Saturday, 17 March 2018

Robin Hood Bear

One of the first Yogi Bear cartoons was called Robin Hood Yogi, where Yogi decides to assume the guise of Robin Hood and rob goodies from tourists so he can eat them. The Robin Hood idea was revisited when Yogi got his own show as a way to introduce all the characters before the first cartoon.

“Scalin’ a castle with me is no hassle,” he says, before he crashes into it. He must have learned this from El Kabong.

Next, his butt is punctured by an arrow. “This guy’s in a rut. He’s some kind of a nut.” For some reason Snagglepuss is firing at him. “You were expecting maybe the Sheriff of Nottingham,” Yogi asks. “I don’t know about the naughty part, but you are kind of a ham.”

Quarterstaff jousting sets up the next gag with Yakky Doodle. Yakky is played by Red Coffey in this bumper, not Jimmy Weldon. “Use your noodle, Yakky Doodle. Don’t be scared, Yogi’s prepared.” Yakky gets past Yogi on a log over a stream easily. He conks the bear on the head and Yogi lands in the water. That still doesn’t end the rhymes. “Nice try, little guy,” says Yogi, now in the stream.

Next, Yogi reaches into Ye Royal Kitchen to grab something to eat. He catches a bear-stopping mouse trap instead. “Old Robin Hood’s caught with the goods.”

In the final scene, they’re no longer in castle-dotted Sherwood Forest. They’re in front of a TV set, awaiting the Yogi Show, which makes his “merry men merry.”

Ken Muse is the animator of the bumper. Dick Thomas backgrounds, I think, despite the blue trees.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Little Red Riding Huck Backgrounds

Art Lozzi is responsible for one of my favourite background paintings in one of my favourite Huckleberry Hound cartoons. Joe Barbera and Charlie Shows plopped Huck in the story of Little Red Riding Hood in a cartoon called Little Red Riding Huck. Huck tries to be helpful in his usual way but ends up getting arrested, while Red, the wolf and grandma just want to act out the story in the book as they have for generations.

Because it’s a fairy-tale setting, Lozzi paints some large, colourful mushrooms in the woods. I’ve snipped this together the best I can.

The backgrounds in this cartoon are decorative, yet fairly simple looking. Here’s a clearing in the woods. Lozzi decided to go in for flowers in this cartoon.

Two different yard exteriors. The fence on the left is on an overlay. That means Huck can walk from behind the overlay and look like he’s coming through the entrance in the fence. I like how the tree in the first background has various colours.

Here are two house exteriors. Again, the portion of the house on the right is on an overlay so Huck can walk through the entrance. The welcome mat is on a cel as it lifts up later in the cartoon as the wolf tries to get rid of Huck.

And two interiors. Not as flat as a UPA design might have been. Note the glazing effect on the window.

There are lots of great elements in this cartoon—the annoyed wolf talking to the audience; Huck in a lame disguise as an ice-cream man, the college geek that somehow finds his way into the story. Lozzi’s backgrounds enhance the storyline very nicely, just another reason for the sudden popularity of the Huck show and its 1960 Emmy win.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Yakky Doodle in Easter Duck

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson, Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Cat – Daws Butler; Woman, boy – Jean Vander Pyl; Pet Store owner, Green Cat – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-17.
Copyright 1961 Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Yakky is an Easter present that its owner’s cat wants to eat.

You know the song:

“We’ve got a Yakky for sale!
A Yakky Doodle for sale!
Won’t you buy him, take him home and try him?
A Yakky for sale!”

Oh, wait. That’s Magilla Gorilla, isn’t it? Pardon my confusion. In this cartoon, Yakky is in the front window of a pet store and no one wants to buy him. In fact, there are a number of familiar routines in this cartoon that pre-date its first appearance on TV (Magilla came a few years later). It seems to me a pet store birdie was part of the plot of Ain’t She Tweet?, a Sylvester-Tweety pairing. The “kiss the little birdie” bit in this cartoon can be found in both Gift Wrapped and Catty Cornered, another couple of Warners cartoons. And two cats struggling over a bird can be found in Truck or Tweet. All of those cartoons were written by Warren Foster, who came up with the story for this one.

Ah, but Warners Bros. isn’t the only studio from where ideas were borrowed. The whole concept of a duck gift for Easter was used in Happy Go Ducky, an MGM cartoon directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera and featuring the duckling that became Yakky Doodle.

Oh, and while we’re talking about borrowing...

The cat appears to be closely related to Mr. Jinks. The Hanna-Barbera house design is pretty obvious.

Instead of a Tweety sandwich, we get a “duck burger.” And the granny in this one clocks the cat with a broom instead of an umbrella, as does the Warners’ Granny. And there’s the “follow that cab” joke where one character is induced to get into a cab. The second character tells the driver to drive off and then the camera moves to show the first character is right behind the second one.

Anyway, it’s all familiar territory for Foster, who I believe only wrote this one cartoon for Yakky. He manages to resist having Yakky call the cat a “bad old puddy tat.”

Should I run down the story? Yakky holds up signs to try to get bought from a store. Finally, a woman comes in to take the duck home as an Easter present for her granddaughter. The woman’s cat (Daws in a watered down version of his Jerry Lewis voice) likes the idea of a duck breakfast. Granny doesn’t. Broom. Yakky feels rejected by the cat and walks out of the house. Granny meanwhile threatens the cat if anything happens to Yakky while she’s gone (no phoney cat-gut violin-string playing like at Warners). Now the cat has to find Yakky. “Quack, quack,” the cat says over and over, looking around the neighbourhood. Cut to a boy. Boy turns to camera. “Poor mixed-up pussy cat.” Nice interruption gag.

A green cat in a garbage can has decided to claim Yakky. The two cats fight over the duck, clobbering each other with something before running away. The cab gag is tossed in. The cuts are pretty quick for a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The running is accompanied part of the time by the chase variation of “Meet the Flintstones.” Some of the fight is a simple shot of Yakky with the camera shaking; we don’t get to see it.

Fade to Yakky pulling the roughed up Jinks stand-in home. Granny decides because the two get along so well, she’s going to give Yakky to the cat as an Easter present. The cat repeats some earlier dialogue from the green cat—“Ya should’na taken my duck”—to end the cartoon.

Don Patterson handled the animation. There are a lot of swirls to indicate a character zipping off scene, and only one drawing of multiples when the cat rushes around to make the duck burger.

We’ve now reviewed all the cartoons in the Yakky Doodle series. Maltese wrote the majority, with Tony Benedict spelling him off. What did Maltese think of Yakky? I can’t say for sure, but perhaps it’s telling that in a 1977 interview, when Maltese read a list of series he wrote at Hanna-Barbera, toward the bottom he said “Chopper Dog and Canary.” Canary! Yakky and his predecessor ducks in the MGM theatrical cartoons were doted on by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera but Maltese didn’t quite recall him. Still, the series has its moments and some praise should go to Jimmy Weldon for his fine voice work. His Yakky is expressive with diction clear enough to comprehend him.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, March 1968

Climate change affects the Yogi Bear newspaper comics 50 years ago this month—where the chill of winter is in the air with one exception, where it’s suddenly the middle of a hot summer.

Children appear in three of the five stories. There’s no room for Boo Boo this month.

Richard Holliss supplied these comics from his collection.

In the March 3rd comic, there’s a crook in Jellystone Park who’s so dumb, he thinks a bear carries a wallet. Mind you, he’s sitting in the middle of the forest in several inches of snow waiting for someone to rob. We learn Jellystone has an outdoor hockey rink with stands. I don’t know why Yogi just doesn’t dump the guy over the fence in the last panel.

Hockey was on Gene Hazleton’s mind (or whoever else may have written this), as it drives the story in the March 10th comic. We have cutsy animals in the top row and cutsy tykes in the rest of the comic. “Keen-o-neet-o” and “parra-keet-o” has to be the worst.

I like the perspective drawing in the last row of the March 17th comic with Yogi in the foreground and Freddie in the background. The first row is just a bit of filler for newspapers that didn’t run the complete comic.

Would Yogi Bear really whip Ranger Smith? Really? That’s what we get in the March 24th comic.

Maybe that whipping did some good. On March 31st we get the passive version of passive/aggressive Smith. The writer revisits the idea of Yogi Bear telling tall tales about his ancestors. The one kid in the final comic appears to have been reading Peanuts too much.

You can expand each comic by clicking on it.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Take Me To Your Leader

Were the 1950s the Golden Age of Outer Space? People sure seem preoccupied with it back then, judging by all the movies and TV shows made about it. Even cartoons. Warner Bros., Paramount (Famous) and Walter Lantz all had cartoons about space exploration or aliens. Gerald McBoing Boing ended up on the Planet Moo. And the very first Ruff and Reddy adventure involved robots from the planet Muni-Mula (“That’s aluminum spelled backwards,” Don Messick would remind you).

So it was that space craft and such found their way into a couple of the bumpers on the Huckleberry Hound Show.

Watching this opening mini-cartoon frame-by-frame, you can see how a character will move one body part in the next frame, and then hold it while one or two other parts move in the following frame. Heads are moving in all kinds of directions, too. I admire Frank Paiker or whoever it was working the camera trying to keep all those cel instructions in order.

If you’ve seen some of these great first-season circus setting bumpers, you’ll have noticed Huck stretching his head and rounding his lips to make an “Oooo” sound (as in “cartoon”). Even Yogi does it in this mini-cartoon.

I love Mr. Jinks. Here are some good expressions. Not a lot of animation, but you know what the cat is thinking when he says “Featuring yours truly, Jinks the Vill-i-an.”

Yogi wags his head. Five positions from almost head-on to profile.

Yogi dips his head, looks at his knuckles and scratches them against his body. This is one of those bits of business that add to a character.

The premise behind this cartoon-between-the-cartoons is Huck descends to the ground from his saucer and acts like an alien. “Take me to your leader, Earth folks,” he says to the rest of the cast. Pixie and Dixie beg off. They’re getting ready to show some Pixie and Dixie cartoons. Yogi puts in a word for his cartoons. Huck reveals that he’s the leader, as we’ll see in the next Huck cartoon. The cast, in the saucer, flies left to right across a repeating background. Fade out.

And here’s the evil Jinks, slowed down.