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.

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