The Origin of Yogi Bear. From the first issue of Exposure Sheet (July 1967), the in-house Hanna-Barbera Studio newsletter, from an article entitled “The Improbable World of Hanna-Barbera” credited to Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera comes this little tid-bit:
“Shortly after the incorporation of Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1957, we had an idea for a series about a boastful bear. We had more than a hundred possible names for our unborn hero, running from Abby Bear to Zippy Bear.
“Somewhere in the middle of the list was Huckleberry Bear. Then toward the end was Willy Bear. Yocca Bear and finally, Yogi Bear were there too.
“Everybody liked our creation except the sponsor. He contended that Yogi might be confused with a couple of bear characters, such as one being used to fight forest fires.
“The lead went to a lovable, lethargic little hound dog named Huckleberry Hound. Yogi Bear was given featured billing.
“And by the way, Yogi’s name had nothing to do with the major league catcher. The combination just sounded right.”
What Would Walt Think? In a 1993 New York Times article, Disney Legend Marc Davis said, “(The classic Disney animated movies made with Walt Disney) were better than anything made by Disney now. Walt would have been critical of the mermaid, of Belle in Beauty and the Beast, of the princess in Aladdin — those girl characters who have fried egg whites around their eyes and lack a subtlety of expression.”
Mr. Snoops’ Backwards Feet. Disney Legend Milt Kahl passed away at the age of 78 in April 1987. In May, animator Dave Michener, who was Milt’s assistant beginning with The Jungle Book (1967), wrote a tribute in the May 1987 issue of The Peg-Board: “It is hard to say what animation of Milt’s I liked best, but he was surely in full swing on The Rescuers (1977) with his Medusa character. Vintage Kahl to be sure, for sheer power of acting and drafting it.
“Milt animated a scene of Mr. Snoops falling on his face in this picture. What is interesting about the scene is that Milt put Snoops’ feet on backwards. I kidded Milt about it. He grinned and said, ‘I know it… looks better that way’. It is done so perfectly that to this day no one has ever questioned it. I’m sure they never see it.
“I also agree that it does look better. It’s better design. I also believe that inside, Milt got a kick out of doing little things like this. If you can do a thing so perfectly that no one spots it and it looks right, even though it’s wrong, then you truly are a genius.”
The Right Sidekick. Some of the most memorable characters in a Disney animated feature are the sidekicks from Jiminy Cricket and Timothy Mouse to Olaf the Snowman. While working on The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), the directors felt that since the story and the characters were so serious that Quasimodo needed a lighter comedy relief type of sidekick.
At first, they considered having the birds in the rafters of the famous cathedral be his friends and just like in the animated feature Cinderella, they would help with chores and cheering up Quasi. Then they thought of making the tower bells able to communicate like the objects in Beauty and the Beast.
Finally, it was decided to have the gargoyles who were just as ugly and feared as Quasi come to life. They were to be named Chaney, Laughton and Quinn (after the actors who had performed in memorable film versions of The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Lon Chaney 1923, Charles Laughton 1939 and Anthony Quinn 1957).
Chaney would be a big, dumb one voiced by Sam McMurray. Laughton would be a prissy, condescending one voiced by Charles Kimbrough. Quinn would be a young kind-hearted one voiced by Cyndi Lauper.
Disney Legal was deeply concerned about using names associated with famous actors so the names were changed to Victor and Hugo. For the third one, the directors recalled the famous female singing trio of the 1940s, The Andrews Sisters, comprised of Patty, Maxine and Laverne.
Director Gary Trousdale described the re-imagined Laverne as “the sort of woman who had a million cats and sat out on her front porch, cradling a shotgun”. Lauper was replaced by veteran character actress Mary Wickes who the directors saw in the movie Sister Act. Jason Alexander took over the voice for the fat gargoyle being done by MacMurray to make the character more likable.
Animated Antics. In a 1993 New York Times article, Disney legend Ward Kimball said, “When a movie was finished, some of the animators would have a contest. They would throw cels on the floor, jump on them and see how far they could slide down the hall of the animation building. The old days when animators would break the monotony by pinning cups of water under a guy’s drawing board to drench his pants are long gone. Disney animation, like everything else, is just a business now.”
Frosbite Falls. In the May 6, 1987 issue of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune newspaper, Jay Ward told writer Joe Bream, “We were thinking of the connection of a moose. We were trying to do characters that hadn’t been done and could be fun. We decided Minnesota would be a good place for a moose and International Falls is certainly well known to anybody who follows the weather.
“I kind of feel for International Falls. People in International Falls have called occasionally and they kind of feel Frostbite Falls is International Falls. I agree, but I don’t have a vision of how (Frostbite Falls) looks, town-wise. Frostbite Falls obviously would have been smaller, since its population was very limited.”
While Ward patterned Frostbite Falls after International Falls, he had never been there. He just imagined what it was like. Years later, after the production of The Bullwinkle Show had ended, Ward did travel to International Falls on his way to visit a friend near Lake Vermillion and had lunch there. Ward claimed that the town was a lot like the version he had created in his mind.