Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pixie and Dixie - Judo Jack

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse, Mike Lah (uncredited); Layout – Bick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Frank Tipper; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Pixie – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks, Judo Jack – Daws Butler.
Released: October 9, 1958.
Plot: Tired of being bashed on the head with a skillet by Mr. Jinks, Pixie and Dixie hire Judo Jack to teach them how to beat up the cat. Jack does so with one demonstration lesson.

Sure, this isn’t Popeye’s war-time enemy-insult cartoon “You're a Sap, Mr. Jap” or the cringe-inducing “Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips.” But just the idea of a stereotype would stop this from being made today. Judo Jack is made up of stock speech and physical traits assigned to Japanese in the popular media of yore (and even into the ‘60s, such as Joe Jitsu in the abyssmal Dick Tracy U.P.A. cartoons). There's even a quick take (by Mike Lah) where Jinks imitates Jack and takes on his facial characteristics, complete with the obligatory buck teeth, “glasses” and sentence-ending “prease.”

The cartoon opens with a typical right pan over a fun background, full of off-kilter rectangles and diamond-patterned wallpaper, all bathed in a great colour scheme. Oh, and there’s also Jinks hiding with a skillet.

I can’t paste together the full background because the camera trucks back so the perspective changes. However, these two sets of composite shots should give you an idea (sorry the colours don’t match; this is the best I can do with my feeble software without trying to screw with it).



Jinks uses the frying pan on Dixie, who escapes to his hole in the wall, and then Pixie decides on revenge. Pixie scrunches his shoulders and does a sideways stomp out the mouse hole. Several characters used the same kind of stomp cycle in various cartoons; there’s even a running-scared variation in Yogi Bear’s High Fly Guy.



There are some imaginative touches in this little sequence. Like in a Tom and Jerry cartoon, there’s a cute use of ordinary things as makeshift mouse furniture (a matchbook cover as a chair, a thimble as a doorbell). And when the mice are deciding what do about Jinks, Pixie is showing some emotion. He closes his eyes in pain and briefly looks up at his bump a couple of times. You just know in later H-B cartoons, an ugly character would just stand there during a bunch of talk-talk-talk.

One of the things I love about Paul Julian’s backgrounds for Friz Freleng at Warners is how he etched in the names of artists or writers as kind of an in-joke. Here’s a really rare example of it in an H-B cartoon. Look at the name of the exterminator in the Yellow Pages (click to enlarge). Fernando Montealegre was one of the original background artists at H-B and stayed for years. He had been in Mike Lah’s unit at M.G.M. when the cartoon studio closed there.

Charlie Shows gets in a throw-away line: “Nothing but mouse exterminators” that receives a perfect reading from Don Messick; the mice are non-plussed about myriads of companies that would kill them.

Some animation-saving footage follows as Dixie reads the page of the phone book that we can read for ourselves. Dixie calls Judo Jack and the fun begins.



The mice start to get instructions on judo from Jack and decide one brief lesson is all they need to tame Jinks. That proves to be a mistake. But that isn’t the big mistake. There’s a screw-up here as Jinks grabs Dixie, but when the two are talking, Pixie’s voice comes out.

But not only does Dixie magically become Pixie, Jinks magically becomes a Tex Avery character when he reaches into the hole to nab the escaped mice and grabs Jack instead. However, as this is budgeted for television, and not a fully-animated Avery theatrical, only part of the face moves.



Despite that, the best part of the cartoon is some of Jinks’ takes. But is there really a sleeper in judo? Or a pretzel hold? Or a flying spin? Well, it makes for a funnier cartoon. And it’s appropriate, perhaps, considering Judo Jack was the name of a wrestler on early TV. Of course, his real name was neither Jack (he was Charles Van Audenarde), nor was he Japanese (he was Belgian).
Lah animates the cartoon from the pretzel hold to when Jack twirls Jinks off camera. In other words, the best part.





Finally, “resson number one” is over, Jack leaves, and Jinks decides now is the time to get even with the mice by attempting “the old cheese gag.” But Dixie (with Pixie’s voice coming out of him again) dresses as a racial stereotype, complete with “prease” (and “ah so”. How could they miss “honollable” this time?) which scares the cat into running away as our mousey heroes engage in the iris-inducing laughter that would eventually end seemingly-every H-B cartoon.

Stock music fans are in for a treat—your Capitol Hi-Q favourites are here! The track is almost all by Bill Loose and John Seely, with the mandatory Toboggan Run by Jack Shaindlin from Langlois Filmusic tossed in (actually, not all Pixie and Dixies had that piece; it just seems like it). The tick-tock/pop-goes-the-weasel music of Spencer Moore’s can also be heard at the end of the creepy Warner Brothers cartoon Gopher Broke when the psychiatrist lays down next to the freaked-out pig on his couch.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie opening theme (Joe Barbera-Bill Hanna-Hoyt Curtin).
0:27 - TC 201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Dixie, then Pixie, whapped by Jinks's skillet; look in Yellow Pages.
1:42 - TC 202 WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Dixie calls Judo Jack; Jack flips Jinks.
3:03 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jack does it again; Jack gives lessons to Pixie & Dixie.
4:23 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Dixie can't flip Jinks.
4:40 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Jinks chases Pixie and Dixie into hole; Jack bashes Jinks again.
5:20 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks sleeps; Jack pulls Jinks under door.
6:30 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks reaches in mouse hole.
6:45 - L-992 ANIMATION-CHILDREN (Moore) - Dixie comes out of hole disguised as Judo Jack.
6:57 - PIXIE AND DIXIE THEME (Curtin) - Jinks runs away, Meeces laugh. Iris out.
7:11 - Pixie and Dixie closing theme (Curtin).

5 comments:

  1. Speaking of Freleng (-related) in jokes involving names of those at the animation studio, the Barkleys (Depatie Freleng, 1972) had one episode, Lib and Let Lib, where Agnes becomes a bus driver. She's so good that her riders sign a petition and send it to the bus company. On it: names include (signatures of)
    Friz Freleng, Art Leonardi, Gerry Chiniqui, John W. Dunn, Dick Ung, etc.

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  2. Hey, good blog..Yowp...too bad you were in just a few shorts...the Judo Jack character is [stereotypically,natch!] more gentell on Jinks before thrashing him unlike the other mice [Mark O' the Mouse', Tex, Batty,etc.] and other P&D avengers..
    -Steve C.

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  3. This was one of the cartoons which convinced me that there was a double standard at the Turner networks.

    Throughout the late 80s and the 90s, the Turner channels cut more and more Asian-stereotype gags out of the classic WB/MGM/Popeye cartoons, and eventually pulled some of the most stereotype-saturated ones out of the rotation. (I even remember some, like Magical Maestro, being intact in 1997 and gone by 1999!)

    Meanwhile, they never did anything to the Asian stereotype characters in "Judo Jack" and the Flintstones episode "The Prowler", and Shaggy's cringe-worthy Chinese impersonation in the Scooby episode "Mystery Mask Mix-Up."

    Therefore, I concluded that there was a double standard: Turner was fully willing to cut out anything remotely offensive from old theatrical cartoons, but would not dare put the scissors to any of their sacred, holy H-B cartoons.

    If they were willing to let these slide, they should have done the same for, say, Tweety and the Beanstalk...

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  4. Judo Jack was not portrayed a la the WWII "enemy" which would have been topical then in the later 1960 shorts, neither was someone else not mentione,d UPA's then current Jo Jitsu, they were simply stereotyped. Just like Mark of the Mouth, Cousin Tex,etc., were heroes but with "Anglo-Saxon" French, Texas, etc. [respectively] ancestry, Judo was Japanese. It just so happened that this would be un-PC, but he was a good guy character nonetheless.[Didn't stop the 1990 reruns of Dick Tracy with Jo Jitsu form being pulled though,. but that's another studio's cartoon.]

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  5. This is similar to Jerry's Cousin, a T&J cartoon.

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