It arrived a few days late...but the tree is still up and the kids are home this week, so who cares? Warner Bros.' direct mail-order service, the Archive Collection (an increasingly important resource for hard-core DVD fans), has released Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper, the 1982 syndicated television special that finds Yogi and Boo Boo embroiled in more holiday hijinks, with some high-profile Hanna-Barbera friends along for the ride. The series finale of the original Yogi Bear Show is included as an extra, adding a tad more padding to this slim, bare-bones release.
Christmas, 1982. Ranger Smith (voice talent of Don Messick), after escorting the last tourists out of Jellystone Park for the season, is looking forward to three months of peace and quiet, safe in the knowledge that pic-a-nic basket-stealing Yogi Bear (voice talent of Daws Butler), and his sweet-natured friend, Boo Boo (voice talent of Don Messick), are hibernating for the winter. Not so fast, Ranger Smith. A knock on his cozy ranger station door reveals Hokey Wolf, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse, Augie Doggie (voice talents of Daws Butler) and Daddy Doggie (voice talent of John Stephenson), all pals of Yogi Bear who have driven up to Jellystone and who wish to spend Christmas with their friend. Threatened by scammer Hokey Wolf, Ranger Smith bows to their request to wake up the sleeping Yogi, thereby discovering that Yogi and Boo Boo have up and escaped Jellystone, hoping to visit their pals Huckleberry and Hokey and all the rest in Christmastime New York City. The chase is on, then, with Ranger Smith in hot pursuit, as well as Yogi's friends, who have to find Yogi before the cops do, since the authorities believe that Yogi has kidnapped poor rich Judy Jones (voice talent of Georgi Irene), a lonely little girl whose influential father is far too busy to spend any time with his daughter.
Last week I reviewed another Warner Archive Collection release of some vintage Yogi Bear material―the enjoyable but protracted Yogi's Great Escape―where I mentioned in the review how I was well past the age of its target audience when it premiered in 1987. Certainly 1982's Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper found this 16-year-old reviewer still comfortably ahead of the small-fry contingent who, in those early kids programming-starved cable days, no doubt begged their parents to tune-in this Yogi holiday adventure. But I'll admit that I remember watching this when it first came out 28-years-ago, where guilty pleasure probably mixed nicely with some holiday depression and a little teen angst-nostalgia for my recently "lost" childhood (I wouldn't be sixteen again if you paid me). Catching Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper again after all these years, it's an entirely different experience (wife, kids, mortgage, job, bills, rapidly advancing mortality...maybe sixteen isn't looking so bad, after all...), and one I found quite pleasant.
There isn't a whole lot I can analyze here in Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper (sighs of relief from regular DVDTalk readers) because it's sweet and exceedingly simple and straightforward, and it's all over in 23 minutes. If you're a fan of the classic Hanna-Barbera toons as I am, you'll welcome the warm-feeling, old-fashioned (and hastily executed) limited cell animation here, with the animators and the director, Steve Lumley, making sure that many of the set-ups include a cozy frame or two sporting some winter or Christmas motif (Yogi spends most of the show in a Santa suit, happily). The story, such as it is, doesn't vary too much from the scam-chase-run-capture-apology structure of most Yogi Bear cartoons, while the addition of a lonely little girl looking for love at Christmastime is a fairly standard convention for these types of holiday specials. It's always fun to hear the supremely talented Daws Butler run the range of his various vocal creations, from the Phil Silvers-y Top Cat prototype Hokey Wolf, to his Bert Lahr-y Snagglepuss, to of course his Art Carney-y Yogi Bear. And while my youngest kids had absolutely no idea who Magilla Gorilla or Augie Doggie or Yakky or Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinx or any of the other visiting H-B friends were (with the exception of cameos by Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, despite multiple expensive Hanna-Barbera disc sets lying around the house), that didn't stop them from enjoying Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper on precisely the level it was intended.
The full-screen, 1.33:1 video transfer for Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper looks quite good, with a solid image, better-than-expected color, and only minor grain and damage (mostly dirt...although some of that could very well have been present during the actual cell animation).
The Dolby Digital English mono audio track is nicely rendered, with an agreeable recording level and minimal hiss. A Spanish mono track is also available. English subtitles are included.
As an "extra," the series finale of the original The Yogi Bear Show is included: Yogi's Birthday Party, which originally aired back on January 6th, 1962. While I certainly enjoyed this fond farewell to the original go-around for Yogi (the Bobby Darrin and Liberace take-offs were funny), this episode was already released on the Yogi Bear Show complete series disc set back in 2005, so...it's not going to be much of a bonus to die-hard Yogi fans. Little kids, though, won't mind its inclusion here.
Just right for Yogi fans, and you don't have to pay through the nose for those stupid 3D glasses...which the theatres then have the nerve to ask you to give back, fercrissakes (talk about keeping "3D green," as the recycling bin states without a bit of irony)! Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper certainly isn't the best example of the franchise, but it's sweet and Christmasy and it's over before you know it, giving you one of the last glimpses of the old H-B look. Fans of these vintage syndicated Christmas animation specials―along with, of course, Yogi fans―won't hesitate to pick this up. I'm recommending Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.