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Yogi's Great Escape DVD Review

Yogi's Great Escape DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from WBShop.com Yogi's Great Escape (1987)
Movie & DVD Details

Original Air Date: November 19, 1987 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera / Directors: Ray Patterson (supervising), Bob Goe, Paul Sommer, Rudy Zamora / Writer: Neal Barbera

Voice Cast: Daws Butler (Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Wally Gator, Snagglepuss), Susan Blu (Buzzy, Lone Raider, Swamp Fox, Daughter), Hamilton Camp (Lil' Brother Bear), William Callaway (Trapper, Dad), Dustin Diamond (Chubby Kid), Patrick Fraley (Reporter, Lone Raider, Swamp Fox), Edan Gross (Bitsy), Allan Melvin (Bandit Bear), Tress MacNeille (Swamp Fox, Lone Raider, Mom, Son), Scott Menville (Leader Kid), Don Messick (Boo Boo Bear, Ranger Smith), Josh Rodine (Skinny Kid), Frank Welker (Yapper, Bopper, Ghost)

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Aspect Ratio)
Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Not Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: December 7, 2010 / List Price: $19.95
Single-sided, single-layered disc (1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM) / Black Keepcase

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Having collaborated for nearly fifty years and partnered on television animation for thirty, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were still in high demand in 1987, when they came up with Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10, a series of ten television movies featuring some of their accomplished studio's most beloved properties.
While Hanna and Barbera got their start in cartoon shorts and became legends in half-hour episodes, the two were not strangers to feature-length storytelling, having cashed in on hot TV series back in the 1960s with the theatrical films Hey There, It's Yogi Bear and The Man Called Flintstone.

Still running in one form or another in the 1980s, Yogi and the Flintstones would star in the first two Superstars productions. First up came Yogi's Great Escape.

On the first day of spring, Yogi Bear and his short best friend Boo Boo wake up from their winter hibernation hungry for food. The first picnic basket they encounter holds none of the many treats they're craving, but three young bear cubs with an anonymous note asking Yogi to take care of them. The orphan cubs, who share Yogi's sweet tooth, start addressing Yogi and Boo Boo as their uncles. Surprisingly, they're not the mischievous handful you might expect.

Eager to break their winter's fast at the start of "Yogi's Great Escape", Yogi Bear and Boo Boo find something sweet but not so edible inside this picnic basket. Ranger Smith, Yapper and Trapper provide the pursuit that inspires Yogi and company's adventures.

The good young sports tag along with their new guardians on a grand ride, which begins when Ranger Smith gets news that Jellystone Park is going to have to be shut down. Yogi et al. are to be transferred to the Ritz Zoo, a place they want nothing to do with. Rather than comply, Yogi packs the gang into his souped-up Supercar, which transports them on the titular escape underwater and on solid ground.

Perhaps inevitably, Yogi's Great Escape is a highly episodic adventure. Being pursued by Ranger Smith, peculiar Yosemite Sam-ish hired hand Trapper, and his one-note dog Yapper, the quintet of bears gets some assistance from a trio of boys known as the Bike Brigade. Another gang of three kids (young'uns travel in threes in this movie) calling themselves the Lone Raiders help out in the desert, where Yogi and friends are arrested by none other than Quick Draw McGraw. Don't blame the "cowhorse"; the criminals he's after do look just like Yogi and Boo-Boo (but with stubble).

Next, in a "Scooby-Doo"-ish turn, our protagonists end up in the Mumbo-Jumbo Marsh, whose haunted nature is merely an illusion created by its resident, Wally Gator. From there, Snagglepuss turns up and sees a disguised bear act as the answer to the problems of both his circus and Yogi's party. The adventure concludes with more pursuit, as the bears take off in hot air balloon past Mount Rushmore and end up atop the Empire State Building.

It is quite understandable that Quick Draw McGraw would mistake Yogi and Boo Boo for outlaw cattle rustlers Bandit Bear and Lil' Brother Bear, for there is more than passing resemblance between the pairs. The Lone Raiders, one of several featured youth bicycle gangs, are happy to help Yogi and friends escape from their desert ghost town's jail.

Yogi's Great Escape is pretty slight, too slight to make its infrequently musical 93 minutes feel coherent and uniformly interesting. When TV series are adapted into feature films, you always see some extra effort and thought taken to justify the expanded runtime and long-form story. You don't find that in Yogi's Great Escape, which plays entirely like something produced for television syndication.
Nevertheless, it's a pretty enjoyable diversion, full of Hanna-Barbera's character and charm plus enough witticisms to appeal to more than passive youths.

Great Escape was the first of three Yogi Bear entries to the Superstars 10 series, which aired in full over the course of 1987 and 1988. The nine subsequent movies were The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo Meets the Boo Brothers, Yogi Bear and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose, Top Cat and the Beverly Hills, Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School, Rockin' with Judy Jetson, Yogi and the Invasion of the Space Bears, The Good, The Bad and the Huckleberry Hound, and Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf. Though all ten movies were released to VHS and Hanna-Barbera distributor Warner Home Video has been better than any other studio at releasing TV animation on DVD, only the three Scooby-Doo movies had surfaced on DVD (reflecting that franchise's standing as Hanna-Barbera's strongest seller).

As you've been reading about it for several paragraphs now, you must have figured out that Yogi's Great Escape has become the fourth of its kind released to DVD, although it has taken the less costly made-to-order route in the Warner Archive Collection. Avoiding general retail and the various costs associated with it, a barebones DVD-R holding Yogi's Great Escape is now available exclusively from the WB Shop.

Great Escape was assigned a release date of December 7, 2010, the same day that Yogi Bear's All-Star Comedy Christmas Caper made its DVD debut in stores and ten days before the live-action/CGI hybrid Yogi Bear opened in theaters. While far from the intended commercial success on the order of Alvin and the Chipmunks, the critically-scorched comedy has shown decent enough legs to not be regarded as the family film flop of the holiday season (that honor belongs strictly to Gulliver's Travels, on which Europe can only supply so much help). I think it's reasonable to assume we could see more classic Yogi coming to disc either in stores or the Warner Archive Collection when the Tom Cavanagh ("Ed") movie comes to disc in a couple of months.

In the meantime, I received this DVD this week, hence this not so timely review...

Yogi thinks he'll be better able to provide for his new wards by altering a Jellystone Park sign with some white paint. The orphan cubs may be small, but their appetites are large.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Yogi's Great Escape is presented in 1.33:1 full screen and Dolby 2.0 Mono sound. Among the retail costs Warner saves going the Archive Collection way are those pertaining to restoration and remastering efforts. Warner is very clear about that fact, putting orange print on every title's page declaring that it has not been remastered or restored for this DVD and digital download release. And yet, as the quality preview clip on this disc's listing demonstrates,
Great Escape looks pretty great. Colors perhaps aren't as vibrant as they could be, but the DVD offers impressive video for a syndicated 23-year-old animated TV movie. There are some white specks and minor artifacts throughout, but no more than a general retail Warner release of comparable origin. The soundtrack is a little less pleasing. The dialogue is intelligible and everything else is okay; it just doesn't have the clarity, depth, and weight one would prefer. If you're hearing impaired, you won't feel welcome; neither subtitles nor closed captions are offered here.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Par for the line, Yogi's Great Escape comes with no bonus features. In fact, it doesn't even have a standard menu system, just a single Archive Collection screen allowing you to play the movie and informing you that the chapter buttons allow you to jump forward or back ten minutes. How much time and money could it possibly have taken to put up the cover art on the menu screen and time scene selections to commercial fadeouts? You'd expect more effort from bootleggers.

The case artwork looks like a high-quality but homemade printout rather than a more professional job. Still, it's one of the least objectionable things about this barebones presentation, which isn't even coded to display time remaining on a standard standalone DVD player, something that do-it-yourself projects do.

On the run from Johnny Law... ain't no trip to Cleveland. Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, and three orphan cubs stumble upon what appears to be a haunted bayou in "Yogi's Great Escape."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Yogi's Great Escape offers a good time without breaking Hanna-Barbera's TV animation mold. Making its DVD debut through the Warner Archive Collection, this 1980s telemovie has to settle for a very minimalist presentation while selling for a few dollars more than it would have in retail. Aside from the lack of subtitles, captioning, bonus features, useful chapter stops, a professionally pressed disc, nice menus and disc artwork, this is a satisfactory DVD whose picture quality should meet or even surpass your expectations. I recognize there were a lot of provisions in that previous sentence and perhaps enough to deter you. But if all you want to do is watch this movie in the best quality available on a non-degrading format, then this fits the bill. It's not like Warner Archive titles are going to be reconsidered for general retail release anytime soon. So if the movie means anything to you, it's between accepting the shortcomings here or going without.

And no one ever saw those orphan bear cubs again...

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Reviewed January 15, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1987 Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. and 2010 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.