Saturday, 10 March 2018

Yakky Doodle in Easter Duck

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson, Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Cat – Daws Butler; Woman, boy – Jean Vander Pyl; Pet Store owner, Green Cat – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-17.
Copyright 1961 Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Yakky is an Easter present that its owner’s cat wants to eat.

You know the song:

“We’ve got a Yakky for sale!
A Yakky Doodle for sale!
Won’t you buy him, take him home and try him?
A Yakky for sale!”

Oh, wait. That’s Magilla Gorilla, isn’t it? Pardon my confusion. In this cartoon, Yakky is in the front window of a pet store and no one wants to buy him. In fact, there are a number of familiar routines in this cartoon that pre-date its first appearance on TV (Magilla came a few years later). It seems to me a pet store birdie was part of the plot of Ain’t She Tweet?, a Sylvester-Tweety pairing. The “kiss the little birdie” bit in this cartoon can be found in both Gift Wrapped and Catty Cornered, another couple of Warners cartoons. And two cats struggling over a bird can be found in Truck or Tweet. All of those cartoons were written by Warren Foster, who came up with the story for this one.

Ah, but Warners Bros. isn’t the only studio from where ideas were borrowed. The whole concept of a duck gift for Easter was used in Happy Go Ducky, an MGM cartoon directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera and featuring the duckling that became Yakky Doodle.

Oh, and while we’re talking about borrowing...

The cat appears to be closely related to Mr. Jinks. The Hanna-Barbera house design is pretty obvious.

Instead of a Tweety sandwich, we get a “duck burger.” And the granny in this one clocks the cat with a broom instead of an umbrella, as does the Warners’ Granny. And there’s the “follow that cab” joke where one character is induced to get into a cab. The second character tells the driver to drive off and then the camera moves to show the first character is right behind the second one.

Anyway, it’s all familiar territory for Foster, who I believe only wrote this one cartoon for Yakky. He manages to resist having Yakky call the cat a “bad old puddy tat.”

Should I run down the story? Yakky holds up signs to try to get bought from a store. Finally, a woman comes in to take the duck home as an Easter present for her granddaughter. The woman’s cat (Daws in a watered down version of his Jerry Lewis voice) likes the idea of a duck breakfast. Granny doesn’t. Broom. Yakky feels rejected by the cat and walks out of the house. Granny meanwhile threatens the cat if anything happens to Yakky while she’s gone (no phoney cat-gut violin-string playing like at Warners). Now the cat has to find Yakky. “Quack, quack,” the cat says over and over, looking around the neighbourhood. Cut to a boy. Boy turns to camera. “Poor mixed-up pussy cat.” Nice interruption gag.

A green cat in a garbage can has decided to claim Yakky. The two cats fight over the duck, clobbering each other with something before running away. The cab gag is tossed in. The cuts are pretty quick for a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The running is accompanied part of the time by the chase variation of “Meet the Flintstones.” Some of the fight is a simple shot of Yakky with the camera shaking; we don’t get to see it.

Fade to Yakky pulling the roughed up Jinks stand-in home. Granny decides because the two get along so well, she’s going to give Yakky to the cat as an Easter present. The cat repeats some earlier dialogue from the green cat—“Ya should’na taken my duck”—to end the cartoon.

Don Patterson handled the animation. There are a lot of swirls to indicate a character zipping off scene, and only one drawing of multiples when the cat rushes around to make the duck burger.

We’ve now reviewed all the cartoons in the Yakky Doodle series. Maltese wrote the majority, with Tony Benedict spelling him off. What did Maltese think of Yakky? I can’t say for sure, but perhaps it’s telling that in a 1977 interview, when Maltese read a list of series he wrote at Hanna-Barbera, toward the bottom he said “Chopper Dog and Canary.” Canary! Yakky and his predecessor ducks in the MGM theatrical cartoons were doted on by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera but Maltese didn’t quite recall him. Still, the series has its moments and some praise should go to Jimmy Weldon for his fine voice work. His Yakky is expressive with diction clear enough to comprehend him.


  1. I'm pretty sure the cat is based on Shelley Berman like in those others, "Railroaded Duck", and "Duck in Luck"(if I got the titles right, the first one). Another to have four voices (I was just thinking of thoe others, with the flea and Chopper's birthday present..) I've actually liked this one..SC

  2. Pretty entertaining for a Yakky effort, especially considering there's no Fibber or Alfie involvement. "Ya should'na" held on to the review for a few more weeks, for a more timely appearance.

    Did a young Bob Dylan see this cartoon, and borrow Yakky's cue-card bit?

  3. The “kiss the little birdie” bit is also in another Tweety/Sylvester pairing: Tweetie Pie.

  4. That kid's receding, poor guy!

  5. When Tex Avery talked to Joe Adamnson about his time at Walter Lantz's studio in the 1950s, he mentioned how Lantz pretty much dumped the Chilly Willy series in his lap because he was determined to make a starring character out of the penguin, and how Tex ended up focusing on the supporting characters for the comedy, because "you can't do anything with a fuzzy-wuzzy little penguin."

    Warren Foster here, and Michael Maltese and Tony Benedict in the other Yakky cartoons seem to have taken the same attitude as Avery did to Chilly. Bill and Joe may have loved the character, but the writers knew the comedy options with Yakky were limited, so they focused on everything they could around the character to get a laugh, whether it was the cats here, Maltese's creation of Fibber Fox, or Benedict's Hitchcock riff with Alfy Gator.

    The fact that Yakky did spur the creation of two memorable supporting characters that were sources of comedy (sorry Chopper), is probably the best way to remember the series by, rather than the one-note title character who was more annoying than he was cute most of the time.

    1. I'll second that! Fibber Fox and Alfie Gator just may be the two best H-B supporting characters. Ranger Smith, pre "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear", would round it out to three!

  6. Warren Foster wrote one other Yakky cartoon, "Duck Hunting" with the Messick-voiced hunter (coincidentally Don's only other appearance in a Yakky short) and his hunting dog DOUUUUG-las.

    It's interesting that three different writers worked on this series. From the 1959-60 season on, every Yogi and Meece short was written by Foster; all three segments of the QUICK DRAW McGRAW SHOW and every Snagglepuss by Maltese. Foster wrote almost every Huck cartoon, with one by Maltese, several of the later 'Curtin' shorts by Tony Benedict, and one 'Curtin' short by the rather unknown Carl Koehler. Benedict and Foster seemed to equally share the Hokey Wolf series.