Saturday, May 20, 2017

Changing Yogi Bear

The original Yogi Bear wasn’t quite the Yogi Bear we all know today.

After Warren Foster arrived at Hanna-Barbera in April 1959 and took over writing the Yogi cartoons, a decision was made to put Yogi in a consistent setting with a consistent cast. So the bear was given a home in Jellystone Park, Boo Boo was made a permanent sidekick and Ranger Smith was added to give Yogi someone to conflict with. This template made for stronger story potential and, evidently, resulted in the character becoming more popular, and certainly more memorable.

But I still really like the pre-Foster Yogi that appeared on the first season of the Huckleberry Hound Show, and mourn his passing. Yogi was sometimes in Jellystone, other times in what appears to have been some generic woods. Several different rangers appeared on occasion. Boo Boo wasn’t always there. (As a side note, there was an awful lot less dialogue, even though Charlie Shows had been hired specifically to write words. I suppose it was natural, considering Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna had worked with silent characters for 17 years).

The first-season Yogi also occasionally employed the spot-gag format, which I really liked. Many of the theatrical studios had tried it, both in live-action and animated shorts. A narrator gives a line of patter on a particular subject, setting up a sight-gag on the screen. Then it’s on to the next gag.

There’s one problem with sight-gag cartoons—you have to rely on the artwork, and TV animation budgets are such that dialogue gags are wayyyy cheaper. Still, the Hanna-Barbera cartoons in that 1958-59 season carried it off.

If I had to pick a favourite spot-gagger, at least right this moment, it would have to be The Stout Trout, where narrator Don Messick accompanied Yogi Bear’s continual failed attempts to catch a fish in a lake. Much of the cartoon is animated by Carlo Vinci. Below are some frames of Yogi swatting his arm into the lake, and then after the fish sprays his face with water. You can see Yogi’s expressions. They’re solidly drawn. Sure, they’re not over-the-top reactions like you’d see in a Tex Avery or Bob Clampett theatrical, but no one was animating like that by the late 1950s. Carlo had Yogi glance toward the TV viewers near the start of some pieces of the narration to include us, and to avoid the monotony of a long held drawing.

Carlo also finds interesting things to do with hands, er, paws.

And here’s something else Hanna-Barbera eventually avoided. Perspective animation.

I realise Foster’s Jellystone structure propelled Yogi into greater success that lasts even to today and resulted in some funny cartoons, but, and I guess I’m in the minority, I miss the spot-gag format and wish Hanna-Barbera would have carried on using it with its syndicated characters.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, May 1967

Some good stories and nice layouts highlight the Flintstones comics from 50 years ago this month. The May 21st comic has good examples how to handle a lot of people without the panels being cluttered. We see on May 28th that Wilma used to be a cheerleader. Did she go to Geology High? Fred’s given up the Winstons for a pipe.

Richard Holliss supplied all these from his collection. Click on each to make it bigger.

May 7, 1967.

May 14, 1967. Barney is looking toward heaven.

May 21, 1967. What is that smiling guy holding (besides balloons) in the opening panel? Spop!

May 28, 1967. Wilma’s cheer doesn’t rhyme, but it accomplishes its task.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Snagglepuss in Jangled Jungle

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson, Layout – Jack Huber, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Prof. Cageo – Daws Butler; Ringmaster, Ape, Ape Baby, Tarzanish guy – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss escapes from the circus to the jungle, where he realises that circus life wasn’t so bad.

Before we get to old Snagglepuss, let’s show off some of Monty’s backgrounds. First, some circus drawings, including the shot to open the cartoon.

Now, some jungle scenes.

The premise that became Wally Gator is what drives this cartoon. Snagglepuss is a circus performer. He’s unhappy. All he does is take clich├ęd orders from a lion tamer. (“Hmmm. Changed his hair tonic again,” observes the unhappy Snagglepuss after Professor Cage-o puts his head in his mouth). So he quits and heads by ship to the ancestral home of lions—the jungle. Yes, I know Snagglepuss is a mountain lion, thus not native to Africa, but why spoil the plot?

Anyway, you know what’s going to happen. After all, the Snagglepuss series can’t just move to Africa. He finds the jungle is a worse experience than the circus. First, natives throw arrows at him (we don’t see the natives, thus eliminating pontification by cartoon fans about racism). He escapes by climbing a tree, which turns out to be a giraffe that slings him into a lake with floating suitcases. Only they turn out to be alligators (“Exit, not unpackin’, stage left!”). He escapes again by running off camera and into a large ape.

Snag: I realise you don’t realise that with which to whom you are dealin’. To wit.
Ape: Rumpff?
Snag: I’ll give you a hint. Roooaaaar! Get it? King of the beasts. You may flee in sheer terror if you so desire.
Ape: Raaarrr.
Snag: Duke of the beasts. Count of the beasts? Beauty and the beasts, even.
Ape: RaaAAArr!
Snag: How’s about an ordinary, everyday type citizen? Can I take out my first citizenship papers?
Ape: RaaAAArrrr!
Snag: Would object to my getting’ a driver’s license? A library card, even.
The large ape picks up Snagglepuss to give to his baby (wearing a bonnet, even in the jungle) as a toy. First, Snagglepuss is involuntarily turned into a doll that squeaks “Mama” when you poke its stomach, then a wind-up toy.

The story takes a turn when a Tarzan-like guy swings into the scene, announces he is the king of beasts, and Snagglepuss is an “oomba-oomba,” in other words, a lion-skin rug (“Heavens to floormat!”) which Tarz is about to skin. “Exit, beatin’ a rug to safety, stage right! cries Snagglepuss. Back he goes to the comparative safety of the circus, content to be shot out of a cannon, to end the cartoon.

Don Patterson animates this cartoon. He gives Snagglepuss expressions that aren’t wild, but effective such as the look of disgust when he’s forced to obey the lion tamer’s commands. His mid-air run cycle is used three times in the cartoon; Patterson has Snagglepuss facing one way while his arms are pointed in the other direction.

Don Messick voices all but one of the incidental characters because he can.

The opening circus scenes feature the Hoyt Curtin version of “Man on the Flying Trapeze” and during the Tarzan-guy swinging scene, he uses that short Flintstones cue that samples two bars of Fucik’s “Entry of the Gladiators.” (Look it up. You’ll go “Oh, that’s what that’s called.”).

Maltese loads up on catch-phrases in this cartoon, though he eschews “Murgatroyd.” Cashews, even. How about almonds? Peanuts, popcorn, Cracker Jacks, even? Exit this post, nutty all the way, stage left.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Love Huckleberry Hound? You'll Love This!

If you want a good time capsule of attitudes about the Hanna-Barbera studio and its cartoons just as The Flintstones was about to air, you can find it in this story by Cecil Smith in the Los Angeles Times of September 4, 1960.

The Huckleberry Hound Show seems pretty gentle to viewers today, but it became a cult favourite among non-children not long after debuting in 1958. The Quick Draw McGraw Show followed a year later, with spoofs on some of the main genres of TV programming of the day (westerns, detective shows, family sitcoms). And then came The Flintstones a year later.

Two things are interesting to me in this story. This is the earliest mentions I’ve found of Yogi getting his own show (Kellogg’s bought it a month later) and the Yogi feature film. And if the writer got his facts correct, Yakky Doodle was not intended to be the third segment of the Yogi show—Perry Gunite was. A Perry Gunite series could have been fun, especially with some of those Carlo Vinci poses, but the studio was already doing a private eye parody with Snooper and Blabber. And Gunite, to be honest, wouldn’t have been a good fit with funny animals in the other segments. Instead, he ended up in the “Love Letters on the Rocks” episode of The Flintstones.

By the way, there are two versions of the drawing you see below. Some deliberately erase the word “Stoneway,” presumably for newspaper editors who were squeamish about “advertising” slipping in.

Cartoon Capers Win Adult Friends
When TV bombed out its Sunday afternoon “intellectual ghetto” a couple of years ago, it all but lost the egghead audience. The fact that it found it again is not surprising—but in a most unlikely place.
The shows that have been the darlings of the eggheads this past season were designed ostensibly for children, the cartoon creations of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera—namely, Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw. Saloons are empty, coffee houses deserted, faculty lounges silent on Monday and Tuesday nights at 7 when (via Channel 11) Messrs. McGraw and Hound with their marvelously adept stock companies take to the air. (So adept have these stock actors become that one of them, Yogi Bear, is soon to be elevated to stardom with his own separate show.)
Neither Hanna nor Barbera nor the 140 members of their enormously productive organization are exactly sure why the wry satire of their cartoons delight adults as well as children—but they point to the mail. Six atomic scientists at the White Sands Proving Ground protest to the Kellogg cereal company the hour the shows are on the air, begging that they be later because “they’re the only relaxation we get from TV.” A group of professors from Yale University making a similar plea.
Age Is No Barrier to All the Fun
Adult mail outnumbers children 10 to 1. An indignant letter from a woman in Long Beach protests surveys indicating the shows are watched by people from 6 to 60—she watches them, she says, and she’s 83.
It was inevitable, then, that Hanna-Barbera Productions would begin work on a purely adult show. Their work is now complete, the show takes the air Sept. 30 at 8:30 each Friday night on the ABC network; it is so adult it is sponsored by a cigarette company; it is entitled The Flintstones, and I am blessing among TV watchers—I have seen it.
The Flintstones has little in common with Huckleberry and Quick-Draw—save for the visit Hanna-Barbera wit and imagination. Its stories concern a simple, ordinary, caveman couple, Fred and Wilma Flintstone, and their simple, ordinary, caveman neighbors, Barney and Betty Rubble. They engage in simple, ordinary caveman pursuits—such as the dinosaur race or playing the family piano (a Stoneway).
Fred works as a dino operator for the Rock Head & Quarry Cave Co. (“Feel Secure—Own Your Own Cave”).
The families live in the simple, ordinary, caveman city of Bedrock and get into simple, ordinary caveman troubles—just like you or me or Father Knows Best, circa 3000 BC.
Made It Work
Inasmuch as Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna three years ago were pounding the Hollywood streets trying to peddle their cartoon ideas and “revolutionary methods” of animation, the success of their organization has been little short of astounding.
The pair had achieved success at MGM (particularly with the series, Tom and Jerry). But they met the constant refusal: “Cartoons won’t work in television—too expensive.” Joe and Bill made it work. Their method:
“Planned animation,” says Joe. “Take the Disney method—the old movie method. It tried to mirror life. We don’t. We spoof reality but we don’t mirror it. Our characters don’t walk from a scene, they whiz. Movements that took 24 drawings under the old movie system take us four. We just keep the story moving.”
Despite his avowal that his characters do not mirror life, Joe is inclined to talk of them as real. For instance, he said he and Bill “interviewed” hundreds of characters before deciding on the Flintstones. “Interviewed” in this case meant drawing them, looking at them, fitting situations to them, discarding them. And there’s a lot of reality in Fred Flintstone (he reminds some of Jackie Gleason; he reminds me of Edgar Kennedy in the old two-reelers). And, of course, Yogi Bear is as real as your next door editor.
Full-Length Feature
Yogi not is only taking off from Huckleberry Hound for his own show but it also soon to star in a full-length movie feature set, naturally, in Jellystone Park. In his new show, he will grab some of the minor characters from Quick-Draw (notably, Snagglepuss, the theatrical tiger) and will introduce one new actor, a crime-solving lawyer, Perry Gunite.
However, he will not leave Huckleberry for awhile—thank heaven. And Huckleberry, Quick-Draw, Jinx [sic] and the Meece, Augie and Daddy Dog, Snoop and Blab and all the rest will continue to be around despite the added presence of the Flintstones. And what will the Flintstones do to television?
Well, as an erudite friend of mine remarked: “There go my Fridays.”

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Yakky Doodle in Count To Tenant

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Bob Bentley, Layout – Dan Noonan, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Art Davis, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig; Clarence – Don Messick; Muggs(y), stray mutt – Doug Young.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Chopper feels obligated to give a home to Yakky’s new friend, a flea, but picks the wrong flea.

“What are they laughin’ at on television, Yakky?” asks Chopper. “They’re watching the Yogi Bear Show,” replies the duck.

Here’s a set-up for a cute punch-line. Personally, I’d pick Chopper saying “I hope it isn’t one of those cartoons with that annoying duck. I hate him.” Of course, Hanna-Barbera would never go for that, but any kind of reference to a Yakky cartoon or maybe even a play on Yogi’s “smarter-than-the-average” would have been good. Instead, Mike Maltese settles for Chopper’s “Now, ain’t that cute,” and laughter to end the cartoon.

There aren’t really any punch-lines or top-flight gags in this one. It simply starts with the old premise that dogs have fleas and Maltese fills 6½ minutes from there. Let’s see. Old theatrical cartoons had a flea building a campfire on a dog’s back, or a flea chopping down a strand of fur like an oak tree, so Maltese tosses those in to the story. And there’s a sword fight between the good flea and the bad flea. Maltese pulled off a flea vs. flea fight scene much better in “Fleas Be Careful,” one of three Snooper and Blabber cartoons featuring Toot Sweet, the French flea. Then again, Snooper and Blabber were ridiculous and punny characters. Yakky and Chopper are just, well, tame.

Oh, and there’s also the familiar crying/guilt trip scene with Yakky, making Chopper feel bad enough so he’ll let the duck’s flea-buddy stay on his back. Say, what kind of friend is Yakky? Who would want a dog to be flea-ridden?

The capsulized story: a stray dog scratches a flea named Clarence off him. Yakky, singing “Strolling Through the Park” (and not in time to Hoyt Curtin’s music in the background), comes across Clarence. (“You’re a flea, aren’t you?” enquires the brilliantly observant duck).
Yakky offers Clarence a home on Chopper who, quite understandably, objects. Insert the pity party scene mentioned above. Cut to the aforementioned stray dog, scratching again (nothing like reused animation to save money). This time, it’s Muggs, who changes his name to Muggsy later in the cartoon. Chopper thinks he’s Clarence and lets him stay—until he meets up with Yakky and the real Clarence. Yakky paddles Chopper with a board to get Muggs(y) off. The fleas sword-fight. The good guy wins. The stray dog animation gets reused again. Clarence’s family is scratched off but is welcomed on Chopper’s back. They’re watching Yogi Bear. Ain’t that cute? The end.

Here’s the take by Bob Bentley when the mutt realises he has a flea on him. These are consecutive drawings.

I like the dog’s design. The fleas are pretty good, too. It’s possible Dan Noonan, the layout man, came up with these.

Bob Gentle gives us zig-zag tree branches and heavy outlines around trees (see frames with mutt above). I quite like them, too. Nothing elaborate, but they fit the scenes.

Joe Barbera employed four voice actors on this cartoon, which didn’t happen very often in Hanna-Barbera’s short TV films then. Doug Young gets a couple of roles.

The “Who keeps cool when things are hot” Yogi Bear music is heard when the fleas are watching the Yogi show (which we don’t see). There’s some Flintstones music during the fight scene; the rest of the score should be familiar if you watched a lot of H-B stuff circa 1961.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, May 1967

Either Ranger Smith is a bigamist, or his wife likes changing her hair colour, or Gene Hazelton and his comic strip artists really didn’t care too much about incidental character design. Whatever the reason, 50 years ago this month Mr. Ranger had a dark-haired wife one week and a blonde one the next.

The weekend newspaper comics of May 1967 also showed the Hanna-Barbera obsession with comic horror characters which began with the J. Evil Scientist clan in 1959 (what irony that The Munsters almost knocked The Flintstones off the air in 1965). In this case, little Rory McDread is a werewolf.

Boo Boo appears in only two of the four comics and really isn’t vital to the story (and he engages in some Yogi-like rhymes in the May 14th comic). Ranger Smith is being a particular jerk in the May 28th comic, concocting an elaborate scheme merely so he can give Yogi a ticket. And what’s a bear supposed to do with a ticket anyway? At least, I think that’s the joke in the story.

The non-color comic of May 21st has some nice angles in the middle row.

The coloured versions were supplied, as usual, from the Richard Holliss collection.

May 7, 1967

May 14, 1967

May 21, 1967

May 28, 1967.