Wednesday, 2 May 2018

On the Road With Huck and Yogi

For years, radio and film stars went on personal appearance tours. Even local TV show kid show hosts would show up at a shopping centre and shake hands or pat youngsters on the noggin.

It would seem difficult for cartoon characters to do the same thing. After all, they’re not physical beings, they’re drawn. But they did.

Hanna-Barbera’s distributor, Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems, worked out a simple solution—have people dress up in a costume. After all, didn’t Uncle Walt have Mickey Mouse and Pluto traipsing around the same way in Disneyland? The idea was put in the hands of Screen Gems’ promotional wizard Ed Justin and his staff. They came up with something that satisfied kids and made money, too.

Whenever the travelling H-B road show was booked, Justin’s people would send out a press kit to whomever was hosting the event with some basic puffery that could be used in a newspaper “story” to promote it. Here’s a good example in the Chautauqua News of Thursday, July 13, 1961.

Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear Top Children's Day at Fair
A terrific Children's Day show will inaugurate the 1961 Chautauqua County Fair on Monday, July 24, with thousands of youngsters flocking to the fairgrounds to see their television favorites. Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear.
The well-known pair, who will give performances at the Fair at 2 and 8 p.m. on July 24 have managed to accept 73 invitations since last August and still show up weekly on the "Huckleberry Hound" and "Yogi Bear" television series.
"In the past eight months, we've booked Huck and Yogi into department stores, shopping centers, football and baseball games, concerts, parades, factories, and exhibitions," reports their agent.
In West Seneca, an organization known as Machemer's Chestnut Lodge, Yogi Bear Appreciation Society was founded.
Seven scientists at the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico requested an El Paso, Tex. television station to show "Huckleberry Hound" at a later hour since they were too busy working on missile projects during its air time.
The scholarly Yale Alumni bulletin made a survey of undergraduate viewing tastes and revealed that "Huckleberry Hound" was among the four top programs with Yale men.
Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna, creators of the cartoon characters, have a bustling studio an Hollywood which makes not only "Huckleberry Hound", "Yogi Bear", "Quick Draw McGraw", and "Ruff and Reddy" but also the adult animated comedy which has become so popular this season, "The Flintstones".
As Barbera frequently reminds Hanna, "We've just got to give Huck and Yogi a raise."
Their show here is guaranteed to be the funniest of Fair Week in Dunkirk.
All Fair directors have tickets for the Ted Mack Amateur Show on Tuesday, July 25. The tickets reportedly are going fast for this show, too.
It wasn’t all about entertaining kids. It was also about, as Fred Flintstone would say, “do-re-mi-money.” We mentioned in this post that the appearances were part of a 40-million-dollar merchandising campaign in 1960 alone. Let’s learn more from this story in Variety of August 24, 1960.
TV Kiddie Shows Making Headliners And Hay in Theatre & Outdoor Field
Television's kiddie shows have become an important source of headliners particularly in the theatre and outdoor field. The manufacture of topliners is now an important byproduct of exploitation of the kidvid layouts and is rapidly becoming a main cog for publicity. The only difference in this respect is that the personal appearance field has become extremely profitable.
Latest to realize that there's a lot of coin in making headliners is the "Huckleberry Hound" show. Screen Gems, which distributes the program, used to get a lot of requests for personal, appearances of actors to depict the characters in the show.
When the Brockton (Mass.) Fair wanted something on that order for the kids, SG got together a more complete act and charged them $1,000 daily. Since then, the characters created by Hanna-Barbera Productions, have been getting that sum from a variety of other dates. The field is becoming so wide open that a new show from the same team depicting a family in caveman suburbia is having an act built for presentation around the circuits, which will also sell for $1,000 daily.
Cite Other Acts
Another example of attractions built through the kid viewers is The Three Stooges. They became so popular that they rebuilt their act a little more than a year ago, and have since been doing well in theatres, outdoor shows and fairs. The world of juves also brought a measure of prosperity to the Martin Stone office which produced "Howdy Doody." At one time there were several acts with that name and that of the clown Clarabelle around.
This newest exploitation stunt is extremely profitable. There is no such thing as having the personality of the individual actor portraying the characters built up. They are given lines and situations, and a stipulated salary. The personnel is easily replacable so that there is no battling with artistic temperament. An actor couldn't take over the property and go into business for himself.
Budgetary Factors
Ed Justin, the merchandising manager of Screen Gems, stitched the "Huckleberry Hound" act together. The most expensive items are the costuming, and of course, the salaries for the actors.
For a while the kid shows produced most headliners. There was also William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd who suddenly found himself a hot property after many years of virtual retirement. His individual glory, however, was shortlived inasmuch as he had no durable act.
Slightly ahead of the strictly kid shows are the western players on video, who command terrific coin on the outdoor circuits. Among them are James Arness, Hugh O'Brian, Gene Barry and others. O'Brian and Barry, among others, are trying their hand in other fields such as legit while they are hot. But when they want heavy coin, they play the outdoor events.
In 1961, a Quick Draw McGraw tour was added. Variety reported on April 26, 1961 that 35 dates had already been set that year for Huck and Yogi to show up at stores, fairs and the like.

Personally, I don’t get the appeal of people dressed up as Yogi or Mr. Jinks. Maybe I was a little jaded as a kid, but I wouldn’t accept someone in a costume as being Huck Hound. I suppose if it were in a theme park, it would be different because you’re kind of in a cartoon world. But it just seems like a guy in a fuzzy Yogi Bear outfit doesn’t belong in the local Safeway store. Except maybe in the cereal section.


  1. High Diving Horse?


  2. I heard about one of these such appearances happening in the Downriver, Michigan area. In 1969, the Banana Splits made an appearance at the opening of Children's Bargain Town in Southgate, which later became Toys "R" Us and sadly, of course, is just about to become defunct with all of TRU's American stores.

  3. Hans Christian Brando4 May 2018 at 18:15

    Why can't Harry Potter and SpongeBob get off their duffs and do the Personal Appearance bit for the kiddies if the mid-century characters weren't too grand to make the scene? Noblesse oblige.

  4. Somehow, costumed Hanna-Barbera characters don't have the same resonance and appeal as the costumed Disney characters. Translating Huck, Yogi, Fred, Wilma, or any of the others into three dimensions feels almost like a contradiction of their two-dimensional personas on the small screen. Another factor could be that the Disney costumed characters get much more exposure and so we as a culture are more used to them, so it doesn't seem as odd or jarring to see them parading around. A third factor could be the fact that the Disney characters have a natural home base in which to cavort in three dimensions, namely the Disney theme parks, whereas the attempts at an H-B park or of incorporating H-B characters into existing theme parks such as Great America or Palisades have never been of lasting duration. So without a natural habitat, so to speak, the costumed versions of Yogi and company have not had a widespread opportunity to become culturally familiar. When I see someone in costume as Yogi Bear, I tend to think of it as a person in a costume, whereas if I see Mickey Mouse and Minnie, I'm readier to believe in them as the characters they are representing. Of course, in that Disney park atmosphere, there is a greater capacity for suspension of disbelief. At supermarkets or civic events, one is more surrounded by "reality" and disbelief kicks in more strongly.

  5. Oh, I always think of any custumed character (and at Universal Studios, or Las Vegas, both of which have NO contract with any ONE property..!) as being real..unless the actor/actress inside "takes off their head"(imagine how THAT must be to a child...or drunk.):)SC

  6. I remember when Yogi and Boo Boo made a personal appearance at the Family Bargain Center in my hometown of Cortland, NY. We weren't a major city, and to have national TV stars in town was a very big thing for a little guy like me. I remember them as being very real, and very tall... I wondered why they weren't particularly talkative... and I was very concerned that Boo Boo didn't have his bow tie on. (Maybe it was a very early "Casual Friday...")