Yogi Bear and his favorite source of sustenance.


Original Medium: TV animation
Produced by: Hanna-Barbera
First Appeared: 1958
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It is quite likely that more people today know of Yogi Bear than the man he is named after, baseball's Yogi Berra. And why not? After all, does Yogi Berra have a rock on Mars …

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… named after him? (That honor was given to "our" Yogi, along with several other prominent cartoon characters, in 1997.)

Yogi Bear debuted on the Huckleberry Hound TV show in 1958, as the title character in one of its three animated segments. (That was the standard format for cartoon shows back then — the third segment, in this case, was Pixie & Dixie.) His range of operations was Jellystone National Park, where, to the chagrin of his constant companion, Boo-Boo, he spent his days stealing "pic-a-nic" baskets from tourists — a practice his nemesis, Ranger John Smith, was never able to break him of. It proved a popular formula, and Hanna-Barbera repeated it in Magilla Gorilla (pet gorilla vs. pet store owner) and Wally Gator (alligator vs. zookeeper). (Not that the formula was theirs in the first place — it was taken more-or-less intact from Humphrey Bear, a minor Disney character.)

Yogi's voice, provided by Daws Butler (Cap'n Crunch, Chilly Willie), was based on that used by Art Carney for his character Ed Norton, one of the stars of the old sitcom The Honeymooners. (That show, by the way, also inspired the character relationships in Hanna-Barbera's later hit, The Flintstones.) Animation veteran Don Messick (Scooby Doo, Atom Ant) did the voices of Boo-Boo and Ranger Smith.

Yogi's popularity quickly outstripped Huck's. In 1960 a new character, Hokey Wolf, took over his slot, and in on January 30, 1961 he got a show of his own. Yogi's co-stars in the new show were Yakky Doodle (a cloyingly cute duckling based on an occasional Tom & Jerry supporting character named Little Quacker) and Snagglepuss.

That show ran its course in a couple of years, but it was only the beginning. Yogi returned over and over, in new series with different settings. He has been a space racer, a hip rapper, an airship captain, and even a pirate (albeit, one whose quest for booty is carried on strictly for pure and noble purposes). In 1964, he was the star of Hanna-Barbera's first feature-length animated film, Hey There, It's Yogi Bear, and he's been in several other features over the years.

Yogi has proven not just an enduring and surpringly versatile character, but also a rich source of merchandising revenue for his producers — and not just for the usual beach blankets, pajamas, etc. All over North America, you'll find tracts of land licensing his image, under the name "Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Campgrounds."

Yogi made his comic book debut in 1959, again as a second banana to Huckleberry Hound. But even before he got his own show, he was headlining comics of his own, starting with Dell's Four Color Comics #1067 (1960). Since then, he has starred, or at least appeared, in comics published by Gold Key, Charlton, Marvel, Harvey, Archie, and DC. Even today, scarcely a year goes by without new issues appearing.

On the other hand, the only comic book Yogi Berra ever starred in was a 1951 oneshot from Fawcett.


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Text ©2000-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hanna-Barbera.