Saturday, April 22, 2017

Huckleberry Hound in Play Ball!

Huckleberry Hound tosses a Huckleberry Hopper to Dixie in one of the little cartoons-between-the-cartoons on their show. Huck rubs the ball with his hand and in his glove in some cycle animation. Dixie hits a comebacker to the mound.

It only hurts when Huck laughs, which he’ll be doing when he watches the Pixie and Dixie cartoon immediately following.

And this is an ad in one of the Washington DC newspapers from 1960. A 10-year-old won the colouring contest. I don’t believe any stations were broadcasting Huck or Quick Draw in colour yet.

We’ll try to post another Huck bumper next month.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, April 1967

The Flintstones started out in life as a sitcom dealing with the suburban lives of Fred and Wilma Flintstone, and Barney and Betty Rubble next door. Well, the show evolved and so did the newspaper comic featuring the characters.

By April 1967, the cartoon show was into reruns. In the comics that month, the Rubbles rated only a mention and someone name “Pops” showed up casually, treated like a regular character. He still reminds me of a leprechaun without an upside-down clay pipe.

As well, Gene Hazelton or whoever was responsible for layouts of the comics seemed to be getting bored with backgrounds. There are an awful lot of panels that are just a solid colour, and not just the small thin panels.

There were five Sundays this particular month. April 2nd features Suzie, the swinging niece who says “Boss!” I keep waiting for her to sing the lyrics to the Pebbles and Bamm Bamm Show theme.

April 9th features Pebbles. In the second panel, the artist missed the chance to have the letters “H” and “B” on Pebbles’ block.

You’d think Fred, of all people, would want to spend more on food. April 16th proves otherwise. Note the sunrise in the distance of the first panel, middle row.

My favourite panel of the month is on April 23rd. Look at the last one. Pops is flicking his cigar ashes on Dino’s tail, while the dinosaur’s teeth are being brushed by Pebbles (Dino is holding the toothpaste tube).

April 30th is a switch on the old “meek husband” gag with a typical ending.

My thanks again to Richard Holliss for supplying the full-colour comics you see below.

April 2, 1967

April 9, 1967

April 16, 1967

April 23, 1967

April 30, 1967.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Jetsons – Rosey’s Boyfriend

“Gosh, mom, robots can like other robots. Can’t they?”

Oh, such an innocent question, young Elroy, in those sunny days of 1960s Futurism, when the world looked forward to a happy, carefree time of machines doing everything, leaving humans with a leisurely life of relaxation.

How grim The Future looks to us today, with people dreading a time when robots are programmed to be so intelligent, they take over and enslave the universe. Or robots treated “like one of the family,” as Jane refers to Rosey, resulting in them being considered essentially human, with lawsuits and special interest groups to protect them. Even today, aren’t dateless scientists trying to develop fake women for sexual purposes?

We humans have certainly screwed up the future, haven’t we?

Oh, yes, we were discussing a cartoon.

The story in brief: Judy Jetson’s in love (again). And it turns out Rosey the robotic maid and caretaker Henry’s mechanical caretaker Mac (made from an old metal filing cabinet) fall in love. Judy can’t concentrate on space walking or even a conversation because she’s lovesick. Mac can’t concentrate on his job. Henry turns him off. Rosey is heartbroken. Elroy turns him back on, figuring out what’s going on. Everyone’s happy. Oh, and Judy gets another new boyfriend.

I must admit as an almost six-year-old when Rosey’s Boyfriend first aired in 1962, I didn’t care much about Judy Jetson and her silly crush on a boy, nor Rosey, who is lovelorn after the robot equivalent of euthanasia of her “man.” I can’t get worked up about it today. There are some nice little sequences, not really incidental to the plot, such as George and Henry playing charades as George is trapped in his bubble-topped car. Or the running gag with Mac the robot not quite certain about the concept of doors. And there’s one scene with a pan across the robotologist’s office of mechanical helpers in various states of disrepair.

One wonders if writer Walter Black was taking a shot at the medical profession. Basically, the doctor settles for some cursory treatment for the ill Rosey and is sceptical that his by-the-numbers diagnosis could be wrong. (“Sad? A robot?” he asks in disbelief. “Ah, no, the factories don’t install emotion tapes...She’ll be fine. Pay on your way out.”)

Rosey was only featured in two of the series’ 24 episodes. Somewhere on the blog, there’s a news clipping about how that didn’t please Marx toys, which had created a Rosey doll before the Jetsons even began airing. It’s been speculated that placating Marx was one of the reasons she was included in the closing animation over the credits.

Speaking of the creepy future, what’s this Police State the Jetsons are living in anyway? Judy being forced to wear a “license” that can tell an officer if the wearer has ever been guilty of a crime?? I’m not sure I’m crazy about that aspect of the future.

And what of George asking his daughter about Booster (who, as the audience has seen, is her boyfriend). “What is it, a new kind of happy pill?” Is it normal in the future for suburban teenagers to do uppers with the knowledge of their parents? Mind you, pill mania kind of reached a high (pun not intended) in the dear old ’60s, didn’t it?

Inventions of the future: an automatic chair that comes right to you when you press a button, a sky lawn (presumably on the roof), an automatic knitting machine and, of course, the Visi-phone.

Here’s the cartoon’s establishing shot. Background artist unknown.

Judy and Booster blast past the same apartments in the background three times.

A robot doctor would have a long poster of the innards of a robot on his wall, wouldn’t he? Exactly.

Ken Muse animated part of the cartoon but I can’t pick out the others. There’s nothing really interesting about the animation in this cartoon. Here are a couple of zoom frames.

A Top Cat cue slips into the soundtrack (during the Judy/Rosey dancing scenes) but most of it is familiar from other Jetsons episodes, though there are stretches with no music at all.

This cartoon involves the Jetsons’ home life, so there’s no Spacely in this one. Astro takes the week off. Howie Morris supplies some voices here, including Booster and a robot that needs rewiring. Jean Vander Pyl supplies her Shirley-Booth-as-Hazel voice for Rosey and one of the other Sky Pad Apartment tenants. And Don Messick gives Mac his robot voice he used for Uniblab.

Booster may be the most “ut,” but I’m afraid this cartoon isn’t.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Flintstones Risk

There’s nothing like corporate hyperbole.

Witness this line from the head of ABC-TV in 1960: “It’s...the biggest thing in TV programming the free world has ever seen.”

I don’t even think fans of The Flintstones would describe the show that way. But Ollie Treyz did. It’s part of an interesting analysis of the soon-to-be-on-the-air series published in Television Mail on August 10, 1960. It was a British trade publication.

The paper’s focus was on the large risk ABC was taking it putting The Flintstones on the air, since there had never been a half-hour animated show in prime-time, as least in terms of one cartoon being a complete half hour. But in some ways, it wasn’t a risk at all. Old theatrical cartoons airing at other times had been a platinum mine for syndicators and advertisers. Animated commercials had proven throughout the 1950s that cartoons could sell products. So why not an animated sitcom?

The story talks about how movie studios were not exploring the realm of animation longer than seven minutes and under feature length. There was a simple reason. No one was making anything for theatres of that length, animated or otherwise. Columbia was the last studio to make two-reel comedies, and it ended new entries in the Three Stooges series in 1959.

You’ll have to forgive the article below thinking Disney had anything to do with Felix the Cat (other than ripping him off for its own series in the silent days). R.J. Reynolds made Camels but decided to advertise Winstons on The Flintstones.

A similar photo of Associate Producer Alan Dinehart and writer Warren Foster accompanied the story; more than one must have been taken at the publicity shoot. But the version we’ve posted is a little clearer.

A few notes about other cartoons mentioned below: the Rube Goldberg series didn’t go ahead, despite ads in the trades (Joe Flynn and Dave Willock were to star in it), neither did Fearless Fosdick. This is the first I’ve heard about ZIV being behind Mel-O-Toons; they were made in Art Scott’s studio. ABC’s “two more shows” were Matty’s Funday Funnies, featuring Harveytoons characters, and The Bugs Bunny Show.

“A sensational’ll start a landslide...the biggest thing in TV programming that the free world has ever seen...”
These are the words of burly, hard-bitten Oliver Treyz, president of the American Broadcasting Company. In London this week for business talks, Treyz also found time to discuss a multi-million dollar gamble into which the ABC network has plunged.
He believes the hot subject this year will be animation. The American network is preparing three new animated shows for the 1960-61 season, and this in itself would be noteworthy. But the important fact is television’s first, full-length cartoon series, designed for adults. “The Flintstones” is a 30-minute show, due to be sprung in the middle of peak-time, and created to win the favour of the buying public.
ABC’s faith in the idea is reinforced by sponsors. “Flintstones” has been signed by Miles laboratories and the Reynolds tobacco company; two concerns who fight a hard-sell battle in a very, very adult world.
The situation of the half-hour shows is modern man and his problems, set against a caveman background. “A Cadillac built out of stone, with square wheels.” (Nearest comparison in Britain: the “Daily Sketch” cartoon strip “B.C.”).
“It’s an adult, family-situation-comedy,” explains Treyz. “And funny...gosh, it’s funny.” Adding, uneasily, “the only thing we’ve got to worry about is whether we get too egg-head. Some of those jokes get a bit, ah, esoteric...”
Far-out or not, there’s nothing unworldly about the hard cash behind the project. Each 30-minute programme is costing ABC about $650,000; by season’s end the joint sponsors will have added several million dollars in buying airtime, to expose “Flintstones” across the nation at 8:30 p.m., on Fridays.
The show is being put onto celluloid by a Screen Gems affiliate, Hanna-Barbera Productions. This is the group which has produced two other, shorter, national animated programmes: “Huckleberry Hound” and “Quick Draw McGraw.” Both of these were sold to Kelloggs; “Hound,” (a 1960 Emmy winner) is now renewed for its third season, and “McGraw” is entering its second year.
Though built specially for television, these two series are much closer in spirit to conventional cinema-animation. In their animal characters and slapstick humour—and the brevity of each episode—they are lineal descendants of Disney’s original “Felix.” [sic]
ABC now is trying to make a major breakthrough in several areas simultaneously. Television has never tried to carry animation for a full half-hour; even the cinema has not commercially explored the limbo which lies between the ultra-short “cartoon” and the 90-minute feature.
One of the difficulties may be sustaining the stories. Says Treyz: “Half-hour animation tells as much as a two-hour movie.” Writers and ideas-men have a harder job in fleshing-out their plots, because the material is burned-up so much faster.
At the same time, the stories will have to be genuine value-for-money. In a live show, script and situation weaknesses can be glossed over by camera padding and director’s “business”; the bald patch can’t be slicked over by animators. Each move, each word, has to add positively to the dramatic action. Can it be done, for half an hour every week?
Even if successful, this is still no guarantee that viewers will tune to pencil-drawings in preference to flesh-and-blood. What odds Mr Magoo stacked against Cheyenne?
No precedent exists, and no way of assessing viewer-reaction can be got until “Flintstones” actually hits the air. Oliver Treyz cheerfully proclaims that he’s as much in the dark as anyone: “it could easily be the biggest flop of all time.” And on top of all these uncertainties; even if animation can win the viewers—will it sell the goods? Can the fantasy-world of cartooning do a good job in carrying a hard-sell for Camels? [sic]
Sponsors are at least willing to take a risk. “I wouldn’t say they’re wildly happy, but they are going along with the idea...” And so are a lot of other people, because ABC is well in the lead, behind the network is an enormous new outburst of animation activity.
Up until now, virtually all animated features in American syndication were produced for cinemas and later released for television.
This year it looks like a turn-about. At least half a dozen syndicators will bring forward new shows made primarily for the small screen.
Paramount are making new Popeye cartoons for TV. Trans-Lux is sweeping ahead on the success of Felix the Cat, by bringing out Rube Goldberg. Animated version of Dick Tracy is on the way; CBS network and Terry toons have started selling Deputy Dawg, and are ready with a second series, Fearless Fosdick. ZIV-UA, one of the biggest cinema producers, has now started on its first animated television series, Mell-O-Tunes.
The ABC network itself has two more animated shows on the way; one of which will also come in on Fridays, only an hour ahead of “Flintstones.”
Financially, animation could prove an extremely attractive proposition. Animated re-runs hold up better than live shows, and many repeats are possible without incurring a large drop in ratings. Animated features costing around $75,000 may eventually earn much more than an action-adventure programme costing $32,000.
Cartoon-type shows also have a broader sales appeal overseas, and can be readily dubbed. But for ABC, their main appeal is freshness. Something new which appeals to young-adult viewers; this is the cornerstone around which Treyz has built what is virtually a new network.
In terms of audience-per-minute, ABC now is the leading American broadcaster; a situation which might have seemed unattainable in 1956.
This position has been achieved by ruthless scrapping of every programme which didn’t deliver the largest possible audience. Treyz junked all of the network’s serious drama and prestige material. “These shows got critical acclaim, but didn’t reach the masses. We figure that no-one’s as smart as the public.”
Most of ABC’s material is now film-series. Result it that though agencies and advertisers—and legislators—may deplore the content, they have to admit that the network delivers the goods in terms of audience. In bringing ABC to this fiscal success, Treyz himself has earned a reputation for ruthless and even unscrupulous negotiation. (Commented one leading American agency recently: “If you’re talking to Treyz, take a lawyer along with you.”)
It is in light of these facts that ABC’s animation gamble has to be assessed. Is Treyz (who’s answerable to shareholders) the sort of man to plunge on a long-shot? It seems improbable.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Snagglepuss in Express Trained Lion

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – La Verne Harding, Layout – Jack Huber, Backgrounds – Neenah Maxwell, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Zoo Guard – Daws Butler; Bigelow – Doug Young.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Bigelow the mouse keeps freeing Snagglepuss, who wants to stay caged so he can go to the St. Louis Zoo.

There’s a little subset of characters that Mike Maltese used in a variety of Hanna-Barbera series. Snagglepuss was one before eventually getting his own show. And so was the far lesser-known Bigelow, the mouse that sounded like Jimmy Cagney. He appeared with Loopy De Loop, Augie Doggie and on two Snagglepuss cartoons.

Mike Maltese’s story is good one. Snagglepuss is reading the Aesop Fable of “The Lion and the Mouse.” He’s interrupted by the sound of Bigelow in a mouse trap. He frees Bigelow, who promises to help him in time of need. Just then, Snagglepuss is captured—and when told he’ll be sent to the St. Louis Zoo, he dreams of a life of laziness and show biz. But on the express train to St. Louis, Bigelow keeps rescuing him from out of his cage as a “favour.” So Snagglepuss is back where he started, where things happen all over again. Snagglepuss rescues Bigelow from a mouse trap again and, then, improbably rockets to the moon to escape from the mouse. But guess who’s there?

So about all this leaves us is Snagglepuss’ dialogue to enliven the proceedings. First, a look at the opening pan shot.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! What phoney fol-der-ol! What unmitigated nonsense! Imagine, a miniscule mouse savin’ a lion. It is to laugh! Ha, ha. Snicker, even.
Off-screen, Bigelow cries for help. I like his threat. “Get me outta here, or I’m gonna get sore at somebody.” Sore? You can’t even lift a mouse trap to escape (yet later in the cartoon, he can lasso a whole cage). “If his body was as big as his ego,” observes Snagglepuss, “he’d be king sized.”

Skip ahead to a railway baggage car, where the caged mountain lion contemplates of life in the zoo, where he’ll be “waited on paw and foot.”

Now why would I want to escape the soft life at the zoo? Security, even. Preposterous! Let me see. Two shows a day. Maybe three on Sunday. A little Shakespeare. “Tourists, Romans, Countrymen! Lend me a buck and a half.” Or a little soft-shoe, even. (Snagglepuss taps his feet). Or render a little song or two? (sings) Though we met in the roundhouse, Nellie, I’ll always treat you square.
But no one believes Snagglepuss wants to go to the zoo (maybe they watched too many Wally Gator cartoons). The armed guard calls him “you treacherous wild beast you” and keeps chasing him with a rifle after the mouse keeps forcing him out of the cage. And Bigelow thinks “they’ve got him scared right out of his wits.”

The final lines of dialogue after Snagglepuss realises that, somehow, Bigelow has followed him to the moon, reminding him “Bigelow never forgets.”

Heavens to planetoid. Bigelow never forgets. The little feller should have been an elephant.
Not the strongest end line but Maltese did have a huge workload at the studio.

I like how Snagglepuss and Bigelow are over the same moonscape background, but the mouse is on an overlay. In between, the shot cuts to a close-up of Snagglepuss, so you don’t notice. And Snagglepuss must have shrunk to get to the moon. He’s next to the mouse trap with huge leaves in the background. There’s nothing like reusing background art.

The dialogue is full of “evens” and “heavens to” sentences, but only one “Exit, stage left.”

When a Hanna-Barbera cartoon starts to drag, you can occupy yourself by seeing how often characters run past the same thing. In this cartoon, the zoo guard races six times past a railway car door in the background.

Hoyt Curtin’s cues include “Rockabye Baby” and one that includes a snippet of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.” Snagglepuss soft-shoes to the end of a short cue based on “Meet the Flintstones.”

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, April 1967

Dear Cartoon Fans,

No, The Simpsons did not invent the “writing sentences over and over on the blackboard” gag. For those of you who need proof, we direct your attention to the Yogi Bear comics that appeared in Sunday newspapers 50 years ago this month. (Teachers never forced misbehaving kids to scrawl when I was in school when the comic in question was made. A lawsuit would probably result if a teacher tried it today).

Before we get to the comics, you see a nicely crafted ad to your right. I think I’ve posted it before but I found it in another paper the other day so I’ve put it up nonetheless. There was a similar well-laid-out Flintstones promotional drawing.

Boo Boo only makes it into one of the comics this month. Ranger Smith is in a pair and we have kids in a couple of them. And instead of Boy Scouts, we have the distaff variety (distaff being one of those ‘60s words I doubt anyone uses now).

These full-page, four-row versions of the Yogi comics come from Richard Holliss’ fine archive. It’s not complete so you’ll have to deal with some not-so-well scanned black-and-white ones. The four-row comics are missing a thin panel you’ll find in the three-row version (many pages simply used a half-size comic, eliminating the first row.

The April 2nd comic has a wonderful perspective opening panel with angry tourists in the distance around the letters of Yogi’s name. The “ranger general” (with one star) is featured as well. Note the eye on the suspicious tourist in the final panel. The missing third panel is in black-and-white to your right.

Yes, he’s smarter than the average bear. I’m referring to whoever wrote the April 9th comic. This is quite an ingenious food-stealing idea that Yogi’s come up with. Kids love yucky things, after all.

Do flies bite? Apparently they do, even though they don’t have teeth. With that bit of scientific knowledge (see how educational this blog is?), we turn our attention to the April 16th column. You can see the missing third panel to your right (the mouth is somewhat reminiscent of Charlie Brown). I like the multiples of Yogi as he tries to deal with the fly. Finally, our bear comes up with a smarter-than-the-average idea, though we know that in a TV cartoon, that wouldn’t stop the fly (similar to how Huck Hound lost against a mosquito in Skeeter Trouble.

It seems to me there weren’t a lot of weekend comics with only two characters in them, and the fly really isn’t much of a character.

The colour change from day to night may be nicest thing about the April 23rd comic. The missing panel is a close-up of Yogi and Boo Boo, with a ? in a word balloon pointing at each of them. See how Ranger Smith expresses his anger in the opening panel. Ranger Smith is named for Bill Hanna again. I don’t think Hanna-Barbera had any Abes in 1967 (where was Abe Levitow then?). tells us that Mars is 33.9 million miles from Earth at its closest point. But it is 225 million at its farthest, so Yogi is technically correct in his response to the little girl in the April 30th comic. Evidently, her parents put great confidence over a woodland creature as opposed to Ranger Smith to give their daughter the correct answer. I presume the father must be a hitherto unknown ranger. Why else would they be living in a national park. Do I detect Lucille Bliss as the Girl Scout?

You can click on each comic to make it bigger.