Saturday, July 4, 2015

Spacely’s a Stupe!

Six year old kids don’t know much about corporate backstabbing. But they do know when someone is being treated like crap and shouldn’t be. So it was that young me had a pretty good idea what was going on in The Jetsons cartoon, “Uniblab,” my favourite of the series.

Is there a more quotable episode?

“Name your game! Jupiter Gin! Jupiter Gin! Planet Poker! Planet Poker! Five Card Satellite! Five Card Satellite!”

“Spacely’s a stupe! Stupe! Stupe!”

“Not only is Spacely a stupe, he’s the king of the old crabs.”

Here are some of the reaction drawings of George kicking Uniblab. They’re used again at the end of the cartoon. This beady-eyed version of George surfaces in various parts of the cartoon. Hugh Fraser, perhaps?

Hanna-Barbera brushwork. George takes the tube to his apartment.

A guess on my part is Carlo Vinci worked on this cartoon. In some scenes, the characters talk with that three-angle head tilt that he used in dialogue in the Huck series. In one shot, Spacely has a bar-row of teeth similar to what he drew in his earlier cartoons at H-B (though much thinner). And it seems to me he drew characters with longer faces in several series. Here’s an example with George Jetson. I’ll accept any corrections from people who are more knowledgeable about this.

The earliest Hanna-Barbera cartoons had some pretty neat extreme poses. Things had become more lacklustre by the time The Jetsons were on the air. When Uniblab becomes a drunken mess in the cartoon’s climax and starts dancing to the “Jetsons Twist” cue, the animators could have gone a lot wilder. Instead, the movements are not too extreme, and drawings are shot on twos, with the background moved to mimic the appearance of dancing. Still, the scene works because the idea is funny and Don Messick gives a terrific performance as the drunk robot. But it could have been better.

I understand why the Hanna-Barbera cartoons used limited animation and try not to criticise the concept too much. But one scene doesn’t work. Uniblab shoots coffee at Spacely and the company’s higher executives. They don’t do anything. They just stand there. Even if the coffee wasn’t scalding them, couldn’t Bill Hanna have sprung for even two or three drawings that could have been used in a cycle showing them reacting to becoming wet? This is prime time, after all.

Still, Barry Blitzer came up with good story. The bad guy gets his comeuppance (how Henry got into the Spacely Sprockets building is left for viewers to imagine on their own) and there’s the twist at the end. If someone can think of a better episode, feel free to post a comment.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Yogi Bear Comics, July 1965

What’s missing in the Yogi Bear comics that appeared in sundry newspapers 50 years ago this month? We’ll tell you later.

Some familiar themes are explored—Yogi playing with cutesy kids, Yogi inventing his own version of American history, Bill Hanna’s beloved Boy Scouts making an appearance, and so does Huckleberry Hound.

You can see the full-colour versions of these at Mark Kausler’s fine web site, from Mark’s personal collection. Perhaps he has half-page versions with all three rows. Newspapers tended to cut off the top row and comics were written with that in mind. You’ll notice I couldn’t find a full July 25th comic; a couple of newspapers chopped a few rows so they could fit in advertising cartoons; Pillsbury was buying space in comic sections that day for a Funny Face drink promotion (interestingly, the cherry flavour was just a generic “cherry;” “Chinese” had been dropped). On several Sundays, the Chicago Tribune dropped Yogi altogether in favour of ads.

No, there was no flag-waving in the fourth of July comic It’s tough to see the first panel, but it’s a small one for a change. Attractive horse drawing. I’ll accept “Cape Jellystone” as being a play on words. I highly doubt there was a cape in the mountainous national park.

Yogi’s fairly inventive in the July 11th comic, though I wonder if kids should be cutting down parks in a national park. Two silhouette drawings; I like the effect with the characters in the distance in silhouette as in the second row, far right. I hear Dick Beals as the dark-haired kid.

The ragged edges around the panels when Yogi is talking about history is a nice effect. Yogi also looks like he stepped out of a barber shop quartet in the July 18th comic; the moustache is a very 1890s look.

Sorry, the top row can’t be found for the July 25th comic, but we get a silhouette panel and Yogi being ingenious again. I like the happy porcupine design, too.

What’s missing you ask? Well, unless he’s in that unavailable first row in the last comic, Ranger Smith is nowhere to be found this month. In fact, unless he’s in the top rows (which I haven’t checked out), he doesn’t show until the end of August 1965. Boo Boo only appears once in July and not at all in August. This brings about my usual lament that the TV cartoons settled into the Yogi-Ranger Smith-picnic basket-Boo Boo-as-conscience format after Warren Foster arrived to write them in 1959. Yogi was a far richer character, and proved that in these comics as well as the 1958 TV season when he wasn’t always placed in Jellystone and Ranger Smith hadn’t been invented. But Foster’s formula was incredibly successful, so there was no reason to deviate (had Yogi gone on for 2,354 seasons like The Simpsons, I suspect change would have come).

We make no promises about another Yogi comic post next month.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Huck and Augie Story Panels

One of the on-line auction sites was selling a couple of complete storyboards from two Hanna-Barbera cartoons produced in 1959, Huckleberry Hound’s “Huck’s Hack” and Augie Doggie’s “Cat Happy Pappy” (layouts for both by Dick Bickenbach). It’s a shame that not all 12 pages of each set of story panels was posted, but that’s understandable. However, four pages of nine panels were put on line and you can see them below.

“Huck’s Hack” has a neat opening that wasn’t used in the cartoon. Instead, the first three story panels were replaced with cycle animation of a long shot of Huck’s cab moving along a street. The crook in the cartoon (animated by Don Patterson) is also taller and thinner and wears a mask. I can’t say for sure, but I wonder if these drawings are by Alex Lovy (who arrived at the studio in March 1959 from Lantz.

The sketches in “Cat Happy Pappy” are by the great Dan Gordon. Looking at the first panel, I’m reminded of a layout drawing I saw of Tex Avery’s “Little Rural Riding Hood” where Tex crossed out a picture on a wall in the background. He wants his setting to be as uncluttered as possible for the characters read better. You’ll notice a picture on the wall behind Doggie Daddy. That didn’t make it into the finished cartoon (however, in the second panel, a light socket isn’t there but appeared on the wall in the cartoon). The drawing of the cat on the chart is what you see in the cartoon. Someone (Joe Barbera maybe?) apparently debated whether the little kitten should make its quick exit from the house at body level or head level. Notice how Mike Maltese has some of Daddy’s dialogue in Durante dialect, referring to “pernty teeth.” The dialogue is pretty close to the completed cartoon.

It’s great how these sketches have survived after 60 years. It’s interested to see how a cartoon looked before it was produced.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fun and Games With Huck

In 1960 or so, your fun with Huckleberry Hound didn’t have to end once his show went off the air for the week. You could play with him when the TV was off, you could eat with him, you could even learn things from him. It was all thanks to the marketing people at Hanna-Barbera and Screen Gems, who aggressively found partners eager to make a buck off the newest TV cartoon sensation.

Once again, we have trudged up to the dusty cyber-attic and opened up the aged trunk of memories to see what kids could do with Huck some 55 years ago.

The box says “age four to ten.” The box is a liar. Anyone of any age could play Hanna-Barbera board games; when Bill Hanna talked about “wholesome family entertainment,” he could have been talking about games as well as his cartoons. Milton Bradley made some great ones, but here are a couple from Transogram. Sorry you can’t enlarge the board itself too much to see the game better, but you get the idea. You can see the little Parents Magazine ribbon logo in the upper left-hand corner of the box that used to be so common way back when (much like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval) and it has the characters in a logo in the lower right-hand corner. The drawings of Mr. Jinks on the board are great. The game is from 1961.

Would they even make a Break-a-Plate game today? Wouldn’t parents be all uptight that their kid would throw one of those small plastic baseballs and break something? You know, the parents that played with these same games as a kid (kind of like how some adults think it’s bad for kids to watch the same cartoons they watched as a kid)? Well, evidently parents in 1961 didn’t worry about it, judging by this Transogram game. You’ll notice it a blue Transogram Quality Inspection Slip. No, Tommy, don’t try this game with mom’s chinaware.

The folks at Knickerbocker (No. Hollywood, Calif.) came up with this spinning target game in 1959. It’s 13 inches long and made from genuine tin. Says an ad for the toy in a 1961 edition of the Tucson Daily Citizen: “Try to hit plastic cartoon characters with suction-cup darts--watch them spin!”

This is about as close as Walter Tetley ever got to appearing in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Tetley, you likely know, was the voice of Sherman in the Mr. Peabody cartoons and like Dick Beals (who did appear in Hanna-Barbera cartoons) he was afflicted with a medical condition that caused his voice to remain somewhat adolescent. He was also the voice of Reddy Kilowatt in some industrial cartoons made by Walter Lantz in the late 1940s (he was Andy Panda for the studio at the same time). Here, you can see Reddy sitting on a large boulder in the front page of this 18-page educational booklet for kids. The booklet is copyright 1961. The name of the local electric company that supplied this to, presumably, schools, was printed on the rock. Unfortunately, only one page of this has surfaced on-line, at least that I can find.

Huck is saying “Bow Wowie”??

Who knew that Dell made something other than comic books? Well, perhaps you did. It was news to me until I ran across this ad. The address fills us in that this is before the era of the Zip Code, so it’s from the early ‘60s. Dell made Disney squeeze toys, too, but who’d want them when you can have Huckleberry Hound riding a whale?

When I was a kid, this is what “school lunch programme” meant. Mom would make something and you’d trundle off to class with it in a paper bag or, if your parents knew you liked Huck and Quick Draw, one of these. Aladdin of Nashville, Tennessee made these in 1961. Notice Snuffles in one of the little TV screens on the top?

You can’t see the whole thermos here, but to left of Pixie and Dixie, that’s a bit of Blabber’s ear. Next to him is Snooper, then Baba Looey and Augie Doggie holding the rope behind Quick Draw. There’s a neat little cartoon strip (like it’s on perforated film) around the sides and bottom. You can read the safety message inside and the name of the owner of the lunch box, David Vos of New Orleans. Strangely enough, a gentleman named David Vos won a Daytime Emmy for a documentary he made in 2010 about New Orleans recovering from Hurricane Katrina.

If you prefer Huck to be with you other than at lunch, how about tea time?

I don’t know if I like the concept of riding Huckleberry Hound, but some company made this in 1960 (we’ve posted a picture of a similar riding toy of Yogi Bear). It’s 19.25" height x 21.5" length x 7.25" width with handles attached to the ears.

Well, our sojourn in the cyber-attic must come to an end and back into the dusty trunk go our memories of play-times past for another day. Mom, is Yogi Bear on yet?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Snagglepuss in Royal Ruckus

Snagglepuss started out life as a world-weary and somewhat show-bizzy antagonist who was clearly smarter than Quick Draw McGraw and the others he took on. It was obvious he was a rounded character that the studio could do more with. But when they gave him his own series, he became a protagonist, so he had to undergo a personality (and colour) modification. He changed from orange to pink and became more enthusiastically theatrical, leaning on the Shakespearean side.

That kind of characterisation was perfect in the hands of Mike Maltese. One of the funniest Bugs Bunny cartoons ever made was Maltese’s Rabbit Hood, where Bugs adopts a Shakespearean vocabularistic style as he easily outsmarts the Sheriff of Nottingham. Besides the natural silliness of streams of Mock Macbeth coming from a pink mountain lion, Maltese added a punny twist. While Warren Foster would settle for more obvious plays on words like “I caught him bare-handed. Yogi Bear-handed, that is,” Maltese would take a pun a bit further. “Forsooth. And five-sooth, even,” Snagglepuss would remark.

In fact, such a remark came in Royal Ruckus, one of 32 cartoons in the Snagglepuss series. Its storyline is similar to Maltese’s Quick Draw McGraw cartoons. Snagglepuss dashes off stage to become a swordsman (he doesn’t change into the wrong costume by mistake; perhaps Maltese didn’t have time for that one in the story) and is so inept, the Queen has to rescue herself. At the beginning, there’s a rhyming narrator and the bad guy talks to the audience, like you’d find in an El Kabong cartoon.

Fun With Dialogue:
● Snagglepuss recites a little poem. “ ‘Cause it’s the day to be happy and gay,” he declares. Today’s audience will read something into it.
● The King shoots Snagglepuss in the butt with an arrow. “Got him on the first shot. Just inches from the heart,” exudes His Majesty.

● “You unmitigated churl!” Snagglepuss yells in response at the King.
● Snagglepuss demands proof he’s the King. “Make me a Duke. Or a Count. The Prince of Wales. Or Porpoises, even.”
● The kidnapped Queen cries for help from a carriage after the King promises her liberator will be “royally rewarded.” “Won’t somebody save me and royally rewarded thereon?” asks the Queen.
● Snagglepuss makes a quick change into a musketeer outfit. “Exit, touché-in’ all the way, stage left!” (Hmm. Remind you of a certain turtle?)
● My favourite line from Snagglepuss, reminiscent of one in a Bugs Bunny cartoon: “Drop that Queen, Jack!”
● Yes, Snagglepuss fits in a “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” and “...and all that jazz.”

Sight gag:
● Snagglepuss engages in eager sword play with Count Down. Cut to shots of the Count sitting in a chair then another shot of him drinking tea, ignoring the whole situation.

The animator is Don Patterson. It’s really not one of his better cartoons, but you can’t miss his bit lip and triangular closed eye lids.

Dick Thomas is the background artist. Nice establishing shot to open the cartoon. Thomas’ swirling-line trees and scratchy grass are here, too.

The layout artist is Paul Sommer. He designed the secondary characters.

The voice actors are Daws Butler, Don Messick and Bea Benaderet. It’s probably her first non-Flintstones role for Hanna-Barbera.

Hoyt Curtin’s background music is really awkward in places. The use of a variation of the Flintstones’ “Rise and Shine” and what later became the series’ theme is really distracting. The Snagglepuss dying scene features a Flintstones’ cue called “Walking,” far too light and breezy for the action on the screen. And when the coach with the kidnapped Queen (in silhouette) goes into the castle, the soundtrack plays the heavyish “Working in the Gravel Pit” from The Flintstones. It’s times like this I miss the old Capitol Hi-Q library and Geordie Hormel’s English period music.