Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Yogi’s Real First Christmas

You’ve got to admit, Yogi’s First Christmas is a great title for a cartoon. But the people at Hanna-Barbera were awfully forgetful. And who could blame them?

Yogi’s First Christmas first aired in 1980, two years after Yogi and Boo Boo witnessed the arrival of Jolly Old St. Nick in the forgettable Casper’s First Christmas, which we discussed earlier on the blog. But while that was Casper’s first Christmas—and you’d figure since he could speak perfect English, he would have lived through more than one Yuletide as a real boy—it certainly wasn’t Yogi’s. If you consider other media, that is.

In 1961, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera joined the kiddie Christmas record parade by co-penning two songs that were released on 78 and 45 by Golden Records in New York. While the sleeve for the record says “Song by Paul Parnes” the tunes are among a number copyrighted that year by Hanna, Barbera and Sylvia Parnes. I’m afraid I can’t tell you anything about either Parnes—other than you’ll never mistake them for the Gershwins— but I can tell you who is portraying Yogi and Boo Boo. It’s none other than New York voice actor Frank Milano. The real Yogi (Daws Butler) and Boo Boo (Don Messick) were under contract to Colpix Records in Los Angeles, so Golden had to be content with members of its stable doing what they could to sound like Daws and Don. I’m afraid Mr. Milano wasn’t too successful, but he gives it a good try.

The songs on this 78 are copyrighted as “Have a Hap-Hap-Happy Xmas” and “Give a Goodie for Christmas.” Have a listen to them (as much as you can) below:



It seems the best part of these Little Golden Records is the artwork on the cover. And that brings us to Yogi’s second Christmas appearance, also in 1961, and also thanks to the folks at Golden. And there’s a Sylvia involved in this one, too.

A couple of years ago, Barbie Miller at the Golden Gems blog posted some great scans from the children’s book Yogi Bear, A Christmas Visit. The artwork is by Sylvia and Burnett Mattinson and the story by Stuart Quentin Hyatt. There was a Burnett Mattinson who played with the American Institute Symphony in the mid-20s and drummed in the Horace Heidt band in the ‘40s. He was found dead, under suspicious circumstances, in his Sherman Oaks, California home in 1970. Whether it’s the same chap, I don’t know, but homicide isn’t very much in the spirit of children’s books or Christmas, is it? So, instead, check out the illustrations in the Yogi book. And if you’re into this sort of thing, Barbie’s fine blog (now, unfortunately, on hiatus) is RIGHT HERE. She’s got work by the Master of ‘60s Children’s Illustration, Mel Crawford, and work by Mary Blair, Tom Oreb, Tom McKimson, Vernon Grant, Hawley Pratt and a bunch of other names you may recognise.

The following year, Golden Books came out with Yogi Bear Helps Santa, drawn by Lee Branscome, who worked for Hanna-Barbera on The Jetsons and Jonny Quest. You can find it on Barbie’s site HERE.

Finally, something of Yogi’s that has nothing to do with Christmas. But think of it as a Christmas bonus.

The blog has briefly touched on the creation of Hanna-Barbera Records. Among the kid product the label released in 1965 was Yogi Bear telling two stories to Boo Boo—‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’

The oddest thing is even though Daws Butler and Don Messick were employed by Hanna-Barbera, the record features two other cartoon voice actors in the principal roles. Yogi is portrayed by Allan Melvin, best-known at H-B for his starring role as Magilla Gorilla. Boo Boo is played by someone who spent very little time at Hanna-Barbera prior to 1980—June Foray. She’s doing a ‘slow’ voice here, somewhat reminiscent of her portrayal of Bridey Hammerschlaugen on the Stan Freberg radio show. The Yogi Bear Song is heard twice; I’m only posting it once. I’m not an expert on the H-B record label, so I don’t know who is singing the Yogi song, though some possibilities may be found on this web site.

The Red Riding Hood Song is, like, keen to the scene, man.






The beanstalk story seemed to occupy Bill and Joe’s minds in the mid-60s. A live action/animation Jack special starring Gene Kelly and the voice of Ted Cassidy as the giant at the top of the stalk aired on February 26, 1967. It won an Emmy and seems to have paved the way for similar television combinations, like the Huckleberry Finn series (with Ted Cassidy) the following year.

We’ve got more goodies for the holidays coming up. This definitely won’t be Yogi’s Last Christmas.


  1. The Burnett Mattinson you wrote of was the father of the artist Burny Mattinson (born 1935) who is still with us. The younger Burny was a top animator for Disney studios. He directed "Mickey's Christmas Carol" and "The Great Mouse Detective".

  2. In my CHRISTMAS WISHES book, I commented that the first page of the "Christmas Visit" story describes Yogi as finishing his bowl of cereal... no doubt a veiled reference to Kellogg's heavy involvement with the shows at the time.

  3. Burny Mattison has a loyal following:
    I didn't know his Dad drew Golden Books, though. Thats interesting.

    Frank Milano seems to have the same skill level as Daws, but his voice is too low. And his Booboo voice is terrible.

  4. Cool, Dave. So dad was a musician, and the son worked at Disney and also drew the Golden books?

  5. Allan Melvin's Yogi is actually pretty good! Frank Milano wasn't terrible as Yogi, but his Boo Boo WAS a boo boo!

  6. I thought for sure that Foray would do Boo Boo as Rocky the Flying Squirrell

  7. Just to say... Thanx for the memories. I have "Hap-Hap-Happy Xmas" 45 here in the pop culture vaults somewhere. It's been here since my 2nd Christmas. b.1960! gotta dig that baby out and hear it again.

  8. Melvin is surprisingly good at Yogi, convincingly providing his trademark singsong speech patterns. (He also does his great Humphrey Bogart imitation as the wolf.) I'd never heard Foray's 'Boo-Boo' voice before; it's rather grating. Both stories are typically cute 'hip updates' to classic fairy tales that could easily pass for H-B shorts. As is typical in 1965, the sound editors draw from the entire library of Curtin score- even some relatively recent stock from JONNY QUEST. This sounds a bit bizarre when heard under Yogi's narration.