Saturday, 30 March 2019

Bear Knuckles Fight

Back in the 1960s, there was one toy that, for me, was a little uncomfortable. Parents bought their kids inflatable punching bags with whatever character the manufacturer was able to license. To the right, you see a newspaper clipping from 1989 with a later version of a Yogi Bear punching bag.

My question is—who would punch Yogi Bear?

Yogi was nice. He was a funny character. He was essentially good. He wasn’t violent or anti-social. Why would anyone want to punch him? Even Ranger Smith never did.

(As an aside, my brother had a Popeye punching bag. Popeye, at least, engaged in fisticuffs. But he was a good guy, too, and liable to whop the crap out of you like he did to Bluto. Who’d want to get into a fight with him?)

There was one Yogi Bear cartoon in the early years that involved punching. Prize Fight Fright wasn’t motivated by violence or revenge. The world’s boxing champ was, for unknown reasons, training in Jellystone Park and piqued Yogi’s interest with a sign offering free meals for sparring partners.

The cartoon was animated by Ken Muse, a real workhorse for Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera starting when he arrived at MGM following the strike at the Walt Disney studio. He did some beautiful work on Tom in some of Hanna and Barbera’s musical cartoons (The Cat Concerto, Texas Tom, Solid Serenade) but, to be honest, when it comes to the Hanna-Barbera studio, I like the animation by Carlo Vinci and Mike Lah (and, later, George Nicholas) a lot more.

As far as I know, the animators at Hanna-Barbera in the 1950s did their own effects animation. Muse had a particular way of drawing impacts. He started with kind of a jagged halo, sometimes solid, which developed a hole in the centre in the next drawing and became a lumpy line in the third.

Here’s another example, with a Yogi head-jerk drawing added.

And another.

Yogi’s an eater, not a fighter, in this cartoon. He doesn’t throw a single punch. However, the plot turns and Yogi is named champion (from a media-staged sparring demonstration?) because the champ bops Yogi’s right glove and centrifugal force does its work.

Here is why Muse was the footage king at Hanna-Barbera. In this part of the scene, there is one drawing of Yogi and two of the champ. The only thing on separate cels are a couple of arms and some effects animation, includings some dry brush.

Every once in a while, Muse comes up with drawings I really like. One is in this cartoon, where Boo Boo accidentally punches Yogi.

No, when I think of Yogi Bear, I don’t think of a fighter. He’s someone who shows up in Cincinnati to show support for kids who are having to deal with diabetes (see top clipping to the right from 2006). He’s someone who shows up at fairs and other events (including store openings) with his pals to entertain his fans (see bottom clipping from 1961).

He’s someone who was given his own cartoon spinoff series, and continued to star on the small screen in various programmes (the less said about some, the better), the Hanna-Barbera studio’s first feature film and, years after being created, a quasi live-action movie. Okay, maybe the last one was really misguided, but isn’t it the human creators of it to blame?

I say again—who would punch Yogi Bear?


  1. Muse uses the "Jello wobble" face with Yogi a couple of times in full-body reaction with both Tom and Jerry during the final years of MGM production, in gags where they got bopped hard

  2. That self-inflected "centrifugal force" head bop is taken directly from The Three Stooges.

    I distinctly remember the Bozo the Clown punching bags - Who wouldn't want to punch him?

  3. Ironically. given Yogi's benign nature, the punch Yogi inadvertently uses to knock out the champ is inspired by the VERY violent Three Stooges routine in which Moe would get Curly or Larry to hit his fist, with the roundhouse result knocking them on top of their heads. That routine, of course, while around since the thirties in the movies, had just begun to be exposed to my generation with the debut of the Stooge shorts on TV around the same time as HUCKLEBERRY HOUND was beginning, so I'm convinced that's where it originated. It's fair use, I think, since the Stooges were often the closest thing to live-action cartoons, at least in terms of the fantasy violence involved in them. They were as indestructible as Tom was to Jerry's sometimes graphic feats of physical destruction.

  4. Back in the '60s, I had a Yogi Bear 'punching bag' and remember my father putting sand in the base as per the instructions. I managed to acquire a leaflet from ebay a few years back, advertising the '60s Yogi punch bag as a special offer with a brand of washing powder. I also managed to obtain the instructions for the bag around a year ago, and one day hope to nab the bag as well. Wish me luck.

  5. Who would PUNCH Yogi Bear? Well, I'd say the ranger, and that one boxer in that 1958 boxing cartoon..:)SC (and NO April Fool)