Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Pixie, Shortie – Don Messick; Jinks, Dixie – Daws Butler.
Released: March 19, 1959.
Plot: Mr. Jinks and Shortie, a brown cat, fight over ownership of Pixie and Dixie.
Hanna-Barbera found ingenious ways to save money on its early cartoons—walk cycles, holds, mouth movements on one cell while the rest of the character remained stationary, reused animation and so on. But the award-winner has to be this cartoon, where most of the climax takes place off-camera. We get camera shakes of a background and character cells slid up and down as Jack Shaindlin’s On the Run emphasises the pace, all substituting for action.
It’s too bad. The premise of the cartoon is good, the ending is funny enough and Daws Butler does his best with the dialogue. But there really is only one main joke, repeated over and over. Someone gets socked in the face. Tex Avery could do variations of the same thing to perfection, but here, it just gets a little tiresome waiting for something else to happen.
The cartoon gets off to an odd and inexpensive start. Jinks walks out of the house holding the two mice—but he does it to the strains of Shaindlin’s Toboggan Run, a fast song used in fast action, not a casual stroll. The music’s all wrong.
Jinks heads to the sidewalk in front of the house and gives a warning. While he announces this, there is a close-up of Pixie and Dixie, doing nothing but blinking for seven seconds. Next, we get four more seconds of blinking and moving mouths. “Oh, thank you, kind cat,” says Pixie. “You are one of the good ones,” adds Dixie, a line used an awful lot by Yogi Bear, and no doubt one the H-B accountant was saying to Muse for the more-than-usual limited animation. And what’s with the “kind cat” business? Wouldn’t Pixie address Jinks by name? Here’s where someone like Warren Foster would have built up the adjective “kind” a bit to make it silly. Mike Maltese might have substituted a ridiculous one or a non sequitur. But Charlie Shows is simply satisfied with the idea of the fear-gripped mice kissing up to Jinks as being the joke.
Jinks tells them to “...go and never darken my door again.” After some unnecessary dialogue, Pixie and Dixie run away, slide to a stop (the two mice are on a held cell while the background moves for two seconds), then realise they’re “homeless meeces.” But then they brighten up and also realise they’re “catless mices.” Their giggling is stopped by a voice that editorialises “Oh, I wouldn’t say dat.”
They look up and see a bowler-topped brown cat with Don Messick’s back-of-the-throat voice. “You was expectin’ maybe a elephant?” asks Shortie. Then we get some more of Shows’ favourite kind of dialogue—rhyming pairs of words. “Scram, Sam!” “Let’s go, Joe,” say the two mice to each other as they run off camera in cycle animation, yelling for help.
Shortie catches the meece and blows off their attempts to kiss up to him. That’s when Jinks, who heard the cries for help, demands to know why he’s “app-rap-propriating” his property. During the tête-à-tête, Shortie responds by accepting Jinks’ dare to punch him in the nose. We get a nice pose of the end result with Jinks on a stone wall.
And so the punching punch-lines carry on through the picture. In one, Jinks drops a brick on Shortie, who is wistfully relating how he never had mice growing up because his family was too poor. The violence in that one happens off camera; all we get is a shake. Before one sock, there’s a cute bit of dialogue. “Ya mind holdin’ my mices for me?” requests Shortie. Immediately, Jinks jumps in and casually answers, “Oh, sure thing.” Here are a few shots.
Finally, after a bunch of running cycles of both cats individually, we get to the big scene. Shortie has jumped into the sewer. Jinks stops with Pixie and Dixie by a manhole, which Shortie lifts up from underneath, hauls Jinks (and the mice) by the tail into the sewer. Now comes the fight scene—entirely underground. For 40 seconds, the action consists of a camera shaking, a manhole cover moving and some stationary cells of each of the cats sliding up and down, simulating going in and out of the sewer. Okay, there’s one of Jinks with his feet moving in a blur. For almost 12 more seconds, the animation is simply the heads of Pixie and Dixie going up and down watching the sliding cells of each cat go in and out of the hole. Then, for seven more seconds, we get a medium shot of the same thing. It’s probably the longest cartoon fight you never saw, but the substitution for action, coupled with Shaindlin’s stock music, Greg Watson’s sound effects and fight noises ad-libbed by Daws and Don make it seem like you’re watching something.
But that’s not all. We cut to a medium-close shot of the mice enjoying the fight (they’re looking into the hole so they can presumably see it), giving encouragement to each of the cats and calling to them to come up for advice. Shows gets in some dialogue that’s like something from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In when Alan Sues came up from a hatch in the floor to reel off an old vaudeville bit. Dixie: “Shortie’s a sucker for a left hook.” Jinks: “Yeah. Gee, it’s a real shame I haven’t got one.” And back down the cat goes.
Unfortunately, the mice switch sides and start encouraging the other combatant and the cats finally realise they’re being had. Jinks and Shortie stop fighting and stick their heads out of the sewer hole together (that part we finally can see). Pixie and Dixie realise the jig is up and make a run for it. The cats chase after them together. In the wind-up gag on a park bench Jinks and Shortie are buddies, each with a mouse that they’ve turned into yo-yos, happily unspooling them and laughing as the cartoon fades out. Laughing at the end of a cartoon would seem to become an unbreakable rule at Hanna-Barbera not too many years later.
Shaindlin’s music dominates the soundtrack, including back-to-back full versions of On the Run, though we get two shots of one melody by Geordie Hormel.
0:00 - Pixie and Dixie instrumental Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:26 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks kicked mice out of house.
1:35 - L 81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) – Shortie chases mice, Jinks punched, lands on stone wall.
2:56 - Z 47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Shortie punches again; gives sob story to the mice.
3:27 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Jinks drops brick on Shortie.
3:36 - Z 47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Jinks runs into phoney detour, Shortie punches Jinks, Jinks punches “with interest.”
4:30 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Jinks runs away with mice, Shortie goes into sewer, grabs Jinks’ tail.
4:53 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Fight scene to “You called?”
5:53 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Fight continues until cats wise up, chase mice.
6:43 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Buddy-buddy cats make yo-yos of mice.
7:10 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).