Ever since I bought some DVDs from the Warner Archive Collection I’ve been on their email list, and I always enjoy learning about the cool and unusual videos they have to offer.  I remember when I first saw that Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose was available, I was both intrigued and bewildered.  Not intrigued and bewildered enough to actually BUY it, but enough to plant the idea in my brain that I might want to watch this movie sometime.  Last week, I saw it in a stack of DVDs that a patron was returning to my library, and I decided that sometime was now.

So first things first.  Yes, this DVD marks the intersection of the lives of Yogi Bear and Howard Hughes.  No, this story does not end with Yogi Bear spending an hour compulsively washing his paws in the bathroom sink, although in many ways that might have been more entertaining than this 1987 TV movie.

Okay, full disclosure time.  I was never an enormous Yogi Bear fan.  I had a basic peripheral knowledge of Yogi, Boo-Boo, Augie Doggie, Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, and Quick Draw McGraw … although strangely I was not familiar with El Kabong.  I guess Quick Draw was good at keeping his secret identity a secret.

If one of these Hanna-Barbera shows was on TV, I’d watch it, but it wasn’t the kind of thing I’d rush home to watch.  And before you write in to tell me that Yogi Bear aired on Saturday mornings and not weekday afternoons … well, that’s precisely my point.  I don’t even know when it was on.

Okay, enough about my Yogi Bear background (or lack thereof).  Now let’s talk about the plot of this movie, such as it is.

Yogi is leading a tour group consisting of the other characters on a trip to visit one of Howard Hughes’ most famous creations, the HK-1 plane nicknamed the Spruce Goose.  When on board the plane, the characters actually watch a brief video featuring Howard Hughes flying the Spruce Goose.  Remember that scene in The Aviator?  Remember how cool that was?  Well, it’s kind of like that, but it just lasts about a minute.  Oh, and only we grownups know that Hughes wasn’t supposed to fly the plane at all, but that he was doing it just to prove he could.  To be fair, we also know a lot more about Howard Hughes that we’re not going to share with the kids until they get a little older.

Anyway … I digress.  Let’s get back to the cartoon.

For reasons too stupid to explain here, the characters get trapped on board the plane after closing time.  Then Yogi starts pushing random buttons, and accidentally discovers that the plane can fly.  The “magical” element kicks in as we see that sparkly stars appear around the plane as it starts flying, so we know that all of the over-the-top things we’re seeing can’t REALLY be happening.  Their adventures take the characters all over the place, from a surreal visit to the stars to different parts of the world where they do things like help animals in need and fight against the forces of evil.

Actually, there are several characters who exhibit different levels of evilness.  There’s the Dread Baron and Mumbly (who for some strange reason I kept confusing with Dastardly and Muttley).  They’re evil of the moustache-twirling and laughing variety.  Then there are two aliens named Firkin and Merkin.  They’re notable for two reasons: because one of them (Firkin) is played by Dave Coulier, and because THEY’RE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO UNDERSTAND.  I mean, I know they’re supposed to sound “alien” and all, but come on!  How are we supposed to understand their diabolical plans of world domination if their voices are tweaked beyond human comprehension?

And then there’s a little girl named Bernice who had stowed away on the Spruce Goose and gets taken along on the magical ride.  Now, before you start asking, “Wait … the cute little stowaway who befriends our adorable heroes?  Why are you lumping her in with the evil moustache-twirlers, mumblers, and … uh … mumblers?” let me explain something.  The filmmakers consider Bernice to be a good character.  But *I*, on the other hand, consider her to be evil.

Bernice is a tomboy of the most annoying variety.  She has a chip on her shoulder that is so big that it could eclipse the sun.  Her tomboy status is proven by the fact that she goes around carrying a baseball bat … that she uses to threaten our furry heroes!  Both her attitude and her voice were so grating that I wanted to reach through the screen and strangle her.  She had this overly-defensive “I’m a girl and don’t you forget it!” attitude that was so annoying that it set the women’s movement back thirty years.  Which seems fitting, because even though the movie is set in the 1980’s she acts like it’s the 1950’s.  Honestly, the longer you carry around that “WHY NOT?  BECAUSE I’M A GIRL???” attitude, the more the boys are going to feel that a He-Man Woman Haters Club is an excellent idea.

Okay, that’s enough about the evil characters.  Let’s talk about our heroes instead.

OMG, they are SOOOOOOOOO annoying!!!

First, let me start with Yogi Bear.  He is inept as a tour guide, as a pilot, and frankly, as a bear.  He appears to have no peripheral vision, and has trouble comprehending things that are happening directly in front of him.  Quite frankly, if Yogi is smarter than the average bear, that doesn’t say very much for bears.

The other characters don’t fare much better.  Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy refer to each other with those “That’s my boy” and “dear old Dad” catchphrases.  Huckleberry Hound says things in a slow, Southern way.  Snagglepuss does his patented, “or ________, EVEN!” so many times that I wanted to pull my hair out of my head.

Which begs the question … were these cartoons always this stupid?  Was I simply not a discerning viewer when I was a kid?  Was I fooled by those laugh tracks?  Or is it possible that the original cartoons were funny, but the 1980’s TV movie incarnation was dumbed down?

I ask that last question because I used to watch Jonny Quest when I was a kid, and I loved it to pieces.  When I see reruns of the original show on TV today, I still think they’re cool.  But several years ago I saw a modern incarnation of Jonny Quest that was SO ANNOYING because the adults were portrayed as being SO STUPID.  Honestly, Dr. Quest and Race Bannon were such morons in that movie that I can’t believe they were able to tie their own shoelaces.  And let’s also not forget that the Tom and Jerry cartoons ranged from some of the best cartoons ever made to some of the stupidest, depending on which era they were made in.

Anyway, at the end of the movie, everyone is down and safe.  Animals are saved, Dastardly and Muttley … excuse me … Dread Baron and Mumbly … get their comeuppance, and the earth is saved from the possibility of an incomprehensible alien invasion.  Oh, and Bernice is reunited with her family in a scene that won’t leave a dry eye in the house.

The end credits include this message:

Special thanks to the Wrather Corporation for its cooperation with the production of this program.

The SPRUCE GOOSE is located in Long Beach, California.

In the Wikipedia entry for petroleum millionaire Jack Wrather, I learned that Wrather purchased and made tourist attractions of the Spruce Goose and the RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.  The Spruce Goose isn’t there any more — it’s now located at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in Oregon.  So that’s where you can go and pay your respects to this remarkable piece of craftsmanship, and shed a tear that its memory was sullied by appearing in this ridiculous movie.

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