Fifty years ago, a top-flight Hollywood team of animation and music talents brought Yogi Bear and friends to the big screen and to a soundtrack album.
HEY THERE, IT’S YOGI BEAR!
Original Soundtrack Recording
Colpix Records CP-472 (Mono) SCP-472 (Stereo) (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1964)
Album Producer/Editor: Jack Lewis. Running Time: 28 minutes.
Performers: Bill Lee (Yogi Bear); Ernest Newton (Boo-Boo Bear); Jackie Ward (Cindy Bear); “Jonah and the Wailers”.
Songs: “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear (Main Title)” by David Gates; “Like I Like You,” “St. Louie,” “Ash Can Parade,” “Ven-E, Ven-O, Ven-A,” “Whistle Your Way Back Home” by Ray Gilbert and Doug Goodwin.
Instrumentals: “Yogi’s Nap,” Yogi Bear March,” Yogi’s Merry Movements,” High Wire Cindy,” “Back to the Circus” by Marty Paich; “Like I Like You” (two instrumentals), “Whistle Your Way Back Home (Finale)” by Ray Gilbert and Doug Goodwin; “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear (Finale)” by Doug Goodwin.
Hanna and Barbera enjoyed such success and growth by 1963, they were confident their characters and studio had the potential for expansion from TV into theatrical features, as well as other forms of entertainment. Some diverse avenues did see success, like the characters’ presence in the King’s Island and King’s Dominion theme parks, but their ventures into features didn’t really catch fire (1973’s Charlotte’s Web really became a fixture to its many fans through TV and home video).
Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear (released in 1964) benefitted greatly from the infusion of talent from various studios after the short cartoon business all but dried up and Disney met with disappointing box office on 1959’s Sleeping Beauty. Among them were Willie Ito, Jerry Eisenberg, Iwao Takamoto, Charles Nichols, Dan Gordon, Dick Bickenbach, Ron Dias, Harry Holt, George Kreisl, Grant Simmons, Ed Aardal, Dick Kelsey and an uncredited Friz Freleng. This feature gave them a chance to offer what TV budgets wouldn’t allow: a lush look and fluid movement not seen in Hanna-Barbera animation with the exception of some commercials (when the sponsor was footing the bill).
Songwriter Ray Gilbert had also scored big for Disney in the 1940’s, when “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (co-written with Allie Wrubel) won an Academy Award. Gilbert’s other song credits include “Blue Bayou,” “Cuanto La Gusta,” and two other important Disney tunes, “You Belong to My Heart (Solamente Una Vez)” from The Three Caballeros and “Merrily on Our Way” from Mr. Toad.
And yes, the composer/lyricist of the Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear title song is the same David Gates who later found fame with the pop group Bread (“Baby I’m-A Want You,” “Make It With You.”) In the early ‘60s Gates was an upcoming songwriter/producer/studio musician in Los Angeles, much as Danny Hutton was when he recorded several tunes for the Hanna-Barbera Records label before reaching fame with Three Dog Night.
If it had existed in an earlier decade, Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear — and its score — might have had a bigger impact on filmgoers. The ‘60s saw dizzying changes in the entertainment world. Disney enjoyed big returns with 101 Dalmatians, Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book, but high-level animation was getting too costly. In a way, Hanna-Barbera was competing with itself, not only by doing a movie with characters people could see on TV for free, but with more cartoon series getting on the air (and more competition) every year.
It was regular Hollywood practice for skilled studio singers, or “ghost singers,” to sing off-screen for actors without formal training. Off-screen singing was a bit of a tradition in Hollywood, to the point that it was standard procedure. Trained, proven singers could sight-read sheet music in seconds and lay down vocal tracks in perfect pitch, saving time and money. Ghost singers were usually kept secret until Marni Nixon, who had been threatened with expulsion from the industry if she revealed her craft, became well known after The King & I star Deborah Kerr was magnanimous enough to insist Nixon get proper recognition.
In the case of Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear, it might make sense for Jackie Ward (who also sang with The Partridge Family studio group) to sing for Julie Bennett as Cindy, since “Like I Like You” is essentially a singer’s song. But Yogi and Boo-Boo’s singing voices are so much like their speaking ones; it might have made more sense to bring in Daws Butler and Don Messick. It should be noted that Yogi was dubbed by the best in the business, not just James Darren but Bill Lee, the male Marni Nixon who sang for movie leads such as John Kerr in South Pacific, Tom Drake in Words and Music and most famously, Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music.
It might have been nice if Colpix used snippets of dialogue to open the songs, so we got to hear a little of Yogi, Boo-Boo and Cindy. Lots of soundtrack albums have such clips and this LP sounds as if it had a better-than-the-average budget, so additional funds could have included Butler, Messick and Bennett.
The soundtrack album itself is fine listening, but nevertheless leaves one wanting more both musically and technically. Surely there were other sections of Marty Paich’s score that could have replaced one of the two tracks of a similar, repetitive circus theme. There was a nice melody under one of Yogi and Cindy’s early scenes that was heard on Kellogg’s mail order story record, but it isn’t included on this album.
More bizarre is the odd use of stereo on side one. Stereo was still a novelty in 1964, so it’s understandable that the chorus is shoved to the left channel on the title song to accentuate the separation between home stereo speakers. But there is no conceivable reason that the first instrumental of “Like I Like You” goes from mono to stereo for no discernable reason. Even more jarring is how most of “St. Louie”—which many feel is the breakout song (are the vocalists The Mills Brothers under a pseudonym?)—is presented in one-channel mono until the very last line of the song. Was producer/editor Jack Lewis distracted, bored, indifferent or inexplicably experimental during the session? Though the full stereo tracks without anomalies sound terrific, the mono album offers consistency.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear Title Song” & “Whistle Your Way Back Home”
This is a montage of the film’s main title song, “Whistle Your Way Back Home” (which was the original title of the feature) and the finale, combining both. The slick, expansive arrangements of songs in both this film, H-B’s Alice in Wonderland and The Man Called Flintstone are the work of Marty Paich, who arranged for music’s biggest stars, including Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughn, Linda Ronstadt and Sammy Davis, Jr.
HEY THERE, IT’S YOGI BEAR!
Radio Spot Announcements
Columbia Pictures Promotional Record SP-2341 (Mono) (10” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1964)
Note that the announcer refers to the “St. Louie” bears as “The BEARtles.” Must have been a quick way to hook onto the burgeoning popularity of the fab four in ’64.
Two Songs from Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera’s
HEY THERE, IT’S YOGI BEAR
And Many Other Songs of Yogi, Huck and Quick Draw
Golden Records (Mono) LP-124 (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP / 1964)
Executive Producer: Arthur Shimkin. Musical Direction: Jim Timmens. Running Time: 34 minutes.
Performers: The Golden Singers, Frank Milano (Yogi, Boo-Boo, Ranger Smith, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Snuffles, Hokey Wolf, Ding-A-Ling, Snagglepuss, Loopy DeLoop, Major Minor, Kid Who Sounds Like Burr Tillstrom’s Kukla); Cecil Roy (Cindy Bear).
Yogi Bear Movie Songs: “Hey There, it’s Yogi Bear” by David Gates; “Ash Can Parade” by Ray Gilbert and Doug Goodwin.
Other Songs: “Yogi Bear Theme” by Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and Hoyt Curtin; “Before Yogi,” “Yogi Bear Presents Cindy Bear (Howdy Y’all),” “Yogi Bear: Casanova of the Cave Set,” “Cindy Bear: Casanova of the Cave Set,” “Yogi, Huck and Quick Draw: Safety Song,” “Quick Draw’s A-Comin’,” “Quick Draw Presents Snuffles,” “Hokey Wolf and Ding-A-Ling,” “Snagglepuss March,” “Major Minor,” “Loopy DeLoop Meets Little Red Riding Hood (Parody of ‘Bicycle Built for Two’),” by Paul Parnes.
Only two songs from the Hanna-Barbera feature appear on this album, with a hefty helping of previously released songs based on the characters. None of the early Gil Mack performances (with Jimmy Carroll and Mitch Miller directing) are present. Everything is from the ‘60s Golden era of mellow Jim Timmens arrangements, except for the two new songs, which ironically sound a little like the Carroll/Miller style.
Once again, low budgets and a softer market makes for sparse production quality and the infamous work of, as I used to say as a kid, “not the real voices.” Frank Milano was a busy voice actor in those days, mostly in radio and TV commercials. He also made some vocal appearances on Total Television cartoons—and recorded a number of Golden Records, most notably The Poky Little Puppy read-along. Cecil Roy’s radio career was very distinguished, playing children many times—and in a decidedly non-Cindy twist, played a giant spider in an episode of the radio horror show Quiet Please called “The Thing On the Fourable Board” starring Vincent Price. She was best known for being the voice of Little Lulu in the Famous Studios cartoons of the 1940s.
With all due respect to Milano, who does his best, he isn’t Daws Butler. While he can voice Yogi better than I can (almost everyone can go “Hey-hey-hey-HEY!”), the voice is just an element of what Butler did with his vocal performance, especially in the feature film, requiring Yogi to have a greater range of emotions than the TV cartoons usually did.
GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Ash Can Parade”
This song probably enjoyed the most exposure outside of the feature, appearing on this Golden Record and also on the Kapp album, Marching Along Together with the Do-Re-Mi Children’s Chorus. All the Gilbert/Goodwin songs must have been created in part for wider appeal, performance and cover versions in hopes that they might achieve some of the “standard” status of Disney and other movie and show songs.