv shows. The distributor also is suggesting other angles, such as a sanitation department tie-in with Quick Draw declaring he’s “gonna clean up this here town.”
Baba Looie’s and Cindy Bear's outfits are new. Last year’s costumes covered more than 150 dates at department stores, football games, parades and other local events. In addition, Screen Gems has a professional Huck-Yogi act on the road each season.
Kellogg (through Leo Burnett Co.) has Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw on around 180 stations. The new Yogi Bear show starts this month for Kellogg on 130 stations replacing Woody Woodpecker.
Here are some other examples. You may recall the cartoon where Yogi Bear “helps” the Chicago Bears. A costumed Yogi actually appeared at a Bears game. But he was at other sporting events, too. From Broadcasting, November 6, 1961.
Bear (Yogi) helps cheer Gophers over Wolverines
Tv star Yogi Bear (who admits to being “better than the average football player”) and his cohorts Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw ambled over to the U. of Minnesota from WCCO-TV Minneapolis where each has a weekly show to stir up enthusiasm for the college's homecoming football game.
Yogi not only served as cheerleader and participant in half-time festivities but also “guaranteed” the Minnesota Gophers a win over the Michigan Wolverines. Indeed with the backing of the Prophet of Jellystone Park, the Gophers denned the Wolverines by a score of 23-20.
From August 28, 1961:
Youngsters visit zoo with Yogi and friends
More than 45,000 youngsters and their parents attended WTOL-TV's “Day at the Zoo” event, which spotlighted a live telecast of the day's proceedings on Aug. 15 (2:30-3 p.m.).
The Toledo Zoo was officially renamed Jellystone Park (home of Yogi Bear) for a day and youngsters were treated to free movies in the park's indoor theater. A tie-in was arranged with the Kellogg Co., sponsor of Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and Huckleberry Hound cartoon series on WTOL -TV, including the setting up of Jellystone express trains and Jellystone Ranger stations.
The animal characters were in costume and paraded through the crowd. Special guests of WTOL -TV were Fred Wilson, sales and promotion field representative for the Leo Burnett Co., agency for Kellogg; Verne Heeren, Gene Malone, Prem Kapur and Art Berla of H-R Television, representative for the station. In addition to the “Day at the Zoo” project, which is in its second year, WTOL -TV works with the zoo management on a year –round basis to stimulate interest through public service announcements and coverage of the zoo's other special events.
And a couple of stories from Sponsor magazine, showing the power of Huck and Yogi as sales-characters. First, from January 30, 1960:
Capsule case history: Capwell's Department Store, one of the largest in Oakland, Calif. in connection with KTVU's (San Francisco) Huckleberry Hound, promoted a personal appearance at Capwells of Huck and Yogi, stars of the kid's show. Huckleberry Hound is seen Wednesdays from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Pete Watt, special events manager of Capwell's, reported that 350 children and parents were waiting for Huck and Yogi when they made their grand entrance onto the street level floor of the department store. And other people kept arriving as the half-hour event went on. Both during and after the appearance, Capwell's reported a multi-increase in general merchandise category. Another crowd was gathered in the store's basement toy department to greet the celebrities which also reflected in sales. “I feel that tv was responsible for the promotion's success, by getting the word out to the kids themselves—something a newspaper ad cannot do because kids don't read such ads,” said Watt.
And from January 1, 1962:
Capsule case history: When GEM Stores in the new state of Hawaii booked Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Quick Graw McGraw for personal appearances to build store traffic and plug the stores' third anniversary promotion, an on-air schedule on KHVH-TV, Honolulu, was used to implement the program. Starting almost two months before the visit, a strong tv spot campaign was initiated to recruit numbers for the H. Hound fan club and plugging Huckleberry for President buttons. When Huck and his pals started at Honolulu International, about 10,000 of their loyal Hawaiian fans turned out to greet them-the largest crowd in the airport's history. At GEM, fans and customers, numbering 2,500, were on hand to welcome their heroes. Glenn Kya, general manager of GEM, reported that store sales were way up during their Honolulu junket. Results were especially record-breaking on their visits to other islands which are reached by KMVI-TV, Maui, and KHJK, Hilo.
Finally, let’s pass on this story from Broadcasting magazine, January 23, 1961. Unfortunately, a picture didn’t accompany the story.
Tv to get mechanical man to promote ‘Flintstones’
A newcomer to the Hanna-Barbera stable of cartoon talent distributed by Screen Gems is ready to hit the personal appearance trail. Fred Flintstone, who this season debuted with his wife in The Flintstones (ABC -TV, Fri., 8:30-9 p.m. EST), is ready to follow the promotional route pioneered by the syndicated Huckleberry Hound, followed by Yogi Bear, Baba Louie and others.
How to mount the Flintstone act posed some problems, though. Costumed people customarily portray the cartoon animals in local appearances, but it didn’t seem right to Ed Justin, merchandising manager of Screen Gems, to costume a real man to play a cartooned one. So he has come up with a mechanical man to do the Fred Flintstone bit around the country.
It is the cheapest act yet. A station has only to assign an announcer to ask questions, plug in Fred and let him talk. The other cartoon acts all require actors to fill animal suits. This one will be performed by an animated polyethylene statue executed by Silvestri Art Manufacturing Co. of Chicago, which has created similar representations of Screen Gems cartoon folk for department store displays. Recorded dialog for Fred Flintstone activates mechanical muscles, so the five-foot “personality” can do his own lip-sync act, including an original song to wind up the bit, “Abba Dabba Do,” based upon a favorite exclamation of the caveman character.
The act has been offered all ABC-TV affiliates. Thirty-five accepted immediately and the syndicator expects to hear from more. First stop on the national tour will be WBKB (TV) Chicago sometime next month when the “talent” is ready. Department-store bookings will follow later in the year after a new line of Flintstone toy merchandise debuts next March at the Toy Fair in New York.
How long Hanna-Barbera had guys sweating in huge costumes show up at supermarket ribbon-cuttings and department store Christmas toy displays, I don’t know. Newspapers and trade publications eventually stopped covering small potatoes events like that. The studio expanded and pretty soon it stepped up to the ice-show and theme park business. By 1977, Eddie Alberian had moved on to play “Dokey the Good Food Clown,” mixing messages for kids into the entertainment. Seems to me some H-B characters who once had been in costume went in that direction on TV, too.

1 comment:

  1. Please forgive me if my recollection is a bit shaky, but back between 1969 and 1971, we had a local toy store opening called Play World in East Meadow, NY. The grand opening was a big event as I recall as there were several personal appearances by NY METS stars, The real Bozo and a special show in front of the building by The Banana Splits. Before they came out, a gentleman in his 30s or 40s came out to talk with the crowd. As I remember he impressed the crowd with his credentials including at one time being Clarabelle The Clown. I thought he also said he was at one time being another clown, Ronald McDonald, but like I mentioned, my memory may be a little murky because of time. I know he remained out there once the characters came out and pretty much MC'd the show. The costumed characters looked authentic; I was never one for being duped when little switches happened, like when different voices were used for one character or different animation studios were used for Popeyes. It's interesting to read a bit about the history of these live shows. Again, thanks for digging up this stuff.

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