Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Yogi Bear, You Used Me

There have been several posts on the blog about the huge money-making machine created by the humble adventures of a blue dog, a couple of meece and a bear with Ed Norton’s wardrobe (and his catch-phrase on occasion). Toys, games, you name it, Hanna-Barbera pushed it.

But there was never a push like the one connected with the release of its theatrical feature “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” (1964). The movie falls outside the time frame I’ve set for myself in this blog, but this post will be one of those periodic exceptions.

I’m pretty na├»ve when it comes to movie publicity. As Yowp the Consumer, all I see is maybe a commercial on TV, a box ad in the movie listings in the paper, and a string of interviews on entertainment shows, all saying the same thing and showing the same stuff from the same trailer (“Look, ma! Taylor Lautner’s turned into a CGI wolf again. And they showed it only 20 seconds ago!”). But even in 1964, Columbia went unbelievably nuts (to me) promoting the Yogi feature.

Boxoffice Magazine of May 18, 1964 outlined the blitz in the following story:

‘Yogi Bear’ 20-Point Program Devised by Columbia to Reach ‘Every Child’
NEW YORK—Columbia Pictures has prepared a 20-point merchandising program for the full-length animated feature, “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear,” which should eventually “reach every child and the vast majority of adults in the U.S. between now and the beginning of school vacations,” according to Robert S. Ferguson, vice-president in charge of advertising and publicity, who presided over a press session to show the various features of the selling campaign.
Calling the campaign for the Hanna-Barbera color feature for June, “one of the most far reaching ever devised by Columbia for a summer release,” Ferguson used multi-colored presentation boards which gave details on each of the promotional features, including “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” stars on 45 million boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Rice Crispies with a special premium offer of a Yogi Bear long-playing record containing plugs for Yogi Bear character merchandise; Yogi’s Sunday comic page, which appears in 190 major markets and will devote six weeks, beginning May 31, to his adventures in Hollywood making the picture; public service spots promoting summer safety distributed to every TV and radio station in the U.S. and Canada; a Colpix soundtrack album for “Yogi Bear,” with other music support coming from singles of the six songs in the film; a “Yogi Bear” merchandising disc program for use in theatre lobbies; a book promotion with three full-color books by Golden Books; plus coloring books; a comic book based on the film, which an initial print run of a half a million; and games by Whitman Publishing Co. based on the Yogi Bear characters.
Other campaign features are star appearances by Yogi Bear and Boo Boo in major markets in parades and shopping center shows; a Yogi Bear telephone interview campaign live from Hollywood (or Jellystone Park) to motion picture editors and radio-TV commentators; a national tiein with the winners of the Yogi Bear Jelly Bean Sweepstakes led by Screen Gems; a “pinned by Yogi” nationwide button giveaway for fan clubs; a national-local TV-radio advertising saturation; a blueprint of the “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” merchandise campaign to be sent to every showman; a special mailing to clergymen, educators and parents stressing the picture’s family entertainment value; seminars for exhibitors on how to implement the merchandising on a local level; a nationwide publicity campaign in fan magazines and other tieins, contests and special events.
Ferguson also showed a 20-minute reel with excerpts from the “Yogi Bear” comedy action and songs, this having been shown to various exhibitors and circuit heads before they booked the film. The picture will open in Salt Lake City June 3 followed by many other June dates timed to school closing for summer vacations. If exhibitors want a companion feature, Columbia is suggesting the Audie Murphy western, “Quick Gun,” also a summer release.
Although the campaign for “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” is far-reaching, Ferguson mentioned that it is rarely possible for any picture to do business without tradepaper ads, one exception being “Tom Jones” as a picture which was a success mainly on critic acclaim and word-of-mouth.
Joining Ferguson at the conference were Ira Tulipan, his executive administrative assistant; Richard Kahn, national coordinator of advertising, publicity and exploitation, and Roger Caras, national exploitation manager, as well as Sol Schwartz, Columbia senior vice-president who long been an exhibitor.

All kinds of things are interesting here, but none more so than the lack of anyone from Hanna-Barbera in the publicity photo.

By contrast, on the opposite page of the magazine is a brief blurb about Henry G. Saperstein’s company. Saperstein, you may recall, bought UPA, the darling of the ‘50s movie critics and moving-art smart set. And what was the owner of this once-lofty animation enterprise doing when the Yogi feature was coming out? Trumpeting that he had bought the movie and TV rights to ‘Godzilla vs. the Giant Moth.’


  1. Nice one, Yowp. I've seen this Columbia/H-B Enterprise many times, along with James Darren singing for Yogi. " Yogi, Why do you sound like James Darren?..It's ain't easy, Boo Boo " I never realized the P.R. that went into this thing. Looking at it over 40 years later, was it worth that much hype? I dunno. I'm very suprise that at least Joe Barbera wasn't in the publicity shot. Interesting.

  2. "a special mailing to clergymen, educators and parents stressing the picture’s family entertainment value;"

    Thats a new one on me...

    The film itself is pretty nice. I like to think of it as the last stand before the Alex Toth/Iwao Takamoto revolution wrecked things up.

  3. It was a fun movie to see as a mere yute back in '64 -- Not the same sort of drag-your-parents-to-it-multiple-times like Disney's Mary Poppins was for me the same year, but still enjoyable with some songs that were just as catchy as the ones the Sherman Brothers did for Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke.

    As for the designs, in hindsight, you can even see the start of the transition over to the dull, mid-to-late 60s H-B designs here. In the "St. Louie" number the bears' designs could have come out of an MGM CinemaScope cartoon with Ed Benedict layouts (especially the animation of the magician's hat gag, where the shorter bear looks awfully a lot like Butch from the CinemaScope Droopys), but when the train conductor arrives, it's clearly a Takamoto cookie-cutter stern human design that could have come out of any of the early 70s H-B Saturday morning shows.

  4. Consider nine-year old me one of the masses reached by this ad campaign!

    I saw the movie (twice), had the record, and ate the corn flakes.

    But, to me, one of the most lasting effects was in the Gold Key comic books that I loved!

    YOGI BEAR # 17 (Cover Date “July”, but released in April, 1964) was the last non-reprint issue to feature the Pre-Hey-There designs. YOGI BEAR # 18 (Cover Date “October”, but released in July, 1964) introduced the “New Look” for the characters. This, as you know, had a particularly profound effect on Ranger Smith and Cindy. In fact, I never liked Ranger Smith nearly as much after this change.

    Even Mugger, the ancestor of Muttley from the movie, was featured in # 18’s lead story as a watchdog this new version of Smith employed to keep Yogi out of trouble.

    Oddly, there was a one-page gag featuring “The Old Mister Ranger”, drawn by the great Harvey Eisenberg, that must have been left over inventory. Sigh! It was sure good to see him one more time.

  5. Dodsworth,

    Do you remember of the first Yogi Bear's special, titled Yogi Bear's Birthday Party (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia Pictures, 1961)?
    There's a scene from this special which I've found on Internet, where we see Ranger Smith (a.k.a. Mr. Ranger) commanding a This is Your Life-liked TV show, which has Yogi as special guest and he recieved not only Boo Boo and Cindy, as also the presence of various Hanna-Barbera classical characters from the three trilogies which Hanna-Barbera produced from 1958 until that occasion: The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958-62), The Quick Draw McGraw (1959-62) and the classical Yogi Bear Show (1960-62).
    The scene from this special is located on the following link:
    Alongside Yogi are the following characters: Ranger Smith, Snooper & Blabber, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Quick Draw McGraw, Cindy (on her first version, where she looks like a Southern lady), Augie Doggie & Doggie Daddy, the Meeces (Pixie & Dixie), Yakky Doodle, Hokey Wolf, Mr. Jinks and, of course, Boo Boo.
    Seeing this reference, I could notice that this design was by the legendary Ed Benedict.
    Do you agree?

  6. Yes, I remember this one, and the later brains behind the supergroup Bread, Mr.David Gates, wrote the songs for this movie.

    Less than ten voice actors were involved..

    From the CREDIL roll..

    Starring DAWS BUTLER
    as the voice of..YOGI BEAR!

    Co-Starring DON MESSICK
    as the voice of....[drumroll here please]

    as Cindy Bear

    "Ven-i, Ven-e, Ne-o"[sp? an obvious attempt to pay tribute to crooner Rudy Vallee's famed 1937 "Vieni Vieni" song] sung by

    Other voices
    [names are really formatted like that.]

    Yes, 1964 was te big Benedict/Takamoto transition period..

    The ads for this have this in YOGI COLOR ["Cartoon Superstars",1990, by JIM KORKIS and JOHN CAWLEY.:)]

  7. To me, some of the backgrounds looked as if the people who crafted them were getting ready for Jonny Quest. The animation provided a pleasant surprise and it was interesting to see Friz Freleng, Gerry Chiniquy and Ken Harris in the credits (they couldn't have been at H-B for long, especially Ken, who rejoined Chuck Jones at M-G-M and got credit in "Pent-House Mouse" before the end of 1963).

  8. I think everything changed right after President John.F.Kennedy's assassination on November 22,1963. Everything was hold back.