Tuesday 30 January 2024

Birthday Bear

The Yogi Bear Show wasn’t ready when it went on the air for the first time on this date in 1961.

The problem was simple. Hanna-Barbera didn’t have enough lead time to get the series together.

Kellogg’s and its ad agency, Leo Burnett, had worked out a deal with Hank Saperstein to have a half-hour syndicated slot filled with a new series starring Mr. Magoo, who had been appearing in short cartoons that UPA had been selling to individual stations. But then Saperstein called it off, not liking all the terms of the deal.

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera quickly filled the breach, announcing on October 12, 1960 that Yogi Bear would be getting his own show. It seems that 3 ½ months wasn’t enough time to get the cartoons together; the company was extremely stretched, with The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Loopy de Loop in production. So Yakky Doodle did not appear on the first show (at least in some cities). Fans were treated to an Augie Doggie re-run instead.

Among the stations that aired Yogi on January 30, 1961 were KING-TV, Seattle; KMTV, Omaha; KTVU, Oakland; WBTV, Charlotte; WMCT-TV, Memphis; WDSU-TV, New Orleans; WGR-TV, Buffalo; WSB-TV, Atlanta; WNCT, Greenville, N.C.; WCPO-TV, Cincinnati; KTUL-TV, Tulsa; KRON-TV, San Francisco; WPIX, New York; WPRO-TV, Providence; KELO, Sioux Falls; KOCO-TV, Oklahoma City; KTVT, Fort Worth; KMBC-TV, Kansas City and KFSD, San Diego.

Yogi first appeared on The Huckleberry Hound Show in 1958, but surpassed the blue dog in the Hanna-Barbera star system. The same week his show debuted, he appeared in the Sunday comic section of newspapers across the U.S. And the company’s first feature film, eventually named “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” for the star, made it to theatre screens in 1964. Huck was nowhere to be seen (the feature did include a snickering dog which I maintain was inspired by the bulldog in Tex Avery’s Bad Luck Blackie at MGM and later was turned into Muttley).

By 1961, Yogi was firmly entrenched as a denizen of Jellystone Park, with a permanent sidekick and an adversary. When he began in 1958, that wasn’t altogether the case; in fact, Ranger Smith was did not appear in the first season of the Huck show. Yogi was put into various plots, including spot gags as he tried to catch a trout (and failed), attempted to get across a freeway, dealt with an annoying duckling that later evolved into Yakky Doodle and matched wits with that fine dog that deserved stardom, Yowp.

Younger cartoon fans who have been raised on lord-knows-what are still exposed to the rhyming bear. Here is an article about the world’s largest Yogi. I take issue with one of the bullet points. I have never heard Yogi was “inspired by Smokey Bear.” His vocal qualities and costume bear (yuck, yuck, yuck) some similarities to Art Carney’s Ed Norton on The Honeymooners, but a similarly dressed character (silent) appears in Hanna and Barbera’s MGM short Down Beat Bear (1956).

And because someone will mention this if I don’t, the characters were re-worked several years ago in a streaming series.

You can read reviews of all the Yogi cartoons made between 1958 and 1962 on the blog, and more about his show in this post and this post.

Monday 1 January 2024

The Biggest Show in Town

One of the earliest public praises for The Huckleberry Hound Show came from the “Musing the Muses” column by Ms Jean Saxon in the Orange Leader of November 9, 1958. The series was available for viewers in Orange, Texas on KFDM-TV in Beaumont and KPLC-TV in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Her assessment was bang on and echoed other critics of the day.

I’ve been meaning to clue you in on a new cartoon series that is appearing on both Channel 6 and Channel 7 Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. The series is called “Huckleberry Hound” in honor of the hero.
Not since Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Pluto ventured into the moves a quarter of a century ago has such a delightful company of characters been created. Huck’s playmates include Yogi Bear and his patient little friend, Boo Boo Bear; a cantankerous cat, Mrs. Jinks [sic]; and two mice, Dixie and Pixie. They were developed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who produced and directed “Tom and Jerry,” which won the[m] seven Oscars.
On the short basis of one preview and one show, I predict that Huck and his pals will prove a hit in television not only among children but among adults and those of us in our second childhood. There is a sneaky kind of satire woven through the cartoons—watch for it to tickle your funny-bone.
Actually, it wasn’t her assessment. The last two paragraphs are mostly word-for-word what Larry Wolters wrote in the Chicago Tribune on September 29. Nothing like a little journalistic plagiarism.

The Leader occasionally gave a plot-line for what was likely the first cartoon of the three to air on the show that week. As you likely know, not every station got its own 16mm print, so they were “bicycled” to smaller stations. As an example, show K-005 with Pistol Packin’ Pirate aired on the two stations above on November 27, 1958. Other stations got their prints a month before that.

The drawing you see above is likely publicity art drawn from the time the show debuted. It and what you can see below are from the late Earl Kress’ files. It appears he photocopied some photocopies. Whether some are from colouring books or were drawn long after the show debuted, I don’t know. The drawing of Yogi on roller skates above is almost the same pose in the title card to The Runaway Bear (1959), one of a number of first-season cartoons without Boo Boo.

Below is a pose of Huck reminiscent of Lion Tamer Huck (1959). I don’t know of any cartoon involving Huck and a fish. The last picture of the gang is a favourite. Some time ago, Jim Engle inked and painted a version of it which you can find on this blog.

Denise Kress send me more art that Earl had in storage. The Yowp blog is retired but if I can make time, I’ll post some more, including a colour chart.