Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pixie and Dixie — Mouse-Nappers

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).

11 comments:

  1. Of course, the chubby cat was in "Jiggers it's Jinks" [and is COMEPLETELY in an adversial relationship with the three title characters---who THEMSELVES are in a FRIEND relationship, and which has the Tex Avery sloping look for Jinks[ without dialogue and later as "Charlie, one of the good ones" as Jinks calls him, in "Lend Lease Meece" [with similiar title card and playing same role, but everyone wins including that pathetic homeless mouse!].

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  2. I extremely enjoyed your blog post, Yowp. I find I really start enjoying Charles Shows towards the end of the first season.

    I am curious if these characters (Huck/Yogi/Meeces) would be as recognizable if Charles Shows continued writing.

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  3. I extremely enjoyed your post about "Mouse Nappers".

    I noticed your previous post on "GOOD MOUSE KEEPING" focuses on the concept of mice.

    It is nice detracting negative statements, because you are possibly doing this for your enjoyment and others.

    I wonder how recognizable (Huck/Yogi/Meeces) would be if Charles Shows continued writing for these characters.

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  4. How recognisable? There isn't really a lot of difference in the relationship between the characters from when Shows wrote the Pixie and Dixies and when Warren Foster wrote them (I don't know how many Tony Benedict worked on). For both writers in some cartoons, the cat and mice are adversaries. In others, they're friendly adversaries. That's more or less what Foster seems to have settled on. The difference is Foster's cartoons seem to move faster and they have far better dialogue. They should; Foster was one of the best writers in the cartoon business.

    I think it was Bob McKimson who once explained how characters like Bugs Bunny evolve over time. It's no different here. Joe Barbera, Charlie Shows, Dan Gordon and all started this series with a clean slate. So it took a bit of time to get characterisations in place and that means there'll be hits and misses. I think by the time Shows left almost everything was in place.

    Regardless, the Huck show won an Emmy that first season and I have yet to read a contemporary bad review. So Shows was doing something right

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  5. Note to Yowp: What does it mean by "Your comment will be visible afer approval" after I try to post something to you. Sometimes the post shows up, other times it dosen't, and I don't like it when that happens. Please help me, Yowp. Thanks!

    Ryan

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  6. Anyone notice how 'Tom-like' Jinks looks in that screen grab when he's charging into the sewer? Ken Muse must've still had some MGM in him at this point.

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  7. This isn't the only cartoon where you can spot it, Zartok. There are several stock facial expressions when the head is at a certain angle. He's got an embarrassed-smile look and a pouty look he used on both cats, as well at the knitted-brow look you see there.

    I'd love to do a set of comparison shots on Jinks and Tom but I don't have the MGM cartoons and it'd take forever to do it.

    There are some of the early HB cartoons that I watch and think "I wish they could have done this in full animation."

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  8. ERROL WROTE:

    The unseen fight sequence in this cartoon reminds me alot of the fight sequence used for Yogi Bears's fight with the mountain lion in " Bear On A Picnic ". Other than a few fists flaying at the top of the bush, the Lion and Yogi reaching up and pulling each other back onto the bush every 8 seconds or so, the majority of the fight is unseem with Daw's " Ouch..OOoch..EEch!!" Yes, more was seen in the Yogi cartoon, but not much. I agree Yowp, I'm sure the accounting department was also happy with this cartoon-Ha!!

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  9. AFAIK, Warren Foster wrote every 'Meeces' cartoon of Seasons 2, 3, and the abbreviated Curtin-scored Season 4. (A handful of Season 4 shorts are preceded by the rarely-seen full credit sequence.) Tony Benedict wasn't credited on any H-B cartoons until the 1961-62 season: about half of the Yakkys, most of the later Hokeys, and all nine of the Curtin-scored Hucks.

    From 1959 on, most of the series were handled entirely by one writer: Maltese for Snagglepuss and the Quick Draw trilogy; and Foster for Yogi, the Meeces and Seasons 2 and 3 (the post-Snows 'Capital' seasons) of Huck.

    I had long assumed the entire Yakky series had been written by Benedict, and was quite surprised to see- via the YOGI BEAR ENTIRE SERIES DVD- that about half of the episodes were from Maltese, and a couple from Foster. Maltese's penchant for dialogue is quite evident in the episodes with Fibber Fox. ("If only that duck was as stupid as that dog!")

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  10. Pokey, i watched last weekend Lend Lease Mices and yeah, the homeless mouse at the end ruined the entire cartoon full of premises. A other cartoon with a similar storyline is Plutocrat Cat.

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  11. Martin, I just watched Lend Lease Meece now. George Nicholas' animation of Jinks is full of fun. Did Walt Clinton do the layouts? Some of the expressions on Jinks are tremendous and I love the design of the scrawny mouse. The BGs look like Bob Gentle's to me because they're not too abstract.
    The only thing wrong with the ending is the exit line is weak. It don't think the appearance ruins anything.

    And, yeah, it seems like the cartoon is Foster's reworking of Plutocrat Cat. You can easily see the difference in the two cartoons, though. Foster uses more dialogue and the tempo is faster.

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