Sunday, 25 July 2021

Why Reinvent?

Below is Yogi Bear.



Below is Mr. Jinks.



Below is Huckleberry Hound.



At least that’s who they are on this blog, and for those of you who watched the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons starting in 1958. Granted, in the earliest days, each artist drew the characters a little differently, but you knew who they were.

That isn’t what they’ll look like in a new series coming to American streaming service HBO Max.

Some readers seem to want my opinion of the new cartoons coming this week. I’m not sure why. My opinion doesn’t mean a whole lot.

I don’t have a television or subscribe to any streaming services, so I won’t be watching them.

From what I’ve seen, the character designs are not appealing to me, any more than similar design styles that are apparently popular these days. If you like them, fine. If you want to tune in these cartoons, it’s your money.

But here’s the thing I never understand when people try to bring back old characters.

I think in every instance, I hear about the love these newcomers have for the original cartoons. And in the same breath, they decide these characters they love so much have to be, as one web article put it, reinvented for a modern audience.

Why? Why do they need to be reinvented?

Why turn them into something else? Why not stick with what was appealing in the first place?

Is the “modern” viewing audience of young people really that much different today?

Huck was an “everyman,” getting into all kinds of situations. There was no end to potential plots. Now he’s married to a sitcom format where he’s a mayor and other H-B characters are given specific roles. It limits them.

No, my childhood will not be “ruined” by these streaming shorts, any more than they were by the misbegotten Yo Yogi! series. My childhood ended an awful long time ago. You can’t ruin something that doesn’t exist any more.

I’ve never bought the logic that “Oh, if young people see these cartoons, they’ll want to look at the old ones.” Why? They don’t even look like the old Ed Benedict designs. I can’t speak for specific stories and dialogue.

I am happy, though, that artists and writers found work through this new series and hope they enjoyed it. Voice actors will be waiting for those residual cheques. Good for them all. I like to see people employed.

And it could be worse, I suppose. Snagglepuss could be Tennessee Williams.

As for me, I am still quite content to watch the several hundred cartoons made in the ‘50s. They never talked down to me. Some missed the mark but there are enough good ones that I still get a smile after 60 years.

17 comments:

  1. And,of course, no Bill Loose, John Seely, Hoyt Curtin, Geordie Hormel, Jack Shaindlin,Phil Green,etc.as soundtrack music. Gee..wonder about the sound FX? ..btw, off topicl, b ut Jackie Mason died, according to Mark EWvanier, you can cover it in Tralfaz (he influenced the Aardvark in those DFE Ant and Aardvark shorts)

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  2. Yowp, this is one of the best written and heartfelt posts you've done. In addition, you could say that the Hollywood studios, Disney and Warners especially, are bereft of IMAGINATION. That's what created Huck, Yogi, Jinks, Quick Draw and so many more classic characters in the first place. We need NEW and good characters, made for our times, not just retreaded old material. Makes Ren and Stimpy, etc. look pretty good I guess, at least they were original characters.

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    1. Agree with YOWP and agree with Mark Kausler.

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    2. Absolutely on new characters, Mark. Animators are incredibly creative people and are brimming with concepts that would entertain new generations of kids.

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    3. Really disagree with Walt Disney Animation lacking imagination (features at least). I think they are doing well on what they are doing. Plus, despite doing a little revision on some characters on Disney Television Animation, they are doing enough original series and ideas there (one of which is the most watch show on DC and + right now).

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  3. “And it could be worse, I suppose. Snagglepuss could be Tennessee Williams.”

    Er… Don’t look now, but I think they’ve already done that… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exit,_Stage_Left!:_The_Snagglepuss_Chronicles

    Of course, you probably already knew that. :)

    Recently, animator historian Greg Ehrbar interviewed C. H. Greenblatt, the executive producer of HBO’s “Jellystone!” Greenblatt offered what I think is an acceptable explanation for why he changed the character designs. He said that sticking to the original designs (which he bizarrely calls “recreating the cartoons of the past”) is not what he does professionally, it’s not to his taste, and he simply didn’t want to do that. (You can read the whole interview here: http://www.animationscoop.com/jellystone-creator-c-h-greenblatt-this-show-is-a-love-letter/)

    Fair enough, I’d say to Greenblatt. But, ultimately, I’m with you, Yowp: I wish they would stick to the original character designs. There’s no reason why the classic designs would be unappealing to kids today. After all, these characters were popular in their original designs for decades. (And it would also be good if they didn’t change the genders of some of the characters, but that’s another story).

    You also make a good point when you say that kids who watch “Jellystone!” probably won’t want to see the classic shorts. I hadn’t thought of it like that. But it’s interesting to consider what a child whose first exposure to Huck and Yogi is via “Jellystone!” would think about the classic shorts. Would they prefer Ed Benedict’s designs? Or would they be confused, and think the classic Huck isn’t the “real” Huck?

    Also, I think you’ve hit upon a good idea for future revivals of classic characters: go back to the basics. For instance, make Huck an “everyman” again. Don’t feel the need to have him interact with every other H-B character.

    There’s room for optimism. After all, 2011’s “The Looney Tunes Show,” which featured redesigned “Looney Tunes” characters interacting in a sitcom format, eventually led to 2020’s “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” which features shorts in the tradition of the original theatrical shorts, with more Bob Clampett-esque character designs. Maybe something similar will happen for the H-B characters. So, we should certainly hope for “Jellystone!”’s success. Who knows? It could just be the key to reviving classic H-B characters for a new generation.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Jellystone! Honestly, I feel a lot better about disliking the character redesign and gender swap now that I know even YOU don’t like it. YOUR opinion matters to ME.

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  5. I ask Jerry this, and he said it might be for marketing purposes i.e. creating a new brand of the characters. At least, that my just of it.

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  6. Hans Christian Brando25 July 2021 at 17:30

    The character designs didn't change all that much. Yogi's flesh face was turned into a muzzle; that's about it. John Krifalski returned to the original design for his '90s Yogi cartoons.

    While we're on the subject, I wonder how many middle-aged former "Sesame Street" viewers mourn the ultimate loss of the green Grover, the orange Oscar, the pin-headed Big Bird; and the garish-shirted, purple-nosed Ernie of that show's first season.

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  7. I can't understand how they came up with this project... I think all these designers don't know the history of HB and who Ed Benedict was.

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  8. Yowp, Really nothing I can add. You and others on this blog have pretty much expressed my sentiments, character designs, " modernizing " the characters for todays kids, etc. I hope the voice actors listen to hours and hours of Daws, Don and the rest of the original actors. Try to capture some of the little nuances in their characters.

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  9. I had hopes for the Jellystone project after the HBO Max Looney Tunes turned out pretty good. However, the trailer that popped up for this was terrible. The characters and voices are way off and it looks like story wise it is going to souped up, non stop, action. Raises the question as to what the audience is supposed to be. Greenblatt has stated it's not the 60 year old white male trying to relive his childhood. I would ask then why use those character's names. Outside of maybe Yogi, these characters have largely not been exposed to today's youth so using those names won't mean anything to them. As others have stated, why not just make up your own characters? He had to know the backlash he would get from the classic fans. If they show up on You Tube or Cartoon Network (like the new Looney Tunes recently did) I'll give them a look but I go in already prejudiced.

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  10. I thought I was the only one who thought "Jellystone!" looked like crap.

    I was looking forward to the show because we haven't gotten much with these characters in a while, I love C.H. Greenblatt's work (particularly "Chowder"), and both "Looney Tunes Cartoons" and the "Wacky Races" reboot are/were so good, I thought a Hanna-Barbera show along the lines of those would be great. Then the first clips of the show came out, and I was baffled by how bad they looked. I don't really like the character designs. The voice cast - mainly celebrities as opposed to professional voice actors - is wrong (C.H. Greenblatt sounds nothing like Boo-Boo). Gender-swapping characters like Squiddly Diddly and Jabberjaw is a poor solution for the "lack of female characters" problem. The "LOL SO RANDOM" stuff is off-putting and ill-fitting for these characters. It doesn't even feel like a C.H. Greenblatt show. I don't know what went wrong here.

    At least Jeff Bergman is voicing Yogi Bear and Mr. Jinks (and also Ranger Smith, Lippy the Lion and Wally Gator), so they'll at least SOUND like themselves even if they don't ACT like themselves. That's more than we can say for Boo-Boo, Peter Potamus, or Touché Turtle.

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  11. "Greenblatt has stated it's not the 60 year old white male trying to relive his childhood."

    Greenblatt did not say that, it was one of the story people in a YouTube rant because he was hurt and was venting about the attacks on his work. it is a grossly unfair statement, it was his narrow opinion, it was naively ageist, very inaccurate, and not that of Greenblatt. That is exactly why I directed the interview the way I did, knowing full well about that statement, and Greenblatt did not express that same sentiment in any way. Say what you want about the show, but please don't spread incorrect information, especially to direct agression, "Mr. Unknown."

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  12. The show is very hit or miss but I find it very telling that the Scooby gang is nowhere to be found (at least in the episodes i've seen so far). WB knows that they're the only HB characters today's kids actually likes and doesn't want them slumming in a mid Yogi reboot.

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  13. I gave it a chance, but that took most of a half hour I'd now like back. There is absolutely no respect given to any aspect of the original characters, and the assembly-line groteques masquerading as characters we once loved sound nothing like the originals. Seeing Augie, Baba Looey or Loopy de Loop as girls must've been a howler in story conferences but the whole thing is wrapped in that TEEN TITANS GO sensibility of violence and vulgarism for its own sake, and blaming kids for demanding that kind of stuff is incredibly unfair to children. I can't imagine a child who'd be amused by watching Cindy surgically implant a device which gives Yogi a ravenous appetite and bottomless stomach so that he winds up eating all of his Jellystone friends (the actual "plot" of the first segment), even in this day when many other cartoons feature ugliness on this scale. I have no problem with the idea of company-wide crossover cartoons, but it kills me that we're in an animation age where there are certainly a plethora of ultra-skilled animators who could absolutely do the best-looking H-B cartoons in the Ed Benedict designs if only someone had that ambitiion. The ugliness of the redesigns ALMOST makes me hunger for the Kricfalusi retro designs (not quite). We're now in an age where computer A-I generators could duplicate virtually any of the original voices as long as good impressionists could provide the cadence and accenting. So regarding JELLYSTONE: I say nevermore. And Don, consider yourself lucky that you have no way to watch this visual and mental torture.

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