Saturday, 22 July 2017

Yogi Bear's Birthday Party

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera
Starring the Voices of Daws Butler
Co-Starring Voices of Don Messick and Doug Young
Other Voices: Julie Bennett, Duke Mitchell
Musical Director: Hoyt Curtin
Written by Warren Foster
Story Sketch: Harvey Eisenberg
Animation Layouts: Ed Benedict
Animation Supervision: Dick Lundy
Backgrounds: Dick Thomas
Titles: Art Goble
Production Supervision: Howard Hanson
Camera: Frank Paiker, Robert Collis, Charles Flekal
Film Editors: Hank Gotzenberg, Greg Watson
Copyright 1960 by Hanna-Barbera Productions
First Aired: week of October 1, 1961.
No Production Number assigned by Hanna-Barbera.
(Note: The closing credits call the show Yogi Bear's Birthday Party, despite the opening card above).

Whether the Yogi Bear Show could have been successful as a half-hour sitcom with 26 or more episodes a season is really your guess, but Yogi was certainly able to carry a TV cartoon for longer than 6½ minutes, as Yogi Bear’s Birthday Party proved.

For one show only, the Snagglepuss and Yakky Doodle cartoons were jettisoned in favour of Yogi taking over the full episode that echoed what happened in real life. In the cartoon, the sponsor threw Yogi a surprise birthday party. In real life, the sponsor bartered time on TV stations to run the Yogi show and urged them to precede or follow the half-hour cartoon with a live, in-studio birthday party with kids, prizes, etc. And stations did. I don’t believe such a thing has been tried since.

Warren Foster’s story isn’t full of big laughs, but is amusing enough and well-constructed with teasers before each commercial break (which would have been for Kellogg’s cereals). Unlike The Flintstones or The Jetsons, Foster can’t rely on gadgets for humour. Instead, he tosses in some pop culture references and even a song lyric. He’s tripped up a bit because of the nature of the cartoon—it’s supposed to be tied in with a real-life TV station’s live birthday party. So he chose to end it with a big production number, with all the H-B characters from the Kellogg’s-sponsored shows (in very thick outlines) together on stage as the camera pulls back.

I like how Foster treats Ranger Smith as self-aware. Generally, the characters do that in the little vignettes where a character will refer to watching the Yogi or Snagglepuss cartoon that’s about to come on. Rarely do they do it during the cartoon. But here we see Ranger Smith answering a phone call and getting annoyed at the declaration there’ll be a Yogi Bear birthday special on TV. Who’s calling? The Ranger gulps. It’s the sponsor. Of the Yogi Bear Show. The one he’s on right now. A situation where someone kisses up to the sponsor strikes me as something Foster would write.

Smith’s jealous of the beary bane of his existence getting the attention from the sponsor, but that’s merely a plot device convenient to the sequence at hand. Smith’s happy and cooperative in the rest of the cartoon.

The Ranger, Boo Boo and Cindy (who has bows on her feet) convince Yogi he’s starring in a half-hour TV special so he won’t discover the special is really a televised birthday party. Daws Butler does a nice job with Yogi’s voice doing an impression of Ed Sullivan (actually Will Jordan’s version of Ed Sullivan). After plugging his special around the park he comes to the realisation he needs lessons on just about everything (He can’t dance because he has two left feet. Cut to a drawing of two left feet). We get a spoof on Fred Astaire’s dance studios), Bobby Darin (with Duke Mitchell doing his swingin’ voice) and the early ’60s Liberace when he still wore evening clothes during his shows. Yogi learns he can’t dance or snap his fingers, bites his tongue when he sings, blows his ear drums when he plays a trumpet and smashes a piano when he tries to carry it out of the studio (“this is the only way I can carry a tune,” he tells Lee).

Cut to the next scene. Yogi’s conscience appears and tells him he’s a no-talent bear. I like how the conscience (a mini Yogi with a halo) calls the bear “sir.” The conscience tells Yogi to get lost and not appear on TV. He takes Smith’s car and drives off. A dragnet of park rangers, dogs and helicopters finally captures Yogi by lowering down a picnic basket. The chase features one of my favourite Curtin piano cues from Top Cat. (It’s “T-10” in Hoyt Curtin’s tracking library, similar to another cue called “T-22 City Streets” that’s on various H-B music CDs released by Rhino Records).

Part of this sequence, I suspect, was animated and recorded later than the rest of the cartoon. I’ve been told, and I can’t remember who said it, that the animators aren’t credited on this half hour because the cartoon was farmed out to a commercial house like Quartet, Playhouse or Grantray-Lawrence. But there’s one portion that’s unmistakably the work of Ken Muse, and the voice track sounds crisper than the rest of the cartoon. It starts when Yogi says “I’m flyin’ through the air with the greatest of ease and ends when the scene of Yogi on top of the helicopter rotor fades.

Yogi is being carried into the TV studio. “I can’t dance, don’t make me! I can’t sing, don’t ask me!” protests the bear. It’s a paraphrase of the lyrics of old Jerome Kern Depression-era song “I Won’t Dance” (coincidentally, Fred Astaire made the song a hit in the film Roberta). The story segues into a spoof of the TV show This is Your Life, in which the album-carrying host asks if the surprised victim recalls voices from the past. Their old friends then walk on stage for a happy reunion. In this case, we get all the featured players on the half-hour H-B shows syndicated shows sponsored by Kellogg’s do walk-ons and put over some short gags of their own (for example, Quick Draw fails during a demonstration of some fancy shootin’). So we see Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Mr. Jinks, Pixie and Dixie, Snooper and Blabber, Snagglepuss (“I’m here, too. Three, even), Hokey Wolf and Dingaling, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, Boo Boo and Cindy (carrying Yakky Doodle). They’re all accompanied by their theme songs and catchphrases. There isn’t quite enough room for all of them in the group shot of the stage before the big singing number (did the Randy Horne singers cut the vocal track for this)? And somehow, during the song, Baba Looey found his way onto the stage. Foster, who used to write music before he got into the cartoon business, presumably came up with the lyrics where he kisses up to Kellogg’s by including their slogan “The best to you each day.”

Another pop culture reference: Huck quickly dresses up as Mitch Miller of “Sing Along With Mitch” fame as he leads the kids watching at home and those in TV studios across North America in the Yogi Bear birthday song, helped by Pixie and Dixie displaying the lyrics, and a camera pullback of the stage for a rousing finale. (Fade out for another Kellogg’s commercial break).

Yogi ends the cartoon by telling the kids watching to keep the party going in their hometowns and blowing out the candles on his cake.

As mentioned, I don’t know who animated this cartoon. I like how Yogi gestures in some of the scenes instead of just standing there blinking his eyes and moving his mouth. When he talks about card tricks, he pretends to deal the cards. When he talks about “ticklin’ the ivories,” he pretends to play a piano. When he talks about how he’s going to “leave ‘em laughing,” he takes off his hat and thrusts it into the air like a comic ending his vaudeville act.

Harvey Eisenberg received a story sketch credit for this cartoon. As far as I know, it was the only credit he ever received on one of Hanna-Barbera’s shows. Ed Benedict is the layout artist. Too bad he wasn’t paired with Art Lozzi or Monte because the backgrounds may have been a little more interesting. Dick Thomas turned out all the backgrounds for this half-hour. They’re functional and he tries to decorate them a bit. The evergreens tend to look the same. Oh, well. By 1960, UPA was dying and so was that studio’s graphic influence, perhaps.

Hoyt Curtin wrote the cue library and, presumably, the music for the birthday song heard in this cartoon. An instrumental version is tossed in a couple of times. As was mentioned, there are some Top Cat cues mixed in here.

The guy I feel bad for after watching this is Huckleberry Hound. It was his show in 1958 that grabbed the attention of TV viewers and critics, giving Hanna-Barbera their first mainstream publicity. By 1961, he had become overshadowed by one of his supporting players, who ended up with a newspaper comic, a feature film cartoon and “ran” for President in 1964. Still, nothing ever bothered Huck. And at least he wasn’t put in a CGI/live action junk-fest and voiced by Dan Aykroyd pretending to be Rodney Dangerfield.


  1. As mentioned before, I still wonder if the short running time of the half-hour cartoon may be because a sequence featuring the Kellogg's characters featured in the Huck opening and closing credits was excised from this as well when the show went into post-Kellogg's syndication. Even if I'd seen it in 1961, I doubt that I'd remember whether that actually happened.

    1. Mike, I don't remember ever seeing this in post-Kellogg's syndication. I saw it when the Yogi DVD came out.
      I suspect in Los Angeles, because Joe and Bill made an appearance during the half-hour, that would have accounted for the under-half-hour running time in that market.

    2. I remember seeing this in more recent syndication (I was 1 year old when it first aired.) Nice, after the earlier post on this to have an actual review with credits.Steve C. PS Thank you for the article..

  2. And this is the first Yogi Bear special which Hanna-Barbera produced in the early 60s.

    1. It wasn't a special. It ran in the usual Yogi Bear time slot that a station broadcast the show.

  3. Fred Astaire dance studios still exist. Fred founded the chain in 1946 & eventually sold it for a nice profit.

  4. Francis Ford Coppola said that Astaire told him that someone else founded the studio and used his name without even telling him. He sued of course.

    1. I can find no evidence of this. Variety of April 16th, 1947 has Astaire hiring people to run it.

    2. - He says that Fred Astaire sold his name to the dance studio, but regretted it, beacuase he didn't like what they were teaching. So, Yogi wouldn't have had Fred Astaire as a dance teacher.

    3. Nowhere in this story does it say "someone else founded the studio" or that "he sued of course." Frankly, this discussion has nothing to do with the cartoon, so let's move on.

  5. YOWP, in your opinion, why don't Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear have revivals, reboots and other contemporary series like Bugs, Mickey and Scooby-Doo?

    1. Well, I personally wouldn't want the reboots (the golden radio age that the original cast memberss were a great product of,which has been a lost medium; the attempt to do odd redesigns like DC Comics did), but to answer your queation, and sufficently I hope, the Yogi Huck cartoonsa, have to bne rerun in the first place and music right hold up 2/3 to 3/4 of the shows being on them in them, till the last season, as already mentioned (Pre-Hyrterical Hare, 1958, the year Yogi debuted..a Bugs short, as used the stock music..but as a theattrical short, it doesn;t have the same problems for modern day that the television cartoons do, as I understand it.:) )

    2. Thank you. That answers my question.

  6. Is this available for viewing anywhere? I've never seen it or even heard of it before now.

    1. It is on the Yogi Bear Show DVD set from Warner Bros.

  7. “Whether the Yogi Bear Show could have been successful as a half-hour sitcom with 26 or more episodes a season is really your guess…”

    My “guess” is definitely YES! Hey-hey-hey! (Sorry, Yogi!)

    Later short Yogi cartoons, such as “A Bear Pair”, “Rah-Rah Bear”, “Gleesome Threesome”, “Cub Scout Boo-Boo”, “Slap Happy Birthday”, “Queen Bee for a Day”, “Iron Hand Jones”, “Yogi in the City” (repurposed for “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear”), and others could easily have been expanded to a longer format and carried a half-hour animated sitcom.

    And, with Yogi’s already-established star power, such a series might have lasted longer than Top Cat.

    Then, maybe Snagglepuss might have headlined his own syndicated weekly series (he seemed the most likely choice for an MC / Host type of character), with Yakky Doodle and Bigelow the Cagney Mouse, or done-less-on-the-cheap versions of Wally Gator, Lippy the Lion, or Touché Turtle! Possibly even port over the Loopy De Loop theatricals and save Bill Hanna some money! Perhaps we would have gotten more than one season of Snagglepuss that way!

    Or, how ‘bout this? Top Cat as the third segment of “The Snagglepuss Show”, while Yogi moved on to prime time success! Oh, the possibilities are endless!

  8. The piano gag was taken from "Canned Feud" and a few other Warner cartoons.

  9. The first time I saw this was as part of the 1988 syndicated Yogi Bear package. It had never been shown on New York's WNEW/5, which aired all of the 1958-61 shorts from the late 1960s through the 70s. But the 1988 airing was severely truncated, with this show taking up the first and third 'slots' of the half-hour and a 'guest' cartoon (Snooper & Blabber, Augie Doggie, Secret Squirrel, Mushmouse & Punkin' Puss, Precious Pupp, Ricochet Rabbit) taking up the middle slot. So a lot of the scenes were unknown to me until seeing this on the DVD. The entire helicopter scene was gone, and the 'introductions' of many of the climactic party guest characters. So at the end, I was frustrated to see all of them toasting Yogi knowing that there was missing footage of them.

    Maybe the irregular length of this show made it hard to fit into a half-hour slot, but still-

  10. You may as well be sorry for Castor Oyl, after a sailor stole his spotlight. And for Barney Googol after some hillbilly stole his comic. Or Porky Pig after a duck stole the cartoon. Woody Woodpecker stole the show from a Panda. What I'm saying is, this sort of thing is common.

  11. Yowp, if I told you that in Latin America, on repeated occasions last year, they have broadcast (incompletely, since only the first two shorts were seen) of the Yogi Birthday Party, on the Tooncast channel, greetings.

  12. My kids love Hanna-Barbera shows and so do I. I have even planned a yogi-bear themed birthday party for my son in a very beautiful LA venue. I came across this post just at the right time, now I will be able to get more of the ideas from here for the party.

  13. Interesting characters. Kids love them. I also love to see these kind of cartoons