Saturday, 5 December 2009

Augie Doggie — Good Mouse Keeping

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – George Nicholas, Layout - ?, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Sketches – Dan Gordon, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Doggie Daddy – Doug Young; Augie Doggie, Mouse – Daws Butler.
Released: December 22, 1959.
Plot: Doggie Daddy tries to rid his house of a mouse.

The late ‘30s and early ‘40s were the Golden Age of Cartoon Hecklers. Almost every studio had one—Daffy, then Bugs, at Warners; Woody at Lantz; Heckle and Jeckle at TerryToons and even the underrated Screwy Squirrel at MGM. Audiences were ready for them after tiring of what sound cartoons had wrought—cutsie fairy stories or all manner of happy characters singing and dancing.

But, eventually, the novelty wore off there, too, and the hecklers got toned down as life headed toward the toned-down, suburban world of the 1950s. So it was the Daffy Duck who tormented a movie director (Daffy Duck in Hollywood, 1938) became a fall-guy to Porky Pig (Robin Hood Daffy, 1958). Bugs Bunny, who mercilessly picked on Elmer Fudd for sport (The Wabbit Who Came to Supper, 1942) turned into revenge-seeker (Long-Haired Hare, 1949), as if he turned to directors Jones and Freleng like a method actor and said “What’s my motivation?”

Still, the heckling cartoons had been very popular, so when Mike Maltese arrived at the Hanna-Barbera doorstep with his bag of tried and true story ideas from Warners, he pulled out the idea of a wise-cracking character triumphantly picking on others just for the hell of it. He used it in a few cartoons, and this one is probably the most Warner-esque. The heckling mouse is full of non-sequiturs, the gags are familiar and the cartoon moves along at a fast pace.

The only problem I have with the cartoon is subjective. Why is Doggie Daddy being picked on? What did he do to deserve it? I can accept him causing harm to himself by being a bit of a boob. And I can accept a natural protagonist-antagonist relationship, like Sylvester and Tweety. But I have trouble laughing at a nice guy like Doggie Daddy being bashed around by a one-shot character. This may be the reason Jones insisted on “motivation,” to create a logical reason behind the premise for the audience to accept. If you’re willing to overlook that, the cartoon’s a good one.

We open with Augie and Daddy getting ready to have cheese for dessert (apparently, Daddy can’t afford crackers to go with them). That brings a perennially-smiling, buck-toothed mouse out of his hole. He zips through the air, excuses himself, grabs Doggie Daddy’s portion, then zooms to the kitchen to a mustard pot. “Mustard is good on cheese,” he remarks as he slathers on some with a brush. Then he rushes back to Doggie Daddy, pulls out his tongue, and adds “Mustard is good on tongue, too,” as he coats Daddy’s tongue with mustard from the brush and zips away.


“I wonder where he came from?” asks the puzzled Daddy. The mouse zips back into the scene. “Well, I didn’t come from the moon,” heckles the mouse, who honks Daddy’s nose and zooms into a bread-box, closing the door. He quickly opens it again to spurt “Nighty, night” and slams it shut. All this happens in the span of 40 seconds, which gives you an idea of the pace Maltese establishes.

And it also gives you an idea where Maltese is getting his jokes. The nose-honking was used by the cartoon world’s first heckler in Daffy Duck and Egghead (1938), though Daffy bit a porcine proboscis in Porky’s Duck Hunt (1937). Avery later used it for his heckling duckling in Lucky Ducky (1948). A lot of old friends re-worked from Warner’s storyboards make an appearance here, but the cartoon nips along at a nice gallop so they don’t seem old and tired.

Daffy lifts the door of the bread-box but lets it fall on his thumb. “Quiet! Can’t you see I’m taking a nap,” chides the annoyed mouse, who lifts the door, says his line, then slams it shut. Seconds later, out he comes sleepwalking (with the requisite arms hanging straight out). Maltese then gives us another well-used gag (such as in Hanna and Barbera’s Quiet Please! or Avery’s Doggone Tired) where Augie lifts the mouse’s eyelid and sees a sign reading “Sh!” substituting for an eyeball. The mouse walks over to the cheese and starts gulping it down. Daddy is suspicious. So when the mouse walks back, Daddy uses a glass and the palm of his hand to trap him. Maltese digs up another old favourite from Tweetie Pie (1947). The mouse instantly produces a pin and stabs Doggie Daddy’s hand. We don’t see it; we get a reaction take before the mouse runs into its hole.


Now, let’s spot another Warners gag. Daddy reaches into the hole and promises to squish the mouse “like a to-maty-o. Or is it to-matty-o?” So the mouse whips out a tomato and Daddie squishes it instead. But the mouse pretends he’s been squished, puts on a sheet and pretends to be a mouse ghost. If you thought “Tomato? Pretend to be dead? Isn’t that what Bugs Bunny did in Heckling Hare (1941)? And didn’t the woodpecker in Peck Up Your Troubles (1945) substitute a tomato for himself and pretend to be an angel after getting squished? And weren’t both those cartoons written by Mike Maltese, too? Yes, you’d be correct on all counts. For good measure, we get Augie doing his Sylvester, Jr. routine again, putting the back of his paw to his forehead and crying “Oh, the shame of it!” like in Mouse-Taken Identity (1957) and others.


Daddy offers the little mouse ghost some cheese, who accepts in a clichéd wavering ghost voice, but then jumps out of the sheet and into Daddy’s face to scream “Don’t let it happen again!” The mouse adds a nose honk for good measure before zipping out of the scene.

In the next gag, Daddy gets out a rifle and aims it into the mouse hole. But the mouse bends the barrel so it now stick through a grate above the hole (which hadn’t been there before in the cartoon). Daddy fires and blasts himself. Nicholas used a teeny-eye take like that in The Flintstones.

Ready to spot the Warners gag again? Daddy rigs a bowling ball in a bag above the entrance to the hole with cheese as bait. But Daddy can’t clobber the mouse with the ball because he can’t get the zipper of the bag to open. When Daddy goes to investigate, the mouse grabs the string, easily opens the zipper and ‘wham’ goes the ball on Daddy’s head. The delayed-reaction-clobber type gag was used with weights in Ready, Set, Zoom! (1955) and rocks in There They Go-Go-Go! (1956), both written by… well, you can guess. The difference is the clobbering in the Warners shorts was caused by some kind of Law of the Cartoon Universe against Wile E. Coyote, not by the direct action of his prey, as in this one.

Next, Daddy lays a bunch of mouse traps in an empty room. An “eeeek” through a megaphone by the mouse causes Daddy to land on the traps. It’s a combination of the mousetrap-laying done by Wile E. in Zipping Along (1953) and any number of cartoons where the Roadrunner comes up behind him and scares him with a “beep beep.”

A hoary old gag is next. “I’ll holler ‘now’ and you let him have it,” Daddy instructs the mallet-laden Augie. Daddy’s snares the mouse with cheese on the end of a fishing line. “He won’t be able to get away from me now,” says Daddy. I don’t need to explain what happened next.

Finally, Augie comes up with a ‘James Dandy’ idea. He and Daddy engage in phoney dialogue, where it is declared there will never be cheese in the house again, ever. The mouse put on his hat, leaves a ‘For Rent’ sign on a nail (where did that come from?) above the hole and walks away. As Daddy congratulates his son on “being a reasonable face-a-simile” of him for coming up with such a brilliant idea. The mouse hears all this and pretends to leave by slamming the door. However in the wind-up gag, as Daddy and Augie are sitting down to cheese for dessert, Daddy quotes Yogi Bear that they’re smarter than the average mouse. Daddy lifts up the cover on the dish and there we see the mouse eating what’s left of the dessert. “Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” cracks the mouse to end the cartoon, just as Bugs did in The Old Grey Hare (1944) and The Goofy Gophers (1947).



Besides the re-worked Warners jokes, there’s enough to enjoy here. The mouse has a silly grin a lot of the time and his expressions read well, even in limited animation. Doug Young has a wonderful warmth about him as Doggie Daddy, adding to the Durante voice and word-mangling with chuckles and an upbeat read. He’s another guy who doesn’t get a lot of credit in these cartoons.

Just about all the music is by Phil Green and you can hear where it has been edited to fit a scene or scenes. If someone has a copy of the final cue they are able to send me, could you please e-mail me?


0:00 - Augie Doggie sub-main title theme (Hoyt Curtin)
0:05 - EM-107D LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Mouse grabs cheese.
0:48 - GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) – Breadbox gag, sleep-eating mouse; Daddy stabbed with pin.
2:20 - GR-255 PUPPETRY COMEDY (Green) – Tomato-squishing scene.
3:28 - GR-258 THE TIN DRAGOONS (Green) – Rifle-in-hole scene, bowling ball scene.
4:46 - CB-83A MR. TIPPY TOES (Emil Cadkin-Harry Bluestone) – Mousetrap and fishing line scenes.
5:54 - EM-107D LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – “Never have cheese” scene.
6:29 - SF-? THE HAPPY COBBLER (Hecky Krasnow) – Daddy lifts cover to find mouse eating.

10 comments:

  1. Good cartoon today, Yowp. Thank you so much.

    I wonder what you'll post next week. Also, I would appreciate it if you would do more shorts for the Quick Draw McGraw Show (especially Snooper and Blabber), but that's doubtful since they are NOT coming out on DVD.

    Hope to talk to you soon! Thanks!

    Ryan

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  2. I admit, I like my cartoons with a sense of Justice. Like you said, it keeps us from pitying the abused characters, and in my opinion, makes it a lot more satisfying. Thats why I enjoy Donald Duck cartoons by Jack King instead of Dick Lundy. This cartoon certainly lacks Justice, but it has some fine animation. I quite like Nick!

    For the record, the pin-glass action also fetures in the 1954 Sylvester and Tweety cartoon `Dog Pounded`.

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  3. Zartok, thanks for finding that one. I spent four hours going through Warners books hunting for an example and viewing cartoons without any luck (I though Mouse Mazurka was one but it has the old "No Sale" eye gag instead.

    I'd like to know who did the layout on this. HB had hired a bunch of new people, including Bob Givens, by this time.

    Ryan, I haven't done Snooper in a while so I'll see if I can find an unfaded copy of something. My favourite is the one where Jean Vander Pyl is going on about callalillies.

    Yowp

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  4. Good luck on finding an unfaded copy, Yowp.

    BTW, To not confuse you, my last name is NOT Seacrest, and I am 11 years old.

    Ryan

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  5. Hey Yowp. Good subject. I also agree. If there is going to be an antagonistic relationship, it should be natural. It's still easy for me after all these years to laugh myself silly at Sylvester and Tweety. But, I have never been a fan of a cartoon where a nice guy is picked on just for the heck of it. Also, thanks for posting the available music cues from your particular subject of the week. If you ever review a cartoon that contains some of the Seely-Loose " Childrens Domestics ", it would be great to hear those without dialog.

    Take care Buddy,
    Errol

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  6. Dodsworth,

    The layout on this Augie Doggie episode (animated by a Disney's disciple, George Nicholas), was made by Dick Bickenbach. His name is included on the credits. I remember when I saw this episode here in Brazil by Boomerang.

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  7. Rodinei, I've deleted your link because it doesn't work, even if I remove the period at the end (never put a period after a URL; it's treated as part of the URL that way). A search didn't find it there at all. I even downloaded a Portuguese copy from the net and it has no credits.

    Errol, there's another cartoon with a heckling crow that picks on Doggie Daddy. It works better for me. Maybe it's because the crow is invading his space.

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  8. Yowp, you'll love this one... at my school, there are holiday stockings hung up decorated with the children's names... by some random serendipity, the ones for "George" and "Nicholas" wound up together so it looks like it say "George Nicholas". Maybe I'll get a pic.

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  9. Hi Yowp, you're posts just keep getting better and better. My favorite blog these days. If you need any cues, I'd be happy to help. Though I suspect there is nothing that I have that you don't already have and more. Thanks for sharing!!

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  10. Like some others have said, I like a sense of justice to my cartoons. It's one reason I've never warmed up to Screwy Squirrel, or the early Bugs Bunny.
    This has rapidly become one of my favorite blogs. You strike a nice balance of affection for these old cartoons, while still being fully aware of their flaws.

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