Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera liked the character, so when they started their own studio, they put the duck in several cartoons. It was the same old thing. He was a user in “Slumber Party Smarty” (1958), playing the sympathy card to have Yogi Bear take him in, then selfishly ignoring a kind request to remain quiet (Yogi ends up leaving while the clueless duck wonders why).
In September 1960, Kellogg’s had announced it would sponsor a half-hour, early-evening, syndicated cartoon series featuring Mr. Magoo, similar to the half-hours it was sponsoring that were fronted by Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw. But UPA, the studio behind Magoo, pulled out of the deal. Kellogg’s needed something fast. Hanna-Barbera was ready. Yogi Bear had pretty much eclipsed Huckleberry Hound as the studio’s No. 1 star—so he got his own show. To fill the rest of the half hour, Hanna and Barbera pulled out two characters that had been used as supporting players—Snagglepuss, and the duck, at the time named Iddy Biddy Buddy.
His name got changed but he still exhibited some of the same traits. He still pulled guilt trips, faking how he’d freeze to death if he wasn’t able to mooch a home. He whined about being an orphan. Fortunately, writer Mike Maltese realised there were very few laughs to be mined with a star that was a pest, so he eliminated a lot of the negativity and put the comedy in the mouths of villains. Maltese came up with Fibber Fox, then Tony Benedict, who spelled off Maltese on the series, spoofed Alfred Hitchcock Presents by creating Alfie Gator, right down to the silhouettes and character outline. Daws Butler doesn’t do a Hitchcock impression, but he evokes Hitch with an English-esque accent punctuated by heavy breaths.
(As an aside, something else that helped Yakky was his voice. The earlier duck had been voiced by nightclub performer Red Coffey/Coffee whose imitation Donald Duck delivery was sometimes stiff and undecipherable. Children’s entertainer Jimmy Weldon won the Yakky role; he had a duck puppet character on his popular local Los Angeles TV show. Weldon was a great choice. Compared to Coffey, his diction was much clearer and his line reading more enthusiastic).
This lengthy introduction brings us to the cartoon “Duck Seasoning.” Benedict wrote this one and it’s one of the best in the series. It’s a two-character cartoon, Yakky and Alfie. Yakky isn’t constantly crying for his dog friend, Chopper, to bail him out of trouble. Yakky takes care of Alfie himself. His independence is refreshing.
Alfie keeps up a steady stream of patter to the viewers, just like Hitchcock addressing the audience in his show. He is revealed after entering in silhouette and, again like Hitchcock, wishes us a “good evening.” And he tells us there will be brief pause before fading out, then welcomes us back when the next scene fades in; Hitchcock used the same device for commercial breaks on his show. I didn’t watch Hitchcock when I was 6 but I still got the reference when I saw these cartoons for the first time (thanks to station promos that ran during daytime hours). Best of all, Hoyt Curtin composed a tune reminiscent of the well-known Hitchcock theme Funeral March of a Marionette. It fit perfectly.
Here’s the opening dialogue. Tony had a good ear for the Hitchcock format; Hitch would explain what was about to unfold for viewers.
Alfie: Good evening. (Breathes). Welcome to Roast Duck Season. You are about to witness the decline and fall of a duck (breathes) at the hands of Yours Truly.“What am I going to do with this rifle?” Alfie says, repeating Yakky’s question when the two finally meet. “Such bland naiveté would melt a heart of lesser stuff,” he tells us. Tony doesn’t give us a gag to end the scene; Yakky simply runs away after being fired on before a fade out.
Roast duck under glass is a must for any cultured gourmet. (Breathes) I shall attract the main course with this ingenious dinner bell (breathes) known as a “duck call.”
(Alfie blows duck call four times)
Yakky: Quack quack?!?
Alfie: For my next number (breathes), I shall play the ballad “The Duck I Left Behind Me.”
(Alfie blows duck call twice)
Yakky: Sounds like some poor duck left behind me.
Now a series of blackout gags follows, with Alfie commenting on each failure. In a way, it’s reminiscent of what Maltese did with Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius, in cartoons with Bugs Bunny. Alfie captures Yakky in a pot. “Modesty (breathes) forbids my pointing out the particular brilliance of the foregoing manoeuvre.” Yakky responds by bashing Alfie on the head with the pot. “Action (breaths) seems to speak louder than words. And, I might add, much harder.”
Alfie decides to shoot himself into the sky from a cannon to capture the duck. While he’s explaining his theory of flight to us from inside, Yakky plugs the mouth of the cannon with a rock. Kaboom.
Next, Alfie tries to send himself aloft through the force of a tree he is riding, and is about to cut loose after tying it to the ground. Crash! “I shall return in a moment (breathes) with renewed vigour and courage.” Return he does to use a rocket strapped on his back to “thrust me into the duck’s orbital trajectory.”
Unfortunately, the missile stops in mid-air and crashes back to Earth. “That is what is known in the missile industry as a (breathes) ‘successful failure,’” Alfie opines.
Yakky stops to rest on a tree branch. Alfie climbs it “with the finesse of a telephone lineman” (he even attached hobnails to his feet). Yakky simple chops down the tree. “For the laymen in the audience,” he remarks before the tree smashes to the ground, “timber means ‘look out’.”
“That forces me to accept the subtlest form of victory (breathes)—defeat,” he concludes and there’s a wipe to the next scene showing Alfie ordering a hot dog. “Naturally,” he confides, “the hot dog is somewhat below the dignity of a true gourmet, however (breathes) it’s never been known to retaliate by fighting back. So, if you’d excuse me, I shall say (breathes) goodbye.” And Alfie wanders off, leaving an outline of his head while Curtin’s faux marionette march plays.
Don Williams is the animator; there’s nothing distinctive about his work in this cartoon. Dan Noonan handled layouts while Bob Gentle was the background artist. This setting opens the cartoon over Daws Butler’s narration.
Tony Benedict hit on a good formula for this cartoon, or at least one I like. Yakky standing up for himself, no Chopper, lots of bad guy with self-commentary. With that, we wish you “Good evening.”