Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Yogi Bear, the Second Choice

Yogi Bear almost didn’t get his own TV show. But he did because of Hank Saperstein.

The revelation is buried in the pages of Top Cel, the newsletter of the New York local of the Screen Cartoonists. Michael Sporn recently posted a few issues from 1960 and 1961 on his blog. The period was a great time of expansion in television animation. The networks looked at the success of “The Flintstones” and started adding cartoons to their prime time schedule. H-B looked to expand in syndication. And a big change was happening at 4440 Lakeside Drive in Burbank. That was the home of UPA, the erstwhile darling of film critics all too eager to dismiss the “Illusion of Life” at Disney, the raucousness at Warners and all other cartoons in between. UPA’s foray into feature films flopped, and an important chunk of the staff quit in October 1959.

Top Cel picks up the story in its August 1960 issue, revealing Saperstein and Chicago film distributor Peter DeMet bought UPA. And it also reveals:

A “Mr. Magoo” series will be sponsored by Kellogg Cereals this fall. The half-hour animated show with Magoo as m.c. is being produced by UPA especially for tv.
Kellogg? The people who sponsored the Hanna-Barbera half hours?

Yes, the same Kellogg. And the September 1960 Top Cel revealed the cereal company’s plan in a story about Terrytoons’ Deputy Dawg.

In the South, the series will run on the 5th day of a daily spot which Kellogg Cereal clears for its four national cartoon strips, “Huckleberry Hound”, “Quick Draw McGraw”, “Mr. Magoo” and “Woody Woodpecker”. They run the same time every day, four days weekly, with “Deputy Dawg” getting the fifth spot, under different sponsorship.
What about the “The Yogi Bear Show” you ask? Simple. It isn’t on the schedule because it didn’t exist. Kellogg’s went with Magoo; a series distinct from the Magoo shorts that were being prepared for syndication along with Dick Tracy. Yogi, at this point, was still a character on “The Huckleberry Hound Show” and that was that, it appears. But then Hank Saperstein got annoyed and the breach was filled by Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and a bear with a hat and tie. Here’s Top Cel from October 1960.

UPA has withdrawn its new tv animation series, “Mr. Magoo”, from a scheduled sponsorship by Kellogg Cereals.
The cancellation of the deal reportedly was initiated by UPA because of too much interference from the Leo Burnett ad agency in the creative aspects of the show.
“Mr. Magoo” is being put directly into syndication by UPA itself. The program will debut on tv this fall. A special premiere in behalf of Navy Relief was given recently at Pacific Missile Range, Point Magu, California.
Meanwhile, Kellogg and its agency have been negotiating a possible deal with Hanna-Barbera for a new cartoon half-hour series with a January start date. H-B’s “Huckleberry Hound” and “Quick Draw McGraw” is sponsored by Kellogg’s in over 160 markets. The cereal company is expected to renew Walter Lantz’ “Woody Woodpecker” as its third national show pending selection of a third show for January.

It’s possible Hanna-Barbera planned a show with Yogi Bear before this. But it seems doubtful as it had no sponsor and no time slot. In fact, Yogi isn’t even mentioned in the above squib.

Despite being based on the East Coast, Top Cel reported on major happenings on the West Coast (the animators belonged to a different local of the same union); likely some of it came from Variety or the popular press. H-B came in for notice. Michael’s site reprints the following news:

November 1960
Hanna-Barbera Productions is launching an expansion programme for 1961 with a resultant increase of 100% in its annual production budget. Added to its present activities will be two new tv series and plans for a third tv show, plus production of a feature length theatrical.
H-B is scheduled to spend more than $6,000,000 in 1961. If “the Flintstones” hold up and a second batch of 26 segments is ordered, the budget will increase to nearly $7,700,000. Three and a half million dollars was spent this year.
The company is already committed to production of at least 35 hours of tv product for the 1960-61 season. Its current crew numbers 140, with the addition of 17 new inkers and painters in the past month. Half the staff is reported working at home, due to a shortage of studio space. A fourth camera has been added to the round-the-clock camera operations. Hanna and Barbera are looking for two acres of real estate to build new facilities, including a sound stage.
A new Hanna-Barbera program, “The Yogi Bear Show,” has been purchased by Kellogg Cereals, effective January, 1961. At that time, Yogi will be promoted from “Huckleberry Hound” and given his own show. He will be replaced by “Wacko”, a wise-cracking wolf.
H-B concluded another deal with Screen Gems for production of 104 five-minute segments for national syndication. They will be comprised of two separate series, one starring “Lippy the Lion” and “Hardy Har Har” and the other with “Hairbrain Hare” and “Dum Dum”.
A new feature length film is being written by Joe Barbera and Warren Foster. The film, which is to star Yogi Bear, is aimed for a Columbia release next summer.
Hanna and Barbera are reported working on another family-type tv series, a la “The Flintstones”, for a fall 1961 showing.
H-B productions are seen also on CBS’ Saturday show, “The Magic Land of Alla Kazam”, not to mention “Huckleberry Hound”, “Quick Draw McGraw” and “Ruff ‘N’ Reddy” on ABC-TV.
Its commercials operation budgets $300,000 to $500,000 per year – and, oh yes, H-B has an exclusive five-year contract for production of “Loopy De Loop” theatrical cartoons. The studio recently completed animated sequences for “Pepe”.

January 1961
Hanna-Barbera and Screen Gems will share about one million dollars in royalties from merchandise tie-ins, it is estimated by “Variety.”
This figure is based on a 40 million dollar retail gross for products endorsed by Huckleberry Hound and his friends. This ought to be 20 million dollars at the wholesale level, of which five per cent royalty is the usual licensing arrangement. A new promotional project calls for “live” tv dates by the H-B characters.
Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Cindy Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looie [sic] will make appearances via costumed actors.
During 1960, Huckleberry et al made over 150 promotional appearances at department stores, football games, parades, fairs and amusement parks.

March 1961
Hanna-Barbera is planning an additional “adult” cartoon tv series for next season. “Top Cap” [sic] is expected to be shown on ABC-TV. “Huckleberry Hound”, “Quick Draw McGraw,” and “Yogi Bear” all have been signed up again for the 1961-’62 season by Kellogg’s Cereals. A renewal of “The Flintstones”, current H-B series on ABC-TV, is expected. The debut segment of “Yogi Bear”, H-B’s newest show, credited writers Warren Foster and Mike Maltese and animators Lew Marshall, Laverne Harding and Brad Case.

Arnold Gillespie is the new president of Quartet Films, succeeding Art Babbitt, who resigned in order to be able to devote more time “to special aspects of the animation craft”, it is announced by Quartet. Babbitt will continue with Quartet as animation director and creative consultant.
Joining Quartet are Michael Lah as vice-president and animation director; Dan Gordon as head of story department, and Ken O’Brien as supervising animator. Lah was most recently owner of Cinema Ad, while Gordon was at Hanna and Barbera.

Just a few notes about some of the articles above:
● We’ve mentioned Wacko Wolf on the blog before. His name was changed to Hokey.
● The braintrust at H-B reworked the concept for its first non-Kellogg’s syndication package. As you know, Dum Dum was paired with Touché Turtle and a Wally Gator series was added into the mix. Hairbrain Hare never aired; it’d be interesting to know if it ever made it to the pilot stage or if any concept drawings or storyboards are around.
● Yogi’s stardom rose quickly. One month, his own show was announced out of the blue (seemingly as a replacement for Mr. Magoo) and the next month, he’s been announced as the star of his own movie. One wonders if a news story we posted here earlier was correct and the feature film was originally to star Huck. “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” wasn’t released until 1964.
● I’ve still never been able to determine when “Ruff and Reddy” ended production. I don’t think all four seasons were drawn in 1957. Another item in Top Cel mentions the show was being replaced by King Leonardo in fall 1961.
● They sure pushed Cindy Bear early. I don’t believe she had appeared on screen in any cartoons at this point; “Acrobatty Yogi” aired during the week of April 17, 1961. Only two shorts were made with her in the 1960-61 season.
● Judging by the Yogi Bear Show DVD that came out several years ago, “Oinks and Boinks” was the first Yogi cartoon to air on his own series. But that couldn’t have been the case, according to Top Cel. “Oinks and Boinks” was animated by Don Patterson, not one of the three animators listed above. I’ve found one newspaper which is specific about the first Yogi show. The Philadelphia Inquirer TV column of February 14, 1961 mentions Snagglepuss’ segment was pre-empted for the Snooper and Blabber cartoon “Zoom Zoom Blabber,” which was animated by La Verne Harding. It doesn’t reveal the other cartoons. If you look at the DVD that shows the “Yogi Bear Show” end titles, all you’ll see is gang credits and no mention of Brad Case at all, though he most definitely animated on the show.
● It’s a surprise to read Dan Gordon left Hanna-Barbera. He had been at the studio since it opened in 1957. He returned in time for the creation of the Magilla Gorilla in 1964. Gordon’s name doesn’t appear on titles for either “Top Cat” or “The Jetsons.” O’Brien, by the way, had freelanced at H-B before moving on to UPA to work on the abysmal Dick Tracys and TV Magoos. And Mike Lah’s background should be known to readers here.

There are lots of interesting historical items in the Top Cels on Michael’s blog, including the creation of Bob Clampett’s Snowball Studio that made Beany and Cecil cartoons (and attempted to sell a series based on Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy), proposed series by the Jay Ward studio, a deal to make Tom and Jerry cartoons in Europe, and everyone’s favourite TV cartoon “Keemar, the Invisible Boy” (which the story doesn’t say was in development by Format Inc. in January 1959, featuring a tights-clad hero, the beak-nosed Dr. Z, and Skip Harrigan, Boy Scout). Take a look HERE. We look forward to Michael having the time to scan and post more of these newsletters.

But maybe the most surprising relevation is that Yogi was a second-choice for a series by the folks from Battle Creek. In the process, UPA helped boost the careers of Yogi, Snagglepuss and a little yellow duck. Ain’t that cute?


  1. This is going from the barest (so to speak) of memories from 1961, but IIRC, "Slap-Happy Birthday", Episode 49, was the first where the show's opening title music and character poses were modified (my vague memory being 'Hey, where did Yogi's regular opening music go?', but with all the audio edits over the past 52 years, pinning down when the new stuff showed up isn't easy).

    That may not show it was the first cartoon aired on the show, but it seems as if it was the first cartoon produced after the decision was made to give Yogi his own show. On the other hand, given his reputation as a money man, it's interesting that Henry Saperstein was the one to spurn Leo Burnett on the Magoo show -- given UPA's past very lofty opinion of their work as being art and not mere cartoons, I could have pictured that group walking out on Kellogg's ad agency, not the guy who was fine with trashing the Dick Tracy newspaper vibe or having Woody Allen re-dub a cheap Japanese spy movie if he thought there was a buck to be made.

  2. It's amazing how things work out. Just glad Yogi did get his own show. Speaking of UPI, I Recently caught on one of the Kid's networks that we get on " The Dish ", the UPI Magoo and Dick Tracy shorts. I noticed that " Classic Media " owns the rights to those shows these days. Great blog, Yowp, love the information.

  3. Hi, Erroll. It's actually UPA, not UPI, but great point and Yowp, excellent post.Steve

    1. Goodness!...You're right Steve, don't know where my mind was. I seriously doubt " United Press International " ever dabbled in cartoons-Ha!!!

  4. Very interesting post. When I read the part about Babbitt resigning from Quartet, and the reason, I wondered whether it had anything to do with an illness that Art had, certainly by 1964. Ken Harris spoke about this to me, in hushed tones, when I was at lunch with him in England in 1973, the same year that Art came to Richard Williams' Studio to do his remarkable series of animation lectures. I can quote Ken whispering, "Art...(looking one way and then the other) had a BRAIN problem..." I think this came up when I was in discussion with Ken about "The Incredible Mr. Limpett" (which probably was in production sometime in 1963 at Warner Brothers). He seemed to tie in that Art and Limpett director Bill Tytla, (who were very good friends) were both going through very serious health problems around that time. Many have told me that Hawley Pratt, Gerry Chiniquy and Robert McKimson all covered for Tytla because he was having such a bad time making decisions, but there was no animosity about this because they all respected Tytla so much. Pratt probably worked with Tytla at Disney's in the late '30's and early '40's. What was occurring on Limpett could have been the onset of the disease that debilitated Tytla causing his death in the late '60's.
    As for Dan Gordon, he was a very important member of the H-B team, and I wonder whether his absence accounts for the deterioration in the productions going forward from that point. Gordon's Popeye cartoons at Fleischer and Famous, such as "The Hungry Goat", have always stood out as exceptional.
    Arnold Gillespie is an animator whose name I recognize from MGM and Fleischer cartoons. Didn't he also do special effects or titles on some feature films in the 1940's or '50's?

  5. Greg, the special effects Arnold Gillespie is A. Arnold Gillespie, while the ex-Fleischer animator is Arnold B. Gilliespite. He worked for John Sutherland before Quartet opened.
    Somewhere on the internet is a scan of a letter from Dave Depatie about layoffs at Warners due to work ending on Limpet but I can't remember the date of where I saw it.