Saturday, 14 July 2018

Your Huckleberry Home

Were any cartoon characters merchandised more around 1960 than the creations of Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and their veteran staff? There seems to have been an incredible variety of things on which Huck, Yogi and the others made their appearances.

Over the years, readers of this blog have passed along pictures of their merchandise discoveries. We have another roundup of them today. You can click on each picture to make it bigger. Our focus today is on Huckleberry Hound.


It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (which Huck played in one of his cartoons) to figure out this 1960s game is from Japan. Whether a North American version exists, I don’t know. Nor can I guess the object of the game, other than to get from the southwest corner to the northeast one. Some of the “Hanna-Barbera” characters look like something from the mid-‘60s. Apparently this was made by Nintendo. (Since putting up this post, I found more about the 珍犬ハックル ゲーム board game on this blog.)



Now you can make Huck look like Groucho or Robert Q. Lewis, thanks to the twist of a dial and a special pencil. This Multiple Products Co. toy was from the late ‘50s when Hanna-Barbera was still “H-B Enterprises.” Evidently no one told the company the proper spelling was “Jinks.”


Kids gloves. I’m not sure of the manufacturer.


This charm bracelet came out during the first season of the Huck show (1958-59). The studio only had a limited number of starring characters, so it would merchandise incidental characters, too, including a well-known cartoon dog (ahem). In this case, Li’l Tom Tom, who appeared in one Yogi Bear cartoon, is included. Perhaps the company didn’t find Yowp so “charm”-ing.


Fruit of the Loom is known for its underwear, but it also made bed sheets. Here is proof. Yakky Doodle shows up for some reason; he never appeared with Huck. Besides Pixie and Dixie, we get the dragon from “Dragon-Slayer Huck,” and the circus lion from “Lion Tamer Huck,” though the version in the cartoon was drawn much better (by Mike Lah).

What rhymes with Huck? How about “puck”? This was made by General Tire and Rubber Co., and I gather it was sold in Canada. Hanna-Barbera would have better puck luck with Peter Puck about 20 years later on those NHL telecasts.

Does this mean the character’s name is Puckleberry Hound? Okay, I’ll stop.


From Decoware comes this metal garbage can, 12¼ by 10¼ and 9 inches thick. The presence of Hokey Wolf puts it after 1960. Snagglepuss is orange instead of pink. Iggy and Ziggy, the crows who heckled Huck in two cartoons, fly around. And Li’l Tom Tom shows up yet again. Several different types of these H-B waste paper baskets were made.

Here’s a late addition to the post. Reader Mike Rossi sent me pictures of a German card game from 1967.


You’ve got to love those on-model drawings. Is Yakky wearing a dress?

A kid around 1960 didn’t have to “tune up your TV set for Huckleberry Hound.” He or she could have Huck all over the place in their very own home, thanks to licensed products.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Don Messick Holds Off the Competition

Here’s a Boo Boo take from Scooter Looter (first aired in 1959). Bill Hanna holds the second drawing for four frames. We’ve skipped a few frames. The animator is Carlo Vinci.



Boo Boo, as you likely know, was voiced by Don Messick, who was the number two voice man (out of two) at Hanna-Barbera at the time. Daws Butler got most of the starring roles at the studio pre-1960—Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Mr. Jinks, Quick Draw McGraw, Super Snooper. Messick contented himself with Ruff and one of the meeces; Boo Boo wasn’t a regular character in the first season (1958-59) of Yogi Bear cartoons (and Ranger Smith wasn’t invented until the 1959-60 season).

Yet Don M. had staying power. He provided major and incidental character voices through the 1960s, including on Hanna-Barbera’s non-comedy series, then won the role of a clumsy Great Dane who many exposit is the studio’s most popular creation of all time. In the 1980s, he co-starred on The Smurfs, perhaps H-B’s biggest Saturday morning success of the decade, before veering into Warner Bros.’ so-called “Silver Age,” voicing Hamton in Tiny Toons Adventures. Alas, by this time Daws had passed away.

Messick’s career paralleled Butler’s after World War Two. Both had series on radio. Both worked for Bob Clampett in the 1950s days of televised puppet shows. Both voiced MGM cartoon characters. And both were commercial voices.

By 1978, things had changed at Hanna-Barbera. The voice department wasn’t a two-man operation any more. Things had changed in commercial voice-over work, too. In the early days of TV, advertising was deemed beneath the dignity of most actors. But then they looked at the cash windfall commercials paid. Money wins over dignity every time.

Here’s Messick talking about in an article in Backstage by Robert Goldrich, dated September 8, 1978.

Nearly 130 voice actors are working for Hanna Barbera Productions this season. By contrast, 10 years ago the studio only hired about 20. “The networks want more characters in the cartoons,” explained Art Scott, VP and recording director of many H-B programs. “While years ago the average program had five characters who could be voice by two people, Hanna-Barbera is now producing shows like ‘Challenge of the Superfriends,’ which has a regular cast of 19, plus many incidental characters.”
Yet while the market for cartoon voices is on the rise, major star personalities are making gains in another long time vehicle for voice actors—namely commercials.
Business Week recently noted that the number of TV spots featuring celebrities has jumped from one in five to one in three in the past five years, and this trend has undoubtedly seeped into the voiceover industry. ...
Yet there are some firmly entrenched voice actors who remain unscathed by this inundation of well-known stars. One is Don Messick, cartoon voice of Boo Boo Bear, Scooby-Doo, Mumbly, Astro on the Jetsons, Bam Bam of the Flintstones, and an assortment of other characters too numerous to mention. Don’s recent spot credits include the voices of Lava Soap’s “Wise Old Towel,” Kelloggs Rice Crispies Crackle of “Snap, Crackle & Pop” fame, a cat for Purina’s Special Dinners, and an owl for Green Giant’s Nibblets Corn.
“I see major accounts out to get the best of both worlds,” Messick explained. “For instance Kelloggs is using Dick Cavett’s voice on some radio commercials but they are continuing the highly successful ‘Snap, Crackle & Pop.’ Animated commercials are as effective as ever and thus there is still a market for the voice characterizations artists like myself can provide. For me, the creative challenge is that it is more difficult to establish such a voice in a 30-second spot than it is in a series of cartoons.”
Pointing out another difference, Messick noted that cartoons put more of a strain on the voice than commercial work. For instance, Don has done as many as seven voices for one Laff Olympics cartoon. This is a common practice. It’s economical for the studio to have the actor do several voices. The cartoon pay scale is set up so that actors are paid a fixed rate for providing one to three voices. There is a higher rate for four to six voices, and so on. Thus even if the actor is doing three voices, he is paid the same rate as someone doing one voice.
Don M. expanded his career as time went on. Unlike Daws Butler, or even Mel Blanc for that matter, he appeared on camera in a weekly role in a sitcom. His career could have taken a different turn, but The Duck Factory didn’t jell and was cancelled. He was cast in re-enactments of old radio shows on a Los Angeles station. He narrated stage productions of “Peter and the Wolf.” And he even toured parts of the U.S. with animation exhibitions, demonstrating some of his famous voices and talking about his life in cartoons.

As you can see, he continued to accumulate all kinds of credits and was in great demand. His career ended only because of his health. He suddenly retired one day and then died of natural causes at the age of 71 in 1997. Hanna-Barbera took out a full-page ad in Variety in his honour, a drawing by Iwao Takamoto of Shaggy and Scooby-Doo bowing their heads. He brought to life almost innumerable characters for the studio, including a dog that only said “Yowp” and a small ursine friend who was run down by an out-of-control Jellystone Park scooter.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The Biggest Show in Town?

Were the theme song singers right? Was the biggest show in town Huckleberry Hound for all you guys and gals? The answer is “it depends.”

When the Huck show debuted in 1958, a company called the American Research Bureau (now Arbitron) provided a diary-based ratings system for TV shows in various cities. Among the things it measured were ratings for syndicated shows, such as Huckleberry Hound. The results were published in Variety. You’ve read here in contemporary newspaper reports how Huck became a fad. The show’s early ARB numbers reveal it was able to hold its own against all kinds of syndicated programming—and there was an awful lot of it.

Posts about numbers are boring posts, so I’ll apologise in advance if you find this post boring. But I want to go through some of the ratings Huck got in its first few months on the air. Variety wasn’t consistent in which cities were published month to month, so that’s why some markets only appear once. The magazine eventually changed its system in 1959 to publish only the top ten syndicated programmes in a city. And in the second week of January 1959, Huckleberry Hound was the No. 1 syndicated programme in the Seattle-Tacoma area. It was the Biggest Show in Town, at least of the syndicated type.

Variety originally ran the top 20 syndicated shows, chopping the number to the top 10 just after the start of 1959. The first number below is the rating and the second number is the share. One rating point equals 1% of the number of homes with TVs in the market area. The share is the percentage of TV sets tuned to a show in the market. We found that in one rating period in Spokane, Sky King had a 100% share. That’s because it was on at a time when the other stations in the city hadn’t signed on for the day. Interestingly, Huck never cracked the top 20 in Chicago in the first few months after it began airing.

You’ll also found ratings for other syndicated cartoon shows. The Woody Woodpecker Show, the version sponsored by Kellogg’s and emceed by Universal cartoon studio boss Walter Lantz, was extremely popular and rated well in cities where Huck was below the top 20. The Popeye and Looney Tunes cartoons were syndicated by AAP (later UAA), while CBS syndicated Terrytoons and the old Farmer Al Falfa shorts. Huck and Woody ran as part of a five-days-a-week Kellogg’s strip along with Superman and two other filmed shows. The last Variety refers to Huck winning its time slot, showing again it was the Biggest Show in Town (depending on how you look at things).


October 10-17, 1958
NEW YORK
1. Sea Hunt 32.4 67
13. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:30) WPIX 5.6 19
(Popeye, No. 8)

LOS ANGELES
1. Divorce Court 16.7 25
7. Huckleberry Hound (Tue. 6:30) KNXT 11.4 29
(Popeye, No. 14)

SAN FRANCISCO
1. Sheriff of Cochise 24.5 44
19. Huckleberry Hound (Wed. 6:30) KTVU 10.9 22

ATLANTA
1. Big Story 31.5 66
11. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) WSB 14.9 48
(Looney Tunes, No. 12; Woody Woodpecker, No. 15)

BALTIMORE
1. Casey Jones 20.3 47
9. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) WJZ 12.8 52
(Popeye, No. 7; Woody Woodpecker, No. 9)

BUFFALO
1. Silent Service 35.5 65
17. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:30) WGR 15.5 55

MINNEAPOLIS
1. Death Valley Days 25.5 40
14. Huckleberry Hound (Tue. 6:30) WCCO 10.9 22
(Popeye, No. 9; Looney Tunes, No. 11; Woody Woodpecker, No. 12)

PORTLAND
1. Man Without a Gun 22.5 42
11. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KGW 15.5 41

ROCHESTER
1. Gray Ghost 38.1 57 11. Huckleberry Hound (Fri. 6:00) WVET 19.8 57
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 6; Popeye, No. 7)

October 10-30
BAKERSFIELD
1. Rescue 8 33 53
16. Huckleberry Hound (Wed. 7:00) KBAK 21.5 42

CHARLESTON-HUNTINGDON
1. 26 Men 24.3 49
14. Huckleberry Hound (Mon. 6:00) WCHS 13.8 30

DAVENPORT-ROCK ISLAND-MOLINE
1. Harbor Command 39.3 60
18. Huckleberry Hound (Fri. 6:00) WOC 17.5 43

SACRAMENTO
1. Sheriff of Cochise 34.5 57
3. Huckleberry Hound (Fri. 7:30) KCRA 32.4 47

WICHITA
1. MacKenzie’s Raiders 25.8 41
13. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) KAKE 16.3 52
(Looney Tunes, No. 7; Popeye, No. 10; Bugs Bunny, No. 11; Woody Woodpecker, No. 14)

Top 20 National Syndicated Shows
(Based on U.S. Pulse Spot Film Report for October).
Compilation of the top 20 syndicated shows in the U.S. is based on 22 basic markets, representing about 16,391,500 tv homes.
Pulse, in compiling the list, utilizes a weighted average keyed to the number of sets in each of the 22 markets. The weighted average takes in only the markets in which the program has been telecast. In order to qualify, a property must be telecast in at least ten of the 22 markets. Total number of the 22 basic markets included in the rating compilation for each series is listed in the brackets.
The markets include Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco-Oakland, Seattle-Tacoma, St. Louis and Washington.
Top 20
1. SEA HUNT (20) 21.1
19. HUCKLEBERRY HOUND (19) 8.6

November 5-12
NEW YORK
Huck not in Top 20

LOS ANGELES
1. Mr. Adams and Eve 16.4 26
15. Huckleberry Hound (Tue. 6:30) KNXT 10.7 25
(Popeye, No. 13)

ATLANTA
1. Big Story 32.2 67
9. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) WSB 14.2 41
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 8; Looney Tunes, No. 13; Popeye, No. 16)

BALTIMORE
1. Death Valley Days 23.3 47
7. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) WJZ 15.3 63
(Popeye, No. 4; Woody Woodpecker, No. 5)

BUFFALO
1. Silent Service 36.5 65
15. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:30) WGR 16.3 58

CINCINNATI
1. Highway Patrol 27.4 66
13. Huckleberry Hound (Wed. 6:00) WCPO 14.2 48
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 7)

COLUMBUS
1. Sea Hunt 29.2 53
15. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:30) WTVN 14.5 43
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 6)

HOUSTON
1. State Trooper 23.5 38
15. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) KTRK 12.8 47
(Popeye, No. 8; Woody Woodpecker, No. 14)

KNOXVILLE
1. Gray Ghost 35 58
2. Huckleberry Hound (Mon. 6:00) WATE 29.3 62
(Tied with Badge 714 and Highway Patrol)
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 4)

LOUISVILLE
1. Highway Patrol 44.8 56
8. Huckleberry Hound (Tues. 6:30) WAVE 24.8 48
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 15)

MIAMI
1. Highway Patrol 28.5 59
14. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 7:00) WCKT 18.9 40
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 10)

PORTLAND
1. Casey Jones 19.5 46
6. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KGW 15.9 39

RICHMOND, Va.
1. Sheriff of Cochise 23.5 43
11. Huckleberry Hound (Wed. 6:00) WTVR 12.9 44
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 6; Farmer Al Falfa, No. 9)

SAN ANTONIO
1. Death Valley Days 34.7 56
13. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KONO 16.9 39
(Popeye, No. 14; Woody Woodpecker, No. 17)

SAN DIEGO
1. Sea Hunt 25 53
10. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KFSD 15.2 36
(Popeye, No. 12)

December 1-8
NEW YORK
1. Sea Hunt 32.6 61
14. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:30) WPIX 7.2 19
(Popeye, No. 7; Woody Woodpecker, No. 8; Terrytoons, No. 15)

LOS ANGELES
1. San Francisco Beat/Sea Hunt 14.7 23
7. Huckleberry Hound (Tues. 6:30) KNXT 12.5 28
(Popeye, No. 12)

ATLANTA
1. Whirlybirds 32.2 65
7. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) WSB 18.2 48
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 10; Looney Tunes, No. 11; Popeye, No. 14)

BALTIMORE
1. Death Valley Days 28.3 44
7. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) WJZ 16.3 59

CINCINNATI
1. Highway Patrol 29.2 67
5. Huckleberry Hound (Wed. 6:00) WCPO 19.5 68

DETROIT
1. Sea Hunt 28.5 54
10. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 7:00) CKLW 14.5 27
(Popeye, No. 2; Woody Woodpecker, No. 3; Bugs Bunny No. 10 w/28 share)

PROVIDENCE
1. Death Valley Days 25.8 71
15. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) WPRO 10.3 51
(Popeye, No. 12; Woody Woodpecker, No. 15)

January 2-9, 1959
NEW YORK
1. Sea Hunt 27.9 52
14. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:30) WPIX 8.7 21
(Popeye, No. 13; Woody Woodpecker, No. 20)

LOS ANGELES
1. Mr. Adams and Eve 18.4 28
10. Huckleberry Hound (Tues. 6:30) KNXT 11.9 35
(Popeye, No. 6)

ATLANTA
1. Whirlybirds 31.4 68
9. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) WSB 18.8 48
(Popeye, No. 14; Woody Woodpecker, No. 15; Looney Tunes, No. 16)

BALTIMORE
1. Death Valley Days 23.8 41
4. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) WJZ 17.8 61
(Tied with Superman)
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 2; Popeye Nos. 3, 4)

BOSTON
1. Gray Ghost 24.9 50
11. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:30) WNAC 18.5 43

COLUMBUS
1. Death Valley Days 27.5 41
14. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:30) WTVN 16.2 43
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 3)

DETROIT 1. Sea Hunt 27.9 51
14. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 8:00) CKLW 13.9 27
(Popeye, No. 4; Bugs Bunny, No. 6; Woody Woodpecker, No. 8, Farmer Al Falfa, No. 13)

FRESNO
1. People’s Choice 20.8 39
2. Huckleberry Hound (Wed. 6:00) KJEO 20.3 52
(Popeye, No. 5)

MILWAUKEE
1. Whirlybirds 25.2 53
14. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) WISN 14.3 45
(Terry Toons, No. 7; Woody Woodpecker, No. 9)

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 2-29)
1. Silent Service 30.7 52
16. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) WKY 18.8 48
(Popeye, No. 10; Crusader Rabbit, No. 14; Woody Woodpecker, No. 17)

PORTLAND
1. State Trooper 23.2 44
13. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KGW 18.5 40
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 20)

RICHMOND
1. Whirlybirds 23.9 49
11. Huckleberry Hound (Wed. 6:00 WTVR 16.2 44
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 8; Farmer Al Falfa, No. 15)

SEATTLE
1. Highway Patrol 26.2 44
15. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs 6:00) KING 15.5 36
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 12)

SPOKANE (Jan. 2-29)
1. Death Valley Days 35.8 57
8. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KREM 20.8 50
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 2; Popeye, No. 4)

TACOMA (Jan. 8-14)
1. Citizen Soldier 25.3 38
10. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KING 15.3 33
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 11)

Top 20 National Syndicated Shows
(Based on U.S. Pulse Spot Film Report for January).
1. Sea Hunt (22) Ziv 21.0
18. Huckleberry Hound (21) Screen Gems 18.1

January 5-11, 1959
TOP TEN only
LOS ANGELES
1. Rescue 8 (Tues. 7:00) KRCA Screen Gems 17.2 32.3
7. Huckleberry Hound (Tues. 6:30) KNXT Screen Gems 12.0 27.8
(Popeye, No. 8)

ATLANTA
1. Whirlybirds (Wed. 7:00) WSB CBS 32.4 71.2
9. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) WSB Screen Gems 19.1 56.7
(Popeye, No. 3; Woody Woodpecker, No. 5, Looney Tunes/Bosko No. 10)

BALTIMORE
1. Death Valley Days (Mon. 7:30) WJZ 24.0 39.9
5T. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) WJZ 19.7 66.8
(Popeye No. 2; Woody Woodpecker, No. 3; Popeye, No. 5T)

COLUMBUS
1. Sea Hunt (Mon. 7:30) WBNS 35.2 62.1
9. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:30) WTVN 22.9 60.1
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 2)

DALLAS-FORT WORTH
1. Death Valley Days (Sat. 9:30) KRLD U.S. Borax 25.8 46.8
6. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KFJZ Screen Gems 16.9 39.4
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 5)

HARTFORD
1. Sky King (Sun. 6:00) WHNC 24.1 60.1
3. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) WHNC 19.6 53.8
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 2; Popeye, No. 4)

KANSAS CITY
1. Mike Hammer (Sat. 9:30) KCMO MCA 27.9 56.3
2t. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KMBC Screen Gems 25.0 53.6

MIAMI
1. Sea Hunt (Fri. 7:00) WTVJ 40.1 67.9
10T. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 7:00) WCKT 21.6 41.2

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL
1. Death Valley Days (Sat. 9:30) WCCO 24.4 49.3
9. Huckleberry Hound (Tues. 6:30) WCCO 15.4 23.8
(Woody Woodpeckerm, No. 2; Popeye No. 3)

PITTSBURGH
1. State Trooper (Sat, 10:3Q) KDKA MCA 34.7 56.6
3. Huckleberry Hound (Mon. 7:30) WTAE Screen Gems 23.8 42.1

PORTLAND, Ore.
1. State Trooper (Tues. 7:00) KGW MCA 38.5 70.0
2. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KGW Screen Gems 32.6 56.4
(Woody Woodpecker, No. 6)

SAN DIEGO
1. Sea Hunt (Thurs. 7:00) KFMB Ziv 34.0 52.6
2. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KFSD Screen Gems 26.2 49.4
(Popeye, No. 3; Woody Woodpecker, No. 5)

SEATTLE-TACOMA 1. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 6:00) KING 26.6 49.5
(Beat local news, Huntley-Brinkley on KOMO)

SYRACUSE
1. Sea Hunt (Wed. 7:00) WSYR 36.3 58.8
10. Huckleberry Hound (Thurs. 5:00) WSYR 25.0 74.6
(Popeye, No. 3; Woody Woodpecker, No. 4)

From Variety, February 25, 1959
KELLOGG'S PAYOFF ON 'HUCKLEBERRY'
High status of "Huckleberry Hound," the nationally-spotted Kellogg cartoon show sold by Screen Gems, is reflected (in the Pulse top 20 chart this week) and in the ARB tv rundown.
Kellogg sponsors the stanza in slightly over 200 tv markets. In the 85 markets covered by ARB for the months of October, November and December, the SG show, the last report available in each market shows "HH" has copped first place over the competition 75 out of 85 times.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Tally Ho, Carlo

One disadvantage we kids had watching the Huckleberry Hound Show in the late 1950s and early 1960s is the cartoons were in black and white. Most TV programming was not in colour at the time, so Screen Gems sent 16 mm black-and-white prints to stations to broadcast, though the show had been wisely shot in colour.

This means youngsters way-back-when didn’t get the full effect of some of the great colour work in the background artwork of the cartoons. Here’s a lovely example from the third Yogi Bear cartoon put into production, “Tally Ho-Ho-Ho” (1958). I really like the shades of yellow and green and, especially, the stylised groves of autumnal trees. This is the work of Fernando Montealegre. He, Art Lozzi and Bob Gentle handled most of the background work in the show’s first season. You can see the large foreground rock on both sides; this was a repeating background.


The animators in the cartoon are Carlo Vinci and Mike Lah. I really like Lah’s animation in this one; he gives Yogi a crazy exit scene that you’d never find in later cartoons. Because this is an early Yogi, Carlo’s animation isn’t altogether fluid (the studio evidently was on a tighter budget in the first few cartoons), but he manages to fit in some interesting poses. Here’s Yogi surprised seeing a hunter with a gun. The head stretch is typical early-HB Vinci.



Check out the trees in the background. Monty varies the colours; the trunks and branches are either brown, grey or green.

Yogi gets shot at by the hunter, played by Professor Gizmo of the Ruff and Reddy series (he’s the same design with the same voice as Gizmo). Joe Barbera and Charlie Shows cough up the old water-leaks-through-body-holes gag that Tex Avery loved at MGM. We get some neat poses, backed up by Bill Hanna’s fine timing.



More reactions from Yogi. He thinks he’s fooled the hunter until bullets whiz past him. The second drawing is held for 20 frames while the bullets go by; the third drawing is on the screen for 10 frames.



We posted some of these drawings about nine years ago when we reviewed this cartoon, but we’ll put them up again anyway. These are Mike Lah’s poses as Yogi runs in place then zips out of the scene.



One other thing should be mentioned—Yogi’s entire face is tan coloured. He was drawn that way for the first six cartoons before someone decided to limit the colour to his muzzle alone.



One of the things I like about the first-season Yogis is there was no formula. Boo Boo wasn’t in a number of cartoons. Ranger Smith hadn’t been invented yet. Jellystone wasn’t specified as Yogi’s home. This cartoon has two characters (besides a silent elk that does little in its brief appearance) and they carry the plot nicely. The Yogi formula was, looking back, the right direction for the studio but the character was stronger and richer in the Barbera-Shows-Gordon period and it’s a shame the studio decided to go in another direction, helped by good poses and attractive background artwork.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

The Hanna-Barbera Tricks

Hanna-Barbera was given X amount of time and X amount of money to make TV cartoons. “X” in TV cartoons didn’t equal “X” in theatrical cartoons. There was less time and less money. Chuck Jones could sneer at “illustrated radio” all he wanted, but if someone handed him $300 and told him to buy a car, he wouldn’t be getting a new Cadillac. He’d get the best he could for $300.

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera didn’t invent held drawings, background pans and walk cycles. You could find them in theatrical cartoons, too. But the H-B studio had to rely on them more than the old theatrical cartoon factories because it didn’t have the time or money to do it any other way.

Here are some examples from the Yogi Bear cartoon “Big Brave Bear” (1958).

The cartoon opens with the camera fixed on of one of Monty’s well-composed background drawings; the same kind of establishing shot you’d find in some Bob McKimson cartoons at Warners. No cels to ink and paint, no time-consuming movement by the cameraman. Frank Paiker, or whoever was operating the camera, simply clicked the number of times indicated on the exposure sheet and then cross-faded into the next scene.

Here’s a recreation of the second scene. The camera panned slowly left to right over a background drawing and came across Boo Boo and Yogi. The only animation is a cycle of Yogi’s right lower leg lazily going up and down. There’s just enough movement to keep the scene from being static. This stock cue from Geordie Hormel plays in the background.


Opening dialogue? It’s as simple as it can be. No wild gestures. No body movement. There’s no time or money. Yogi and Boo Boo remain stuck on a cel as the mouth changes shape to reflect vowels in Daws Butler’s and Don Messick’s voices. If you look closely, though, you will see the backgrounds are not the same as in the pan shot.



Carlo Vinci animated this cartoon. At least for the first few years at Hanna-Barbera, Carlo tried to avoid stiff walk cycles. Here’s a loping little walk in eight drawings, each exposed on two frames, with the background moved slightly. I’m sorry I can’t isolate Boo Boo so you can see it better; the jerking background may be distracting. But you can see Boo Boo changes in every drawing; it’s full animation.



Hanna-Barbera cartoons appear rife with repeating backgrounds, where Pixie and Dixie would run past the same light socket six times, or Huckleberry Hound would stroll in front of the same trees five times. Pixie, Dixie and Huck would all move in cycle animation. But there were times in the first number of cartoons on the Huck half-hour where there would be no movement at all; something would slide across a background until the background ran out and had to start again. Here is an example where the gangster’s car doesn’t move; not even the wheels. It takes 32 frames (16 frames per second) for the car to reach one end of the background to the other before repeating. What you see below been slowed down. I admire the early Hanna-Barbera background work. The trees are outlines, the colours are sponged over top. (Dick Bickenbach seems to have loved cars with no doors in medium-long shot).



Though the animation isn’t exactly lush in TV cartoons, Carlo fitted in some nice expressions in some of the early Huck shows, including “The Buzzin’ Bear” and “Hookey Daze.” I like this realisation/shock take from Boo Boo below in this cartoon. It’s a shame things got tamer as the years went on.



Overall, the animation short-cuts the H-B staff had to go with in the early cartoons were used pretty well. Combined with good voice work, pleasing art and (though not in every short) solid stories, the studio got a lot of mileage for their “X.” Certainly the cartoons pleased kids 60 years ago and, I’d hope, do so today.