Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pixie and Dixie — Mark of the Mouse

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).

16 comments:

  1. Carlo doesn't fai lto turn in some great footage, but we must face the facts. "Missile Bound Cat" was much better than this.

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  2. Gotta love my man Carlo Vinci! His twitchy style was perfect for stuff like "Twinkletoes" Flintstone bowling.

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  3. Sorry for not posting to you lately, but we've been having some family issues after the passing of a cousin of mine last week, although her birthday would've been today.

    Also, I am now no longer interested in Hanna-Barbera cartoons, mainly because I have seen them like 100 times already. I will try to post to you from time to time as I go on to different interests.

    In the meantime, I will now stop being a major poster on here, therefore I will make occasional posts on here.

    Thank you for your support, Yowp.

    And now I must move on. Maybe someday I will post to you again. Good-bye.

    Ryan

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  4. Hi, Ryan. Sorry to hear about your family's loss.

    As for the cartoons, probably everyone reading here has seen them hundreds of times. And the best of the cartoons are still watchable and probably always will be. With DVDs and web sites, people can now choose when they view them, instead of like when I was a kid in the '60s and we had to wait until the next HB show aired (other than The Flintstones; they were on every day).

    Come back whenever you'd like.

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  5. Hi, Zartok. I actually like this cartoon better. Probably because of the story structure. In Missile, it's like Foster is stretching to fill time and the ending isn't really a surprise. Even Pixie and Dixie aren't too surprised; their head-shake watching Space Cat take a broom to the King Meece isn't as good as some of Vinci's stuff in this cartoon.

    Maybe it's just me, but the casual, everyday attitude the mice have toward space travel just doesn't seem right.

    There are some interesting music choices in Missile (watch Steve Carras jump in to comment). The opening "oriental" piece is, I suspect, a Sam Fox cue I can't find in my collection and I can only guess where the orchestral fanfare comes from that follows it.

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  6. Ryan, sorry to about your family's loss and for your haivng to leave..

    Mr.Yowpster, I'm still sure it's Roger Rgoer's Himalaya, and I've actually, just to clarify how I know, been on a BBC site that I'd it as such, but it's part of a longer 30-minute long "stream", right next to the link to THAT's a "listing"..["BBC Test Tapes", there's a whole mess of these]


    Steve C.,aka Pokey

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  7. Ryan..Sorry to hear about the passing of a family member. Sadly, none of us pass through this ride called life unscathed in one fashion or another. I can relate, and I'm sure most of the posters here can also. You will be in my thoughts. Yowp, you mentioned Harry Cohn, there was a character. I had a conversation a few years back with actress Dorothy Hart, now sadly gone, but she went into detail about her first day at Columbia Studios and their first meeting..WILD!!It brought a whole new light to Red Skelton's famous quip at Mr. Cohn's funeral. But, this is not a 1930s and 40's days of the " Studio System " board....sooo..I am also suprised they had Mr. Jinx watching " Mark Of The Mouse ". He wouldn't have liked this any more than watching " Knock Out Mouse ". Oh well, just setting the stage for the story I guess. This was also at a time when it seemed most kids had some sort of " Hero " costume. I had friends with " Zorro " costumes. Besides having fun and lampooning these characters like Tex Avery did, I think H-B was also cashing in on the children's pop culure of the time.

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  8. I am not actually leaving, guys. As I have said, I will still occasionally make posts on here, but not so often.

    This was no family loss. This is a loss of a cousin. I'd love to talk about her, but I think this should be kept a secret for all of us, unless you can let me go ahead, but who would want to do that?

    Besides, my Nana, 89, passed away on January 21, 2010, possibly of pneumonia, so that will make a deal on the family loss. Also, my Papa, also 89, passed away on July 15, 2008, following a couregous battle against cancer.

    And now the only interest I have for Hanna-Barbera is if I imagined it as a version of Sesame Street, starting in 1954. (I know, Hanna-Barbera didn't really form until 1957, but I want to deal with the retirement of Don Messick in 1996.) Because I am now interested in Sesame Street (with SpongeBob SquarePants in between slightly).

    But thank you anyways, guys.

    Thanks again for your support.

    Ryan

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  9. Another reminder:

    If I can talk about my cousin who had just passed away, (BTW, her name is Tina) I could do so.

    Also, I meant to say "courageous", sorry for that spelling error on the last post.

    What I was saying is that my imaginary version of "Sesame Street" (which started in 1954) would last until Don Messick's retirement in 1996. So it would last 41 seasons.

    Also, I will still post here commonly until April 12th, so you might wanna pay attention to my posts.

    As I have said before, I am 11 years old. Also, I was born on July 31, 1998 in Michigan.

    Enough talk, thank you once again for the support you have been giving me.

    I will post to you again tomorrow.

    Ryan

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  10. I have nothing to back this up, but when the Mark of the Mouse said "Always remember ze Mark of the Mouse" it sounded an awful lot like Bill Thompson. Could Zorro be Droopy? Who knows?

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  11. The actor, who does the voice of the masked mouse may be Howard McNer. The acting is very different than what he usually did for instance in The Andy Griffith Show, but otherwise it's him. And he was also brought back to Hanna-Barbera some time later to do a series of nitwitt doctors on Flintstones. It sounds like, even the French Accent he had used one like it on the radio series Suspence, did Mark Evanier think of him?

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  12. Hi Anon. No, McNear never crossed my mind. Everyone, of course, is used to his unusual delivery (even before his stroke) on Andy Griffith and the Flintstones. I'd have to check the GoldIndex to see when he did a French accent on 'Suspense.' I must admit OTR drama is not an interest of mine.

    It doesn't sound like Bill Thompson to me; there's a similarity about a lot of his dialects.

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  13. Who did the voice of the french King in Tom and Jerry's "Royal Cat Nap" at MGM. Could be him. But the king speaks in french for most of the time.

    Who has suggested it was Doug Youg's first appearance?

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  14. Am really confused about the contract actors of Hanna-Barbera in 1958, when this was made. Certainly there were the greats, Daws Butler and Don Messick, but were there others? Towards the start of Top Cat, HB had VanderPyl who came on Snooper and Blabber, Stephenson who came on Flintstones, Doug Young, who came on Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, Bennett who came on Y.Bear(and before that on Tom and Jerry in Busy Buddies in 1956) and Hal Smith. By that time there were a lot of guest voices, like Howard mcNear, Jerry Mann, Nancy Wible, Frank Nelson, Paula Winslowe, Hershei Bernardi, June Forat and.......The question comes to mind-

    Did they do anything before the prime-time shows?

    Also in an interview with Earl Kress, Marvin Kaplan stated that when he auditioned for choo-Choo, they made the ones who were on contract to HB, Daws Butler, Don Messick and Lennie Weinrib??? immitated him.

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  15. Yowp, I just returned and noticed thsat you guessed Howard MacNear (whose memorable HB voices would include several daffy doctors on The Flintstones) as Mark of the Mouse. That's an interesting guess!

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    Replies
    1. Listen to the character with Howard MacNear in mind.

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