BOOTLEG FILES 709: “Yogi Bear and the Three Stooges Meet the Mad, Mad, Mad Dr. No-No” (1966 spoken-word album).
LAST SEEN: On YouTube.
FORMAT RELEASE: As a long-playing vinyl album.
REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: Out of print for many years.
CHANCES OF SEEING A CD RELEASE: Not likely.
This week’s column is different from the others because the focus is not on a film or a television production. Instead, we are revisiting a record album that combines the personalities of pop culture icons into a jolly spoof of mad scientist movies. Indeed, it is a major shame that this offering was only captured on vinyl and not on film.
The album in question is the 1966 “Yogi Bear and the Three Stooges Meet the Mad, Mad, Mad Dr. No-No.” Despite the title, there nothing here that resonates as a James Bond parody or as a riff on multi-mad Stanley Kramer slapstick epic (which, of course, included the Three Stooges in a hilarious cameo as too-patient firemen). Yogi Bear got top billing over the Three Stooges because this was a Hanna-Barbera Records release – the trio made a series of novelty music records following their career reboot in 1959, but this was the first spoken-word record featuring their input.
The half-hour-plus record begins with a pop tune called “Yogi Bear” that fetes the irrepressible bruin as being “the toast of the town” and a “lovable clown,” but this is the only song featured here. The plot kicks in with a meeting of the rangers at Jellystone Park concerning the long-running problem of Yogi Bear escaping from the park’s confines. (Boo-Boo Bear is absent from this endeavor.) One of the rangers exclaims that he received a telegram from Washington – another ranger unhelpfully asks, “George?” – that orders the rangers to keep Yogi from running away. The telegram is signed “LBJ – head man, chief and boss.”
The rangers feel flummoxed that Yogi is constantly outsmarting them – the long-exasperated Ranger Smith is not part of this gathering – but they feel they have the answer to their woes via the arrival of three new rangers from Washington. Yup, the new rangers are Moe, Larry and Curly-Joe. (During the story, Curly-Joe occasionally gets called Curly – something that should make rabid Stooges addicts apoplectic.) The Stooges offer assurances that Yogi’s bad-bear behavior will not be tolerated.
“Don’t worry, we’ll keep seven eyes on him,” says Curly-Joe. Moe becomes irate and asks, “How do you get seven eyes?” Curly-Joe confidently explains that the two eyes per Three Stooges results in seven eyes. This brings a face-slap from Moe, who lectures, “Any child knows that two times three equals eight, you kindergarten dropout!”
At this point, Yogi Bear (voiced by Daws Butler) turns up and is surprised to find the Three Stooges in Jellystone Park. When Yogi learns the visitors’ mission, he promises to join Runaway Bears Anonymous “and become a new bear.” When the Stooges inform Yogi they are moving into his cave, Yogi borrows a dime from the Stooges for a telephone booth call to a costume shop to buy a little old lady disguise. Of course, the Stooges get fooled by Yogi dressed in elderly woman drag and escort him out of the park.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” says the disguised bear. “That’s easy – just say ‘thank you,’” exclaims Larry, which generates a Moe slap. Of course, the Stooges become suspicious of this senior after parting ways – Curly-Joe comments how the little old lady didn’t look like she shaved in a week.
The Stooges search for Yogi in the woods outside of the park, but a thunderstorm disrupts their effort. Yogi is miles away from the park and is lost. In an odd but amusing segment, Yogi has a full two-person (two-bear?) conversation with himself about his dilemma. The bear comes upon a strange house with iron bars on the window and a barbed wire fence. Inside the house, Dr. No-No and his dimwitted assistant Fang discuss the scientist’s Molecule Mixing Machine that changes animals into different beasts. Dr. No-No is eager for a human to experiment upon.
Fang escorts Yogi inside and the visitor is grateful. “That storm is enough to give somebody penicillin,” he says. Dr. No-No introduces himself and self-identifies as Dr. No’s uncle. “I taught him every dirty trick he knows,” he laughs.
Dr. No-No and Fang tie Yogi to the Molecule Mixing Machine with the goal of turning him into a chicken. “I hope this works,” Fang says. “We haven’t had any eggs around here in days.”
As the first half of the record comes to a close, a narrator questions whether Yogi will be turned into a chicken and if the Three Stooges will rescue. “Turn over to the flip side and find out,” the narrator says.
Back in the day, the listener would have to go to the phonograph and manually turn the record over, putting the phonograph needle into the groove to hear the second part of the album. Needless to say, the Stooges locate Yogi while Dr. No-No has devious plans for the investigative trio. What happens next? Well, I’d rather not go into depth because there are some nicely silly surprises and it would be a nasty spoiler to call out the story’s surprising twists.
In listening to “Yogi Bear and the Three Stooges Meet the Mad, Mad, Mad Dr. No-No,” it is obviously a Hanna-Barbera production – if only from the heavy use of the stock music that is easily recognizable from the studio’s cartoon soundtracks and Daws Butler’s nutty character voice acting. And despite a few slap sound effects, the Stooges’ trademark violence is kept to a minimum – or, in this case, a bear minimum. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Since this was obviously meant for the kiddie set, extreme sound effects of Stooges-worthy pummeling was out of the question.
But the strangest thing about this production is the question of why this concept was aimed at the spoken-word record genre and not adapted into a TV special. Hanna-Barbera already had a history of putting Hollywood stars in its shows – think of Tony Curtis and Ann-Margret on “The Flintstones” – and a few years later the studio would include the Three Stooges and other icons in collaboration with Scooby Doo. Mostly likely, the Stooges did not share the screen with Yogi because of “The New Three Stooges” cartoon series produced by Cambria Studios was running on television at the same time. With the Stooges’ images licensed to Cambria Studios, Hanna-Barbera could only settle on their voice acting for a record.
It doesn’t appear that “Yogi Bear and the Three Stooges Meet the Mad, Mad, Mad Dr. No-No” was very popular – the Stooges did not make another album and Yogi was never used again on a spoken-word recording. The production was never reissued on any other format – most likely because of the licensing rights to the Three Stooges’ images – but unauthorized digital recordings have been uploaded to YouTube.
For fans of the Three Stooges and Yogi Bear, this sweet little oddity is a happy, harmless romp that is deserving of new listeners of all ages – especially when enjoying a pic-a-nic basket lunch!
IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.
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