Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Flintstones Weekend Comics, August 1966

The Flintstones newspaper comic gave Hanna-Barbera the perfect chance to give the movie The Man Called Flintstone some free publicity.

Variety announced on January 26, 1966 the film was going into production. It must have been rushed; it was revealed by the trade paper at the end of March that Paul Frees had been signed to do voice work, and the voice track is usually done even before any animation is started. The movie was released in August.

The August 14, 1966 Sunday comic was based on the movie. I like how the director is called “J.B.” Where have I seen those initials before?

The colour versions for this month 50 years ago were supplied by Richard Holliss. Dino is absent in all four comics and Pebbles isn’t central to the plot in any of them for a change.

August 7, 1966.

August 14, 1966. Fred shoots a hole in someone?

August 21, 1966.

August 28, 1966.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Snagglepuss – Royal Rodent

Writer Mike Maltese found a way to populate the Snagglepuss series—by borrowing characters he had used in other series. Thus is it that Snagglepuss met up with the future Yakky Doodle; Snuffles, from the Quick Draw McGraw cartoons; the J. Evil Scientist family from the Snooper and Blabber cartoons and Bigelow the mouse from the Augie Doggie series.

Bigelow may be the least remembered of the lot. Basically, it was Doug Young doing a Jimmy Cagney impression. The tough guy mouse appeared with Snagglepuss twice, Yakky Doodle once and in three Loopy De Loop cartoons.

In Royal Rodent, the King (Daws Butler) loves cheese. So does Bigelow, who keeps stealing it. So the King hires Snagglepuss to get rid of him. Next follows some gags that seem like watered-down Warner Bros. material, followed by Snagglepuss scaring Bigelow out of the castle by telling corny jokes that would have had him booed off a small-time vaudeville stage. The cartoon ends with Snagglepuss hired as the court jester, whose jokes the King never hears after making sure he’s wearing ear muffs to block out the sound.

Snagglepuss is home writing the King when his servant comes to retrieve him for employment:

Snagglepuss: Dear Kingy, it doth behoove me—or is it “beehive me?” No matter—I’m writin’ you for the tenth time offerin’ my services in whatever capacity you deem my talents fit.

The gags:
● Snagglepuss puts out a piece of cheese outside Bigelow’s hole as bait, ready to bash him with a fly swatter when he emerges. “I’ll give him swat for! Who knows? I may even be knightied for this. Or pyjamaed even!” Instead, Bigelow saws the floor under Snagglepuss. Down goes our hero. Bigelow laughs and grabs the cheese. Reponsds Snagglepuss: “He who laughs last laughs who. Or he who laughs who he. Best laughs he who who he. Be, skip it.”
● Snagglepuss rolls a bowling ball toward Bigelow’s hole. The mouse pushes out a spring which sproings the bowling ball back and knocks down the King.
● “Come and get it! Free cheese for everybody!” shouts Snagglepuss, who then boards up Bigelow’s hole when the mouse runs to get it. Snagglepuss then slaps down on him with the fly swatter. Bigelow ends up in the King’s crown. You know what happens next. Like in an old Tweety cartoon, Snagglepuss tries bashing the mouse but clobbers the King instead.

● Bigelow challenges Snagglepuss to a duel (Bigelow with a sword, Snagglepuss with the fly swatter). Snagglepuss decides “to appeal to his sense of humour” and lets out with some groaners while they’re dueling. “Say, didja heard the one about the janitor’s son, didja? His father left home so the elevator man brought him up. Then there was the horse who ate the bail or wire by mistake. You know what happened to him? He went haywire!” That’s enough to scare Bigelow away. A couple of reaction drawings.

Also included in the dialogue:

Exit, anticipatin’ all the way, stage left.
Exit, do-it-yourselfing all the way, stage right.
Heavens to pincushion! (and there’s a murgatroyd in there as well)
What shall it be, a buckswashlin’ musketeer?

There seems to have been a real problem matching colours. Look at Snagglepuss’ head and arm (which move). They’re darker than his body (which doesn’t move).

There are no credits on the cartoon. Bigelow has at least five head positions during dialogue. The characters roll their heads while talking on occasion, so Dick Lundy may be the animator. I like the design on the King’s attendant (played by Doug Young).

Hoyt Curtin’s music includes a few short pieces heard on The Flintstones. It sounds like there’s a lot of a bass clarinet in the underscore.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cartoon Voice Acting Changed

Daws Butler never really stopped working until he died in 1988. If he wasn’t providing voiceovers, he was providing help and encouragement to the generation of voice actors that would follow him.

Daws’ heyday was the 1950s. The decade was bookended with A Time For Beany on one end and Rocky and his Friends on the other. In between were comedy records and radio shows with Stan Freberg, cartoon commercial work and, as we know, starring roles in just about every Hanna-Barbera series. Daws didn’t get a lot of starring work after 1960; Joe Barbera wanted to expand the studio’s voice repertory company and not rely on a handful of actors, so others were brought in. But he did his old characters when they were needed and originated a few new voices (some of which sounded similar to his old ones).

Best of all, Daws lived to see some recognition in the popular press for the great entertainment he provided. Here’s a feature story from the Associated Press that appeared in newspapers starting November 20, 1978. TV cartoons simply weren’t as good as they had been for a variety of reasons, and Daws reflects a bit on that.

Huckleberry Voice Stays In Hiding
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Daws Butler has been on TV 30 years. But viewers never see him acting in a show. Then who is he? Try Huckleberry Hound. And Yogi Bear. And Quick-Draw McGraw. And Capt. Crunch.
He's the voice of those cartoon stars of Saturday kid shows. Old kids now posing as adults heard him in the great Jay Ward cartoon era, in "Fractured Fairy Tales," "Aesop's Fables" and "Superchicken."
This man of several hundred voices currently has 15 playing in four Hanna-Barbera cartoon shows Saturday on all three networks. And he has another one coming at night to CBS on Thursday, Nov. 30.
It's for Andy in a holiday special, "Raggedy Ann and Andy in the Great Santa Claus Caper."
Butler, 62, a small, merry-faced man born in Toledo, Ohio and raised in Oak Park, Ill., doesn't regret he's never seen on his shows.
"I think maybe I was smart," he laughs." You're not typed this way. My whole bit is multi-voice. Of course, I tend to get confused by my own voice."
Daws never set out to speak funny. He wanted to write funny, inspired by such masters as Robert Benchley, H. Allen Smith, Frank Sullivan and Fred Allen, whose works fill his library today.
He's authored funny commercials, dialogue for a voice workshop he runs and, in the 1950s, co-wrote one of the first comedy record hits, "St. George and the Dragonet," with satirist Stan Freburg [sic].
But his voice, in that "Dragnet" spoof, remains his chief asset, though when at mikeside he also tries to do what he calls "writing on your feet." No, it doesn't mean his scripts have laces. It means he improvises, ad-libs and generally tries to make the character he's doing sound unique and spontaneous.
Butler, who began his career as an impressionist, was in radio after World War II with serious roles on such shows as "The Whistler" and "Dr. Christian." He started cartoon voicing at MGM later on.
He began in TV with Freburg in 1948 at KTLA here, in an Emmy-winning local puppet program "Time for Beany," which in its five years gained a show-biz reputation as a very hip kind of Punch and Judy show.
"It was full of Hollywood in-jokes," he recalled with a grin, full of sophisticated craziness that also marked "Fractured Fairy Tales" and the early Hanna-Barbera shows he did 10 years later.
There was a lot of freedom then to improvise, to experiment, he said, "because television was new and we were the people who had the answers. And they came to us and we gave the answers."
In effect, the inmates ran the asylum. Now, he said, a bit sadly, the advertising agencies and networks seem to want things tidy, carefully controlled and pasteurized. The unpredictable is a no-no.
Talent still abounds, he said, "but they're not allowed to do as much as they're capable of doing. It's the straightening out of the (cartoon) characters, of everything being so planned now.
"The excitement to me was having it happen in the studios. You were adding something to the product, putting something in the stew, and made it better." He seemed momentarily gloomy. His face brightened when it was suggested humor and satire seem to flourish when they seem most endangered. "Come to think of it, I'm doing dialect in a new show," he said. Although ethnic groups in the past have griped about the use of various dialects, he said he never uses dialect to make fun of anyone. "I always do it with love, but dialect has been taboo for about five years. So maybe we are getting our sense of humor back." He beamed. "Who knows, we could be in for a Renaissance."

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Jetsons – Elroy’s TV Show

TV is a vast wasteland, Newton Minow said. TV is too violent and tasteless, said numerous bluenose special interest groups. Well, in the future, that’s all changed.

Warren Foster’s story for Elroy’s TV Show is highlighted by a wonderful satire of what things would be like if Minow and the other do-gooders got their way, and television broadcast nothing but classical music concerts, live drama and nature documentaries.

Mr Transistor: I’ve just read these scripts you guys turned in as ideas for a new show. There’s not one of them worth doing. TV Geometry lessons! Chemistry course! Animals of the World! What are you trying to do to me?
Writer 2: Ah, but chief, those shows are all educational.
Transistor: Educational! Whatever happened to entertainment?
Writer 2: Well, we’ve been writing educational programmes for so long...
Writer 3: We’ve forgotten entertainment.
Writer 1: Our mission has been to educate people.
Transistor: You’ve educated them so much, they’re too smart to watch TV.
Writer 2: How about a cowboy series?
Writer 1: Or a doctor programme?
Transistor: Hmmm. It’s tempting, but we don’t dare start that stuff again. That’s what brought on educational programmes.
Later, at the Jetsons’ apartment:
Transistor: I’m Mr Transistor, president of Asteroid TV Productions.
Jane: Oh, I don’t watch TV any more. It’s over my head. Why don’t you bring back doctor and cowboy shows?
The plot’s easy to sum up. Transistor and his lazy writers see Elroy and Astro and picture a Lassie-type show. (“But, boss, it’s got to be educational.” “It is, it is! It teaches a lesson—be nice to your dog and he won’t bite you.”) Astro’s non-plussed about the whole idea but signs anyway. George decides to become Elroy’s manager and is such a pest, Transitor puts him in Elroy’s show, where he’s attacked by a robot. George quits and Elroy decides he’d rather go home and watch TV. Meanwhile, Spacely’s wife (Jean Vander Pyl does a great job with her snooty voice) demands that he get a TV show for their son, Arthur (Dick Beals in a very good outing). Arthur ends up taking over the show, pest Spacely gets put in the show and attacked by the robot. But he won’t quit. (“What? And give up show biz? Never.”). The robot attack continues off camera to end the cartoon.

Besides Foster’s great satire, I really enjoy the artwork in this cartoon. Art Lozzi painted some of the backgrounds from Dick Bickenbach’s layouts. The blue trees are pretty much a Lozzi trademark. And, yes, they showed the ground in part of the cartoon.

These two frames are the beginning and ending of a long background pan. Notice how the road is empty. Why is a road there anyway? In all the Jetsons cartoons, people drive in the atmosphere.

The same here. Lozzi uses a bit of yellow to break up the monotony of the blue colours.

More exteriors.

The last third of the cartoon takes place on Jupiter. I don’t know who did the backgrounds here but they’re great. Wonderfully bleak. Browns and purples. Here’s the start of another pan.

And here’s part of the rest of the pan snipped together. I couldn’t do all of it and make the colours match.

And more of Jupiter. Elroy’s dressing room is on an overlay, as is the slab of stone on the right side of the cave, as well as the big rock in the foreground of the last painting.

Inventions. There’s the televisor system to spy on workers, a nuclear-powered drone that carries drinks to your table, a radio communicator to speak to your child away from home (no need to dial a cell phone number), a masking film across a door that allows you to see the silhouette of a person to help you decide whether you want to let them in.

An electric train set is, naturally, in the air. Secretaries are robots (but still take coffee breaks). People travel from office to office in a pneumatic tube. And windows are automatically washed and squeegeed clean by pushing a button.

Some character designs. Arthur Spacely and his dog Zero.

The evil robot.

And Mrs. Spacely. Her diamond ring appears only when needed for a scene; it disappears the rest of the time.

I couldn’t tell you who animated this cartoon. My wild guess is whoever it was, they did the whole show. I didn’t see any variation in character drawings.

George doesn’t meet up with a traffic cop in this cartoon, but he does have trouble getting onto the freeway. I like how pieces of his car break off as he tries to shove his way into traffic.

George O’Hanlon, Penny Singleton, Daws Butler and Janet Waldo are here, along with Don Messick in a pile of roles, the forementioned Vander Pyl and, of course, Mel Blanc as Spacely. There’s a screw-up in one scene where the wrong writer’s voice comes out of the wrong mouth.

Hoyt Curtin’s score perks along in the usual fashion.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Where the Flintstones Live (Kind of)

There was a time, and maybe it hasn’t gone away, when dad would hook up the trailer to the back of the car, stuff the kids in the backseat and head out on the open road for days on end for adventures in trailer parks, campsites and tourist traps.

It was a time when a monstrously high wooden Fred or Dino would beckon you to drive on in and buy all kinds of knick-knacks and visit a representation of the very town of Bedrock you see on TV.

Yes, we’re talking about Flintstones tourist sites.

One was north of Rutland, B.C. on the main highway. It was torn down to make room for a shopping centre. Freddy’s Brew Pub is on the site; need we tell you who Freddy was? Another was east of Chilliwack, B.C. on the Trans-Canada Highway and was turned into a generic Stone Age park due to some trademark issues.

Two others were in the U.S., one in South Dakota and another in the middle of nowhere in Arizona. A reader asked me three years ago about the last mentioned one. I wrote a post and didn’t have an answer, so the post went on hold. Well, I still don’t have an answer, but I’ll up the post anyway.

Bedrock City has a website that looks like it was designed to run on Netscape 3.0. Appropriate for the Stone Age, I guess. You can go to it here. Someone pointed me in the direction of an internet post of November 2012 where the resort was looking pretty run down. You can see the full set of photos here.

The real Bedrock never looked so barren, did it? The houses have helpful signs to let you know which characters lived there. This one belonged to “the policeman.” Maybe that’s the traffic cop from the opening animation during the first two seasons that almost nobody remembered or saw for years. There is a mailbox out front.

The Rubble abode. Betty has eyes from “Cow and Chicken.” Maybe that series couldn’t get its own fun park.

The Flintstones’ house. It appears the record-playing needle-bird has flown away.

Bedrock transportation. The onion-shaped thing with a doughnut on top is a school. Something tells me it wasn’t designed by Ed Benedict. Note the school bell behind the school bus.

Here’s a theatre where, apparently, Flintstones cartoons were shown in an endless cycle. We can only presume they were on VHS. It is the Stone Age, after all. Nice buckets outside the door.

A year ago, news reports had the 30-acre chunk of land for sale at $2 million. Lots of stories were written about it but there doesn’t appear to have been a follow-up piece about whether anyone bought it. You can read more about it here.