Saturday, September 24, 2016

El Ka-Ouch

We haven’t talked a lot lately about my favourite Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, Quick Draw McGraw, lately for a couple of reasons. One is all of his cartoons have been reviewed. The other is the series has never been, nor ever will be, released on home video. It means the copies of the cartoons I have are TV dubs with a low resolution and marred with bugs slapped on by cable channels. Removing the bugs is, frankly, too time consuming and not always very satisfactory.

But I want to do a short post involving El Kabong, Quick Draw’s possibly more inept alter ego inspired by writer Mike Maltese’s love of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. as Zorro. Maltese borrowed a few things from his old Warners days to round out El Kabong’s costume. Quick Draw changes into the wrong costume a few times; the same thing happened in Super Rabbit (1943, written by Tedd Pierce). And much like Robin Hood Daffy (1958, written by Maltese), El Kabong swings from a rope (attached to who knows what) only to bash into something instead of landing on his target.

Those cartoons were made back in the days of full animation. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, of course, engaged in what they liked to sell as “planned animation”, a silly term because no animation, by the late 1950s, was unplanned. There were at Hanna-Barbera times—and they increased as the years rolled on—where characters stood rigid as drawings of mouth positions moved across a face, or an arm lifted up and down in two or three positions. But there were other times when a character had to be drawn in full from frame-to-frame; in other words, full animation.

Here’s an example from El Kabong (1959). The animator is Lew Marshall, who was apparently Ray Patterson’s assistant at MGM in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. The villainous Don Chilada engages El Kabong in a sword duel (after assuring the good guy gets a stubby sword). Chilada stabs El Kabong in the butt. The reaction is done in full animation.

There are ten drawings. The first drawing is held for four frames for establishment. Marshall (from story director Alex Lovy or possibly Joe Barbera himself) staggers the timing on the remaining frames. The drawings are held for 2, 3, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2 and 3 frames respectively, judging by the copy of the cartoon I have. That’s a little under two seconds. Here are the drawings.

This is close to the speed the action plays out on the screen.

The drawings work fine for the way the gag is presented, but I don’t know why Quick Draw doesn’t stop and have a funny take that’s held for a few frames before taking off into the air. Tex Avery was a master of wild takes. Chuck Jones was a master of subtle ones. Bill Hanna could milk a take at MGM, too (ah, those Irv Spence scenes!). Nothing like that is tried here. Even in the previous season, Huckleberry Hound or Mr. Jinks would react to something and you could see the reaction before the character zoomed off screen or there was a cut to the next scene. To me, it’s a bit of a wasted opportunity to make the cartoon even funnier, though there was never anything wrong with El Kabong to begin with.

We reviewed this cartoon way-back-when. You can read the post here. But let’s post a kabongggg! just for fun.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Flintstones Weekend Comics, September 1966

Considering my favourite Flintstones episode is “Dino Goes Hollyrock,” where the hammy Dino gets a showcase, you can guess which comic I liked that appeared in newspapers 50 years ago this month. And considering my least-favourite Flintstones is that wretched one where Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are singing that annoying, sugary sunshine song, you can guess which comic I don’t like.

(That preposterous Bewitched cross-over is right up there, too, but let’s stick to the subject).

Actually, there is a Pebbles panel I like this month. It’s the opener in the September 18th comic where she’s waving to the little dinosaur being walked by its owner. Both the Yogi and Flintstones weekend comics, at least for the first number of years, have little bits of side action going on in some of the larger panels. It adds a lot. Another example is the traffic cop in background of the long panel in the middle row. (A “duplicate hat”-type gag is used in an October comic as a punch line).

Judging by the September 25th comic, Pebbles gets her appetite from her father’s side of the family.

Richard Holliss was kind enough to supply colour versions of the September 18th and 25th comics.

September 4, 1966

September 11, 1966

September 18, 1966

September 25, 1966

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Snagglepuss – Paws For Applause

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Direction – Art Lozzi, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, P.J., Sampson, Hunter, Circus Master – Daws Butler; Mailman, Dimwitty, Tarzan, Circus Helper – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss is cast in a TV show from which he eventually exits, stage right.

Snagglepuss is pretty much in top form here, spewing mock theatrical prose, twisting phrases and dropping his catchphrases on the audience. If I quoted all the fun stuff, I’d be transcribing almost the entire cartoon.

The secondary characters get in on the fun, too. Here’s P.J. the TV studio boss and Dimwitty the director. Writer Mike Maltese gets a shot in at the insanely fast pace of TV production and the ubiquitousness of TV westerns in 1961.

P.J. – Why haven’t you finished those 22 pictures, Dimwitty? You’ve had three days.
Dim – I know, P.J. But I asked for one measly lion, and look what the casting department sent me.
(Cut to shot of elephants. One trumpets).
P.J. – Sorry, Dimwitty, but you’ve goofed up the schedule, and you know the penalty.
Dim – You mean go back to Westerns? No, no, P.J. Please! Have a heart. Anything but that.
P.J. – I am a lenient man, Dimwitty. I’ll give you (short pause) two minutes to produce a lion.
Dim – But, P.J. That would take a miracle. Even for TV.
(Sound of door knocking)
Dim – Who is it? And get out.
Snag (at the door) – What light on yonder doorway breaks? ‘Tis I, Hamlet A. Snagglepuss. The “A” stands for “applause.” Thunderous, even.

Snagglepuss gets to mangle Shakespeare earlier in the cartoon. The mailman brings him a book and (blog readers have assured me this happened in real life at one time) blows a whistle.
Snag – Hark! What whistle through yonder windward breaks? It is the east. And the mailman is the sun. With the mail, even.
He opens the book and then Daws Butler shows why he was one of Hollywood’s top voice actors. Snagglepuss reads Yogi Bear’s, Baba Louie’s and Quick Draw McGraw’s catchphrases in their voices—but sounding like Snagglepuss doing impersonations of them. It takes incredible talent for an actor to have one of his characters do an impression of another one of his characters and include the vocal qualities of both. It would have been easier just for Daws to do Yogi when Snagglepuss read the Yogi lines, but including the breathiness and pitch of Snagglepuss is a lot funnier.

Snagglepuss is hired by the TV production company. You’ve seen enough cartoons so you know how things are going to end up. Snagglepuss gets the worst of it. But first, one more exchange of dialogue as Snagglepuss storms across the stage to complain to the director.

Snag – What’s the idea? What’s the idea?
Dim – Why? What’s wrong?
Snag – There’s no star on ma dressin’ room door. Paragraph 32 of my contract clearly states that the party of the first whereas, in due abrogation of professional entities, does hereby exclude and nullify tangent reclamations as referred to in paragraph 20. 21, even. Do you know what that means, buster? Hmmm?
Dim – No.
Snag – That’s a relief. I was beginnin’ to think I was the only dimwit around here.

First up, Snagglepuss evidently hasn’t read the script. He doesn’t realise a large brute named Sampson is the film to throw him against a wall (after which he sees the stars for his dressing room door). Next, he chases a hunter through the jungle but is attacked by a Tarzan-ish character with Don Messick doing a Tarzanish yell. Finally, he plays an escaped circus lion who hides in a dark shack and lights a match (Dimwitty: “Get it?” Snagglepuss: “No. But I got a sneaky feelin’ I’m gonna”). Snagglepuss ends up in the wrong shack. It’s full of dynamite.

Director Dimwitty really is dimwitty. He laughs like a nutcase because they ran out of film and the whole thing will have to be shot all over again. “You’re a brave lion, aren’t you?” asks Dimwitty. Snagglepuss proclaims he’s chicken. “What light through yonder window breaks! It is the exit for all us chickens. So exit, cluckin’ all the way, stage left.” And Snagglepuss ends the cartoon running past the same tree 12 times, flapping his arms, clucking, and adding a rooster crow for good measure.

Art Lozzi provides the aforementioned same tree. Here’s the (reconstructed) repeating background in question from one end to the other.

More backgrounds. As usual the foreground layer of rock of the cave is on an overlay. Lozzi really goes for blue rocks and trees.

Don Patterson animates this cartoon. This is a pretty workmanlike job for him. His characters were more expressively drawn in The Flintstones. It would have been neat to have seen Patterson give Snagglepuss some of the kinds of takes he gave Woody Woodpecker in the early ‘50s but Hanna-Barbera wasn’t into that (and Maltese had come from years of working with Chuck Jones, whose idea of a take is to shift a pupil or raise an eyebrow). We get Patterson’s standard bit-lip “f” mouth animation. He also draws Snagglepuss in a couple scenes staring straight at the camera, wagging his head diagonally while talking.

Hoyt Curtin’s music fits the moods of the various scenes.

We haven’t posted an endless run cycle for a while, so here’s an actor playing a circus hand (“The ferocious lion has escaped. After him, Quick. I mean, ‘After him! Quick!’”). The run cycle is on eight drawings on ones. It takes two cycles for the background to repeat; that is, 16 frames or a second of film. (Unfortunately, there aren’t 16 frames with the character’s mouth closed).

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Right Jolly Good Best To You Each Morning

Time for another commercial break. And my guess is this commercial was for English television.

If you can read the dialogue in the first panel, Mr Jinks is plugging Kellogg’s Coco Pops. I don’t think that name was used in North America; at least I only remember Cocoa Krispies from when I was a kid.

Anyway, I love the sketchiness of the drawings. I wish I could tell you who drew this and when. And if you read along, you might hear the Kellogg’s jingle in your head.

The last set of panels may have been for a live-action insert; it’s just a guess.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Jane’s Driving Lesson

Writer Joanna Lee tries to have it both ways in her story for Jane’s Driving Lesson. On one hand, she’s tearing apart the chauvinism of the immediate post-war era that men are better drivers than women. But to get there, she gets her laughs by showing what a menace on the roads a woman is (two of them, if you want to consider an incidental character holding up George Jetson in traffic). “Har, har, look at the lousy woman driver” is the punch-line over and over. True, Lee ends the cartoon with a woman driving a bus that George is forced to take, but the woman isn’t exactly an example of femininity.

What’s bothersome about this cartoon is how Jane Jetson’s character is bent for the sake of a plot. Jane has always struck me as the most level-headed of the adults on The Jetsons (tired comedy clich├ęs of shopping and jealousy notwithstanding). But in this cartoon she’s completely oblivious to the fact she’s doing anything wrong by bashing into cars and signs. However it suits the story as we’re all supposed to laugh at the stereotype of the inept woman behind the wheel.

Jane’s incompetency proves to be a boon, as it helps capture that hold-up man of the future, Knuckles Nuclear (who is out of prison since his last appearance in The Space Car episode). Yes, that means there are cops in this cartoon. The story even re-uses the gag of a traffic cop turning on a TV set, where a live judge passes sentence on George, who rants about women drivers but is a careless one himself. I haven’t stopped to count them, but there seem to have been an awful lot of Jetsons cartoons featuring police of some kind.

Lee takes a little while to get to the plot. The first few minutes are taken up with a sequence in a barber shop. There was a Jetsons episode where Jane tried out a number of hairstyles concocted by a dome over her head. In this cartoon, it’s George’s turn.

Let’s turn our attentions to some of the background art. Sorry, I don’t know who the artist is.

Some inventions of the future:

George anticipates googling for answers to crossword puzzles by using his computer. No one in the ‘60s realised tape machines would become obsolete.

Shaving machines.

Computer selector for various barbering functions. Considering how it worked, would a real barber have done any better?

A fire hose that zones in on a fire. Almost.

The Menulator. Very handy.

The good old Visiphone.

Generic drugs. Did Big Pharma die in the future?

This is yet another Hanna-Barbera cartoon with Disappearing Watch Syndrome. A character wears a watch for the part of the scene where it’s needed, and it disappears forever. You saw it on The Flintstones; it happened in the old Warner Bros. cartoons, too.

Ken Muse animates a good portion of the cartoon. I won’t attempt any guesses beyond that.

Howie Morris supplies a few voices in this one, including the nervous Mr. Tweeter and the non-barber. Janet Waldo gets a chance to try out a couple of voices. She’s the ditzy driver, with a voice in the style of Barbara Jo Allen’s Vera Vague (whether the two worked together in radio, I don’t know). She’s also the butch bus driver.