Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Bear-iversary

Huckleberry Hound may have been the star of The Huckleberry Hound Show but it didn’t take too long before he was no longer the star at the Hanna-Barbera studio.

In the early ‘60s when Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera decided to make a feature film, it starred Yogi Bear, not Huck. When they decided to put comics in the Sunday papers, Yogi Bear, not Huck, got the ink. The fact there are no Huckleberry Hound campgrounds, cartoons were never made called “Huck’s Ark Lark” and “Huck’s Space Race,” and Huck never appeared as a lame CGI character in a (insert your own adjective) 2010 movie shows you how Yogi took over the Hanna-Barbera animal cartoon kingdom. He was brasher than the low key Huck, and the ones who make the most noise always get noticed.

Yogi Bear started life in his own cartoons that appeared on The Huckleberry Hound Show. The series began on this day 60 years ago (a Thursday) in some cities (including New York, Washington, Fort Worth, Seattle, Columbus, Cheyenne and Windsor, Ontario), though it actually debuted three days earlier elsewhere, depending on what airtime was available for purchase. In 1960 when Kellogg’s wanted to syndicate another half-hour it worked out a deal to sponsor a show starring Mr. Magoo, but pulled out because of demands by UPA’s owner. It quickly inked a contract in October with Hanna-Barbera to air a half-hour starring Yogi and some new characters in January 1961, with Hokey Wolf taking over his spot on the Huck show once some cartoons were ready. Yogi therefore appeared with Huck to start the 1960-61 season and finished it on his own series.

Yogi’s first season cartoons were a little different than what came later. The bear was rarely after pic-a-nic baskets, didn’t always live in Jellystone Park, Boo Boo wasn’t with him all the time and Ranger Smith didn’t exist. Some of the stories were in a spot gag format. It was only in Huck’s second season that Warren Foster arrived to write the cartoons and chained Yogi to a locale and format. Here are some of Yogi’s more enjoyable adventures when he was on the Huck show.

Pie-Pirates (October 13, 1958).
This is a sentimental favourite because it was the first Yogi cartoon made (though it was the third that aired). Mike Lah laid out and animated the short, and he saved money by cutting back on in-betweens like a number of the cartoons did at the start of production. Lah’s animation at Hanna-Barbera was always distinctive. Yogi misreads a “Beware of Dog” sign, and though he and Boo Boo vanquish the bulldog, they still don’t get their huckleberry pie. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Be My Guest Pest (January 12, 1959).
Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera borrow from themselves again. They’ve taken the design and voice of Professor Gizmo from their Ruff and Reddy cartoons (which were still being aired) and made him a hen-pecked hunter. He appeared in two shorts, but this one is the best because it features Don Messick as the hunter’s screaming, bullying wife who is hauled away by the cops who think she’s nuts. Unicorn in the Garden ending, anyone? Boo Boo is unnecessary and, therefore, absent. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.



The Stout Trout (December 15, 1958).
This may be the best of the spot-gag cartoons, where a narrator (Don Messick) describes Yogi attempting some kind of task. Here, the bear is up against Wily Willie, the trout, who silently heckles him as he attempts to catch him. Joe Barbera’s love for butt-injury jokes shows up several times in this one (the bear eventually has band-aids on his rear). The blackboard-adding gag is, perhaps, expected, but likeable. Yogi ends the cartoon by riding an outboard motor down a road, chased by a cop past the same trees and house over and over. Mike Lah animates some of the gags. No Boo Boo here. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Duck in Luck (January 26, 1959).
What’s funnier than a dog that can only say the word “Yowp”? Okay, a lot of things, but I’ve been amused by it for 55 or so years. Two cartoons were made in 1958 featuring Yowp and I give this one an edge solely because of the shell game sequence. This cartoon also features the self-pitying duck that appeared in a bunch of Hanna and Barbera’s MGM shorts and eventually was turned into Yakky Doodle. Again, this is another non-Boo Boo, non-Ranger cartoon. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Robin Hood Yogi (March 2, 1959).
Yogi wants to rob food from the rich and give to the poor—namely, him and Boo Boo. Since that bears (chuckle, chuckle) a resemblance to Robin Hood, Yogi puts a feather in his hat and decides to play Robin. There’s a running gag about Boo Boo/Little John, Yogi gets attacked by a woman’s frying pan twice, and he cons Ranger Joe into being Friar Tuck. Art Lozzi paints a wonderful Jellystone forest in this short, where Yogi doesn’t really win but loses a good part of the time. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Show Biz Bear (October 12, 1959).
“Looks like a sycamore to me.” A cartoon plot that was eventually trotted out again and again and again at Hanna-Barbera—the star substitutes for an actor in a film shoot and gets beaten up for his trouble. (Director: “You know there’s no business like show business.” Yogi: “I know. And I think I’m gettin’ the business.”). A non-Smith ranger shows up and ends up taking over Yogi’s part and, judging by the sound effects, injuries. Story by Warren Foster.

Lullabye-Bye Bear (September 21, 1959).
George Nicholas has some terrific expressions in this cartoon; his work in his first few Hanna-Barbera cartoons was very funny. Yogi looks downright insane at times. The early version of Ranger Smith was good, too. He was more ho-hum and had a tired resignation about him than the later finger-wagging, annoyed version. I’ll take the former, though the latter makes for easier story conflict. Story by Warren Foster.

Hoodwinked Bear (November 21, 1959).
Put Yogi Bear in a fairy tale and you have a great cartoon. Yeah, Hanna-Barbera eventually beat this idea into the ground, but it’s still funny here. This may be my favourite of the three Yogi fairy tales. Boo Boo is Red Riding Hood, Yogi is the granny, the wolf is Phil Silvers. It all starts with Yogi deciding to hit up tourists for food, and guess who’s carrying a basket? The wolf comments on the story (to Boo Boo as Red: “You memorised your lines right, anyhow. Very badly read, but well memorised.”). More fine poses by George Nicholas. No Ranger Smith again in this one. Story by Warren Foster.

Oinks and Boinks (September 26, 1960).
This fairy tale travesty was the Yogi cartoon that opened the third season of the Huck show. It’s reminiscent of “The Windblown Hare,” a 1949 Bugs Bunny cartoon where the Three Pigs trick our hero into taking over their homes, knowing they’ll be blown down. The wolf once again has Daws Butler’s Phil Silvers voice and was apparently the inspiration to create Hokey Wolf. The wolf gets frustrated because he’s following “the book” but no one else is. The pigs get chased away at the end. Ranger Smith is absent as he is unnecessary. Story by Warren Foster.

A Bear Pair (late 1960).
A political/diplomatic satire where Boo Boo wins a trip to France, he and Yogi are mistaken for ambassadors but are finally kicked out the country when Yogi causes an international incident by wanting ketchup on his fillet mignonnies (that’s how he pronounces it). There’d be a bit more social satire when Yogi got his own show. The cartoon ends with the anger-management-challenged Ranger Smith chasing Yogi past the same tree 23 times. Story by Warren Foster.

Earlier in this post, we mentioned that Yogi and Boo Boo, along with Huck, Pixie and Dixie, Mr. Jinks debuted in Canada on this date 60 years ago. What did Canadians think of the show at the time? One Canadian author weighed in, and we’ll see what he had to say in a future post.

3 comments:

  1. Love " A Pair Pair ". What is line the French pilots says when Yogi and Boo Boo board the plane? Not the exact quote, but..." The way things are going these days, we must be friendly to everyone " Great satire.

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  2. I have a fondness for a couple of Season 1 shorts -- "High Fly Guy" and "Scooter Looter"; the latter because of the same ho-hum and had a tired resignation that the scooter rental guy has (even though much of the cartoon is made up of just Yogi riding on tree branches, the guy's world-weary attitude that this is a bad day and things are just going to keep going wrong was targeted more towards the adults than the kids watching), while the former is one of the early 'grouchy Yogi' shorts, where he's allowed to be irked about something -- the later Yogis would keep Daws in more of a happy-go-lucky voice, even when Yogi was supposed to be annoyed, which limited the range of the character.

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  3. Some of my personal favorites:

    "Bear On A Picnic", Season 1. Poor Yogi tries to protect the "Clobba-clobba" kid from a porcu-PIIIINE and a mountain lion. A fight with the latter is marvelously timed, with bear and lion continually dragging each other back to the standard cloud-of-dust cartoon fight with a nice cacaphony of sound effects and Daws' "Owwww-Owwww-OWWWW!"

    "Bear For Punishment", Season 2. Sight gags involving invisibility are always good for easy laughs. A musical bonus is the'eerie' score heard when Ranger Smith is trying to convince himself he didn't crack up. ("Too much fresh air. Babbling brooks. Pines. That'll do it every time.") Contains the funniest line by an incidental character in an H-B short: "Daddy, our picnic basket just floated away singing!"

    "Snow White Bear", Season 2: Hysterical, nonstop one-liners from a refreshingly annoyed Yogi as his attempted hibernation is constantly interrupted Snow White, the Wicked Queen, the Prince, and The Seven Dwarfs who are hilariously introduced with parodied names and wry observations by Yogi.

    "Gleesome Threesome", Season 3: Delightful in spite of, or because of ridiculous plotholes: Yogi and Boo-Boo somehow getting to Miami Beach; the road-weary Ranger unable to distinguish the bears from the human friends he's expecting; the Ranger sunbathing in full uniform. Refreshing change of venue from Jellystone, and some pointed satire on Yankees wintering in Florida. "Cold brings 'em down here every year." Somehow the closing line cracks me up. "I don't know [if they're on tour], but this is doin' it the HARD way. Come BACK, Mr. Ranger, Sir. [aside to audience] Hoo-boy!"

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