Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Hillbilly Bears

Throughout their long run in television, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were never far from jumping on the band wagon when basing new shows on the latest "fads", which was understandable since a majority of animation studios made half a living of parodying (then) famous celebrities and comedy shows from as far back as the Golden Age. Yogi Bear was a take on "The Honeymooners'" Ed Norton, Wally Gator was Ed Wynn, and so on.
The cast for the full hour show!
So in 1967, they presented the hour-long Saturday morning "Atom Ant / Secret Squirrel Show": the titular characters respectively tied in with the sci-fi / secret agent phenomenon when Mission: Impossible and James Bond were in their stride. Joining them in their usual cartoon themes were Squiddly Diddly, the Hillbilly Bears, Winsome Witch and Precious Pupp. When the show split into two half-hours, SS nabbed Winsome and Squiddly while AA received Precious and the Bears.

Despite repeated airings of Secret Squirrel from Cartoon Network, CBBC and Boomerang UK over the years, I saw no trace of Hillbilly Bear episodes anywhere until the wonder that was the internet - where at least there is still hope of nabbing a good handful until a DVD demand is met...

The Hillbilly Bears (possibly a parody of the Beverly Hillbillies, which I assume, since the original ran between 1962 - 71) consisted of the Rugg family - ever-grumblin' Paw Rugg (voiced early on by Alan "Fred Flintstone" Reed, but later succeeded by Henry Corden), Maw, Floral (both by Jean Vandr Pyl) and Shag (Don Messick). In true hilbilly fashion, they were always a-feudin' with their neighbours the Hoppers - or in Floral's case, dating their "handsome" son!

Of course, this wasn't the first time Hanna-Barbera had taken the Hillbilly route - they tried it early on with a Tom and Jerry-carbon copy, Punkin' Puss & Mushmouse, for the Magilla Gorilla Show in 1963. But that's another story...

It's interesting to note, however, that according to their original model sheets, Floral and Shag Rugg were originally called 'Lil' Billy" and "Hominy". Whatever reason there may have been for the name changes remains unknown.

So if you recall the series from old, feel free to watch the Playlist below - and don't forget to "Do the Bear" while you're at it!

For further Hanna-Barbera stuff, be sure to check out the following LINKS OF INTEREST below:

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