If Chief Justice Michael Stailey were smarter than the average bear, he would have turned down this assignment.
This one should've stayed in hibernation.
The spring thaw brings new life, orphaned bear cubs, and post-hibernation hunger to Yogi and Boo-boo. Normally, a fresh wave of campers would provide a wealth of pick-a-nick baskets and goodies for the bears to share. Unfortunately, the Parks Service is over budget and Jellystone Park is forced to shut down, transferring all of its wildlife to a neighboring zoo. In order to maintain their freedom, our heroes hit the road on a cross-country adventure to find a new home, crossing paths with old friends along the way. When Yogi's antics capture national attention, Ranger Smith's boss hires a Yosemite Sam-like hunter to track down and capture the bears, thus saving face for the Parks Service.
One of the Daws Butler's final projects, the legendary voice man passed away in May 1988 at the age of 71. His vocal characterizations were to Hanna-Barbera what Mel Blanc's were to Warner Bros. Unfortunately, Daws can't do anything to make this feature-length adventure tolerable. Yogi's success was achieved in 7-10 minute shorts during the early '60s, when sight gags and one-liner heavy slapstick reigned supreme on Saturday mornings. That same comic-sensibility didn't carry forward into the '80s and holds up even less well today. And with shows like Scooby's All-Star Laff-A-Lympics now on DVD, there isn't even enough of a nostalgia factor to make this worth checking out.
Neal Barbera's story is pointless, the three bear cubs are beyond annoying, and Sven Libaek's underscore is sleep-inducing; there's enough harmonica-laden elevator themes to raise Serotonin levels in a five mile radius. Maybe that's how Yogi's Great Escape should be marketed—as a sleep-aid for hyper pre-schoolers. "If they're not asleep by the 35 min mark, your money back!" If you make it to 45 min, a whole new storyline is introduced, in that two cattle rustlers who look just like Yogi and Boo-Boo are wanted for their crimes and Quick Draw McGraw is on the case. If you make it to 65 min, you'll find yourself in the swamp on a haunted riverboat with Wally Gator. If you survive another 20 min, before your brain oozes out your ears, Yogi runs into Snagglepuss' traveling carnival. But all's well that ends well, as the President of the United States steps in to save the day and return Yogi to his rightful home.
Presented in 1.33:1 full frame format and Dolby 2.0 Mono audio, the transfer is a step above what you'd find on broadcast television. If you still own the previous VHS release, feel free to retire it for an upgrade. Why anyone would want this as part of their library is beyond me, but to each their own. Since this is a Warner Archive release, there are no menus, no subtitles, and no bonus features. No great loss.
Look, I grew up on a healthy diet of Hanna-Barbera, and greatly appreciate the many incredibly talented people who put time, love, and energy into creating these cartoons. But not all art is great nor is it meant to last. So lets redirect our current resources to preserving the best of what came before and use the rest to create new works of art. We'll all be better for it in the long run.
With the release of the live-action/CGI Yogi Bear movie, we're going to be drowning in memora-bear-lia. Rest assured, you can skip this stinker.
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