Saturday, July 23, 2016

They Threw Yogi a Party

There’s one Yogi Bear cartoon we haven’t reviewed on the blog, and that’s the half-hour birthday party episode that capped the first season of Yogi’s show on TV. It aired during the week of October 1, 1961 (internet sources that say January 1962 are flat-out wrong), the time slot depending on when Leo Burnett was able to buy time on a particular station.

The birthday party was part of a huge Yogi publicity campaign. TV stations were encouraged to have kids come down and have a real birthday party, with the cartoon being only part of the proceedings. There was a free Dell Comic book, tied in boxes of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. You can read about the promotional blitz and the party in this post and this post.

One of the disappointments of the Yogi Bear show DVD which came out a few years ago is the lack of credits at the end of the cartoon. I don’t like to rely on web sites where anonymous people can fill in their own educated or uneducated guesses about movies or TV shows as if it were indisputable, well-sourced fact. So I’ve never really been sure who worked on the birthday show—other than Jerry Eisenberg told me his dad drew the storyboard for it. But reader Mike Rossi has come up with the credits from a VHS tape of the episode. The credits fade in and out over top of each other as a Dixieland version of the Yogi Bear theme plays in the background.

A few things stand out. One is the copyright date is 1960. This half-hour must have been in the planning stages for an awful lot time. Another is the mention of Duke Mitchell. He does the swingin’ singing instructor in the show. Duke’s the crazy cat who sang for Fred in the first season of The Flintstones. Actually, Duke was supposed to be a crazy cat. The trades announced he was going to be a voice on Top Cat (as Spook maybe?). But it never happened. Read a bit more about Duke in this post.

Dick Lundy gets an “animation supervision” credit, but no animators are credited. The reason is simple. I’ve been told that Hanna-Barbera farmed out the work on the half-hour to one of the local commercial houses. It might have been Quartet; it might have been Playhouse. I don’t recall and I have no notes about where I got the information. So you’ll have to treat this as hearsay unless Mike Kazaleh or someone who’s an expert on this sort of thing posts a comment.

Since we’re talking Yogi and birthdays, here’s a real kid having a real birthday party with real Hanna-Barbera stuff. The picture was purloined off the internet a few years ago so I have no idea who the youngster is or when this took place.

You can click on the picture to get a better look. You’ll notice Li’l Tom Tom and Iddy Biddy Buddy (Yakky Doodle in his pre-Yakky days) as well as Huck, Yogi, Boo Boo and Mr. Jinks. I believe the kangaroo is Ka-pow who was in the Pixie and Dixie cartoon “Boxing Buddy.” Where’s Yowp, you ask? After all, a party isn’t a party without Yowp. We can only hope mom picked up the matching paper plates you see below to ensure everyone’s favourite cartoon dog that says “Yowp!” was invited.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Flintstones Weekend Comics, July 1966

I’m sorry. I simply can’t find decent, full versions of these comics. One source has double-exposures so it’s useless. Another has now put its archive behind a pay firewall (it is not the first). A third has the skunk stripe along the comics because of poor scanning and doesn’t even have full editions because it sold Sunday comic space for advertising.

So, without any commentary, here are the five Flintstones comics from this month 50 years ago. If someone can direct me to a decent on-line source for them, the readers here, I’m sure, would be grateful.

July 3, 1966

July 10, 1966

July 17, 1966

July 24, 1966

July 31, 1966

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Snagglepuss – The Roaring Lion

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Voice Cast: Tall Construction Worker, Snagglepuss, Sucker Kid, Irish Cop, Newsboy, Cheerleaders, Circus Truant Officer – Daws Butler; Mike, Dean, Housewife, Construction Worker, Cheerleader, Cheerleaders – Don Messick.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Hungry Snagglepuss goes to university to get food but ends up in a football game.

Sorry, Snagglepuss, this cartoon doesn’t do too much for me. Maybe I’m not suspending my disbelief enough. But if you’re really and truly hungry and you think a football is a meatball, why aren’t you trying to eat it? Then again, maybe writer Mike Maltese had a chewing-attempt gag in the cartoon that got cut out.

Or maybe I’m just “meh” over Lew Marshall’s work. Here’s what I mean. These two drawings are the beginning and end of a surprise take (there are a couple of scrunched-eyes in-betweens in the scene as well). It isn’t really much of a take, is it?

And to your right, you see the dean of POW University suddenly panicked after seeing his star football player is a mountain lion. Panic? All he does is stand there, then twirl around and leave. I don’t wish to denigrate Lew Marshall’s talent. He was a capable animator. But the studio’s short cartoons developed a churn-‘em-out quality in the early ‘60s with animation that could have been more interesting. (As a side note, all but the first few scenes are told in flashback. The Dean looks no younger in the flashback than he does at the start, even though it took place over 30 years earlier. He even has the same hat and shirt). And aren’t the Dean’s teeny legs a little too far back on his body?

The best part of the cartoon comes in the first half. I guess I should go through the storyline. Things start with a crew tearing down the university (one of the explosion crew workers is named Mike). The retired Dean looks on and reminisces about the time when the graduating class didn’t get their diplomas. Fade to a circus train pulling out of town. “Oh, would that I were free, unfettered and uncaged! ” declaims the caged Snagglepuss. “But hark! Or is it “herc”? The cage door is open. Ajar, even. What a chintzy outfit. Can’t even afford a lock.” So Snagglepuss escapes and eventually hears a newspaper boy’s cry about sheepskins at the university, whereat, and to wit, he shows up looking for a mutton dinner. Before that, Maltese engages in a series of gags where Snagglepuss unsuccessfully attempts to score anything resembling a meal. His sense of ridiculous dialogue carries things. The scene cuts to a shot of a pie cooling on a window ledge.

Snagglepuss: Heavens to Betsy! It’s a succulent melonberry pie. Or is it a razzen-huckle pie?
(Snagglepuss is hit by a broom from inside the home as he tries to grab the pie)
Woman: Keep your grimy paws off’n that cherry chitlin pie.
Why use the names of real fruit when you can use silly, made-up names?

Snagglepuss exits, hungry as ever, stage left. He spots a chubby kid noisily slurping on a sucker. “Heavens to Murgatroyd,” he says. “Let’s hope that urchin’s heart is as big as his mouth.” Daws Butler’s standard Irish cop shows up to stop Snagglepuss from trying to get one measly slurp of the kid’s sucker, but before that, I like how the kid is lifted up in mid-air, still sucking away. That’s one strong lollypop stick.

The latter routine ends with a fade-out of the cop-bashed Snagglepuss. Both scenes would have been better if Snagglepuss made some kind of crack at the end (eg. about getting the type of pie wrong), like Huckleberry Hound did so well, but Maltese moves on.

The second half begins with Snagglepuss disguised as a vo-de-oh-doe-ing college boy (with a raccoon coat) mistaken for the new football team halfback, with the story built on misunderstanding after misunderstanding. Snagglepuss doesn’t comprehend the sports of football. He thinks the football itself is an overripe meatball. He thinks the opponent Bayshore Rams are the “sheepses.” He thinks the college mascot goat is “a sheepses, with handles to hold like a lollypop.” The Rams keep running toward Snagglepuss, the goat butts the football-holding mountain lion over the goalposts for a touchdown, and the Don Messick cheerleader jumps, all in cycle animation used over and over.

Anyway, Snagglepuss wins the game, the Dean runs away (as mentioned above) and the scene cuts to Mr. Murgatroyd casually walking out of the university (see background drawing above) with stacks of diplomas; presumably he scared everyone off campus and just helped himself. He’s recaptured and put back on the train. “These sheepskins don’t taste like such a much,” he tells us. “But at least I’ll be the only lion in captivity with a PhD stomach.” He chomps away to Hoyt Curtin’s faux Dixieland music as the iris closes.

If the credits are correct, Bob Gentle is the background artist. The sketchy grass looks more like Dick Thomas’ work to me, to be honest, but I’ll accept the credits (Art Lozzi once mentioned the credits weren’t altogether accurate and he was credited on HB cartoons he didn’t work on).

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Jonny Quest Cuts Suspenders

Many TV columnists were pretty kind to Jonny Quest after it debuted in 1964—even the guy at the New York Times who called The Flintstones “an inked disaster” described the show as “a welcome addition”—but that didn’t make a lot of difference. The Flintstones were getting kicked in the ratings by The Munsters, so to save the show, ABC moved it to the Quest time slot. Fred, Barney and Dino did well enough in the ratings to get renewed, but Jonny, Race and Bandit got cancelled.

Quest was ground-breaking. It was the first real action-adventure cartoon show on television. It was well-written; there was enough suspense, mystery and even comic relief for any young viewer. And it has stood the test of time. Cancellation didn’t kill Jonny Quest. After years of reruns, the show spawned reboots and off-and-on talk of a live-action movie version.

Here’s a story from the Syracuse Post-Standard of June 21, 1964, just part of a barrage of advance publicity for the show. Joe Barbera was interviewed by what was likely a freelance reporter but there are no direct quotes about the show by him. However, salesman Joe does a fine job of promoting the success of his company, which takes up about as much as the feature story as the Quest preview does. The comment about the kind of justice meted out to the bad guys on the show is interesting. My recollection is a number of them met their deaths, something a little different than the “cut suspenders” justice referred to in the story.

Animated TV Adventure
Hanna-Barbera Plans New Show
Staff Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD — Joseph Barbera "set the government back 20 years" when he worked for the Internal Revenue Service because he couldn't add. But add or not, Barbera, along with partner Bill Hanna, heads a multi-million dollar organization—Hanna-Barbera Productions Inc.
Hanna-Barbera will have 14 animated shows on television this coming season, including "The Flintstones," "Magilla Gorilla" and an all new high adventure series titled “Jonny Quest.”
We met with Barbera at his office here last Monday at the new $1,250,000 Hanna-Barbera Studios. He explained to us the “Jonny Quest” series, which premieres at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, on WNYS-TV, and the many-faceted production departments of the company.
Much Research
"Jonny Quest" will be the product of more than two years of research by Hanna-Barbera artists. The series will bring animated, up-to-date adventure to television for the first time and will feature an art style never seen before in animation.
The style will be illustrative rather than cartoon art and every attempt will be made to make the series visually attractive and exciting.
Jonny Quest, 11 year old, is the son of Dr. Benton Quest, one of the three top scientists in the world. Because of the nature of Dr. Quest's work and his importance to the scientific world, Roger (Race) Bannon has been assigned by Intelligence I as permanent bodyguard for the Quests, as well as, tutor and friend to Johnny who travels with his father at all times. Haki [sic], an Indian boy, adopted by the doctor and Jonny’s dog Bandit complete the family album.
Viewers will join Jonny as he travels to the North Pole, Tibet, the Sargasso Sea area, and wherever else adventure leads him
The new series will be designed to reach adults as well as children, but due justice will come to each culprit in the "cut suspenders-fallen pants" style, sticking with the Hanna-Barbera tradition of no violence.
The company is far-reaching. More than 500 licensed manufacturers of some 2,500 products, ranging from "Yogi Bear" widdow [sic] shades to “Huckleberry Hound” bubble bath, have grossed more than $120 million so far this year.
The cartoons are not just for television, as a syndicated cartoon strip of "Yogi Bear" is a Sunday comic feature of The Post-Standard.
First Feature Film
Hanna-Barbera's first feature film was released this month—"Hey There, It's Yogi Bear." The company also does commercials and industrial films, both animated and live-action.
Although mainly company artists come up with the ideas for the plots of the animated shows, Hanna-Barbera does accept ideas from outside many times in peculiar ways. One of the company's mail boys made $450 in three days for submitting ideas and the maid of a close friend of Barbera's promptly received a check for an idea she submitted.
The Bill Hanna-Joe Barbera success dates back 25 years when they created the seven-time Oscar winning cartoon short "Tom & Jerry" at MGM Studios. But the partnership was really formed in 1957 when the two left MGM to do their own cartoons.
Their first television offering was in 1957 when they made "Ruff and Reddy." Today their production budget will hit approximately $12 million. They employ some 250 artists, technicians, writers and directors in their new studios, which have already become so packed they are forced to rent buildings across the street. Hanna-Barbera better be prepared. The way people are laughing at their cartoons, they're going to need a lot more room.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Jetsons – Test Pilot

George Jetson wore the same clothes almost all the time, so it would seem odd that two episodes of The Jetsons are based around clothing, specifically, technologically-advanced clothing. In one cartoon, we had a flying suit. In this one, we have a suit that’s indestructible (except when it’s placed in the washer).

The comedy in this cartoon comes mainly from three sources—wisecracks after each check of Jetson’s innards, wisecracks by Jetson after each test of the suit, and the bidding war between Spacely and Cogswell over Jetson’s employment. Naturally, the corporate status symbols of the 1960s are included in the latter—a vice presidency and a key to the executive washroom. Cosmo Spacely’s cheapness and shallowness are shown up nicely during the sequence. Spacely opens up a safe that obviously hasn’t been touched in years and pulls out a wad of bills. “That money hasn’t seen the light of day in ages,” says Cogswell. “Look!” The camera cuts to a scene of George Washington (on the $100 bill!?) rubbing his eyes because he’s seeing light.

Harvey Bullock and Ray Allen’s story also incorporates that grand old sitcom staple—the misunderstanding. In this case, you have to get caught up in their plot and not question its holes. George Jetson goes through with life-threatening tests on the suit because he’s been told by a doctor he’s going to die. He’s told he’s going to die because an electronic medical probe that had been swirling around Jetson’s body pops out his ear and embeds itself in a mummy. Even if you accept a medical doctor would be conducting research with a mummy, Jetson felt the probe leave his head. Why didn’t he say something? And wouldn’t the doctor wonder where his probe is after the exam is over and then realise his misdiagnosis? He’d want it back, wouldn’t he? Or maybe the probe is supposed to work its way through the digestive system and...well, let’s move on to something else.

In 1962, the futuristic gizmos themselves were gags. In this day and age, we have the added interest of seeing if the writers accurately predicted stuff we have today. The cartoon starts off with an extension of the early ‘60s concept of dehydrated food for astronauts—a machine that comes up with a food pill, created after you dial the ingredients. Yes, it has a rotary dial, just like a ‘60s telephone. Jane then talks about a big sale at “Steers Roebuck”—and she’s reading about it on a piece of paper. Maybe her tablet is broken. And we learn that Judy wants some “stereophonic music tapes.” Tapes? Perhaps it’s like vinyl is today and it’s some kind of retro thing of the future.

In the next sequence, we see that Spacely has a robot secretary to do his typing. Apparently the auto correct function doesn’t exist in the future (too many mistakenly-changed words put it out of consumer favour?) as there’s a funny gag about an eraser that pops out of the computer and rubs out the mistake on the screen.

Spacely also has a shaving contraption (with a striped barber pole) that comes out of his ceiling.

The story goes that lone scientists at both Spacely Sprockets and Cogswell Cogs, in what appears to be an attempt at corporate diversification, have both invented indestructible jacket. They both need someone to test the suit. Meanwhile, George Jetson has gone to Doctor Radius who tells him “it’s just a matter of time...then...poof! Pift!” Jetson’s going to die thanks to the probe we mentioned earlier. There are medical probes today that televise what’s happening inside someone’s body but none of them have Mel Blanc’s voice nor make jokes as they circle various organs (one involves a groaner of an Adam’s Apple pun). It might be more fun if they did.

Since Jetson thinks he’s going to die, he accepts Spacely’s proposal to go through tests that could kill him. “What’s mine is yours. I’ll give you everything you need. Help yourself. Anything in the place” says Spacely. Jetson puts Spacely’s pen in his pocket. Spacely grabs it back. The first act of the cartoon is over.

The bulk of the second half is taken up with the tests, which are televised live. There’s a fun bit of dialogue to start the sequence:

Announcer: Oh, Mr. Jetson, I guess you’re quite concerned about these tests.
Jetson: Well, I...
Spacely (walks toward the TV camera and fills the frame) I certainly am. Sure hope nothing happens to that life jacket.
Announcer: Oh, uh, Mr. Spacely, um, your every thought must be with the courageous man who’s risking his life for you.
Spacely: Huh? Who’s that?
There’s a “hydro-resistance” test, a “force-factor” test (involving a huge rock), the “Verticle-horizontal wearage test” (Jetson is crushed into a little square), a buzz-saw test, a “thermo-electric resistance test” (Jetson roasts a hot dog while he’s zapped) and finally, a test where two rockets are fired at him in mid-air. Some frames...

Meanwhile, word of Jetson’s (and the jacket’s) feats have made news around the world. I don’t know who handled layouts and backgrounds in this cartoon, but I like the scene of London to the right. It’s so rare anything on ground-level was portrayed on the show. And the layout man came up with an interesting futuristic ship plying the waters of the Thames. This portion of the cartoon gives us stereotypes. There’s the Frenchman who woos women, as demonstrated by the news announcer kissing some woman on his lap. And there’s the stereotypic Soviet newsman (with a big, bald head like Krushchev) who claims “we invented it first.” At least, we’re left to assume it’s the Soviet Union by the background drawing feature Kremlin-esque cupola towered buildings.

Before the final test, Doctor Radium rushes to Jetson and tells him he’s not going to “pift.” Not even “poof.” He’ll live to be 150. Suddenly, George cares that the test could kill him. The best part of this portion of the cartoon when Jetson turns his parachute into a cape and the rocket pretends to be a bull, pawing on the “ground.”

Naturally, Jetson isn’t killed. The final sequence has the plot twist. Jane has washed the jacket. It’s ruined. It can’t be washed. This, somehow has ruined Spacely Sprockets (we have to presume Spacely has manufactured millions of these things now that he has the Good Spacekeeping Seal of Approval) and the cartoon ends with Jetson and Spacely dashing off to seek employment with Cogswell.

Ken Muse animates the majority of the cartoon. You can easily tell by the way George moves his slitted tongue in the very first line of dialogue. Muse takes it at least through to the scene where Cogswell disappears through the floor of Spacely’s office. He picks up the animation against from the BBC announcer through to the end. If I’m wrong, Howard Fein will likely leave a correction in the comment section. I don’t know who the other animator is, but it looks like there are only two on this one (Grrr to the syndicated gang credits glued on these cartoons in the ‘80s). I don’t know how many animators did this, but Muse has characters leave little trails of stars as they rush away.

There’s no shot of the Skypad Apartments in this cartoon. We get the same painting of the Spacely Sprockets building as in “Astro’s Top Secret.” In two scenes, there are overlays of silhouettes of people, anxious to see if Jetson survives the tests. It seems Hanna-Barbera predicted Reality TV as well.