Saturday, August 27, 2016

Yogi Bear: Investigative Reporter into TV Violence

Yogi Bear wasn’t a satiric show like Rocky and Bullwinkle, but it got in a few nudges every once in a while.

Insatiable nanny groups got plenty of ink in newspapers for years, “approving” television programming for somebody else’s children. And Yogi, likely through writer Warren Foster, got a chance to make his own little commentary on it in one of those short cartoons-between-the-cartoons.

Yogi tells us he’s about to investigate violence on TV, then turns on his set. Suddenly, the programming comes out of the set to attack him.



“Hey, hey, hey,” he moans in pain. “It’s there, all right.”



The irony is, within ten years, a cartoon like this would not be allowed to appear on network television. The Huckleberry Hound Show was praised initially for not being “violent” like Tom and Jerry, or Popeye. But organised do-gooders never stop once their goal is met. They just expand their targets. Hanna-Barbera became a target. Wave bye-bye to The Herculoids and Space Ghost, kids. Someone thinks they’re not suitable for you.

Joe Barbera complained in 1978: “Some of these groups don't know when to quit. If Chaplin or Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy were trying to do TV comedy today, they couldn't make it." And when he and Bill Hanna tried to revive Tom and Jerry in 1975 for television, Barbera told the Associated Press’ Lee Margulies “We ran into a stone wall, because some citizens for the protection of the children of the world have decided cartoons are evil, that they’re violent and full of mayhem. We showed (the network folks) five of the old Tom and Jerrys and they laughed so hard they had tears in their eyes. Then they said, ‘We can’t use them. If we put those on we’ll get killed.’”

So Tom and Jerry got emasculated for TV animation.

In 1968, Hanna and Barbera came up with a combination animated-live action The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn at $100,000 per half hour. Syndicated newspaper writer Mel Heimer noted “There will be action, Bill and Joe promise, but not great violence.”

Emboldened special interests that knocked Frankenstein, Jr. off the air didn’t see it that way. Here’s a story that from the Chicago Daily News Service that appeared in newspapers on October 3, 1969. Ignore a few things, such as “we can’t give them the cartoons we gave them ten years ago” line. Ten years earlier, Hanna-Barbera produced Huck, Yogi, Jinks and Quick Draw. And ten years earlier, either Bill or Joe said the same thing about “sharper” kids; the earlier quote mentioned shows that were contemporary to the time. The New York Times, not Variety was the source of the “inked disaster” opinion. And while lauding Dick Dastardly and the Cattanooga Cats (neither was an original concept), there’s no mention of the one new character in 1969 that became one of the studio’s top money-makers of all time: Scooby-Doo.

(As an aside, did Bill Hanna really mean to say “Erotic things are permissible”?)

Young Television Viewers Tough, Demanding Critics
By BOB ROSE

LOS ANGELES — To most people, a 7-year-old may be a runny-nosed kid, something people wash, clothe and get off to school on time, But to two of the nation's biggest cartoon makers, he's a sophisticate, a tough, demanding critic, a hip character, completely "with" today's music, and quick to be turned off by anything phony or treacly.
"We can't give them the cartoons we gave them ten years ago. The kids now are so much sharper. They've been exposed to the Beatles, Rowan and Martin, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason. They don't dig Snow White and Heidi. That older stuff is only okay today for a younger crowd — say the 3-year-olds."
The man talking is William Denby Hanna, 53, half of the team of Hanna-Barbera Productions, which this year will turn but six hours of network TV series weekly for CBS, NBC and ABC. That's exactly half the total Saturday morning programming of the three networks.
"Joe Barbera and I worked for MGM for 20 years, and we turned out 125 'Tom and Jerry' animated shorts — that's the equivalent of 48 minutes of cartoon time a year. A year. Less than one-sixth of our production now in a week."
MGM fired them both when people stopped going to movies and watched TV instead. They decided to concentrate on the medium that cost them their jobs. They came up with much less complicated techniques, particularly far fewer drawings, so they could cut a movie budget of $50,000 for a five-minute film down to $3,100 for television.
But having a technique didn't assure them of a product. So, backed by Screen Gems, they came out with the cartoon package, "Rough and Ready." [sic] It came out in 1957 and was snapped up by NBC. Then, came "Quick Draw McGraw and a big leap forward, "Huckleberry Hound," in 1959, quickly followed by "The Flintstones" in 1960 and "Yogi Bear" in 1961.
The prime-time "Flintstones" series was rapped by Variety as "a pen and ink disaster." It lasted six years at night, however, and then went right onto Saturday morning network showing and simultaneous around-the-world syndication.
"We put a big ad in Variety 'The sun never sets on "The Flintstones!" I think we're in 80 countries now," Hanna says.
But it probably was "Yogi Bear" that set Hanna-Barbera apart. It was immensely popular, particularly with the college crowd.
"I'll tell you why. Say the forest ranger would bawl Yogi out for doing something he shouldn't and. demand to know why he did it. Yogi answers, 'I'm a nonconformist bear.' And he was, and the young people were beginning to dig being nonconformists themselves."
Three years, ago Hanna-Barbera sold their ten-year-old firm to Taft Broadcasting for $10,248,567 cash and 60,000 of Taft's common shares. Hanna-Barbera became a division of Taft, retaining Hanna as president president and Barbera as executive vice president. (They shift the title of president back and forth). While the sale brought security, the team felt it also brought broadened perspectives.
"I don't feel I want to sit back and watch the butterflies," says Joseph Roland Barbera, also 53.
(The two-man team has been together 30 years. A top aide says the reason they get along so well together professionally is that they, don't see each other socially. "Joe is president of the Greek Theater. His idea of a good time is to go to New York and catch all the shows. Bill is much more informal. He'd rather sail to Catalina on his boat.")
The biggest problem the newly shaped company ran into was the sudden upsurge in anti-violence protests, not that Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, Huck Hound or Yogi loved blood and gore — but the protests hit everybody.
Hanna-Barbera's "The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was given prime-time presentation by NBC last season only to suffer quick cancellation. It was H-B's first live action animated evening series.
"It was the reaction to the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and some of that reaction was understandable. But it became a little incredible. Our Huck Finn series wasn't like those plotless Japanese cartoons — unremitting violence, bea[s]ts, mechanical monsters destroying people and cities.
"We had completed 14 half hours of Huck Finn. I remember sitting in the projection room with top network people. 'The kids would love it,' they said. 'But you can't show it. The pirates are chasing those kids with cutlasses. You just can't do that anymore.' What else would a pirate chase them with? A stick of marshmallow or what? But you could see that was that. We had to throw the whole show out the window."
The flat anti-violence edict practically wipes out any serious effort at adventure series, Hanna says.
"You can't do adventure any other way. I read all the Tarzan books, all the Mars books, H. G. Wells, Zane Grey. Well, you can't do without weapons, guns, violence problems, I realize that some of the violence was unnecessary and uncalled for. I remember to my surprise seeing a cartoon where a bunch of people got killed. And it wasn't one of those Japanese things, either.
But the proscription against violence hasn't been all bad.
"Far from it. It forces us to be more imaginative. We can't use violence as a crutch, as a way of solving a plot problem. Our writing is becoming better. Take one of our new cartoons, "Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines." They operate a very wacky World War I squadron. That sounds like violence sure enough, doesn't it?
"But there's no shooting. No guns at all. Dastardly and Muttley have a job of stopping an indestructible carrier pigeon from delivering messages across the lines. They never succeed.
"But what are their weapons? Well, we create an airplane with a huge vacuum cleaner in front of it, another with giant mallet, maybe another with a huge flyswatter. But they always miss. And the thing to remember is that none of these things is something a child can pick up. Erotic things are permissible because children can't find them.
"A writer had a gag where a machine gun spun around and cut off the tail or the wings. We eliminated the gun but not the gag. We had the propeller spin off and slice the plane up like a bologna slicing machine. It was very funny."
Hanna argues that slapstick-knockabout is perfectly okay and is not violence.
"When you have a cartoon character and two funny cars come together and they crash and all fall apart, boom, and in the next scene they're all back together again, nobody ever yells or gets hurt.
"That's pretty normal slapstick humor. And in doing it with cartoons it makes sense. Think of Laurel and Hardy, they did it and you never saw them with a gun or a knife. The same with Charlie Chaplin."
Nonviolence and humor can sell, too, and well.
"We introduced 'The Banana Splits' last year. Four rock musicians — Fleegle, Drooper, Bing and Snorky [sic] — in crazy costumes. They acted as hosts for a cartoon hour on NBC. This year they went to Hawaii for the state fair. And we just got a note from the fair boss saying they pulled in 100,000 kids and parents in just two days. Now you may never have heard of them. But the kids know them.
"This year we're introducing 'The Cattanooga Cats' on ABC. We got a young songwriter — Mike Curb — he's done more than 40 soundtracks, including pictures like 'Wild Angels,' 'Wild in the Streets,' 'The Trip,' 'Three in the Attic.' He's doing two new tunes. for each of 17 episodes.
"Too sophisticated, for a 7-year-old kid? Not a bit of it. They know every sharp music group. You can't play down to them. The cartooning we do with this fits the music. Short quips. Mod art. Fast moving patterns. Kind of an animated light show."
Hanna says the only sure way is to give kids what they like.
Remember, this story is from 1969. Things only got worse. Activists demanded cartoons be filled with ham-fisted propaganda, so they were. I suspect their intentions were good. They thought the world would be a better place if the television set taught the lessons that parents should have been teaching about social behaviour. Considering the state of the world today, the idea was a failure. Instead, they should have let cartoons on entertainment shows entertain.

19 comments:

  1. "Erotic things"? Very puzzling. Maybe Norm Crosby writes his material.

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    1. It would have made SCOOBY-DOO and JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS a lot more interesting...😉

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  2. While some good by that time (1969) started to happen (the campaign to get cigarettes--something Yogi and Boo-Boo in 1968 themselves did a commercial
    warning---the one where a camper's head bounces off because of smoking-off television advertising, something that was never advertised in childrens television
    programming anyhow, and which came to effect by New Year's Day, 1971-no cigarette ads on TV-US, anyway) did happen, the weird irony was not just Hanna and
    Barbera but Warner Brothers Cartooons, and most mportantly,perhaps, Chuck Jones, who starting in the late 1930s always had a gentle side anyway, by the mid
    1960s,television specialsgoing back to the Grinch in '66, departed from violence, and so by the late 70s instead of his own Roadrunner/Three Bears (which bit the
    dust at Jack Warner's insistence in 1951)/etc. violence, we got this:"Gloopstick for the villianous wolf".

    Of course the kind of theatrical classical cartoon violence back then, and now,could not fly in prime time anyhow, but it's kinda sureally and oddly ironic to see the guy
    who's been makin' them lambastin' lamb-basting Wolf/Sheepdog cartoons and those with the wolf's cousin Wile E.Coyote planningon having the roadrunner for dinner,
    and not in the guest for dinner way, and the argumentve version of the Three Bears, etc.,etc. now making some of the least violent and maybe most sugary late 1960s-
    late 1970s TV cartoon specials (Cartoon Brew some years ago had a article about the whole Walt Kelley-licensed/co-starring Pogo special from early 1969). (Bill Melendez,
    who after working at UPA formed his own studio to "work for PEANUTS", and Friz Freleng at DePatie-Freleng before it devolved into another boring 1980s Marvel-owned studio,
    with theatrical and television fare, in Friz's case shows as well, had also adapted to less violence, but without the "sugar" content that pervades a sizable handful of Jones specials
    and theatricals (both WB and MGM).

    And finally Yogi became a nice bear, something that Mister Ranger (always conflicted in describing him through the original cartoons-"Home Sweet Jellystone" and the second
    military themed Jellystone cartoon in terms of his moral sense), would have been proud of, and finally the legacy of this, except maybe the Phil Silvers/Seargent Bilko-esque
    pair (Hokey Wolf, Top Cat), and the first two Flintstones seasons, is that Hanna-Barbera as whole's just assumed by the naive masses at large today to be another boring studio
    (and, walking into a Target, Walmart, grocery store, variety store,etc.,etc. and seeing Scooby cassettes, who can blame them..)

    I recall the "If we put those on, we'll get killed"(an ironic thing, regarding it would the result of violence on TV) quote from Joe Barbera.

    And of course the result there was Tom and Jerry's two 1970s "classic" shows, H-B and Filmations.

    Hey, Stinky, I didn't know someone else alreayd posted.."erotic"..if it ws 1969 mayeb it was the Cats's Birthday suit (there! SEX on those bubblegum cartoons.)SC

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    1. Oh. By Cassettes I should have included "DVD's" and "Blue-Rays.." oh well.:-) :)

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  3. "Erratic" was most likely what Bill said. Don't believe any youngsters would consider Ball and Gleason "hip" back in '69, though.

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  4. I think he might have said "exotic," just one (very important) letter off.

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    1. That's what I wondered, Mike. Unfortunately, I can't find a second copy of this on-line to see if the typesetter screwed up.

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  5. Was that Yogi interstitial from the Huck Hound or the Yogi Bear show? I sure don't remember it! The older design of Yogi says "Huck"... maybe?

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    1. Supposedly it's from Yogi.
      You've got to love those Eastmancolor prints that turn to red.

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  6. "Wave bye-bye to Space Ghost and The Herculoids, kids."
    But Space Ghost and the Herculoids would return in 1981, on a new franchise produced by Hanna-Barbera: Space Stars.

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  7. Actually, the 1981 version was completely neutered; mo explosions, no fisticuffs, no off-screen deaths, just the bland storytelling typical of so-called "action-adventure" programs from that period (plus, the Phantom Cruiser re-design sucked!)

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    1. The Space Ghost's Phantom Cruiser from 1981 has a high-tech look (à la Star Wars), quite different from the 1966 version, which had an art-deco look.

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    2. The original Phantom Cruiser was quite sleek in its simplicity; the clunky STAR WARS-esque redesign looked like they were trying too hard to be hip.

      The only reason SPACE GHOST and THE HERCULOIDS were rebooted was because the truncated originals ( along with JONNY QUEST and FRANKENSTEIN, JR.) had been broadcast on the GODZILLA POWER HOUR cartoon, and the contrasts between the older cartoons and GODZILLA couldn't be more stark, as the older shorts, censored though they were, still had an edge and a healthy element of jeopardy that the newer series lacked. So, no, it wasn't the same.

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  8. I like all the Japan bashing in here. It's like Bill and Joe heard about Gigantor and Speed Racer and the complaints about them but never actually bothered to watch them! Then ten years later they did a Godzilla cartoon! None of the violence in those "Japanese cartoons" could ever be as traumatizing as that one awful 3 Muskateers cartoon they did back at MGM-where Tom gets beheaded in the guillotine for not catching Jerry! That cartoon STILL bothers me!! (And not just because I love cats but that cartoon has always made me long to see Tom EAT Jerry and pick his teeth with that little bastards bones!)There was nothing funny about the ending of that cartoon! It was just depressing! Anyway, that cartoon has bothered me since I was a kid but you know what HB cartoons DON'T bother me!? Space Ghost!! The Herculoids! Jonny Quest!! Those cartoons may be violent but it"s the BAD GUYS who die! Not some poor cat who is just doing his job trying to stop some asshole mice!! Anyway, Bill and Joe seem to change their tune about things everytime they speak from interview to interview. I've learned to take everything they say with a grain of salt.

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  9. Bill and Joe weren't about to bite the hand that fed them. The situation in television was constantly changing and So was their politically correct answers in interviews. Obviously they didn't want to piss off anyone in the tv business so their responses always seem to put a positive spin to their then current challenges in children's entertainment. Compare HB to the Jay Ward team, who were at constant odds with the networks over content and worse, ribbing at the networks and advertisers expense, which resulted in Ward being out of the tv show business by 1970.
    At that time there were only Three networks and syndicated television. Selling shows to the big three was easier than putting together a hundred independent stations to commit to a season of shows. I think as Bill and Joe navigated the waters in television animation, the name of the game was not doing anything innovative, making a statement or rocking the boat sort of speak, instead just giving the networks exactly what they wanted. Of course the result was a creatively vacant wasteland of tv animation in the late 70s and early 80s.

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  10. I'm guessing that Mr. Hanna and Mr. Barbera (may those two rest in peace) weren't the biggest fans of Japanese Animation (if these interviews conducted at the time were anything to go by).

    One wonders if their opinions had changed on that in the interviews they'd make later on.

    On the subject of these interviews, I knew that television animation had some extremely stringent rules over what you could and couldn't do with characters and how they'd approach conflicts.

    However, I had no idea that it would be that bad.


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  11. This bumper was included in the YOGI BEAR: COMPLETE SERIES DVD. That's clearly Ken Muse's animation, though Yogi is designed with the 'double snout' that Gerald Baldwin used in the two shorts he animated.

    I find odd the assertions in this post that 1969 H-B cartoons were 'non violent'. That may be the case with SCOOBY-DOO, but the main gag of the DASTARDLY & MUTTLEY cartoons (them being rehashes of the Roadrunner concept) was the characters falling to the ground from great heights, being blown up by their own pigeon-eliminating devices, etc. The CATTANOOGA CATS segments exhibited similar slapstick resulting in the usual temporary cartoon injuries. The 1969-70 Saturday AM production season was the last that would allow this type of 'violence'. Standards would be relaxed somewhat in the 1980s.

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    1. There's a Filmation "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" cartoon from the 1969-70 season in which Pop Tate (while under the influence of a spell) starts beating the crap out of Jughead! (Though it's partly obscured by clouds of dust, just like the Larry Harmon Popeyes Lou Scheimer and Hal Sutherland worked on.)

      Another Sabrina cartoon from that season had Hilda playing mechanic with Zelda's broom, which resulted in the broom exploding in Hilda's face! ("It'll go like...[BOOM!]...a bomb!")

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    2. Howard, that's why I hesitated identifying this as Muse (the close-up looks like him), as there were others who animated similarly. The mouth shapes don't look altogether like his. But it simply could be Yogi's layouts were a little off and Muse just followed them.

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