Jellystone: Why the HBO Max Series Is Worth It for Hanna-Barbera Fans - VRGyani News and Media


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Jellystone: Why the HBO Max Series Is Worth It for Hanna-Barbera Fans

In the modern pop-culture landscape, the cartoons of Hanna-Barbera are, in a word, antiquated. Most of the original studios’ animated shows were firmly products of the mid-20th century and emblematic of the burgeoning medium of television’s early days. The animation was distinctly cheaper looking than most theatrical standards due to a quicker production turnaround and colorful personalities like JabberJaw, Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound were thinly veiled caricatures of then-popular TV comedians that chiefly served as product mascots. In their day, Hanna-Barbera helped define TV cartoon stardom, but before long, they began to cater to the tastes and trends of the coming decades more than any other cartoon franchise. See 1991’s Yo Yogi! for a crash-course in 90’s cheesiness and audience pandering.

Jump ahead to the new millennium and most of Hanna-Barbera’s menagerie of cartoon stars have been either altogether forgotten or rebooted in modern revivals that ranged from the irreverent to the transformative. Most have been largely unsuccessful and conceptually awkward like 2015’s The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown and 2010’s live-action film Yogi Bear. Nowadays, the Hanna-Barbera library now primarily exists as a name of recognizable IP for owner company Warner Bros. to capitalize on through nostalgic character branding, such is the case for 2020’s Scoob! and 2021’s Jellystone. However, unlike previous brand incarnations, both Scoob! and Jellystone aimed to revitalize the world of Hanna-Barbera as a whole, not just a single show or character.

Warner Bros. Animation Group’s Scoob! initially served as Scooby and the gang’s first theatrical animated outing until it debuted straight-to-streaming on HBO Max due to the pandemic. On top of being another Scooby movie, Scoob! set out to establish a full-fledged MCU-style shared universe of Hanna-Barbera characters with Mystery Inc. at its center. The film featured Scooby-Doo meeting the likes of The Blue Falcon, Wacky Races’ Dick Dastardly and Captain Caveman to connect Mystery Inc. to a greater world of Hanna-Barbera characters to potentially be spun-off into future projects. The new HBO Max series Jellystone also sought to reintroduce young audiences to the world of Hanna-Barbera; this time through focusing on a community of lesser-known characters like Top Cat, Magilla Gorilla, and Snagglepuss living together in a modern cityscape.

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Of the two, how Jellystone newly reintroduces its cartoon cast falls more in line with the spirit of Hanna-Barbera’s roots than Scoob!. Jellystone owns upfront that it is a silly TV cartoon like its predecessors and fully embraces it. The animation is simplified to emulate the limited style of the original shows and delivers on the same breed of silly slapstick absurdism as the Saturday morning classics. Although it utilizes a modern sense of chaotic humor found in most cartoons today (over-the-top facial expressions, meme culture references, etc.), it still bases its humor on its characters’ reactions and personalities, of which there are a lot.

Apart from the usual Hanna-Barbera suspects of Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound, once forgotten characters like Grape Ape, Augie Doggie, and QuickDraw McGraw round out the cast of dozens that the show gives equal focus to. There isn’t any one main character, but the community of Jellystone as a whole is the focus, putting different characters as the lead episode-to-episode. The show puts these characters in new suburban roles and scenarios to translate character traits they’ve always had into a modern light. Doggie Daddy has always been proud of his child Augie Doggie, and in Jellystone, this is shown by him being a hilariously overprotective helicopter parent. Over-confident and bumbling Yogi Bear is self-proclaimed to be “smarter than the average bear” and he is Jellystone Hospital’s absent-minded head physician. How the Hanna-Barbera family of stars coexists and works off each other is reminiscent of classic TV events like Laff-A-Lympics or the 90’s Cartoon Network workplace bumpers.

Overall, Jellystone revives the kind of character-based comedy that Hanna-Barbera has had since its beginning by reinterpreting its characters’ personality traits for modern times instead of reinventing them. Where Scoob! falters as a reintroduction to Hanna-Barbera is in how starkly it misinterprets its cast and uses its inclusion of Hanna-Barbera characters more as callbacks and opportunistic set dressing than a full inclusion.

As the title suggests, the film primarily focuses on the relationship of Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, who are inarguably the most popular characters to come out of Hanna-Barbera. There have been dozens of movies to focus on Scooby-Doo in the past, but Scoob! makes it a point throughout its runtime to place Scooby and the gang in a greater Hanna-Barbera world through cameos, background easter eggs and its supporting cast. These are done in the service of teasing a veritable Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe rather than fully utilizing their personalities proper.

Despite decorating itself in callbacks and motifs, the movie operates more as a standalone Scooby-Doo adventure than an actual exploration of Hanna-Barbera’s world. Scooby and the gang remain the primary focus without fully acknowledging Blue Falcon, Dick Dastardly, or Captain Caveman as their own creations outside of the Scooby-Doo franchise. The film’s portrayals of these characters don’t carry over any recognizable character traits from their original incarnations and practically reinvent them in the service of this particular Scooby-Doo story. For as far as the film is concerned, these and any other Hanna-Barbera characters that would be involved are ancillary players to Scooby and any connections they have to past Hanna-Barbera properties are solely on face value. Scoob! builds up a world of Hanna-Barbera characters existing around Scooby-Doo while doing very little to have the two coexist on a character level. It’s Scooby’s world, they’re just living in it.

Both Scoob! and Jellystone newly explored the world and characters of Hanna-Barbera in ways that are palatable to a modern audience of today. One being a full-length CGI feature film with an emphasis on its emotional core, and the other an episodic cartoon comedy of chaotically random humor. Of the two, Jellystone by its very nature is a greater success than Scoob! bt being a fitting revival and tribute to the Hanna-Barbera name. The world of Jellystone celebrates the family of characters created by Hanna-Barbera in a new way while Scoob! sees them more as a recognizable property to stick into the sidelines. When comparing it to previous revivals, Jellystone is more charming and faithful than the average cash-grab, especially Yo Yogi!

KEEP READING: 'Jellystone' Trailer Reveals the Return of Your Favorite Hanna-Barbera Characters on HBO Max

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