Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lion-Hearted Huck Backgrounds

Fernando Montealegre was one of a number of MGM émigrés to the new Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio in 1957; he had received credits for background art in the Droopy cartoons directed by Mike Lah during Metro’s last days.

His name appears frequently on “The Huckleberry Hound Show” in 1958 but seems to show up less often in 1959 when the studio put “The Quick Draw McGraw Show” into production (it was still working on a reduced number of Hucks and Ruff and Reddys).

One of his cartoons was “Lion-Hearted Huck,” which aired the week of October 6, 1958. There are only ten backgrounds in the whole cartoon. The one seen most often is this junglescape.


This is one of those famous Hanna-Barbera repeating backgrounds. During the opening narration, Huck drives past that dark tree seven times before director Joe Barbera cuts to a close-up shot. You probably know how this works. That dark tree is at both ends of the drawing. The background moves and when the cameraman gets to one end of the drawing, he moves it back to the other end. The trees are supposed to match so the drawing looks seamless. In the early cartoons, things didn’t always match up exactly but viewers didn’t notice. Look at these two consecutive frames. See how the lines on the dark tree aren’t the same? This is where the background drawing is moved back.



Here are some more of Monty’s backgrounds.



From the opening of the cartoon.



This is the TV set where a little monkey monitors big-game hunter Huck driving in his jeep. It was designed by Dick Bickenbach, who laid out the cartoon.



These two feature cel overlays. The second one is a little more obvious. The first drawing is used when the monkey runs into the tree, the second when Le Roy the lion reaches for a phone inside the tree.



Here’s another jungle background; the blue rock on the right is on an overlay, as is the square patch of dirt. There’s a pan from one to the other but I couldn’t get the colours to match to recreate the full drawing, so you’ll have to settle for both ends.

This is a pretty typical Huck cartoon. He gets smashed and even chomped by a huge trap but thinks it’s all kind of funny. He doesn’t get his lion, though. One of Le Roy’s pranks backfires and the cartoon ends with the lion in the sky, screaming for help.

When we reviewed this cartoon ages ago, the stock music cues were enumerated but we didn’t have links to them available then. So let’s provide them now. Most of the music is by Jack Shaindlin. A hunt for a copy of ‘On The Run’ has been fruitless (the late Earl Kress made a concerted effort to find it but could not. Apparently the current rights holders don’t even have it). Spencer Moore’s ‘Animation Comedy’ consists of little bassoon parts that could be used as production elements.


0:00 - Huck sub-main title Dixieland theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:26 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Geordie Hormel) - Monkey warns lion that Huck is looking for game.
2:01 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) - Huck follows tracks, chases lion into cave, digs hole.
4:00 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) - Lion starts bulldozer.
4:06 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) - Lion covers hole, snares Huck, tosses tacks in path of Huck’s jeep.
5:13 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) - Lion jacks up jeep, Huck caught in trap, lion steals motor.
6:48 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) - Lion rides motor in sky.
7:12 - Huck sub-end title Dixieland theme (Curtin).

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Did “The Jetsons” Fail?

It seems odd calling the show a failure. New episodes were made in the ‘80s. There was an animated feature film. And it’s still part of the popular culture for people of certain ages. References to the show, although clichéd by now, crop up in news stories about flying cars or labour-saving technology of the future.

But it was a failure in one aspect. George, Jane, Judy, Elroy et al only lasted a season in prime time before becoming nostalgia fodder through season after season of Saturday morning reruns. So that brings us back to why. It could have been because three family shows were battling for the 7:30 p.m. Sunday time slot (Disney’s “Wonderful World of Color” on NBC easily won the ratings war, knocking CBS’ “Dennis the Menace” out of prime time and into Saturday reruns along with the “The Jetsons”). It could have been because the prime-time cartoon craze had passed (even “The Flintstones” fell from 23rd to 30th). It could have been economics, specifically ABC guaranteeing co-sponsors American Home and Colgate-Palmolive (and later Minnesota Mining and Dow Chemical) a minimum number of adult viewers for a specified number of dollars. Or it could have been viewers thought it was an inverse of “The Flintstones” and one Flintstones was enough for them (the theory expounded by Television magazine in its April 1963 issue). Whatever the reason, Broadcasting magazine reported on April 1, 1963 that “The Jetsons” were moving to kid-friendly rerun time. Marx Toys, which began making licensed Rosey the Robot toys even before the show began airing, bought the time. (As a side note, Television reported in its July 1963 edition “The Jetsons” was consistently in the top five in Japan).

There were high hopes in TV Land for the show. Here’s a syndicated column picked out of a newspaper of September 5, 1962.


TV KEYNOTES
New Cartoon Series Set By ABC

By CHARLES WlTBECK
HOLLYWOOD - The big duds last season were the animated cartoon series. This fall only one new one sneaks in, “The Jetsons” beginning Sunday, Sept. 23 on ABC. Are the grownups going to push the kids aside to watch "The Jetsons," a family who live in the next century? Of course, Hanna and Barbers, producers of "Huckleberry Hound" and "The Flintstones," hope the little darlings will dial in "The Jetsons" to see how life is 100 years from now and kindly include their parents.
This could happen because "The Jetsons" may attract would-be inventors and dreamers. The show is going to be full of mechanical gadgets that we don't have around yet. The writers are sitting up all night playing Thomas Edison. What will be possible in 2062?
Here are a few inventions the writers have come up with so far: a seeing eye vacuum cleaner that will occasionally lift the rug and sweep dirt under it; a mother-in-law car with a rear seat which moves out and up behind the car; a prober pill that will flash reports on a screen as it rolls through a person's innards. Medically the writers ran go crazy over gadgets and may have to restrain themselves.
Push Button Dominates
The dominating influence will, of course, be the push button. There'll even be push buttons exercises for weak fingers. Maybe the forefinger will double in size. For instance. Jane Jetson pushes buttons for food, reading and transportation. When she sends Elroy, age 8, to school she merely pushes the button labelled grammar school, and off he goes down the chute of the Sky Pad Apartment. If it's raining she'll spray a raincoat on the boy. If she pushes the wrong button for him, Elroy will soon return, marked Reject.
The Sky Pad Apartments are equipped with "high level, adjustable living." The Jetsons can adjust their apartment at any level and can even rise above the log or smog. The showers are like our car wash establishments.
Father Jetson will step on a slidewalk moving into a shower. Then he'll enter a dry spin and end up in the talcum and finishing touch area. If he feels tired at the end of a day, he'll take a "husband pacifier." Soft music is heard, cocktails are whipped out and the man is soothed by gentle murmurs.
When George Jetson wants entertainment he'll attend a football game where the players are robots who come apart at the seams with a jarring tackle. The coach merely pushes buttons and in rush Sullivan and Wojahowski, fighting robots to the bitter end.
The idea with "The Jetsons" is to have reasonable inventions that could come from our present culture.
Dress Try-on Trick
Designers have already made dresses of paper that can be worn once and thrown away. That will be old hat in the future. In this series Jane Jetson will go shopping, but instead of trying on dresses, she'll merely take one to a mirror that will show how she looks in the dress. The telephone will have a TV screen so Jane Jetson can put on a "morning mask" If she doesn't want to be seen without her makeup on.
While the gadgets will be the come-on, the family will still be the endearing factor. They have real hearts and they don't eat pills instead of food. George Jetson it hard working and lovable, especially by his big dog Astro who has his own way of talking and always sits next to George.
Then there's wife, Jane, 33, a little homemaker, always pushing buttons and always talking to her mother. Judy, 15, and Elroy, 8, round out this All-American family of the future.
One thing hasn't changed—the humor. Evidently it's the same 100 years from now. No one's figured out what the gang will laugh at then.

Daily Variety liked “The Jetsons,” too. Here’s Helm’s review from the edition of September 25, 1962. ABC fed the show in colour to all owned and operated stations as well as any affiliates that wanted a colourcast. The network ate the A.T. and T. colour charge.

THE JETSONS (Rosey The Robot)
Sun., 7:30 p.m., KABC-TV (Reviewed In Color)
Filmed by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.
Producers-directors, Hanna and Barbera; Associate producer, Alex Lovy; teleplay, Larry Markes; animators, Irv Spence. Don Lusk, Grant Simmons, Ray Patterson; film editor, Joe Ruby. Cast: Voices of George O'Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Janet Waldo, Daws Butler, Don Messick, Mel Blanc, Jean Vander Pyl.
It's one of the rarities of television that a producing studio, using the same formula, can follow one hit with another. More to the credit of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera that it's a cartoon. Many another tried to capitalize on the popularity of H&B's “Flintstones” but none achieved its high estate. By the simple device of looking ahead with “The Jetsons” whereas “Flinty” looks back into the Stone Age, they achieved a new delight for the young 'uns and plenty of looking over their shoulders in this early evening fun show for the tyke monopoly on the home sets. Into the Space Age a few hundred years hence are propelled the Jetsons, whose family life is so simplified that the press of a button can do a thousand chores. When the whatchamacallit goes on the blink a maid is hired and Rosey the Robot directs traffic when the boss is invited to dinner. Every gimmick to imply speed and the easy life is employed with hilarious effect. For a color cast on ABC-TV for its own and other equipped stations, it was a huge success. The tint was clear and inviting and a big plus for sales of color sets. Voices of the characters, many doubling from “Flintstones,” were perfectly matched and the animation finely drawn. Helm.

One thing that dawned on me reading these two pieces is that there’s more talk about gadgets than characters and that may have been another reason the show didn’t work in prime time. TV was moving to more outrageous lead characters—hillbillies, talking horses, witches and so on. George Jetson wasn’t over-the-top. He wasn’t supposed to be. The idea behind the show was to put a stereotypical ‘50s dad and his family in a time that ‘50s science and technology magazines thought the future would be like. With a humorous twist.

Whatever the reason, the prime time failure of “The Jetsons” worked to its advantage. Moving to Saturday mornings put it squarely within reach of the show’s main demographic. Kids liked it and watched the same episodes over and over, just like they did the same Bugs Bunny and Popeye cartoons during the weekday. “The Jetsons” just kept rolling along, attracting three generations of kids. I’m sure it’s the kind of failure most cartoon producers would like to have.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pixie and Dixie — Home Flea Storyboard

“Home Flea” was one of the last Pixie and Dixie cartoons put into production for the 1961-62 season. It underwent a few changes from conception to finished cartoon. For one thing, it was originally titled “Mitey Mite.” But there had already been a Pixie and Dixie cartoon called “Mighty Mite” two seasons earlier, so it would appear a name change was in order. It’s not a very strong (pardon the pun) cartoon and even the play on the term “home free” is pretty weak.

Reader Adel Khan, who’s responsible for finding excellent copies of Pixie and Dixie and Huckleberry Hound cartoons that we’ve used on the blog, pointed out the complete storyboard for “Home Flea” is for sale on eBay, with scans of all the story panels. The story was by Warren Foster, though I don’t think he drew this board. There are instructions to the layout man who, in this cartoon, was Jim Carmichael. Judging by the writing, I believe the first note to Carmichael was added by Joe Barbera.

It’s a shame the scans are, for the most part, pretty small, because it’s tough to impossible to read some of the instructions on the board. For example, on the top of the first sheet is the notation to Carmichael “We have flea model change enuf [?] to give strong man appearance.” And, indeed, the cartoon doesn’t have the rotund, bulbous-nosed flea you see in the story. Compare the frame above to what you see in panel 7, which is the corresponding one in the story.



Even though they’re only sketches, I like Jinks’ expressions. In the cartoon, John Boersma draws the cat with the eyelids partly closed; some of the story drawings has them fully open and bigger. And, as per the instructions on the board, the water dish was eliminated for the cartoon.



The cartoon follows what you see on the story panels. Daws Butler changes a few words here and there. And the sound effect instruction about the taut wire is what you hear on the audio track.



Whoever put up these boards on eBay was nice enough to have the last four sets of panels posted individually so we can get a much better look at them. Barbera’s instruction in panel 111 “Cut to eliminate hole” wasn’t followed when the cartoon was shot. I asked Tony Benedict about some of the instructions. His notes:
● Panel 109 probably "one second" refers to a hold after dialogue and before cut.
● Panel 114 "six seconds" most likely refers to the length of the dialogue plus action. Timing notes may have been added to the board after recording.
● Panel 116 NS may be referring to North South action achieved by alternating top and bottom pegs for camera jar effect. LS may refer to longer shot. Scratched out note on panel 116 refers to "longer shot."



Here we end the cartoon. The shots from 137 to the end aren’t as tight as indicated in the inset boxes. And Boersma or Carmichael have changed Jinks’ position from what you see in panels 120 and 126.

If you want to try a little exercise in voice acting, play the cartoon in the background and read Mitey Mite’s dialogue from the panels. You’ll quickly notice how Don Messick’s delivery is slow and expressive, far more so than a regular conversation.

My thanks to Adel for finding this storyboard.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Flintstones Comics, January 1965

What’s with the snakes? Several appearances by a snake highlight the Flintstones daily comics from 50 years ago this month, starting Monday, January 4th. Pebbles keeps bugging Dino, and there’s a Bamm-Bamm appearance. Barney only shows up once and there’s no Betty. And no Baby Puss. But plenty of snow.

Click on each week to read it. The January 6, 1965 “La-La” panel is my favourite.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Yogi Bear — A Wooin’ Bruin

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Bob Carr; Layout – Ernie Nordli; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Written by Warren Foster; Story Director – Paul Sommer; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Boo Boo, Ranger Smith – Don Messick; Yogi Bear, Bruno – Daws Butler; Cindy Bear – Julie Bennett.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1962.
Plot: Yogi and Bruno vie for the hand of Cindy Bear.

Yogi Bear
c/o Jellystone Park, U.S.A.
January 10, 1962

Dear Yogi,

I realise that we battled each other in a few cartoons and you’re now a big star while I’m languishing in animated obscurity. Let’s set that aside. Early Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters have to stick together. I want to give you some friendly advice.

It’s about Cindy Bear.

Are you out of your mind, Yogi? Did you scarf down some rotten egg sand-a-wiches from a pic-a-nic basket that rotted your brain? Cindy and her Southern debutante voice may have conned Boo Boo into thinking she’s “nice,” but you’re smarter than the average bear. When are you going to wise up and dump that witch? (Feel free to substitute a word that rhymes with “witch.” Warren Foster tells me you’re good with rhymes).

She’s a liar—dare I say, a bear-faced liar—and the proof is in your cartoon “A Wooin’ Bruin.” Remember what she told you? “When you’re ready to go steady, just whistle. I’ll come a runnin,’ Yogi.”

What happened next? Some bear you’d never seen before—one she was seeing behind your back, since she knew the guy—gave her flowers. You whistled. Did she “come a runnin’”? Not a chance. She danced with Bruno instead and didn’t even pay attention to you. Like I said, a lying witch (again, feel free to substitute words).



And what about the game she played? “Whoever brings Cindy the best present is the winner,” she said. Give me something. Me, me, me. All she cares about is herself. You should have told it to stick it up her I-do-declare. But, no. What’d you do? She turned you into a common thief. Stealing a cake? A TV set? Ranger Smith’s car? Even Mr. Ranger knows you’re “not that kind of bear.” But you became that kind. And for what? For someone who fooled around on you behind your back. Yogi, Yogi, Yogi.



Yeah, sure, at the end you won the game, used some wrestling moves to vanquish Bruno (who came away from the off-camera fight without even a scratch) and then took Cindy to the Lover’s Leap parking lot. But did you really win, Yogi? What’s to say she won’t bat her eyes at another bear. Maybe she’s juggling around a few already. Does she deserve your trust any more? I do declare she doesn’t.



And telling Ranger Smith, after he found you inside his car at Lover’s Leap, that you deserve to punished? Where was Cindy to explain things so you didn’t get into trouble? She sure vanished, didn’t she (you’ll notice that you can see her in the car in one drawing but not in the next one for some reason)? Take a hint from “Lover’s Leap” and tell her to jump—if she really loves you. Watch her backtrack. She’s just using you for a role in that big picture of yours that’ll come out in 1964: “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear.” Even Huckleberry Hound is talking about it, and you know he never says anything bad about anyone.

For your own sake, Yogi, give your love to a pic-a-nic basket, not that two-timing Cindy. Has a pic-a-nic basket ever resisted your charms? Never. Or love the beautiful scenery of Jellystone Park as rendered by Art Lozzi in the opening of “A Wooin’ Bruin.” Art’s great.


By the way, did you really have to say: “...any bear that picks wild flowers is a little too tra-la-la for me.” Snagglepuss talked to me about that. He knows about that tra-la-la stuff, you know. He says the next time you see Cindy, take it on the lam. A lamb sandwich with fresh mint sauce, even.



Take my advice, Yogi. Drop the fickle female. And if you have room for me in another cartoon, call right away.

Your pal,
Yowp

P.S.: Yowp! Yowp!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Does Daws Say The Secret Woid?

We featured a Daws Butler story on the Yowp blog today while next door at the Tralfaz blog today, a Groucho Marx interview appeared. So, let’s combine the two.

By a complete and delightful coincidence, the episode where Daws appeared on “You Bet Your Life” has been posted on the internet today. Tune in at around the 8:50 mark. As a bonus, Groucho does all his characters from “The Huckleberry Hound Show.”

This was broadcast May 26, 1960.

Since someone will point it out, Groucho’s announcer, George Fenneman, later landed a gig with Hanna-Barbera in 1963, hosting a half-hour special called “Here Comes a Star” that was a plug for the coming Magilla Gorilla show.




Thanks to Dan Whitworth for spotting this.