Saturday, August 19, 2017

Yakky Doodle in Foxy Duck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Art Davis, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig; Fibber Fox, Hen – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Fibber Fox pretends to be Yakky’s mother to try to eat him.

There’s nothing like the incongruity of a fox talking to an elephant in a circus from a phone conveniently on a pole in someone’s yard. That’s why I like this cartoon even though there are some stale puns and Yakky’s motivation doesn’t make sense in one part of the cartoon.

This cartoon introduced Fibber Fox. Fibber is, far and away, my favourite character in the Yakky cartoons. Mike Maltese tried to write some buddy-buddy cartoons where stuff would happen to Chopper the dog. They just don’t work for me. Still worse, Chopper never really has a verbal comeback like Doggie Daddy when things used to happen to him. The cartoons really needed a wisecracking antagonist who talks to the audience/himself and Fibber fits the bill with varying rates of success.

Daws Butler insisted Fibber’s voice had its basis in Shelly Berman’s. I don’t hear it; the pitch and inflections are different but who am I to argue with the guy who created the voice? One thing that Fibber has in common with Berman is both did routines with an unheard voice on the other end of the phone. Fibber does that here
Fibber: Hello, Whitney? Fibber. How are things at the zoo? About the same, huh. Have much of a crowd Sunday? No, huh. Well, you know, things are tough all over, yeah. People don’t go for the zoo bit any more. They stay home and look at each other, hah. It’s different with you, Whitney. You’re an elephant. You work for peanuts.
The first half of the cartoon has a nice little routine where Fibber covers Chopper’s ears with a pair of muffs to the dog can’t hear him stealing chickens. Yakky comes along and thinks he’s listening to a radio through headphones.
Yakky: Hello, Chopper! What’s you listening to? Is it a radio show? Is it shortwave? Do you use transistors? May I listen too, please? (Yakky takes earmuffs and wears them). That’s funny. I don’t hear anything. Maybe there’s a loose connection or something.
(Fibber sees Yakky with the ear muffs)
Fibber: Oh, for heaven’s sake, no!
Yakky: Hey, I think I hear something. Somebody just said “Oh, for heaven’s sake, no!”
(Chopper dashes into the scene and threatens Fibber, who is resigned to his fate).
Yakky: What did you say? (noise and camera shakes) Wait a minute! I think I’ve got something at last. Yeah! It’s the fights. Wow-wee! Boy, oh, boy, what a battle. What a battle!
Chopper: You can take those things off now, sonny.
Yakky: Wait a minute. I want to hear who won the fight.

The camera cuts to a beat up Fibber who proclaims Chopper the winner and then passes out.

Part two of the cartoon starts off oddly. Chopper tells Yakky “You can call me Chopper.” But he did during the whole first half of the cartoon. We’ll skip the sentimental dialogue between the two and jump to where Fibber shows up in a duck costume (top half only) claiming to be Yakky’s mother.

Yakky: Are you my mama?
Fibber: Of course I’m your mama. Who’d you think I was, Yogi Bear?
Yakky: Well, I don’t know.
Now anyone familiar with Yakky and the cartoon ducks that preceded him at Hanna-Barbera and the Hanna-Barbera unit at MGM before that know they all cried in self-pity that they didn’t have a mama. Well, now that Yakky has one, he refuses to obey “her.” It would make sense if the story indicated the duck knew it was Fibber in disguise, but it doesn’t. In fact, he appears completely convinced. So why is he refusing to do what his mother asks? “I won’t! I won’t! I absolutely refuse” he yells. “I’m going to stand on my head and let all the blood rush right to my brain and [something] it.” He flips over and then angrily addresses the viewers at home. “Good bye, everybody!”

Oh, here comes the snivelling. Chopper lies that he isn’t Yakky’s friend so the duck will go with his mother. He cries. Yakky cries.

Fibber: What! Are you two bucking for the Academy Award this year?
The fake mama cons Chopper into giving him chickens to “save” Yakky from Fibber. Suddenly, the phone rings. Yakky answers. It’s Whitney for Fibber. “I’ll take that call, boy,” says the fox still dressed as a duck. Uh, oh. Fibber’s had a momentary lapse. It kind of comes out of nowhere.

Anyway, Fibber thought he was getting a chicken dinner. Instead, he’s getting dessert. “Well, you might call it that. My just desserts.” Fibber gets clobbered. There’s another weak “peanuts” pun at the end which so amuses the protagonists that they laugh to end the cartoon.

I wish I could say there was interesting artwork or movement in this cartoon, but there isn’t. We get a ghost drawing from Art Davis when Fibber rushes off screen. There are a few Flintstones cues on the soundtrack, including the trombone piece that was used every time Fred or someone had a sob story.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, August 1967

Betty Rubble really was the Trixie Norton of the Flintstones. On The Honeymooners, all the action centred around Ralph and Alice or Ralph and Norton. What was there for Trixie to do? She was Alice’s sounding board and, um, uh, well, not much else.

Betty at least got a little more screen time than Trixie because there was an I Lovy Lucy-esque dynamic on the cartoon show on occasion with Wilma and Betty plotting stuff together.

In the weekend newspaper comics, though, stories were built around Fred and Wilma or Pebbles. Betty disappeared for weeks and weeks. Finally, she resurfaces (with a stylish sun hat) after a prolonged absence in the comics in the August 6, 1967 edition. Then she disappears for the rest of the month.

Looking elsewhere in August 50 years ago, the writers were now incorporating Fred’s dad “Pops” into stories, and he turns up on the 27th (and an Emergency Phone! How Stone Age). There’s another Pebbles-takes-things-literally storyline on August 13th. The following week is devoted to a toll bridge gag, with a couple of dinosaurs looking on approvingly in the opening panel.

Note Dino peering in the opening panel in the first comic. It’s the only time we see him this month.

Thanks to Richard Holliss for the colour comics from his collection.

August 6, 1967.

August 13, 1967.

August 20, 1967.

August 27, 1967.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Snagglepuss in Lions Share Sheriff

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – George Nicholas, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Panicked Man, Purple Hat Cowboy, Bartender – Daws Butler; Raindance Kid, Old Sheriff, White Hat Cowboy – Doug Young.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1960 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: New sheriff Snagglepuss tangles with the Raindance Kid, who vows to shoot a sheriff to celebrate his birthday.

Just for fun, when I pulled out this cartoon to watch it, I decided to start at a random frame. This was it.

And, even though I’m lousy at identifying animators, I knew exactly who did this cartoon. George Nicholas loved those stunned little beady-eyed looks. And he loved little horseshoe-shaped mouths in dialogue.

Nicholas was into big, floppy tongues, too, but we don’t get any in this cartoon. We get some nice ghosting multiples when characters zip off scene. The outlines either follow the character or dissolve on screen. You’ll notice how some of drawings are of the character turning.

I love the world-weary look he gives Snagglepuss. He did the same thing with the orange Snagglepuss in the Quick Draw McGraw cartoons. Snagglepuss’ eyes are half-closed with his head tilted.

Once again, Mike Maltese comes up with a funny premise and the odd turns of phrase you expect from him when he’s at his best. The cartoon opens with a new sheriff addresses his throng (all three of them) promising to run the town like it’s never been run before. A shot-up citizen runs into the plot exclaiming (to the background music of “Pop Goes the Weasel”) that the Raindance Kid plans to shoot a sheriff for his 35th birthday. The sheriff promised to run and he does—right out of the cartoon.

Enter Snagglepuss. “Ah! The west at last. With its spaces. Wide open, even. Its weeds that tumble. Its get-along-little-dogie. How picturesque. How calendar-artie!” The shot-up citizen runs past Snagglepuss, instantly donning him with sheriff’s apparel. Naturally, the mountain lion takes to his authority right away. In a nice little sequence, the smug Snagglepuss fires a bullet into the air. In an amazing display of competence, it ricochets off a horseshoe above a blacksmith shop’s door, the horseshoe lands on a horse, who kicks an anvil into the air that drops on the Raindance Kid. “Twas a mere nothin’,” he tells the cheering throng of three. “A paltry piddlin’ pittance of pistol practise, even.”

The next sequence is set in a typical Western saloon. “Bartender! Tender of bars!” shouts Snagglepuss. The revenge-seeking Kid takes the place of the bartender. “What’s your pleasure, sheriff?” “A rousin’ game of tiddlywinks, with loaded tiddles, even. But, instead, I’ll have a triple sasperilla chocolate flip(?) malt, topped with a maraschino olive, if you please.”

The Kid spikes it with tabasco sauce, red pepper, gun powder, liquid nitro glycerine and a dash of TNT. Nicholas animates Snagglepuss with alternating smooth and wavy lines during dialogue before the pink cat shoots into the air.

But the Kid’s plans fowl up. Snagglepuss crashes on top of his head. The throng cheers again in reused animation. “’Twas a mere bag-of-peanuts,” says Snagglepuss, punning on a “mere bagatelle” (who else but Maltese would do that?). “That thing might be loaded,” says to the gun-pointing kid. “What are you tryin’ to do, start a range war or somethin’? Remember, I’m one of the good guys. I’m a rootin’-tootin’, yippee-ki-yo and ki-yea, even. Tumbleweeds and chuckwagon stew, and all that Western jazz.”

The Kid keeps firing until the shot-up citizen tells him to cease because the Kid’s birthday is over. But it turns out the Kid got his days mixed up. Today is really his birthday. “Heavens to Murgatroyd, how many times were you born?” asks Snagglepuss, who makes his getaway via a horse-drawn carriage, resulting in a play on his own catchphrase, “Exit, stage coach,” to end the cartoon.

The soundtrack includes Hoyt Curtin’s version of the William Tell Overture at the end (to which is added the old “Shave-and-a-Haircut” jingle). The rest of the music was used in the underscore of The Flintstones in the first season, where Nicholas spent his time animating instead on the short cartoons. This was the only cartoon in the Snagglepuss series he worked on.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

What is "The Flintstone Syndrome" Anyway?

It may be the most unusual newspaper article about The Flintstones.

It was the cover story in the “TV Week” section of the Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1962.

A chap named Robert Anderson humorously talks about the series, but I really don’t get his point. Let’s set aside he’s enumerating all these gadgets on the show as if they’re brand new, when the series had been on the air for two seasons (it reads like something out of a Screen Gems press release instead of someone who has critiqued the show). He’s conjured up something called “The Flintstone Syndrome” but can’t seem to make up his mind what it is.

The headline calls it one thing, but then doesn’t refer to the example at all in the body of the story. Then it’s described as something else at the top of the story, and something else again at the bottom. The “how can this happen” version at the end makes the most sense and the story could have been pretty funny based on it. Like how do those signals get into Fred’s television set? And how do the cars keep moving for endless blocks (endless thanks to those repeating backgrounds by Monte and Art Lozzi we all love). And what is a “rock pickin’ minute”? Who picks rocks for a minute?

Oh, well. I’m sure Joe and Bill appreciated the free, almost three pages of publicity in a major newspaper.

You’re Watching TV? But the set’s off? You’re probably a victim of ...

A FRIEND of mine has a recurring dream [that's a rerun without a switch in sponsor] in which he is an archaeologist. He is following a native guide into the depths of a cave in the French Alps. It takes days, because he must dust each pebble along the way with a small paint brush. He grows weak with hunger; his guide goes mad and tries to eat an indigestible Brand X frozen dinner. Then—Eureka! He sees what is unmistakably a prehistoric scrawl on a square stone. He dusts it painstakingly with his stub of a paint brush until the legend appears: Welcome to Bedrock, pop. 2,500.
The dream ends there and the poor devil spends the rest of the night pacing the floor, wondering what would have happened next if he had not awakened. This is what psychologists might label The Flintstone syndrome. It comes from watching a certain cartoon series on channel 7 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. It is rare, however, because millions follow the show and get nothing more serious than a case of hiccups from laughing.
Yet it’s easy to see how The Flintstones, created by cartoonists Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, might slink in and sort of set up housekeeping in one’s subconscious. Of all the highly successful Hanna and Barbera cartoons [Tom and Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, etc., etc., etc., etc.], the Flintstones, which will start its third year on TV next fall, goes farthest toward creating a little world of its own.
ITS chief characters, Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble, live in the Stone Age suburb of Bedrock. Fred is a likeable loudmouth, very like Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners; Barney might pass for a neolithic Art Carney.
The enchanting twist is that they have Stone Age versions of all the modern conveniences.
The pickup for the hi-fi is a bird with a needle-sharp beak. The lawnmower is a grass-gobbling lizard in a harness. There are stone slab newspapers, stone TV sets, stone pianos, and “electric” shavers of clamshell with a buzzing bee inside.
They have movies [made in Hollyrock, where the big stars are Cary Granite and Rock Pile], Stonehenge drive-in restaurants and pterodactyl air liners. Flintstone plots parody modern fads and fancies in good humor. One time Fred wants to be an astronaut [blasting off from a catapult], another he’s a rock ‘n’ roll singer.
In one memorable episode, Wilma was “discovered” by Hollyrock and was going to become a big movie star. Fred, with typical bluster, insisted on being her manager. He quit his job after telling his boss off and began promoting. As usual, he ruined her chances and wound up eating a mammoth portion of humble pie. SUCH goings on have made the show so popular with adults and youngsters alike and it may last until the next ice age.
It’s great fun so long as you don’t start taking it seriously, so long as you don’t begin worrying about what makes those steam-roller automobiles run, or start trying to build a peddle-powered wooden helicopter like Fred’s. Once you do, you’ve developed the Flintstone syndrome—and you could wind up with rocks in the head.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Yakky Doodle in Stamp Scamp

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – C.L. Hartman, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper, Sewer Worker – Vance Colvig. Mouse – ?
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Yakky and Chopper chase after a trading stamp.

Once upon a time, you could go to the store and, depending on how much you spent, you would be handed some S&H Green Stamps. With your joyous cache in hand, you would skip home and paste them in a book. When the book was full of stamps, you could get something for free, things like a transistor radio or a camera or glassware. Like canasta and fondue sets, it was a part of Americana that was huge at one time then faded away (although Green Stamps still exist; you can look it up on the internet). Today, stores give air miles or points, which is kind of the same sort of thing.

The reason I’m going into this background is because I’m trying to avoid talking about this cartoon. Just watching it to the end was a challenge. I don’t care about Yakky Doodle collecting green stamps. I don’t care that a stamp escaped and Chopper chased all over after it. This could have been a really good cartoon if Mike Maltese satirised the American pastime of collecting these things. But he didn’t. And he was bogged down by the two most humorless characters on any of Hanna-Barbera’s half-hours sponsored by Kellogg’s. Neither of them say anything remotely interesting or funny, though I kind of liked the final line. Yakky’s buying something special for Chopper with the stamps. “Well, I hope it’s a first aid kit. ‘Cause I could sure use it.”

Of course, you’d never know it. Chopper doesn’t look any worse because of his experience. He’s drawn the same old way. Not even a scratch. Now, ain’t that cute?

I’ll give Maltese points—or maybe a couple of Green Stamps—for trying something a little different. Yakky isn’t whining for his mother and Chopper isn’t saving him from some third character, unless you count a recalcitrant stamp as a character. On second thought, having Chopper and Fibber Fox battle to redeem stamp books to get bigger things to bash each other would have been funny.

Did Maltese think people couldn’t understand Jimmy Weldon’s Yakky? Why else would Chopper repeat what Yakky says? “I need just one more shopping stamp to fill my book,” the duck shouts to his pal (waking him up in the process). “Ya need one more stamp to fill your book, Yakky?” Why are you asking, Chopper? Didn’t he just say so? Weldon’s diction, by the way, is good. He’s easier to understand than the pre-Yakky voiced by Red Coffey.

Allow me to perform a public service and save you from watching this cartoon. The plot revolves around the fact the licked stamp won’t stay in the book. Here’s what happens. The stamp

● Sticks to Chopper’s finger.
● Sticks to Chopper’s foot.
● Sticks to a flat iron.
● Flies onto a highway when Chopper sneezes and gets stuck to a car tire.
● Rests on a manhole cover which a sewer worker crashes on Chopper’s head.
● Sticks to Chopper’s head before a woodpecker takes it to a nest. Chopper is knocked from the nest by a newly-hatched pecking woodpecker.

● Sticks to a log in a river. Chopper hands the stamp to Yakky in a tree and goes over a waterfall (off camera).

● Sticks to a butterfly, which drops it off on a telephone wire. Apparently the duck has somehow lost the ability to fly because Chopper goes onto the wire with a balancing pole. Unfortunately, the butterfly returns and its massive weight on the pole causes Chopper to fall.
● Sticks to the foot of a mouse that fights with Yakky in a storage shed, kicking the stamp onto the duck’s rear end. Chopper, not realising this, reaches in to the shed, which just happens to have sticks of dynamite. Chopper lights a match. You know what happens next. After the explosion, Chopper spots the stamp. Yakky has his book filled. Hurray.

I’m guessing Vance Colvig is playing the sewer worker who pops up from under the manhole cover. If I had to guess at who is doing the mouse, I’d say it was Doug Young, but I honestly don’t know.

There’s some Loopy De Loop accordion music in this cartoon. I like the cascading piano keys when the stamp floats down to the shed; it was used in a few H-B cartoons but is perfect here.