Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On DVD: Hey There, It's Yogi Bear (1964)

For their first feature film, Hanna-Barbera went with Yogi Bear, whose first series was out of production. Back in those days, the hook to an animated movie, in order to keep the kids interested, and to get the family involved, was to load up on musical numbers. Disney did that with "Cinderella" and "Peter Pan", among others.

In "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear", there are quite a few musical numbers, some of them written by Doug Goodwin, who's better known for being a musical director for DePatie-Freleng. Jazz musician Marty Paich was in charge of the music for this one, giving Hoyt Curtin, H-B's long time musical patriarch, a break.

Spring has sprung at Jellystone Park, which, as we find out, is situated somewhere near the Rocky Mountains. Boo Boo (Don Messick) awakens first, prompted by morning dew in his ear. Boo Boo races across the road to Yogi's cave. It takes some time, but Yogi (Daws Butler) is finally awake, and up to his usual tricks, which raises the ire of Ranger John Smith (Messick). Well, Yogi's whole personality was modeled after Phil Silvers' Sgt. Bilko, as was Top Cat. Frustrated because Smith is on to his usual reams, Yogi decides to try to bluff the ranger into shipping him out. Incredibly, Smith calls the bluff, and decides to send Yogi to San Diego's zoo. However, Yogi doesn't leave just yet. Another bear, Corn Pone (Hal Smith, The Andy Griffith Show) convinces Yogi to let him take his place and head west.

And, then, there is Cindy Bear (Julie Bennett), who is smitten with Yogi. Under the impression that Yogi is gone, Cindy schemes to join him in San Diego, but the plot backfires when, as Smith later explains to Boo Boo, the San Diego Zoo doesn't need a second bear, so Cindy's off to St. Louis.

However, the train carrying Cindy hits a bump in the road, and Cindy, cage & all, falls out of the train, and into the laps of the down-on-their-luck Chizzle Brothers, whose circus needs a new star. Unfortunately, Grifter (Mel Blanc) is desperate to keep business going, so he abuses Cindy, with the aid of his dog, Mugger (Messick provides an all-too-familiar wheezing laugh, recycled for Muttley, Precious Pupp, & Mumbly, while Blanc does the grumbling). Smith finds out Yogi is still at Jellystone, long enough for him to let slip that he shipped Cindy out, but now she's lost. Yogi finally takes action, and takes Boo Boo with him.

For the DVD release, WB edited out the Columbia Pictures logo (Columbia distributed the movie), jumping right to the start of the film.

Rather than a trailer, we'll give you one of the musical numbers. Actor-singer James Darren provides the singing voice for Yogi for this number, "Ven-e, Ven-o, Ven-a".

A second performer, Bill Lee, was the singing voice for Yogi on other songs in the film.

Part of the reason it took so long, until the 2011 "Yogi Bear" CGI/live action movie, to do another film with Yogi might've been because using some tired gags from the shorts, plus borrowing from other sources (i.e. Tex Avery), masked how thin the plot really was.

Rating: B--.

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