Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Let's See Who's Under That Disguise

When you think of a Hanna-Barbera mystery involving some creature scaring people away only to be revealed to be a disguise perpetrated by a bad guy who wants something, what show do you think of?

Right. Ruff and Reddy.

That’s what’s driving the story in Ruff and Reddy No. 6, a Dell comic cover dated July 1960. Unlike a Certain Great Dane We Don’t Talk About On This Blog™, the bad guy is portrayed as more misguided than evil, certainly not in the John Stephenson “And I would have gotten away with it, too...” manner from the aforementioned Great Dane cartoon series.

The lack of a narrator and Charlie Shows’ rhyming couplets gives this more of a feel of a standard comic book adventure as opposed to something distinct to Ruff and Reddy.

You can click on the pictures below to make them a little larger.

You can read a bunch of Ruff and Reddy comics at Comics Books Plus.Com. It’s too bad there are no Huckleberry Hound or Quick Draw McGraw comics posted, but you can’t argue with a site generously posting a lot of stuff for free.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jerry, Tony, Joe, Bill and Harvey

A note came in from Jerry Eisenberg the other day letting me know about the short reminiscence on video he and Tony Benedict did some time ago in the Eisenberg studio room several years ago.

Tony linked to it on his site but we’ll link to it here. Blogger won’t let you play it here; I think it takes you to another site.

Jerry, for those of you just joining us, was a layout artist on The Jetsons and Jonny Quest (the original series in both cases), designed a bunch of Wacky Races racers and did a pile of other things not only at Hanna-Barbera, but at other studios. Tony was the first cartoon writer at Hanna-Barbera to get a screen credit whose name was name Charlie Shows, Dan Gordon, Mike Maltese or Warren Foster.

Jerry’s dad worked with Joe Barbera at Terrytoons in New York in 1936 and was later induced by Mr. B. to come to Culver City and work on Tom and Jerry cartoons at MGM. Jerry talks about him to open the video.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Snagglepuss in Spring Hits a Snag

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Southworth, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – John Freeman, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss – Daws Butler; Lila – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.

This blog has been percolating along in a happy way for almost seven years and, in that span, I have managed to avoid a long-standing question about one particular Hanna-Barbera character that has riveted some people for years.

Is Snagglepuss gay?

The assumption by the people who care about this, or have a casual interest even, is the answer is “yes,” because Snagglepuss fits several stereotypes (he’s pink, has a high, breathy voice, and likes the legitimate theatre far too much). However no less of an authority than Joe Barbera weighed on the matter when someone casually brought it up during a story meeting on Johnny Bravo many years after the creation of the Snagglepuss cartoons. Johnny’s creator Van Partible was a witness to the conversation. “Mr. B bluntly said, ‘Snagglepuss wasn’t gay! He was modeled after Bert Lahr who was anything but gay. He beat his wife!’”

Now, Joe Barbera tended to veer a little from the facts in the interests of a good story, but if you want some proof that Mr. B. was correct, you don’t have to look much further than the cartoon “Spring Hits a Snag.”

Mike Maltese came up with a female counterpart for Snagglepuss and put her in three cartoons. “Spring Hits a Snag” was the first. Lila was no Cindy Bear who induced hearts to float out of Yogi Bear. She was a sociopath. And while Snagglepuss didn’t have his eyes bug out of his body or overreact with wild abandon like a Tex Avery character upon seeing a female character (Snagglepuss was too gentlemanly for that, even if Hanna-Barbera favoured that kind of animation, which it didn’t), he obviously had an interest in her. Witness this dialogue, to wit, to woo:

Ah, ‘tis spring again. And the bird is on the wing. Or is it ‘the wing is on the bird?’ No matter. In the spring, a young man’s fancy (rushes away to pick and smell flower) lightly turns to this and that. And those even.
What is “this and that and those”? Well, at this point, Lila runs into the cartoon, avoiding bullets from hunters all the way, stage left.
Lila: Oh, won’t you please save me from the hunter, lest I perish, mortally wounded?
Snag: Fear not, O damsel in distress. For I, Snagglepuss, the chivalrous, shall save you. (looks at audience) It ain’t spring for nothin,’ you know.
Yes, in spring, a young man’s fancy turns to love and, in this case, Snagglepuss’ interest turns to Lila. Considering what happens in the cartoon, he would have been better off if his interest involved listening to Judy Garland show-tune soundtrack records with Lyle Lion instead. If Snagglepuss weren’t so refined, he might have emulated Joe Barbera’s story about Bert Lahr.

But he doesn’t. He puts up with Lila’s never-ending stream of verbal abuse once he invites her into his humble home. “Hmm. It is humble, isn’t it? Like early primitive,” remarks the unimpressed Lila, already not appreciating the fact Snagglepuss has given her sanctuary from hunters. She puts down his ratty furniture, then his poetry reading:

Snag: I shall smooth thy pretty brow of care with readin’s from the classics. (opens book) “Ah, ‘tis spring! And I can hear the soft chirpin’ of the crimson-tufted tattersill. To wit, to woo. To woo, to wit.”
Lila: Aw, knock it off.
Snag (surprised): What was that?! Sounded like an angry wildcat, wounded in the clavicle.
Lila: That was me. Shall I say it again with witnesses?
Yeah, you get the idea pretty fast what she’s really like. Even in limited animation, you can tell her opinion of Snagglepuss’ response to her demand for food by cooking an old gnu stew “and casserole, even...sprinkled liberally with chutney chives.”

She pushes him around the whole cartoon, sending him out to get wild berries (“Big deal,” she snarks, obviously not even wanting the berries), then complaining about the noise as he’s getting shot at while picking them off-camera. Later he gets “One berries, wild. Or terribly annoyed” but she gripes she wants new ones, not the ones he picked moments ago. Whenever Snagglepuss finally gets fed up enough to stand up to her, she cries and he slinks back into his polite meekness. Finally, the cartoon ends with Snag braving the hunter’s bullets than the shrewish witch he’s left behind in his cave. And, no, his fancy doesn’t turn to a male mountain lion. So let’s put any more rumours to rest.

The animation’s by Ken Southworth. There’s really jerky walk from the cave in long-ish shot at the start of the cartoon. These are consecutive frames. What’s happened to Snagglepuss’ collar?

Story editor John Freeman or Joe Barbera or someone found an ingenious way to save a bit of time. See how Lila is covering her face when she cries? No need to animate dialogue. Just a few drawings of Lila are used and re-used to have her body jerk around. The second time the same animation is used again, the cels are turned over and painted on the other side. And there’s another scene where Snag just stands there blinking for eight seconds with Jean Vander Pyl’s dialogue off camera.

Catchphrases: “Exit, berry-pickin’ all the way, stage right.” “Exit, ‘til after huntin’ season, stage right.” And, yes, we get a “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”

There aren’t too many Hanna-Barbera cartoons from this era featuring only two characters, but this one of them. Daws Butler and Vander Pyl work well together in this, with Jean digging up a low-class New Yorkish voice that’s different than the one she’d use later for Rosey on The Jetsons.

Cues from The Flintstones and Loopy De Loop find their way into the background and are well selected. The scene where Snagglepuss is henpecked into doing all those chores (with some mouth movements that don’t match the dialogue) is accompanied by music from Top Cat.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Flintstones Weekend Comics November 1965

These are from Sunday newspapers of November 7, 4, 21 and 28, 1965. As I’ve been saying for months, I don’t have time to blog any more, so I haven’t had time to hunt down and snip the daily strips.

“Kerrunch!” “Splat!” I think both were used on the Batman TV show which debuted the following January.

In this day and age, Pebbles’ observation “Give me two mommies any ol’ day” would certainly rile up some group willing to take it out of context.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Jetsons: TV or Not TV

“I’ll get right to the point, lady,” growls the mysterious stranger, as ominous music plays in the background. “We traced the guy in this picture to this address...Well, ya see, we did a little shootin’ today...and this guy accidentally got into the picture...We wanna give him what’s comin’ to him. We’ve got ways of takin’ care of these things...The big boss wants me to take care of him, so I’ll be back. Get it?”

Six-year-old me heard those words on “The Jetsons” episode “TV or Not TV” and wondered “Why doesn’t he just tell Jane he wants George to sign something so he can be on TV?” Well, non-six-year-old me knows the answer. The cartoon would end right then and there with about 15 minutes to go. That wouldn’t work too well. So writer Tony Benedict had to use some contrived dialogue to keep the misunderstanding going for the appropriate length.

Misunderstandings have been a comedy staple for who knows how many centuries and, in this cartoon, George Jetson mistakes a TV shoot for an actual robbery and the above-mentioned TV production flunkey Nimbley (played wonderfully by guest voice Shep Menken) as a representative of the underworld. After a failed attempt to hiding in Cosmo Spacely’s old fishing cabin (would Mr. Spacely really give George a key to it?), George and Astro disguise themselves to return home, where they run into the flunkey, who sorts everything out while a newly-installed anti-burglar system pounds them (with lots of swirl animation).

One thing I like about “The Jetsons” is the variation in plots. “The Jetsons,” for the most part, revolved about the tribulations of George Jetson, similar to George O’Hanlon’s “Behind the Eight Ball” series of short films at Warner Bros. This one doesn’t include Spacely firing George or doing anything else to him. There’s no workplace element in this cartoon. It’s strictly the family and the “crooks” (and a couple of characters to service the plot). And Janet Waldo got to rest her voice through the whole first half as Judy doesn’t appear until late in the story.

The first few minutes of the cartoon have nothing to do with the plot. It’s an extended sequence solely designed to wring comedy out of Astro, who’s forced to have a bath, followed by Elroy. I love Astro. He reacts emotionally in different ways and he’s not too over-the-top. Don Messick always puts in a great performance as his voice.

Here’s the Dog Bath-a-Mat.

Let’s go through some of the other Conveniences of the Future™.

E-mail doesn’t exist in the future. There’ll be hand-written mail delivered by a stylised drone (left). Something similar to the picture on the right pretty much exists today, except without the paper (that Astro swallowed). A friend of mine has something in his SUV where he dictates text into a computer on his dashboard, it reads back the message and asks if he wants to send it.

Flat screen TVs, big and small (note the tanning beds in the scene to the right).

Two different Foodarackacycles. The one on the right dispenses one of my favourite puns in any Jetsons episode: Venus-schnitzel.

The Magno-Manicure (designed for three fingers and a thumb).

A visi-phone (it doesn’t have a name in this episode) to the left and part of the anti-burglar device on the right. Nimbley looks to be a not-too-distant relative of Cogswell.

Ken Muse animates a good portion of this cartoon. I always enjoy looking at dry brushwork and outline multiples. Here are a couple.

Bick Bickenbach is responsible for some of the layouts and Art Lozzi did at least some of the backgrounds (at least, those are educated guesses on my part judging by incidental character design and the blue hues and humps in the backgrounds). Here are some exteriors. Screen Gems distributed Hanna-Barbera cartoons to television; the company making the TV show in the plot of this cartoon is a pun.

And some interiors. I wish I had a full version of the last one from the Spacely cabin.

Jane spends a lot of time with her hands on her hips. And look! Married people sleeping in one bed!!

T.C.J. notes in the comments they’re not sharing a bed, just a headboard. Early 1960s public morals have been saved.

More of Tony Benedict’s puns: the armoured car company is “Blinks,” the heroic TV dog Jane and the kids are watching is “Rinky Tink Tink,” the TV producers are responsible for “The Naked Planet” (“The Naked City” was co-produced by Screen Gems). And best of all is the appearance at the end of Soapy Sam.

This may have been television’s first Soupy Sales parody. Like Soupy, Soapy has a huge bow tie and throws pies. Soupy, like The Jetsons, was on ABC, but walked out on the network in late 1962 because, according to Variety, it wouldn’t syndicate his reruns. Just imagine the ratings they could have brought if the network had moved them to Saturday mornings with The Jetsons the following year.

A yowp of thanks to Howard Fein for fixing the voice credits on this.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Collecting the Flintstones

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera needed more cash to finance their growing cartoon studio than the money they were getting for the cartoons themselves. The solution? Merchandising. Soon, Hanna-Barbera started licensing all kinds of comic and colouring books, games and puzzles, toys and dolls. Fans of 1960 seemingly couldn’t get enough. There was so much produced, a book documenting it has been written by Tim Hollis. Read about it HERE.

That merchandise has become memorabilia and fans still can’t get enough. Hanna-Barbera collectors proudly share pictures of their prize possessions, and chat about them, on social media. How different were things way back in those pre-internet days (some of our younger readers may not be able to fathom such a time). One collector who looked to share his love of his collection with someone other than his wife told his story to the Alleghany Times on June 19, 1994.

Hopewell Township collector leaves no stone unturned in quest for Bedrock souvenirs

By Debra Utterback
Times Staff
Either you yabba-dabba-doo or you yabba-dabba-don’t.
Pete Pesut, Jr. yabba-dabba-does.
Loves the Flintstones, that is.
The Hopewell Township man goes pre-historic ape over the modern, Stone Age family. He collects just about anything related to Fred Flintstones and friends.
“I’m like a little kid back in my childhood,” says Pete, a 34-year-old postal carrier for the Aliquippa post office. “It’s a fun collection.”
Stuffed Fred dolls rest on the back of an easy chair in the corner of the basement of his Spring Street home. Ceramic Fred and Barney Rubble banks keep guard under the TV. Dozens of drinking glasses and juice jars bearing Flintstones faces clutter a table.
“This is my Bedrock basement,” says Pesut, who began his stash of Flintstones knickknacks about 10 years ago—long before the hype of the live-action movie with John Goodman thrust the cartoon family into the spotlight again.
The small basement is swarming with color. Hundreds of Freds, dressed in traditional orange-spotted tunics with bluish-green tied, take the form of dolls, banks, keychains and other toys in the room.
Likenesses of Wilma, Pebbles and the Rubbles—Barney, Betty and Bamm-Bamm—appear on beach towels, lunch boxes, and alarm clock and on the faces of more than a half dozen watches.
Pete also treasures his Flintstones dominoes, a Fred bowling game and blow-up punching bags. An inch-high Dino toy that rolls across the floor is the smallest souvenir. A 3-foot cardboard cutout of Fred is the largest.
Pete proudly shows off a smiling Dino Halloween costume made by his mother-in-law. To Pete, Dino is hot, Barney is not.
“I tell everyone there’s only one original purple dinosaur—that’s Dino,” he says.
The Flintstones fan credits his own Wilma—blond-haired Tricia—with helping him start his collection. He winces at the memory.
“I’ll show you the piece that started it all,” Pete says, lifting a small clothing hook bearing Fred’s picture. His wife gave him the hook, which sits in its original plastic wrap, as a joke because he always said Fred Flintstone was a favorite.
Tricia, a secretary at St. Titus School in Aliquippa, never realized the token would lead to a cartoon compulsion.
She never dreamed they would be dining repeatedly at Denny’s restaurant, Wendy’s and Pizza Hut, week after week when free Flintstoens toys were given away with meal purchases.
She never thought his obsession would almost cause them to miss a flight when he “just had to stop” in an airport shop before board a plane when he saw Flintstones squeeze bottles.
“Sometimes I think he’s 4 instead of 34,” Tricia says, smiling as she teases her husband. “He talks to me like Fred was a real person.”
To Pete, Fred is like part of the family. The Beaver County resident has been tuning into the syndicated Hanna-Barbera cartoon since shortly after it debuted in 1960.
“When I came home from school, I always watched ‘The Flintstones,’” says Pete, who attended Aliquippa grade school and later graduated in 1977 from Quigley Catholic High School in Economy.
He preferred “The Flintstones” over “The Jetsons” as a child. He, like hard-working Fred who toiled daily at the quarry, comes from a strong, blue-collar community. Fred is like Everyman.
“I’m a lot like Fred. I’m klutzy and lazy.”
But with good intentions, chimes in Tricia.
Unlike Fred, Pete is tall and slender. He doesn’t share Fred’s 5 o’clock shadow—he sports a mustache. The only resemblance to the Flintstones shows up on his clothes. Today he wears a white T-shirt with a happy Fred emblem and brightly colored sweat pants dotted with Flintstones characters.
“I constantly get kidded down at the post office about my Flintstone boxer shorts,” says Pete.
He also owns 50 Flintstones T-shirts, 15 neckties and numerous baseball caps. Add to that a Flintstones shaving kit. Plastic Flintstones dolls from Argentina. A 1962 Flintstones Viewnmaster disc. A Flintstones rock guitar. Even a Flintstones gelatin mold.
Pete has mixed feelings about the attention the new Flintstones movie is stirring. He and his wife haven’t seen the flick yet, but they are planning to go soon.
On the one hand, Pete is excited about the attention the Flintstones are getting. And he gives his nod to Goodman to play Fred. On the other hand, Pete isn’t interested in all the movie-related merchandise flooding stores.
“He was afraid it would devalue his collection,” Tricia says.
He usually collects only cartoon-related keepsakes he finds in magazines, stores, at toy conventions and flea markets. Friends and family contribute to the lot.
“I have things from the ’60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. I look for older stuff. I try to find unique things,” says Pete. “I’m always looking. Betty is the hardest one to find. So when I see a Betty, I have to have it.”
Since he considers his Flintstones collection just a fun hobby, he refuses to spend much money to purchase pieces.
Two things remain on his wish list: two Flintstones snow domes made in the ‘60s and ‘70s and a metal toy which features Fred operating a dinosaur crane.
Tricia insists on just one thing regarding her husband’s Flintstones mania: Bedrock stays in the basement. She’s made an exception for the small wooden cutout of Fred that waves “hi” and “bye” in the couple’s front yard.
She doesn’t want the Flintstones to overtake their lives. Like Wilma, she tries to keep her own Fred in line.
“I will draw the line. I will not name our firstborn Fred,” Tricia says.
Pete has met just a few folks like himself who love the ‘Stones. “I’ve been trying to find a Flintstones Fan Club,” he says.
His wife suggests a better organization.
“Flintstones Anonymous,” she says.