Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How Yogi Bear Made Christmas Merry

Want to know what would have made a great half-hour Hanna-Barbera Christmas special? The story in this Yogi Bear Jellystone Jollies Gold Key comic with a cover date of January 1963.

It’s a simple tale, one not overloaded with characters, and with a nice little message toward the end. Add a little bit more comic dialogue to fill it out to 23 minutes and you’re all set. You don’t need a friendly ghost from another cartoon studio that you bought the rights to use, a guy in a Davey Crockett skunk-skin cap, everyone in the Hanna-Barbera funny animal universe clogging the proceedings or cheesy holiday/winter songs that bring the cartoon to an abrupt stop (okay, maybe one to close out the first act if it advances the plot, with a reprise near the end).

As you read along, I’ll bet you can hear Daws Butler, Don Messick and Hal Smith (as Santa and Goodello). Perhaps you’ll notice as well the dynamic of the characters changes without Ranger Smith being present. Frankly, I welcome it.

No, I don’t know why Yogi is calling himself “Budgewick Bear.”

My thanks to Prof. Grewbeard, as I stole these pictures from a five-year-old blog post of his. There were 80 pages in the comic but he didn’t post the two other stories involving Snagglepuss or Yakky Doodle, Chopper and Fibber Fox (why do I picture a mistletoe/fist-in-the-face/thud gag in that one?). In the comment section, Mark Kausler identifies the artist; a couple of others have sent me notes in agreement.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Flintstones Daily Comics, December 1964

Finding decent-looking full versions of the Flintstones Sunday comics on-line has become impossible, but I’ve stumbled on some Flintstones dailies that I’ll pass along. These are for 50 years ago this month.

I’m not crazy about the Pebbles-centricity. The Flintstones cartoon series, to me, wasn’t about a talking baby. And the newspaper comics, by 1964, have both Pebbles and Dino talking to themselves in thought balloons. But you might be interested in looking at these, so here they are. The artwork is very attractive.

The Christmas season cartoons have been posted on the blog before, but I’ve put them up again just so the whole month is intact. And it gives us all another chance to see Baby Puss.

Click on each week of comics to make it larger.

November 30-December 5, 1964

December 7-12, 1964

December 14-19, 1964

December 21-26, 1964

December 28-31, 1964

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Huckleberry Hound — Huck of the Irish

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – La Verne Harding; Layout – Noel Tucker; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Written by Tony Benedict; Story Director – Paul Sommer; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Leprechaun, Huckleberry Hound, Editor – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: week of Dec. 4, 1961 (rerun, week of Oct. 22, 1962).
Plot: Photographer Huck tries to take a picture of a leprechaun.

Huck treads some familiar ground in this cartoon but, this time, the difference is the ground is the Auld Sod. Huck chats with the people watching him at home, mangles the local dialect, generally shrugs off the violence against him and chuckles about his ultimate failure during the final frames. But in this cartoon, Huck has a new job as a magazine photographer and has been planted on the emerald green of Ireland—“land of legends, folklore and magic,” the intoning narrator tells us at the beginning.

Here’s Bob Gentle’s opening background that is panned by the camera as the narration sets up the cartoon. And this is where I bemoan that the final year of the Huck series is not on DVD where you’d be able to see a version of this without digital fuzziness.

The opening may be yet another repeat of the Huck format, but it’s not stale. We learn from the intoning narrator that Huck is an “ace photographer, Strife Magazine.” At that point, Huck lifts his hat, turns to the camera and says “Howdy, folks, that’s me.” I always enjoy it when Huck or some other character has some byplay with either the narrator or provides plot commentary for the viewer. Come to think of it, those are things the studio started doing less and less. Characters just talked to themselves or each other. An added little bonus to this scene is Huck’s jeep needs an alignment job and the back of it kicks up into the air as it motors along. Huck closes his eyes, feeling the impact, in La Verne Harding’s artwork.

Huck expounds on his assignment to us: “Ain’t nobody ever photygraphed one of them lepracorns before.” Naturally, when Huck comes across a leprechaun, he doesn’t realise that’s what it is, even after he reads a description of one while chatting with the little fellow. Huck decides to try to mix in with the locals. “Uh, top-of-the-mornin,’ you-all. Begorrah, begosh and Erin Go Bragh,” he says, then turns to us and adds “That’s Irish talk for ‘Howdy’. You got to know all the gimmicks in this game.” And so the plot unfolds, with the leprechaun using magic to beat up on Huck, who wants to take his picture for Strife.

First, the leprechaun pulls Huck’s hat over his head and then gives him a hot foot (which burns his body). But then Huck realises who the green-suited man is. “The Irish jig is up,” he puns. The two agree the leprechaun will have his picture taken if Huck can catch him (“I’ll just meet him at the glen,” Huck tells us, “That’s more Irish talk meanin’ ‘Head ‘im off the pass’.”). That brings on a series of violence gags.

● Huck doesn’t run into the door of the leprechaun’s cave. The leprechaun then opens it on him.
● The old “just-step-back-and-back-some-more” bit. Huck falls back into a well.
● The old “stand-in-mid-air-for-only-a-while” routine. Huck plummets to the bottom of a cliff.
● The leprechaun pretends to have been roped at the top of other cliff by Huck, who can’t see that high. Huck’s roped “the blarney stone” and pulls it down onto himself.

“He’s just going to laugh himself sick. I hope,” the annoyed Huck-under-a-large-rock says to us. But the leprechaun has outsmarted himself. As he cackles, the cliff gives way, and Huck captures him when he drops to the bottom. So Huck gets to take his picture in a variety of poses, especially after the leprechaun hears it’s for the cover of Strife.

Cut to the final scene. The Strife editor is enthusiastic until he looks at the blank photos. “A leprechaun just doesn’t register on film,” he says. Ah, but that’s not the problem. Huck confides is us over the closing music that he forgot to take the cover off the lens, then gives us a limited animation version of a shamed look.

Miscellany: Daws Butler supplies all the voices in this cartoon...The sound cutter found one running sound effect for Huck and another for the leprechaun...There are no Irish-sounding cues in the underscore...The box around “Hanna-Barbera” in the episode title card was also used in “Ben Huck” and “Jinks’ Jinx.” I haven’t checked to see if there were others but the graphic idea was obviously short-lived.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Boo Boo Surprise

Boo Boo didn’t do a lot of acting in the Yogi Bear cartoons. About all he’s known for is being the voice of caution, warning “The Ranger won’t like it, Yogi,” or words to that effect.

Ah, but don’t tell that to Carlo Vinci.

The Yogi cartoons eventually settled into a routine, but the first season (1958-59) was a bit of a free-for-all as the characters were still new. Carlo decided to give Boo Boo a bit of body emotion in “The Buzzin’ Bear” (first aired the week of December 21, 1958). All but the first and last drawings you see below are on twos (each drawing was shot by the camera twice). Boo Boo’s reacting to Yogi accidentally getting a Jellystone Park helicopter airborne.

This isn’t the kind of animation Hanna-Barbera became known for. The body isn’t on one cel for endless frames while the head drawings are slightly changed. Carlo has made 11 separate drawings. Look at the hands and see the sense of balance. This may be my favourite Boo Boo scene.

As Hanna-Barbera pumped out more and more cartoons, more and more animation short-cuts were made, and the cartoons leaned more and more on the writers’ snappy dialogue. But for the first little while after the Huck show went on the air in September of 1958, there were lots of neat bits of animation by Carlo and Mike Lah and the rest. This is one of them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, December 1964

Transportation seems to have been the recurring in the Yogi Bear comics in Sunday newspapers of 50 years ago this month. Two of the modes are stolen (being winter, there are no picnic baskets to purloin). What you see below aren’t the best scans to view some of the reaction drawings, so I urge you to check out Mark Kausler’s site HERE, as he has the bottom two rows of each of these cartoons (at least that’s the anticipation at the time this post was written). Mark has saved clippings of these comics all these years.

Ranger and Mrs. Smith makes a short appearance in the top row of the December 6, 1964 comic, the row that newspapers could delete without the plot of the comic being affected. Ranger Smith is “Bill” this month. Next month, he’s “Joe.” Sense a pattern, folks? The final panel has one of the embarrassed Yogi grin poses that the animators never really used. Sorry I can’t find a better version.

The best drawing in the December 13th comic is Yogi being whacked on the head with a mallet held by a little Yogi. Ranger Smith’s winter jacket has chequers which stay in place, regardless of movement. You’d see this in animated cartoons (especially in the late ’50); I presume the character was drawn with the clothing pattern on a cel underneath.

Bill Hanna receives a Christmas present from Gene Hazelton or whoever wrote the story for the December 20th comic in the form of a plug for his beloved Boy Scouts (Hanna was extremely proud of his membership in the Scouts and received honours from the group in adulthood). The helicopter theft/tree-top cutting is a steal from the 1958 cartoon “The Buzzin’ Bear.” Note the rhyme in the opening panel. I’d like to think it’s a little tribute to Lew Marshall, one of the original H-B animators who rose through the ranks. He would have worked with Hazelton at the MGM cartoon studio in the ‘40s.
Man, even Ranger Smith is rhyming in this one.

Alas, Santa doesn’t visit Yogi and Boo Boo this year. Instead, Boo Boo gets a present via the Jellystone Mail Truck in the December 27th comic. Another great little-pupilled Yogi expression in the last panel of the middle row. Yogi goes rhyming nuts in the last row. The artist (Harvey Eisenberg?) throws in some cute chipmunks in the last panel. I like how they’re in the foreground while Yogi and Boo Boo are further back. You can always feel the perspective in these comics; there’s a foreground, background and various medium grounds, not like they’re on a stage with a scrim backdrop.

Click on any of the comics to enlarge them.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Pixie and Dixie — Home Flea

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – John Boersma; Layout – James Carmichael; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Written by Warren Foster; Story Direction – John Freeman; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Mr. Jinks, Dixie – Daws Butler; Pixie, Mighty Mite – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1962
Plot: Pixie and Dixie invite a strong-man flea to live on Mr. Jinks’ fur.

What a talky, lacklustre cartoon.

Warren Foster wrote “Strong Mouse” for Pixie and Dixie in the 1961-62 season, featuring a circus mouse with huge amounts of strength. Then he wrote this one, featuring a circus flea with huge amounts of strength. It’s like Foster had some extra strength gags from the first cartoon, so he used them to cobble together this cartoon.

The first two minutes and ten seconds consist of nothing but a conversation between the flea who is looking for a dog (in a mouse hole?) on which he can live and the meece, who are sceptical about the flea’s claims until he twirls Dixie in mid-air. The meece convince him Mr. Jinks is as docile as a dog and a perfect home.

Next is a 30-second scene where the meece put Mighty Mite on Jinks. The flea offers to help them if they need it some day. Jinks realises someone has “invaded my privacy” but can’t see anyone so it must be a “mental aberration.” Foster now brings the old wet broom into the story for Jinks to clobber the meeces with (“Beats me how one cat can be so two-faced,” he chortles to us). The flea comes to their rescue by flipping Jinks onto the floor by his tail, and then doing it every time the cat touches the broom to discouraging him from using it again. Naturally, we don’t see most of the violence. We almost always see the meeces’ reaction as the camera shakes. In between reactions, Jinks talks non-stop to the audience. At no time does Jinks realise the flea is there. “I must, uh, have lost my balance,” he explains to himself. “That’s it. Some, uh, you know, minor disturbance of the eustachian canal in, like, my inner ear. Yeah. That makes a certain amount of sense.” (Jinks, evidently, graduated in anatomy).

The cartoon ends with Jinks turning down the meeces’ offer to bash them with a wet broom. “Uh, I’m, like, through with that game, you guys. But, eh, I’ll figure out another game for you miserable meeces. (Turns to camera) I, like, always do.” Jinks chuckles as the iris closes.

Jinks doesn’t let out with his “I hate meeces to pieces!” catchphrase in this cartoon.

Mighty Mite has one of Don Messick’s growly voices. It’s not as low as it is in other cartoons.

The animation credit is given to John Boersma in this cartoon and I’ve had real trouble figuring out his style. In some cartoons, his mouth animation is the same as Ken Muse’s, with a little half-row of upper teeth and a small tongue moving around. In other cartoons, there are no teeth, and he draws characters with a little point on the bottom lip. This is one of them. He gives Jinks a wide mouth much of the time.

There’s nothing distinctive about the music selections. Dick Thomas’ backgrounds are exclusively interiors. Kids had black and white TV sets in 1962 so they wouldn’t have known Thomas decorated the Jinks/Meeces residence with purple walls and green floors (and a sink in the living room). That being the case, I shudder to think what Thomas’ own home looked like.