Saturday 10 February 2024

Super Bowl Bear

Since it is the Super Bowl weekend (at least if you’re reading this at the time it was posted), let us look at the work of Carlo Vinci in Yogi Bear’s football opus. Rah Rah Bear (1959).

Here’s a graceful run cycle by Carlo. Yogi lopes across the football field, waving his arm and turning his head toward the crowd. 12 drawings. They are shot one frame apiece.

Here’s how the cycle looks slowed down. Background by Bob Gentle.

“It’s a touchdown!” yells the play-by-play announcer (Don Messick). Notice Yogi and the helicopter go in front of the goal posts.

It would have made a neat shot if they went between the posts (with the one in the foreground having to be put on a separate cel) but the chopper’s too big.

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera explained to syndicated columnist Charles Witbeck how this cartoon came about:
“You know that Yogi and Huckleberry Hound don’t just belong to the kids,” Hanna continued. Grown-ups know about our animal friends.
“An example. In late November we had a special story on Yogi Bear and the Chicago Bears pro football team. When the Bears heard about it, they were delighted. George Halas, coach and owner, said we could do anything we wanted. “We first got the idea,” Barbera said, “when I saw a headline in late September on the sports pages. It went something like ‘Giants to Clobber Bears.’ I saw a football story with Yogi reading the headline and saying: ‘Us bears have got to stick together.’ So Yogi goes back and helps the burly bears win. It’s kinda cute.”
Barbera never let facts get in the way of one of his stories. The Giants never played the Bears in 1959. Or even 1958. However, the Chicago Cardinals under Jim Lee Howell opened their 1958 season on September 28th with a 37-7 home-field loss to the New York Giants. Considering the cartoon was on TV a little less than two months later, even with Hanna-Barbera’s hurried production schedule, it’s doubtful the cartoon could have been inspired so soon.

Before the era of theme parks, Hanna-Barbera’s star characters appeared in person—thanks to large costumes—starting around September 1958—at various places, including football stadiums. So it was that Honest Ed Justin booked “Yogi” to appear in Chicago at a game between the Bears and 49ers on November 15th (the Bears won, 14-3). Not coincidentally, Rah Rah Bear aired in Chicago ten days later.

Rah Rah Bear made another appearance—on record. In July 1961, Colpix released “Here Comes Huckleberry Hound” with “soundtracks” from four cartoons, including Rah Rah Bear. Huck was used as a narrator to link scenes and the original stock music from the cartoon isn’t heard.

Speaking of Yogi and football, one of the players on the 1960 Xavier University Musketeers in Cincinnati, Dick Buechler, was nicknamed Yogi Bear. It was because he was as fierce as a bear and had nothing to do with pic-a-nic baskets. (After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1963, Buechler was stationed at the air field of the Naval Auxiliary in Milton, Florida).

One other Yogi-football connection can be found in the pages of the Star News-Vanguard of Sept. 30, 1961, where the coach of Hamilton High used an offensive formation against the Culver City Centaurs called “Yogi Bear.” From what I can tell from the story, it involved throwing to the quarterback in the clear. The plan was tried several times and failed miserably.

Evidently head coach Frank Cullom was not smarter than the average bear.

Saturday 3 February 2024

Quick Draw McGraw on Blu-ray

Are we ever, EVER, going to see The Quick Draw McGraw Show on any kind of home video format?

I get asked that a lot.

Let’s hear from someone who should have an answer.

First, the background.

A wonderful man named Earl Kress had been hired to help get Hanna-Barbera’s early half-hours out on DVD. In 2005, the first season of The Huckleberry Hound Show was released. Earl had searched through the studio’s records, finding things he said they didn’t know they had. He found cue sheets, episode guides, footage lists for opening credits, even footage itself; all kinds of great things.

Unfortunately, Huck didn’t sell as well as was hoped. But Quick Draw was put on the list for release.

Then the project went nowhere.

At the time, Earl told readers of the Golden Age Cartoon forum that the half-hour shows were not intact that he could find (in colour, anyway), some of the bridges could not be found, and some of the footage was not in the best condition.

But the main problem was music rights.

When the Hanna-Barbera studio opened in 1957, the most inexpensive way to include background music in a film was to license a stock music library. Hanna-Barbera signed television deals for two very popular ones—the Langlois Filmusic library, “composed” by Jack Shaindlin, and the Capitol Hi-Q library, created in 1956 from the works of numerous composers, but updated by Capitol record every year. Ruff and Reddy cartoons used these libraries. So did three of the four seasons of The Huckleberry Hound Show and two of the three seasons of The Quick Draw McGraw Show. (Afterwards, Hoyt Curtin was hired by Hanna-Barbera to compose cartoon cues that belonged to the studio).

When the Huckleberry Hound DVD was released in 2005, Capitol still had rights to the stock music and a deal was struck to clear it for home video use. That soon changed. The music, as Earl explained, had reverted to the composers or their heirs, and trying to get it approved for DVD was thwarted by demands from two estates. He rather forlornly expressed the feeling the odds were against Quick Draw cartoons—at least the ones with the Shaindlin and Capitol music—ever being released on home video.

We’re getting close to 20 years later. There’s still no Quick Draw home video, excepting a small number of cartoons with Curtin’s cues on compilation discs.

Enter George Feltenstein.

Among animation fans, George is best-known for his years with the Warner Home Archive, overseeing releases of various Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. Hanna-Barbera now falls under his company’s eye. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read a promotional puff piece about some H-B series or specials I think are really lame and yelled “What about Quick Draw!?!”

George has answered that question in an interview with music expert-turned-author Greg Ehrbar.

You can hear the full interview here. Here’s what Mr. F. told Greg.
“What we face with music clearance on television programming is pretty horrific. Thankfully, most Hanna-Barbera productions don’t have music clearance issues, thanks to the late, great Hoyt Curtin. His work-for-hire compositions that were so unforgettable, those are not a problem. It’s when something else was introduced from outside the bubble, that’s where things get complicated.

“Of course, the early years when they didn’t have work-for-hire compositions in the very, very early shows; for example, that’s why there’s no Ruff and Reddy DVD.

“Well, we would like to change that, and we’re now finding ways to make some of those things happen. You take everything a step at a time. I don’t give up easily. [...]

“I still will pursue the projects I would like to see. All four seasons of Huckleberry Hound. I would like to see Quick Draw McGraw. I’d like to see New Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. But, in the meantime, we have such a gold mine of treasures that are clear, that are ready for release, or that can be made ready for release, and that’s the direction we’re taking right now.”
So George’s attitude is “never say ‘never’.” But it’s more of a hope than anything else. There’s no indication from him anything has actually been done about Quick Draw (or Huck), or whether he has to convince management to agree to demands of the stock music rights holders (which was done for the Warner Bros.’ “Seely Six” cartoons from 1958) as the decision certainly wouldn’t be his alone. But those two fine series ARE on his wish list and he’s pledging to work to get them out. Just not now. For now, we can expect to see Blu-rays of cartoons from the ‘80s. Well, I guess someone likes them.

In the meantime, you’ll have to continue to enjoy Quick Draw McGraw bootlegs, as slightly murky and defaced with TV bugs as they are.

Incidentally, this should be a good year for early Hanna-Barbera fans when it comes to books. Greg has written Hanna-Barbera: The Recorded History. Greg certainly is the right person to write this, as he knows more about H-B Records, Colpix and the Golden Records that featured Hanna-Barbera characters than anyone I can think of. And there’s a bit on music used in the actual cartoons.

And Kevin Sandler and Tyler Williams have written Hanna and Barbera: Conversations, which should be out in May. I intend to talk to Kevin and post the interview here as we get closer to the publication date. When it comes to the early days of the studio, there are fewer and fewer people around to converse with. I had the great pleasure of chatting with layout man Jerry Eisenberg and writer Tony Benedict some time ago, as well as retired KFWB disc jockey Elliot Field, who provided voices for the studio in 1959 before moving to Detroit. I’m looking forward to both books.

Oh, and a fruitful conclusion to George Feltenstein’s idea to let us all see Quick Draw McGraw in his pristine glory.

By the way, George, if you’re reading and would like send me scans of Quick Draw cue sheets, I’ll happily accept them.

P.S.: People also ask me about the status of this blog. I honestly don’t have time to write a lot now. I’m on to other things in real life. However, I have put together a number of posts and there’ll be something once a month for the next number of months, the same as last year, but the blog is pretty much retired.