THE BOOTLEG FILES: “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey”
BOOTLEG FILES 120: “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” (1964-66 Hanna-Barbera madness).
LAST SEEN: It turns up occasionally on the Boomerang cable channel.
AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: None.
REASON FOR DISAPPEARANCE: Not considered prime Hanna-Barbera.
CHANCES OF SEEING A DVD RELEASE: Not likely.
BOOTLEG OPPORTUNITIES: At least one private collector offers the entire cartoon set.
I have a confession to make: I don’t like Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Yeah, I grew up watching them on TV (what else was there to watch back in the 70s?), but I must confess I have precious few memories of these cartoons. There are two exceptions to this slam: “The Flintstones” were (and still are) pricelessly funny and the live-action antics of “The Banana Splits” represent a sublime achievement in kiddie programming that has never truly been topped.
But beyond that, Hanna-Barbera scrape the barrel. Yogi Bear? A single joke, played endlessly. Huckleberry Hound? Zzzzzz. Magilla Gorilla? I’d rather slip on a banana peel than watch that crap again. Auggie Doggie and Daddy Doggie? I’d rather be Dick Cheney’s sex slave! Trixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks? Pass the cyanide and add a squish of lime to that, please.
Okay, I fib. There is one Hanna-Barbera creation which is in a class by itself. That is not to say it is particularly funny, but it is so damn weird that it deserves special commendation. That joyous creation would be “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey.”
Who, who, and who? “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” were not part of the Hanna-Barbera A-list. In fact, they were literally filler to another H-B character’s show. But viewed anew, “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” represent TV cartoons at a somewhat unexpected Dadaist peak. These mini-gems are so off-the-wall and unapologetic in their coarse stupidity that it gives one pause to consider why H-B never made more cartoons like these.
“Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” is basically a spoof of “The Three Musketeers,” with the title characters as the guards to an 18th century king. The guards, however, are dogs while everyone around them are human. Yes, this is the weird world of animation where anthropomorphic creatures who speak and wear clothing interact freely with humans who don’t seem to notice there are six-feet-tall biped dogs having conversations with them.
Yippee is the nominal leader of the trio – he’s a tall, thin purple hound with a vaguely Dixie accent (voiced by Doug Young). Yappee is a round white sheepdog with Louise Brooks-worthy black bangs covering his eyes. He has a raspy voice (Hal Smith provided his speaking tones). Yahooey is a diminutive mutt who sounds like Jerry Lewis’ spaz character from the movies with Dean Martin (Daws Butler doing the vocal honors). They are employed by The King, who has no name except “The King.” The monarch is a short, fat, dyspeptic bumbler who can’t quite run his kingdom properly (Hal Smith did his voice, too).
The beauty of “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” comes with the guards reacting to the royal summons by chanting their names and racing frantically to the king. Each guard chants out his name with a ridiculously loud and intensely exaggerated pronounciation. Thus, Yippee responds by shouting: “Yippppppp-peeeee!” Then Yappee echoes him by chanting: “Yap-pppppppppeeeeeeee!” And the third member goes ape shit by yodeling: “Ya-hooooo-eeeeee-eeeeee-eeeeeeeeeey!”
While the guards chant their names, they are in a frenetic race to the king. They try to achieve their goals through wholly inappropriate measures, usually swinging from vines or riding together on a single motor scooter (yes, a motor scooter in the 18th century!) or just plain running at Jesse Owens-worthy speed with their swords pointed directly ahead of them. Such actions result in either having the trio bang violently into each other or crash in unison into The King, who either gets swords impaled in his fanny or winds up being flattened by the mad rush. More than once, the sovereign complains aloud: “I need guards to guard me from my guards.”
So why is The King seeking out his goofy guards? In all of the cartoons, there is some calamity which devolves into an us-versus-them situation requiring the sword-swinging cavaliers. Either The King needs help in hunting a rare animal for his collection (a unicorn on one expedition, a lion in another), or some maniac has invaded the serenity of the palace (The King’s brother-in-law in one episode, a sea lion in another), or the guards find their jobs on the line unless they face a character- and muscle-building adversary (a flying robot in one adventure, a Sgt. Bilko-inspired drill instructor in another).
Inevitably, The King’s faith in his guards is sorely misplaced. Usually the trio do more damage to themselves than others – Yippee ingests dynamite to avoid the insomniac ruler from being disturbed during a rare nap, or Yippee stuffs Yappee and Yahooey into a cannon, or all three wind up in a moat with ravenous crocodiles. But more often than not, The King’s royal person is wrecked – a 21-cannon salute results in all 21 cannons being fired directly at the monarch, or a flying bowling ball connects with the crown and the skull below it, or The King’s head-first dive into a pool concludes with a crash landing into water-less crater.
Is this funny? Not particularly. It is basically a variation on the Road Runner cartoons of cause-and-effect violence, albeit with the always annoying Hanna-Barbera verbosity (which is magnified here when one considers there are five or six speaking characters for each six-minute cartoon).
But what is remarkable is the level of rough knockabout. There is more pain and suffering in six minutes of these cartoons than in a feature length Tarantino flick. Hanna-Barbera toned down their brute force of the MGM “Tom and Jerry” series when they migrated to television, but for “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” they temporarily abandoned their restraint and resumed their feral ways. Characters pick each other up for use as battering rams (with heads crashing into thick wooden doors), doors turn into air-surfboards and press unsuspecting bystanders into stone walls, The King is wrapped in a sleeping bag and held over an open fire until he catches on flame, tubas are jammed on heads, arrows get swallowed, people roll off cliffs, people are pushed out of windows, and so forth.
What is fascinating is that no one ever raised any concerns on the content of “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey.” Way back in the day, parents groups had some success in briefly getting the Road Runner, Popeye and Tom and Jerry cartoons taken off the air due to violent content. Even today, many Warner Bros. cartoons are heavily edited for TV broadcast to avoid gags involving weapons. But “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” seemed to have sneaked under that proverbial radar, infecting a generation of mini-miscreants with their rough humor.
As mentioned earlier, “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” were not the stars of their own TV show. They were a supporting segment on something called “Peter Potamus and His Magic Flying Balloon,” which ran from 1964 to 1966. Peter Potamus was one of the worst H-B cartoons – a bland hippo who traveled through time and across the globe in a big balloon with a monkey sidekick named So-So. The hippo would disarm enemies with his “Hippo Hurricane Holler” – basically a supersonic scream that flattened people. Not funny. Also sharing that mix was “Breezly and Sneezly,” which was basically a Yogi Bear ripoff in the Arctic with a snarky polar bear and a sneezing sea lion mucking about a military base in Alaska. Again, not funny.
Over the years, H-B sliced and diced their cartoon programs for syndication and “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” turned up alongside other offerings including “Ricochet Rabbit” and “The Hillbilly Bears.” Not much nostalgia for that crap, eh? But since “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” were considered second stringers, they never warranted their own home video release.
However, one enterprising collector amassed all 19 episodes of this cartoon offering from reruns on the Boomerang cable channel. I recently acquired a two-DVD set of “Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey” and I was more than pleased to return to those cartoons. Now I can understand why I grew up to be such a warped adult – when you’re a kid and you are watching TV programs where talking dogs fire cannons at kings, how can anyone wind up normal and peaceable? “Yippppppp-peeeee” indeed!
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material is not widely appreciated by the entertainment industry, and on occasion law enforcement personnel help boost their arrest quotas by collaring cheery cinephiles engaged in such activities. So if you are going to copy and sell bootleg videos, a word to the wise: don’t get caught. The purchase and ownership of bootleg videos, however, is perfectly legal and we think that’s just peachy! This column was brought to you by Phil Hall, a contributing editor at Film Threat and the man who knows where to get the good stuff…on video, that is.
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Posted on March 10, 2006 in Bootleg Files, Features by Phil Hall
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