May 8, 2015 posted by

Animation Anecdotes #211


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.

hunchback-sidekickAt 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.”

bullwinkle-block-partyFrosbite 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.


  • I remember those hardbound Whitman comics, and pretty sure there’s a story in the one shown about Yogi trying to impress a small spaceman who one-ups every Earthly wonder Yogi shows him. The only thing Earth has that’s news to him is ice cream, which he’s crazy about. The excited spaceman takes an ice cream machine home, promising Yogi he’ll be featured in interplanetary history books.

    A copy of the book is delivered to Yogi — who’s upset to find his picture is captioned Yogi Berra. It was a few years before I knew who Berra was, so it registered as a not quite gag.

  • Yogi Bear has no connection to Yogi Berra? And I suppose that Jellystone Park is not a reference to Yellowstone. Sounds as if someone was trying to avoid any potential legal troubles.

    • That is just Hanna-Barbera intentionally dumbing their way out of a lawsuit. They knew who Yogi Berra was, of course, as they well realized how much of Art Carney’s persona from ‘The Honeymooners’ was borrowed to make Yogi Bear.

    • Sounds almost like the makers of the Baby Ruth bar claiming for years that their product wasn’t named for Babe Ruth, but for Grover Cleveland’s daughter.

  • And I though Yogi Bear’s origin came from the 1950’s MGM Barney Bear cartoon called Barney’s Hungry Cousin (Directed by Hanna & Barbera) in which Barney went to Jellystone Park (coincidence ?) for a picnic but was being pestered by a goofy looking bear trying to nab Barney’s picnic basket. Finally tired of his antics Barney finally gives in and gives the goofy looking bear a chicken drumstick but that goofy looking bear had Barney “arrested” by the park ranger for “feeding the bears” as Barney was taken away in the paddy wagon driven by the ranger, it was reviled that the “ranger” was actually that goofy looking bear who outsmarted Barney yet again hence Yogi’s trademark slogan “Smarter Than The Average Bear” which that goofy looking bear was!

    • Actually, “Barnery’s Hungry Cousin” was directed by Dick Lundy.

    • Don’t forget Humphrey Bear and his ranger nemesis at Disney!

  • IIRC Laverne had two voice actresses do her voice, Mary Wickes AND Jane Withers. Funny enough, two actresses I confused in real life.

    They didn’t name Yogi after Berra? Surely, they had to say that to cover their butts legally.
    Although Berra’s was a nick name. How many people are named Yogi?

    • I understood that Wickes passed away during production, and Withers — a friend of Wickes who incidentally did a good impression — completed the job.

      Also, recall Kimbrough’s description of working on the film. Since he was recorded separately (as I think all Disney voices are, most of the time), he said it felt like he was in a mansion where a huge noisy party was taking place except in the room he was in.

    • I haven’t seen Disney’s version of “Hunchback” in years, and I never paid attention to its credits, so I’m quite surprised to learn Mary Wickes was the voice of Laverne. The prickly spinster type from films like “The Music Man” or “On Moonlight Bay” with Doris Day? Fascinating!

      Actually, I must confess I didn’t even make the connection that Laverne was meant to be a female gargoyle when I first saw the film. The voice sounded more like an old man to my ears.

  • I thought Yogi’s origins came from, “Hey, everybody loves Ed Norton on ‘The Honeymooners.’ Let’s steal his voice, mannerisms and personality and give them to a cartoon bear,”

  • Just a parenthetical comment, why does everybody say “funny enough”, when they mean “funnily enough”? That’s the expression as I’ve heard it for more than 60 years, now all of a 21st century, it’s “funny enough”. It’s sort of like people who write “loose”, when they mean “lose”, another 21st century linguistic oddity.

    • You can tell our language is being dumbed down by the minute Mark. I’ve noticed that trend for quite some time.

    • I guess “funnily” sounds like it means “funnel-like”.

  • As a staff writer at H-B, (mid-1960’s) I once tried to use a variation on the name of a well-known personality in one of my scripts, which upset Joe Barbera considerably. “We make it a point to NEVER use the name of famous person in one of our cartoons!” he lectured, agitated. “What about a Yogi Bear?” I countered. He shrugged guiltily, like a kid caught stealing cookies, and said timidly…”Except in the case of Yogi Bear.”

    • And the Flintstones had “Alvin Brickrock”, “Cary Granite”, “Perry Masonite”, and probably others. (I’m not counting “Stony Curtis” and “Ann Margrock” since they were voiced by the stars themselves.)

  • Ahh, The Rescuers, the only Disney sequel done by their A-team….

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