Judge Dennis Prince formally charges Johnny Cochran with plagiarism of the highest order, noting the nefarious defense lawyer has ripped off a cartoon bear of his trademarked delivery. ("I must admit, this ranger won't quit.")
Yogi Bear is smarter than the average bear,
Perhaps the most lovable petty thief of cartoondom, here's the feral filcher who stands upright, sports a green brimmed hat and matching necktie, and is always ready to upend the rules and regulations of his happy habitat at Jellystone Park. Yogi Bear has an insatiable appetite for the sorts of goodies that can be found in every checkerboard-blanked pic-a-nic basket, the sort he routinely purloins from unwary park visitors. Despite the better-sense pleadings of his bow-tied companion, Boo Boo Bear, not to mention the heavier-handed warnings and retaliations from the exasperated Ranger Smith, Yogi gleefully dances along the fine line between incarceration and endearment.
So whether he's conniving new ways to snatch campers' goodies, plotting new plans to escape the confines of Jellystone Park, or hastily backpedaling from unexpected adversity along the way, Yogi Bear is always on the go and in the know, convinced he can out wit any nit wit he may encounter.
"I'm smarrr-ter than the av-er-age bear!"
Originally appearing as a supporting character on 1958's The Huckleberry Hound Show, Yogi quickly emerged as a bona-fide scene stealer and proved himself a competent leading…er…bear able to carry his own series. In 1961, cartoon legends Joseph Hanna and William Barbera launched The Yogi Bear Show, each episode featuring a Yogi cartoon followed by individual adventures of cartoon companions Snagglepuss, the collared and cuffed pink lion, and Yakky Doodle, the big-hearted little duckling. Yogi picks up his adventures where he left off after his stint alongside Huckleberry Hound, still eager for tourists' tasty treats and always getting collar-deep in mischief along the way. Snagglepuss makes his appearance as the thespian-minded mountain lion always trying to stay a step ahead of his pursuer, Major Minor. Yakky Doodle haplessly falls from the migratory skies to meet up with his soon-to-be bulldog benefactor, Chopper.
Each cartoon episode runs about seven minutes in length and each offers a similar plotline of madcap mayhem. While the animation style here isn't of the highest caliber, its simplicity lends itself to the kid-friendly cuteness and allows more attention be paid to the clever quips. Yogi (voiced by the prolific Daws Butler), of course, was fashioned in the mold of Ed Norton as played by Art Carney on The Honeymooners. The addition of Yogi's perpetual predisposition to speak in rhyme makes him among the most memorable of Hanna-Barbera's characters. Similarly, Snagglepuss (again by Daws Butler) was clearly lifted from Bert Lahr's cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz. Yakky Doodle (voiced by ventriloquist Jimmy Weldon) appears to be of unauthorized kinship to Disney's Donald Duck, mimicking the slurring speech patterns of the Magic Kingdom's favorite malcontent and certainly worthy of class-action persecution. Other voices were provided by the ubiquitous Don Messick as well as June Foray and Jean Vander Pyl.
Existing as more than just an animated distraction for Saturday morning rugrats, The Yogi Bear Show was sponsored by Kellogg's cereals and enlisted the pitch powers of its characters to woo little viewers with bowls of sugary delights. Whether Yogi was heralding the tasty goodness of toasted oats in Kellogg's OKs or Snagglepuss was promising Cocoa Krispies had the flavor of a chocolate milkshake, only crunchy, kids were, yet again, unapologetically tapped for their consumer potential. (This wasn't any sort of one-off opportunism being explored by Kellogg's, though; Post cereals like Rice Krinkles and Alpha-Bits were liberally pitched by cartoon king of the beasts Linus the Lionhearted and his pals while Rocky and Bullwinkle were busy selling General Mills's Cheerios and Jets cereals.)
In this new boxed set containing the cartoon content of the 33 original shows, you'll be treated to more than 13 hours of enjoyable misadventures. As you slide the box out from the translucent outer slipcase and open the digipak foldout, you'll find a limited edition litho cel of Yogi, Boo Boo, and Ranger Smith. Then, spread across two single-sided and two flipper discs, there are six sides of content where the cartoons are presented in three-up groupings (one Yogi Bear, one Snagglepuss, and one Yakky Doodle as originally aired, minus actual titles and bumpers from The Yogi Bear Show broadcast format). The transfers here are superlative, each framed at their original 1.33:1 full frame format and boasting the benefits of a well-managed restoration. While you'll still notice some infrequent film dirt or damage, the fact is these episodes are downright sparkling in comparison to what you been seeing on recent Boomerang Network broadcasts, as well as anything you've watched over the past four decades. The color is absolutely bold and brilliant and significantly adds to the overall nostalgic goodness on display here. Thankfully, the team behind this DVD release went easy on the edge enhancement and thereby relieves us of the usual overt and unnecessary aliasing that too often afflicts animated offerings. The audio is a bit confined in the Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono audio track yet maintains a clarity that balances dialogue, score, and sound effects, although there is occasional hiss at the high end.
Yogi would certainly tip his hat to the team that culled the numerous special features found within this set. It begins with a rather ambiguously-titled "Time Capsule Yogi," billed as the complete pilot episode of the show, complete with intro, bumpers, Kellogg's commercials, and end titles. While you might expect this vintage material of wrap-arounds has only been provided for the first episode, you'll be pleased to find that, upon selecting extras, you'll get the similar start-to-finish show material for the first three episodes. The bonus material here varies in quality, having not been restored as were the cartoons themselves and, therefore, wavers from "good" to "poor." The reasonable grumble here, then, is why the entire complement of cartoons wasn't presented in complete fashion. Original titles, bumpers, and especially commercials are the sort of material that classic cartoon enthusiasts clamor over. As a note to the folks at Warner Brothers Home Video as well as to Hanna-Barbera, take heed that if any additional material exists, by all means present it along with these vintage shows!
The next extra is a fun and informative look at the origin of the sound effects in "Cartoon Tracks: The Art of Hanna-Barbera Sound." Here you'll learn how economically yet effectively the recognizable Foley effects were created. Then there's a look at original animation sketches of Yogi Bear presented in "Stills Gallery Tour with Yogi." Lastly, there's "Yogi Gets Global" in which you can watch a Yogi cartoon with various languages dubbed in.
Be forewarned, though, that if this set seems to be shy of some of your favorite Yogi escapades, don't forget there are 26 additional bear-centric adventures that aired as part of The Huckleberry Hound Show.
All in all, The Yogi Bear Show—The Complete Series is another fine boxed-set release from the Hanna-Barbera archives and one that deserves to be in every cartoon lover's library. And, with the amount of original HB material yet to be released, you have to ability to entertain your young ones with hours of classic and generally inoffensive programming that's a breath of fresh air in comparison to today's questionable kids' cartoons.
There is no crime here and the small infractions noted are as easily dismissible as the occasionally pilfered pic-a-nic basket.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Collectible Litho Cell
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