Saturday, 28 July 2018

The Jolly Pie Pirate (and the Dog)

Mike Lah was Yogi Bear’s first animator, and his style at Hanna-Barbera was deceptively simple. His Yogi doesn’t look quite like the Yogi you think of; it seems a little sketchier. But Lah was able to get solid expressions into his characters.

Here’s an example from Pie Pirates, Yogi’s first cartoon. These are good drawings of Yogi laughing, but you’d never see anyone else draw him like this.

Yogi realises something’s wrong (his barrel is about to fall apart). See what Lah does with his eyes. He really liked that small-mouthed stare you see in the first drawing, and he would draw eyes that were different sizes, with different sized pupils, for effect.

The earliest cartoons on the Huck show evidently had smaller budgets so Bill Hanna didn’t have time or money for such niceties as in-betweens if he could get away without them. These two drawings are consecutive. Yogi pops from one pose to the next (Lah liked the extended-arm run).

Yogi’s nemesis is a bulldog that is preventing him from grabbing a huckleberry pie cooling on a window sill. Lah drew him a fair amount of time with half an eye closed. Even with limited animation, Lah puts expressions into the angry dog. Does the bottom one remind you of Spike in a Tex Avery MGM cartoon that Lah would have worked on?

Lah pretty much eased out of his work at Hanna-Barbera by the first season of the Huckleberry Hound Show and carried on making commercials at Quartet Films, which he and his wife (Bill Hanna’s wife’s sister) eventually ran. He told Darryl Van Citters in 1977 he was supposed to be part of the ownership group of H-B Enterprises when it started in 1957 but it sounds like he couldn’t come up with investment cash. It’s a shame because I would have liked to have seen how Lah would have handled drawing the Flintstones and some of the later characters.


  1. oh what might have been--but oh what we have.

  2. These pictures are interesting because it's the first time I remember noticing that Yogi originally had a tail. Do you know at what point it disappeared?

    1. Kid, I've never paid attention. I don't know if I've seen a tail in any other cartoon. You certainly don't see one when he's in profile on the title card.

  3. Lah's facial expressions in the third and fourth shots of Yogi definitely show traces of the same type of 'Something bad's about to happen' look he used for Butch (Spike) and Huck-prototype wolf in the MGM CinemaScope cartoons he did. But a lot of the early H-B efforts also show their MGM heritage in terms of poses, even with the hyper-limited animation, and most of that got dialed down or completely discarded by Season 2, so had Lah stayed, it would have been interesting if he would have tried to maintain those types of poses past the first season of the show.

  4. Hans Christian Brando29 July 2018 at 08:02

    Funny, but for some reason I always think of "Tally Ho Ho Ho" as the first Yogi; maybe because he's there without Boo-Boo, or because it was always the earliest cartoon shown on "Yogi Bear," or just because of the exposition of him pointing out he wears a hat and tie. Anyway, it's too bad he couldn't have sustained the expressiveness. He lost a lot of style when he became constrained in the pic-a-nic basket-Ranger Smith formula.

  5. Lah did give his Yogi much more of an " Ed Norton " look that the rest who followed.

  6. The Michael Lah's animation has a Tex Avery-esque touch.
    We cannot forget that Michael Lah made part of the Tex Avery unit at MGM.