Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Advice from Yogi and Wilma

Here’s a little something for Daws Butler fans.

Hanna-Barbera got together with the U.S. National Safety Council in 1973 and put together a record featuring the studio’s characters giving safety advice to kids. (Adults should pay attention to some of this advice today). “Hear See Do” features Jean Vander Pyl as Wilma Flintstone and Daws as a large barrel-full of characters. A colouring book was included.

What’s interesting listening to this is how Daws handles characters normally voiced by other people at Hanna-Barbera. As you may know, he voiced Barney Rubble for several episodes of “The Flintstones” after Mel Blanc’s near-fatal car crash. But the Barney on the record doesn’t sound like the Barney he did in the cartoons. His version of Top Cat is, as you might expect, the Bilko-ish sound he gave to Hokey Wolf. His Fred Flintstone is a little more growly than the Gleason voice he used in the Flintstones demo cartoon (mistakenly called a “pilot”) as well as in various Hanna-Barbera and Jay Ward productions. Perhaps his oddest voice—and I haven’t listened to all of the cuts below—is the lisping version of Magilla Gorilla which doesn’t sound anything like the way Allan Melvin played him. Daws also speaks for Boo Boo, So-So and Ricochet Rabbit; it’s a shame Don Messick wasn’t hired to voice his own characters.

This wasn’t the only public service campaign the studio was involved with. In 1989, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were honoured by B’nai B’rith as ‘Men of the Year’ for their involvement in a long list of worthy causes, including such campaigns as A Drug Free America, Buckle Up For Safety, and Just Say No To Drugs (Variety also reported: “MCA prexy Sid Sheinberg, honorary chairman for the event, quipped that some people figure Hanna-Barbera is an “Italian woman with a Jewish first name.’”)

Anyway, listen and see what you think. It’s neat hearing the characters do something outside of cartoons. One of the cuts is missing. And I’m not quite sure what to make of that sabretooth mouse on the cover.




A1 The Safe Way To School








A2 Don’t Ride With Strangers








A3 How To Ride A Bike








A4 Obey The Safety Patrol








A5 Walking Where No Sidewalks Exist








A6 Lock Car Doors








A7 Don’t Take Chances








A8 Don’t Throw Stones








A9 Don’t Play With Strange Animals








A10 Walk, Don’t Run








A12 Keep Arms Inside Car And Bus








A13 Be Careful On Skateboards








A14 Be Careful With Knives, Scissors And Sharp Objects








A15 Keep Toys Off The Floor








A16 Don’t Run With Things In Your Mouth








A17 Store Poisons Properly








A18 Green Means Go, Red Stop








B1 Safety At Night, Wear White








B2 Play In A Safe Place








B3 Enter And Leave Cars On Curb Side








B4 Wet Hands And Electricity Don’t Mix








B5 Never Step From Behind Parked Cars








B6 Cross Streets At Corners








B7 Watch For Cars In Driveways








B8 Fasten Seat Belts, Don’t Stand Up








B9 Never Swim Alone








B10 Stop, Look, Listen








B11 Use Lights And Reflectors On Bicycles








B12 Don’t Play In Streets








B13 Look Both Ways Before Crossing Streets








B14 Correct Signals For Riding A Bike








B15 Don’t Ride Double On A Bike








B16 Remove Skates Before Crossing Streets








B17 Don’t Run Around Swimming Pools








B18 Prevent Forest Fires







Saturday, March 21, 2015

Walking With Jinks

“Limited animation” doesn’t have to mean “uninteresting animation.” Lots of TV commercials produced in the 1950s proved that. And the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons had some interesting animation, too. Unfortunately, that changed within a few years.

Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about. Here’s Jinks walking in “Cousin Tex,” one of the first Pixie and Dixie cartoons produced in 1958. Carlo Vinci is the animator, at least of the drawings below. The walk cycle is eight drawings on twos, meaning the cycle takes up a foot of film. Jinks has a low crotch, so his steps are low. But Carlo’s tried to make the cycle interesting by flipping Jinks’ feet, and dropping a knee almost to the floor while raising the other leg. The cat’s butt sways as well. It’s a unique walk and nice to watch.



Now we’re back to the start of the cycle. See the position of the feet.



Compare that walk to this one Lew Marshall gave to Jinks in “Plutocrat Cat” a couple of seasons later. Again, it’s eight drawings on twos. The arms churn and the butt sways a bit, but it’s pretty conventional.



And we’re back to the start of the cycle.



It isn’t a case of Marshall being a lousy animator. He wasn’t. Marshall came up with some neat takes and poses on Jinks in the 1958-59 season. But as time wore on, the studio’s animation got less distinctive. No one talks about interesting animation when they discuss Lippy and Hardy, or Breezly and Sneezly, or even the Jetsons (design, yes, in the case of the latter). Was the studio just too busy to add little touches to its movement of drawings? Or weren’t they deemed desirable or necessary any more? Perhaps it was a manifestation of the suburban ‘50s, a decade which got blander and more conformist as it wore on. Whatever the case, it was too bad. The studio had the artists who could take some of the limits out of limited animation.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fun With Frees

Paul Frees was one of a kind. Paul Frees was larger than life. Clich├ęs, yes, but both statements are true.

I love Frees. Arguably, his best cartoon work was done at the Jay Ward studio as Boris Badenov. And I’m not a Disney fan but his Ludwig Von Drake is really enjoyable. Ludwig’s voice is practically a musical instrument—loud, soft, high, low. His asides to himself were the best. My favourite Hanna-Barbera role of Frees’ is that of the Greenstreet-and-Bond inspired Yellow Pinkie on “The Secret Squirrel Show” (as a bonus, he tossed in his Eric Blore voice as Double Q, which was almost a carbon copy of Dudley Do-Right’s Inspector Fenwick).

Frees began his Hanna-Barbera career in 1959, voicing a dog with a design that owed something to Snuffles in the Loopy De Loop cartoon “Tale of a Wolf.” His cartoon acting career went back a few more years to Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera’s former employer, MGM. He was the voice of Barney Bear for Dick Lundy in the ‘50s and narrated several cartoons for Tex Avery after Frank Graham died. But there were claims he had been in animation before that.

George McCall commented on films on radio’s “The Old Gold Hour” and “The Kate Smith Summer Show” and decided to put together a touring revue called “Man About Hollywood.” One of the members of the troupe was an impressionist named Buddy Green, a young man who was born Solomon Hersh Frees. Weekly Variety, in its edition of November 20, 1940, remarks about Frees’ act:

Buddy Green, who, according to McCall, imitates the various stars for the Walt Disney cartoons.
Frees’ son Fred confirms his dad was not at Disney that far back. But McCall claimed that all members of his revue were unknowns in Hollywood, so a past was invented that, in a delightful irony, proved prophetic.

Green/Frees’ impressions included Paul Muni, Wallace Beery, Ned Sparks, Jean Hersholt, Charles Boyer and Clyde McCoy playing Sugar Blues. He had been touring in 1940 another revue called “Hellzafire” (it was renamed “Funzafire” in 1940; Green himself wasn’t renamed yet) The following year, he landed an emcee job at the Club Fortune in Reno.

Frees’ career at Hanna-Barbera was comparatively short, mainly in the mid to late ‘60s. He moved to Tiberon, California in 1972 and told Back Stage magazine six years later he had given up his cartoon work with the exception of Rankin-Bass specials. So this post doesn’t deal with his work at Hanna-Barbera (sorry to disappoint all you Squiddly Diddley fans). Instead, allow me to re-print a couple of articles involving other parts of his career.

Frees was everywhere at one time. He appeared on radio dramas, television, movies and cartoons. He wrote songs. He directed a movie. He dubbed voices for films. He was Francis the Talking Mule (not on camera). He cut a record album for MGM as various stars, including Clark Gable crooning By The Time I Get To Phoenix. But his big money came from commercial voice overs. Here’s a syndicated column dated March 2, 1963. By that time, Frees had already appeared on the famous Rockenspiel episode of “The Flintstones,” a fairly minor accomplishment.


A Well-Spoken 'Millionaire'
By HANK GRANT
Hollywood — The name Paul Frees means nothing to over 100,000,000 TV viewers who call quickly tell you that John Beresford Tipton was the unseen TV millionaire who had his emmisary delivering weekly $1,000,000 checks to unsuspecting beneficiaries.
Frees was the voice of the unseen Tipton, but so concerned was the producer (and rightfully so) that the character be shrouded in mystery, his name didn't appear on the credits.
Frees, however, is on the road to becoming a millionaire himself. His is the voice of Walt Disney's Ludwig Van Drake, the only new cartoon character Disney has introduced on TV as a regular star. Dozens of other cartoon series, such as Bullwinkle, utilize the many-faceted Frees voice.
Frees is so flexible, he also dubs in the voices of live action actors, as he once did the narration voice of Jack Webb on Dragnet when Jack had laryngitis. There was also the instance In the "Battle Hymn" movie where a venerable 80-year-old Chinese supporting actor's voice didn't match the wisdom of his role. Frees supplied the voice.
There just weren't enough German-born actors in Hollywood to cast "A Time to Live and a Time to Die," the feature based on post-war Germany, American actors were cast, but in that movie, Frees did 17 different German voices!
Frees' bankroll is also being fattened by the fact producers of filmed TV commercials literally fight for his attention. During a recent commercial film festival in New York, he received nine out of the 37 awards.
Stranger even than Paul's paradoxical pinnacle of power without public glory is the story of how, by freak accident, his career was thrust on him by a kindly fate. It's a press agent's dream. And in Paul's case, it's true!
Prior to action in World War 2, Paul was an insignificant nightclub entertainer. He emerged from the war with a Purple Heart (a leg injury after the Normandy invasion) and a broken heart — his wife died while he was in the service.
"I was drifting, I didn't know what to do," he recalls. "When my morale had hit bottom, I happened to be standing in front of CBS in Hollywood. A radio producer-writer who introduced himself as Ray Buffum stopped to ask me where I got my Purple Heart, noticed my limp, and then asked if I could act. Mine was a doubtful answer, but he asked me into his office, gave me the part of an Australian to read and that was my first 'voice' job — in the regular role of 'Digger Slade' on the 'A Man Called Jordan' radio series.
"Since that time, I've imitated a thousand or more voices, but there's never been a warmer, more compassionate voice than that of the man who didn't need a word from me at a time when I felt like screaming 'Help!' My Purple Heart ribbon did my speaking for me!"

In the late ‘40s, Frees appeared on more radio shows than you’ll really want me to list. But as network radio began to die, Frees changed gears. He decided to become a local evening disc jockey. It was a short career, from September 11 to December 23, 1953 as best as I can discover. The Los Angeles Times wrote about it on October 3rd that year.

Parrot, Squeaking Door, All the Same to Emcee
BY WALTER AMES

If you happen to be tuned into KECA radio some evening after 11 pm and suddenly hear a familiar parrot talking to you, don't run for the nearest psychiatrist. It's only Paul Frees.
Paul, along with the rest of his acting chores, recently decided to try his hand at being a disc jockey. It was one of the few things he hadn't already experimented with and the other day he said he's never had as much fun.
Being a master at dialects, voices and sound effects, Frees finds his radio show an excellent showcase for rehearsing roles. Thus if he has a squeaking door coming up you'll hear him opening doors for most of his guests during the evening.
I mentioned that you might hear a parrot. One of Paul's chores in the past has been to be the parrot on the old Sam Spade series. His toughest assignment was to play a squeaking French door. Ask him to do it some night.
Recently he was confined to Folsom Prison—strictly for business, however, as a featured player in the new flicker, "Riot in Cellblock Eleven." It was a drastic from his imitating roles because, as he says, everything about Folsom "is for keeps."

When Hanna-Barbera got a toe-hold in prime time, it appeared the studio had plans for Frees. A story in Variety of May 31, 1960 stated:
The voices you'll hear on “The Flintstones” are those of Mel Blanc, Alan Reed, Bea Benadaret, Daws Butler, Paul Frees, Bill Thompson and Jean Vanderpyl. Said Hanna, “anyone could live quite comfortably off their residuals.”
It turned out neither Frees nor Thompson did a lot on the show. Variety of October 31, 1961 reported on some ambitious expansion plans for the studio, including an hour-long cartoon variety show with an animated emcee. It never came to pass. H-B had better luck with something else mentioned in the story: a new series syndicated through Screen Gems; 156 five-minute cartoons featuring
“Wally Gator,” “Touche Turtle And Dum Dum” and “Lippy The Lion And The Sad Hyenna.”
“Gator” is voiced by Bill Thompson and Paul Frees. Thompson and Alan Reed do “Turtle,” Mel Blanc, “Lippy.”
Either Variety got it wrong or the H-B braintrust changed its mind and replaced Thompson and Frees on “Wally Gator” with Daws Butler and Don Messick; both Frees and Butler did an Ed Wynn-ish voice and Frees had already been using it as Captain Peter Peachfuzz on the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Instead, Frees returned to the studio several years later to work on “Secret Squirrel,” “The Fantastic Four” and several other series.

Frees’ animated shows didn’t get panned often, though you don’t want to ask about my opinion of the Dick Tracy TV cartoons. Variety wasn’t impressed with a 1967 special called Who’s Afraid of Murakami-Wolf. The animation was attacked as not being as slick as Hanna-Barbera’s TV efforts but Frees’ narration came away unscathed.

Frees died of a heart attack on November 2, 1986. But, as always in the animation business, his characters lived on. And as long as corporations think there’s a buck in old cartoons, or as long as fans post them on-line, you’ll always hear Frees somewhere.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Flintstones Comics, March 1965

Do you know a kid who sticks cookies through the mail slot for the mailman? Did you used to do it? Evidently Gene Hazelton, or whoever wrote the Flintstones newspaper comic strips must have. It’s a recurring theme in the daily comics 50 years ago this month. We see the Pebbles-postman gag on the 2nd, 16th, 17th, 23rd and 26th (it returns in April as well).

Other things of note:
● Baby Puss makes an appearance on March 1st.
● Fred’s calendar on the 1st is made of stone, while on the 20th, it’s made of paper.
● Bill Hanna’s beloved Boy Scouts anchor the gag on the 12th.
● Dino only appears on the 18th.
● Betty only shows up on the 6th.
● Gadget gags: Swordfish-Dino meatcutter (6th), bird stereo speakers (8th), mini-dragon lighter (9th), Pelican-Dino checkout counter (11th), electric eel x-ray machine (25th).
● Clerk in the comic on the 13th is reminiscent of the Jack Benny radio shows where Elliott Lewis played a rough guy at a store’s perfume counter.


Sorry I don’t have all three rows for the weekend comics. They’re impossible for me to find right now. Spot the hidden Quick Draw McGraw reference. Bill Hanna’s Boy Scouts are the topper of the March 28th comic. And the layouts are terrific in the top comic (March 7th).


Click to enlarge any of the comics.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Yogi Bear—Queen Bee For a Day

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Williams, Layout – Dan Noonan, Backgrounds – Neenah Maxwell, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi Bear, Etymologist, Man, Short Ranger, Bees – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Ranger Smith, Woman, Charlie, Bees – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: week of April 10, 1961?
Plot: Boo Boo, in a bee costume, tries to escape capture.

Warren Foster gets in some pretty good lines in this cartoon and they’re read, naturally, with the usual expert flair you expect out of Daws Butler and Don Messick.

After Ranger Smith tells a corny joke about dogs and fleas:

Etymologist (dryly, after a sarcastic chuckle): Very funny. I laugh at that joke every time I hear it.
Then after Smith’s next bad joke:
Etymologist (to the camera): It must be the lonely existence that makes them crack up.
Boo Boo, stuck in a giant bee costume, inexplicably makes a buzzing sound as he runs past a pair of husband and wife tourists, with Smith chasing him.
Smith (to the tourists): Don’t be alarmed, folks. It’s only a deadly Magnimus Rex.
Tourists (shocked): A Magnimus Rex!!


I like the fact that they just happen to know what a Magnimus Rex is, being a rare bee and all. In case you’re wondering, Magnimus is “great” and Rex “king” in Latin. I wonder if Foster thought using Regina (“queen”) would confuse the audience into wondering what Saskatchewan had to do with a bee.

The cartoon then cuts to a stream of vehicles rushing out of Jellystone to avoid the killer bee. Nice frosting on the trees.



And then there’s the scene where the bees form the shape of an arrow, get in the bear tuchus and then start laughing en masse.



Neenah Maxwell painted the backgrounds. Here’s one that’s used a number of times in the cartoon. You can see the same trees at both ends. It takes Yogi 16 frames (one foot of film) to run reach the same blue tree again.



Here’s another background. The bees go into the hole. The hole isn’t on an overlay, though. Don Williams animates a cycle of bees, eight drawings on ones.



Williams drew characters with odd eye shapes in other H-B cartoons; in some cases one eye was half-shut. That doesn’t happen in this cartoon, but note the eye shape on Boo Boo below. And Ranger Smith has an extremely short tie for some reason.



The cartoon in brief: for the umpteenth time, Ranger Smith tells Yogi to stay away from the picnic areas. Yogi rejects the idea of “natural bear food” until Boo Boo mentions honey. After being stung by bees, Yogi dresses Boo Boo in a queen bee costume to lure away the bees. Boo Boo gets stuck in the costume. Meanwhile a bug collector spots Boo Boo and being utterly clueless, thinks he’s found a real giant bee (the aforementioned Magnimus Rex)—one that can kill you with just one sting. After some running around, Yogi gets the bee costume off Boo Boo and lies to Ranger Smith that he’s killed the giant bee but has been stung in the process. Here’s Boo Boo’s look to the audience as Yogi lards on the BS to Mr. Ranger.



The duped and sympathetic ranger tells Yogi for the time he has left before going to that Big Jellystone in the Sky he can do whatever he wants. Fade into the last scene with Yogi chowing down on a sandwich (and celery?!). “Boo Boo, we’ll never eat that forest fare while I’m smarter than the av-er-age bear,” rhymes Yogi as the cartoon ends.

Someone screwed up something in this cartoon regarding colour. In the first scenes in Ranger Smith’s office, Smith’s 5 O’clock Shadow is darker than the rest of his head. I like it but, of course, painting two colours instead costs money and time (which also costs money), so he’s back to one tone in later scenes.



Hoyt Curtin’s music is put to good use here. The old pathetic trombone cue that got trotted out whenever Fred Flintstone told a (generally made-up) tale of woe appears when Yogi is making up the story about his impending death due to a bee sting. And the Flintstones trumpet and xylophone chase music is heard is heard when the Ranger is chasing the “bee” and the tourists are driving away from the park. And one of the Flintstones’ bridges (I don’t know the number; it’s not 1 or 9) accompanies the laughing bees.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lah Land

Mike Lah was quoted in Didier Ghez’ Walt’s People, Vol. 11 that he was freelancing at Quartet Films in 1957 after the MGM cartoon studio closed and “was supposed to be a part” of the ownership group of Hanna-Barbera when it began in July that year. Presumably he didn’t have enough money to invest in it. But he ended up doing layouts and animation, sometimes uncredited, on the first season of The Huckleberry Hound Show and, I suspect, on Ruff and Reddy. Animator Mike Kazaleh says Lah did inserts in some of the cartoons, sometimes up to 90 seconds of animation taking up one or two gags.

Lah’s animation is distinctive. Compare these two drawings. The first is by Carlo Vinci, the second is by Lah.



Granted, the head positions aren’t the same, but you can see Lah preferred rounder eyes with rounder pupils and more whites (he liked drawing a big nose on Yogi).

Both the above frames are from “Big Bad Bully.” Lah sometimes liked to animate in profile with most of the head stationary with the mouth moving around on the side of the face. Occasionally, there are two or three upper teeth, generally no tongue and a long upper line to indicate the top of the mouth.



The drawing of Boo Boo above is from “Pie Pirates,” the first cartoon put into production for the Huck show. Lah animated from his own layouts. Boo Boo has kind of a goofy look; some of Lah’s characters are either a little cross-eyed or one eye is a different shape or size than the other. Here are a few more from that cartoon. He drew conjoined eyes (I don’t believe anyone else did), or had them overlapping a bit. He animated characters the same way at MGM, including characters running off screen at the same angle you see below.



These frames don’t show off Lah’s best work at Hanna-Barbera. He seemed to get more of his share of pain and shock takes and the drawings are very funny.

For whatever reason, Lah didn’t animate any more cartoons for the studio after 1958. He continued freelancing and at some point, set up his own company called Cinema Ad.

There’s misinformation on some web sites that Lah was one of the founders of Quartet Films. He was a part-owner of the company, but that came in 1960. A story in Back Stage magazine marking the studio’s tenth anniversary stated Quartet was founded on June 14, 1956. Here’s a story from Broadcasting-Telecasting magazine from the following July 16th.

Quartet Films Organized, Will Use Storyboard Space
ALTHOUGH Storyboard Inc. closed its Hollywood doors to business today (Monday), key West Coast executives of the tv commercial film production firm have taken over the entire facilities to offer the services of a new company they have formed, Quartet Films Inc., 8480 Melrose Ave., with Arthur Babbitt as president. Mr. Babbitt is former Storyboard animation director of the Snowdrift tv spot "John and Marsha," which took a Gold Medal at the Art Directors Club of New York [BT, June 4].
He is joined in formation of Quartet Films by Arnold Gillespie, who directed the award winning Diamond Crystal Salt commercial; Stan L. Walsh, whose Speedway gasoline and National Bohemian beer spots won awards in the eastern competition, and Les Goldman, former Storyboard production manager. Mr. Gillespie is vice president and secretary of Quartet while Mr. Walsh is vice president in charge of production. Quartet has hired members of the former Storyboard creative staff in Hollywood, Mr. Babbitt announced last week. Storyboard Inc. continues its New York office with John Hubley as president [BT, June 25]. Broadcasting July 16, 1956
As Keith Scott’s book The Moose That Roared relates, Lah set up Shield Productions with Bill Hanna, MGM background artist Don Driscoll and Don McNamara to make some “Crusader Rabbit” cartoons on spec; the U.S. Government Catalog of Copyright Entries shows Ruff and Reddy were copyrighted by Shield on May 25, 1956. Evidently, ownership was transferred to H-B Enterprises from Shield (McNamara formed his own company in October 1956 with Driscoll as his art director).

Lah’s early background in a nutshell: he worked at Disney and Harman-Ising (assisting Mel Shaw) and animated for both the Hanna-Barbera and Tex Avery units at MGM, in addition to briefly co-directing with Preston Blair, then returned to the studio after being let go when the Avery unit disbanded in 1953, first as a freelancer and then as a director. He died on October 13, 1995.

He had another connection to the Hanna-Barbera studio besides being an employee. Alberta and Violet Wogatzke were twin sisters. Vi married Bill Hanna. Alberta married Mike Lah. The Wogatzkes’ brother Roy Wade was a cameraman at Hanna-Barbera, and MGM before that.

I wish I could supply some anecdotes about Mr. Lah (especially since he animated on the first Yowp cartoon) but I never knew him. Perhaps some readers can add something. You can read his interview in the Ghez book HERE.