Movie: The four most recognizable words in American animation are likely "Walt Disney" and "Hanna Barbera". The first two words referring to the legendary guy who brought the world numerous classics (as well as some really cool theme parks) and the last two referring to William Hanna and Joseph Barbera; the founders of a cartoon studio that set the stage for televised animation throughout the world. Today's review of The Yogi Bear Show: The Complete Series focuses on one of the most beloved, well known animated cartoons ever to hit the small screen. Initially, Yogi Bear was a fill in cartoon on the Huckleberry Hound show but he proved so popular that the breakfast cereal company sponsoring the cute blue hound saw fit to commission a show about Yogi back in 1961. Over the years, Yogi has been released in various incarnations but the original show offered up 33 episodes of side-splitting fun for all ages.
Yogi's theme song went like this: "Yogi Bear is smarter than the average bear,
Yogi Bear is always in the ranger's hair.
At a picnic table you will find him there
Stuffing down more goodies than the average bear.
He will sleep till noon but before it's dark,
He'll have every picnic basket that's in Jellystone Park.
Yogi has it better than a millionaire
That's because he's smarter than the average bear.
Yeah, Yogi Bear was one of a kind alright. The three main characters of the show were Yogi Bear (voiced by Daws Butler), Boo Boo Bear (voiced by Don Messick) and Ranger Smith (also by Don Messick). Yogi was blessed with a bottomless pit of a stomach, preferring human food over the usual nuts and berries bears were supposed to eat. Tall, pushy, and always working an angle, he seemed patterned more after Phil Silvers' character from Sgt. Bilko than the popular sport icon Yogi Berra he was named after. Boo Boo was his little sidekick that was always pointing out that the whatever mischief Yogi was getting into would be frowned upon by the leading law enforcement officer of the National Park (Jellystone Park) they resided in, Ranger Smith. The Ranger knew that anytime picnic baskets were pilfered, Yogi would be behind it and he kept a constant vigil on Yogi's activities as a result, typically threatening to ship the erstwhile bear off to a zoo.
For Yogi however, the chase was half the fun as he devised scheme after scheme, usually winning in the end of each episode. Even forty five years later, Yogi as the protagonist still wins us over as one of the original "hero-thieves" who had no noble cause to break the law for, only a hungry stomach. The animation style used to bring the bear to life was limited with most of the real action held off-screen and supported by numerous sound effects as well as the use of static cells filmed in such a way to convey motion when the mouth was often the only thing actually moving. This was typical of the Hanna Barbera method of animation and allowed their cartoons to be made far more economically and faster than Walt Disney or other contemporaries, accelerating the path to the newly popular television format.
The Yogi Bear Show consisted of three cartoons; the first being a Yogi Bear cartoon, and the follow-up two being one of Snagglepuss and another of Yakky Doodle. Snagglepuss was a pink lion (much like the infamous Pink Panther) who was always trying to evade a nearsighted hunter while hamming it up as an actor. Yakky was a baby duck that had lost his way from his mother and settled in under the protection of a large bulldog named Chopper (much to the chagrin of a cat always attempting to make him the main course of dinner). Originally, Yogi and company would hawk Kellogg's cereal (a typical advertising scheme of the time, even on primetime shows starring people, not animated characters) and the show included numerous commercials with the characters. Thankfully, the first disc of this set offers them up on the plate as well as the episodes, making it a nostalgic trip down memory lane. The picture quality of the commercials might be a lot weaker than the shows themselves but I loved every moment of them nonetheless. Here's a breakdown of the episodes on the four disc set, noting that the first would be a Yogi Bear cartoon, the second a Snagglepuss cartoon, and the third, a Yakky Doodle cartoon:
1) Oinks and Boinks/Major Operation/Out of Luck Duck
2) Booby Trapped Bear/Feud For Thought/Hop, Duck, and Listen
3) Gleesome Threesome/Live and Lion/Dog Flight
4) A Bear Pair/Fraidy Cat Lion/Easter Duck
5) Spy Guy/Royal Ruckus/Foxy Duck
6) Do or Diet/The Roaring Lion/Railroaded Duck
7) Bears and Bees/Paws for Applause/Duck Hunting
8) Biggest Show-Off on Earth/Knights and Daze/Whistle-Stop and Go
9) Genial Genie/The Gangsters All Here/Duck the Music
10) Cub Scout Boo Boo/Having a Bowl/School Fool
11) Home Sweet Jellystone/Diaper Desperado/Oh Duckter
12) Love-Bugged Bear/Arrow Error/It's a Duck's Life
13) Bare Faced Bear/Twice Shy/Happy Birthdaze
14) Slap Happy Birthday/Cloak and Stagger/Horse Collared
15) A Bear Living/Remember Your Lions/Ha-Choo To You!
16) Disguise and Gals/Remember the Daze/Foxy Proxy
17) Touch and Go-Go-Go/Express Trained/Count To Tenant
18) Acrobatty Yogi/Jangled Jungle/Shrunken Headache
19) Ring-a-Ding Picnic Basket/Lion Tracks/The Most Ghost
20) Iron Hand Jones/Fight Fright/Stamp Scamp
21) Yogi's Pest Guest/Lions Share Sheriff/All's Well That Eats Well
22) Missile Bound Yogi/Cagey Lion/Foxy Friends
23) Loco Locomotive/Charge That Lion/Mad Mix Up
24) Missile-Bound Bear/Be My Ghost/Beach Brawl
25) A Wooin' Bruin/Spring Hits a Snag/Duck Seasoning
26) Yogi in the City/Legal Eagle Lion/Hasty Tasty
27) Queen Bee for a Day/Don't Know It Poet/Nobody Home Duck
28) Batty Bear/Tail Wag Snag/Dog Pounded
29) Droop-a-Long Yogi/Rent and Rave/Witch Duckter
30) Threadbare Bear/Footlight Fright/Full Course Meal
31) Ice Box Raider/One Two Many/Baddie Buddies
32) Bear Foot Soldiers/Royal Rodent/Judo Ex-Expert
33) Yogi's Birthday Party Parts 1, 2, and 3
So what do you rate a classic cartoon that has stood the test of time so well, offered up in a boxed set of four discs, with no discernable edits? Had there been a few audio commentaries or better extras, I'm sure it would've rated higher but I think the nature of the set itself was easily worth a rating of Recommended or better. The funny thing is that I've watched these cartoons all my life and I found a couple I hadn't seen before as well as the original commercials offered up on the first disc. They looked good, sounded good, and had no noticeable edits (I timed a couple off a local syndicated channel to see about length; the aired show lasted nearly two minutes less!). If you think Yogi was "smarter than the average bear"; you'll be smart too and pick this one up for your own collection.
Picture: The Yogi Bear Show: The Complete Series was presented in the same 1.33:1 ratio full frame color it was shot in on 35mm film over four decades ago. There were some minor scratches from time to time and even some minor flaws with the picture but as a lifelong fan of the show, I've never seen the episodes look this clean, lending some credence to the advertised claim that they were remastered and "fully restored". The animation style may not have been all that detailed but the clean lines, the bright colors, and the overall care put into the DVD set was a nice change from other shows that have been slapped onto disc without a second thought. Otherwise, I haven't heard a peep about possible cuts or edits as with other shows and there were more than a few politically incorrect moments on the set that might've been tossed had the series been made more recently.
Sound: The show was presented in the original 1.0 monaural as cleaned up by the Dolby Digital process. The show sounded very clean and crisp with less hiss than I remember on my television set when I used to turn it up. This aspect of the show appears to be another area cleaned up for the DVD release and I enjoyed it all the more because of it. I have heard of no alternations on the audio track (unlike some other Hanna Barbera releases in the last year) and didn't notice any when I listened to the show.
Extras: Considering the value oriented pricing of the set, I wasn't expecting a lot of extra and there weren't many to speak of. There was a small collectable litho cel by Bob Singer and Hector Martinez that was extremely cute by Clampett Studios to start off with. The first disc offered up a "Time Capsule" version of the pilot episode, complete with commercials as originally aired. The commercials were well worth a look even if some of them haven't aged well. The second disc offered up a short feature on the making of the special sound effects for the cartoons at the Hanna Barbera studios. The third disc offered up some stills and a sketch come to life that was cute to see. Lastly, the fourth disc offered up a special called "Yogi Gets Global" that showcased the picnic basket thieving bear in an episode with a variety of dubbed languages. The case itself was a foldout version with artwork and two sets of overlapping discs, contained in a plastic case.
Final Thoughts: The Yogi Bear Show: The Complete Series was a trip down memory lane for me as I watched the numerous episodes that were contained on the four discs. I would've liked to have seen the original episodes from the Huckleberry Hound show added in as well but that set is being released concurrently so I suppose the plan is that I buy that one two (and I liked that character too). In all, it was cleaned up and there was a lot of value here to enjoy so check out the set if you have any interest in a smarter than average bear.
If you enjoy animation, take a look at some of the recommendations by DVDTalk's twisted cast of reviewers in their Best Of Anime 2003 and Best Of Anime 2004 article or regular column Anime Talk, all of which are related to shows like Yogi Bear.