Saturday, August 1, 2015

A Plan of Success Through Planned Animation

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera weren’t the only ones trying to make it in the TV cartoon business in 1957, but they were the most successful. Everything fell into place for them. They needed a bankroller. They found one in Columbia Pictures, thanks to intermediary George Sidney (who got a piece of the action for hooking up the two with the studio. They figured out a way to make limited animation look less limited than Crusader Rabbit and made-for-television cartoons of the day, and do it affordably. And they came up with likeable characters, who they put in entertaining situations. The end result? Sponsors, viewers, critical praise and people buying merchandise. All that equalled, as Fred Flintstone later remarked, “Do-Re-Mi Money.”

Hanna-Barbera’s success attracted attention in the trade press. Actually, the trades had been commenting on trends in animation for some time. What a difference a decade made. At the start of the 1950s, stories basically stated theatres saw no value in running cartoons and studios couldn’t make a profit on new ones. But then came expansion of television. Television needed programming. Old theatrical cartoons were sitting on the shelf, virtually worthless to the studios. The broadcast rights were sold to distributors—movie studios weren’t going to dirty themselves in something as mediocre as television, even if they had the mechanism—who proceeded to rake in small fortunes. Better and more desirable cartoons came on the market as the decade wore on, climaxing in two deals by AAP, one in early March 1956 to acquire pre-1948 Warner Bros. colour cartoons, and another about seven weeks to pick up 234 Popeye cartoons from King Features and Paramount (Billboard, Apr. 21, 1956). The airwaves became flooded with Bugs Bunny and Olive Oyl’s boyfriend as station after station after station eagerly snapped up the top-notch animated shorts. Having just about run out of old theatricals to put on TV, the idea of made-for-TV cartoons gained new traction. And that’s when Bill and Joe enter the story.

Originally, Bill and his brother-in-law, Mike Lah, were hired to create new Crusader Rabbit cartoons. But through some legal slight-of-hand, the project was forced off the drawing boards. Hanna, Barbera and Lah then borrowed the Crusader continuing-adventure format, plugged some new characters into it, and Ruff and Reddy were born.

Television Age magazine picks up the rest of the story for us, the story up until March 7, 1960, when the following was published. What’s great about this spotlight piece is not only were the Flintstones still into their “Flagstones” stage, but it’s the only publication I’ve found with a model drawing of Fred, Jr. You all know the character was dropped in development, and I can only presume it’s because Hanna and Barbera wanted a show based around the adults (Honeymooners, anyone?) and not a family. Of course, Ideal Toys’ bank account changed that later. Fred Jr. has the exact same design as Ubble Ubble from the Ruff and Reddy cartoons; Bill and Joe weren’t above borrowing from themselves (something that became all too apparent as the studio rolled on).

■ ■ ■
Cartoon comeback
With planned technique and original story lines . . . Hanna-Barbera Productions gives animation new life

Once upon a time Joe Barbera went out to the wonderful land of Hollywood to make cartoons. He worked very hard and was immensely gratified when theatregoers across the nation squealed like mice to see his Tom and Jerry run. A proud man, he would quietly observe that his output. eight seven -minute cartoons a year. was a heavy one. Then, one day, the pencil dropped. the ink dried: from high up in the tinselly towers of that mysterious world came a cry, echoing and re-echoing through the empty lots, the quiet streets, the vacant minds: enough! No more! And Joe Barbera, a storyteller without an audience, looked at his friend, Bill Hanna, an artist without a canvas, and they were both sad.
That was in 1957. If Mr. Barbera, partner in Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., looks at the past as though it were an especially poignant fairy tale, he has a right to, for the ending is in the best tradition of those narratives: the two protagonists lived busily ever after. As producers of Ruff & Reddy, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and The Flagstones (which is scheduled for prime evening time over ABC-TV next season), Hanna-Barbera is nothing if not busy. Today the company can be considered the leading producer of new cartoons for television, an occupation which was considered irresponsible or worse a few years ago by the hardheaded, the extremely hardheaded businessmen of that era. It didn't make economic sense, they argued, good animation is too expensive. limited animation too shoddy.
In developing a technique which was both good and economical the partners did to cartooning what the European small cars did to Detroit: initiated a minor revolution. That technique, called “planned animation” by Mr. Barbera, involves employing a rare commodity—experience—in the day-to-day operation. In his words, “you have to know when to cut and when not to cut. It's as simple as that. Limited animation is a mistake. Some people think they can save money and still come up with something good by taking cut-outs and moving them around a fixed background. It isn't that easy.”
Planned animation caught on quickly. With Screen Gems acting as distributor, Ruff & Reddy, a story about a frisky cat and a dim-witted dog, went on the air over NBC -TV in 1957. Huckleberry Hound, the saga of a canine Don Quixote, was picked up by Kellogg's in a huge national spot spread in 1958, and was recently renewed. Quick Draw McGraw, which is about an obtuse horse and his more perceptive, Spanish-speaking burro sidekick, was purchased by Kellogg's last year as part of its national spot pattern. Just last month ABC-TV purchased The Flagstones, a satire on an exurbanite family in the Stone Age. The historical background is irresponsibly recreated.
To make the cartoon-comeback circle complete, H-B has re-entered the theatrical-cartoon field—using its television technique. The company has signed a five -year exclusive contract with Columbia Pictures, parent company of Screen Gems. First theatrical cartoon series has been titled Loopy De Loop.
If the concept of planned animation seems unnecessarily vague in that it is basically a common-sense approach to production problems, its execution is another matter. Mr. Barbera is a story man and artist, and Mr. Hanna is a technician. With this start, a technique was worked out whereby all cartoon story men have learned to draw well enough to do their scripts in sketch form. “If the scripts were typed up we'd have to call in a sketch man and in the last analysis end up with a compromise,” Mr. Barbera observes. A certain amount of freshness and spontaneity is preserved this way, and the savings in time and cost are obvious, he notes.
Production is maintained at all times, and to avoid slowdowns an open -door policy is in effect at the shop (the Amco studios in Hollywood).
“We have no executives here. Everyone is available, and everyone works. We make quick decisions: if a story man comes in with an idea he gets a yes or no, frequently within a matter of minutes.”
H-B's production schedule demands this kind of concentration. Mr. Hanna and Mr. Barbera once did eight cartoons a year for theatrical release, and were proud of it. Today they do four cartoons a week for television, and all of them are in color. Another comparison: in 20 years of work for MGM the team turned out 120 Tom and Jerry cartoons; in two years in television they produced over 300 cartoons, and have orders totaling 700.
Planned animation affords a savings of about half over full animation, says Mr. Barbera. Where the latter utilizes as much as 17,000 cels (individual pictorial units) in a seven-minute cartoon, only 1,000 to 2,000 are used in planned animation for the same length production, and for the same or greater number of scenes and characters. This, in turn, has attracted business: in its first full year of operation (1958) H-B grossed $1 million; in 1959 the figure more than doubled to $2.25 million; in 1960, current contracts guarantee a gross of at least $3 million.
Curiously, the whole concept of planned animation grew out the studios of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. There, a technique was developed whereby a projected cartoon was done roughly at first, as a kind of preview. Mr. Barbera animated and drew and then broke the pictures into scenes, while Mr. Hanna timed it out. If it was found acceptable, a full cartoon was made. When MGM discontinued production of new cartoons, the partners took their wares elsewhere, convinced that a refinement of the preview technique could be adapted for television, and for motion-picture theatres, for that matter. Screen Gems, a partner in anything it finances of H-B's, agreed to distribute the product.
Affable and relaxed, Mr. Barbera is something of a salesman himself. He has a contagious regard for the numerous characters he has created, and a good ear for inflections and intonations of speech. These qualities helped him sell Huckleberry Hound to the Leo Burnett people (for Kellogg's) with just three storyboards, and before the character of Huckleberry Hound had been created. (Initially, the program consisted of Yogi Bear, Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinx.) [sic] That was on July 7, 1957, exactly 20 years to the day he started with MGM.
An emphasis on the purely technical aspects of the company's operation does not begin to explain its success. Mr. Barbera is quick to point out that “we can have the best staff in the world, but without story, characters, proper timing, we're doomed.”
The approach to the cartoons, however, is what seems to distinguish H-B Productions from its competitors. It has been described as light satirization, or wholesome burlesques, of familiar situations. It is largely a civilized humor which has caught on with children, and with many adults. Although violence is used on occasion to right wrongs, there is no sadism, little of the prat-fall humor which characterizes many of Hollywood's cartoons. With this tenuous formula, Messrs. Hanna and Barbera can be expected to make a major contribution to children's programming, and a modest one to adult fare.
■ ■ ■

Those last two paragraphs sum up why the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons have such appeal today.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Bear For Safety

Hanna-Barbera characters were used in a variety of public safety campaigns in various media, especially after pressure groups in the late ‘60s complained about cartoons being too violent. Perhaps you’ve seen on-line an old animated anti-smoking PSA with Yogi, Boo Boo, and a bouncing, coughing head. And we’ve linked to a record from 1973 featuring short safety tips for kids from the H-B characters, accompanied by familiar music from Hoyt Curtin.

Below is a booklet called Bear Facts for Bike Drivers. It’s four pages, 8½ by 11, folded in half. It was made in cooperation with the California Highway Patrol, Valley Division, in Sacramento. Artist unknown, but it had to be someone at the studio.

The Valley News of Van Nuys, California explained how it was used in its edition of November 28, 1972:

BIKE SAFETY -- The California Highway Patrol has a new public service booklet out titled, "Bear Facts for Bike Drivers" featuring Yogi Bear. Concerned parents interested in safety-proofing young riders should urge them to visit the Bicycle Clinic Saturday from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. at the South Oaks Shopping Center, Soledad and White Canyon Roads, Canyon Country. The clinic will feature a skill test, vehicle inspection, education in basic safety procedures and laws, installation of reflectors as needed and provision for identification stickers and county licensing. Clinic sponsors include the California Highway Patrol, the Sheriff's Dept., the Automobile Club of Southern California, Santa Clarita Valley's two chambers of commerce plus fraternal and service groups. Honorary Mayors Tex Williams, Newhall Saugus Valencia, and Art Evans, Canyon Country, plus Honorary Sheriff Bob Ohler will he assisting with the clinic. Free hot dogs, soft drinks and entertainment will also be provided.
It would have been cool to have someone dressed up in a Yogi costume there, but it wasn’t a studio event. And Yogi would have been liable to steal all the hot dogs anyway.

Oh, and if you haven’t seen the anti-smoking PSA from 1968, here it is. The animator is revealed in the comments.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Masking For Trouble Storyboard

Put Quick Draw McGraw in a disguise, and you just know things are going to end badly. Take the episode “Masking For Trouble” (1959), for example. Poor Quick Draw tries to rescue a damsel from a pint-sized wimp only to have her change her mind after Baba Looey socks the little pest. Quick Draw gets punched and shot at for his trouble.

We reviewed the cartoon in this post.

Well, now, you can see the story panels for the cartoon. Mark Kausler sent them as a little present for you readers. The credits say the story was written by Mike Maltese, the story sketches were by Dan Gordon, and Dick Bickenbach drew the layouts.

Most of Maltese’s dialogue was used verbatim, and the opening pan on the storyboard looks just like it does in the actual cartoon. What’s interesting is that part of the story was omitted; you’ll see puppet gags in Scene 8 about a loan shark and a hooded hyena (whose head reminds me of Astro, who had not been invented yet) that didn’t make it into the final cartoon. And, apparently, after the original storyboard was made, scenes 35A to K were added to the cartoon. Some of the drawings in the insert are pretty sketchy and you have to wonder whether they’re from Maltese himself.

Animator Mike Kazaleh has pointed out that in the first season of the Huckleberry Hound Show (1958-59), footage was inserted in a number of cartoons and Mike Lah animated it. The following season, we have an insert in this cartoon. Lah was gone by this time, and it looks like Lew Marshall animated the insert, in addition to the rest of the cartoon.

Only Mike Maltese could call a recalcitrant weapon a “mule-headed six-gun” (panel 27 of the insert). And the word “Ballooomm!” (panel 87) seems Maltesean to me.

Baba Looey turns and waves to the audience in the final panel before an iris out. I like that better than the ending that was filmed, when Baba keeps looking to left of the frame while he runs before the cartoon fades.

Click on any of the panels to make them bigger.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Yowp Artist Writes Book

How many people who animated your favourite cartoon dog Yowp are still alive? Here’s a hint: it’s the same answer to the question “How many animators who worked at Hanna-Barbera before 1960 are still alive?”

The correct answer is “One.” That person is Gerard Baldwin.

Mr. Baldwin had two tours of duty at the studio. The first one was brief. He worked on a handful of cartoons on The Huckleberry Hound Show and The Quick Draw McGraw Show in 1959 before he left for a job with Jay Ward working on a new series called Rocky and His Friends (a Hanna-Barbera background artist named Joe Montell left around the same time for the same reason). He returned 20 years later to toil on programmes like The Smurfs, where he was a supervising producer. In between, he lent his talents to Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, the first animated TV special, the wonderful Super Chicken and numerous other shows and commercials.

There are so few of the old-time animators left that it’s getting rarer and rarer to hear first-hand accounts of what went on in the growing days of television cartoons. But not only is Gerard Baldwin around, he’s written a book. It was published last December but I’ve just learned about it now. Whether he discusses his first go-around at Hanna-Barbera and the excitement of animating a Yowp cartoon, I don’t know. But it does take him through his start at UPA in the early ‘50s and beyond. You can read a little more about it HERE.

Since we’re discussing Mr. Baldwin’s early H-B work, here are some frames of his drawings we’ve posted elsewhere.

Bear Face Bear, layouts by Walt Clinton.

Dog Gone Prairie Dog, layouts by Walt Clinton.

Big Top Pop, layouts by Bob Givens.

Adventure is My Hobby, layouts by Bob Givens.

Monkey Wrenched, layouts by Bob Givens.

Bear For Punishment, layouts by Tony Rivera.

Six-Gun Spook, layouts by Bob Givens.

P.S.: Givens and Sam Clayberger are still with us and worked on H-B cartoons before 1960, but Givens was in layout and Clayberger was a background artist. It’s a shame a Givens autobiography has never been published.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Life At Hanna-Barbera

Hundreds of pictures of the Hanna-Barbera operation were taken for a Life magazine story published on November 21, 1961. We blogged about it HERE, linked to a copy of the original article and posted some of the photos that didn’t make the cut.

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera should be recognisable to anyone who’s a fan of the studio. But I wouldn’t expect many people to be able to look at photos and pick out very many who worked for the company. There were people in some of the shots I didn’t recognise, so I asked Tony Benedict, who was hired by the studio not long after the pictures were taken, to identify a few people. And he’s graciously done so.

Here are Bill and Joe looking into a Moviola, used in the studio’s editing department. Joe is on the right, of course, with Bill next to him. To the left of Bill is Frank Paiker, the head of the camera department and an animation veteran. Paiker was a cameraman for J.R. Bray as early as 1925, at the age of 16, and he spent the ‘30s at the Fleischer studio (his nose was broken by animator Lou Appet during the strike at the studio), moving with the Fleischers to Florida. He was at MGM at the time its cartoon studio shut down and, presumably, moved over to Hanna-Barbera when it started in 1957.

Paiker was born in Manhattan on January 21, 1909 and died in Santa Barbara, Calif., on January 26, 1989.

Here’s Paiker at work shooting an early Flintstones cartoon. Whether this picture was taken the same day, I don’t know. You’ll note Paiker isn’t wearing a striped T-shirt in this photo.

Paiker’s at work again. He’s shooting a scene from the episode “At the Races.” The disembodied heads and the dinosaurs are by Carlo Vinci.

And speaking of Carlo, I believe that’s him on the left, speaking to Mr. B.

Joe Barbera’s relaxing in his office. Sitting in the centre is Warren Foster, who wrote many of the Flintstones episodes in the first season. The guy behind the cardboard Fred is the same chap at the left of the first picture above. He’s not an artist, nor a voice actor, nor on the technical staff. He’s the studio’s publicity and promotion director, Arnie Carr.

Carr worked for syndicator Ziv Television until September 1955, when he joined Irving Fein’s publicity staff at CBS radio in Los Angeles. There’s an inside joke on the network’s Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar; the name of a supposedly dead man in one of the episodes was named for him. Carr moved to KABC-TV in May 1957, then jumped to Screen Gems in August 1959 to promote its TV releases, including Ruff and Reddy, Huckleberry Hound (“and has two more series coming,” said Variety on August 3, 1959; one was obviously Quick Draw McGraw). Carr worked directly for Hanna-Barbera from May 1960 to September 1962, when he opened his own company and took in H-B as a client. Carr’s firm doesn’t appear to have lasted long; in 1966 he was co-producing a TV show starring, of all people, catty fashion commentator Mr. Blackwell.

Since we’re posting pictures from the Life shoot, let’s pass on a few more.

Bill Hanna’s chatting with someone during the recording session. No, it’s not Hoyt Curtin.

At the time of the photo shoot, Hanna-Barbera had recently moved from the Kling studio on La Brea to a small building at 3501 Cahuenga, not far from where their future complex would be built. Many staffers—even animators—worked from home. Here’s an inker in her kitchen. Do they still make bread boxes?

Here’s Carlo again, getting the right mouth position for Fred Flintstone. The record player, I suspect, is to listen to the voice track. Cheap-looking desks, aren’t they? You can see a layout drawing from “The Golf Champion,” with Fred and Barney fighting over the trophy. In the background (next to Dick Lundy’s desk), there is a model sheet of Fred and Barney, and another of Betty and Wilma. Here’s a copy of the Fred/Barney one.

Now, back to the Life pictures.

Bill Hanna, story sketch artist Dan Gordon and Joe Barbera. An ashtray that’s empty? I smell staged photo for some reason.

The 1960 Los Angeles phone directory has Joe Barbera listed in an apartment at 1745 North Orange Drive. I suspect this poolside shot was taken elsewhere. Barbera and his wife Dorothy had three kids—Jayne, Neal and Lynn. The couple divorced in June 1963. Jayne and Neal later worked at the studio. Incidentally, one of the other tenants of that Orange Drive apartment building may have saved up enough for his own pool, too. He was an actor named Bernie Kopell.

Life had a few external pictures of the H-B studio but not a full one. Here’s how 3501 Cahuenga looks today.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Snagglepuss in Feud For Thought

Snagglepuss spent a good chunk of his cartoon career “exiting.” And his quick departure from the stage was handled differently depending on the animator. Ken Muse simply went from a full character drawing to a bunch of brush stroked lines (letting the ink and paint people do the work while he meets his footage quota). Carlo Vinci backed up a character then stretched him horizontally in mid-air before disappearing. Lew Marshall used full drawings but stretched body parts a bit. And Brad Case indicated the character with a partial or full outline with ink and paint adding colour.

Actually, in Feud For Thought (first aired in 1961), there isn’t even really an outline, certainly not compared to his drawings in the Pixie and Dixie cartoon Crew Cat, also made in 1960. Here are two examples, first with Melvin Martin and then with Snagglepuss himself.

The Hatfield-McCoy feud inspired who-knows-how-many cartoons (A Feud There Was and Hillbilly Hare were two at Warners). Here’s another one, which writer Mike Maltese combines with “Proposal Sunday.” Snagglepuss plays some Bugs Bunny-like head games with Martin and Calvin Cloy, who both want to kill him to give his skin to Suzy Sal, so they can win her “yes” to their marriage proposal. Suzy Sal has one of those Wilma Flintstone front swirls in her hair.

Like Bugs, Snagglepuss uses disguises to hoodwink the dullards. He dresses up in a top hat and cape, like an 1890s melodrama villain, and then like a, well, he kind of looks like a TV anchor as he proposes to Suzy Sal.

It’s a little creepy at the end of the cartoon when Snagglepuss takes off the human head, but still has human hands and is wearing a suit.

Maltese adds his fun little dialogue redundancies:

● Calvin: Then make up yo’ brain-mind which one of us you is marriage-acceptin.’
● Calvin: Cut him equal evens, Melvin.
● Melvin: Where did the critter beast go, Calvin?
● Melvin: Feud fightin’ is a heap more fun than marriage fussin’ anyhow.

Snagglepuss’ opening declamation: “Ah! ‘Tis autumn! ‘Ere the burnished leaves float earthward, and betoken the comin’ of winter, with its frosty winds and its driven snow.” Yes, “betoken” is a word. And we get shameless puns like “hold the lion” and “dotted lion.”

It’s early in the series but Maltese is already making fun of Snagglepuss’ “exit” lines. Exclaims the mountain lion: “Exit, stage up,” “Exit, straight down,” and “Exit, stage nothin’.” And, at the end, Snagglepuss rejoices in his confirmed bachelorhood.

Dick Thomas is the background artist. He’s using varying shades in this cartoon, though kids would have only seen it in black and white in 1961.

Paul Sommer is the layout artist, Alex Lovy handled the story direction, and Daws Butler (Snagglepuss, Melvin), Jean Vander Pyl (Suzy Sal) and Doug Young (Calvin) provide voices.

The cartoon isn’t one of the best in the series, but it’s okay. Snagglepuss fans and confirmed bachelors will like it.