Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hoppity Hooper (TV)

Produced by
Jay Ward and Bill Scott
Written by Bill Scott and Chris Hayward
Starring  Chris Allen, Hans Conreid, Bill Scott, Paul Frees
IMDB Entry

Jay Ward and Bill Scott were superstars of Saturday morning cartoons.  Ward helped produce the first TV show to feature original animation, Crusader Rabbit, and he and Scott were the creators of Rocky and Bullwinkle* and its spinoffs, plus also George of the Jungle.  But their most obscure work was the short-lived series Hoppity Hooper.

The show recounted the adventures of the title character (Chris Allen), a young, somewhat naïve frog from Foggy Bog, Wisconsin.  In the first episode, he runs into a couple small-time con animals, Waldo Wigglesworth (Hans Conreid), a fox, and Fillmore (Bill Scott), a bear.  Waldo manages to convince Hoppity that he’s his uncle, and the three go off on various misadventures.

The stories are reminiscent of those in Rocky and Bullwinkle, the adventures shown in multi-episode pieces filled with puns, wordplay, and silly satire.  Unlike Rocky and Bullwinkle, the adventures were short:  usually four parts.  The Hoppity Hooper cartoons were the first and last of each half hour show, with other Jay Ward cartoons like Fractured Fairy Tales rerun to fill out the time.

Hoppity was very much like Rocky – cheerful, friendly, but not quite as alert to what was going on.  Fillmore was a dumber version of Bullwinkle; his signature was to blow a loud, flat note on his bugle.  Paul Frees handled the narration and any stray characters who came along.

But it was Uncle Waldo who was the centerpiece.  Hans Conreid was at his best in the role, hamming outrageously and having a lot of fun. 

The show ran for two seasons, then was in syndication for some time.  Ward continued with Rocky and Bullwinkle for a few more years, until that sort of cartoon became passé. 

But if you love the Moose and Squirrel, you should see their Frog, Fox, and Bear counterparts.

*People don’t realize how long a run Rocky and Bullwinkle had.  It lasted almost to 1980 on NBC’s schedule, though in the last few years it ran at 1:00 pm, when most local affiliates switched to other shows.


Hal said...

Bringing back some great Saturday morning memories with this post. :) Even now I'll watch anything with Jay Ward's name on it; always a sure thing.

Melanie Lee said...

I watched some episodes of Hoppity Hooper on YouTube last Saturday, and I just had this thought:

The fox Waldo Wigglesworth and Filmore the Bear--a wily but foolish fox and a dumb bear--could have been inspired by Brer Fox and Brer Bear. Hoppity Hooper could've been a rabbit's name, but to avoid a spot-on parallel to Brer Rabbit, they made the main character a frog.

Now, did any of the satirical themes in the Brer Rabbit stories show up in Hoppity Hooper?

BTW, I used to think that Waldo Wigglesworth was a wolf.

Anonymous said...

Even all these years later, I (at 66) still have the jazziest theme song ever in my head. I was already an avid 'Rocky and Bullwinkle' fan when Hoppity Hooper hit the screen. My love of Jay Ward Productions continued throughout their many years as the reining producers of Saturday morning TV. And memories of their punny, witty plots continue to give me a smile and a laugh. Geniuses all...