Thursday, October 20, 2016

Flintstones Weekend Comics, October 1966

What? How can people in the Stone Age celebrate Hallowe’en? It’s an outrage!!

There! Now that I’ve gotten that out of your system, let’s carry on and look at what newspapers published, Flintstones comic-wise, 50 years ago this month. Besides Hallowe’en, we get sports—baseball and golf.

The whole gang appears in the October 16th comic (the adults, two kids and Dino). I love Fred’s pose in the bottom left-hand comic and the nice from-above layout in the final comic. The gags are set up pretty well in all of them.

Richard Holliss supplied the colour comics from his personal collection.

October 2, 1966

Octover 9, 1966.

October 16, 1966.

October 23, 1966.

October 30, 1966.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Meet The Flintstones (A Lot of Them)

Some people love the Hanna-Barbera characters so much, they amass collections. Some small, some big.

Reader Evan Borisinkoff has been collecting Flintstones items for the last 15 years. He’s managed to get his collection organised enough to post pictures of it on the web.

If you want to see more, you can go to this site.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Jetsons – Elroy’s Mob

The “Elroy’s Mob” episode of The Jetsons may be best known for one scene—when Kenny Countdown is watching “the billionth rerun of the Flintstones.” It’s a throwaway gag but it’s probably the most subtle commentary on TV cartoon programming.

When this cartoon first aired in 1963, there weren’t a billion reruns of The Flintstones. Not even hundreds. Episodes had been repeated during the season they aired exactly once to fill up the summer prime time schedule. But other cartoons, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and many of the other old theatricals, had been repeated endlessly on morning and afternoon kids shows. That’s where the money was. Hanna-Barbera knew that; the company built itself on syndicating Huckleberry Hound in 1958. So it was The Flintstones ended up in syndication in 1966. Today, in the Jetsons’ 21st Century, it seems like there have been a billion reruns of Fred, Barney, Dino and the rest. When this cartoon was made, that was nowhere near the case.

The cartoon may be set in the future but there are still ‘60s reference-puns that those of us around then got. The crooks in this one are pretending to be a crew shooting “The Unspaceables” (“The Untouchables”). And the TV news reporter who just happens to be in the Jetsons’ neighbourhood to interview them is “Chet Sprinkley” (NBC’s anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley). No disrespect meant to writer Barry Blitzer, but these are weak. The Flintstones was ever worse for this; trying to make a comedic name by adding “stone” or “rock” or something like that. That doesn’t take any creativity, any more than adding arbitrarily adding “space” or “moon” to a name on The Jetsons.

It seems as if Blitzer had the Flintstones on his mind when he wrote this cartoon. When Jane tells George to have fun with Astro, he responds: “Fun? I could have more fun with a sabre-tooth tiger.” A what? Doesn’t that joke belong on the other series?

The plot of “Elroy’s Mob” includes a really quaint concept—parents feeling shame because of something their child has done and (probably more importantly) how will it reflect on them. “What will I tell the PTA?” Jane wails as she’s told her son is now considered a mobster. It also includes a bit of a scary concept. You may have noticed police officers infest The Jetsons series. They’re here in this episode, too. Elroy and Astro are told by patrol cops to get home because “it’s after curfew.” Is the future so ridden with crime that police are everywhere and a curfew is necessary?

A quick plot summary: Elroy brings home Kenny’s weekly magna-proofed (unerasable) report tape from school after Kenny switches them (four Ds, an F and an H) but his parents won’t believe it’s a mistake. When Kenny confesses via visiphone, George and Jane go to apologise but found Elroy and Astro have run away. The boy and dog get conned into helping Muggsy Megaton rob a jewelry store. Muggsy and his gang hide out at the Jetsons’. Astro gnaws through the rope tying him up and fetches the police who make the arrest. Astro histrionically explains to a TV interviewer how he helped catch the criminals. I like how Astro’s the hero here. Hmm. Cumbersome heroic dog that pronounces every word starting with an “r.” It appears that idea got filed away at Hanna-Barbera for future use.

Fernando Montealegre, Rene Garcia and Fernando Arce painted the backgrounds.

Sorry Elroy’s in the way, but you can still see the architecture in the background.

Elroy’s bedroom.

The animators of this cartoon are Carlo Vinci and Hugh Fraser. I can’t pick out all of Carlo’s work here, but it’s safe to say the side-to-side wagging heads and the walk cycles with the swinging butts are his (he animated the Flintstones scene in this one). Fraser is always tough for me, but the drawing below is definitely his. He drew a weird take where the eyes would stretch up. He doesn’t go as overboard here as he did in some of the TV Popeyes he animated in 1960.

And here’s a neat vibrating bash take.

This rubbery-nosed head shake ends with George’s little eyes.

A shock take. It reminds me a bit of those fuzzy-hair takes that Jim Tyer drew at Terrytoons.

Some exits.

Camera error! Look at the kids’ eyes. This was part of a cycle so it shows up at least twice in the cartoon.

Laughs? Well, I still like the gag where Astro describes the criminal to a sketch artist, who ultimately draws a picture of the desk sergeant. Old, obvious? Yeah. But I laughed anyway.

Shep Menken guest stars as the voice of Muggsy Megaton. He’s one of those H-B bad guys with his hand in his pocket. Menken also plays the court sketch artist and Chet Sprinkly. Don Messick also guests as Astro, the giggling gorilla and various other characters. Janet Waldo gets to do an extra voice and appears as Miss Brainmocker, the robot teacher.

Hoyt Curtin’s score includes “Rise and Shine,” the original Flintstones theme, when Kenny is watching Fred land on Barney in the swimming pool.

Other credits:
Animation Director – Charles Nichols.
Layout – Irv Spector, Willie Ito, Jacques Rupp.
Camera – Frank Paiker, Norm Stainback, Roy Wade, Chuck Flekal.
Film Editor – Greg Watson, Joe Ruby.
Story Supervision – Arthur Pierson.
Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.

Willie Ito and Joe Ruby are still with us.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The British Invasion of Huckleberry Hound

At the start of 1960, there weren’t many options for a Canadian kid who wanted to watch cartoons on TV if their rooftop antenna or set-top rabbit ears didn’t pull in an American station. There was the CBC. That was pretty much it. Cartoons meant Quick Draw McGraw on late Monday afternoons and Huckleberry Hound on late Wednesday afternoons. Well, there was Disney, too, on Saturday nights, but cartoons appeared only on occasion. That was it on the dear old CBC.

The Huck show was practically an instant hit in the U.S., and Screen Gems didn’t waste time having it distributed in foreign countries (and dubbed into other languages where needed). Canada was just one English-speaking land where kids laughed and smiled over the antics of the blue dog and a meece-hating cat. So was the United Kingdom.

That brings us to this story in the London-based publication Television Mail, announcing what appears to be an expansion of Huck’s show in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It’s from the October 14, 1960 edition. There’s no byline, so the story could be from publicity materials. The last two paragraphs are pretty much what was contained in part of a United Press story quoting Joe Barbera published before this. (As an aside, Pattee Chapman’s name is mentioned. I can’t tell from the few samples of her voice that I’ve heard if she was the unidentified female voice in a few Yogi Bear cartoons during the 1958-59 season).

Oddly, there’s no mention of The Flintstones, which was already on the air in North America by this time. And Barbera gets positively philosophical about children wishing to travel back in time. That’s ironic as there are a number of adults who want to travel back to when they were children, waxing on about cereal, lamenting the death of cartoons on Saturday mornings (even though they haven’t watched TV then in maybe 20 years) and getting weepy about some animated series which, really, were not very good. There should be no such nostalgia for Huck, Yogi and their late ‘50s Hanna-Barbera compatriots. The cartoons still stand on their own as entertainment. After all, adults watched them, too, way back when.

For whatever odd reason, though the story is supposed to be about Huck and his show, the only drawing accompanying it was a set-up of Yogi Bear and Boo Boo from “Papa Yogi,” animated by George Nicholas.

Huckleberry Hound Comes To ITV
TELEVISION’S first exclusive cartoon character, Huckleberry Hound, has taken another big bite in the British market. A-R plans to show the Screen Gems series from October 21, with networking to Scotland and Ulster. Thirty-nine programmes will go out on Fridays at 5.25 p.m.
The Hound’s creators, Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna, used to sketch eight “Tom and Jerry” shorts a year. Now, to satisfy television’s enormous appetite, they turn out more than 150 cartoons annually.
Hanna and Barbera have built up a unique personality for each of a zoo of characters necessary to fill these films.
Copes with all
“Like Huckleberry Hound himself,” explains Barbera. “He’s slow-moving but nothing floors him. He takes on bank robbers, dragons and amorous cocker spaniels with the same steady determination.”
Other personalities in the series include Yogi Bear, who continually tries to find some peace and quiet in a landscaped bedlam called Jellystone National Park. There there’s Mr. Jinks, a tomcat whose vocal inflections give evidence of his training at a “modern” acting school.
“A cartoon hero is never limited by restrictions of space or time,” explains Barbera. “Yogi Bear can take enough buckshot in his hide to lay out a dozen real bears, then laugh in the hunter’s face. Huck Hound is anything he wants to be—a cowboy or cave man.”
Barbera feels that this disrespect is what lends an animated cartoon its charm.
“By a time a youngster is old enough to think for himself he has discovered that life has pretty strict boundaries. Touch something hot and you get burnt. Hit your head on the floor and you raise a nasty bump.
“The child wishes it weren’t so. He would like to fly, travel back in time, or defeat a bully twice his size. But he can do these things only in fantasy. “In a cartoon, his fantasy is acted out before him—and he’s utterly delighted.”
Like many other TV creators, Hanna and Barbera began their career in motion pictures. Before turning their interests to video, the two producers had already made their mark with “Tom and Jerry.” Together, Hanna and Barbera turned out over 200 of these cat-and-mouse adventures for MGM. It won for them seven Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Oscars.
Hanna and Barbera Productions are now producing three TV cartoon series for Screen Gems, “Huckleberry Hound,” “Ruff and Ready,” [sic] and their newest cartoon brainchild, “Quick Draw McGraw.”
Oddly enough, neither Hanna nor Barbera began their careers as cartoonists or artists. The former graduated as an engineer, but tired of this work and took an art course before joining a cartoon studio. They met later when Barbera joined the organisation from his job as trust accountant. [Barbera left Irving Trust to work at Van Beuren and Terrytoons before meeting Hanna at MGM].
Twenty-one years after they teamed up the two men are still busily creating, and sharing the same office in one corner of a brick studio Charlie Chaplin built in Hollywood. The company today has more than 400 people on its payroll.
With producer-director George Sidney, Hanna and Barbera Productions was formed in 1957, with a handful of employees.
They entered TV at a time when it was considered impossible to produce original cartoons exclusively for television. The costly animation process remained a stumbling block. Consequently viewers of TV only saw old theatrical cartoons, many of which would fit into the economics of the medium—without sacrificing quality.
Employing simplified processes, the Hanna-Barbera team brought the first successful original animation to television.
The two men looked over hundreds of pen and ink illustrations (all their own) until they came upon Huck. In this rawboned pooch was the mixture of not 12 breeds, but at least 30 canine blood lines.
After thousands of individual drawings of Huckleberry in various poses, and the voice of Daws Butler had been dubbed into the lungs of the canine creation, Huck was ready for his big moment.
Success has bred success, and some of the most sought-after thespians in Hollywood are experts in characterisations.
According to Barbera there is a real dearth of voices. People like Daws Butler, Don Messick, June Foray and Patty Chapman [sic] can name their terms and jobs, the demand for them is so acute. It stems from the new surge of cartoon production not only in TV cartoon shows but also for a rash of cartoon commercials. Hanna and Barbera Productions alone employ over 110 speaking characters!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Sounds of Jonny Quest

Hoyt Curtin’s crowning achievement at Hanna-Barbera may have been the tracking library he wrote for Jonny Quest. His cues evoked adventure, suspense, danger, triumph, exotic locations and whimsical comedy. And Warner Leighton, Larry Cowan, Ken Spears and the rest of the film editing crew did an incomparable job matching Curtin’s cues to the action on screen.

Fans of the series have been puzzled for years why Rhino records or someone never released a CD of the Quest music, considering how incredibly popular it is among Hanna-Barbera fans. Surely it would be an instant seller. I once asked the late Earl Kress about it; Earl helped assemble the Hanna-Barbera Rhino CDs and had gone through the master recordings of the Quest cues. I can’t remember his answer but it doesn’t matter now. A release of the music is finally coming. Not a bootleg (there are several of them out there) but an official release.

La-La Land Records is joining with Warner Bros., the company that owns the remnants of Hanna-Barbera, to release a two CD set of 106 pieces of music used in the series. Three producers and a re-masterer have worked on this project, which also includes liner notes by Jon Burlingame and Jeff Bond (ah, if only Earl were still with us). Originally, Curtin titled almost every cue with an alpha-numeric but this set has dubbed each one with a name.

The complete Quest library has more than 106 pieces of music but I imagine the longer and best-known cues have been picked for release. (For example, the masters in the Hanna-Barbera music vault had alternate versions and inserts for the main title theme).

I can’t vouch for the quality of the CDs because I haven’t heard them and, to be honest, I had never heard of the company until cartoon musicologist Greg Ehrbar alerted me to it. But people have been waiting for this music for a long time and I hope fans won’t be disappointed.

Greg has provided a link to the releases here.

I suspect fans will now be clamouring for Ted Nichols’ cues for Space Ghost and The Herculoids next. Nichols is overshadowed by Curtin but came up with solid work for the action-adventure shows of the mid-to-late ‘60s.

Jonny Quest Main Title (without sfx)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Yakky Doodle – It’s a Duck’s Life

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Art Davis, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Chopper – Vance Colvig, Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon, Hunter – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Chopper tries to stop Yakky from being shot by his owner.

At one point during this cartoon, Yakky Doodle asks a hunter pointing a rifle at him “Are you going to take my picture?” then starts walking along the barrel of the weapon and continues “Hey! What kind of a camera is this? That’s a telephone lens, isn’t it? It is f/3.5 or f/1.9?”

While it’s amusing to hear a little duck talk about apertures, why is it he knows about camera stops but he hasn’t a clue what a camera looks like? Or that has no idea what hunting season is? I realise Yakky is supposed to be na├»ve, but he should at least be consistent.

The hunter is no Mensa member either. He has no idea that duck has climbed onto his rifle and is talking to him. He still thinks the duck is sitting at the end of his barrel, ready to be shot. Shouldn’t he be able to see the duck isn’t there? Oh, wait. Judging by the animation, he’s firing a gun with both eyes closed.

While we’re at it, Chopper’s not exactly full of brain power, either. He doesn’t want to hurt Yakky’s feelings by telling him a hunter wants to kill him, so instead he tells the duck to get lost because they’re not friends any more. End result: he hurts Yakky’s feelings anyway. So why not be honest with the little duck and move the story in that direction?

Well, enough of the plot holes. If you like Chopper’s loyalty to Yakky, you may like this cartoon. If you’re looking for comedy, well, there isn’t really much here. There are echoes of other cartoons. The hunter has a Southern accent, similar to the owner of Belvedere the dog in the Warners cartoon Doggone South (1950, written by Mike Maltese). In fact, the line “Oh, Chopper! Come here, boy!” is lifted from it. Chopper’s protection of Yakky is faintly recollective of the Marc Antony and Pussyfoot cartoons at Warners (written by Maltese). Closer to home, the plot is lifted from the Yakky cartoon Duck Hunting, with Douglas the slow dog in the Chopper role. Yakky disguised as a wind-up toy to fool the hunter reminds me of a gag used somewhere else, while the character-in-the-mouth-lights-a-match came from any number of cartoons.

The cartoon ends with everything aright. Chopper makes Yakky into a paper airplane and throws him into the sky. The hunter gets a bead on him. Chopper swings like Tarzan to pluck the duck from the sky. The hunter shoots apart Chopper’s rope. Chopper falls on top of his hunter/owner, who gives up and goes home. Chopper explains his actions to Yakky and their friendship is restored.

Oh, there’s one other thing. The hunter’s gun sprayed buck shot all over Chopper’s butt. Yes, another Hanna-Barbera Butt Violation joke. “Takin’ out this buckshot with these tweezers is going to hurt me more than it does you,” says Yakky, who then laughs at his own lame and nonsensical joke. Art Davis gives the duck a sly little look. It’s the nicest part of his animation here. Earlier, he had Chopper breaking into sobs that looks so choppy, it’s like the camera department left out some of his drawings.

The oddest thing about Mike Maltese’s plot is the presence of an owner. It’s clear from the doghouse and dish in other cartoons that someone owns Chopper, but generally he talks and walks around on two legs like a human. In this cartoon, he goes from an upright character when dealing with Yakky, to one on four legs like a real dog when he’s being ordered around by his owner.

Dick Thomas painted the backgrounds and provides viewers some decorative fall flowers, though stations weren’t broadcasting prints of the show in colour in 1961.

Hoyt Curtin’s music is familiar; the cartoon opens with his tinkly, interrupted version of “Brahms’ Lullaby.”