Wednesday 11 September 2013

Helpful Huck and Yogi

A lead character that’s a thief is a good example for kids?

Today, someone would likely object, resulting in networks, producers and potential sponsors running around in fright, issuing panicked “cancel” orders to keep avoid upsetting even one crackpot. But in 1961, they gave the character his own show. His name was Yogi Bear.

Yes, in 1961, cartoons could show Quick Draw McGraw shooting a gun in his own face. Doggie Daddy could be clobbered with a mallet. And Yogi Bear could steal someone else’s food and even get away with it. It was just fine. It was all innocent fun.

Here’s a syndicated story that appeared in newspapers on December 15, 1960 praising the “child appropriateness” of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Best News for Children Since Big Bad Wolf Days
Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

NEW YORK - (NEA) –About the only good news for children since the Big Bad Wolf met up with the Small Smart Pig comes from Joe Barbera.
Joe is half of Hanna-Barbera, the outfit which produces The Flintstones, for adults, and Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw for kids. The good news is that early in January, there will be a third children's show from Hanna-Barbera. Yogi Bear, one of the Huckleberry Hound people, will have his own show.
Now what makes this good news is that the children have become the neglected people on television There are shows for men, shows for women and even shows for bowlers. But the poor tikes and tikettes get short shrift on a large screen.
Of course, there have been exceptions. Peter Pan is one, even though it was on so late that by the time Captain Hook went over the side most of the youthful audience had conked out.
But, on a regular basis, you can count on the fingers of one dimpled hand the programs which are halfway decent for children to watch. There are Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin and perhaps National Velvet. There are Fury and Casey Jones and possibly Dennis the Menace. (OK, so this a six-fingered dimpled hand.)
Then there is ‘The Shirley Temple Show,’ which generally provides a good story. But they had a ghastly slip a few weeks ago, when all of a sudden, in the middle of “Tom and Huck,” the plot thickened and we were in the middle of some business about grave-robbing.
Did you ever try to explain the fine art of grave-robbing to a five-year-old? The best thing to do is switch over to another channel and give the kid some tranquilizers. And take a few yourself.
But by far the majority of the programs which are supposedly designed for children should be shunned by all children and all but thick-skinned adults.
There is violence by the bucketful, blood is thicker than water and the writers out-do each other in inventing novel ways of committing mayhem. All this, of course, has been commented on repeatedly without any noticeable improvement.
And so it is pleasant to be able to report on Hanna-Barbera's progress. There is certainly nothing harmful for children in Huckleberry Hound & Co. In fact, it is all done with a good spirit and in language that doesn't talk down to children; these programs can be safely said to be helpful.
I remember talking to Walt Disney about the problem of children's programs on TV. I asked him about the criticism of most of his works—there is almost always a part of the show that frightens children.
"Children like to be frightened," Disney said, "and I actually think it's good for them. If they see the program with an adult, or go to the theater with an adult, they are OK. It's only the kids who watch by themselves who could be affected by it."
That's all well and good, of course, if your TV set has a governor on it, and doesn't function unless there is an adult within squeezing distance of every child. But most TV sets are not that advanced in construction. They work no matter whose hand turns it on.
And so we have the spectacle of kids watching old movies or new TV shows (about the same quality) and seeing things that children simply should not see.
Parents, of course, should assume the responsibility of censoring the set, but frequently they don't—the TV set is the best baby-sitter ever invented, and many grown-ups let their children watch anything and everything. They must pay the price for their indulgence.
It is the parents’ job, not the TV networks’. But the networks could, at least, hold a firmer hand over the programs which they bill as children's fare. If Hanna-Barbera can do it, so can the others.

Tony Benedict was hired as the third writer at Hanna-Barbera around the time this column was published. What guidelines did he keep in mind when writing those helpful shows done in a good spirit?

“I had to please Joe, he was the only one. And he spoke only to God.”

Leaving the cartoon-making up to veteran cartoon makers. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? A shame it never stayed that way.


  1. Today's censorship network for cartoons is very overrated. If they were interested in censoring violence or disgusting images, they would have to cancel Regular Show, Adventure Time, Gravity Falls, The Amazing World of Gumball, most of what Seth McFarlene is making and more current series.

    Thank God for Boomerang, but again please bring back The original Yogi Bear shorts! We don't get them on the Eastern Europe Boomerang.

    Give more credit to Joseph Barbera, sure he had a big ego but he also kept network people and sponsors at bay and sure William Hanna was the more creative part of the team, but Barbera had a great sense of humour and of what is good.

    1. Yeah, a lot of so-called kids cartoons today have stuff that would not have been possible even in the early days of TV animation. "Gravity Falls" in particular is surprisingly violent, with characters nearly getting killed in multiple episodes. And it's from DISNEY of all things.

  2. When I was about eight or so, I mentioned to my mother that I thought Yogi was "cool" and one of my favorite cartoon characters in a totally innocent and matter-of-fact way, and she responded that he was a bad person or bear or whatever because he took things that didn't belong to him, mainly picnic baskets filled with desirable goodies! Really, for years her remark haunted me almost as much as when my sister pointed out that Popeye was not squinting and in fact had a eye gouged out!

    1. I'm sure we've all had that (hell cereal mascots were the same deal too like Yogi, always wanting something they never ask for).

    2. Christopher..Speaking of cereal mascots. I remember circa 1986, Daws Butler in an interview lamenting over the ever growing reach of activist groups on cartoons, and yes, cereal. He was flabbergasted at the fact that Cap N Crunch's sword had been removed from all commercials and the cereal cover. Gee...Captain of a ship with a weapon? Ha, such a bad influence.

  3. Even in this story, you can already see the creeping tide of the responsible children's television arbiters at play.

    The irony in the story is that in the current era -- where zombies and vampires have become the hip genres in recent years -- raising a stink about children seeing something like grave robbers would label you as an out-of-touch old fogey. But allowing kids to watch Quick Draw blast himself in the face would have those who've followed in the footsteps of the Action for Children's Television crowd labeling you an irresponsible parent.

    1. Funny thing, I'm originally from Japan and, even today, it's not unusual to see guns in anime made for children.

      Guns are heavily regulated in Japan, meaning that the odds of kids having access to one is very, very low, which is probably why it's OK to show gunfights in kids cartoons over there.

    2. There's also the attitude of the people either owning or airing animation in the U.S. to follow the path which creates the least disruption to their own personal lives (and job security). What that ends up doing is creating a mindset when dealing with the more widely-known cartoons of editing out anything that could possibly be offensive, to stay ahead of the responsible children's television activists.

      Because those same people know far less about anime, and don't track it as closely, some of what makes it into U.S. markets can still fly under the radar -- and it's also true that protesting anime violence would draw less attention within the media for the same reason, and some of the kids TV activists are as much about promoting themselves as they are about regulating family-oriented animation. Which is a lot easier to do when you're going after characters most people are familiar with. (/rant)

    3. Even CALLING Quick Draw violent in praise, to clarify my first reply, to make him cool, is just as old fogey as a Lawrence Welk or Gunsmoke fan compared to fans of today's hip "toons", so if you praise or criticize QUick Draw you'rte screwed. Imagine...Quick Draw, today, violent (whether coming from an admirer or an activist)--or, if you're a fan, bad-ass!! Bugs, yes, but whoa, QUICK DRAW? Never thought he'd be even thought of today still as violent compared to the hip shows you mentioned, J.Lee.

      Of course, Hanna-Barbera/WB has "disowned" a lot of old shows (early stock music issues aside) and franchise (even with self-owned Hoyt Curtin/Ted Nichols cues) even to merchandise them may have also gotten Action for Childrens's Television upset in the first place, thus we got Scooby Doo and such.

      Thus the OPPOSITE idea, and this really goes back to the 80s and later, whe Smurfs and others appeared and defined Hanna-Barbera, wrong or right, pro or con, for later generations, that ANYTING at Hanna-Barbera was like "The Donna Reed Show" or "Fat ALbert" for violence/gross joke-addicted modern day cartoon watching kids.

      In short, Hanna-Barbera is too tame,for modern fans..

      The people buying Scooby-Doo and Smurfs (the only HB properties, with Scooby being the only actual HB-created one, that seem to attract any contemporary attention), seem to be parents and kids. You know, the "Safe TV" types.

      In the past, just seeing Yogi called a bad role model was what today's kids might call "Street cred" a la Bugs or today Teen Titans.

      Fortunately, YouTube has a lot of much younger Yogi fans who like Yogi as funny, NOT syrupy-or violent-fare.


      (this post sponsored by Kellogg's, because you always deserve the best in the morning. Now, Cornelius...CROW, please!)

  4. Good pointm, everyone, and whether as an Action For Chirldren's Television Old Fogey or a Hanna-Barbera Diehard like virtually all of us,
    even CITED early HB as violent, especially to the more contemporary post-1980s hip cartoon nuts, as J.Lee hinted WOULD be old-fashioned. I mean, I'd always defended those early HB characters as innocent characters, when reading books that attacked ALL older cartoons-----yet today, HERE's what I'D get:"yeah, Steve, I agree. Just like Scooby-Doo who you ironically take a hypocritical stand against as cornball, so are YOUR Hanna-Barbera cartoons bland-Snooper, Flintstones,etc." Ironic how today those funny cartoons are more seen as old fart cartoons yet the opposite was said. On the OTHER hand, folks pro and con still know the Looney Tunes as "violent, racist", yet in their time they were considered decent (in the articles that Yowp mentions on his other blog, Tralfaz, when he mentions the 1930s parades of reviews of the various offerings: 1938, 1935, and notes the "Swell","Neat", praise of ALL the studios."

    Steve C.(whose own alter ego Pokey's creator Art Clokey loved slapstick but was not very keen himself on some of those cartoons.:))