YOGI'S FIRST CHRISTMAS (syndication, 1980)

Why was it such a misfit?

Yogi Bear was never intended to support his own movie, let alone TV series. The Ed Norton expy first appeared as a supporting character in The Huckleberry Hound Show, circa 1958. He proved so popular with children that he was spun off into a show of his own in 1961, and made many additional appearances in other Hanna-Barbera projects through the next few decades. The gravy train ran out with the career-ending 1991 disaster Yo Yogi, and ever since then, Yogi has only appeared on occasion in bizarre mutated forms completely unrelated to his classic television stylings (Boo Boo Runs Wild, the 2010 live-action feature, etc.)

But we're fresh off the 70s, Hanna-Barbera are still the cartoon kings of television, and what else are you gonna watch anyway with just three channels on the dial? Yogi Bear wants two solid hours of your attention. Might as well give them to him because it's either this or homework, Billy.

I'm using a recording from 1986, where the first two minutes or so didn't air due to some technical snafu on the affiliate's part. Fortunately this is a good thing as it puts us right where we need to be immediately, with Yogi and Boo Boo waking up in the first few seconds. One thing you pick up on real quick, even if you've never seen a second of the show, is that Yogi expresses his ideas in rhyme. It's not an Underdog situation where it appears to be involuntary; Yogi just feels it adds panache to his style.

"Uhhhhh huh huh hey hey Boo Boo! What's all that commotion? I like using moisturizing lotion!"
"It isn't coming from outside the cave, Yogi, it appears to be happening above us."
"Hey, is it spring already? Let's see what's going on! The governor of West Virgnia has a nice lawn!"

They crawl up a tunnel and emerge in a kitchen. Yogi spies some freshly cooked food and prepares to do his thing while Boo Boo prepares to do HIS thing of warning Yogi not to do things. At that moment the chef enters the room, and has a reaction I can't say I saw coming -- he mistakes Yogi and Boo Boo for the assistants that haven't shown up to work. "WHERE have you been! Ze guests arrived HOURS ago! And WHY are you covered in brown fur? Zat's not part of our dress code! GET TO WORK!"
"Well, whatever," thinks the bears, and they suit up in white uniforms.

This ruse doesn't pan out. Yogi has absolutely no idea how to cook. He breaks an egg with a butcher knife. The chef, furious and covered in five times as much egg goop as one shell could contain, orders Yogi to serve the meals instead. He's at least capable of carrying a tray, so he manages to pull this job off. He passes a man reading the paper, who reveals himself to be Ranger Smith. "Did I just hear Yogi? No, it couldn't be....he's in hibernation."

It turns out, all of Yogi's old Huckleberry Hound co-stars are at this shindig. Snagglepuss, Augie Doggie, Augie Daddy, and the Hound™ himself are standing around a tree. Yogi walks up and mentions how weird it is that a tree could be growing inside a building. "It's a Christmas Tree, Yogi.....wait, how are you here? Aren't you normally asleep this time of year?" asks Augie incredulously.

Yogi explains that some noise woke him up, but he might as well stay awake for a while, as he's never gotten to experience Christmas before. If you ask Ranger Smith, though, it's not up to Yogi. He makes it his mission to get the bears out of Jellystone Lodge and back in their cave where Nature intended them to be. Yogi and Boo Boo evade capture by climbing up the chimney ("if Santa can do it down, we can do it up!") and dropping from the roof onto a snowplow. Ranger Smith and the hotel manager follow them on their buggy, but Yogi keeps unintentionally piling buttloads of snow on them. They evade Smith's grasp for now...but they can't really figure out how to stop!

You might be thinking there's not enough plot here to sustain two hours of animation. That's why, at this point, the focus shifts to a bratty rich kid and his stuffy aunt driving up to the lodge in their Rolls. Mrs. Throckmorton owns the lodge, and she's thinking of selling it -- but not before she spends one more winter there. The kid would rather be anywhere else.

The limo speeds past an old hermit, who despises tourists so much that he throws a log at them. The log picks up snow as it rolls downhill and becomes a gigantic snowball -- aimed right at the Throckmortons, who are currently stuck in a patch of ice. They would have been buried alive were it not for Yogi's runaway snowplow, which crashes into them and rolls the Rolls out of harm's way.

Back at the lodge, Ranger Smith has finally caught up with Yogi -- but since the bear is now a hero, Mrs. Throckmorton won't let him be dragged back to that cave. Instead, she insists Yogi and Boo Boo join the hotel staff as bellhops. So yeah -- bears just do this kind of thing in this universe.

Yogi is perfectly willing to perform the job. The only problem is biology. When the manager calls him, Yogi is sound asleep. Huckleberry has to whisper something about a pic-a-nic basket in his ear to get him going again. Periodically throughout the movie Yogi is going to zonk out like this, but somehow it always works in his favor.

The lodge is holding a series of competitive events. First up is ice skating, so Yogi heads out to prepare the frozen pond. Unfortunately the hermit is back (whose name is Herman....Herman Hermit) and he's attempting to salt the ice so it'll turn mushy and break apart under the skaters' feet. "By Danza of Tony, I'll get the zamboni!" declares Yogi, and clears out the salt without even being aware of what's going on. Herman gets a pile of dirty snow in the face for his trouble.

Mrs. Throckmorton is planning to enter the ice skating competition. Her nephew, whose name is Snively, hates just about everything, including his own mother, the lodge, and happiness in all forms. He can ruin all those things at once by swiping his aunt's skates and framing Yogi for the crime....so he does exactly that. Yogi didn't plan on entering the competition, but Snively insists he has the right legs for it and hands him Mrs. Throckmorton's skates. Yogi can barely stand up, especially indoors on a wood floor, but Snively tells him if he wears the skates all day, he'll learn how to use them naturally. Then he walks off and cackles.

Mrs. Throckmorton reports her skates missing, then Ranger Smith finds them on Yogi, then Ranger Smith gets mad.....and then I guess everything turned out OK because there's a cut on the tape to the next scene.

The next event is ski jumping, which all the animals are terrible at. Huckleberry falls face-first upside-down into the snow. Augie actually screeches to a halt before hitting the ramp and simply jumps off. "With competition like this, your nephew is sure to win," remarks the manager.
"That's what I'm afraid of," replies Throckmorton, surprisingly. "A good loss or two would shrink that swelled head of his." Nothing in the special confirms that Mrs. Throckmorton is Snively's legal guardian, and it's definitely not a mother-son relationship....she resents him just as much as everyone else.

Two more contestants remain: Yogi and Snively. "Oh hey, Yogi, your skis are loose! Let me TIGHTEN them for you, ha ha." Snively does the opposite, completely unstrapping the skis from Yogi's feet. Yogi doesn't notice and zips down the ramp.

As Yogi's incredible luck would have it, he sails off his skis, sails through the air and lands RIGHT BACK ON THEM, creating the illusion of a spectacular stunt. Yogi wins the event, and Snively is livid.

Mrs. Throckmorton was so enamored by Yogi's performance out there that she demands Yogi be promoted from bellhop to ski instructor. The manager, being under her thumb, has no choice but to do so.

Next morning, the cast is practicing Christmas carols. Mrs. Throckmorton covers her ears at the sound of all these animals singing and says, "This song was made for a MIXED chorus. We need female singers!" Well, THIS is quite the dilemma -- the cast of The Huckleberry Hound Show is 99% male. Where are they going to dig up a bunch of female characters suddenly?

As it turns out, there is ONE solitary female character in the entire lineup -- Cindy Bear -- and she's going to need to enter the special now. Boo Boo ventures out to her cave and wakes her from sleep. Cindy is peeved at Boo Boo for assuming she'd be interested in losing precious hours of hibernation just to join some carolers. Boo Boo needs to come up with something she'd be interested in. If Scooby is triggered by Scooby Snacks and Yogi is triggered by picnic baskets, what baits Cindy? Attractive bears in ties bait Cindy. So Boo Boo mentions that Yogi is among the carolers, and in a flash she's INSTANTLY ready to sing.

Now that Cindy is a part of this, she's once again resorting to her typical practice of trying to pin Yogi down. It should be easier on Christmas, she states, because if you're standing under mistletoe you have to kiss whoever's closest to you BY FEDERAL LAW. She's so excited about the prospect of getting smooches that she has to sing about it to someone. Yogi isn't in the room -- but Boo Boo is, so we get these bizarre visuals of Cindy making sultry faces at the little cub and chasing him through the lodge while he panics and flees in terror. I'd claim it doesn't mean anything, but we all know THIS eventually happens:

Cindy pulls Yogi into the foyer, and tries to coax his naive body toward the dangling mistletoe, but he's too interested in the food. The next time we see her, she's resorted to covering EVERY SQUARE INCH of that room in mistletoe so there's absolutely no way Yogi can avoid standing under it. But he somehow does.

In a later scene, Yogi is on a stepladder removing all of Cindy's mistletoe from the ceiling. He trips and the bowl of collected mistletoe lands on his head, at which point Cindy zips in from out of nowhere and lays a big wet one on him. Technicality!

It's the first day of Yogi's new job as a ski instructor. It become apparent in about three seconds that he wasn't awarded this position because of his experienced resume. "Uhhhh, these are skis! And..aaaaaah, we use 'em on this white stuff, can't get enough of that wonderful Duff! An' Tolkien's Gollum, there's this thing called a slalom....which is short for Salami!"
"Heavens to Murgatroid, you're terrible!" utters the giant pink cat. "Let's just ski down freestyle!"

Meanwhile, Herman Hermit has sabotaged the chair lifts, right as Mrs. Throckmorton was getting a lift up the mountain. Now she's trapped thirty feet above the ground, and panicking. Ranger Smith does his best to help, but he's about as skilled in this current situation as Yogi is in his.

The crew gets started down the mountain, unaware of the emergency a few kilometers down, but Yogi happens to pick a giant curved slope that catapults him through the air. He lands on the ski lift wire -- upside-down -- and slides downhill, whacking every chair he passes. One of them happens to be full of Mrs. Throckmorton, and Yogi's inertia brings her down safely.

Every time Yogi inadvertently saves Mrs. Throckmorton's life, she demands Yogi get a promotion. Now she expects the manager to make Yogi Chief of Security.
"Why is Yogi nothing more than a SKI INSTRUCTOR?"
"W-Well, ma'am, you told me to put him in that position..."
"MUST you do everything I tell you? NOW DO WHAT I TELL YOU! Promote that bear to CHIEF OF SECURITY!"
At the hotel, Chief of Security is Ranger Smith's job -- or was. They weren't exactly friends before, but developments like this don't make detente likely.

Snively has had enough. He can't ruin anyone's day without it backfiring, and he keeps getting blamed for everything he's guilty of, despite his best efforts to frame others. What kind of injustice is this? He decides to run away into the mountains. Once up there, he finds Herman Hermit's hideout and thinks it'll make a great new home. Then Herman comes back....

Now it's obvious what'll happen. Herman will hold Snively hostage as an act against the lodge, and after the trauma of the experience, Snively will finally see the light, reforming into a good little boy. That's what MIGHT'VE happened, but as it turns out.....

.....they're both such rotten people that they get along extremely well. They both hate Christmas, they both want to play pranks on people, they're both followers of Ayn Rand, and they both want to wreck the lodge. It's like a match made in heaven. They agree to work together, and start forming a plan.

It's a pathetic plan.....they're no competitors for the Grinch, though their plot is Grinchian. They'll dress up as Santa and one elf, slide down the lodge's chimney and steal the Christmas tree ornaments, so nobody gets to decorate it! This minor inconvenience will RUIN CHRISTMAS!

By the time they're skulking around in fursuits, however, Snively has officially been reported missing and search parties have fanned out in all directions. Yogi takes the snowmobile, Boo Boo and Cindy take the lodge bus, and Ranger Smith flies overhead in a helicopter. Smith is in a vantage position to spot Herman and Snively on the roof with the decoration box. As they climb down via rope, he parks the helicopter and chases after them. They double back around the lodge and hijack the copter for a clean getaway. Stupid Smith, why'd you leave the keys in that thing?

Boo Boo winds up driving the lodge bus right into Old Faithful, where he gets stuck. Yogi passes by, sees, panics and crashes the snowmobile. They all wind up on the bus just as Old Faithful erupts, sending them flying into the air -- and directly in the path of Herman and Snively as they flee. Yogi grabs onto the landing rail, weighing down the helicopter and sending it into a slow descent. Snively whines with fury as Herman yells at him.

Meanwhile, back at the lodge, Mrs. Throckmorton is informing everyone else that, because the tree decorations were stolen, the entire Christmas party is CANCELLED. Snively was right? They're that important?

At that moment the helicopter, and everyone involved, crashes into a bale of hay in the distance. Mrs. Throckmorton orders Snively to his room -- there'll be no party for him (even though he hates parties anyway). As for Herman Hermit, Ranger Smith places him under arrest.

Or at least he's about to -- until Throckmorton speaks. "Please, Ranger Smith, it's Christmas Eve. Are you really going to arrest someone on CHRISTMAS?"
Um, yes he is, because that man stole a --- "Yeah, you can't do this on Christmas, it just wouldn't be right," interjects Huckleberry.

"Oh.....all right, fine. You're free to return to your cave, Herman," says Ranger Smith. Everybody cheers. The heck???
In case you're thinking this gesture will reform Herman, you're wrong. He throws off his Santa outfit, yells something about hating Christmas, and stomps off.

And of course this isn't good for Snively. As the brat is sulking in his room, Herman comes back through the window and leads him away. They're fully free to cause more monkey business (because it's Christmas, I guess) but first, they've gotta get some fuel in the tank.

Everyone at the party is chowing down on turkey and pumpkin pie. Snively and Herman are persona non grata in there, but Herman says he has something better: stale tuna he fished out of the garbage! Snively is now beginning to wonder if his life choices have consequences (even on Christmas).

For bringing down the Snively-copter, Mrs. Throckmorton insists that Yogi get another promotion. "But..." says the manager, "....but the only higher position left is manager, and...." He points to himself. Throckmorton nods. It's okay to fire someone on Christmas Eve, but not arrest them.

To fill out the room, Throckmorton invited the population of the local orphanage. "They've never had a Christmas vacation, and this year they're going to have one....starting with this party!" She has more news...she's not selling the lodge after all. "Instead I am donating the lodge to the Jellystone Foundation, of which I am president!" Then isn't it still hers?

Suddenly, Yogi drops down the chimney with Boo Boo. They're wearing the Santa and Elf outfits that our villains wore, only they're using them for good....to play Santa for the orphans.

This causes a bit of trouble when the actual Santa arrives from that chimney a few minutes later. "As impostors go, this one's quite obvious! Hey hey, I know for a fact the real Santa would never be that fat!"
Fortunately for him, Santa is slow to anger (and pleased at the work Yogi did this Christmas). He deems Yogi worthy of the Nice List and hands him a present....one geniune Pic-A-Nic Basket, filled with consumables.

But in a final cruel twist, Yogi misses the one time a picnic basket is simply handed to him. He's fallen fast asleep, for good this time. Huckleberry points out the time on the clock. "Yogi said he wanted to make it 'til Christmas, and he technically did."

No one's more relieved this is over than Ranger Smtih and the lodge manager. They cart Yogi back to his cave. The other characters follow, holding torches and singing a reprise of the title theme song. End Credits.

So who came first: Yogi Bear the bear or Yogi Berra the baseball player? The baseball guy came first, but H-B claimed the names were unrelated -- a claim that's considered suspicious to this day, especially from a studio that constantly ripped off celebrities to get its ideas.

Why didn't it fit in?
Yogi's First Christmas has the same flaws most other H-B productions of this era do. It's cheaply animated, with only mouths or heads moving most of the time. Clever writing can cover for small budgets, but there isn't much of that here either. You could also cut a solid hour out of it and lose nothing -- there's no reason for it to be movie-length. As things with bears go, it's lower-than-average.

Do the Poopsie Girls like it?

For today's second opinion, we asked the enthusiastically poop-obsessed tweens from this commercial (which aired on Cartoon Network November 7, 2018) what they thought of Yogi's First Christmas. Unfortunately the lack of rainbow excrement failed to excite either one of them.