I had thought we only had enough material for one more week of animated celebrations. In fact, there’s enough for two. So we’ll extend the festivities one added week, and begin to more thoroughly sweep up after ourselves for the leftover confetti and trimmings remaining as witness to our good times.
Bosko’s Party (Warner/Harman-Ising, Looney Tunes, 4/2/32) rather definitely falls into the “crumb” category. Lacking in imagination, the film only plays moderately well if you’ve not previously seen Mickey Mouse’s The Birthday Party from the previous year – otherwise, you’re on to the plagiarism that’s going on here. As before, a surprise party is being planned, this time for Honey. Again, everyone seeks out hiding places, with another fat pig unable to find one his size. Instead of disguising him as furniture, Bosko chooses a more violent solution – sticking a pin into him to deflate him like a balloon, making an easy fit under the bed. Again, a little character is running around the house in search of a place to hide, who, instead of being dumped into a receptacle for canes and umbrellas as in the Mickey, has a flower pot placed over his head by Bosko, then can’t lift it off. Most of the cartoon centers on another musical serenade (Honey receiving a ukelele instead of Mickey’s piano). And the cake of course gets destroyed. There is little else to write about Purely a six-minute time filler. Had story writing credits been given in those days, it is doubtful if anyone would have stepped forward, willing to claim such honors for ths one.
Farmer Al Falfa’s 20th Anniversary (Terrytoons/Educational, 11/27/36, Mannie Davis/George Gordon, dir.) fares noticeably better. For one thing, in a rare move for Terry, and unlike some of his later rivals (such as Famous Studios), the premise of an anniversary to celebrate Farmer Al’s 20th year in the “flicker pictures” is not used as an excuse for a clip fest. (Sadly, Popeye’s anniversary would not be so lucky.) Instead, a new surprise party is planned by the animal community, who rally in a parade to gather at the farmer’s house. A large sign is carried over the paraders, inviting all to the party – with one major exception – skunks not allowed. One non-conformist polecat tries to join the parade, but is forcibly ejected and pelted with tin cans, with little or no regard for his built-in defensive weapon. While the farmer is out in the field, making hay, the animals slip into his living room on a semaphore cue from Puddy the pup. The rug is rolled up, furniture cleared away, and decorations festooned. The surprise is sprung, and the farmer buried in a pile of tossed gift packages as the lights come up to reveal his guests. A special anniversary song is performed, and the music starts to get hot, with jazzy trumpet solos, a duck with multiple holes in his beak to play in the manner of a clarinet, and a deep-voiced cow who doubles as a bass fiddle while a musician slides a bow across the cow’s tail. Even the farmer gets in a few hot choruses on his old fiddle. The party is in full swing, and the cake about to be cut, when the buzz of the front doorbell is heard. Outside is the skunk from the earlier scenes, leaving a gift basket on the farmer’s doorstep. The skunk hides as the farmer emerges, then, seeing no one, takes the basket inside. As he is about to raise the basket lid, it pops open itself, revealing a trio of singing skunks wishing Al happy anniversary. Ungrateful Al only notices that they’re skunks, and clamps the basket lid down, sitting upon it. But the skunks crawl out between the wicker slats of the basket, and suddenly appear to be everywhere. Al’s guests make hasty exits without looking back. Al grabs the cake, and plays an elaborate game of keep away of the pastry from the skunks, back and forth through the doors and halls of the old farmhouse. Finally pursued outside, Al trips and winds up in the watering trough, covered in birthday cake, while the animals return and conclude another chorus of the anniversary song for him, and the scene irises out. A simple but fun episode, with lively animation, and a more truly festive feel.
Happy Birthdaze (Paramount/Famous, Popeye, 7/16/43 – Dan Gordon, dir.), is about a party that never quite comes off. The film begins (and almost ends) the film career of a new character for the series – Popeye’s sailor “pal” Shorty – a pipsqueak Navy mariner in oversize glasses, with a hyperactive personality, and a talent for inadvertently causing trouble. (Call him, if you will, the 1940’s Scrappy Doo). The character would appear in only three episodes, and proved a formidable obstacle to Popeye’s plans.
Popeye receives a letter that Olive has just enough sugar to prepare his birthday cake, and to come to her house for a party. His shipmate Shorty is not so fortunate at mail call, and in fact is in such a case of despondency that he pulls out a small pistol and attempts to blow his brains out. Bit Popeye grabs away the pistol, and inquires, “Hey, what’s eatin’ ya?” “I never get no letters. Nobody loves me”, replies Shorty. “That’s funny. I likes ya. You’re cute, and good lookin’”, observes Popeye. Shorty brightens, until Popeye adds that he looks just like Bob Hope – at which Shorty pulls out an even bigger pistol. “I – I mean, Bing Crosby”, changes Popeye’s tune. Now Shorty is pacified, and briefly transforms into the facial features of Bing. Popeye invites Shorty to his birthday, and the eager young sailor plants a big kiss on Popeye’s cheek.
At her apartment, Olive greets Popeye with a big kiss. Popeye introduces Shorty, who also receives a kiss – and literally floats on air. Shorty decides to help with the making of the cake, but remembers to wash his hands first. He enters a men’s room, and we hear inside the sound of running water. Popeye attempts to bring Shorty a towel, but upon opening the door is washed out to corridor by a torrential flood of water from Shorty leaving the sink running. Popeye winds up outside, down a storm drain, and is further clobbered by a car when he tries to crawl out. Meanwhile, Olive has Shorty rounding up ingredients from her pantry. Shorty is so active, his figure divides in two. He meets himself in intersecting paths – and one of him feels the air space where the other is visible, only to have the second Shorty fade away transparently, and the real Shorty shrug his shoulders in confusion. Popeye enters, with blood in his eye, but upon seeing Shorty helping, calms himself to “forgive and forget”. His resolve doesn;t last long, as Shorty thrusts a tall pile of ingredients into Poprye’s hands while Shorty retrieves a dozen eggs from the refrigerator in the next room. Popeye barely keeps the pile from falling – then receives a jolt from behind, as Shorty re-enters through a swinging door. Everything, including the eggs, falls in a hopeless mess. Shorty apologizes, while Popeye piles up a new batch of ingredients, and asks Shorty to open the door. Shorty misinterprets the instruction, opening a door to an ironing board, which flattens Popeye and the ingredients again. Olice tells the soiled sailor to take a bath, and Shorty volunteers to “run the water”. You guessed it. Popeye is washed out the door again by another flood. Realizing Popeye isn’t having any fun on his birthday, Shorty pulls out yet another pistol, but Olive takes it away.
Shorty believes Popeye should be “playing games”, and when a furious Popeye enters carrying a bat, Shorty thinks he wants to play baseball. Running to a closet for sporting equipment, Shorty hits a home run – right onto Popeye’s forehead. He next engages in a round of golf, his drive repeatedly bouncing the ball in ricochets between the wall and Popeye’s dome, laying the sailor flat, so that the ball makes a “birdie’ in two right down Popeye’s throat. Shorty next puts a pair of skates on Popeye and supplies him with a hockey stick. In similar gear, Shorty approaches to score a goal. Popeye takes a swing at Shorty with his stick, but misses, leaving him spinning in a circle, to carve a hole with his skates right through the floor, falling into the apartment below. A low key polite British gentleman pops his head out the hole to inquire of Shorty what is going on, with Popeye and a ceiling chandelier balanced on his head. “You’ll have to pardon me now”, he says, “I’m losing my footing,”, as he falls back through the hole with a crash.
Popeye remains, and kicks Shorty down the same hole. Then, realizing he’ll get murdered if Olive sees the hole, Popeye covers the damage with a throw rug. Olive enters on the run with the freshly baked birthday cake, but comes to a stop directly upon the throw rug, falling through. Only the cake, slightly larger in diameter than the hole, remains. Popeye runs downstairs to the Britisher, inquiring where Olive went. “She went thatta way”, responds the Britisher in continued utter calm, pointing to a hole in her silhouette in the flooring. Popeye follows her trail down to the basement, where the furnace pipes transform into her shape as she lands inside with a clang. Popeye goes inside the inactive furnace, trying to apologize, but a soot-covered Olive emerges, telling him never to darken her door again. Inside the furnace, Popeye finds Shorty, who obviously fell down the same hole. Popete bemoans that Shorty ruined his birthday, and he didn’t even get his cake. Back in her apartment above, Olive finds the birthday cake, and crushes it with her foot down the hole. The remains, including one lit candle, land in the furnace below on Popeye’s head. “Hey, can I blow out the candle?” says Shorty, exterminating all light inside the furnace with his blow. As Shorty serenades in a frenetic chorus of “Happy birthday to my pal”, a shot rings out in the darkness, and the singing abruptly stops. From the totally black screen appear the words “The bitter end”, for the fade out. Draw your own conclusions – justifiable homicide?
Surprised Party (Hanna-Barbera, Snooper and Blabber, 9/21/60), falls into a bit of a rut, although that rut is a fun one, for writer Michael Maltese (who penned singlehandedly every episode of the series). Seemingly inspired by the work of Charles Addams, and before adaptations of his characters to TV or film, Maltese spawned his own typical average family of monsters, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist (the former a combination of an Igor and Peter Lorre, and the latter the Vampyra type), and their son Junior (a sort of juvenile Frankenstein monster), along with an array of Junior’s vicious pets. The group would appear in three episodes of the series, all strikingly similar in structure to one another, yet still welcomed by viewers of the period for their novelty. The whole premise of their inclusion in the series was slightly far out, as they were never involved in any crime to which a private detective would normally pay attention. What constantly attracted Snooper off the beaten path of pursuing the criminal element was the exorbitant fees the Scientists would offer for seemingly routine services, such as baby sitting or, in this case, hosting a kid’s birthday party – for $60,000! That kind of change will make anyone drop what they’re doing and hurry over.
The Mr. and Mrs. leave to take in a move – Ben Horror (reference to MGM’s “Ben Hur” of the preceding year). Of course, a party for Junior is no picnic. Snooper begins by blowing an unrolling party blower at Junior. Junior respond by blowing his own – which has a gun attached at the end of it. Snooper insists it’s only a toy, until he gets blasted point blank, and reacts to the audience with a sullen, “Children.” Junior swipes the cake, and brings it to his playpen, which includes a trap door to an alligator pit. He tosses the cake to his pet alligator as a snack, who disappears down the trap door. Snooper comes looking for the cake, and gets chomped on the tail and tanked into the pit, barely escaping with his fur. Snoop is ready to exit with haste, until Blabber says, “You’re right, Snoop. I don’t care about the $60,000 either.” Snooper stops dead in his tracks. “I forgot about that.” ‘That’s a lot of forgetting to do”, says Blabber. Snooper resumes his duties as master of ceremonies, and they help Junior open one of his presents – a “Do It Yourself Monster Kit.” In the manner of an Erector Set, Junior constructs a wind up metal monster with sawtooth jaws, which stalks its way toward our heroes. To save on budget, the fracus inside is only represented by an array of sound effects and vibrating camera shots. Coming home at this moment are the Mr. and Mrs. Snooper and Blabber race out of the house in panic, dashing right by the couple without picking up their money. “They didn’t even wait for the $60,000 fee”, says Mrs. Scientist. “Too bad”, says J. Evil, “I wanted to tell what a good movie “Ben Horror” was – Especially the chariot race. What a pileup!”
The Swimming Pool (Hanna-Barbera, The Flintstones, 10/14/60), finds Fred and Barney in a classic feud, over use of a backyard pool they both chipped in half to build. Fred finds out Barney is planning a pool party, which of course will involve using Fred’s half of the water without permission. He attempts to throw a monkey wrench into the festivities, by calling a friend (Charlie) from the local pool hall to wear an old masquerade costume of a policeman and fake a raid on the party tonight. As Fred waits bu the window that evening for his surprise to occur, there is a knock on the door. It turns out Barney had planned the party as a celebration of Fred’s birthday, to make amends, and a large birthday cake commemorates the occasion. Fred embraces his “bosom buddy”, and all is forgiven.
That night, the party starts “rocking”. Musicians play hot licks on instruments fashioned from cow’s horns, turtles, etc. Fred swings from a rope like Tarzan, diving into the pool, but crashing face-first into the wall. Barney dives with four bounces off the diving board into the water, and sinks like a stone. Meanwhile (in a gag lifted directly from the studio heads’ theatrical Tom and Jerry episode, “Solid Serenade”, the vibrations from a jazzy rendition by the band of “Meet the Flintstones” (which was not yet the official theme of the show, and would first appear with lyrics on a Golden Records LP and single, “Songs of the Flintstones”) rhythmically jostle a next door neighbor in and out from under the covers on his bed, and finally off the bed entirely, prompting him to call the police. Dozens of other neighbors do the same. So a real policeman arrives to instruct the partygoers to shut things down or be booked for arrest. Fred of course thinks the cop is Charlie, and, with things now patched up with Barney, whispers to the cop that he’s doing nice work, but let’s ham it up a bit. Fred plays that he is resisting arrest, while the confused cop tries to make heads or tails of his behavior. Fred states he’s going to run the cop in – into the pool, that is, and jumps on the diving board on which the cop is standing, vibrating the cop into the pool. Who should at this moment appear but the real Charlie, advising Fred he couldn’t get use of the policeman suit. “Then who is that in the pool?” Fred asks. The cop peers over the end of the diving board, and states, “It ain’t Bridgetty Bardot.” Fred is carted away in the paddy wagon, and spends the night in jail. Barney again proves his friendship, by slipping into Fred’s cell on a pole a large remaining slice of the birthday cake, and serenading another chorus of “Happy Birthday” through the cell window.
Happy Go Loopy (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia, Loopy De Loop, 3/2/61) – H-B’s last theatrical series, about a self-proclaimed “charming” French-Canadian timber wolf, determined to prove that not all wolves are big and bad, finds Loopy on a typical day of failed and misinterpreted good deeds that always get him into trouble rather than accomplish his purpose. This episode, however, deviates from the norm for most of the cartoon, allowing the wolf to enjoy a brief five minutes of fame and seemingly be accepted for being himself. The opportunity arises from a masquerade party being held at a local country club. As Loopy passes outside, he wistfully imagines the happy times the people must be having inside. Suddenly, he realizes he is being called by someone in the doorway – but not by his right name. “Hey, Charlie, where ‘ya been?”, says a man in a bear suit smoking a cigar. (H-B’s writers seemed to like my name.) Loopy is mistaken for the man’s best friend, who is late for the party, and invited inside. Because everyone is dressed as animals, clowns, and the like, Loopy is accepted as just another human in costume, and introduced by his host as the life of the party. The bear/man encourages Loopy to do his “bit” that wowed them in Omaha, and Loopy is pushed forward into the spotlight to perform (allowing Daws Butler to randomly show off his stuff in the form of impersonations). Loopy does impressions of Maurice Chevalier, Peter Lorre, Ed Sullivan, and a piano solo by Jimmy Durante. He is carried on the shoulders of the appreciative audience in honor, and at last feels his life mission has been accomplished. Until he is awarded the prize for the best costume, and his host attempts to remove his mask to show everyone who he really is. “Pardon, Monsieur. The head, she does not come off.” The jig is up, and Loopy receives the usual treatment of a wolf – as he is socked out the front door, smashing into a stone wall. “Well, that’s show business. Sometimes you’re a hit, and sometimes you get hit. But always, you carry on with a smile”, Loopy tells us, grinning to the camera, with one of his front teeth knocked out.
The title Happy Birthdaze appears again as an episode of Yakky Doodle from The Yogi Bear Show (Hanna-Barbera, 4/24/61) – Yakky Doodle amasses his entire life savings (27 cents) to buy his pal Chopper a bone for his birthday. But the biggest bone the butcher shop has available for the price doesn’t look like it will supply the huge jaws of the bulldog more than a mouthful. Where to find a bone worthy of Chopper? A pair of museum workers conveniently happen on the scene, carrying a giant dinosaur bone to be put on display. Amazed Yakky asks how much the museum paid for the fossil. “They got it for free”, says one of the men, apparently straight out of an archaeological dig. Realizing that his 27 cents will thus represent clear profit to the museum, Yakky makes inquiry about purchasing the bone from a museum security guard. The guard thinks he’s joking, and quips upon hearing it’s a birthday present that they’re fresh out of wrapping paper. As the guard turns his back, Yakky quietly responds that Chopper won’t mind if he takes the bone as is – and leaves his 27 cents as payment at the base of the display pedestal.
Yakky exits with the bone, placing it atop the dog dish of the sleeping Chopper with three birthday candles lit on top. Upon opening his eyes, Chopper nearly freaks out at finding the mammoth limb before him, but brightens when he learns it’s Yakky’s present. As Chopper ponders over a wish to blow out the candles, the museum guard, now under threat of losing his job, spots the runaway bone over Chopper’s fence. He nabs it away, while Yakky calls after him to bring the bone back. “I paid for that”, he insists. Chopper defends Yakky’s rights, by bopping the guard over the head with the bone. Chopper tries to hide the bone in his doghouse, but it is too long, bending outwards the boards of the back wall of the doghouse. While Chopper attempts to persuade the guard he hasn’t seen it, the boards propel the bone out the front dooor and on top of Chopper, who persists in his denials – “What bone?” The chase resumes, with some fast exchanges of possession by setting up open manholes in the path of each other. On the third try, the guard thinks he’s got the bone back, only to find he’s carrying Chopper instead. The two wind up in a tug of war, while Yakky continues to protest. The guard lets be heard by Chopper the information that Yakky took the bone from the museum, and the dog finally realizes the problem. Chopper lets go, and the guard saves his job by returning the bone. To make up for the day’s events, the guard and Yakky team up to present Chopper with the butcher’s soup bone, musically observing that though it’s just a teensy present, it’s the thought that counts.
Production order information is sketchy and subject to guesswork on Joe Oriolo’s original television revival of Felix the Cat, but most sources seem to indicate that a two-part story arc which has since (for lack of an original working title) been renamed Public Enemies #1 and 2 (1961) may have been the finale for the series. It ends in such bizarre fashion, it might as well be. Felix, while nailing window shutters closed in preparation for a windy night, hears a news bulletin to be on the lookout for the two leading Public Enemies, on the loose. Their description begins, but is interfered with before conclusion by a disruption in reception from the weather outside. What little Felix hears seems to fit the Professor and Rock Bottom to a T. To make matters worse, who should arrive at Felix’s front door but the Professor and Rock in the flesh. Felix hides, as the two find the door unlocked, and enter the home, planting themselves on Felix’s sofa in wait for his return. Felix attempts to escape, then remembers he nailed the window shut from the outside. (Restrained TV budgets and pure carelessness fail to note that the background artists have illustrated the room with a second window, which Felix never tries!) He decides to try to reach his magic bag, which is upstairs, by way of the ventilation shart of the heating system. The writers get into a total rut – three times in the same story having Felix encounter doors or gratings “locked from the outside”, so Felix almost fries inside the furnace, and gets trapped in the vent above his bedroom. Getting tired of waiting, Rock and the Professor look upstairs to see if Felix is sleeping. They find the magic bag on a dresser.
For once, the Professor does not make a lunge for it, resigned to the fact that he has never been able to make the bag work for him. Rock decides to give it a try himself, and to his surprise and slight fright, the bag begins to transform in shapeless amoeba fashion. “I’m scared. I wish Felix was here”, says Rock. The shapeless bag transforms into a hand, floating up to the ceiling, and unlocking the grating on which Felix sits. Felix “drops in” on the two adversaries. “So you’ve got me. Now what?” asks Felix. To his amazement (as well as ours) the Professor insists they have come as friends. Felix says “Don’t give me that. You’re wanted by the police.” To save on exposition and budget, the Professor somehow knows exactly what Felix is talking about, as well as of news events which have presumably been happening while everyone was in the house with no TV set on, and darts straight to the TVt, turning on the news to announce that the real public enemies have been captured by the FBI. Rock and the Prof are in the clear, and reveal they are laden with a roast turkey and a large cake. Felix provides a table for same out of his magic bag. The doorbell rings, and it is Poindexter, accompanied by Marvin the Martian (no relation to Warner’s character from the same planet). Most unsettling of all is the arrival of the Master Cylinder, who also greets Felix as a friend, instead of following his usual instincts to take over the Earth. All of them gather around the table, wishing Felix a happy birthday – a date which Felix had forgotten all about. In simple repeating scenes but still trademark off-model Jim Tyer animation, the revelry commences, with the unlikely shots of the Professor dancing with Felix, the Master Cylider offering toasts while holding a fragile crystal wine goblet in his metal claw, and Marvin the Martian endlessly gobbling down turkey, then the whole gang dancing together amidst an endless flow of confetti. Felix thanks all, and gives his signature laugh as the film (and possibly series) ends.
I remember seeing this episode in my youth for the first time, and have never been able yet to escape the feeling of “Did I miss something?” in how the film ever arrived at its wrap-up. That bitter enemies who constantly put Felix through over a hundred life-threatening perils could suddenly “forget everything” and be accepted into Felix’s home just because of a birthday seemed so entirely out of character as to be laughable without intending to be so. I guess I’m just not a believer in leopards changing their spots, nor as apt to “forgive and forget” as the average gullibe cartoon hero. I would have much preferred to see the series wrap-up with the Professor and Rock either on the rock pile for 99 years without the benefit of parole, or sent to the chair, the Master Culinder floating helplessly off into endless space, and Poindexter adopted by Felix. I’ll take victory over pacifism any day.
Slap-Happy Birthday (Hanna-Barbera, Yogi Bear, 5/1/61) – An odd question from Boo Boo raises Yogi’s attention -“What’s a Scorpio?” Yogi says it’s an insect thing with a stinger on its tail. Boo Boo says according to a book, Mister Ranger’s a Scorpio. A stinger on his tail? Yogi responds, “Well, it’s hard to tell. He’s always wearing those khaki pants.” Yogi learns the subject has been raised because today is the ranger’s birthday. While Boo Boo has made him a corncob pipe, Yogi has nothing. He at least tries to seek out the ranger to congratulate him – but finds the ranger in an unusually foul mood. Ranger Smith announces that he’s just received the okay to ship Yogi to a zoo if he catches him in any further infractions, and tells Yogi to watch his step. Yogi interprets this as a gentlemanly effort to avoid “apple polishing” and not push him for a present – so Yogi sets out to give Smith the best birthday ever.
Yogi first uses flattery upon the chef at the inn, informing him that the ranger has compared his cheeseburgers to the cookings of a French gourmet chef. This is enough to convince the chef to contribute a birthday cake for the cause. Yogi next pulls a little tourist extortion, stopping cars and asking them for contributions to a food fund for the unfortunate, to avoid possible mishaps in encounters with the forest creatures. He obtains a bag of chicken sandwiches from the tourists (who comment, “What a racket”), so now has additional food for the party. Smith notices him with the bag, and attempts to make a pinch – but Yogi covers by picking up dead leaves and depositing them in the bag, stating they were making the place look untidy. Smith lets him go – then remembers it is autumn, and the forest is covered in 400 square miles of dead leaves. Somehing’s fishy, and he intends to find out. Yogi next invites some of the tourists to the party. The ranger accuses him of pestering the tourists, but as Yogi instruts them “Mum’s the word”, they cover for Yogi, insisting they offered him food, but Yogi turned it down. The ranger is almost in shock at the very concept of this statement. He decides to put Yogi to the ultimate test – setting an unguarded picnic basket by the side of the road, and laying in wait. Yogi, on instructions from the chef to retrieve the cake, heads for the inn, past the basket. While his instincts take immediate note of it, Yogi turns away. “Too bad I got no time for that now. I’ve got more important things to do.” “What could be more important than a picnic basket to Yogi?”. a startled Smith questions aloud. But he soon believes he has the answer, as Yogi emerges from the inn with the cake, and Smith thinks he’s raided the kitchen. Smith races after the bear, telling him he’s through and will be shipped out. Yogi dashes into the cabin where the chef, Boo Boo and the tourists are wautung, and Smith runs right into the surprise. Reading the inscription to himself on the birthday cake, Smith knows he’s misjudged Yogi completely. As everyone else sings “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”, Smith breaks into tears, stating “I;’m realy not a jolly good fellow. I’m an old sourpuss.” “A jolly good one, though, sir, and that’s the best kind”, says Yogi for the fade out.
Yogi’s Birthday Party (1/6/62). Turnabout is fair play. A special half-hour long finale to The Yogi Bear Show, opens on a television stage as Ranger Smith sweats and fusses over last minute details before going on air (which include cueing up the musical background – oddly playing the instrumental intro for the theme of Top Cat!) As the broadcast commences, the Ranger informs the audience that this is a surprise birthday special – the biggest surprise being that they managed to keep it a surprise from Yogi. We flash back to how the whole thing started – with a call to the ranger station insisting that Yogi receive a gala birthday TV special. The ranger can’t understand why anyone would single out Yogi among the other bears for special treatment – until the angry caller informs him he’s the sponsor. Smith is further ordered to keep the event a secret from the bear. Smith comments to the audience that the request is roughly equivalent to keeping Lake Michigan a secret from a duck. He also muses to himself that on his last birthday (presumably not the one written about above), all he received was a book – “Trees of North America I Have Known”. As Smith ponders aloud how to keep a special tv show a secret, Yogi (who claims to have a ”cute” hearing) zeroes in on the ranger station and inquires, “A special TV show for me, sir?” Caught on the verge of letting the proverbial cat out of the bag, Smith modifies the truth slightly – admitting that Yogi will have a special next week, but saying nothing of the birthday, instead implying that Yogi is to perform. A born ham, Yogi states this is no surprise to him. “They’ve had “An evening with” this one, “An evening with” that one…” (referencing such current prime time specials such as “An Evening With Fred Astaire”) – so why not an “enchanted” evening (reference to a song hit from Broadway’s “South Pacific”) with Yogu Bear? All Smith can do to keep a straight face is remark, “Yogi, your modesty overwhelms me.”
Yogi launches a massive publicity campaign to spread news of his TV special. He stands in the path of tourists’ cars, getting them to stop by faking that they’ve hit him – only to spring a verbal commercial upon them to watch his special. He gives the chef at the inn a paper with his name written on it, claiming it’ll be worth plenty soon as a celebrity autograph once his show airs. He hides in the lake, allowing himself to be hooked on tourists’ fishing lines, to come up with another plug for his show. And, to the ranger’s dismay, the park is littered thoroughly with handbills touting the big event, tossed by Yogi flying above the park, suspended by a batch of kiddie balloons. However, when he alerts Boo Boo and Cindy Bear about his “Really big shoo” (impersonating Ed Sullivan), the bears, who already know from the ranger that Yogi’s been tricked, inquire what Yogi intends to do on the show. Improvising off the top of his head, Yogi claims he’ll sing a few songs, do a few dances, some card tricks, tickle the ivories, tell a few jokes and leave ‘em laughing” “You won’t need the jokes”, says Boo Boo. “Your dancing will leave’em laughing.” Yogi realizes Boo Boo may have a point, and retreats into the woods to try out a few steps – his first try ever. Within a few seconds, he trips himself up and lands plop on the ground. Regaining his footing, he looks down, and discovers he literally has two left feet. But the show must go on – so Yogi seeks out professional training. He first reports to the Fred Upstairs Dance Studio. He tries various moves like the “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” (but finds once he starts shuffling, he can’t stop), and the split (which winds him up in an hour-long cramp, forcing him to walk home on his hands). Next he tries voice training at the Boppy Barrin Vocal Studio (reference to legendary swinger Bobby Darin of “Mack the Knife” fame). Boppy first says Yogi has to get the beat by snapping his fingers in rhythm. No can do, as Yogi has padded paws. Boppy attempts to teach Yogi scat singing. After Yogi mangles his syllables, he only succeeds in biting his tongue. Finally, Boppy decides to find out if Yogi is more the instrumental type, handing him a trumpet and asking him to “wail”. Yogi blows squeaks and squawks until his eardrums protrude from the air pressure in his head. Boppy sadly concludes that Yogi has a tin ear. Yogi taps one ear with his finger, and hears a metallic clank. “You’d think I’d have noticed a thing like that before this”, he comments. Finally, Yogi seemingly takes piano lessons from Lee B. Rocky (a parody of Liberace) – but in reality is only learning to pump the pedals on a player piano, which training also proves useless when Yogi drops the instrument carrying it down the studio steps.
Back at his cave, Yogi attempts to take a nap to rest up from the lessons, but can’t undestand why his teachers accomplished nothing. Yogi’s “smarter than the average” conscience appears, and informs him it was not the teachers’ fault – that he’s just a no-talent bear. His conscience adds that Yogi’s only recourse from facing disgrace over the airwaves is to beat it, and melt into the forest. Yogi thus shows up at the ranger station, the others anticipating that he is ready for the ride to the big city. Instead, he swipes the ranger’s car, and makes a getaway into the high country. Helicopters, jeeps, and bloodhounds are drafted into service for the manhunt – – er, bearhunt, but quickly lose the trail in a remote sector of the park. But Ranger Smith knows Yogi’s weakness, and has one of the copters lower a picnic basket on a rope. If Yogi’s in a five-mile radius, he’ll find it. And right he us, as the copter hauls Yogi aloft dangling from the picnic basket. The rope unravels, and Yogi falls – but the helicopter makes a dive, and catches Yogi atop one of its rotor blades, forcing Yogi to run in place between one blade and another atop the copter to keep from being spun dizzy, all the way home.
Finally comes the all-star celebration. Yogi is dragged into the studio, kicking and fussing that he’s not ready to go on. But the ranger, in the style of Ralph Edwards’ “This is Your Life”, places Yogi in a seat of honor, and springs the surprise that he doesn’t have to perform, and instead is the birthday guest. The entire roster of then-current Hanna-Barbera daytime TV stars (including Huckleberry Hound, Mr. Jinks, Pixie and Dixie, Hokey Wolf and Ding-a-Ling, Snagglepiss, Yakky Doodle, Quick Draw McGraw, Snooper and Blabber, and Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy), make cameo appearances to give Yogi their congratulations (the largest mass appearance of such characters to date, not equaled for roughly a decade until various reunion shows such as “Yogi’s Ark Lark”, “Laugh-a-Lympics”, and the like). Yogi receives dozens of picnic baskets filled with goodies and presents, and a huge birthday cake. Huckleberry assumes the role (and goatee) of music master Mitch Miller (currently appearing weekly on the popular “Sing Along With Mitch”), leading the gang in a production number, “Have a Better Than the Average Birthday”, for a happy musical finale.
Hanna and Barbera, who had been progressively improving the visual quality of their television cartoons since hitting the airwaves, must have wrangled a decent budget from the sponsors for this all-out effort, which features some of the finest draftsmanship and most fluid movement to appear in the series, unrivaled for the characters until the feature-length “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear”. The sheer number of supporting characters alone in this episode gives it the feeling of costing triple any other episode of the series per foot. Yet for all that effort, due to its unusual half-hour format as a continuous episode, it remains one of the most seldom-seen of Yogi’s many appearances, and generally was not picked up for rebroadcast when the series went into local television reruns. If you’ve never seen it, it’s not surprising – but it’s worth seeking out.
To Be Continued: We’ll try once more to clean up our act next week.
The two-volume Bosko DVD set I bought nearly twenty years ago has a glitch in the middle of “Bosko’s Party”; it would always freeze halfway through and go no further. So, despite your assessment of the cartoon as “crumby”, I’m glad that I was finally able to watch it in its entirety — even if the soundtrack is out of sync by about 40 seconds.
The song Honey sings is “Sugar” by George W. Meyer and Joe Young, published in 1931 and introduced by Don Bigelow and his orchestra. Honey, by the way, plays the ukulele left-handed, like Tiny Tim.
Oh, and the kitten’s name is Wilbur.
And are you sure about J. Evil’s final line? I thought it was, “What a crack-up!” which would have more of a double meaning.
Old enough to remember that Yogi’s Birthday Party was intercut with a live party on KTVU Oakland, hosted by Captain Satellite and Sir Sedley, the station’s kiddie show hosts. They had a mob of kids and did schtick with a piñata and other games, with a cardboard Yogi standee — a Kellogg’s supermarket display? — featured prominently. This was evidently duplicated nationwide.
Didn’t know it was a “series finale”, although unfamiliar episodes were becoming very rare. I somehow recall the show just kept on running.
A few years later the Woody Woodpecker show had the “Spook-a-nanny” Halloween show, and that too tied into a live KTVU kid party. Mirroring a gag from the cartoon, they had three kids as ghosts with Beatle wigs and guitars who turned out to be wearing store-bought Woody costumes underneath. A quick check indicates Kellogg’s was the sponsor. Another national campaign?
Brad – Regarding the J. Evil Scientist line – yes, he says “pile-up” instead of “crack-up”. The line is confirmed on the “Yowp” site as well. A mussed opportunity? Maybe you should have been Maltese’s story editor.
Since the cartoons weren’t embedded in this post, I dug out my Yogi Bear Show DVD set to watch the birthday celebrations of Ranger Smith, Chopper, and the smarter-than average bear.
I couldn’t help but laugh when Yogi’s friends wished him “the best to you each day” in song. Kellogg’s of Battle Creek, of course, sponsored all of the H-B shows at this time, and their “K E double L O double good, Kellogg’s best to you!” jingle would have been familiar to viewers from constant repetition. No wonder Warren Foster took a gentle dig, earlier in the show, at having to meet an all-powerful sponsor’s demands.
When Yakky Doodle takes his 27 cents to the butcher shop to buy Chopper’s birthday bone, he is carrying a stack of eleven coins — which could only have consisted of four nickels and seven pennies. None of the coins are copper in colour, so the pennies must have all been 1943 steel cents, some of which were still circulating in 1961. That is, unless Yakky had some Civil War-era three-cent pieces in his collection….
Re: the “Our best to you,” lyrical allusion to the Kellogg’s jingle: I can’t check the running time, but my memory is that “Yogi’s Birthday Party” ran a bit short to completely fill a half-hour slot, and I’ve long wondered if the show originally featured appearances by Kellogg’s mascots Cornelius, Snap, Crackle and Pop, Tony Tiger, Tony Jr., Sugar Pops Pete, and Smacksie Seal (familiar to contemporary viewers because of their weekly appearances in the opening and closing of THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW) in a self-contained sequence which was edited out for later broadcast, thus explaining the slightly short running time. Of course, if the special was designed to feature local-station cut-ins, that would have explained the show’s length (though every station that aired YOGI wouldn’t necessarily have local kids-show hosts to host the local birthday party). Still, it’s likelier than my theory, unsupported by any evidence.