Saturday, 11 September 2010

Yogi Bear — Rah Rah Bear

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Tony Rivera; Backgrounds - Bob Gentle; Story – Warren Foster; Story Sketches - Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi, Ticket Clerk, Coach, 42, Ranger – Daws Butler; Narrator, Cop, 17, Announcer – Don Messick.
First Aired: week of November 23, 1959 (see below)
Plot: Yogi Bear escapes Jellystone Park and helps the NFL’s Chicago Bears to victory.

Okay, Yogi Bear decides to go to Chicago to rescue his fellow bears after seeing a picture of a bear (animal) being held by a giant in the newspaper. He talks about “bear rugs” (animal). He thinks a fur shawl is a bear (animal). He then goes into the Bears’ dressing room where there are a bunch of football players (not animal). But does he register shock at his discovery he’s not protecting fellow woodland creatures? Does he even comment that he was mistaken? Has he turned into Mr. Magoo? No, he just carries right on with Warren Foster’s comedy-milking story-line as if he knew he was dealing with humans the whole time, though his words (in monologue to himself) betray otherwise. Foster would occasionally have plot holes in his H-B cartoons and this is a good example.

This isn’t a great cartoon but it isn’t bad, either. On one hand, there are some good designs and Foster displays a nice sense of cynicism in the opening. On the other hand, there’s too much unnecessary chatter, the real plot takes a while to get going, and stretches of the cartoon are taken up with animation cycles and shortcuts.

The cartoon has some of Carlo Vinci’s trademarks, like jerky head animation (see below) and big teeth in a couple of scenes. But Carlo’s Yogi is certainly less distinctive than it was in the previous, first season of the Huck show. And the cartoon features the up-and-down walk showing only the upper part of the body, meaning no legs to animate.

The opening starts with camera-work over backgrounds. There’s a drawing of the entrance to Jellystone with the isosceles triangle stick-trees that dot the landscape when Tony Rivera lays out Yogi cartoons. And Don Messick’s calm, even narration juxtaposes nicely against the shots telling a bit of a different story.

Narrator: Autumn in Jellystone Park is a beautiful time of the year. The vacationists have left its wooded glades, leaving their leftovers.

Narrator: The hunters are gone. We hope. But they’re all missed.

Now we get Yogi walking left-to-right, bongo noises accenting the steps. Carlo uses a nice, loose walk on Yogi, with arms swaying and nose rising and falling. He’s already looking forward to spring goodies, he tells us, but is interrupted when he spots an open ranger’s cabin. “I’d better check all the doors, starting with the refrigerator door.” Yogi “protects these eating-type goodies” he finds inside by eating them. He’s cleverly masked by the faux Frigidaire door, meaning all Carlo has to do is animate the top of Yogi’s hat at different profile angles.

A Yogi rhyme follows:

Yogi: What do I see? A TV. That’s for me. Hey-hey-hey-hee! Maybe my favourite programme is on—Huckleberry Hound.

When Yogi gets to the word “Hound,” he bays like Huck used to do, except Yogi’s head expands toward the camera and we get a huge mouth.

Yogi picks up a paper to look for the TV listings (What? He doesn’t know what channel his show is on?) and we finally get into our plot. Yogi reads the headlines we can see for ourselves. He decides “this is a time for all bears to fight or become bear rugs together.”

So he stashes away in the trunk of a car with Illinois plates and we get about 14 seconds of cycle footage of a car travelling with road-signs superimposed (as Daws gives goofy reads of each state’s name). After arriving in Chicago, he gets directions to the stadium from a cop (who, as in all cartoons, realises afterward he’s been speaking to a bear), tells the ticket seller he doesn’t need a ticket because he’s a bear, then goes into the Bears’ dressing room and gives the aforementioned football players a pep talk. “Are we mice or are we bears?” is the best line Foster could come up with.

The real Chicago Bears were coached at the time by the legendary George Halas. The cartoon doesn’t use Halas’ name or even attempt to caricature him, so we get a generic coach who thinks Yogi is the mascot sent down from the front office.

Carlo’s footage count went up in the next part of the cartoon because it’s chock full of cycles. First, the scene wipes to a broadcast booth. There are two drawings of the booth used in the cartoon—one of the announcer sitting, the other of the announcer standing. The only thing that moves is the announcer’s head and even in the first sequence, it’s limited to a moving jaw and eye-blinks. Then we cut to multiples of the same football player running onto the field in cycle animation for eight seconds. Finally, Yogi comes onto the field. Carlo has his feet in twelve drawings on twos, while he waves his hat in four drawings on twos in two different cycles, and has four different head positions, not moving in a cycle. 14 seconds worth (you can see the cut twice when the ends of the background painting are looped together). There’s a quick cut to the sitting broadcaster, then a cut back to eight or so seconds of the Yogi cycles, except now he’s on a different background showing the Giants in formation as he runs over their backs.

All the while, the announcer is going on about what a great mascot pre-game show this is. The coach chases Yogi off the field. The next shot shows Yogi on the bench with a ball and chain around his leg (all football stadiums come equipped with them).

The game gets underway. There’s a kickoff. And we get more cycles, of the ball twirling in the air over a moving background, of lines of players running on ones (they crash; the crash is shown by a previously-used background drawing of the stadium shaking).

Announcer: And wow! What bone-crushing, good, clean, hard tackles.

Carlo throws in a rare perspective shot, like something you’d find in a Hugh Harman cartoon of the early ‘30s. Player No. 42 gets sent into the game. After one of Carlo’s four-stomp cycles, the player runs right runs forward out of the scene at an angle. The camera simply moves in on the cycle of the player stomping. Pretty clever short-cut. Who needs 3-D?

After repeats of the cycles of the teams about to crash into each other, Yogi is tossed into the game because the bench has been depleted by injuries. We get another graceful running cycle, twelve body drawings on ones, with Yogi’s left arm moving in another cycle. Here’s one odd position where Carlo has his knees bent and his right arm twisted.

Watching all this back at Jellystone is Ranger Quasi-Smith. It looks like Ranger Smith but he has a completely different voice from Daws Butler. When his TV shows a close-up of Yogi saying hello to Boo Boo (who isn’t in this cartoon), the shocked ranger orders someone off scene to “get the copter, quick.”

It’s sight gag time now as we reach the big climax football scene. Instead of kicking the ball, the player kicks, well, you can guess.

Next, Yogi tries to block the Giants’ kick. He succeeds.

Finally, Yogi intercepts a pass.

Announcer: There’s no one near him. But wait. A helicopter has swooped in on the field...and is escorting the bear down the field. Oh, what showmen these Bears are!! It’s a touchdown! The Bears win. But the mascot hasn’t stopped. He’s running for the exit. With the copter right after him.

It must be an awfully tall stadium or an awfully puny chopper if it can fly right out a stadium exit like that.

The cartoon ends with the chopper chasing Yogi through Jellystone. There’s a close-up and Yogi turns to the audience.

Yogi: One thing for sure. This is the longest touchdown run of all time. Hey, hey, hey.

If you’re wondering what the Bears thought of all this, Joe Barbera told Charles Witbeck in a syndicated column dated February 20, 1960:

“In late November we had a special story on Yogi Bear and the Chicago Bear pro football team. When the Bears heard about it, they were delighted. George Halas, coach and owner, said we could do anything we wanted.” “We first got the idea,” Barbera said, “when I saw a headline in late September on the sports pages. It went something like ‘Giants to Clobber Bears.’ I saw a football story with Yogi reading the headline and saying: ‘Us bears have got to stick together.’ So Yogi goes back and helps the burly bears win. It’s kinda cute.”

Well, Joe is forgetting to mention the promotional tie-in he worked out with the football team. The Chicago Tribune of November 18, 1959 reveals:

Grid Fans Meet TV’s Yogi Bear
YOGI BEAR, TV cartoon character, turned up in person at Wrigley field last Sunday to give the Chicago Bears football team a lift in their win over the San Francisco 49ers. And Yogi got in a plug for his [...] show about the Bears which will reach television via WGN-TV at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday Nov. 25.

So, in a way, life imitated art. But late September to late November isn’t much time to put together a cartoon.

Jack Shaindlin’s music dominates the soundtrack. Considering his Fox newsreel work in the 1940s would have included marches and such for college sports footage, that shouldn’t be a surprise. The cutter only uses the first half of the final cue so you won’t hear the familiar part where the trombones go up five notes and back down like a scale.

0:00 - Yogi sub-main title theme [vocal] (Hanna-Barbera-Charlie Shows-Hoyt Curtin).
0:13 - TC-436 DOMESTIC (SHINING DAY) (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Shots of Jellystone, Yogi spots Ranger Station.
0:49 - TC-432 LIGHT MOVEMENT (HOLLY DAY) (Loose-Seely) – Yogi peeks through door, eats food, reads newspaper, decides to go to Chicago.
1:41 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY(Spencer Moore) – Yogi sees car, jumps in trunk.
1:59 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Car speeds on highway.
2:14 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Yogi talks to cop, outside stadium, at ticket window, “Hello to you, fellow bear buddies.”
3:03 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Rah-rah speech, shot of announcer.
3:30 - unknown sports march (Shaindlin) – Bears go onto field, Yogi emerges.
3:39 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Yogi runs across field, Giants.
4:11 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – “the coach is in the act.”
4:18 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Yogi on bench, players collide, Yogi in game.
5:32 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Scene in Ranger cabin.
5:50 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Field goal gags.
6:15 - sporting ‘scale’ music (Shaindlin) – Yogi intercepts pass, chased out of stadium.
6:57 - Yogi sub-end title theme (Curtin).


  1. The next shot shows Yogi on the bench with a ball and chain around his leg (all football stadiums come equipped with them).

    Well, Philadelphia, anyway...

    Pro football really wasn't used much for gags during the Golden Age of Hollywood -- what set-ups there were usually involved college football games. But this cartoon came out the fall following the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the Giants and Colts which was the first ever overtime game, and is considered the event that really sent the NFL on its way to being the No. 1 U.S. pro sport. So Foster's story line may have spun out of the publicity from the championship game of the previous season (though Warren may just have been a longtime NFL fan -- he used the Detroit Lions for a wall-poster gag in "Roman Legion-Hare" three years earlier).

  2. This has always been one of my favorite Yogi Bear cartoons. Everything about it makes me smile: the funny readings by Daws Butler (especially "I-oh-way!), the great use of classic musical cuts such as "Fun on Ice", Yogi's insulting comments about the coach ("What nincompoop is in charge of the Bears?!"), the growling football players, the sight of Yogi chained to the bench, the sounds of him eating at the ranger station refrigerator, etc. It all makes for a memorable cartoon and one of Yogi's best, outside of the standard Jellystone Park adventures.

  3. Television (and arguably the merger between the AFL and NFL) popularised pro football in the '60s so the lack of old cartoons about it (and basketball, for that matter) isn't surprising. Baseball was still America's pasttime.

  4. Some animation book or museum exhibit has a storyboard for this cartoon with a gag that was thrown out. At the opening, the narrator tells us that after the tourist season there are still signs of their presence. We then 'see' a shot of two badly burned rangers sitting amidst a fire-damaged landscape. One says "We had a good season this year." The other responds "Yeah- they're learning how to put out forest fires."

    That would have been a nice narrator/character incongruity that the Jay Ward cartoons did so well. But apparently someone at the studio, or a censor, thought a gag about forest fires would have been in bad taste.

  5. Howard, that portion of the storyboard was/is on-line. I ran into it after I wrote this post some weeks ago. It's a great gag (pretty typical Foster) and I figured they had just cut it for time.
    I don't know whether it's in Jerry Beck's HB book because I've never seen the book.

  6. This is another Yogi Bear episode which's anthologic, which involves two major teams from the NFL (Chicago Bears and New York Giants).
    Alias, we're nowadays on the NFL season in the USA.