Do today’s youth know who Penelope Glamor, Pierre Nodoyuna, Benito, Pepe Pótamo, D’Artagnan the turtle, Bubu bear or Gorilla Maguila were? I’m afraid not, but I am consoled to have witnessed that some of the characters illuminated by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are still circulating among teenagers, adorning their shirts. During my two decades of teaching, I came across boys many times who wore T-shirts with the face of Pedro Flintstone or Muttley (Muttley), the flea and spoiled dog of Pierre Nodoyuna, the villain of Crazy cars. Snotlout became famous for his giggle. Whenever the evil plans of the perfidious Nodojuna were foiled, he laughed like a hyena, shaking his shoulders. Although he was his squire, he paid tribute to virtue, celebrating his failures. The Yogi bear also circulated in the notebooks of my students. When I asked them what those characters meant to them, they replied that they were their parents’ idols and that they found them nice, although they had never seen their adventures. On one occasion, I came across a case with the image of Benito, Don Gato’s dear friend. Its owner did not know its name, but it seemed charming. Only myths survive fashion and times. Although the Hanna-Barbera series are no longer part of the leisure of the youngest, their characters occupy a discreet place in the collective imagination. I think they are the nostalgic memory of a time when violence did not enjoy the prestige of today and humor was associated with tenderness and wit, not sarcasm and cynicism, as it happens with series like The Simpson Y South Park.
I do not mean to question the merits of The Simpson Y South Park, but its acidity and disenchantment produce a certain desolation when the laughter fades and the strokes of wit remain floating in the memory, almost always loaded with pessimism. I don’t think the Hanna-Barbera series were conformist, but they didn’t compromise with that nihilism that has tainted everything since the sixties. Faced with despair, they bet on humor, melancholy and nonsense. They ironed about our shortcomings, but did not incur the blame and disdain. His gaze on the human condition was benevolent and forgiving. Pedro Flintstone, in his blue tie and simple tiger skin suit, without sleeves or trousers, was not very thoughtful and somewhat crude, but he radiated vitality and harbored the necessary inhibitions not to act with amoral selfishness and offensive crudeness. When he was happy, he would express it with a hilarious and exhilarating “Yabba Dabba Doo” that conveyed joy and optimism. He undoubtedly resembles Matt Groening’s character Homer Simpson, but Homer is rude, stupid, lazy, self-centered, suffers from outbursts of anger and borders on alcoholism. It is not a manners figure, like Pedro Flintstone, that good-natured and somewhat silly neighbor who greets us in the elevator and covers up with friends in the corner of the bar, but that mass-man who has run aground on the sofa, hypnotized by the television and with consciousness progressively brutalized by the consumption of one beer after another. Peter Flintstone seems to have been invented by Dickens; Homer Simpson, by Philip Roth. Pedro would help us with the move; Homer, he would invent a pretext or leave us standing there, laughing at his own informality.
My favorite Hanna-Barbera characters are not the protagonists, but the secondary ones. Among them, the sweet, shy and melancholic characters stand out.. I think of Pablo Mármol, Benito, Tristón. Pablo Mármol is Pedro Flintstone’s inseparable friend. Short, blond, insecure, he gets along very well with Betty, his wife, and takes great care of Bam-Bam, his adopted son. We don’t know what he’s working on. Many have mistakenly believed that he was Pedro’s teammate at the quarry, but this is not the case. He looks more like a clerk and not a worker. He has known Pedro since childhood and, like his friend, belongs to the Lodge of the Wet Buffaloes. They both play bowling and when they get into trouble, Pablo always introduces good sense and an ethical sense. He seems smarter than Pedro and is never upset. If he were Roman, he would be a Stoic philosopher. Pablo Mármol is a song to those men of insignificant appearance and gentle character who hide a great heart and an awakened intelligence. It’s not hard for me to imagine it in a Frank Capra movie, unnoticed by its neighbors until circumstances reveal its human and moral quality.
Benito Bodoque was one of the most lovable characters in Hanna-Barbera. Short, naive, with a high-pitched, childlike voice, he always wore a white sweater with a button at the neck. It could be mistaken for an American. Faced with Don Gato, cunning, witty and somewhat gulf, he exuded humility, simplicity and honesty. He is that friend who is always willing to go to any trouble for us without asking for anything in return. It is inevitable to think of Sancho Panza, with his bonhomie and calm character. Of course, your mind is not so attached to reality. Benito is carried away by fantasy and his disbelief has no limits. Bubu, the little bear with a dark blue bow tie and tousled bangs, is not so naive. An inseparable friend of Yogi, his character is somewhat melancholic and his behavior more refined. He looks like an old bachelor professor looking at the world from a small window above an autumn forest. I have always imagined him secretly in love with Cindy, Yogi’s girlfriend, a gray bear cub with long eyelashes. With a daisy adorning her hair, a short skirt with blue ruffles and a yellow scarf tied around her neck, her flirtatious gaze and the way she fiddles with an umbrella evokes the great divas of silent movies. She reminded me of Lillian Gish. I think poor Bubu was as much in love with Cindy as Armando de Ninette, that French daughter of Spanish exiles that Miguel Mihura placed in the Murcia of the sixties, showing the contrast between Franco’s Spain and democratic Europe. Bubu and Benito are those eternal losers who accept their defeat with a smile and who do not respond to failure with resentment, but with phlegm and a certain irony.
Tristón, Leoncio’s friend, is also a loser, but he’s not doing well at all. Wearing a black bow tie and Pork Pie hat, he does not understand the optimism of his friend Leoncio, a hustler who is not discouraged by adversity. His expressionless face and gaze moistened with perpetual grief bring to mind Buster Keaton., another incurable melancholic. On the other hand, Pepe Pótamo and Maguila Gorila are closer to the comedy actors who have turned the smile into an existential philosophy. Pepe Pótamo is a friendly hippo who travels in a hot air balloon with Soso, a chimpanzee wearing a button-down cap with the visor back. Pepe Pótamo covers his head with a pith helmet and wears a white explorer’s jacket, with two pockets on the chest and encircled by a wide black belt. Whenever cannibals or pirates are about to cause him a serious displeasure, he turns to his secret weapon: the Hurricane Howl Hiccup, a colossal force that can transport him from Central Africa to the North Pole. Pepe Pótamo embodies the desire for adventure, the ambition to explore unknown regions, the resistance to the fact that borders are closed horizons. Maguila Gorilla is not an adventurer, but a sentimentalist. With his purple bowler hat adorned with a green ribbon with black polka dots, his lilac bow tie, his green suspenders, his red shorts and his huge lace-up shoes, he composes an image that recalls those clowns with a certain sadness behind his grinning grin. He lives in the Pajarería of Mr. Peebles, a little man who would like to sell it to save the expenses caused by its maintenance, but who never finds a buyer. Only Chispitas, a girl of about six years old, with red hair and pigtails, shows interest in him, dreaming of raising the necessary money to take him home. Wearing a little flowery brimmed hat, he kisses the gigantic ape every two by three. Maguila sometimes wears a cane and a white handkerchief with black dots that sticks out of his pants pocket. A fan of skating, his enormous body causes spectacular accidents. Their destruction despairs Mr. Peebles, who must always take responsibility for the damage caused. Gorilla Maguila is Hanna-Barbera’s most endearing character. His humanity and delicacy seem drawn from an Oscar Wilde tale, with his selfish giants, his generous-hearted princes and his altruistic swallows..
I’m not particularly optimistic about the future of television series, but I think that some people – and I’m not just talking about my generation – miss less bloody programming, with less cynical and disbelieving characters, and plots with a certain dose of hope and tenderness . In front of idols like The Punisher, the Exterminator, or Joker, with an unconscious that would delight any psychoanalyst, Patán, Benito Bodoque or Maguila Gorila make us feel that there is still room for innocence in a time whose pessimism and disappointment recall the most bitter pages of Quevedo and Thank you.