Saturday, 17 February 2018

Buckswashling Bear

“Do not fear! It is I, Yogi Beer, er Bear!” our hero declares in one of those mini-cartoons at the start of an episode of The Yogi Bear Show. He tells us he’s “in search of some swashbucklin’ good deeds to do.”

The first one is to rescue Yakky Doodle who is stuck at the top of a castle. Yakky, in this case, is not played by Jimmy Weldon. It’s Red Coffey who voiced the pre-Yakky ducks, first at MGM, then at Hanna-Barbera. I don’t know the circumstances behind Weldon’s hiring so I can’t tell you if Coffey originally played Yakky and then couldn’t carry on or if Weldon was away and Coffey was brought in for a voice session (he recorded several bumpers).

Anyway, Yogi lassoes one of the merlons on top of the castle to scale himself up and make the rescue. The stone comes off and bounces off his head.

Cut to the next scene with an unmatching shot of Snagglepuss bouncing on a trampoline. He manages to grab Yakky but crashes through the trampoline. No, I don’t know why Yakky can’t just fly down from the castle. He’s not the brightest duck sometimes.

The rescuing done, Yogi engages in swordplay with a suit of armour, which falls apart. The mace the armour was holding conks Yogi on the head. “Next time, I shall try a more human-type guy.” Yogi now urges us to watch a cartoon.

Art Lozzi appears to have painted the backgrounds on this mini-cartoon.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Bill and Joe and Yogi

Huckleberry Hound may have been the star of the The Huckleberry Hound Show but after two years on the air, it became apparent to Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera that Yogi Bear was a stronger character. In 1960, even before Yogi was given his own TV show, Hanna-Barbera announced Yogi would star in the studio’s first feature film, Whistle Your Way Back Home. The title was changed in December 1963 to Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear and the movie was finally released on June 1, 1964.

(Yes, there was a long gestation period for the feature film, which was originally planned to be released in 1961. I don’t know the reason why there was a delay. It could have simply been a lack of available cash. Or artists; the studio was busy with two prime time shows in 1961 and 1962).

We don’t know what Huck felt about the film, but the National League of Decency gave it an A-1 rating, its best. Film Daily gave it two pluses, its highest. Young me, however, was a wet blanket. I liked the fuller animation (yes, I did notice) but wasn’t interested in a love interest story line and wanted some of the songs to hurry up and end. If the plot had involved, say, Yogi being chased around the world by Ranger Smith because of a misunderstanding and some villain character getting in the way, I might have been more interested.

Amidst all the drum beating for the movie came this story offered to members of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. It was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on June 14, 1964 and bears Hanna and Barbera’s byline. I doubt they actually wrote it but a number of the thoughts contained in it were certainly given in interviews by the pair. There’s a put-down of the cutie-pie kind of Disney and Harman-Ising type shorts that hadn’t been made in several decades. There’s more talk about sophistication of the kid audience. The comment about the lack of satire in cartoons is a little amusing. Had Joe Barbera not heard of Jay Ward? And wasn’t TV in 1964 drowning in old Warner Bros. cartoons that made fun of all kinds of things—some of which were written by the same people now employed at Hanna-Barbera?

The story reminds me that in the 1960s, the word “holocaust” generally referred to a fire. The meaning’s been forever changed.

Oh, you are not seeing things. Yogi has no feet in the publicity photo below that accompanied the story.
Jellystone's Yogi Finds Bear Market in Movie Debut

Special to The Inquirer
Following in the footsteps of James Garner and Steve McQueen, yet another star is making the transition from TV to motion pictures. His name—Yogi Bear, first and foremost citizen of Jellystone National Park.
In our first full-length motion picture, "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear," Yogi demonstrates the qualities which make him so rare a bear. He successfully pits his wits against his friendly adversary, Ranger Smith; makes daring raids on Jellystone National Park's picnic areas; and shows tender feelings toward his ever lovin' friend, Cindy Bear.
Yogi likes the role very much. As he puts it, "it's a great part with lots of heart. I play myself—brave, darling and smart!"
During the five years he has starred on television, Yogi, we gratefully and amazingly have observed, has become the darling of nearly everyone. His antics have attracted a large and loyal audience from a variety of professions and intellectual levels. He appeals to students and scientists alike.
Watching the adventures of Yogi and his sidekick, Boo Boo, adults and children find they can identify with positive or negative qualities, if they so desire. Yogi, like most humans, is a study in grays. He's alternately lazy and industrious, brave, and cowardly, brash and lovable.
If there is an underlying philosophy about our cartoon, it is to project warmth and good feeling. We satirize lots of things Hollywood, cars, television and even our own animated commercials but we don't see anything funny in violence and sin. Even our villains are nice guys.
We've never tried to educate or preach to children. We've just tried to entertain them. To accomplish that, we feel you need all the talent and instinct you can find. You have to forget a child's audience and think of them as small adults.
Today's children don't go for the too-sweet, soft approach. That's yesterday. If you try a cartoon story today with tiny elves dancing and singing in child-like voices while leaves float into the water and bunnies hop about with twitchy noses—you're lost. It's too soft. Children will tolerate but they won't accept it They've seen too many pointless, aimless pretties that have insulted their intelligence. In the area of comedy, today's child has a taste as sharp as his parents.
From the day a youngster can turn a TV dial, he takes on a wide area of information, something inconceivable to an earlier generation. He's exposed to so much satire. Today's children grow up viewing Hope and Benny, Caesar, Silvers, Lucy, Berle, Skelton and Lewis. A child's taste in drama differs from an adult's but his taste in humor and certainly in cartoons parallels adults. And in cartoons, satire is exactly what's been lacking.
Love for fantasy has no age limit. We'd all like to fly, to travel back in time or defeat a bully twice our size. Cartoons should provide humor and fantasy for the audience and still retain a believability.
We feel that Yogi best exemplifies the contemporary cartoon here. He is a far cry from the sweet teddy bear of the nursery years and his vocabulary matches his "smarter than the bear" personality.
Yogi doesn't talk down to his audience. He just talks, using big words and small words to describe or define. It's not uncommon for Yogi to describe a fire as a "veritable holocaust" or use such words as churlish, reverberate or exorbitant. Contrasted with his sing-song voice and uncultured way of speaking, Yogi's speech has become an identifiable trait.
The evolution of Yogi from TV to motion pictures has come about through the efforts of our staff of artists, writers, animators, and film editors.
When asked by an advertising man where the new Yogi bear is now living, one of our writers recently quipped, "talent scouts may search the forests primeval high and low for Yogi, but they won't succeed. The inimitable, irrepressible Yogi now resides at Schwab's drugstore."
Here are some nice cards publicising the movie spotted on e-Bay.

There was a Gold Key comic book by the great Harvey Eisenberg in conjunction with the film, the Sunday Yogi newspaper comic made reference to it over the course of several weeks and there was a Golden Book with attractive illustrations by Mel Crawford. A soundtrack of the Ray Gilbert and Doug Goodwin songs was released as well. (I’m happy to report Mr. Goodwin is still around and apparently still writing music).

And to the right you can see a picture of the Oz Theatre, in Fremont, Michigan, I believe, showing the film in August 1964 as a float passes by the local Moose Hall. The theatre, like many others, no longer exists. The film was rated G. How things have changed. Last year, a theatre in Roanoke, Virginia showed the movie and rated it PG. “May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.” Either we children in 1964 were a hardier lot or something’s really messed up with the world today.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

High Wire Huck

The best animation in the Huckleberry Hound Show can be found in the little cartoons between the main cartoons in the first season. They involve a circus setting, and start with the Kellogg’s rooster dropping down from above and knocking on a door.

Here are some expressive drawings from one of them. Have you ever seen Dixie so excited?

Jinksie, of course.

Pixie is excited, too. The meeces were never this emotional in their own cartoons.

And here are a few frames of Yogi, slightly raising his head. I didn’t count the number of head positions but there must be at least a dozen. Here are a few. I wish Yogi looked this good in his own cartoons, but I suspect money was pumped into these bumpers to make them as attractive as possible. Even his hat moves a bit.

This is a recreated pan shot, left to right. Sorry for the mismatched colours.

The animation of the rooster is really good. There’s actually follow-through on Cornelius’ comb as he looks around wondering where Huck is after knocking on his door. Not all of the action is animated on twos, meaning the rooster darts around peering around for Huck. It’s unfortunate I can’t show the animation here, but it’s great that the bumper survived in the Hanna-Barbera archives when others did not and is available on DVD.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, February 1968

Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw dropped into Jellystone Park 50 years ago this month in the Sunday comics. Ah, Jellystone! The only national park with a mad scientist’s castle in it. Well, maybe we can safely assume he’s not in Jellystone in that particular comic.

What sound do you make when you fall? Apparently, it’s “FAM!” and “THONK!” Yogi proves he is smarter than the average bear in the final panel of the February 4th comic. But “scholar” and “hauler”? Yipe. (The log hawler, by the way, is from the Acme company whose devices worked).

The layout of the February 11th comic is just great. Huck, Quick Draw, a brown Snagglepuss and Baba Looey all make a guest appearance. Look in the first two panels how they’re in the foreground and an angry mob is in shadow (one blue, one white) behind them. In the second row, Quick Draw and the rest are in silhouette in the background while the mob is in a different colour even further back. Excellent design in the final panel. One thing we don’t have to worry about today is a TV antenna picking up interference.

The laughing fish and the steaming Yogi in the final panel on February 18th are good. Cindy makes a cameo appearance. There’s a bird sitting on the snowy title in the opening panel, probably sticking around from last month’s comics.

“Stop that pigeon! Stop that pigeon!” Okay, the pilot isn’t exactly Dick Dastardly in the February 25th comic (he hadn’t been invented yet anyway) but he looks like a distant relative. Yogi stops the plane instead of a pigeon in the ironic final panel.

Richard Holliss supplied the colour comics; click on each to make it bigger. We’ll have all colour next month.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Writing For a Blue Hound and a Futuristic Dog

You can get a chance to see and hear early Hanna-Barbera history tomorrow. And I don’t mean here on this blog.

There aren’t too many of the people left who worked at the studio in its early days in the late ‘50s or came on board when it was making history with the first animated prime time situation comedy in 1960. One of them is Tony Benedict.

Tony is the last of the early writers for the studio. Charlie Shows was there at the beginning in July 1957. Mike Maltese was hired in November 1958 as the studio’s head writer from Warner Bros. His old Warners (and Fleischer’s) comrade Warren Foster was hired the next year. H-B kept expanding. It needed writers. In 1960, the studio hired Tony. He worked on cartoons starring Huckleberry Hound and Yakky Doodle (inventing Alfie Gator) before turning his attention to the Flintstones. A bunch of sitcom writers had been contracted to supply Flintstones’ stories. They couldn’t draw. Tony could. He turned their written words into storyboards and added sight gags.

Anyway, why should I tell Tony’s story when you can hear and see him tell it himself. He’ll be on Stu’s Show tomorrow (Wednesday the 7th) at 4 p.m. Pacific time for a good couple of hours to talk about his career at Hanna-Barbera and how he left when fantasy/super heroes took over Saturday morning cartoons and new owners took over the studio. And there’s a bonus. Tony still has story art from his career 55-plus years ago that he’ll be showing off.

Tony worked with almost every big name in animation who passed through Hanna-Barbera in the early going, Mike Lah being a notable exception. Dan Gordon. Mike Maltese. Warren Foster. Carlo Vinci. Monty. Dick Bickenbach. Ed Benedict. Hoyt Curtin. The list goes on and on. With any luck, Tony will talk about these fine people and, of course, Mssrs. Hanna and Barbera. And this doesn’t include his earlier career at Disney and UPA. Oh, did we mention he invented Astro (nĂ© Tralfaz)?

You can watch the broadcast right here. If you miss it, it’ll be in Stu’s archive for a nominal charge.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Yakky Doodle in Ha-Choo to You!

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ralph Somerville, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig; Fibber Fox – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-13 (sixth Yakky in production).
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Cold-ridden Chopper tries to stop Fibber Fox from eating Yakky. Instead, everyone ends up with a cold.

Fairy tales have always been fodder for animated cartoon writers. In Ha-Choo to You!, Mike Maltese doesn’t actually do a straight parody of any fairy tales but he incorporates aspects of them into his story. We don’t get a farce on “Little Red Riding Hood” or “The Three Little Pigs,” but elements from them are woven in as characters, wittingly or unwittingly take on fable roles.

The thing binding this all together is the fact that Chopper has a cold (he chased a cat into a refrigerator before the cartoon began). He’s comforted in the fact that Yakky is bringing him a basket of hot bone soup. Don’t ask why the soup doesn’t leak through the basket. Just accept it and move on.

After Yakky burns our ears singing special soupy lyrics to “Camptown Races,” Fibber Fox enters the picture. “Well, for heaven’s sake, it’s Little Red Riding Duck taking hot soup to his grandmama,” says the fox, regardless of the fact Yakky isn’t wear a red hood. Fibber goes through the Red story to himself, including the shortcut to grandma’s. “I know a shortcut for that duck. (Points) Right into my stomach.” Fibber gives an evil grin, then frowns to the camera. “For Pete’s sake, stop wincing,” he says to the audience. “Foxes have to eat, too, you know.” While characters in Hanna-Barbera cartoons talk to the viewers all the time, this is a rare occasion when one directly chastises the people watching at home.

After burning his hand in the soup (Yakky invites him to try it as an appetiser and, yes, he did know there soup was in there) , Fibber carries on with the Red Riding Hood analogy, dumping Chopper from his dog house over a cliff and then taking his place as Yakky arrives. Now the duck gets in on the routine. “My, what a big nose you have, Chopper.” Yes, he cannot tell he is addressing Fibber who doesn’t even look like Chopper; Yakky is not terribly bright in this one. Chopper arrives to punch out Fibber but sneezes him and the duck through the back of the dog house. “Oh! You’re Fibber Fox. You’re not Chopper,” says Yakky. Hey, MENSA! Sign up that duck.

After being sneezed out of some hiding spots, the Yakky-clutching Fibber runs into a house. Chopper switches fairy tales. “You better open up or I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll sneeze your door down!” That’s exactly what he does. “Well! If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake. With a bomb in it, of course,” says Fibber. Before the dog can clobber Fibber, he gives the fox his cold. The last sequence has Yakky bringing them both hot bone soup, but then he gets a cold and the cartoon ends with the lot of them in bed.

The credits say the backgrounds were painted by Monte.

Some dry brushwork from members of Roberta Greutert’s ink and paint department.

There’s nothing spectacular about the music. All the cues are familiar and fit the action.

Finally, an endless cycle. There are eight drawings of Fibber Fox, one to a frame. The background takes up 24 frames before repeating. Alas, Fibber is doomed to run forever without eating that duck.