Saturday, 8 August 2009

Pixie and Dixie — Puppet Pals

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Mike Lah; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Pixie – Don Messick; Jinks, Dixie, Dog – Daws Butler.
Released: January 15, 1959.
Plot: Jinks and a bulldog team up against Pixie and Dixie, who use a Jinks puppet to try to break them up. The plot is discovered and the dog and cat turn the mice into puppets.

Fans of Mr. Jinks will be happy to know he actually defeats the meece in this one, but the win is pretty unsatisfying because Jinks does it by—seeing a string?!

Yes, that’s how the plot turns around in this, and there’s not an awful lot of fun in getting there. Jinks just sees the string. There’s no syllable bending by Daws Butler nor a lot of violent action with interesting poses before-hand. In fact, the cartoon isn’t really centred around Jinks at all. It’s centred around the bulldog and writer Charlie Shows’ big joke is the dog is so dumb, he mistakes a stuffed marionette for a real cat. There’s no set up, like you’d see unfold when Hubie and Bertie played tricks on Claude Cat in the Warners shorts. We’re just supposed to accept the fact the dog is dumb. Combine that with lacklustre extremes and more running than a roomful of tourists who drank the water in Mexico, and it doesn’t add up to a great cartoon.

The cartoon opens with Pixie and Dixie waking up (the alarm clock on a spool is an imaginative touch) and then engaging in their first order of business—to goad Jinks into chasing them. We get a really odd cut here. We go from Jinks facing the meece with his eyes open and mouth closed to a close-up of Jinks facing the camera with his eyes closed and his mouth open. The change back to the medium shot is just as jarring.



Each of the animators seems to have found a different way for the characters to run. You’ll notice in this sequence, whoever it is (I suspect Lah actually animated most of this cartoon) outlines the legs and feet and then uses motion lines and puts a cycle of this on separate cells. Why he did it with Jinks’ tail, I don’t know.



The characters run outside and Jinks slides into the mice and a conveniently-placed snoozing bulldog. We get the old pull-the-eyelids-open bit and the dog sees the cat. There’s no real take here, just a bunch of jagged teeth. You can see how Jinks’ retreat is handled—smears and lots of motion lines and swirls.




Jinks temporarily dispatches the dog into the basement through a window in a nicely-timed bit but the chase is on again. You’ll notice we can see the legs this time.

Suddenly—why he just thought of it now is unclear—Jinks turns around and stops the dog with the palms of his hand and tells bow-bow to “play it cool.” The cat then convinces the dog to join with him in ganging up on the meeces because “two heads is better than none.” This sure looks like Mike Lah’s work here; Lah’s stuff just looks cruder, though I kind of like Jinks’ tail as they decide to get the mice.



We get a little Charlie Shows rhyme “It looks like we got ‘em on the run, son.” Pixie and Dixie then decide to break up “the beauuutiful friendship” by creating a puppet of Jinks. The mice then stroll to a tree near where the dog is sleeping (there must have been stairs inside the hollow trunk), station themselves on a branch and lower the puppet. The portion from the cycle of the snoozing dog to the end of the puppet cell being slid over the background takes 14 seconds of screen time.

The puppet is made to pound the dog on the head. Interestingly, the head of the puppet moves even though there’s no string attached. The dog thinks it’s the cat and we get an off-screen bashing of Jinks, with the sound-cutter cleverly using Big Ben-type chimes as the camera shakes. The same sort of chimes-over-violence sound gag was later part of the audio repertoire on The Flintstones. We see the after-effect as Jinks tells the audience you can’t trust a dog. It’s too bad Jinks’ pose isn’t stronger.



The puppet gets lowered again and we get repeat animation of the hand-thumping. The dog says “I’ll tear you apart!” So he does. The mice pull up the puppet, the real Jinks shows up and the dog is amazed the cat has three arms. That’s when the two catch on to the fact a string is tied to the fake arm and lead to the mice in the tree. Yeah. That’s the climax of the cartoon.



The end joke is cat and the dog playing puppeteers, with Jinks borrowing the old line “They’re daaancin’! They’re daaancin’!” as the mice look disgustedly at the camera before the scene fades out. Yeah, that’s the big finish.




Variations on the “Look/I’m dancin’” line popped up in cartoons, one of them being Tom and Jerry’s Baby Puss (1943). But Hanna and Barbera stole it from Warner’s; Tex Avery’s influence at MGM maybe? Avery put it in the mouth of a gleeful penguin in Penguin Parade (1938)—Bugs Bunny used it later in A Hare Grows in Manhattan (1947). But it originated from a scene about two-thirds of the way through the Warner Bros. film Dead End (1937) with Humphrey Bogart.

Jack Shaindlin’s music from the Langlois library was the big choice in this cartoon, including Toboggan Run. The cutter (Greg Watson?) decided to go with several cuts more than once. And we get three snippets of Bill Loose and John Seely’s Zany Comedy, the music with the tippy-toe xylophone and laughing clarinets.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie sub-title theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin)
0:26 - LAF-10-7 (Shaindlin) - Mice wake up, toss milk dish into Jinks' face.
1:30 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) - Jinks chases Pixie and Dixie, skids to a stop.
1:49 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Pixie and Dixie open dog's eyes.
1:54 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Dog chases Jinks.
3:03 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks and dog agree to deal, chase mice into basement.
3:43 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) - Dixie gets fiendish idea.
3:54 - LAF-4-6 PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) - Mice create puppet.
4:34 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) - Puppet lowered, bashes dog, dog bashes Jinks.
5:35 - LAF-4-6 PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) - Puppet bashes dog, dog rips off arm.
6:33 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks and dog spot mice.
6:55 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks and dog turn mice into puppets.
7:10 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).

5 comments:

  1. And the story, for a real Warnerr Bros.caroton lineage, is like "Stooge for a Mouse" AND "Bugsy & Muggsy!" But with a different outcome.

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  2. That look like the same dog in
    yogi bear cartoon pie piates

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  3. This is similar to Dog Trouble, a T&J cartoon but different because Jinks teams up w/ the dog & Tom teams up w/ the mouse.

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  4. This is a great cartoon!

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  5. The dog talks and acts like Douglas, a dog from a Yakky cartoon from this weekend's review "Duck Hunting" but rememebred from many Hokey Wolf shorts......slow, "dumb' voice.SC

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