The Retro Bin : Yogi’s Space Race (1978)
In this installment of The Retro Bin, we’ll be looking back at the NBC Saturday morning series produced by Hanna-Barbera studios, Yogi’s Space Race.
When George Lucas’ motion picture Star Wars became a monster hit at the box office in 1977, each of the 3 networks (this was before the creation of the FOX network, by the way) tried to come to come up with their own TV version. There was Space Academy and Jason of Star Command on CBS, Space 1999 and Battlestar Galactica on ABC and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century on NBC. Not surprisingly, Star Wars Mania also found it’s way into the world of SatAM cartoons. NBC’s Yogi’s Space Race was one of several of the alphabet network’s attempts to bring Star Wars to the small screen. The series was another H-B “potpourri” series bringing together established H-B stars such Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound along with new characters in order to compete with each other in a good natured competition. Basically, it was Wacky Races in space. One can imagine how the board meeting that lead to this shows’ creation might have went:
HB Executive #1: We’ve got to come up with a new show to cash in on this Star Wars heat! Anybody got any ideas?
HB Executive #2: Hey, remember that cartoon that we did back in 1965? The Wacky Races? Well, why don’t we just do that again, but in space?
HB Executive #3: Yeah! And let’s stick some established character in there so kids’ll want to watch it! Since we use Scooby Doo, Yogi Bear and The Flintstones for everything, let’s use 1 of them. Like, say….(throws a dart at a dart board with pictures of old H-B characters taped on it). Yogi Bear! We can call it “Star Race”!
HB Executive #2: No, too obvious! Let’s call it Yogi’s Space Race!
HB Executive #1: BRILLIANT! Let’s get to work on that!
Yogi’s Space Race originally ran for 90 minutes, with the Space Race segments sandwiched between 3 added attractions; The Galaxy Goof Ups (which featured 4 of the Space Race characters as Galactic Patrol officers whose missions mostly involved using their stupendous incompetence to give their superior officer daily migraines), as well as 2 non-space themed attractions, The Buford Files and The Galloping Ghost. Buford was basically a bucolic version of Scooby Doo, while Galloping Ghost focused on 2 women who worked at a dude ranch which was also haunted by the ghost of the Miner 49er. Think Hey, Dude with a specter. Neither of these series ran for very long, and in the case of each, if you’ve seen 1 episode, you’ve seen them all, so sorry, folks, I’m not motivated enough to do a full review of either. Galaxy Goof-Ups was later spun off into it’s own separate series, aptly titled Galaxy Goof-Ups, reducing the series to 60 minutes. It was then reduced to only a half hour in early 1979 when NBC spun off Buford and The Galloping Ghost to a single series, imaginatively titled Buford and the Galloping Ghost, so in the end, the Space Race segments ran by themselves. Anyways, here’s the shows’ intro.
The Space Race segments focused on weekly intergalactic racing competitions in which the competitors flew around in mini space cruisers. The individual teams consisted of:
- Yogi Bear and Scare Bear (a cowardly bear voiced by Stooge replacement Joe Besser who also starred on Galaxy Goof-Ups). That’s right, no Boo-Boo this time. He was offered the job, but he declined.
Yogi: Hey, Boo-Boo! NBC wants us to star in a new show where we race and have adventures in outer space!
Boo-Boo: That’s sounds kind of stupid, Yogi. I think I’ll pass on this one.
Yogi: But, Boob, it says that every week we get to dance in a space disco!
Boo-Boo: It’s 1978, Yogi. Disco is practically dead! Besides, you know that I prefer Rockabilly!
- Huckelberry Hound and Quack-Up (another new character who also starred with Huck, Yogi and Scare Bear on Galaxy Goof-Ups, who here acted as the zany, clumsy pilot of the ship)
- Jabberjaw and Buford (from the aforementioned Buford Files) – Jabberjaw, the shark with the Curly Howard sound-like voice, flew the ship, while Buford ran outside of it on a treadmill to give the ship additional speed.
- Wendy, Rita and Nugget Nose (the central characters from Galloping Ghost)
- Phantom Phink and Sinister Sludge/Captain Good and Klean Kat – A space villain bad guy and his sneaky dog who also disguised themselves as Captain Good (Phink), the heroic champion and the paragon of good sportsmanship and his sidekick Klean Kat (Sludge). No one on the show (except for us, the viewers) knew that Phantom Phink/Captain Good and Sinister Sludge/Klean Kat were one and the same. Why they did this was never explained. Either Phink and Sludge had serious split personality disorders or maybe they owed Jabba the Hut a huge debt.
In fact, there were a number of things that weren’t explained on the show, such as how did Yogi, Huck and Jabberjaw get to outer space in the 1st place? And what were they doing there? How did Huck recline on his spaceship patio without him floating off into the abyss of the cosmos? And is a outer deck patio on a spaceship really a good idea for a race where the object is to go fast? And how was it that all of the racers were able to breathe when there’s no oxygen in space, yet none of the space ships that they flew in had tops? I tend to think that perhaps each of the ships had some kind of device that surrounded each them with a packet of artificial oxygen which allowed them to breathe in the vacuum of deep space, or possibly…
Dang! There I go over thinking a kids’ cartoon show again! Sorry about that. Anyway, just like it’s spiritual ancestor, Wacky Races, the individual episodes mostly ran together. Most people who are old enough to remember the series just remember the overview of the series in general, rather than any individual plots or story lines. Same deal with Galaxy Goof-Ups. I actually didn’t see any episodes of Galaxy Goof-Ups until they were rerun on Nickelodeon, and even after that, I don’t remember much except that at least once in each episode the title quartet would be shown boogeying down at an intergalactic disco, which of course was in no way inspired by the Cantina scene in Star Wars. I leave you now with images of disco music…IN SPACE!!
(No, this isn’t the actual music that was used on the show. I couldn’t find a clip with the actual show’s music, but you get the idea.)