I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Hanna-Barbera. Well, mostly hate. Their animation is lazy, a lot of their characters (including many in this so-called comedy Christmas special) just aren’t funny, and they were also impossible to ignore because they made so many damn, formulaic, cartoons. At the same time though, I grew up watching re-runs of their older material and even their newer stuff like The Smurfs and The Snorks. For a good portion of my childhood, it seems like every cartoon either ended with the whirling Hanna-Barbera star logo or the DiC moon (and DiC was no better at this game) so there’s a lot of nostalgia there for me.
Yogi Bear’s All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper is certainly a mouthful. Released in 1982, it was Yogi’s second Christmas special following Yogi’s First Christmas, which if you can believe it is actually worse than this one and unbearably long too (oooh, a pun!). As the title suggests, this special is an ensemble affair. Yogi may be the central star, but basically all of the major players (and some of the not so major players) from Hanna-Barbera are going to appear, save for Scooby and the gang. It’s basically all of their animal characters, plus a few cameos, and almost all of the Daws Butler characters. Butler was basically Hanna-Barbera’s Mel Blanc (who coincidentally is also in this special), but less celebrated because his characters are mostly terrible. He did help Nancy Cartwright get her foot in the door though, so at least we have him to thank for Bart Simpson.
The special opens with a van full of characters heading to Jellystone Park to celebrate Christmas with their pals Yogi and Boo Boo. They are: Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss, Hokey Wolf, Super Snooper, Blabber Mouse, Augie Doggie and his dear old dad too. They drop in on Ranger Smith, who’s content in his little ranger station because Christmas means the park is closed and Yogi is hibernating. As such, he’s not too happy to hear this gaggle of oddly colored animal folk is here to rouse Yogi from his slumber to celebrate Christmas. He has no interest in waking Yogi, but Hokey Wolf (who the heck is this guy?) threatens to call his friend from the Department of the Interior if he doesn’t help them out. Unfortunately for them, they get Yogi’s answering machine and it seems he’s departed with Boo Boo to head for the city to spend Christmas with them there. Oh my!
Yogi and Boo Boo have stowed away on a bus heading to “the big city.” Yogi is quite unsatisfied with the food he’s found amongst the luggage, but soon enough they reach their destination. Ranger Smith has apparently phoned ahead because two animal control officers are waiting and they chase Yogi and Boo Boo into a department store. In a bit of surprising cleverness from Yogi, he makes an announcement over the intercom that two bears are on the loose to create some chaos and aid their escape.
Meanwhile, a young girl named Judy Jones is getting dropped off at the store. Her dad, apparently a wealthy businessman of some kind, is riding in the backseat of a big yellow limo with her and advises her to head into the store and charge a Christmas gift for herself to his account. She asks him to come with, but he’s too busy, and this animation is absolutely terrible as she exits the car. Inside, Yogi and Boo Boo have disguised themselves as Santa Claus and an elf and have infiltrated the Santa training program. As they exit the training room, little Judy takes note and wants a word with Santa Yogi. At this point, her father is already looking for her. Since he just dropped her off, we’re left to assume he’s not a horrible father and saw the huge commotion and decided to come in after her. He gets security involved who begin looking for her.
Yogi is a bit humbled by the girl as she speaks to him as if he’s actually Santa. He says a bunch of nonsense that’s supposed to be funny (it’s not), but does hear her out. She wants a father who will spend time with her at Christmas, which Yogi takes to mean she has no dad. By now security is onto him, and they know he’s not a part of their Santa program, and a chase ensues resulting in Yogi, Boo Boo, and Judy crashing a sleigh into a Christmas tree. Judy reminds us numerous times throughout the chase that she’s having a wonderful time, so I guess the producers worried Yogi kidnapping a little girl would seem kind of dark.
Yogi and the gang manage to escape the store, and since it’s a Yogi cartoon, they actually manage to find the one couple in the city looking to have a picnic in the snow. The writers at least acknowledge the ridiculousness of this scenario by having the husband say he always wanted to have a picnic at Christmas time, with his wife not wanting any part of it. Yogi uses his “cunning” to convince them to let him have the picnic on their behalf, and they hand over the picnic basket. Meanwhile, Ranger Smith has arrived in the city and overhears a news report about an imposter Santa kidnapping Judy Jones, the daughter of one of the world’s wealthiest men. The chief of police describes the Santa as resembling a bear, and we find out Yogi is 5’7″ and since he’s as tall or taller than basically everyone else it means this world is inhabited by some very short people. Yogi’s friends have also arrived in the city looking for him, and director Steve Lumley did a terrible job ordering who speaks first so characters that sound almost exactly the same speak one after the other. Plus we get another exchange from Augie and his father – I hate them so much.
Judy enjoys her picnic with Yogi and Boo Boo, and when Yogi comes clean about not being the real Santa, she reveals that she was well aware of that (one thing I’ll give this special credit for is that everyone seems capable of seeing the obvious and is well aware that Yogi is in fact a bear dressed as Santa). Yogi wants to bring Judy home, but can’t get her to tell him where she lives. He tried looking her name up in a phone book, but Jones is too common a name for that to be effective (more surprising logic from this show).
Now begins the part of our special where we get inundated with cameos. First, the bus of Yogi’s friends arrive and they knew to look for him in the park. They agree to help him figure out where Judy lives. Snagglepuss sets out on his own and finds Fred and Barney dressed as a couple of Santa’s seeking charitable donations on a street corner. He points out that this is a cameo, and a particularly preposterous one as they’re about 3 million years from home. Fred and Barney play it straight though, and when they can’t help him they tell him to go ask a wealthy looking woman across the street. When Snagglepuss does, the woman freaks out that a lion is approaching her and Fred and Barney tackle Snagglepuss. The woman, thinking she’s just been saved, makes a large donation to Fred and Barney’s effort and they remark that the kids in Bedrock are going to have a pretty fine Christmas party now.
Next we get a quick cameo from Mr. Jinks and the mice Pixie and Dixie when Quick Draw knocks on their door. Their cameo is brief as Mr. Jinks is no help, but the mice give him a Christmas present after the others leave, which just happens to be a massive bull dog. Wally Gator, Magilla Gorilla, and Yakky Doodle are up next as they just drop by the park to say they got nothing. Boy, I’m sure glad they were able to get those guys into this one. The police have spotted the efforts of this animal clan though, and are quietly pursuing them in an effort to “rescue” young Judy.
Mr. Jones is seen alone in his mansion, missing his daughter. He’s apparently coming around to understanding why he’s in a Christmas special as he remarks how big and lonely the house is without her. At the police station, Super Snooper and Blabber Mouse are using their connections to see if they can figure out where Judy lives, only to find out the police are seeking someone who fits the description of Santa and resembles a bear. They race off to warn Yogi, but the cops arrive at the park too quickly. Mr. Jones is there and demanding they arrest Yogi for kidnapping, while he insists he did no such thing and that Judy ran away. When Mr. Jones questions why his daughter would run away when he buys her everything she could possibly want, Yogi points out he doesn’t give her any time. This of course causes him to see the error of his ways and he declines to press charges telling the police it’s all his fault. Judy is delighted to see a change in her father’s attitude, she was already starting to miss him after watching Augie and his dear old dad fawn all over each other, and is ready to give him a full embrace. Yogi and Ranger Smith even share a nice merry Christmas moment, and everyone has a party in the park and sings “Jingle Bells” as this one draws to a merciful conclusion.
When I was a kid, this special worked on me. I pitied poor Judy and rooted for Yogi and his friends to help make her father see the light. As an adult, I see it for what it is: a lazy, thrown together Christmas special designed to get most of Hanna-Barbera’s most recognizable stars in one place. The problem is, their stars aren’t particularly funny or interesting and it sacrifices narrative for cameos. These characters are so damn hack that it drives me nuts. I was a bit surprised at The Flintstones cameo as it was one of the few genuinely amusing moments, not because I have any particular affection for The Flintstones, but because of how Snagglepuss acknowledged how preposterous their cameo was. The animation though is bad, and Daws Butler is stretched too thin as a voice actor. At least there were no annoying musical moments.
If you want to watch this one, and if it isn’t clear at this point it’s not something I recommend, it might air on Boomerang this season at some point. It used to air regularly on Cartoon Network around the holidays, but those days appear to be long gone unless the network does something unexpected. It also used to be easy to find on YouTube, but now it’s behind a paywall there so you can expect YouTube is now actively trying to prevent people from uploading it. The special is readily available on DVD, and for not much money, though anything more than a few bucks is probably too much. If you absolutely insist on watching Yogi this Christmas season, I will reiterate that this is better than Yogi’s First Christmas. That special is structured a bit better narratively, but it has no real hook, isn’t funny, and is about four times as long. This one is at least only about 24 minutes.