Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Neenah and the Pink Window Shade

The artist responsible for this background painting had an indirect connection to Bill Hanna from before she was born.

This is from the Snagglepuss cartoon “Be My Ghost,” and the background artist is Neenah Maxwell. Here are some of the other backgrounds.

Here’s what the above drawing looks like without the entrance on an overlay.

The door on the background below is on a cel.

Maxwell arrived at Hanna-Barbera around 1960 and was gone by 1963. Where she came from and where she went in a complete mystery. If I had to speculate, I imagine she might have worked at one time in the ink and paint department at MGM.

On-line death records show that Maxwell was born in California on May 22, 1934 and died on January 21, 1997 in Ventura, California. Her mother’s maiden name was Hanson. But it was her father who Bill Hanna knew and worked with for over two decades.

You won’t find a Neenah Maxwell in the 1940 census. But you will find a Virginia Lee Maxwell living at the Los Angeles home of Carman G. Maxwell and his wife Dorothy, whose maiden name was Hanson. C.G. Maxwell is none other than Max Maxwell, who was production manager for the Harman-Ising studio when Hanna was hired there in the early ‘30s to work as a janitor. Both Maxwell and Hanna were enticed to leave Harman-Ising for MGM in 1937, and Maxwell managed the production end of the cartoon studio for the 20 years it was in existence. California birth records state Virginia Lee Maxwell was born on May 22, 1934, so there’s no doubt she’s Neenah Maxwell. If I had to guess, Neenah was a pet name. And if I had to guess some more, if she had an interest in art, her dad would have found a way to get her a job in the studio (both Hanna and Barbera found work for their children when they opened their own studio). Incidentally, her uncle was Howard Hanson, an ex-Harman-Ising and MGM cartoonist who was the production manager at Hanna-Barbera from the start in 1957 and for almost the next decade. Hanson’s second wife was Vera Ohman, also a background artist at MGM and H-B.

Snagglepuss cartoons generally have a lot of fun dialogue—in this cartoon, Mike Maltese borrows his own “Odds, fish!” line from his great Bugs Bunny short “Rabbit Hood”—but the thing I remember about this from my childhood is the ghosts that roll up like old window shades and then disappear. Harum and Scarum did the same thing in the Snooper and Blabber cartoon “Real Gone Ghosts” a couple of years earlier (Maltese wrote that one, too). Snagglepuss tries it in this cartoon but fails miserably. He’s not a ghost, after all. C.L. Hartman is the animator.

I’m a big fan of the orange version of Snagglepuss, the one before he got his own series, the one where he’s a snooty villain who’s in control and knows he’s superior to Quick Draw McGraw or Super Snooper. But the pink one is funny, too, thanks to strong dialogue from Mike Maltese, the usual clever voice work of Daws Butler, and (at least in this cartoon) some attractive background work by Max Maxwell’s daughter.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Snooper and Blabber — Eenie, Genie, Minie, Mo!

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – C.L. Hartman, Written by Mike Maltese, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (BCDB credits).
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Genie, Sinbad – Daws Butler; Aladdin, Alibi Baba, Jug Vendor – Don Messick; Scheherazade – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-039, Production J-124.
First aired: week of December 11, 1961.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired to capture an escaped genie in Persia.

“Say, Snoop,” says Blabber to open this cartoon, “when am I going to get a salary for being your assistant?” “Blab, your golden opportunity has come at last,” replies Snooper, though he doesn’t realise how golden it is until the cartoon’s over. Snooper informs him “some things are bigger than money.” Today, Blab will be the private eye and Snoop “the lowly assistant.” Blabber rapturises about it and strikes several poses. Here’s some of the animation. Look at the fingers.

The version of the cartoon currently circulating has the incorrect credits. The Big Cartoon Database credits the animation to former Disney artist C.L. Hartman. If someone can confirm or deny that, leave a comment.

It’s pretty obvious Mike Maltese wrote the story. There are some repeats of some old routines, like the parody on the Dragnet-style of questioning when Blab grills Scheherazade (Blab’s repetitive “Yes, m’am” becomes unstoppable after a while) that Maltese worked into the dialogue of ‘Prince of a Fella’,’ ‘Slippery Glass Slipper’ and elsewhere. And the newly-freed genie peppers Snooper and Blabber with questions about stuff that happened while he was inside the lamp: “Are they still doing the Charleston? Did Lucky Lindy make it to Paris? How are the Dodgers doing?” just like in the Augie Doggie cartoon ‘Skunk You Very Much’ (which includes the Charleston question and one about the Dodgers).

I won’t guess at who handled the layouts (I suspect Bob Gentle is the background artist) but I sure like the design of the genie.

Here are the other incidental characters. Sorry I can’t mask the TV logo in some of these.

Their voices should be familiar from other H-B cartoons. Note that Don Messick does the same kind of accent for Aladdin and the jug merchant, but Aladdin’s voice is softer. The genie has the same voice as Fibber Fox.

Some of the dialogue highlights:
● Blab answering the phone a la the radio show ‘Duffy’s Tavern’: “Blabber Detective Agency. Roses are red, violets are blue, we’ll take your case and solve it for you. Chief Blab speakin’.”
● The genie signs his note: “Genie with the light brown hair.” Snoop: “Oh, good. We got a description of the suspect.”
● Blab to Alibi Baba, the used flying carpet salesman: “We’re detectives, and we’re lookin’ for someone.” Alibi: “Oh, the police! I run an honest business, lieutenant. There’s no dirt under my carpets.”
● Blab, questioning Sinbad: “Where were you on the Arabian night of January 16th?” Sinbad: “Huh.” Snoop: “Blab, what in carnation has that got to do with it?” Archie on ‘Duffy’s Tavern’ was big on “what in carnation...” as well.
● Jug merchant: “Heavens to Halavar!” Halavar is in Armenia which is adjacent to Persia, the setting for this cartoon. Then again, he could be saying something else.

Snooper tries to capture the genie by grabbing his turban. Instead, the genie ties the end of it to a palm tree and Snoop crashes into it. The genie thinks he’s made a getaway on a flying carpet but crashes into a turret.

Booby Blab proves he’s not so booby in this cartoon. Blabber cons the genie back into the lamp by pretending to refuse to believe he’s a genie unless he can prove he can do something—like fit in the lamp. So, as amazing as it sounds, the cartoon ends with our heroes a million dollars richer. Well, not both our heroes. Blab caught the genie. So Blab tells Snoop he can take back the job as chief private eye, while he (Blab) keeps the million bucks reward. Blab chuckles to end the cartoon.

No private eye ball on the window to Snoop’s office door in this one, nor do we hear the catchphrase “Halt in the name of the Private Eye (fill in name of organisation).”

You’ll recognise plenty of Flintstones cues here (I don’t have names for most of them), such as “Chase” when the genie flies away and Snoop vows to reel him in like a fish. The cue “Walking” (aka “Here’s What We’re Gonna Do”) shows up when the genie tries to catch up on the Charleston, etc. Hoyt Curtin also came up with an Asian sounding piece with a guitar and xylophone when Snooper’s talking to Aladdin. There are parts of the cartoon with no music, like when the helicopter rotor sound effect is on the sound track, a wise decision by the cutter.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why No Daws

Daws Butler was Hanna-Barbera’s premier voice actor through the 1950s. And then things changed. “The Flintstones” came along. Although Daws cut a dialogue track for Fred Flintstone on a demo reel using a Ralph Kramden-like voice he put in a number of cartoons, he was not on the roster of stars when the series debuted in 1960.

Joe Barbera explained why in a feature story in the Philadelphia Enquirer of October 9, 1960. He went into the casting of the show, though some details are maddeningly absent, and talked about the studio in general.

Interestingly, the story touches on the “Hairbrain Hare” series mentioned in the trade press around the same time. Hairbrain, though, seems to have gone through a name change. The story calls him “Harebreath Hare,” and if you look reaaaally closely at the drawing to the right in a blown-up Life magazine photo published in November, you’ll see it’s labelled “Harebreath Hare.” There’s a mention of Lippy and Hardy but nothing of Wally Gator. Instead, the article refers to “Ribbons and Rosie.” And, for whatever reason, there’s no mention of “Top Cat” in this or other contemporary stories. Surely it must have been in development as it was sold to ABC in December 1960.

In reading about the volume of shows the studio was producing, it’s no wonder not all the cartoons were gems. I’m presuming the “72 Quick Draws in nine months” and “five Huckleberry Hounds in five days” refer to Mike Maltese and Warren Foster, respectively.

‘Flintstones’ Cartoon Series Is Aimed Squarely at Adults

HUCKLEBERRY HOUND, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Jinx, Augie Doggie, Boo Boo, Pixie and Dixie, Snooper and Blabber . . .
To that distinguished assembly of ultra-popular TV personalities have just been added several more—Fred and Wilma Flintstone and Barney and Betty Rubble, the stars of ABC's “The Flintstones,” Fridays at 8:30 P. M. (Channel 6).
Later recruits may include characters tentatively tagged Lippy the Lion, Hardy Har Har (a sad hyena), Harebreath Hare and a couple of gals, Ribbons and Rosie. Slated for movie house stardom: Loopy the Loop.
Despite the diversity of their monickers and species, all share the same parents: Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, the creative dynamos whose Hollywood cartoon factory manufactures merriment wholesale.
When we visited it last month, ideas—and puns—were popping all over the place. A mile-a-minute rundown of past, present and future TV projects by partner Barbera, a dark, handsome, fast-talking man who looks more like an actor than a tycoon, left us convinced the Emmy-winning Hanna-Barbera organization is capable of miracles.
Some they've already performed.
Singlehandedly (or should it be double-handedly, considering there's two of them?), Bill and Joe have proved that animated cartoons needn't be prohibitively expensive either as TV or movie house fare.
This they've managed through application of their “planned animation” concept, which has added jet propulsion to what used to be a tedious process.
“It’s a method we used at M-G-M when we were doing the ‘Tom and Jerry’ cartoons,” Barbera explained. "We’d do a mock version with a minimum number of drawings, To show our cartoonists before they started animating. We developed it to such a point that we didn’t need any additional cartoons to tell the story. Instead of 17,000 individual drawings, we could show a complete picture in 600 or 700.
“When we suggested this technique to M-G-M, they never even answered. Thank heavens! Wouldn’t it be awful to be working there yet, saluting everybody, waiting six weeks for an answer!
“We used to do eight shows a year; now, on the phone, Screen Gems orders 78, or 104, or ‘500 as quick as you can!’ Men who used to do eight shows a year now do one a week. Even three doesn’t faze them. One turned out 72 ‘Quick Draw McGraws’ in nine months; another, five ‘Huckleberry Hounds’ in five days. “In television, something comes up and you do it. Even the impossible!”
Another thing Hanna and Barbera have demonstrated is that grown-ups can flip over what used to be considered strictly kid stuff. “Huckleberry Hound” testimonials, for instance, come from college students, GIs, businessmen, professionals, even atomic scientists. “The Flintstones” is TV's first animated cartoon series scheduled in prime time and deliberately aimed at adults.
One reason for adult enthusiasm is the canny use of “funny” voices. Bob Smith, explaining the recent demise of his “Howdy Doody,” complained that sponsors now want double-duty children’s shows with pictures to amuse youngsters and sounds to amuse oldsters—“like ‘Huckleberry Hound.’”
Barbera acknowledges that stress is placed on “sound” in the Hanna-Barbera shows. “We sit around listening to voices," he said. “If we laugh just listening, fine; if not, we’re in trouble.
“To get the right voices for ‘The Flintstones,’ we interviewed people for a solid year. We auditioned 12 teams of voices daily, explaining the characters and having everybody read the same lines for a tape recorder.
“We thought of using Daws Butler, who’s great, but we were afraid we were starting to spread him too thin. He’s already the voice of Yogi, Huck, McGraw, Jinx, Augie Doggie, Dixie, Bobo-looie, Snooper and Blabber. What would we do if anything happened to him? We keep him locked up in a box!
“We listened to 60 or 70 of the best voices in the United States. We didn’t want a gimmick voice that would wear down, because ‘The Flintstones’ is a situation comedy with people. We brought in everybody: Andy Devine, Maxie Rosenbloom, Jack Oakie.
“We had the first five ‘Flintstones’ completed, and then we threw out and recast the voices of Fred and Barney. They just didn't fit!”
Fred and Barney are being portrayed vocally by Alan Reed and Mel Blanc; their wives, Wilma and Betty, by Philadelphia-born Jean Vander Pyl and Bea Benadaret. “We had had Alan in nine months earlier, reading with somebody else,” said Barbera, “and, that way, he didn’t sound right. Strangely enough, he tooks something like Fred Flintstone. Mel wasn’t available when we started casting.
“When we were up to the 12th show, Alan developed cataracts in both eyes. He couldn’t see. We prepared his scripts with bigger type and more space until, fortunately, his eyesight improved.”
Barbera doesn’t minimize the importance of the visual element in the Hanna-Barbera shows.
“We cast the characters as if we were interviewing real people. We look at all sorts of drawings before approving characters, wives, kids, dogs.
“At first, when we thought about a satirical thing, we considered a hillbilly character, but decided that might be downbeat, because such people live poor. Suburban cave men in the Stone Age gave viewers a chance to identify and still have fun.”
It also provided ample opportunities to “sneak in” some of the visual and verbal “extra pluses” grown-up Hanna-Barbera fans have come to look for.
Examples in “The Flintstones”: autos with dragging-foot brakes; a record player containing a bird with a long-playing beak; cameras containing tiny sculptors; “Own your own cave” commercials.
One major problem accompanying success has been where to get the necessary personnel.
“For 15 years cartoons have been on a downward slide,” said Joe, “and no new people have been developed. We’ve brought people out of retirement, tracked down second generations, arranged for people to work at home. My two daughters were here all summer, and Bill’s daughter is working here now.
“Each of our people is an artist, an individual, and we’ve got to think of their quirks. After all, we’re not turning out cars. There are no time clocks, and if anybody comes up with a fresh idea, he has a check in his hand within a half hour.
“As a result, we get the beat people. We’re not cornering the market—we’ve just dropped two people, because they weren’t good enough. We have a standard now; we’re stuck with a quality. Somebody has said that in the field of cartoons we’re doing for television now what Disney did for motion pictures 25 years ago.”
Like Disney, Hanna and Barbera are planning expansion into feature-length cartoons and are even considering a Disneyland-like amusement center—“Huckleberry Houndsville, maybe, or Jellostone Park.”
Since entering the TV field with “Ruff ‘n’ Reddy,” they’ve been going in heavily for merchandising. At last count, assorted novelty items numbered 280.
“In the 20 years we did ‘Tom and Jerry,’” Barbera noted, “there were only comic books. Nothing touches the impact of television!”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Huckleberry Hound — Bars and Stripes

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – John Boersma; Layout – Jim Carmichael; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Written By Tony Benedict; Story Director – John Freeman; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Huckleberry Hound, Guard – Daws Butler; Fats Dynamo –Vance Colvig.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Warden Huck tries to get inmate Fats Dynamo to leave prison.

The stories of the later Huckleberry Hound cartoons were structured fairly similarly. A narrator would set up the situation, Huck would chat with him, then Huck would try and fail several times at accomplishing something, with a little tag line after each failure. The format doesn’t get repetitious because Huck is given a new setting and situation in each cartoon.

Tony Benedict comes up with a nice little twist in this story. Instead of an inmate trying to break out jail, Huck has to force him to leave. Perhaps Tony was inspired by the wail that “prisons have become country clubs” in some quarters. Nevertheless, this prison isn’t quite a country club—it’s better. That’s even though the opening goes like this, with Daws Butler’s narrator intoning in extreme mock seriousness:

Narrator: Alkatrash Prison. Perhaps the toughest prison in the world. For no man has ever escaped this maximum security institution. And this is the office of its tough, rugged, militant warden, Huckleberry Hound.
Huck: Howdy, narrator. Plannin’ to hang around long? (laughs) That’s just a little ol’ spoofin’ type joke we got in the business.
Narrator: Can you tell us, Warden Huckleberry, the reason for your fine record of no escapes?
Huck: Well, all seriousness aside, I got what I call “The honor system.”
Narrator: The honor system?
Huck: Yessir-ee. We got tennis courts, majong, your-jong, oujie boards and TV in every cell. We got swimmin’ pools, an’ movies, and baseball teams, and even our own Alkatrash-land, with fun rides and cotton candy and wool fudge, and this kinda keeps all the prisoners happy. Nobody wants to escape.

If you have a chance to watch the cartoon, look at what credited animator John Boersma does with Huck’s hands. They’re in motion to emphasize the dialogue. One example—when Huck talks about a Ouija board. He puts his index fingers together like he’s moving something on a board. It’s a little extra that other animators might not have bothered with.

The phone rings (as some “Top Cat” music plays in the background). It’s an emergency. Prisoner 054678 won’t leave his cell. The cartoon now features a string of gags as Huck fails to get Fats Dynamo (as opposed to Fats Domino) to go. Dynamo is played by Vance Colvig, Jr., better known to the world as the voice of Chopper in the Yakky Doodle cartoons. It’s the only Huck cartoon he ever did; I suspect he was working on Yakky and Joe Barbera had him cut dialogue for this cartoon while he was there. The gags:

● Huck climbs and balances on a ladder reaching Fats’ barred window. Fats tips over the ladder.
● Huck uses a rope to lower himself to the cell window. Fats cuts the rope. Huck expected it and has a net to catch his fall. Instead, the net acts as a trampoline that boosts Huck back up to the window. Fats hands him a bowling ball. Huck crashes through the net. (“I just gotta keep after him,” Huck tells us. “It bein’ against the rules to be intimidated.”
● Huck chews on some bubble gum to make a balloon and float up. Fats punctures the bubble. Huck crashes below after a vain attempt to make another bubble. “That last piece must have been just regular gum,” he tells us.
● Suction cups on Huck’s hands and feet enable him to climb up to the window “just like a human fly.” Fats pulls out his “human fly swatter.” Down goes Huck again. The gag made an appearance two seasons earlier in “Nottingham and Yeggs,” written by Warren Foster.
● Finally, Huck yells that it’s time for chow. Despite having an ice box in his cell, Fats rushes to the Chow Hall where he’s stopped (off camera) by a guard.

The cartoon ends with the guard and Huck carrying Fats outside the prison, but Fats and the guard run back inside and close the iron doors, leaving Huck to bang on them from outside. “Open up I suggest or I’m gonna have the law on you,” cries our hero as the iris closes.

Besides a couple of pieces of “Top Cat” music, you’ll hear the “Wilma, I’m home” music from “The Flintstones” when Huck is describing your-jong (my favourite pun of the cartoon).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Flintstones Weekend Comics, August 1964

Before we get to our post, here is a short “programming note.” Fans of the Yogi weekend comics we’ve been posting here will be pleased to note we will be able to carry on for another month, though the post for September will be incomplete. However, we aren’t so lucky with the Flintstones. This post consists of comics from three difference sources and will be our last.

For some reason, Fred has a “Mr. Boulder” as a boss. The comics didn’t necessary follow what was happening on the TV show; witness the later development of Pebbles and Dino “talking” in the comics via thought-balloons.

Unless she’s hiding in the missing first row of the first three comics, Betty Rubble is absent again. Maybe she confined herself to the daily comics. Or perhaps she’s gone on a visit to Petticoat Junction.

The gag set-up in the third cartoon is my favourite. A shame the TV set isn’t tuned in to Yogi Bear again this month. The last one is a marvel of filling space and making the characters read. I’ll bet it stands out more in colour.

August 2, 1964.

August 9, 1964

August 16, 1964

August 23, 1964

August 30, 1964