Saturday, March 27, 2010

Quick Draw McGraw — Scat, Scout, Scat

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation - Ken Muse; Story - Mike Maltese; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson. (No credits).
Voice Cast: Narrator - Peter Leeds; Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Big Chief Little Runt - Daws Butler.
First Aired: October 13, 1959.
Plot: Big Chief Little Runt tries to stop a railway station from being built on Indian Territory.

Joe Besser was perfect for television animation. He had a distinctive voice with a distinctive delivery (but easy to passably imitate) and some well-known catchphrases, thanks to appearances in Columbia two-reelers in the 1940s. Characters based on Besser showed up in Warner Bros. cartoons, including the cop in Hollywood Daffy (1945) and the for-the-sake-of-a-gag elephant in Rabbit Fire (1951), written by Mike Maltese, and Book Revue and Hollywood Canine Canteen (both 1946), written by Warren Foster.

Maltese and Foster brought along their apparent love of Besser when they arrived at the door of Hanna-Barbara, as they started putting Besser-inspired characters in—of all things—westerns. A Besser horse shows up in a couple of Huckleberry Hound ‘Old West Flashback’ cartoons (presumably written by Foster), and as Big Chief Little Runt in Quick Draw McGraw’s Scat, Scout, Scat, a Maltese concoction.

The only person who never got some benefit from the presence of these Besser-like characters in cartoons was Besser himself, ironic considering Hanna-Barbera hired him in the early ‘70s as a voice actor. H-B used its star, Daws Butler, to invoke Besser in the minds of viewers.

Scat, Scout, Scat is early in the Quick Draw series so it’s a little different from later entries. I personally like the portrayal of Quick Draw here. He isn’t an utter boob. Sure, Quick Draw has silly dialogue but he’s generally one step ahead of his noisy opponent, like he is in Bad Guys Disguise. Later, it seems Quick Draw gets bashed around through the whole cartoon and loses, similar to Daffy Duck in cartoons like Dripalong Daffy (written by Maltese) but without Daffy’s ego trouble.

The voice work’s a little different in this one, too. The narrator is Stan Freberg’s sometime straight-man Peter Leeds, in what appears to have been his only work on early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Leeds had a steady career that spanned radio, films and television. He was a protégé of Dick Powell, was acting in the late ‘30s, served during the War (he later toured bases with Bob Hope), and then found a place in the funny Frebergian Universe. Oh, and he bought George Gobel’s home in 1958. But enough trivia. Also noticeable is Baba Looey’s voice is lower-pitched here and in several other cartoons though, at the end, Daws brings his register up to a familiar spot in playing the “old” Baba.

This is another cartoon where Maltese has come up with a nice little structure. The bulk of the action happens in flashback, with a little twist at the end. The opening is not all that unusual—the narrator sets up the story and there are several pans and trucks into background cells which take up 20-plus seconds of the cartoon with no animation. I don’t know who did the layout but this frame is so flat, the building in the background looks like it’s in mid-air.

There’s a nice little dissolve at the start, too, from a white statue of Quick Draw and a solid background (made with a sponge?) to the same pose of the “real” Quick Draw in colour in front of some standard-issue distant mesas on spotted desert sand. He’s pointing out where a railway depot should go.


Baba Looey warns Quick Draw’s pointing to “injun country” and he doesn’t “thin’” Big Chief Little Runt will like the railway coming through. Quick Draw retorts with his most-famous catch-phrase and their conversation is interrupted by an “or else” message on an arrow from the Chief. Quick Draw shoots the arrow back with an “Or else what?” message and gets a quick reply. Daws gives a great casual reading: “At least Little Runt answers his mail.”

There are some typical Hanna-Barbarisms here. Though writer Charlie Shows has gone, his hallmarks linger on with butt-piercing jokes and rhyming couplets (“Indians don’t scare me none, son,” “Head for the fort, sport!”) and Quick Draw reading a message aloud that we can see on the screen in a static shot that saves ten seconds of animation. And we get a couple of mismatched shots, as if Ken Muse did all the two-character drawings in one sitting then went back and did the single-character upper-body animation.


Back to the plot. The “or else” is a swarm of arrows in perspective. Note the rolling, blobby cloud in the background. Some cartoons had clouds like that (Tony Rivera layouts?); others featured semi-translucent white ones that Dick Bickenbach seemed to favour. Quick Draw and Baba beat a retreat and then the Chief enters using the patented Hanna-Barbera slide. A character is in a slide pose on a cell that’s moved across the background (while we hear the H-B slid sound effect). It’s a well-used trick to simulate animation.

Now comes a string of gags, set up almost the same way. Chief gives a running commentary to the camera. Then he’s blasted. Then he comments again with a Besser catchphrase, occasionally with a kind of a violence coda to top it off. In the first one, he’s standing on the heads of two other stereotypes and is so busy giving his blood-curdling yell (in time-saving cycle animation) it gives Quick Draw a chance to shoot him. Chief yells “Retreat!” The braves run away, leaving him in mid-air. Chief turns in the direction they ran and screeches “Oooo, you cra-zies, you!” before dropping with a thud.

Little Runt gets revenge on Quick Draw with the exploding peace-pipe gag. Then he ties up our hero to burn him at the stake but Quick Draw unexpectedly blows out the match. Quick Draw volunteers to go back to the fort and get him a light and we get the “such a pinch” threat from Chief Besser. Instead, a cannon emerges and fires. “Ooooh. That cra-zy!” says the running Chief before the cannon ball clobbers him.

Next the Chief digs underground into the fort and right into an awaiting cannon. The Chief promises “such a smaaa-sh” before he is fired into the distance. He trots back to the fort waving a white truce flag but that doesn’t count because his fingers are crossed. “I’m such a sneee-ak” gleefully says the Chief as he whips out a bow and arrow, but Quick Draw puts his hands up to reveal a mini-cannon under his coonskin cap. “Kinda sneaky myself” chuckles Quick Draw.



Finally we get dramatic warpath-evoking music and Quick Draw running from a flurry of arrows (we get “Head to the fort, sport” again). He tries to push open the front gate but gets shot in the butt with an arrow. With each stab, he pushes the fort until it’s finally over the boundary line marking Indian Territory and therefore safe for all.

So we return to Quick Draw pointing out where the railway depot should go and that dissolves back into the statue shot from the beginning with the narrator crediting him for signing a peace treaty. There’s a downward pan into a gag as it’s revealed the statue has the three arrows (in marble) embedded in its butt. And admiring it are Quick Draw and Baba Looey, their white beards and feeble voices revealing we’re now some time in the present.

Baba walks away, and that reveals the three arrows are still stuck in Quick Draw, who wonders whatever happened to Big Chief Little Runt. Another arrow shot into his butt answers the question. Cut to an old version of Little Runt. “I’m still such a sneee-eek!” he tells us as the iris closes.


So, if you’ve lost track, here’s the Besser “Such a...” tally:
“Sneak” – 2
“Smash” – 2
“Pinch” – 1
“Old Stubborn” – 1
“Hotfoot” – 1
“Clever” – 1
“Smarty” – 1
“Surprise” – 1

And we get one “You, crazies, you.”

There are a couple of animation errors that flash by. The first one is tough to catch. Baba is talking to Quick Draw, who is leaning over. But in two frames, Baba’s mouth moves to somewhere in the distance, then back onto his face in the next drawing.


Then when Quick Draw is reading at the reply from Little Runt, his eyes move off his head during one mouth movement and move back after two frames.


There’s a piece of music that seems to pop up in all H-B “Indian” cartoons (like The Brave Little Brave) that starts with four trombone notes in a minor key followed by a tom-tom then works itself into a faster, and more orchestrated, war-dance. My guess is it’s a Geordie Hormel piece in the Hi-Q “X” series which is where most speciality music ended up. The first piece is from the “M” series.


0:00 - Quick Draw sub-main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:16 - ZR-39A WESTERN SONG (Hormel) – Narrator sets up plot over books and statue.
0:42 - TC-205 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Quick Draw points out future spot for train depot; shot in butt.
1:15 - warpath music (Hormel?) – Quick Draw reads letter to scene where Indians retreat.
3:10 - CAPERS (Jack Shaindlin) – Little Runt drops to ground, peace-pipe scene.
3:49 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Phil Green) – Quick Draw blows out match, threatened with “such a pinch.”
4:08 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Quick Draw runs back to fort, Little Runt hit with cannonball.
4:27 - warpath music (Hormel?) – Little Runt crawls with shovel.
4:38 - MAD RUSH No. 1 (Shaindlin) – Little Runt digs tunnel into cannon.
5:10 - no music – Little Runt fired into the distance.
5:14 - GR-99 THE DIDDLECOMB HUNT (Green) – Little Runt with white flag; shot with mini-cannon.
5:48 - warpath music (Hormel?) – Arrows fired at Quick Draw, fort pushed over boundary.
6:13 - TC-205 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Loose-Seely) – Quick Draw points out future spot for train depot.
6:23 - ZR-39A WESTERN SONG (Hormel) – Quick Draw dissolves into statue, old-timer Quick Draw shot in butt.
6:52 - GR-79 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – Little Runt “still such a sneak.”
7:01 - Quick Draw sub-end title theme (Curtin).

11 comments:

  1. I remember of this episode. They have beautiful paintings and the animation frames is still hilarious. That's remember the mistakes from the cartoon show "Canned Feud" (1951) where the Sylvester's eyes was out of his head in one frame scene.

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  2. This is the one Quick Draw episode to have equally both Huck AND Quick Draw cues. Seely-Loose's ones [well, David Rose actually], George Hormel [well, whoever ghost wrote], Phil Green's usual cues and the still to be profiled Jack Shaindlin as well.

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  3. Plus a Native American, white horse, and an imitatine of Joe Besser allgive an additional Huck flavor..think Chief Crazy Coyote and Huck's Besser-ised horse..and the same color as Quick Draw.


    And those were used in Gumby and Pokey episode only with a certain ORANGE horse..

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  4. Maltese also used the flashback framework in his story for Walter Lantz,"The Legend of Rockabye Point", directed by Tex Avery. An old boat captain narrates at the beginning and end of the cartoon. The story involves a polar bear trying to rob the captain's boat of blue fin tuna. A fierce bulldog is guarding the fish, and the only thing that placates him is the song "Rockabye Baby", and being rocked to sleep. The polar bear has to constantly rock the bulldog to sleep all through the picture. (It's a Chilly Willy cartoon, but he is almost a footnote in the story.) The last scene shows an elderly polar bear and bulldog bent with age and toothless. They are on Rockabye Point for eternity, endlessly rocking. The bulldog says to the polar bear, "Sing it ("Rockabye Baby")to me again, will ya Charlie?" from Mark Kausler

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  5. It's surprising to note how, in the last few screengrabs to the "present" day, Quick Draw is missing his tail - including his statue!

    Otherwise, another grand look back to his early days.

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  6. I think it's safe to say Rob Gentle painted for this one.

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  7. One detail to include: the layout on this Quick Draw McGraw episode, was done by Dick "Bick" Bickenbach.

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  8. MKausler, the "Rock a-bye Bear" gags included two famous Tex Avery gags that early Hanna-Barbera used: the ominpresence bit already covered regarding Huck [most importantly for "Rustler Hustler Huck"], and the "running outside to make a noise when one ain't suppsoed to", which Augie and Doggie Daddy would do, briefly with Doggie making Augie go outside to do a noise at the start of "A Peck O'Trouble" but most importantly, Doggie flip-flopping to the other side, shared with a library floorwalker who happens to be a Frank Nelson soundalike, having to run outside so they can be silent in the library per the librarian's orders as Augie's friend Irving the Bookworm keeps dropping things on both Doggie and the floorwalker, in "It's A Worm Day". That would be a good entry on this blog. That of course goes as fas back as Tom and Jerry [it got then at one of their Oscars]..

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  9. It seems the Besser character was popular to Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers in that era. You are correct about " Rabbit Fire ". The elephant( Mel Blanc ) tells Elmer Fudd in Besserish tones " You do, and I'll give such a pinch ". And in other Warner's shorts, Mel could be heard saying " Ohhh, He's such a Sneakkkk!! " You're right Yowp, H-B would hire Joe to finally do his own voice( Imagine that?)as the voice of the Genie, " Babu ", I think, in the 1970's.

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  10. It's so neat to see this episodes again on
    dvd or Boomarang because they still remain
    clear in my mind, how expressive and funny
    those characters were and still are. Nothing
    like what Hanna-Barbera animation became with
    smaller and less expressive & mobil.

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  11. Pokey, aka Steve C.March 30, 2010 at 10:24 PM

    Too the Genie's show sucked..the character rocked..don't forget Galazy Goof Ups or The Bagdasarian Alvin show..DFE hired him to do some of their good shows like Baggy Pants and Nitwits [interstitials]

    Pokey, aka Steve C.

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