Saturday, May 2, 2009

Pixie and Dixie — Cousin Tex

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci, Mike Lah; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Jinks, Dixie, Cousin Tex - Daws Butler; Pixie, Cousin Pecos - Don Messick.
Released: week of September 30, 1958.
Plot: Cousin Tex pays a visit and treats Jinks like a horsie. Jinks’ plan to bring in his own Texan relative to retaliate is an (un)expected failure.

Some no-so-polished, goofy poses by Carlo Vinci make this a winning cartoon, though the story-line isn’t terrible funny. The plot is based on Mr. Jinks’ recitation of a Law of the Cartoon Universe at the beginning of the picture:

Jinks: Just remember, wise guys, that mices-beatin’-up-the-cat stuff, uh, happens only in cartoons.
Pixie: He’s so right, Dixie.

And he is right. Whether Jinks knows it or not, this is a cartoon. The cartoon turns out to be about a mouse beating up a cat. The Law is proven correct.

We start with a cartoon within a cartoon, maybe for the first time in television animation history. And it’s stick-figure style animation, like Tex Avery pulled off in Porky’s Preview when the pig unveiled his animated masterpiece for an audience within a cartoon. As you can see in this frame, the limited, black-and-white television drawings still obey the squash-and-stretch principle of theatrical animation.

Jinks doesn’t take kindly to the meece laughing at the cartoon cat’s fate, and decides to chase them (past the same light socket four times) into their hole, first engaging in a foot spin-cycle in mid-air made up of, well, limited “black-and-white” television drawings (were any stations broadcasting in colour when this was released?). We get more of Monty’s speckled painting here, this time on the couch where Pixie and Dixie were watching the cartoon. And we get one of those scare-take cycles made up of two drawings (see this thread).

After the dialogue above, a telegram arrives, which Dixie unnecessarily reads for us. It is at this point, we learn that Pixie and Dixie are somehow related, as Dixie asks “Have we got a cousin in Texas?” At least that explains why they are able to share the same bed in some cartoons without people saying, you know, they’re ‘the Snagglepuss way.’ It doesn’t explain why they have different accents, but maybe that’s in some other cartoon lawbook.

The sausage-shaped Tex then makes his entrance. Look at Dixie’s expression here. This zips by so fast you can’t see it on the screen. But Carlo tossed it in anyway. Think that would happen in a Pebbles and Bamm Bamm cartoon? Nah, they wouldn’t “waste” drawings. Thanks, Carlo.

Daws Butler picked a really interesting voice for Tex. Most cartoon Texans seem to be descended from Yosemite Sam, where the voice is REAL LOUD. Think of Hal Smith as Uncle Tex on The Flintstones, or Mel Blanc as the millionaire in the Bugs cartoon The Oily Hare. But Daws doesn’t yell here. He’s got a deeper, resonant read. And he doesn’t go overboard with a comedy drawl. It’s a pretty natural-sounding voice.

Tex is “plomb hongry” so he heads to the fridge for some grub. Here he meets up with Jinks who, for reasons unknown, has spilled the quart of milk and uses the bottle as a step. The rest of the cartoon is a Carlo Vinci showcase. Jinks decides to remove Tex from the premises in a great little walk cycle, where the cat’s butt goes up and down. The elongated mouse calls him “a mangy varmint.” Now the fun begins.



Jinks spends most of the rest of the cartoon being treated like a bronco by Tex. There’s a colour wheel blur of Tex and Jinks (not to be confused with radio’s Tex and Jinx, though they might have had a similar fight or two before their divorce) which ends with Jinks sliding. The drawings are later reversed and the whole bit is used again to save animation.



Here’s another one of those scare-take cycles. These two drawings are alternated several times to simulate full animation.



Carlo combines both savers here. Not only does the Jinks gallop consist of two alternated drawings (this is only one of them), the animation is reversed and reused later. Pixie and Dixie, who do little the rest of the cartoon, cheer on Tex, with Tex’s voice coming out of Dixie by mistake.

This may be my favourite bit in the whole cartoon, when Tex announces he’s going to brand Jinks and the cat tries to escape. It appears to be the work of Mike Lah, who did uncredited bits and pieces in some of the very first cartoons on the Huck show. I like the look of Jinks’ tail here. The sound editor used a great little clack noise as Jinks vamooses on his toes. I guess the editor used some kind of woodblock.

Jinks tries capturing Tex by putting a box over him (how’d he get his feet untied?). But Tex uses his branding iron to burn his way through after Jinks remarks, in the best line of the cartoon, “It smells like, you know, somebody’s roastin’ a overcoat.” Only Daws would mis-use the article “an” to enhance the dialogue. The off-kilter ears are a nice touch.

Back to Carlo’s animation now. Finally, Jinks decides to call his own Texas relative. Here’s a great little bit of animation. When Jinks is on the phone to Cousin Pecos, he grows when he yells “Come a-runnin’!” then shrinks back to his regular size.



The end gag could be handled better. Turns out Jinks’ Texas relative isn’t so big and bad. The gag is captured in this drawing—but then the cartoon keeps going with an unfunny explanation. If Mike Maltese were writing this one, we’d get some silly monologue, instead of Pecos repeating over and over he’s sick. Look how low Jinks’ crotch is here. Doesn’t this look like it could be a design in a Terrytoon?

This was the first Pixie and Dixie cartoon to be released. Now that Hanna and Barbera had started a studio, they got into the character marketing business, knowing that’s where the big money was. The stars got the big push but ancillary characters were used when necessary. Tex was one of them; perhaps Joe and Bill felt he was amongst the strongest of them. Tex appeared on children’s playing cards (I had a set as a kid) and other items which needed a family of characters. But as Hanna-Barbera developed Quick Draw McGraw, then the Yogi Bear show stable, then hit paydirt with The Flintstones, the old ancillary characters disappeared. Because that’s the Law of the Economic Universe.

The soundtrack features a rare appearance by Bill Loose and John Seely’s “Rural” (registered at BMI as "Rural Stage") as the Knockout Mouse theme. We’re also treated to the whole version of Jack Shaindlin’s “Grotesque No. 2.” It runs 2:38, which is a little longer than most of the stock music beds found in these cartoons.


0:00 – Pixie and Dixie vocal opening theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin-Shows).
0:26 – TC 42 RURAL STAGE (Loose-Seely) - Mice watch Knockout Mouse.
0:51 – L 81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) - Jinks appears from hiding.
0:57 – LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Jinks chases mice into hole.
1:31 – LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings bed (Shaindlin) - Dixie reads telegram; Tex arrives, walks into living room.
2:54 – TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks talks to Tex in fridge, takes him outside.
3:55 – LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) - Tex rides Jinks.
4:55 – LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) - Jinks branded, calls Cousin Pecos, "I've been sick" Pecos arrives.
7:10 – Pixie and Dixie closing theme (Curtin).

5 comments:

  1. The ubiquitous circus chase music is 4-SF-10 Fast Gallop-Light Movement (Sam Fox/Syncro Library), and I've been trying for a long time to obtain a recording or an mp3 of it. Dave Powers, Columbus, OH

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  2. Dave, hi. No, it's not SF-10 Light Movement. That's a different circus chase bed; there seems to be a pile of them, but only a few were used commonly.

    If you want to hear the difference, pull out Lion Tamer Huck. SF10 is heard at 2:35 and 5:47 but the other, unidentified bed is heard at 5:01. The sound processing is different on them, leading me to believe the unidentified music is not from Synchro, but from Langlois.

    SF-10 can also be heard at 6:23 of Jinks' Flying Carpet or 5:29 of Mark of the Mouse, among other places. I'm not sure if I've referred to it in any of the cartoons on the blog yet.

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  3. I think Michael Lah animated from 4:55 to 6:08. Funny extreme drawings, and I love the way Jinx's eyebrows lift when he says "Wyatt Burp."

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  4. David, I'd agree about Lah. He used the same mouth movements on Yogi Bear you see in the first part of the scene. And the extremes are the reason it's my favourite scene in the whole cartoon. I should have posted a couple more.

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

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