The Retro Bin: Yo Yogi! (1991)

It’s that time again! Time for another installment of The Retro Bin. Remember that great animated series that featured all new versions of those beloved classic cartoon characters that we grew up watching? The one that debuted in the early 1990s? The one that had all of those great jokes and well written stories? The one that gave us a reason to start watching cartoons again? That show was Steven Spielberg’s Tiny Toon Adventures, but we’re not going to be talking about that show today. Instead, we’ll be talking about a cheap Hanna-Barbera produced knockoff of that show. A Saturday morning “quickie” (as in quickly gone and forgotten) from 1991 titled Yo, Yogi!.

yo_yogi

When the shows’ title is a worn out buzzword, that’s not a good sign.

Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies begat The Flintstone Kids, which had sex with Tiny Toons to spawn this show. Yo, Yogi! was like Tiny Toon Adventures, only without the memorable characters, clever writing or funny jokes. Yo, Yogi! was one of the last Hanna-Barbera produced Saturday morning shows before NBC abandoned Saturday morning cartoons in favor of live action, teen-centric programming (i.e., Saved By the Bell clones) the alphabet networks did away with SatAM cartoons altogether. Yo, Yogi! ran for only a single season (1991) on NBC. Apparently, someone at H-B studios thought that shrinking Yogi Bear down to half of his height and dressing him up in a lime green puffy jacket and red hi-top sneakers would be a good idea.

“DUDE! The green jacket and rd hi-top are so 90s! It’s AWESOME!!”

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Anyway, here’s the premise:Yo, Yogi! takes place in Jellystone Town (so it’s a town now?). Yogi Bear, along with his sidekick Boo-Boo and their pals Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss and Cindy Bear (voiced this time around by Kath Soucie) have been de-aged into 14-year-old teenagers. The characters hung out at Jellystone Mall (which appeared to be patterned after the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota) owned by “Diamond” Doggie Daddy with Augie Doggie as his heir to the mall business. Yogi and the gang work at an agency called L.A.F. (short for Lost and Found – The initials spell out LAF, as in ‘Laugh’, get it?) where they act as detectives trying to solve mysteries under the supervision of the mall’s security guard Officer Smith. Dick , or “Dickie” Dastardly as he was called here (doing his best Montana Max impression) and his sidekick Muttley would cause trouble for Yogi and his gang. But Roxie Bear is a teenager was causing trouble with Dick Dastardly  and she was Cindy’s rival and Yogi’s competitor. The characters were never seen at home or school. Some other H-B characters were also turned into teenagers, such as Top Cat, Wally Gator and Hardy-Har-Har, while other characters such as Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole, were featured as young children. Magilla Gorilla appeared in 1 episode as a famous rapper named Magilla Ice (groan!)
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Here’s the shows’ opening:

A lot of this show didn’t make much sense to me. First, if this series is supposed to take place before the old shorts, does that mean that Jellystone started out as a mega mall and was later torn down to make room for a national park? Second, why did Yogi and his friends wear more clothing as teenagers than they do as adults? And why was Dick Dastardly always trying to mess with the L.A.F. Squad anyway? What did he get out of it? At least in DD’s previous incarnations, he had clear motivations. In both Wacky Races and Fender Bender 500, he wanted to win the race, and he preferred cheating to achieve this goal. In Yogi’s Treasure Hunt, Dick wanted followed Yogi’s Gang around so that if they found any treasure, he could ambush them and claim the treasure for himself without having to do any actual work. Here, he just meddled in the gang’s affairs simply because he seemed to have nothing better to do. And like in his previous appearances, if he didn’t devote so much of his time to trying to screw over the good guys, he’d probably do all right for himself. And it didn’t make sense how some characters were de-aged for the show, while others weren’t. If Yogi and company all hung out with Auggie Doggie and Doggie Daddy in the present, how is it that Auggie and his dad are still the same age here? Unless the Auggie Doggie on Yo, Yogi! is actually Doggie Daddy as a puppy and the Doggie Daddy on this show is his father, who’s also called Doggie Daddy… Sorry. Didn’t mean to blow your mind. I think that it’s best to think of Yo, Yogi! as an alternate reality rather than a flashback, as that would a tad more sense. Tiny Toon Adventures was one of the best written TV shows of the 1990s. Yo, Yogi! didn’t seem written at all. If anyone remembers that one episode of The Simpsons titled “The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show”, the worst thing about Yo, Yogi! was that the whole series was a “Poochie”; a soulless by-product of committee thinking. It was based on the premise that kids would be more willing to watch a show with established cartoon characters from several decades earlier if they were remade to be “cool”, and it seemed like the entire series was concocted in board room by executives who don’t have a creative bone in their collective bodies. I doubt that the producers of Yo, Yogi! even knew what a writer was. The shows’ producers and writers tried to make Yo, Yogi! like Tiny Toon Adventures without realizing what is was that made TTA so great. Quite frankly, if taking established characters and trying to update them for younger audiences by making them desperately cool and hip is the only way to get them back on the air, then I think it’s better that they stay buried.

NEVER FORGET
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3 Comments

  1. One reason why 'Tiny Toons' was good, and 'Yo Yogi' wasn't is because 'Yo Yogi' didn't have Tom Ruegger. Tom Ruegger use to work at Hanna-Barbera before leaving for Warner Bros, and Ruegger's brand of humor can be found in stuff like 'A Pup Named Scooby-Doo'. Also, Tom Ruegger had the common sense to make the 'Tiny Toon' characters unique, and not have them related to the 'Looney Tunes' crew at all. Also, Warner Bros. gave Ruegger A little more creative freedom than he was given at Hanna-Barbera. So, that's my two sense on the matter.

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  2. I agree that having someone like Tom Ruegger, or anyone who actually had a handle on the characters and knew something about the characters and the genre might have helped. I also think that Steven Spielberg's idea of doing “Tiny Toons” as a “Next Gen” series, as opposed to it being the Looney Tunes characters as kids or it being about their sons, daughters, nephews or whatever was a good one. I honestly don't think that the H-B studios had any real goal in mind for this show other than to cash in on the success of a hit series that was made by one of their competitors.

    If I have one positive thing to say about “Yo, Yogi!” it's that at the very least, the producers didn't go with the predictable high school backdrop, despite the main characters being de-aged into teenagers.

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  3. “Yo, Yogi!” was among the last of TV's 'babyfication (a.k.a. 'kiddification') shows; those shows which would take popular or iconic characters and de-age them into babies, kids or teenagers in order to appeal to the youth market. Babyfications tend to be looked upon derisively by fans, but I've seen examples of babyfications which were done well, so I wouldn't have minded that, that is, if “Yo, Yogi” had a been a good babyfication. Unfortunately, it was as this article pointed out: a “Poochie”: a cynical and hollow attempt to a) cash in on a then popular show, in this case, Tiny Toon Adventures; YY! was to TTA what “Flintstone Kids” was to “Muppet Babies”, and b) revive popular characters by trying to pass them off as “hip” and “cool” in order to appeal to today's kids. There's more to updating established characters than just dressing them up in hip clothing and strapping electric guitars around their waists.

    There are 2 inherent problems with making your characters “cool and hip”: First, you often end up looking like a poseur, like you're clearly just throwing all this cosmetic stuff in there to look cool, and second, you end up dating yourself ferociously. It reminds me of this old episode of HB's “The Roman Holidays” in which teens Happius and Groovia are training dad Gus to be cool and they teach him to dress and act like a hippie. All very trendy for the late 60's, but now it comes off as horribly dated. Even Tiny Toons didn't age that well in that respect, what with their constant dropping of “Hey, it's the 90's!” at so many given moments. But TTA's saving grace was that it was funny, well written and entertaining beyond that, and there was genuine respect for the characters, their comedic style and the source material, which is where YY! was sorely lacking. What was good about YY! wasn't original and what was original wasn't good. It just came off as a naked and uninspired ripoff of TTA. Heck, 'Dickie' Dastardly even looked a lot like Montana Max!

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