Saturday, April 17, 2010

Pixie and Dixie — Pushy Cat

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Paul Sommers [sic], Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Pixie, Arnold – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks – Daws Butler.
First aired: week of February 15, 1960 (repeat, week of July 25, 1960)
Copyright 1959 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Jinks’ “friend” Arnold invites himself to stay and tries to help himself to a mice dinner.

When Warren Foster arrived at Hanna-Barbera for the second season of the Huckleberry Hound Show, he played around with the personalities and interactions of the characters a little bit. Huck was the least changed from when Charlie Shows wrote for him in the first season. He was still the slow everyman, with different occupations from cartoon to cartoon, though in some of them, he was incredibly clueless (Cop and Saucer, Huck’s Hack). Yogi no longer had spot-gag adventures without Boo Boo in some undefined location. Instead, he became unbreakably hitched to a sidekick, Ranger Smith and Jellystone Park (which only solidified his popularity).

As for Pixie and Dixie, Foster varied their relationship with Mr. Jinks depending on the plot. In Missile Bound Cat, they were enemies much like the Shows-scribed cartoons. In Plutocrat Cat, they started as enemies but were really friends deep-down (in other cartoons, the mood change was reversed). And then you have a cartoon like Pushy Cat where they’re friends through the whole seven minutes.

Of course, you can’t have a cartoon where everyone’s all buddy-buddy (okay, you can, but you get those frolicking animal shorts Disney put out in the ‘30s), so that means an outside threat has to be brought in to move the plot along. And, in this case, the folks at H-B went through their model sheets and dragged out the brown cat who appeared in Jiggers ... It’s Jinks!, Mouse Nappers and Lend Lease Meece. They gave him a new tie, a new name, a new personality and a new voice and now he’s set for a new cartoon.

Carlo Vinci’s tell-tale signs are all over this cartoon—the stretch-dive exit off-screen by the meece, the wide mouth on Jinks and the jerky head animation. His Jinks looks better than in some of Carlo’s first season cartoons and it could be because Paul Sommer did the layouts here. Sommer had just arrived for the start of a lot of years at Hanna-Barbera, but he had co-directed at Columbia in the war years after spending some time at MGM and had been working as an art director at T.V. Spots by 1957.



The cartoon opens Jinks reading the tale of the ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to the meece. But Jinks gives us his hipster version. Here’s how he quotes the first pig to the wolf: “You’re a real cube, rube. Strictly from nowhere, square. Well, like, that put the wolf in the mood, you know. And he huffed, like, and he puffed, like, and he, uh, blowed the straw house down.” Jinks’ story is interrupted by a cheap-sounding buzzer-bell and we get one of Carlo’s standard head-shakes. Here’s a slower version.


Jinks goes to answer the door and Carlo gives us a little loping walk cycle in eight drawings on twos with the cat’s shoulders moving up and down and his butt swaying a bit.

Now it’s Foster’s turn to shine. He’s come up with a great concept. At the door is a cat named Arnold, who greets Jinks like a long-lost friend. Jinks hasn’t a clue who he is or where he’s come from. Other writers would put in some kind of con-artist or freeloader back-story but Foster doesn’t. Arnold just walks in on the confused Jinks and that’s that. And, really, the plot doesn’t need anything more than that.


Jinks (answering door): Uhhhhh, yes?
Arnold: (incredulously) Uh, yes?! Don’t you remember, Jinksie boy? It’s your old pal Arnold. You’re looking great, old buddy, just great!
Jinks: Ar .. ar .. Arnold?
Arnold: (laughs) Same old Jinksie, right there with the jokes (laughs again). Making out like he doesn’t remember old Arnold. Well, Jinksie, like you always said, if you ever get out my way, Arnie, drop in. Well (giggles) here I am. All dropped in. (walks in and laughs).
Jinks (to audience as camera moves in for close up): You know, you’d think that I’d recall a cat named Arnold, wouldn’t you?

Arnold plants himself in Jinks’ basket and informs him he can only stay for a month. The two cats engage in more dialogue, with Jinks still trying to make sense of it all when Pixie and Dixie walk into the scene and ask him to finish the story. We get a Vinci head shake take and thick solid row of teeth as Arnold sees the mice. That’s followed by the Vinci diving exit as Pixie somehow gains Dixie’s voice.


Jinks grabs Arnold by the tail before he can catch Pixie and Dixie and explains to him that “chasing mice is primitive cat stuff” and drags him away to do “something elevating.” They play cards but Arnold can do is think of the mice behind him. So he plots to get a drink of water, though we can tell by his expression what’s on his mind. Off Arnold goes to the bathroom, while Jinks remarks to us that he’s “kinda stone age.” Now, we get a soliloquy from behind the closed bathroom door.




Arnold: What does that guy think I’m made of—stone? I’m a living, breathing pussy cat. So I’m primitive. But I don’t care. I want those mice.

Arnold finds some knock out pills in the medicine cupboard and it turns out he’s put them in a glass of water for ol’ Jinks. Here’s his expression as Jinks drinks.

Now, virtually the rest of the cartoon involves the mice trying to avoid Arnold and wake up Jinks at the same time. “Help, Jinks! Arnold’s being primitive again,” Dixie yelps at one point. They try adhesive tape to keep Jinks’ eyes open. The eyelids are heavier than they thought. Oh, well. It didn’t work in Joe and Bill’s Sleepy-Time Tom (1951), either.

Then they try an alarm clock on Jinks’ head and a stick of dynamite by his butt. The alarm wakes him up, then he smells “you know, like a fur coat burning.” It’s the dynamite. Jinks grabs it and tosses it away—only to have it land next to Arnold, who has a baseball bat ready to clobber the mice. But he doesn’t get that far.



So the beaten, burned Arnold trudges out the door, defeated. The end gag is kind of lame. Jinks tells the mice he’s okay “except every once-st in a while” he can hear bells. It’s the alarm clock that’s still on his head. You’d think real friends would have removed it. Well, they’re back to “sort of” friends in their next cartoon. By the way, you can see how the dark diagonal shadow above Jinks is different in this shot than the “adhesive tape” one above.

There’s a lot of well-known Jack Shaindlin music here, including some short snippets of ‘Toboggan Run,’ which was used more in the first season. The rest of the background music is from the Hi-Q library, most of it by whomever ghost-wrote for Geordie Hormel and his buddy Spencer Moore.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie main title theme (Curtin).
0:12 - TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks reads story, opens door.
1:03 - LAF-27-6 UNTITED TUNE (Shaindlin) – Arnold and Jinks converse, mice enter scene.
2:19 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Arnold sees mice, Jinks tells Arnold the meeces are his friends.
2:35 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks holds onto Arnold; drags him to card table, Arnold in bathroom.
3:59 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Arnold brings water to Jinks, Arnold points to mouth.
4:47 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Mice zip away; open Jinks’ eyes.
5:06 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Jinks threatens Arnold, mice try adhesive tape.
5:43 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Mice chased by Arnold.
5:54 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – Alarm clock put on Jinks’ head, dynamite explodes, Arnold leaves, alarm clock goes off over Jinks.
6:57 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).

4 comments:

  1. The animation is unusually appealing in this cartoon. Some of it looks downright Fred Flintstone like.

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  2. Don Messick may not have relished impressions, but Arnold does sound a lot like Frank Nelson.

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  3. Carlo Vinci's animation became a lot more polished in the second (1959) season of the HUCK show. So too did Ken Muse's, but to less of an extent. And this cartoon was made the season before THE FLINTSTONES premiered, so your comparison is apt.

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  4. This is one of my favorite Hanna Barbera shorts!

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