Reviews: The Yogi Bear Show: The Complete Series
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The Yogi Bear Show: The Complete Series

Better Than the Average DVD Set!
A review by Matthew Hunter

For those of you who may not be fans of Hanna-Barbera, and don't view the work of the studio as "Golden Age", you may want to rethink your opinion after seeing this DVD set. The material presented here isn't perfect, but it's clear that those who created it really cared about the material. It's good to see a DVD set that wants you to care, too.

The Yogi Bear Show Complete Series is a slightly misleading title, considering it collects only the Yogi cartoons made after he became the headliner for his own show, the rest can be found on the Huckleberry Hound Show set. Still, Warner Home Video has taken great care in presenting the Yogi Bear Show itself as it was seen in its original broadcasts. Each episode originally contained three cartoons, one Yogi short, one starring  Snagglepuss the Lion, and one with Yakky Doodle, an annoyingly cute little duck (Clearly a descendant of "Little Quacker" from Hanna/Barbera's MGM Tom and Jerry series.) The cartoons look better than I've ever seen them, these are not to be confused with the tired, faded prints that used to air on the Cartoon Network! Each cartoon is clearly restored, or at least freshly transferred. The colors jump out, and every line and detail is crystal clear. This is especially helpful to the Yogi cartoons, because it looks like we've been missing out for years on some excellent background detail and art. Jellystone Park is rendered in beautiful impressionist-style paintings, mostly by golden age animation veteran Richard H. Thomas. All the cartoons here are shown with full credits, an element that is often missing on TV airings. It's my understanding that this is not the way they originally aired, since the credits would have been lumped together on an end title sequence for the entire show. They were created for reruns when the show was split up and sold in packages with other H-B shorts. There have even been variations, but to be uniform the DVD programmers chose to use the "theatrical credits" versions, with a character card, credit sequence and cartoon-specific title card, set to a musical rendition of that character's "theme". Some nitpickers may gripe and say that it's "Not the way they originally aired", but in that case, they should probably just shut up and be thankful their favorite cartoons have GAINED credits over the years rather than LOST them!

Each of the four discs is designed so that you can view the cartoons in original order, that is, Yogi-Snagglepuss-Yakky, or you can select a cartoon in particular from a convenient list grouped by character. Want to skip a particular Yakky cartoon? Want to watch your favorite Snagglepuss? No problem! I will admit that there is one problem with this set though. The last two discs are "double sided", which is a cool idea, but it makes it impossible to tell whether

disc four! A minor gripe, but one that will no doubt cause you a little frustration. The extras are minimal, but what's there is pure gold! The first episode of the show is presented as close to original air condition as possible, and gives a rare look at what's been lost over the years. The original opening title sequence with the famous theme song ("Yogi bear is smarter than the average bear, always in the ranger's hair", etc)., is shown with a plug for the show's sponsor, Kellogg's Cereal, And that's probably why it's usually not shown on TV today. If just seeing that isn't worth the price of the set, then seeing what else they've dug up sure is! They've managed to find all of the original bridging sequences and ads, and it's more than a little reminescent of the old "Bugs Bunny Show", with Yogi, Yakky and Snagglepuss often seen together in short little sketches. There's also an interesting Kellogg's ad combining Yogi with a live action Scotsman named Big Otis, for a now-defunct cereal called "OKs".It's a shame that this is all they have left, and the film quality of the material is pretty shabby, but it's really a revelation. Don't miss the gag with Yogi researching "violence on TV", in which his TV shoots at him, then punches him accross his cave. "It's there, all right!!!"

As for the cartoons themselves, some are better than others, but the striking thing about them is the superb writing, with humor that stays sharp even in these more modern, complicated times. The show holds up better than you might expect, and that's owed in large part to Michael Maltese and Warren Foster, famous for writing most of the best Warner Bros. cartoons, and to Hanna and Barbera themselves, who prove just as talented working in limited animation as they did in the more fluid MGM theatrical days. Each cartoon plays out almost like a radio play: The animation is limited and serves to illustrate the story more than

drive it. Some die-hard animation fans and veterans hate that, in fact Chuck Jones once called it "Illustrated Radio". I certainly can see that, but I disagree with their sentiments. These cartoons are FUNNY, and "limited" doesn't mean "bad". Every drawing counts, and that makes some of the characters' extreme expressions all the more priceless, particularly with Yogi and Snagglepuss, and honorable mention to Ranger Smith! When I first started watching the set I was mopping the kitchen floor, and just having it on in the background made me laugh out loud several times! Daws Butler voices most of the characters, and he really does deserve all the praise he gets as one of the best voice actors who ever lived. His Art Carney-inspired Yogi is delighfully smart-aleck and hilariously poetic, as Yogi is fond of rhyming as he talks, as though an amateur poet or rapper! Snagglepuss is reminescent of Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz, with a little bit of Paul Lynde-esque smarminess. I was particularly impressed by some of the Snagglepuss cartoons, which I hadn't seen many of before. Granted, a little of him goes a long way, and his sexual orientation is questionable, but most of his outings here are downright classic, especially the
Snagglepuss/Yakky Doodle/Ranger Smith crossover cartoon, and Snag's attempt at becoming a legitimate actor!  Plot wise, if you aren't familiar with these characters, the cartoons work as follows: Yogi Bear, along with his sidekick Boo Boo,  comes up with elaborate schemes to steal picnic baskets from campers at Jellystone Park, while trying to elude Ranger Smith. Snagglepuss is a little less formula-driven, he is often placed in random situations and settings, and his theatrical personality either helps him or gets him into trouble, often with hilarious results. Yakky Doodle gets into trouble, mostly due to a villain trying to eat, con, or hunt him, and they usually have no trouble until Yakky goes whining to his burly dog sidekick, Chopper. Yakky must have been a favorite to Hanna and Barbera, considering the frequency his ancestor, Quacker, appeared in the Tom and Jerry series! Unfortunately, the Yakky cartoons are the weakest of the batch, at least in my opinion, and you will probably find yourself genuinely annoyed by him after a while.

Of special interest to die-hard Hanna-Barbera fans is the Yogi Birthday special, which looks to be the final episode. While not especially funny, it involves just about every Hanna-Barbera star character of the 1960's, with Huckleberry Hound and Ranger Smith serving as the masters of ceremonies. The gang's all here, with the only obvious exceptions being the Flintstones and Ruff and Reddy.

Overall, this is a great DVD set, and it ought to be in the library of any animation fan. The talent, characters, and humor all come together to make the Yogi Bear Show a true classic, and it's about time it got the treatment it deserves. I tip my green ranger hat to the folks at Warner Home Video for doing an excellent job. This is better than the average DVD!

All cartoon characters are © and TM their respective owners. All images are © Hanna-Barbera and Warner Home Video. Textual content © 2006 by Matthew Hunter.

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