Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Wave Goodbye, Yogi

A few of the earliest Yogi Bear cartoons didn’t involve rangers, pic-a-nic baskets and non-stop hey-hey-hey-HEY dialogue. Joe Barbera, Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon combined on a spot-gag format which, frankly, I wish had not been abandoned. One of the spot-gaggers was “Baffled Bear” (1958).

And in some of the earliest cartoons, Mike Lah was assigned to animate two or three scenes. One of them was in “Baffled Bear.” The expressions are not as outrageous as some in his other cartoons, but they’re effective because you know exactly what Yogi’s thinking, even though he says nothing.

Yogi invents a balloon-o-copter to get across a busy freeway. It works.

Oh, wait. It doesn’t work. Yogi winces when the balloons break, and keeps looking up at the balloons and then at us, back and forth. It’s a really clever use of limited animation. There aren’t many drawings but the combination of Yogi moving his head combined with the moving background drawing of the sky makes it appear lots is happening. Simple drawings, but they work.

Finally, the last balloon breaks. In a Wile E. Coyote-esque moment, Yogi turns to the camera and waves goodbye. Here it is in an endless cycle.

Yogi drops. Ken Muse animated most of this cartoon. He’d never draw Yogi with an open little mouth like this.

My personal preference would be for some Tex Avery-like takes—Lah, as you likely know, animated for Avery for a number of years—and he drew a few in other cartoons, but there’s nothing wrong with the simpler approach.

Lah didn’t stay at Hanna-Barbera long. He opened Cinema Ad in 1958 then moved on to Quartet Films a few years later. It’s too bad because his take on the Flintstones would have been interesting (and probably very off-model).


  1. In the first season Of Huck Hound, those scenes that were laid out and/or animated by Mike Lah were insert sequences, added after the fact. They are all about 1:15 in length, and can be removed without a loss of continuity. I've seen a complete board for an early Yogi, and the Lah sequence was labeled "insert". What I don't know is why they were originally shorter.

  2. I believe this was also one of the first Yogis to sport the redesigned face that added darker coloring around the eyes. Visually, it made them read a little better, which in Seasons 1-3 mattered (such as in the third image above), since there was still enough personality animation in the efforts to where eye movement was important to some of the gags.

  3. Yeah, Mike, I think they all (the Yowp cartoon, the duck one, the Jinks-pirate one) work out to two gags each.
    As Huck was in development before Ruff and Reddy first aired, I wonder if H&B originally had the same idea in mind.. a couple of fairly short cartoons with old Columbias in between.

  4. Yogi Bear looked so funny, when animated by Michael Lah.

  5. Even as inserts, they are still really good.