Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Bick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Sam Clayberger; Story Sketches and Dialogue – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Jinks, French Cat, Mailman, Dixie – Daws Butler; TV Announcer, Pixie – Don Messick; Mark of the Mouse – Howard McNear?
First aired: week of January 19, 1959.
Plot: Jinks takes on Pixie dressed as the Zorro-like Mark of the Mouse—until the real one arrives.
Cartoon studios in the 1930s, to a varying degree, wanted to be Walt Disney. About the only one that didn’t want to be Walt Disney was Walt Disney. It seems he wanted to be Louis B. Mayer or Harry Cohen or Adolph Zukor. He wanted to be a live-action movie bigwig. So, in the ‘40s, he developed partial live-action movies, moved into live action adventure shorts and when television came along, had live-action shows. Even Disney himself showed up on camera—not as a drawing—playing the role of Uncle Walt. And Disney developed two live-action television properties that jumped off the screen and into popular kid culture—‘Davey Crockett’ and ‘Zorro’ (no doubt to the delight of his licensing department).
So cartoon studios in the 1950s started being Walt Disney again but, instead of reverential copies of his work, they made fun of it (after all, Tex Avery had come along in the interim). Thus, you see parodies of both the King of the Wild Frontier and the rapier-bearing masked avenger in cartoons. Hanna-Barbera seems to have been especially taken with Zorro; certainly Mike Maltese was, and that’s why he developed El Kabong. But before Maltese’s arrival, Joe Barbera and writers Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon came up with the Zorro-inspired cartoon Mark of the Mouse.
I’ve never quite understood the logic behind the opening of this cartoon, other than to set up the plot. Jinks is watching TV, and the show that’s on features the heroic Mark of the Mouse victorious over a cat. But why would Jinks watch that sort of thing, anyway? Perhaps it’s to make fun of it, because that’s what he does. “How ree-dick-ul-luss,” he says before the mouse cuts his mark (an “M”; as opposed to Zorro’s “Z”) on the French cat’s fur. Yes, there’s a bit of the Three Musketeers tossed in as Mark isn’t doing his avenging in Colonial California. Before Jinks shuts off the set, we get Don Messick as an announcer intoning the Mark of the Mouse theme—“He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere. So beware!”
Jinks comes up his own rhyme as he shuts off the set. “Oh, broth-aire!” he remarks in phoney Français, “This Mark of the Mouse is real nowhere.” His TV review to the audience is interrupted by a mailman. It’s something for Dixie—a Mark of the Mouse suit, purchased with 40 box tops and 40 box bottoms.
Dixie: How do I look, Pixie?
Pixie: Like Dixie Mouse, mostly.
Dixie: Just wait till I put my mask on. Now how?
Pixie: You look better with the mask on (giggles).
Jinks is watching all this and also sees the outfit came with a harmless, rubber sword. So he’s ready when Dixie strolls up to him, pretending to be the Mark of the Mouse. Jinks pretends to be afraid. Daws gives a “reading-badly-from-a-script” delivery for the cat here, though it’s not in Jinks’ voice, even when he stops “acting”, turns to the camera and says “Am I overacting?” It would have been funnier if the whole routine had been in character.
Jinks runs away and grabs a sword that happens to be conveniently over the fireplace. Then he hides and gets ready. Dixie touchés him with the rubber sword. “Lucky you are not armed for ze duel, or I would slice you to pieces,” exclaims the mouse. Jinks gives one of those Groucho-like eyebrow looks and whips out the sword. So, the chase is on, complete with a patented Charlie Shows butt-puncturing joke.
Jinks “yuk-yuk”s as he walks away singing his version of the Mark of the Mouse theme but as he strolls past the window, who should arrive on the sill but— yeah, that’s right. Jinks thinks it’s still Dixie with his “rubber s-ward” until he gets “stuck-ed.” Notice below right how Jinks develops “Vinci teeth.” They’re thicker than the thin, sometimes partial row that Ken Muse drew.
While Dixie expresses scepticism there is a real Mark of the Mouse, the real one and Jinks engage in a sword fight. The meece come out of their hole and we get a alternating, two-drawing take from Dixie when he realises who is fighting.
And, here’s another clue this is a Vinci cartoon. Pixie and Dixie do Vinci’s stomp-run exit. I’ve slowed it down so you can see the stomping.
The sword fight continues until Jinks sees the meece in the window and has to be told he is fighting the real Mark of the Mouse, who uses his rapier to send Jinks’ sword high into the air. Now, we get a Charlie Shows rhyme. “Scram, Sam, take it on the lam,” Jinks says to himself, as he does a (animator identity clue alert) streched-diving exit out of the scene. Jinks hides under a hassock but the sword does the usual off-camera course change and finds him anyway.
Now comes a great, effective piece of limited animation. Jinks goes to stab Mark of the Mouse but thrusts his sword into the light socket. We get a great electrical shock take, which includes the two great, alternated drawings below.
Defeated and worn-out looking, Jinks repeats after Mark of the Mouse (in phoney French) a pledge never to chase the meeces again. He does so at sword-point. Sort of. The sword keeps disappearing in the cycle animation. Evidently, the sword “isn’t here, isn’t there, isn’t everywhere.”
Mark of the Mouse bids au revoir, as Jinks ridicules him. “Aw, you ain’t for real. Where’s your mark? That’s all I’ve got to say. Where’s your mark?” In a nice surprise ending, Jinks turns his body and we can see the answer.
It’s with a bit of irony that Zorro had a secret identity and so, too, does Mark of the Mouse. I don’t mean in the cartoon. Today, in syndication, the voice actor is not credited. It’s obviously not Butler or Messick. I put the question of “who” to Mark Evanier and he said neither he or cartoon writer Earl Kress could tell. It has been suggested it could be Doug Young’s first appearance in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon before he arrived the following season to play Doggie Daddy. Yet you’d think he’d have used the voice again somewhere but I don’t recall hearing it anywhere. It seems odd Hanna-Barbera would bring in someone to do a generic French accent, especially someone who obviously isn’t French; one wonders why Messick didn’t double (Daws was already playing the French cat).
This is also the last Hanna-Barbera cartoon Sam Clayberger worked on. Is the tree in the background here in water colours?
An odd choice was made for the first bit of music. It’s a medium circus march by Jack Shaindlin, used in a few cartoons, notably Lion Tamer Huck. Circus music doesn’t quite fit a French sword drama. What would have been more effective is if they used the Lou De Francesco piece (called ‘Light Activity’ in the Hi-Q library) at the beginning as it was used later in the cartoon when the Mark of the Mouse appeared and engaged in sword-play with Jinks. And, yes, Shaindlin’s ‘Toboggan Run’ makes its almost-mandatory appearance, along with a lot of familiar tunes.
0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme—instrumental (Hoyt Curtin).
0:27 - circus march (Shaindlin) – Jinks watches the Mark of the Mouse Show.
1:23 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Mailman calls, Dixie puts on Mark of the Mouse costume.
2:06 - TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Meece walk back into house,
2:28 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Meece spot Dixie, Jinks hams it up.
3:27 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks runs away.
3:41 - LAF-4-6 PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Dixie goes looking for Jinks, Jinks pulls out sword.
4:10 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Geordie Hormel) – Jinks attacks Dixie with sword.
4:36 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks dares meece.
4:54 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) – Mark of the Mouse arrives; stabs Jinks.
5:22 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Meece ponder, hear sound of swords.
5:29 - SF-10 SKI(ING) GALOP (De Francesco) – Sword fight.
6:45 - ZR-51 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Jinks pledges never to chase mice; shows off ‘M’ on butt.
7:10 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).