Don't feed Judge Joel Pearce.
His first full-length movie
By this stage, pretty much every one of the old Hanna-Barbera shows has had at least one feature-film adaptation. Many of them, though, were made long afterwards, and are more about nostalgia than they are about recreating the original feel of the shows. Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! is arguably different, as it was released in 1964, only three years after the run of the original series. As expected, it offers a prototypical view of what these adaptations would become, both in its strong and weak points.
Like most such adaptations, Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! seeks to extend the series by taking Yogi Bear and friends out of their natural habitat. In this case, Yogi and Boo Boo begin a cross-country journey when Cindy Bear is mistakenly sent to a zoo in St. Louis, but ends up in captivity at a circus instead.
I suspect that Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! would still find a very captive audience in young children. It is bright and colorful, moves quickly, and has a lot of jokes that fire at the lowest possible levels. There are jokes intended for older audiences as well, though most of these are dead on arrival. Yogi's particular brand of puns and language mistakes were more popular 40 years ago, and they don't resonate that well anymore. The film also succeeds at avoiding self-parody as well, which Jetsons: The Movie and the live-action Flinstones films were both so guilty of. It remains completely harmless and innocent throughout, delivering the same kind of entertainment spread across a wider canvas.
At times, though, it feels spread out a bit too far. Like most such adaptations, the premise of the show isn't deep enough to warrant a feature-length story, and it shows at times. The musical numbers feel like padding, and the characters have an awkward tendency to explain what's happening to keep the moment alive for an extra few seconds. Just like the Saturday Night Live movies, characters and situations that are funny for a few minutes once a week prove to be less funny when focused on for a solid 90 minutes. In all, though, Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! is one of the better examples of these cartoons. It feels less like a money grab than it does a sincere attempt to extend the Yogi Bear character into a new medium. Fans of the show will be pleased by this lack of irony, and kids will still recognize its inherent charm.
For a 1964 release, the film holds up quite well visually. It's a big step above the animation of the original television shows, though it's not quite up to par with the best animation from the period. Warner has done a fantastic restoration job, though, and it looks excellent despite some noise that couldn't be removed without destroying the original look of the film. As with much animation, there are times that we can see some compression around the edges, but just as often, the transfer is strong enough that we can see the brush strokes in the animation itself. The sound has been upmixed to Dolby Surround, and it has aged just as well. It's a bit flat compared to recent releases, but the music and dialogue are mixed skillfully. There aren't any extras on the disc, but fans will probably be happy to have this at all.
While I'm not going to call Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! a must-buy, it's an important addition to the Hanna-Barbera canon on DVD. Those who grew up with these cartoons who want to show them to their own children will be glad for this disc, though others will probably find it a bit to trite and stretched out. If nothing else, it shows how Saturday morning cartoons have grown into feature-length entertainment.
Not guilty—I'll even share my pick-a-nick with Yogi, but he can't have
the whole thing.
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