Do they still have animated Christmas TV specials show up in first-run syndication?
By Paul Mavis
A few years ago, Warner Home Entertainment released Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper, the 1982 syndicated television special that finds Yogi and Boo Boo embroiled in more holiday hijinks, with some high-profile Hanna-Barbera friends along for the ride.
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Christmas, 1982. Ranger Smith (voice talent of Don Messick), after escorting the last tourists out of Jellystone Park for the season, is looking forward to three months of peace and quiet, safe in the knowledge that pic-a-nic basket-stealing Yogi Bear (voice talent of Daws Butler), and his sweet-natured friend, Boo Boo (voice talent of Don Messick), are hibernating for the winter. Not so fast, Ranger Smith. A knock on his cozy ranger station door reveals Hokey Wolf, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse, Augie Doggie (voice talents of Daws Butler) and Daddy Doggie (voice talent of John Stephenson), all pals of Yogi Bear who have driven up to Jellystone and who wish to spend Christmas with their friend.
Threatened by scammer Hokey Wolf, Ranger Smith bows to their request to wake up the sleeping Yogi, thereby discovering that Yogi and Boo Boo have up and escaped Jellystone, hoping to visit their pals Huckleberry and Hokey and all the rest in Christmastime New York City. The chase is on, then, with Ranger Smith in hot pursuit, as well as Yogi’s friends, who have to find Yogi before the cops do, since the authorities believe that Yogi has kidnapped poor rich Judy Jones (voice talent of Georgi Irene), a lonely little girl whose influential father is far too busy to spend any time with his daughter.
Certainly 1982’s Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper found this then-16-year-old reviewer still comfortably ahead of the small-fry contingent who, in those early kids programming-starved cable days, no doubt begged their parents to tune-in this Yogi holiday adventure. However…I’ll admit that I remember watching this when it first came out almost 40 years ago (gulp), where guilty pleasure probably mixed nicely with some holiday depression and a little teen angst-nostalgia for my recently “lost” childhood (I wouldn’t be sixteen again if you paid me). Catching Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper again after all these years, it’s an entirely different experience (wife, kids, mortgage, job, bills, Biden actually President!, rapidly advancing mortality…maybe sixteen isn’t looking so bad, after all…), and one I found quite pleasant.
There isn’t a whole lot I want to—or can—analyze here in Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper because it’s sweet and exceedingly simple and clean and straightforward, and it’s all over in 23 minutes (a significant feat when you consider scripter Mark Evanier had two whole days to write it, as H-B rushed production to beat an expected animator strike). If you’re a fan of the classic Hanna-Barbera toons as I am, you’ll welcome the warm-feeling, old-fashioned (and hastily executed) limited cell animation here, with the animators and the director, Steve Lumley, making sure that many of the set-ups include a cozy frame or two sporting some winter or Christmas motif (Yogi spends most of the show in a Santa suit, happily).
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The story, such as it is, doesn’t vary too much from the scam-chase-run-capture-apology structure of most Yogi Bear cartoons, while the addition of a lonely little girl looking for love at Christmastime is a fairly standard convention for these types of holiday specials—a few jokes are even worthy of a back-up and repeat (Yogi’s toy “Super Duper Ray Demolisher” is advertised thusly: “Be the First Kid in Your Block to Level Detroit”). It’s always fun to hear the supremely talented Daws Butler run the range of his various vocal creations, from the Phil Silvers-y Top Cat prototype Hokey Wolf, to his Bert Lahr-y Snagglepuss, to of course his Art Carney-y Yogi Bear.
And while it’s entirely possible that a lot of kids out there today will have absolutely no idea who Magilla Gorilla or Augie Doggie or Yakky or Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinx or any of the other visiting H-B friends are (with the possible exception of cameos by Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble), that won’t stop them from enjoying Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper on precisely the level for which it was intended. Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper certainly isn’t the best example of the Yogi franchise, but it’s sweet and Christmasy and it’s over before you know it, giving you one of the last glimpses of the old H-B look. Fans of these vintage syndicated Christmas animation specials—along with, of course, Yogi fans—will be more than pleased.