Wednesday 5 December 2012

Yogi and Daws

A random poll was taken of students at Oak Park-River Forest High in Oak Park, Illinois, and the results were dutifully reported in the local paper on April 13, 1961.
The role of inquiring reporter seemed destined to success and to the question, “What do you think of Yogi Bear?” we received the following replies: Bruce Golden, renowned musician, “Definitely here to stay.” Lee King, fearless forecaster recognized all the way from Ridgeland; avenue to Elmwood, “You have reached a non-working number.” Drew Paterson, a leader in aquatic and woodland circles, “In the Sunday supplements, He’s not so good.” Mary Magrady, classic scholar, “Funny!” Tom Morrow, “I’ll have to think about it and call you back. Well, not so baby as the average adult-type cartoon.”
What the students didn’t realise at the time is Yogi was one of theirs’. He went to Oak Park-River Forest High School. So to speak.

Daws Butler, the voice of Yogi Bear, grew up in Oak Park. His father moved there from Toledo by December 1921 and was employed as a special representative for Biggs Bros. Real Estate. Daws went to the local high school. He never finished until 1977, long after he left Illinois for good. The story is revealed in the Oak Park Oak Leaves of April 20, 1977.

High school’s latest grad—meet Yogi Bear

Charles Dawson (“Daws”) Butler’s name may not be widely known, but his voice is familiar to anyone who has watched cartoons or listened to TV and radio commercials. Butler is the voice of Yogi Bear and numerous other characters in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. And as of last Thursday, he’s changed his status from alumnus to graduate of Oak Park-River Forest High School.
Butler dropped out of the high school in 1935 with just two months to go for graduation. His reason for dropping out was that of many Depression-era students: to go to work.
In Butler's case, though, the work was as a night club comedian, doing serious and comic impressions. His career in the nightclub circuit, and later in radio and TV, wasn't impeded by his lack of a high school diploma—until recently.
“I COULDN’T SEE what I was training myself for in high school, but in (entertainment) I could see a career,” says Butler, reached by phone in his Beverly Hills (Cal.) home. “I’ve become quite a student since leaving high school.”
Besides writing dialog for an updated radio show, working on a concept for another program, and creating all those voices, Butler has been teaching—and that’s where the problem with the diploma finally came up.
For the acting course he teaches at Loyola University in Los Angeles, Butler’s academic background wasn’t in question. But when he started teaching an adult education class in Beverly Hills High School, be found he had to be certified as a teacher be the state of California. No high school diploma, no teacher certification.
Butler’s son David wrote a letter to the District 200 school board asking for a belated diploma for his father, saying in part: “It seems to me that he has more than made up for those last two months of high school by becoming one of the three or four most respected voice actors in the country. By devoting a 42-year career to making people laugh. And by wanting to devote future years to teaching others to do the same.”
THE BOARD AGREED with the younger Butler’s appeal and voted unanimously to grant the diploma. Supt. John Swanson noted that the board had done the same for hamburger magnate Ray (McDonald’s as in ‘Big Mac’) Kroc. The vote came just in time, as Friday is the deadline for Butler to apply for teaching credentials.
Butler says he's delighted at the board’s action, since it will allow him to continue teaching. He teaches young professionals how to improve their skills, he says.
Hie most important quality for any professional is talent, Butler adds. “You can do anything with raw talent, if you choose to work at it. It's a gift from God, not something that anybody can take credit for. Of course, you can always enhance mediocrity, but it’s not the same thing.”
Butler takes exception to the critics of the Hanna-Barbera characters, saying that the cartoons were partly effective because they relied on the relationships between the characters, like the father-son affection of Audie Dogie and Daddy Doggie. “They say they want less violence in television, and more love—well, that’s what we were doing back in the fifties,” he says.
BECAUSE OF THE CHANGES in production methods for cartoons, Butler says, voices have become increasingly important in developing characters. “A character has to have some kind of bite or edge, and now they have to show it in their voices.”
Butler is working on scripts and voices for a modem radio version of Sherlock Holmes stories, which he hopes to air nationally. The series will feature Dr. Watson as more of an intellectual and less of a “fuddy-duddy,” he says, and will include Holmes’s housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, as mere of a running character.
“It’s not that Conan Doyle was a chauvinist, but he didn’t have enough interesting women in his stories,” Butler says he’s also working on a concept for a new radio series similar to the once-popular “Vic and Sade.” He wants, he says, “to do a fey, sophisticated, gentle, satirical show with a family.”
And no, he doesn’t think TV has replaced radio in its ability to draw audiences for comic and dramatic programs. “You can do things on radio with sound effects that would cost a fortune to do for television. And when I talk to high school students, they’re eager for more and better radio shows.”
Listen carefully. You may be hearing a lot more from OP-RF’s most recent graduate.

Cartoon fans heard a lot from Daws Butler in many different guises. You can see some of them above. . Daws would readily hand out one of these as kind of a business card. The sketches of the familiar characters was done by H-B storyman Tony Benedict.


  1. Isn't that PIXIE and not Dixie in the sketch?

  2. Always enjoy the blogs on Daws. My all time favorite. Thanks!

  3. Have heard his voice many times but never seen him live, yogi bear is a famous cartoon character, and loved by every age and will always be an inspiration for all of us.

  4. Especially nice to see the Tony Benedict drawing, I've heard his boards at HB stayed funny and expressive through the 70s and 80s, but sadly I've never seen any.


  5. Joe, no, that's actually Dixie. You know, from the episode where they exchanged identities to screw with Mr. Jinks' headspace? Remember that one? OK, maybe I'm imagining that one.

    Charlie, Tony was saying Alex Lovy had to teach him to draw boards that economised. It sounds like he was originally drawing stuff not realising that it would involve extra animation and put the cartoons over budget.

  6. I got a question about Daws. How many Sesame Street animated inserts did he lead his voice? So far, I only seen four.

  7. Interesting question, Nick. I don't know. I didn't realise he did anything on Sesame Street, the show's a bit after my time.