REVIEW: Jellystone! Offers a Refreshing Revival of Hanna-Barbera Classics
Brenton Stewart
HBO Max Jellystone Characters
HBO Max Jellystone Characters
Beginning in 1958 with The Huckleberry Hound Show, Hanna-Barbera cartoons remain as a memorable and indicative piece of childhood to several generations. Its expansive animated catalog includes the likes of Yogi Bear, Snagglepus, and Huckleberry Hound -- inevitably offering cartoon fans a character that they already hold dear. In HBO Max's Jellystone!, the full expanse of that lineup gains new life in a massive crossover show that's sure to entertain.
Set in the community of Jellystone where the Hanna-Barbera classic cartoons make up the citizenry, there is something for everyone in the newest piece of animation hitting HBO Max.
The conceit of Jellystone! is that a cartoon community makes up an ensemble cast with no single individual demanding the central focus. C.H. Greenblatt, the showrunner and executive producer for previous animation successes like Chowder and Harvey Beaks brings that same level of frenetic energy and escalation to the table. Each episode starts with a relatively straightforward problem that spirals out of control into chaotic shenanigans. While the characters may have classic backgrounds dating back to the 1960s, the show modernizes not only their story but their presentation and character in a manner that's refreshing to audiences new and old.
Half-hour episodes are split into roughly 15-minute segments that focus on a different member of the community. In one, the hyper-ambitious Cindy Bear starts out needing to read a book for her book club and ends up turning everyone in town to gelatin. In another, Augie Doggie and her friends try to get into an adult movie and end up repelling an alien invasion. Watching the strange and absurd evolution from the ordinary to the extraordinary is part of the fun of the show, and while kids may enjoy it straightforwardly, adults will laugh at its sheer ridiculousness.
Much of what pulls off the humor is the excellent cast that wisely steers clear of aping the voice acting of the classic characters. The voices most adults may think of as Yogi Bear or Huckleberry Hound would only sound like bad impressions if their actors tried to imitate them. Instead, actors Jeff Bergman and Jim Conroy, respectively, pay homage without doing an imitation. Yogi's lovable and hungry persona and Huckleberry's tedious Southern gentlemanliness both come through and both sound right.
Similarly, the animation neither overextends itself nor mimics its source material. Jellystone! is a modern cartoon and appropriately has a modern look, but achieves that without the baggage of, for instance, the infamous 2010 Yogi Bear feature that opted for 3D computer animation. The trick with a project like this is in satisfying both the desires for nostalgia and novelty, and that's exactly what Jellystone! pulls off.
It's important for a cartoon to appeal both to the kids it is aimed at and their parents who will necessarily spend almost as much time with the program. Often cartoons opt too far to either side, talking over its audience's head or pandering with bright loud wackiness that slaughters an adult's senses. But Jellystone! strikes the balance it needs, setting up a new generation for their own future nostalgia as these characters see them through to adulthood.
Jellystone! is produced by Warner Bros. Animation and premieres July 29 on HBO Max.