Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snooper and Blabber — Prince of a Fella’

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbara.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Layouts – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Vera Hanson, Story - Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervisor – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Queen, Grandma, Mama Bear, Snow White – Jean Vander Pyl; Snooper, Blabber, Mirror, Wolf, Prince – Daws Butler; Papa Bear, Baby Bear – Don Messick.
Released: November 5, 1960.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired by the wicked queen to bring her Snow White, but decide to let her go with the prince to live happily ever after.

Yowp says: my apologies for the tiny and lousy yellow-green screen grabs. These are from the only version I can find. “Boo” to WHV for not releasing the Quick Draw Show cartoons, like this, on DVD.

Toss together some celebrity voices, some mashed up fairy tales, a TV show and a goofy ending and you get another fine effort from Mike Maltese. Almost all of the above can be found in Warners cartoons going back to Little Red Walking Hood (1937) but the familiar setting is hammered into shape a little differently to come out as one of the best Snooper and Blabber cartoons.

We start with the camera closing in on a background drawing of a castle with a narrator intoning “Once upon a time, in a faraway castle, lived a very wicked queen, who was also very beautiful.” That’s all we need to figure out this is the tale of Snow White. The difference this time is the queen sounds like Bette Davis (whose last animated appearance was in 1946’s Hollywood Daffy written by someone whose name rhymes with Qualtese). She doesn’t look like Bette Davis, though. The queen’s got a swirl in her hair like Wilma Flintstone, which is appropriate seeing both are voiced by Jean Vander Pyl. Her magic mirror has the voice of Fibber Fox, who advises the queen if she wants to find Snow White to make her ugly, she should hire a private eye.


Cut to an office door and a ringing phone. “Snooper Detective Agency. We solve the caper for that green paper,” answers Snoop, who is promised a bucket of assorted rubies if he finds Snow White and brings her to the castle in Wickedonia. Snooper informs Blabber “It’s a 1207” and the two jump in their car and head to the woods, where “the book” says Snow has a hideout. Evidently the detective business is paying well, for Snoop has an up-to-date car, having rid himself of that late ‘50s job with the huge fins.


We now veer away from the story of Snow White to the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, for it turns out the detectives have arrived at Grandma’s House. But before we get to that tale, we veer into a Dragnet spoof as Snooper asks Granny “a few law-abiding questions.” “I’m just a poor old lady who bothers no one,” Grandma assures him. “Yes, m’am,” replies Snoop. He asks if she knows Snow White. “No, but I did know a Miss Cinderella once. She was kind of an odd-ball. Used to wear one shoe.” The interrogation is interrupted by a red-riding-hood-wearing wolf that sounds like Frank Fontaine and doesn’t know Snow White, either. “Yes, m’am,” replies Snoop to the wolf, making the Jack Webb standard-issue response a running gag. The detectives leave the fairy tale to play out to its inevitable conclusion and jump in the car to hunt for clues.

But first, they drive right into another fairy tale, as three bears are walking toward their home, with Papa Bear hoping the porridge has cooled off. “I don’t understand it,” says Mama Bear. “You never used to complain about my cooking before.” Vander Pyl uses a dumbish, bottom-of-the-throat voice for her. Baby Bear is one of those know-it-all, wimpy kids who urges them not to argue in front of strangers. “It gives the impression of untogetherness.” Snooper asks about Snow White and Mama points off-stage to a home. “It used to be rented by seven little midgets,” she informs the private eyes.

The next scene is in a cottage with Snooper and Blabber talking with Snow White, who sounds just like Katherine Hepburn, a seeming staple of Warners cartoons of the late 30s, like Little Red Walking Hood. Sure, this cartoon came out a generation later, but kids would have been watching old theatricals at the time out so a Hepburn voice would have been common. “I’m waiting for my Prince Charming to come for me when the calla lilies bloom again.”

I must confess when I saw this cartoon as one of those kids in the ‘60s, I thought ‘calla lilies’ was some silly, Maltese-coined word. And then years and years later, I was stunned when I watched Stage Door (1937) on TV and saw Hepburn in the two scenes musing about calla lilies. I had no idea that’s where the reference came from, and that they really were flowers. See what you learn watching cartoons?

Snooper tells Snow he’s turning her over to the Queen. “No, not the queen! She’s wicked and she means to harm me,” emotes Snow. Snoop has a change of heart and promises he and Blabber will stay with her until her prince comes. Snow promises them both a calla lily—“if the dang things ever bloom,” as she looks disgustedly off-stage (at the reticent flowers, we presume).

Meanwhile, back at the castle, the mirror rats out Snooper and Blabber, so the queen promises to go to the cottage with a poisoned apple to make Snow as ugly as a toad. Meanwhile, on the road stand Snooper and Blabber (I thought they were supposed to stay with Snow White?). Charging up to them on a charger is a knight with Daws Butler’s Phil Silvers voice, adding “Whoa! Durn you, whoa!” to the horse like Yosemite Sam (Sahara Hare, Roman Legion Hare, Knighty Knight Bugs, et al) to add to the familiarity. He has “come to fetch Snow White to live apply ever hafter, I mean happy ever after. Ooh, these clich├ęs!” Snow White runs out, remarks about how he’s arrived before the calla lilies bloomed, and off they ride on the horse. Snoop wishes them a happy wedding, and Blab adds “Don’t take any wooden rice.”

Their farewell wishes are stopped by the arrival of the queen, who hands Snooper a “royal apple.” Snoop takes a bite and feels “slap hoppy.” He suddenly turns into a frog, as Blab observes. And we observe it too but, if you look drawing by drawing, it’s not a smooth transition.





But Blab doesn’t want to take him home “because I’ll get warts on my hands.” Instead, he decides to eat part of the apple, too, so they “can go home together without embarrassment to either one of us.” Blab’s transformation looks a little better.





They now engage in a little hop cycle in front of the moving background as the cartoon fades.

Snooper’s catchphrase: “Halt in the name of the Private Eye (fill in blank)” is not used in this short.

The cartoon makes big use of Phil Green’s cues from the ‘S’ (short) series of the Hi-Q library, with a bit of Jack Shaindlin from the Langlois Filmusic library tossed in. “GR” names are the originals from EMI Photoplay, the “PG” ones are from the Capitol Hi-Q re-issues because I don’t have the EMI discs for reference.


0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:04 - PG-171 PERIOD FANFARE (Green) – Opening shot of castle.
0:12 - GR-85 THE BRAVEST WOODEN SOLDIER BRIDGE No. 1 (Green) – Queen asks question of mirror.
0:21 - unknown flute and oboe bridge (Green) – Queen and mirror dialogue.
0:51 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Phone call to Snooper.
1:27 - GR-78 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Snooper and Blabber in car.
1:39 - GR-333 BUSTLING BRIDGE (Green) – Snooper knocks on door, Grandma tells them to come in.
2:03 - C-C-F# comedy open (?) – Grandma interrogation, wolf enters, Snooper and Blabber drive away.
3:07 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Bears walking, Snooper questions bears.
3:54 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Snooper and Blabber talk to Snow White.
4:35 - unknown flute and oboe bridge (Green) – Mirror talks to Queen, Queen pulls out apple.
4:52 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Prince Charming arrives, rides off with Snow White.
5:45 - related to ‘Excitement Under Dialogue’ (Shaindlin) – Queen gives apple to Snooper, Snooper turns into frog.
6:29 - GR-75 POPCORN SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Blab munches on apple. Becomes frog.
6:43 - GR-79 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – “Let’s get hoppin’.”
6:50 - Snooper and Blabber End Title Theme (Curtin).

11 comments:

  1. Thanks for explaning this problem to me!

    Also, it's funny at the end of this cartoon where Snooper and Blabber both turn into frogs. But only from one bite of an apple? That's like Snow White taking a bite out of a poisoned apple and falling into a deep sleep, and then the prince kisses Snow White and wakes up. It's kind of something like that.

    Ryan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Tex Avery or Rich Hogan said it best: "Anything can happen in one of these here cartoony pictures!"

    ReplyDelete
  3. And, if the queen even remotely resembles Wilma, doesn’t “Snowy” resemble Betty?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Joe, You hit on it. The Top of the Queen's hair DOES resemble " Wilma ". " Snowy " is a little reminiscent of " Betty ". Their hair color, too. Funny!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yowp, your posts are amazing, so I would like to announce what hasn't been done on Season 1 of The Huckleberry Hound Show yet.

    Examples:
    Robin Hood Yogi (even though it might have been posted.)
    High Fly Guy
    Robin Hood Yogi
    Barbecue Hound
    Freeway Patrol
    Brainy Bear
    Prize Fight Fright
    Duck In Luck
    Dinky Jinks

    Will one of them be posted next week? Find out at 11:00 (just kidding).

    Ryan

    ReplyDelete
  6. Errol, she's got Judy Jetson hair, except Earth's gravity has it pointing a different direction.

    Ryan, no fair guessing. However, the next cartoon is not on your list, though there are some good ones there I'll get to.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The Three Bear family and 'Frank Fontaine' wolf would appear again in another Snooper & Blabber short, "Bear-ly Able". But if I remember, Papa Bear would be voiced by Daws Butler in his standard Gleason imitation. In "Prince of a Fella", he's done by Don Messick in 'deep' mode.

    The Bears would also reappear in the Hokey Wolf short "Too Much To Bear". VanderPyl and Messick would reprise their roles as, respectively, Mama and the overly intellectual Baby Bear.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Just pulled out "Bear-ly Able." It's Don Messick.

    The dialogue's great in this one. Snooper says "Never the nonetheless." I love Mike Maltese.

    ReplyDelete
  9. How did "Robin Hood Yogi" get on their twice? (Also, surprised you still haven't posted that cartoon yet)

    Ryan

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi, Ryan. Hope things are okay with you.
    I don't know how Robin Hood Yogi got on your list twice.
    Robin Hood Yogi has been done but there's a backlog of 18 weeks of cartoon commentaries in the can. It'll show up eventually.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Guess I must've typed it twice. Some coincidence.

    Ryan

    ReplyDelete