Saturday, 4 April 2020

Yogi Bear Becomes a Star

Snagglepuss and Yakky Doodle can thank Hank Saperstein for the boost in their careers.

In June 1960, a deal was being firmed up between Kellogg’s and Saperstein’s UPA. Variety reported on August 10th the two had a seven-year pact that would see $3,000,000 spent in the first year to put a half-hour Mr. Magoo show on 150 stations, the same as the cereal maker did with the Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw shows for Hanna-Barbera.

But then Saperstein pulled out. He thought he could get a better financial deal going it alone. And Hanna-Barbera was ready. Both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter told readers in their October 12th editions that Kellogg’s had agreed to sponsor a half-hour Yogi Bear show on 130 stations starting in January 1961, and Snagglepuss and Yakky Doodle would augment the new series.

Yogi’s jump to stardom should not have been a surprise. Yogi was slowly but surely taking the spotlight away from Huck as H-B’s main starring character in syndication. The studio had already decided to make Yogi, not Huck, the star of its first feature film. Yogi was appearing in person (actually, someone in an outfit) at department stores, fairs, and so on. There was plenty of Yogi merchandise in stores and he was on a cereal box. On top of that, Huck didn’t get a syndicated newspaper strip in 1961; Yogi did. And another indicator—in October, Yogi was named chairman of the 1960-61 fund raising drive of the Radio-Television-Recording and Advertising Charities of Hollywood. (What he actually did, I don’t know).

As for Yakky, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera had plunked the duck in Tom and Jerry cartoons at MGM, then brought him over to their own studio as an occasional character in more than a half dozen cartoons. He was ready for his own series (the only problem was his voice actor, Red Coffey, was on tour, so Barbera hired Los Angeles kids host Jimmy Weldon). And Snagglepuss had appeared on the Quick Draw McGraw show a number of times as an orange antagonist. He was clever with funny dialogue (George Nicholas did a fine job animating him) so he had real possibilities for his own segment.

The Yogi Bear Show began showing up in syndication on the week of January 30, 1961. Not all the cartoons were ready, so some were borrowed from the Quick Draw show for several weeks. Yogi continued to appear on the Huck show until the replacement Hokey Wolf cartoons were set to air.

Hanna-Barbera’s PR guru Arnie Carr started plugging away, working the media to get some ink. Hal Humphrey wrote a pre-debut column, while UPI’s Fred Danzig and Jack Gaver both banged out reviews. I’ve found another story from the Copley News Service, published January 28, 1961.

Smarter Than Average
Extrovert Yogi Bear Syndicated Across US

BY DONALD FREEMAN

Copley News Service
HOLLYWOOD, Jan. 27— As his loyal followers always knew it would, being smarter than the average bear has at last paid off in tangible rewards for that blustering furry extrovert known to television as Yogi Bear. Forthwith, amid a fanfare from the trumpets, The Yogi Bear Show is syndicated across the land. This freshly spawned cartoon series evolved logically and inevitably out of Huckleberry Hound the show in which Yogi Bear has played second fiddle for the last 2½ years. Now he has emerged from the wings, a full-fledged bear-type star.
At Hanna-Barbera Productions— headed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbara, two enterprisingly creative talents responsible not only for Yogi Bear and Hucklebery Hound, but Ruff n’ Reddy, Quick Draw McGraw and the Flintstones as well— the feeling had persisted for some time that Yogi Rear was ripe for bigger things. "Consider this," said Bill Hanna, a stocky onetime engineer now the partner in a booming $10,000,000 cartoon corporation, "Huckleberry Hound" had an island in the Antarctic named for him and he was tapped as mascot of the Marching and Jazz Society in Hull England.
"BUT BRITAIN’S ENTRY in a recent International model plane race was named Yogi Bear. And a wing of our Strategic Air Command picked Yogi for its mascot. "Also consider this," put in Joe Barbera, the darkly handsome partner who once worked in a bank and despised every minute of it, "when Huckleberry Hound ran for president last year— he didn't do badly in certain animal precincts, by the way— who was his campaign manager? Yogi Bear."
In common with most creative brains in the animated cartoon dodge, Hanna and Barbera are— well, free souls, blithe nose-thumbers at conventional procedure. For example, interoffice memos are expressly forbidden in their studios.
"If a man dreams up an idea he can barge right into our office," explained Barbera, adding pointedly that no such easygoing policy prevailed in their days at M-G-M. "By the time a producer there had got your memo and sent back his memo and you finally were permitted into the hallowed sanctum of his office, you'd forgotten what you wanted to say in the first place. So, no memos."
FOR SOME 20 YEARS, Hanna and Barbera were teamed at M-G M where their fertile imaginations gave birth to the cat and mouse cartoon series, Tom and Jerry, which brought the studio seven Academy Awards. In 1957 they turned to television writing continually expanding success story, with the new Yogi Bear show being the latest chapter.
There are times when Yogi's fans imperturbably criss-cross the thin stand dividing fancy and reality. Not long ago in a gesture of appreciation, Yogi Bear was awarded a certificate by the superintendent of Yellowstone Park— not Ranger Smith, but the actual superintendent in the real Yellowstone Park— for being “an upstanding example for bears all over the world.”
However, in his notation, the superintendent saw fit to add slyly: "But I'm sure glad that Yogi Bear doesn't live fulltime in my park."

There were things to like on The Yogi Bear Show. Hanna-Barbera always seemed to come up with enjoyable openings and closings for its series. Yogi was no exception. I’ve always liked how Yogi drove the ranger’s jeep into the Kellogg’s billboard. Mike Maltese gave Snagglepuss some lovely twists of phrases; of course, Daws Butler’s voice work was outstanding as usual. Yakky had reasonably solid comic villains in Fibber Fox, who spent most of his time talking to the home viewer, and Alfie Gator, who parodied the format of the Alfred Hitchcock TV show introductions and conclusions in a pretty amusing way, courtesy of writer Tony Benedict. (It must have been daunting to be a young guy trying to keep up swimming in the same writing waters as Maltese and Warren Foster, two of the all-time greats).

Still, the starring Yogi jettisoned the spot gags and sight gags of the earlier Huck show Yogi. Hanna-Barbera’s cartoons were starting to become dialogue heavy, with characters standing around, with mouths moving on rigid bodies while a character being spoken to blinked his/her eyes to break the monotony. How much more interesting visually they would have been if Mike Lah (concentrating on commercials at Quartet) and Carlo Vinci (moved over to The Flintstones) were still animating the cartoons like they did when Yogi was still with Huck.

We all know that H-B characters ran past the same tree or lamp over and over and over again. Here’s an endless loop from the Yogi show. It’s from Whistle-Stop and Go, a Yakky cartoon animated by Columbia and Warner Bros. veteran Art Davis. It takes 16 frames for Dick Thomas’s background to repeat, with Fibber on an eight-frame run cycle. What I didn’t notice until I put this together is Davis slightly animates Fibber’s whiskers and top hair strands. That kind of thing would have been skipped in the later “faster, cheaper” years.


10 comments:

  1. Thank you for the recent posts Yowp, they are very much appreciated!

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  2. Yes indeedy. Regarding Yogi, he's always been my favourite HB star, but I liked Huck as well. The early merchandise when Huck's show hit the airwaves usually combined Yogi & Huck, and sometimes Yogi, Huck, & Mr. Jinks. I've got an early Huck & Yogi ramp walker by Marx, and a Combex night-light with Yogi, Huck, & Mr. Jinks. Once Yogi got his own show, he usually (though not always) had his own merchandise.

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  3. This is a wonderful and precious blog that could never disappears !

    Thank you so much !

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  4. Even contemporaneously as a tyke, there was something about the last two dozen or so Yogi efforts I saw on first run that just weren't as good as the initial 48 made for the Huck show's opening two seasons. They were more talky, and the plots seemed less natural/more contrived (and Yogi's success also hurt him a little, in that the earlier 'grouchy' Yogi was all but banished, to where even in situations were he was supposed to be mad, he retained his happy-go-lucky persona. It limited him as a character, even though it was probably better for pitching Kellogg's Corn Flakes or OKs to the kiddies).

    The overall likability of the personalities of the main characters still made most of the cartoons worthwhile, but they were the template for the future H-B efforts, where with weaker characters the stories were at best good for only one-time viewing.

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  5. yes thank you ! it's so interesting & wonderful to see all these articles on the early H-B stars that appeared all over the country. yes "grouchy yogi" had a lot more soul.

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  6. Our local ABC affiliate was running on our afternoon children's show, Bungles the Clown, " The Yogi Bear show " with full original credits, driving through the sign and all as late as 1968. Also, Huckleberry Hound with the Kellogg's Rooster and all the characters riding in his car. Within in a year, that would all stop. Knowing what I know now, I'm surpised the distributer was still sending those particular prints. I'm glad I was able to see those full credits uncut.

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  7. I remember watching the old syndicated Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear shows on WGN-TV in Chicago in the early 1960s. And one particular memory stays with me --- a special program, apparently only shown once, in which Huckleberry Hound appears with Yogi Bear to help launch the new spin-off show. I would have been about six or seven years old when this aired, so my memory could be way off. I may be misremembering a set of interstitials or something else minor. But I remember it as a special program.

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    1. Jim, was this a half-show hour or a 30 or 60-second promo? This is the first I've heard of anything like this.

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    2. I think he's referring to "Yogi's Birthday Party".

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