Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, January 1967

Gene Hazelton or someone writing stories for Hanna-Barbera newspaper comics must have had rock-and-rolling nieces in mind. A Yogi Bear comic 50 years ago this month features one, and so does a Flintstones. We get golf in a couple, garbage in a couple and Fred drives four out of the five plots. Dino makes one incidental appearance and that’s in the opening panel of the January 1st comic. Barney shows up once and Betty not at all. The colour versions are courtesy of Richard Holliss.

January 1, 1967.

January 8, 1967. I like how wild dinosaurs stand around in the first panel, second row.

January 15, 1967. Nothing like a triceratops snow plow.

January 22, 1967.

January 29, 1967. Patty?! Shouldn’t her name be Rock-elle or Stone-ella or something like that?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Date With Jet Screamer, Part 2

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera evidently wanted to make the Jetsons episode A Date With Jet Screamer a special cartoon. The episode comes to a complete stop for a one-minute, 45-second song. Instead of cycle animation of Screamer singing and cuts to various shots of the audience screaming or snapping fingers, the studio brought in Bobe Cannon to work on a special sequence of images, some abstract, to be shown during much of the song.

Cannon’s animation career began at Warner Bros. where he was eventually put into the new Tex Avery unit in 1936. But his best-known work was at UPA, where he won an Oscar for Gerald McBoing Boing and directed some lesser cartoons featuring children.

Hanna-Barbera had many competent, veteran artists—even some from Disney—so Cannon’s hiring for one cartoon is puzzling. However, he ended up working with layout artist Jerry Eisenberg to create a sequence that’s likely unique in the studio’s life.

Frame grabs don’t give you anywhere near the full effect of the animation. The sequence opens with some symbols representing guitar playing with the lyrics moving across the screen, growing and shrinking.

Jet and Judy fly behind some kind of odd space fence and then meet “a man with a funny, funny face” whose body changes into the song lyrics.

“Come on, fly with me!” sings Jet. He sails from frame bottom to top with blue, star and planet-filled space in the distance.

Howard Morris voices Jet Screamer in his first job for Hanna-Barbera (his first cartoon work may have been in a public service short called Stop Driving Us Crazy!, made in 1959 and released in early 1960). Morris’ hiring is interesting. Joe Barbera didn’t go with a young, rock-and-roll sounding guy or even Duke Mitchell, who sang for Fred Flintstone during the 1960-61 season of The Flintstones. At the time, Morris was known mainly for over-the-top performances as part of Sid Caesar’s cast (his work on The Andy Griffith Show came the season after The Jetsons left prime time). Whatever reasoning resulted in his hiring, it’s hard to think of anyone else voicing Jet Screamer.

Because the end credits were lopped off all the original Jetsons shows when they were revived for syndication in the mid-1980s, there’s no indication who was responsible for the background art in this cartoon.

These young people are going into a lounge where Jet Screamer is performing live but the shot at the end of the song shows them all on a couch watching a big screen TV. Maybe this is a spill-over room or something.

This is a cloud that George (animated by Carlo Vinci) hides behind.

How’s this for a futuristic piano?

Judy’s expression. Hey, in the future, they still have newspaper photographers with little “press” tickets in their hats while taking pictures with flash cameras. Ret-ro!

A Date With Jet Screamer was the second Jetsons show to air, on September 29, 1962. Variety reported “a major upset” in the ratings, with the show winning the 7:30 p.m. time slot. It had an 18.9 share compared to 16.9 for the first half of Disney on NBC and 15.9 for the season premiere of Dennis the Menace on CBS. All those numbers are comparatively small. Compare them to Bonanza’s 31 audience number later in the evening. As it turned out, cartoon-loving kids aside, viewers already had one modern-family-in-different-era show and didn’t want another. By the end of the season, Uncle Walt’s wonderful world won the ratings war, and George, Jane, Judy and Elroy were dispatched to Saturday morning reruns. Despite some initial promise, and good work by Bobe Cannon, Jet Screamer would scream in prime time no longer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Growing and Selling a Cartoon Studio

It’s fascinating to see how the Hanna-Barbera studio tried to turn its disadvantages into selling points using public relations via the press.

To hear Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and PR whiz Arnie Carr tell it, there was no difference between the wonderful violence animation by Irv Spence in a Tom and Jerry cartoon and a shot of a background painting of Mr. Jinks’ living room while Frank Paiker shakes the camera.

I suppose in a way they were right. Both scenes got laughs. But I can think of plenty of occasions watching old H-B cartoons and thinking how much better something would have played in full animation. Especially as the 1960s wore on.

The term “planned animation” the studio insisted on using was more PR. All animation is planned. But “planned” sounds better than “limited.”

Here’s a studio profile published in the Christian Science Monitor’s “Hollywood Letter” column of October 18, 1960. The studio history was now including the “underdog” factor, how it tried and tried and tried and tried to get someone to get someone to look at its TV cartoons when the fact was George Sidney, head of the Directors Guild of America, hooked up Hanna and Barbera with Columbia Pictures. Sidney invested in H-B Enterprises at the very start and was an officer of the company until it was sold to Taft, but his name seems to have vanished from newspaper stories on the studio as time progressed.

200 characters? Well, including fine secondary characters like Yowp (and why shouldn’t you?) and everyone else who ever appeared, I guess the number is as good as any. And “less dialogue”? Hanna-Barbera cartoons practically became nothing but dialogue, dependent on the great voice work of Daws Butler, Don Messick and a number of others. You’ll find a lot more character chatter once Warren Foster and Mike Maltese arrived than when Barbera, Dan Gordon and Charlie Shows were putting together stories for Huck and Yogi in 1958 (admittedly, the studio’s first series, Ruff and Reddy, was pretty wordy). Fortunately, Maltese and Foster were more than adept at funny dialogue and they somehow coped with the insane amount of story work they were required to do. And the article is right. The early Hanna-Barbera characters “captured the imagination” and their cartoons still amuse people today.

You’ll notice the reference to “Hairbreath Hare.” Ol’ Hairy became two characters. First, he morphed into a turtle named Touché. But one of his proposed designs was pulled out of a file a few years later and used for Ricochet Rabbit. Whether the other prime-time show referred to in the article was Top Cat, I don’t know. The studio seemed to have a lot of concepts being batted around, a number of which never reached the screen.

Home-Screen Animation Keeps Artists Doodling
By John C. Waugh

Huckleberry Hound is more than just a television star and a lovable, maddeningly mild-mannered Tennessee hillbilly dog. He’s a minor revolution.
And so is Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw and Auggie Dog and Boo-Boo the bear cub. And so are the Flintstones, those stone-age suburbanites who live in Bedrock.
This cast of TV cartoon characters has triggered a revolution in animated cartooning such as the entertainment world hasn’t seen since Walt Disney.
In only three years’ time Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, the originators of Huckleberry, Quick Draw, Yogi, and all the rest, have breathed new life into animation.
Three years ago no new animated cartoons at all were being made for television. It was considered too painstaking and costly. Major theatrical studios were laying off their cartoon staffs, and Walt Disney, the pioneer of the animated cartoon, was devoting nearly all his talents to real-life dramas, true-life dramas, and Disneyland.
Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who created and for 20 years produced the famous “Tom and Jerry” cartoon features for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, became casualties of the major studio layoffs.
Jobless, but armed with a raft of ideas and a precious cartoon technique developed out of two decades of experience, they headed for television. Producer after producer told them it couldn’t be done, that good animation is too expensive and anything less was too junky.
Mssrs. Hanna and Barbera finally sold Screen Gems on their ideas and overnight Hanna-Barbera Productions was formed, the first company ever to set up specifically to provide new cartoon material strictly for TV.
Now Huckleberry Hound leads a colorful parade of more than 200 cartoon characters weekly across the nation’s television screens. All spring from the deft pens and comic minds of Hanna-Barbera cartoonists. The company now employs over 50 per cent of the top cartoonists on the West Coast. And they produce more cartoons in two weeks than the major studios used to produce in a year.
They have fashioned their revolution in cartoonery with a new technique that is really as old as the art of animation itself. It is called “planned animation.” By caricature, by careful planning with more story, less dialogue, more close-ups, and less extraneous matter (sheaves of falling leaves, for instance), Hanna-Barbera cartoonists are able to eliminate 80 per cent of the drawing and still maintain high quality.
A tumble by Yogi Bear down the stairs, for example, is not shown, but merely mirrored on the face of a wincing Boo-Boo.
“We make 1,700 drawings instead of 17,000 for a sequence,” explains Mr. Barbera, “and we don’t lose a thing, not a thing.”
There’s no doubt they save time and money. A half-hour cartoon drawn the old way would have cost $200,000 at least. By planned animation, known what to cut and what not to cut, Hanna-Barbera produces the same thing at a third of the cost and in half the time. Even at that it still takes about seven months to whip up a half-hour cartoon such as “The Flintstones.”
Hanna-Barbera now produces three half-hour shows a week for television: “Huckleberry Hound” and “Quick Draw McGraw” during the daylight hours, and the family-oriented situation cartoon, “The Flintstones,” for prime nighttime viewing (Fridays from 8:30 to 9 p.m. on NBC-TV).
And others are coming. Yogi Bear, longtime second fiddle to Huck, will soon star in his own half-hour show. And Hanna-Barbera is mapping still another half-hour show for prime-time family viewing.
In 1961, two five-minute syndicated shows will take to the air. One is “Hardy-Har-Har,” all about a sad hyena, and the other is the adventures of “Hairbreath Hare,” a swashbuckling rabbit.
These cartoon characters, oblivious of the revolution they represent, go about weekly charming an estimated 40,000,000 viewers, young and old. Huck, Yogi, and Quick Draw have captured the American imagination in a manner that Disney characters did two decades ago.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Yakky Doodle in Horse Collared

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Hicks Lokey, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Farmer, Charlie, Hunter, Circus Barker, TV director, Indians, Announcer – Daws Butler; Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Yakky protects an old horse that a farmer wants to put out to pasture.

Does Yakky Doodle have a split personality?

In some cartoons, he’s helpless, naïve, even ignorant, and would surely be eaten or shot to death if Chopper didn’t come along to help him. But there are other cartoons where he’s the aware one, suddenly developing wits to save others around him.

This is one of those cartoons.

In this case, the poor character in need of assistance is a “kinda beat up looking old horse” as he’s referred to throughout the cartoon; Mike Maltese is big on repeating strings of adjectives. The gag ideas in the cartoon are fine but Maltese could have used some stronger dialogue to punch up things as too many scenes just fade out after a weak punchline. Yakky hides Charlie Horse under water, in a tree (the branch Charlie’s clinging to falls down and he lands on a farmer in animation reused later), dresses him as a moose (who unexpectedly learns it’s moose hunting season), disguises him as a wooden merry-go-round horse (smoke from the farmer’s pipe makes him sneeze) and finally gallops him into the filming of a TV western. Charlie is mistaken shot in the butt with arrows (real) by Indian braves (actors). His painful dance (the arrows mysteriously vanish) impresses the movie’s director and the cartoon ends with Charlie repeating it on the farmer’s television, having been signed to a contract as Yakky Doodle Buckaroodle and his wonder horse Flashie. (Exclaims the director: “Wow!! That is the best horsin’ rider like I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen several).

Normally, the layout artist designed the incidental characters in H-B cartoons in the early days but Lance Nolley simply borrowed the horse design from the Augie Doggie cartoon Horse Fathers (1961) and changed his colour from blue to white (the horse has pretty much the same personality as Roscoe in Horse Fathers).

The cartoon got a lot of use of the one background drawing of rolling block of red and orange with sticks of trees, accompanied by a fence. Charlie rides past a large tree in it seven times in one scene and ten in another. The colour technique is nice. Neenah Maxwell is responsible. She was the daughter of Max Maxwell, the production manager at the MGM cartoon studio, and niece of Howard Hanson, the assistant production manager at MGM and the production supervisor at Hanna-Barbera when it opened.

A couple of other backgrounds. It’s a shame these cartoons were in black-and-white for years; people wouldn’t have seen the purple trees.

Veteran Hicks Lokey got the animation assignment on this one. Here’s how he zips Charlie off screen when moose hunters start firing at him.

Among the Hoyt Curtin cues in this cartoon are his take on The Arkansas Traveler; A Hunting We Will Go; Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; The William Tell Overture and Man on the Flying Trapeze. The rest of the music is recognisable from the Loopy de Loop and other short cartoons around this time. The Western theme at the end was used in the final season of the Quick Draw McGraw Show

Other than Yakky, Daws Butler handles the characters. He digs out his Ed Sullivan voice for the TV announcer. The farmer, as you can see to the right, owns a generic brand television set.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Solve This Flintstones Mystery

Snooper and Blabber aren’t around to investigate this case, so leave us to ask you knowledgeable Yowp visitors about this.

Reader Kamden Spies asked me which Flintstones episode this cel of Fred and Dino comes from. Does anyone have any idea? My DVD player no longer works (and my laptop died this morning as well) so I can’t review any episodes.

It’s a nice expression on a bullet-shaped Fred.

If you can identify the episode, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, January 1967

Holy Ursine Secret Identity! Could the smarter-than-the-average Yogi Bear be a clever disguise for a super hero? Well, not quite. But Yogi does reveal his persona as Bat Bear in the weekend newspaper comics 50 years ago this month. Batman had already been on ABC for a year at that point. We also get food gags and a native Indian stereotype punchline.

“Thump-a Boob A-Bump Chuck”? What kind of rock song had lines like that? And “Go Go-A-Diddle Doodle?” Did Ned Flanders write those lyrics? Rock music was treated like mere noise in a lot of pop culture in the pre-hippie ‘60s, likely by writers who were the bee’s knees over ‘20s jazz that was denounced by their parents as leading society in a gin-filled bathtub straight to Satan. Anyway, the January 1, 1967 comic featured Ranger Smith’s niece with a ten-inch waist groovin’ on the jump whap-a bla-bla and not paying attention to anything around her. Mr. Ranger’s named after Bill Hanna in this comic.

A way to bear’s heart is ... well, it didn’t work again this time, Cindy. Apparently, Yogi drove a car over to Cindy’s place in the January 8th comic.

You know how it is. Someone hands you their phone and asks you to take a picture with him but you don’t know how it’s supposed to work. Yogi has that problem in the January 15th comic. We presume that’s Mrs. Smith in the opening panel. A lot of solid colour backgrounds in this one.

“Injun-unity”?? Let’s see some comic try to get away with that punch line today. Well, let’s see a comic today give a weapon, no matter how fake, to a child. (Funny how all this stuff was acceptable 50 years ago but rock music wasn’t). At least the kid is talking in full sentences and not like-um braves do on TV set, ugg. This comic is from January 22nd.

In 1961, there was a Yogi Bear episode called Batty Bear, where Yogi sent away for a Bat Guy costume that he used to pilfer pic-a-nic baskets. This comic from January 29th is different. Yogi’s being helpful, rescuing a defenceless kitten from a bulldog. Why’s Ranger Smith rolling his eyes? Yogi’s just indulging in a little fun. That ranger’s such a wet blanket. This is Boo Boo’s only appearance of the month.

Click on any of the comics to make them bigger. Richard Holliss graciously supplied the colour comics from his own collection.