Saturday, 4 April 2009

Yogi Bear — The Stout Trout

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall (Carlo Vinci and Mike Lah uncredited); Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator – Don Messick; Yogi, fly – Daws Butler.
Production E-21, Huckleberry Hound Show K-012.
First aired: week of Monday, December 15, 1958.
Plot: Yogi vs. Trout. Yogi loses.

I’ve always liked the early Yogis because they don’t rely on a Yogi-Ranger-Jellystone crutch. There’s no Boo-Boo here, either, just Yogi and the title character in a series of black-out gags.

A cartoon like this would not be made a few years later. By 1960, Hanna-Barbera became reliant on the dialogue supplied by Mike Maltese or Warren Foster and the stellar voices of Daws Butler. It’s yack-yack-yack. Often really funny yack-yack-yack, to be sure. But cartoons consisting of sight gags, like this one, just weren’t made any more. Maybe it’s because they really need full animation to be at their best. Some of the drawing is stiff and crude in this one, but there are some clever bits, such as how the fish’s fins turn into arms with boxing gloves and then back into fins again.

We’re informed by the narrator the title character is named ‘Wily Trout’ (or is it ‘Wile E. Trout’?). The trout’s a good one-note character. He’s not stupid, wise-cracking or annoying. He’s just enjoying having some fun. A wise decision was made to make the trout mute. The chatter would have been superfluous. Yogi says little. Don Messick’s narration sets up the gags.

Following the usual H-B establishing shot and a pan to the right, the first set-up is a comparison of “two of nature’s most cunning creatures.” We see how the trout, then the bear are “smart, calculating and a natural fighter.” Yogi comes out in the short end in all departments, and you pretty well know after this how the plot will develop.

After being spewed in the face while trying to catch the trout with his paw, Yogi tries sex as a weapon. Evidently, this fish realises he’s not in Tex Avery ‘Red’ cartoon, or is a big fan of Cher and Liza Minnelli, as he shows more interest in food than females. See the thick row of teeth on Yogi? That’s a Carlo Vinci trademark.

Next, Yogi tries a fly lure. Unfortunately, the fly’s still alive and pulls Yogi into the water. He runs out of the lake after the old ‘strapping on a fin and pretending to be a shark’ gag. We get some nice limited animation here. See how Yogi stretches when the fly pulls him in? And he leads with his chest as he tries to escape from the “shark.” More signs of Carlo in action.

Yogi tries to club the fish in a bunch of cycle animation and then gets clubbed himself in a really funny pose.
Mike Lah has taken over the animation. Goggle eyes and Yogi talking out of the side of his mouth are giveaways that Lah is on the job. And look how big Yogi’s nose is here.

In the next gag, Lah handles the animation of the fish in the caught boot just before he kicks Yogi into the brink. Charlie Shows consecutively gives us a bunch of attack-the-rear jokes that I will leave for Freud or fans of Cher and Liza Minnelli to analyse.

Lah’s finished his work in this one. But the rear-end gags carry on. Carlo has a nice bit of TV animation as Yogi, now underwater, scrambles to escape the speargun-carrying trout. He fails. We get to see the, um, end result in a long shot.

We interrupt our butt commentary to remark on the cartoon’s background colours. Instead of a singular flat tone, there’s purple interlaced with the green of the slopes and in the brown in the soil. The trees are different shades of green. You’ll notice the salmon-coloured sky (appropriate for a cartoon about fish, I might add) in the other shots. There’s always something interesting in the background colour or design to augment the early H-B cartoons.

Now, back to our butt commentary. You’ll observe some rare continuity. Normally, cartoon characters are back in their usual shapes in the next scene. Not here. When Yogi accidentally starts his outboard motor (the boat to which it belongs is never seen in this cartoon) and it takes on a life of its own, he’s still sporting a reminder of his spear injury as he rides it across—and under—the water.

There’s a bit of Warner Bros. influence here as Yogi ducks underneath a pier, starts showing off for the camera à la Wile E. Coyote and then .. WHAM! And, if you lost count, he water-skies past the same mountain in the background 12 times (there’s a smudge on the background cell you can use for reference).

The cartoon ends with Yogi (with an overbite) still trying to catch the fish, who attaches the line to the outboard motor (now underwater). Yogi reprises his motor-jockeying, except this time it’s past a highway patrol cop. How many times is there one of these in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon? George Jetson seems to have been pulled over on every episode.

The sound cutter was content to let most of the stock music run its full length here and we get Jack Shaindlin’s Toboggan Run twice. The Huck DVD—a must for any fan of these cartoons—has an unusual vocal and musical arrangement for the early Yogi theme on this cartoon. The syllables in “Yo-gi” are sung in eighth notes; the more common version has the “Yo” a quarter note in length to make the name stand out more.

0:00 – Yogi opening theme (Bill Hanna-Joe Barbera-Hoyt Curtin).
0:24 – ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Geordie Hormel) - Establishing shot and character set-up.
2:07 – TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Bill Loose-John Seely) - Yogi tries fly fishing; shark, baseball bat bits.
3:24 – TC-202 WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Fish in boot, Yogi in inflatable raft.
4:45 – L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) - Fish spears Yogi, Yogi's line caught in motor.
5:33 – LAF-20-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Yogi rides boat motor.
6:34 – TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Fish hooks line to motor.
6:47 – LAF-20-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Yogi rides motor past cop.
7:10 – Yogi closing theme (Curtin).

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