Sunday, September 19, 2010

Papa Yogi: George Nicholas

Limited animation done right
Here's a good Yogi cartoon animated by George Nicholas and laid out by Walter Clinton.

The drawings and animation are cartoony and stylish at the same time. It show hows when you don't force (good) artists to trace model sheets you can get unique and funny cartoons - even when they only cost $3,000 for 6 minutes.

One thing I love about the earliest HB cartoons is that there are so many combinations of layout artist, animator and background painter. None of them are forced to a strict standardized look and the constant random mix of artists makes all the cartoons look different. Accidental experiments. This shaking up of the creative elements from cartoon to cartoon really works when you are using good artists- and especially when they came from different classic studios. George Nicholas was from Disney, Walt Clinton from MGM's Tex Avery cartoons and it's fun to see the mix. I'm not sure where BG painter Joe Montell came from, but his style is different than Lozzi and Monte's so that's neat too. I wish I could see Dan Gordon's storyboard drawings. I have xeroxes of a few of his HB board panels and they are really fun and lively. I'm sure he influenced the final look of Papa Yogi as well.

I think the people who hate HB might be thinking of the more standardized bland looking cartoons that came so shortly after this. There are a lot more of those than the few good ones that makes me like them.

Papa Yogi is a 2nd season cartoon- 1959-60, the year after the Huckleberry Hound Show came out. This season's cartoons are somewhat slicker than the first season. They actually have some animation in them. The first season used a lot of popping from still pose to still pose - like colored animatics. The year after this for some odd reason, everything fell apart in the HB kid cartoons. Yogi looks like hell all of a sudden. Maybe because they put their best people on The Flintstones, I'm not sure. Maybe the Yowp blog will explain it to us one day.

Yowp is celebrating the great June Foray's birthday this week.


kurtwil said...

Fascinating what $3000 could make as 6 minutes of TV animation in the '60's. This short did feel more lively than later HB stuff.

Wrt your last comment, so many studios change focus during their life, either because of a change in the creator's focus, and/or because the client doesn't care or appreciate the effort given their product. Disney's shorts took a nose dive when Walt decided features were more important. Studios I've worked for often relegated their first series to the "ZZZ" crew when a higher paying or more prestigious series or feature came along.

David Gale said...

That was pretty great. Love those yellow skies!

Roberto Severino said...

That's a good Yogi Bear cartoon I hadn't seen in a while. I forgot how stylish and appealing the drawings and poses are in this one. George Nicolas seemed to be one of the funniest and cartoony of the early Hanna-Barbera animators.

"I'm not sure where BG painter Joe Montell came from"

I think he did BGs for some of Tex Avery's MGM cartoons, specifically "The Farm of Tomorrow."

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Oh, man...I had to stop watching half way through. I'm afraid I don't share your enthusiasm for formula cartoons like this. If you had done the same story with the same characters and budget, it would have come out a hundred times better.

Martin Juneau said...

George Nicholas did some very good works at those early HB series, that's a fact. Papa Yogi stays a great cartoon with the memorable "Sick, sick, sick!". I guess they taken it from a radio show at that time.

Yowp said...

I enjoy Nicholas' work in Lullabye-Bye Bear the most. Yogi's partly deranged but still in character. The formula hadn't sunk in yet.

Foster's script is the best part of this. He has a completely jaded view of parenting and marriage. The fathers have all been forced by their wives to take their sons on this thing, knowing in advance the outcome will be illness due to overeating. No girls allowed because it's the '50s. Foster must have been tempted to flash to a house where some mother is teaching her daughter how to badger and stomp on a husband when she gets old enough.

Montell worked for Avery; I think Johnny Johnsen had left by then. He later ended up as the head of layout at Gamma Productions in Mexico.


JohnK said...

"I'm afraid I don't share your enthusiasm for formula cartoons like this. "

Ha ha. Well I didn't think I would convert you, Eddie.

What I like about the cartoon is that it ISN'T a formula. It looks totally unique and cartoony to me.

Shows you how perception varies.

JohnK said...

Yowp: Yeah, I think the story is funny too. It is kind of a jaded look on family life. Odd for a kid's cartoon.

Shawn Dickinson said...

Walt Clinton? I did notice some of the poses and facial expressions look kinda Tex Avery-ish. It's cool to pick out all the different styles in these old cartoons! I can usually tell which artists drew which scenes based on the shapes of the characters' eyes.

RooniMan said...

All the aspects of this cartoon work fantasic together. George Nicholas's animation is pretty good for limited.

Bob said...

I thought boo-boo was a midget bear, not a cub.

TedM said...

Cool cartoon. I haven't seen that Yogi Bear cartoon in years. I also like the fact that is Boo Boo is so much smarter then then Yogi but he goes along with Yogi anyway. I've always liked Boo Boo better then Yogi.

HemlockMan said...

I liked it. Of course sometimes I wonder if I like this stuff because it meant a lot to me as a kid and for that reason only. I look at it now and I admire the graphics and the sense of color from the animators, and I remain amazed at the voice actors HB used.

But how much of my opinion is formed by my sense of nostalgia? I liked those toons as a little boy, so the memory of them is positive, shaping my modern opinion of them.

Hell...I know people who adore old Thundercats and Transformers and Grape Ape cartoons. And all because of their positive childhood memories.

EalaDubh said...

Say John, while we're on the subject of early Hanna-Barbera character-driven cartoons, how about a post of two about Top Cat? We've had plenty of fascinating details about how the original H-B creative spark peaked with the first season of The Flintstones and how it had been homogenized out by The Jetsons, but very little about the show in between. I'd love to know how in your eyes it fits into this scheme of things, particularly since the ensemble cast was such a big part of it.

J Lee said...

One of the things most of the Yogi cartoons through the first two seasons (Ep. 1-48) have going for them is a certain lack of marketing slickness. Yogi could be a more varied character because he wasn't yet a break-out star with his own show who had to be limited in what he could do negatively while formula and catch-phrases had to be repeated over and over again to make sure the kids out there would make their parents by Kellogg's OKs cereal.

Yogi's three-season curve actually is similar to another pop culture creation of the 1970s -- Arthur Fonzerelli. Once ABC decided to make him the breakout star in Season 3 of "Happy Days", his personality got less appealing when it came to multiple re-run viewings and the stories became more forced and less funny. But as a marketing idea it was a success, and H-B spent most of the 60s living off Yogi (and Fred) until Scooby and those meddling kids came along.

JohnK said...

Top Cat:

I don't really like it. It's trying too hard to a live action sitcom and failing at it.

I like Ed's designs of the cats, but the humans don't fit at all.

The show is a portent of more terrible things to come.It predicts the 70s 8 years earlier.

HemlockMan said...

See? There you go. I like TOP CAT. When I was a kid it was a favorite of mine. The voices alone made it worth watching...I enjoyed listening to them. And the jokes were simple for a kid--typical yarns that would have been perfect for radio in the days when that medium was the place to experience drama and comedy. I haven't tried, but you could probably close your eyes and hear a TOP CAT episode and get just as much out of it as by keeping yer eyes opened.

JohnK said...

"you could probably close your eyes and hear a TOP CAT episode and get just as much out of it as by keeping yer eyes opened. "

That's what I think too.

Scrawnycartoons said...

While I do love Yogi bears, unique characters and voices and appealing backgrounds, I just don't see the stylish poses.

Usually Yogi and Boo-boo are just standing straight up and down. Am I missing something?

Still cool cartoon. I chuckled at the line "they must be dads, they looks pretty miserable to me". Daws had a funny delivery of it too.

EalaDubh said...

Kind of hard to dispute that, really. I think Top Cat's aged pretty well myself, but yes, it is a very different flavour of program from those surrounding it. It's a lot more 'grown up' for one thing, and TC himself is a complete bastard in a way that other HB ne'er-do-wells manifestly aren't.

A lot of it is also down to the celebrity cast, and particularly straight-man Allen Jenkins totally stealing the show, so this is probably what Chuck Jones meant when he disparaged Hanna-Barbera as being 'illustrated radio'. Still, you've got to admit the original is leaps and bounds ahead of anything Top Cat ever appeared in later.

Sven Hoek said...

You know how this cartoon is REALLY different from todays cartoons...?

It made me laugh.

Corax said...

That's some brilliant nose action going on, there. I love it when it wrinkles.

bhopp said...

I love how Ranger Smith looks different in almost every Yogi cartoon.

Great voices! I miss the funny voices from the old cartoons. Booboo is hilarious.

Also, I love the HB double-take all the characters do. They used it in all of their cartoons, but somehow I never get tired of it.

He-Sick Sailor said...

I wonder who can explain why we have people at budgets in the millions producing material not as good as this.

J C Roberts said...

I could always spot the cartoons animated by George Nicholas. He was always my favorite Flintstones animator. A good asset in limited animation because his look was sharp and consistant, and rarely if ever sloppy. His mouths were particularly distinctive among HB's animators, the whole head moving with them. Perfect for anytime a character said a one syllable word 3 times in a row, like "let's go, go, go!"

I wonder what his method was like. The cartoons he animated could look the most like they were done from model sheets because of how consistent his drawings were, but I've never seen model sheets from the era that look like his style. Some may prefer the looser, more variable approach such as Carlos Vinci, which I also always liked, but to me the difinitive Fred is the Nicholas one.

His Ranger Smith isn't one of the most distinctive, though, which is surprising. The one seen here is the least like his style in this whole cartoon.

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

Joseph Montell also worked with Jay Ward.

rodineisilveira said...

Johnny K.,

Our friend "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth recently included a topic about this Yogi Bear episode on his blog (
It's included on the following link:
Enjoy to see it!

Pokey said...

June Foray's work withHB goes back to 1959 on "Bear on a Picnic" where she reprised Ginny Tyler's role as a nasal mom (from the 1958 short "Daffy Daddy") and the 1959 pilot for the Flintstones..too bad most know her more for the Smurfs...thanks for posting this..Steve
October 8,2013 (to keep dates posted here..)