Saturday, April 19, 2014

Augie Doggie — Dough-Nutty

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – C.L. Hartman, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Lew Marshall, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie Doggie – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy, Lefty Louie – Doug Young.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Augie puts a counterfeiter through a bunch of stunts.

This cartoon’s an unusual one because the focus is neither on Augie Doggie or Doggie Daddy. In fact, Daddy takes a seat and occasionally comments to us about the cartoon while the action carries on. And Augie’s morality is a little odd. It’s okay to be a counterfeiter and pass counterfeit bills to your dad, but think you’re a “law-abiding son?” Can Augie be that brain-dead? So it is the counterfeiting Augie holds the counterfeiting Lefty Louie for police.

Since Dear Old Dad doesn’t have much to do outside the first and last scenes, Doug Young uses his screen time to play Louie in what seems to be his version of the Slapsie Maxie voice.

The animator in this cartoon was Clarence Lafayette Hartman, Jr. C.L. was born in Ft. Worth, Texas on March 20, 1916 to Clarence and Cecile (Moorehead) Hartman. His father was, and this is odd, a musician with the Crazy Well Water Co. out of Mineral Wells. By 1930, the family was in Kansas City where the elderly Hartman was a musician on KMBC, the CBS station. Young C.L. had two years of college before beginning his career as a commercial artist in Chicago. He was already in animation by 1939 (and at a low rung; he worked half the year and made $700). Hartman enlisted in the military in July 1941 (6’ 3” and 204 pounds);
Daily Variety of Dec. 15th that year reveals he was working for Walt Disney. An interesting internet find is one of a number of Christmas cards he designed while a member of the Signal Corps Photographic Center on Long Island.

Where Hartman spent much of his time after the war is unclear; he did book covers and some commercial animation, landing at UPA by 1954 and then working for the Larry Harmon studio before moving to Hanna-Barbara. He also animated for Creston (the former TV Spots) on “Calvin and the Colonel” and his name turns up on the Grantray-Lawrence Spiderman cartoons, among other places. Hartman died in Los Angeles in June 26, 1985.

Now, back to our cartoon.

Mike Maltese has set up the story pretty well (despite the aforementioned criminal ignorance). Augie asks Daddy what’s the one thing he wants most that costs lots and lots of money. “A new car. The diffiry-ential is interferin’ with the carbul-lulator.” Lefty Louie shows up with a gun to get his money-making machine back from Augie, who asks if the reward for his capture will pay for a couple of new cars. It will. So Augie hides the machine and won’t tell Lefty where it is. “Ya better humour him, Lefty,” says Dad. “I’ve seen dat stubborn look of his before.” Stubborn? What? Augie’s grinning and looking the other way. C.L. apparently wasn’t paying attention to the dialogue. Anyway, Augie tells Lefty he has to play “circus” to get it back. “Don’t go away, folks,” Daddy advises us. “This could be interestin’.”

That takes up the whole first half of the cartoon. C.L. hasn’t had to do very much. Even during walk cycles, the characters’ bodies remain rigid. Mainly, he’s drawn mouth movements, head jerks, the ubiquitous eye blinks and an arm going up and down. The animation’s extremely basic and looks like it belongs in the crappy TV Popeyes that Hartman, Cal Dalton and others worked on for Larry Harmon. The one exception is when Daddy turns around. The body pretty much has to move. The drawings are on twos.



The cartoon now turns into one of those stunt cartoons that Maltese liked using in this series, the type where Daddy fails at a series of stunts he reluctantly attempts to try to please Augie, “Treasure Jest” and “Tee Vee or Not Tee Vee” among them. In fact, he used the circus stunt concept with “Big Top Pop.” (You could put the lineage all the way back to “Bear Feat,” one of the Three Bears cartoons Maltese wrote for Chuck Jones at Warners). The gags:

● As the “Great Divo,” Lefty dives 100 feet into a tub or water. Whoops. No water. Daddy adds the water. C.L. draws characters’ mouths either open wide or talking way up into their snout.
● A high-wire act goes fine until Lefty keeps wheeling his unicycle off the wire and into the air. Gravity kicks in.

Cut to a shot of Daddy in a make-shift stand, enjoying a pop and a hot dog. Hmm. Angular tree foliage? Scratchy line for grass? Must be a Dick Thomas background.



● As Captain Pyrite, Lefty emulates Robin Hood Daffy and crashes his trapeze into a tree.
● As Speed Wizard, Lefty rides a motorcycle at 100 miles an hour into a brick wall. Maltese wrote a couple of Quick Draw cartoons where a character cracks into little pieces after a smash, like in a Tex Avery cartoon. But that’s evidently out of Bill Hanna’s budget now, so just the bike falls into pieces.
● One more act. Lefty is Claude Riches, the lion tamer. Yes, Augie has a lion in a cage in his back yard. Don’t ask how. We don’t see the attack. We see almost three seconds of a shot of the outside of the cage. We see about four seconds of a shot of the inside of the cage. Then we see another almost two seconds of the outside of the cage. No animation. Not even a violent camera shake. Just a drawing, Doug Young yelling, the roar of a lion and Hoyt Curtin’s music. Hanna must have been overjoyed at the money saved.



In what was already an old cartoon routine (Warners, Lantz, lord knows who else), Lefty demands the police arrest him to get away from the abuse.

The cartoon ends with Doggie Daddy driving a huge car with a small one as a spare tied onto the trunk. It’s similar to a gag at the outset of Yogi’s “The Runaway Bear” (1959), written by Joe Barbera and Charlie Shows.



Familiar Curtin music from “TouchĂ© Turtle,” “Loopy De Loop” and other cartoons around that time has been put underneath the action. It includes two different circus fanfares and ends with a familiar xylophone chase.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Variety of Stories

Hanna-Barbera was once the largest producer of TV animation. Thanks originally to the popularity of Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Mr Jinks (and the meeces), the studio grew gradually and steadily as it added more and more cartoons to its assembly line.

In some ways, it’s difficult to determine who actually started with the studio when Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera helped incorporate H-B Enterprises in July 1957. There are no credits on any of the Ruff and Reddy cartoons that began airing the following December. Dick Bickenbach told historian Mike Barrier than he was working on R & R the final week he was at the MGM studio, and we know Charlie Shows wrote them.

However, after “The Huckleberry Hound Show” began airing in September 1958, and as the studio began developing more productions,
Variety has some short squibs about additions to the studio staff. Some of the names are a little surprising as they never appeared on the credits of any cartoons at the time.

As well, Variety announced a number of H-B projects that didn’t come to fruition. Let’s pass on what we’ve been able to uncover. Some stories are incomplete due to a full access of Variety’s archives. I’m somewhat disappointed none have those rhyming headlines the paper was known for, like “Stix Get Fix of Pix.” The closest we get is a reference to the King of Rhyming Cartoon Dialogue, Charlie Shows. So don’t frown, clown. (Hmm. Charlie’s becoming infectious).


January 20, 1958
George Sidney's Cartoonery Making Blurbs for MGM-TV
H&B Productions, cartoon outfit formed less than eight months ago by George Sidney in partnership with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who previously produced "Tom and Jerry" animated series for Metro, already is expanding its operations, Sidney reported over weekend.
Sidney, who prexies company which now has a staff of 25, drawn from Metro cartoonery when Culver lot shuttered its cartoon activities, said that he will use a cartoon sequence in his Columbia re-lease, "Pepe," starring Cantinflas, along lines animated action was used some years ago in Metro's "Anchors Aweigh," which he directed.
SG Company, Sidney disclosed, [is] already is doing tv commercials for Metro, as well as program of cartoons for Screen Gems, "The Ruff and Reddy Show," now on NBC-TV Saturday mornings, under sponsorship of General Foods. Total of 52 segments have been completed for SG. While H-B deal with SG includes these 52 subjects only, talks already have started with the Columbia tv subsid for another series. Outfit last week launched production of 78 segments for a new program.
The "Ruff and Reddy" series was made in color, according to Sidney, with a view to linking a number of segments together for theatrical release in Europe later as a cartoon feature. Feature cartoon production already is being actively planned by the three partners, who are weighing the possibilities of three different properties. It's expected company will have this initial feature ready for release in early 1960. Industrial and medical cartoon films likewise are planned, Sidney stated. [remainder of the story involves Pepé]

January 22, 1958
Sidney-Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Operation Now Employs 25, Expanding
After less than eight months of operation, H& B Productions, cartoonery formed by George Sidney in partnership with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, is expanding is operations. Hanna and Barbera formerly produced the Tom and Jerry Animated cartoons for Metro. H& B Productions staff now numbers 25, drawn from the Metro cartoonery when the Culver lot ended animation.
Sidney, who is prexy of the firm, reported that he will use a cartoon sequence in "Pepe," his upcoming Columbia film starring Cantinflas. Sequence will be inserted along lines of animated action used in Metro's "Anchors Aweigh," which Sidney directed. H& B now is doing commercials for Metro, as well as for Schlitz, S & H Green Stamps, Junket and others. In addition, it is doing a program of cartoons for Screen Gems, "The Ruff and Reddy Show," which started televising five weeks ago over NBC-TV every Saturday morning, 9-9:30 a. m., under sponsorship of General Foods. Total of 52 segments have been completed for SG. While H-B deals with SG includes these 52 subjects only, talks already have started with Columbia subsid for a further series. Outfit last week launched production on 78 segments for a new program. The "Ruff and Ready" series was made in color, according to Sidney, with a view to linking [story in Weekly Variety carries on as Daily Variety story above].

October 22, 1958
Sidney Mulls Mex Cartoonery for TV
George Sidney, prexy of H&B Productions Cartoonery, is considering opening a cartoon studio in Mexico City for production of cartoon programs made exclusively for Latin American television market. Producer leaves for Mexico soon to discuss project and has skedded [meetings?] with co-producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbara on future plans of company, which currently is Aiming "Ruff and Reddy" and "Huckleberry Hound" in association with Screen Gems.

December 4, 1958
Maltese Story Head of Hanna-Barbera Prod'ns
Mike Maltese has been named to head Hanna and Barbara Productions' new story department. The company produces the animated "Ruff and Reddy" and "Huckleberry Hound" tv series. Maltese was with Warner Bros.' cartoon production department for past 22 years.

December 11, 1958
Vidfilms Using Live Action, Cartoon Technique
Milt Rosen will write half-hour pilot teleplay of a projected scheduled cartoon-and-live action [missing word] for Hanna and Barbara Productions. H-B currently produces "Ruff and Reddy" and "Huckleberry Hound" for Screen Gems. Producers say the new series would have a novel format, and decline to discuss how it will be put together.

December 24, 1958
Hanna-Barbera Expands
Announced expansion of Hanna and Barbera Productions is being activated with lease of the first floor of the Cinema Research Bldg. for the cartoon studio's camera department. Frank Paiker is in charge of the new setup

February 3, 1959
Barbera Talking Jap Cartoon Co-Prod'n
Deal is in negotiations for co-production pact between Hanna and Barbera Productions and Interlingual International, of Tokyo, for filming of cartoons for Japanese market. Project would [remainder of story unavailable]

February 16, 1959
Hanna, Barbera Sign Lipscott, Bob Fisher
Alan Lipscott and Bob Fisher will develop and write a new half-hour animated cartoon series for Hanna and Barbera Productions, to be distributed by Screen Gems. Signing of the writers is part of H & B Company's plans to expand its story department to have established writers working with animators on cartoon series for tv.

March 18, 1959
Robert Carr, previously with Walt Disney, joined Hanna and Barbera Productions' animation dept.

March 24, 1959
Alex Lovy Joins H-B
Alex Lovy, formerly with Walter Lantz cartoonery, where he was director on the Woody Woodpecker series, has joined Hanna and Barbara Productions as a director of cartoons.

April 8, 1959
Animators Dick Lundy and Gerard Baldwin have joined Hanna and Barbera Productions as animators on "Huckleberry Hound" and "Ruff and Reddy." Lundy moves over from La Brea Productions, and Baldwin from Sutherland Studios.

April 15, 1959
Hanna-Barbera Expands
Three new additions to the staff of Hanna and Barbera's cartoonery were announced yesterday. They are Warren Foster to the story department, and Paul Fennel as assistant cartoon director, and George Nicholas as animator.

April 23rd, 1959
H-B Adds Animators
Don Patterson, Bob Bentley and Chick Otterstrom have joined Hanna & Barbera cartoonery as animators as part of the outfit's continued expansion.

May 29, 1959
H-B Cartoons May Get Col Release
It’s likely that Hanna & Barbera’s tv cartoonery will take over UPA’s former chore of making theatrical cartoons for Columbia release. Bill Hanna said the animation outfit has “no definite commitment with anyone” but admitted that H-B is planning a series of animated theatrical shorts to start later this year.
Columbia’s the logical outlet for the cartoon series since H-B prexy George Sidney has a picture pact with the studio and the cartoonery’s “Ruff and Reddy” and “Huckleberry Hound” are made in association with Col’s vidsubsid, Screen Gems. The expanding H-B organization has some of its offices at Columbia.
UPA and Col recently dissolved their production-distribution deal on short subjects and UPA’s doing its own distributing—although Columbia will distribute UPA’s feature, “1001 Arabian Nights.”

July 28, 1959
Harmon Names Fennell A.P. For Vid Cartoons
Paul J. Fennell has been signed as associate producer on Larry Harmon's "Bozo, the Clown" and "Tintin" telecartoon series now in production at California Studios. For the past four months, he has been a director on Hanna and Barbera's several animated series being produced for Screen Gems. Within the Harmon org, he will function in conjunction with Charles Shows, associate [remainder of story missing].

November 9, 1959
Honolulu H-B Office
Hanna and Barbera Productions are opening a branch office in Honolulu. Joseph Barbera, veepee of the company, recently returned from a two-week trek to the islands and revealed that arrangements are underway for the space by William Hanna, partner to Barbera, now in Honolulu.

December 9, 1959
Hanna & Barbera Near Closing Cartoonery Deal With Columbia Pics
Hanna & Barbera will be the exclusive theatrical "cartoon producers for Columbia under a contract now nearing the signing stage, according to company officials Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. H-B thus takes over the spot held by UPA Pictures, whose option Col did not renew earlier this year.
The company, formed under the presidency of director George Sidney out of the inactivation of Metro's cartoon department, is now grossing an estimated $ 2,000,000 per year and has nearly tripled its staff (35 or 40 at Metro) since its formation in July, 1957.
Hanna and Barbera pointed out that the theatrical cartoon chore - the first they've undertaken since becoming an indie will not cause a staff increase since the 10 "Loopy de Loop" (a French wolf) cartoons for Col will be made during the slack season of their tv operation (Oct.-Dec). H-B now makes three weekly half-hour television cartoon series distributed via Screen Gems, Col vidsubsid.
Under the theatrical pact, Col will have exclusive call on H-B's theatrical product and will retain annual options for five years;- so the deal's to be mutually exclusive. On the boards is still another half-hour weekly cartoon teleseries, a situation comedy for adults.
"We've actually turned out in one year more footage than we did at Metro in 20 years," said Bill Hanna. "We used to make eight ' Tom & Jerry's' (about 7 mins. each) a year. Last year we averaged five cartoons a week." Speedup's explained in large part, of course, by the elimination of "inbetweening," i. e., detail. H-B calls it "planned animation." [remainder of story unavailable]

December 30, 1959
Animated Situation Comedy To ABC-TV
ABC-TV has bought "The Flagstones," first half-hour situation comedy to be produced in animation, as a night time program next fall. Series created by Hanna-Barbera Productions for Screen Gems deals with modern civilization against a pre-historic background.

August 10, 1960
H-B Promotes Lovy
Alex Lovy, for the past two years story director on various Hanna-Barbera shows, has been promoted to associate producer on all H-B product. Lovy will function in this capacity on "Huckleberry Hound," "Quick Draw McGraw," and ["Ruff and Reddy"?]

If you thought Mike Maltese and Warren Foster left Warners Bros. and arrived at Hanna-Barbera at the same time, it’s not true. Variety reported on November 14, 1957 that Foster had signed a contract with the John Sutherland studio. Maltese didn’t leave Warners for another 12 months.

How long the team of Lipscott and Fisher were at H-B is unknown. The same year the two signed a deal to write 12 episodes of “Bachelor Father” and four of the Dennis O’Keefe show, developed a pilot called “Hong Kong Collect” while Lipscott, who wrote for Milton Berle on radio in the ‘30s, tried to get someone to buy his “Mishmash in Never-Never Land” concept.

Milt Rosen was a radio and TV writer who also penned a bunch of books. I imagine if Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were serious about a live action/animation series, the cost would have put it out of the question. Of course, they later accomplished it in the latter part of the 1960s with the Gene Kelly “Jack and the Beanstalk” special (1967) and “The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1968).

Chic Otterstrom and Paul Fennell likely never appeared on the credits at the studio that year. Otterstrom had spent the 1940s animating at the Screen Gems studio (the name was appropriated for Columbia’s TV endeavours after getting out of the animation business). Fennell went back to the early ‘30s (Chuck Jones was his assistant animator) and directed for Cartoon Films in the ‘40s before opening his own company. Apparently, anecdotes abound about his time working for Filmation many years later.

A number of names are missing (Ed Love’s, for example), so Variety didn’t report on every arrival. La Verne Harding’s name appeared on a number of cartoons in the 1959-60 season. The trade paper mentions on June 18th she would be animating “Hickory, Dickory and Doc” at Walter Lantz. And it seems animators bounced around a lot. An August 19, 1960 Variety piece lists new staffers hired by Animation Associates (who made “Q.T. Hush”) and includes John Freeman, Clarke Mallory, Don Williams, Ed Aardal and Virgil Ross, all of whom made shorts for H-B around that time (the company was co-owned by John Boersma, who also ended up at Hanna-Barbera).

The studio got extremely busy. The publicised numbers—197 cartoons were scheduled for the 1959-60 season (Variety, January 28, 1959) and 39 hours of animation a year (Variety, August 13, 1959). And with “The Flintstones” soon to air, it got even busier.

One other note before we leave Variety behind.


December 18, 1958
‘Hound’ Comic Book
Harry Eisenberg will illustrate and write copy for Dell Publications’ comic book based on Hanna-Barbera’s “Huckleberry Hound” teleseries.

Too bad the great Harvey Eisenberg got miscredited.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Yogi Bear — Acrobatty Bear

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Bob Bentley, Layout – Dan Noonan, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi Bear, Colonel – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Ringmaster – Don Messick; Cindy Bear – Julie Bennett.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Yogi joins the circus to be near Cindy Bear.

As a kid, I liked watching Yogi Bear outwit Ranger Smith. And I thought it was funny hearing him mispronounce “filet mignon”—even I knew it was wrong—then seeing him getting kicked out of France. And I laughed watching him getting chased around by a dog who would only say “Yowp.”

But a love story? What kid wants to see that? Especially in a cartoon. I sure didn’t.

Yet Hanna-Barbera thought I and millions of others did. The studio dug into this cartoon, lifted the ideas of a Yogi-Cindy relationship, the circus, and the evil ringmaster, added the snickering dog concept from the Huck cartoons, sprinkled in a few songs and mixed it all into a feature film.

Gak!! Let parents watch that tedious relationship stuff and on their own time. I want to see Yogi running over sleeping-bagged campers on a motor scooter.

And worse still, said me-as-a-kid, Cindy isn’t even interested in him in this cartoon. First, she liked his handstand. Now, she doesn’t. She walked away from him. Why is Yogi wasting his time with her? If someone doesn’t like you, don’t you ignore them and hang out with someone else?

Little did I know that not too many years later, I would see guys make complete asses out of themselves over uninterested or fickle women. Obviously, little boys are smarter than adults.

So it is with such childhood baggage that I look again at this cartoon some five decades later.

Actually, writer Warren Foster reused a couple of his early Yogi plots in this cartoon. In “Love Bugged Bear” the previous season, Yogi put up with physical abuse by a girl bear because he was love-struck and was rewarded by having her run off with another bear. And in “The Biggest Show-Off on Earth,” Yogi joins the circus thinking he’s a star, but gets mistreated during his act and finally decides to quit and go back to Jellystone Park.

Journeyman Bob Bentley animated this cartoon. Schlesinger, Fleischer, MGM, Lantz, UPA, he had worked at all those studios. I’m probably missing some (yes, I know, he worked elsewhere after Hanna-Barbera) . In this one, he emulates Mike Lah’s animation at H-B a few years earlier and has characters speaking without a jaw. Just a mouth moves. Here are some examples. Cindy has a black mouth line but only red lips animate and they don’t stay attached to the line all the time.



You’ll notice above that Boo Boo has a string around his bow tie and that Cindy’s fingers are crooked all over the place. Bentley has his characters in an advanced state of arthritis in various portions of the cartoon. The fingers don’t twiddle, like they would if Carlo Vinci were animating.



And another example of how animators didn’t work straight ahead. These are consecutive frames. Yogi isn’t even close to being in the same place, let alone position.



The cartoon opens with Yogi and Boo Boo watching a circus caravan with a truck that has a fender that keeps changing color.



They notice one of the trucks is marked with Cindy Bear’s name. Yogi is “still carrying a torch” for Cindy. You can tell by looking into his eyes. Yogi decides to jump onto the caravan and reunite with Cindy, even though Boo Boo warns “the ranger said you’re not supposed to leave the park.” Ranger Smith isn’t in this cartoon; this is the last cartoon where he wouldn’t make an appearance.

The next scene’s in the future. Yogi’s looking for Cindy in the circus. He gets crushed by the huge hand of Colosso the Gorilla. Southern belle Cindy appears; romantic Southern belles appeared on network radio in the ‘40s, especially Shirley Mitchell on “The Great Gildersleeve” and Veola Vonn on a number of shows (Jack Benny’s being one). She’s not interested in Yogi. He doesn’t take the hint. Meanwhile, the Southern Colonel circus owner and sadistic ringmaster (layout man Dan Noonan has designed him like Norton South and other bad guys who had appeared on Quick Draw McGraw cartoons) need someone to take Charlie’s place (“Good old Charlie,” they say, placing their hats on their hearts in remembrance of their late lion tamer) and hire Yogi, who thinks being in the circus will win Cindy’s heart. Don’t do it, Yogi! You’re wasting your time! Ah, bears never listen to little boys yelling at the TV.

The evil ringmaster whips Yogi when the bear sits down in the chair he’s supposed to use to learn how to fend off lions, though the ringmaster never explains that it’s all part of a potentially-deadly lion-taming act. There’s a really nice drawing of Yogi yelling that could have been used for the basis of a take. Instead of holding it and widening it, or doing a Vinci-like vibration, it’s on screen for two frames and that’s it. The opportunity for a take is wasted. Instead we get an inside joke. Yogi: “As Quick Draw McGraw says, ‘ooh, that smarts’!” But instead of Yogi objecting to the abuse, he simply takes it. And nowhere before the end of the cartoon does the bad guy get punished for his behaviour.

Finally, the show goes on, but not before Yogi gives us an Ed Sullivan reference and refers to it as “The Shoe.” We get some Yogi rhymes: “That Cindy’s great on a roller skate” and “Don’t look so forlorn, a star is born.” Wait a minute. Yogi passes the ringmaster. But then the ringmaster’s at the door of the lion cage to let him in. How could that happen?



The rest of the cartoon involves Nero the lion chasing Yogi all around the circus (“That’s my cue to skidoo”; “I ask you, what else could I do?”), but the audience loves it. They think it’s part of the act. Seems to me that’s a hoary old cartoon plot. Cindy praises Yogi. Finally the bear wises up and makes fun of her, basically telling her he could have been killed trying to impress her. He runs back to Jellystone, with the lion chasing right behind him. He grabs Boo Boo, slams the door shut and the two hide under the covers to end the cartoon.

Cindy returns later in the season, including in another cartoon where she’s willing to give her momentary affections to whichever bear hands her the most material goods. Tell her to stick her shallowness and capriciousness, Yogi! Ah, but he won’t. We kids are smarter than the smarter-than-the-average bear, it would appear.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

3-D House of Huck

It was the 1960s. We had a View-Master. Who didn’t?

There were slides depicting the Taj Mahal and other sites around the world. But there were cartoons, too. Only they weren’t really cartoons because they had a weird 3-D effect. Okay, it seems that’s what animated cartoons are today, but let’s not get into that here.

We’ve posted a couple of these pictures here before. A nice guy named Dom Giansante has collected a bunch of Hanna-Barbera View-Master slides, some from his own collection I gather, and we pass them on as a public service. The Yogi ones are really neat.



Seeing them now reminds me of the old George Pal Puppetoons. It might have been interesting to make a little Huck film in stop-motion, but it would have felt an awful lot different. No run cycles in front of a repeating background, for one thing. And then there’s that thing called “cost” that Bill Hanna used to go on about a lot. Ah, well. We have a few old View-Master frames—and our imaginations—to give us a bit of an idea of what it might have been like.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Snooper and Blabber — Gem Jams

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – John Boersma, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Lew Marshall, Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, J. Richley Richley – Daws Butler; Hazel – Jean Vander Pyl; Grimes, Circus Barker – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Snooper finds a millionaire’s butler is shrinking himself to steal gems.

Mike Maltese puts together some variations on some of his old favourites in this story. There were several cartoons featuring fleas and a couple involving gems thieves. “Flea For All” (1960-61 season) combined the two. And there were a couple of Quick Draw cartoons where the bad guy declared he was off for “jolly fun” or a “jolly time.” Well, the bad guy does the same thing here. So what we get is a bunch of teeny flea-like silhouettes fighting with regular-sized objects in a regular-sized world—like below.


Except the flea-like silhouettes are Snooper, Blabber and the bad guy.

There’s no office door with an eyeball on its window, no Duffy’s Tavern-like opening rhyme from Snoop when he answers the phone in this cartoon. He and Blab are riding a bike. Their car has been repossessed. They must still have an office as Hazel, their secretary, is yelling at them (their phone is disconnected) about a job. Monty is the background artist in this cartoon; I like his trees in the opening scene.



So off they go to the mansion of J. Richley Richley, with Blab doing his “sireen” impression. “Try not to look hungry, Blab,” Snoop advises. Richley answers the doorbell. “That must be those two-bit private eyes,” he grumbles in an English accent that sounds somewhat like James Mason. “All the good ones are out of town.” Here’s part of a background of the Richley mansion.



“You sent for us, I take it? Or we wouldn’t be here, would we?” asks Blab, who’s a dullard in this one. Richley suspects his butler, Grimes, is stealing his gems, even though Snooper assures him “the only times the butler did it is in those old, old movies on the late, late show.” Here’s a pan of the fabulous gem collection.



So our heroes pose as window washers to keep an eye on Grimes, “even though this ain’t the Late, Late Show.” In the next scene, Snooper spots a clue; “something we missed before.” Well, it was pretty easy to miss it as it wasn’t on the background drawing above—footprints getting smaller and leading into a mouse hole. “Hark, as they say,” remarks Blab, and the scene cuts to Grimes drinking some kind of potion to shrink so that he can get under the door of the vault to steal another gem and run into the mouse hole with it for safe keeping. “Soon, I’ll have the ‘hole ruddy lot. Then it’s me to the Orkney Islands for a jolly time,” exclaims Grimes.



“Okay, Blab, go after him,” orders Snoop, handing the bottle of potion to Blabber. “You’re askin’ me to drink that stuff, Snoop?” “Socially, I would ask you. But, officially, it’s an order.” So Blab drinks the stuff and shrinks. Don’t ask why it is Blab is a mouse but he has to shrink to be able to fit through a mouse hole. Anyway, Grimes has a gun that he can somehow lift despite his extremely small size. In fact he’s about the third the size of Blabber but when the fight scenes take place, the two (and Snooper, who has shrunk himself to come to the rescue) are all the same size.



“Stop in the name of the Private Eye Institute Fife and Drum Corps,” yells Snoop. There’s a fight scene with the characters in little silhouettes. Snooper is tossed into a fish bowl (with water but no fish) by Grimes who tries to grab the potion to grow back to full size. Wait. The potion makes you shrink AND grow? How? Oh, well. Best not to ask. Blabber stops Grimes from reaching it by knocking him out with a golf ball in a perfectly swung drive. But then booby Blab throws the bottle of potion through the window. They can’t grow back. And when Snooper and Blabber try to collect their $50,000 reward (Grimes is now taller than Blabber), Richley thinks they’re fleas and tries to kill them with a fly-swatter. Snooper, Blabber and Grimes retreat under the door.



The potion won’t wear off for six weeks. So they do the only thing they can. Become an act in a flea circus, with Blab somersaulting in the air between Grimes and Snooper. “It was either this or go to the dogs,” exclaims Snoop. Blab gets the pun and snickers as the iris closes to end the cartoon. You’ll notice a sign says “Fink’s Flea Circus.” No doubt Maltese recalled years earlier in vaudeville there was a popular act called Fink’s Mules that toured for decades.



Hoyt Curtin’s music works well here. The cutter uses a jaunty little march during the scene at Richley’s door. There’s also a version of “Man on the Flying Trapeze” when the circus barker is shilling that was used in a number of H-B cartoons about this time. You’ll recognise the “hurry” music from “Top Cat” during the fight scene.