Saturday, May 22, 2010

Augie Doggie — Skunk You Very Much

Produced by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice cast: Doggie Daddy – Doug Young; Augie, Skunk – Daws Butler.
First aired: October 13, 1959.
Plot: Augie befriends a skunk while learning how to hunt birds and Daddy can’t get it out of the house.

Animators, much like the rest of the general population of a certain era, loved the Jack Benny radio show. Many theatrical cartoons of the Golden Age have references to it, some obscured today by the passage of time.

Jack’s writers over the years built up so many traits and secondary characters that, eventually, they had plenty of things to pick from and didn’t need to repeat themselves every week.

One of Jack’s secondary characters sort of found his way into this cartoon, likely for no other reason than Mike Maltese found him funny. “Sort of”, since Maltese doesn’t really use the full character, just a voice and a catch-phrase.

Among one of Benny’s characters was a race track tout, generally played by Sheldon Leonard. What made the bit clever is the tout gave Benny advice on anything but horse races (eg. which Christmas present to buy for a woman) but used race-track terminology to describe his reasons (eg. lingerie is a good show bet). So Jack would be in a store, a train station or some such place, then have a conversation unexpectedly interrupted by someone in a low, quiet tone going “Pssst. Hey, bud. Come here a minute. Whatcha doin’?” It was the tout.

I love the tout idea and his incongruous wordplay and Maltese, no stranger to wordplay, must have, too, because the skunk in this cartoon uses the tout’s catchphrase and confidential voice. But that’s where the similarities end. For the rest of the cartoon, Maltese bends a plot device used by Tex Avery—the guy you can’t get rid of. Avery used it in terms of the cartoon (and Hayes Office) credo that “good overcomes bad because that’s the way things must be” (the same reason Wile E. Coyote’s devices must ultimately fail). Maltese’s plot doesn’t involve some kind of cartoon karma; the skunk is simply determined to stay because he wants a friend.

The cartoon opens the same way as Fox-Hounded Fox—Augie is nagging dear old dad about something until he gets his way with an unexpected gag somewhere along the way. This time, Doggie Daddy promised to teach him to be a bird-dog but has decided now is not a good time because Augie has a cold. Augie won’t listen to logic and hauls out a protest placard. Chuckling Daddy gives in and decides to keep his promise, which is the thread that holds together the whole cartoon. Augie gags the scene by turning around the sign proving he knew all along what the outcome would be. And like in Fox-Hounded Fox, the Daddy home has late ’50s décor and avant garde art, though Bob Givens laid out the earlier cartoon and Bick Bickenbach did this one.



Perhaps Bugs Bunny sold the living room chair to Maltese, who brought it over from Warners to give to Doggie Daddy. Bugs has a similar one in To Hare is Human (1956), designed by Maurice Noble.

So off go the hounds into the woods for a bird-watching lesson. After a huge sneeze bashes Daddy against a tree, the cold-ridden Augie sniffs along the ground and goes right past the nicely-designed skunk who’s at the centre of the picture. Then we get the Benny tout’s catchphase. There are no birds around but the skunk pulls out “a for real, genuine eagle’s egg” (don’t ask why a skunk would be carrying one) and offers to exchange it for something. That’s when the skunk breaks character, goes down on his knees in four drawings and pathetically begs Augie to be his friend, then four drawings later resumes his original calm tout voice and position against the tree. The two make a deal and Augie promises to be his friend. The skunk now starts catching up on information because no one will talk to him, questions like “Did the Dodgers win the pennant? Are they still doin’ the Charleston?” Augie never gets a chance to answer the string of constant questions, as Daddy comes onto the scene, then grabs Augie and runs back inside their modern-furnished home.



The remaining three minutes are full of ubiquity gags. Maltese is sabotaged a bit by the even timing because he tries to structure them a bit. The gags start getting more ridiculous as the situation carries on, like how the skunk comes through the mouthpiece of the decidedly unmodern phone and then through the earpiece when Daddy shoves him back in the phone. Maltese tries an Avery-style build-up by putting the skunk in a jar, then rushes the jar into a garbage can, then drops the can down the well. Then there’s the old pops-up-from-different-drawers gag (while playing chess). And Maltese tosses in a completely goofy gag as the skunk sails in on a paper airplane.




Finally comes the climax gag as Augie actually saws down the wall of the house to let the skunk in. Why? “Because my daddy taught me to always keep my promise.” Doggie Daddy, as you might expect, gives in and allows Augie to keep his promise and overcomes the noxious skunk smell at the end. “When bringin’ up a boy, there are times when if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em,” Daddy tells the audience as the iris closes.


Carlo Vinci’s style is pretty evident here. We get a bunch of Vinci head-shakes and a diving exit off camera. And Vinci loved those two-drawing fear shake takes. Here’s one of them. My apologies that the frame grabs are so crappy; I haven’t got a great copy of this cartoon. I’ve slowed it down so you can see the drawings but still get the effect.


This head shake is in a cycle of three drawings. There are three drawings in a six-frame cycle; the head position on the right is held for two frames before the cycle starts again.


The music selection has a couple of oddities. The paper airplane jaunt uses what sounds a lot like a piece of music from the KPM library of England; the Hi-Q ‘L’ series featured at least two reels of music from KPM. There are also short snippets of a quick Jack Shaindlin piece used twice for quick hammering; H-B didn’t often use stock music for an effect like that. The rest of the music is atypical of an Augie cartoon. ‘Fireman’ is an incomplete name; I don’t know the rest of it.


0:00 - Augie Doggie main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:26 - THE HAPPY COBBLER (Hecky Krasnow) – Scene in house with Augie’s signs.
1:11 - GR-258 THE TIN DRAGOONS (Phil Green) – Augie sneezes Daddy into tree; sniffs on ground; passes skunk.
2:27 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Bluestone-Cadkin) (Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin) – Skunk talks to Augie.
4:11 - LFU 117-3 MAD RUSH No. 3 (Shaindlin) – Daddy grabs Augie and runs into house with him.
4:19 - CB-90 HAPPY HOME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Daddy and Augie talk about promise, skunk knocks on door.
4:49 - LFU-117-3 MAD RUSH No. 3 (Shaindlin) – Daddy smells skunk, skunk in window.
4:49 - unknown (Shaindlin) – Daddy boards up window.
5:02 - CB-89A ROMANTIC JAUNT (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Daddy smells skunk in fireplace.
5:10 - unknown (Shaindlin) – Daddy bricks up fireplace.
5:15 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Skunk in phone, Daddy tosses skunk down well.
5:55 - jaunty bassoon and skippy strings (Shaindlin) – Daddy peers down well, skunk in dresser.
6:32 - light symphonic music with strings (unknown) – Skunk on paper airplane.
6:42 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Augie saws down wall; Daddy in gas mask.
7:11 - Augie Doggie end title theme (Curtin).

11 comments:

  1. Maltese also used the Sheldon Leonard gag at Warners in "Fox Terror", one of the few cartoons he did with Robert McKimson.

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  2. I've never seen this Augie Doggie cartoon before until I looked it up on YouTube, yet again, I've only seen a handful of them because they're rarely shown on TV. Same with the Snooper and Blabber cartoons, which I've seen even less of. Quite sad how so many kids don't even know who these characters are anymore because they've never been exposed to the cartoons. A fun cartoon with some cool Carlo Vinci animation.

    By the way, I've always wondered, but do you know who animated this bumper from the original Huckleberry Hound Show? It kinda looks like either Lew Marshall's or Ken Muse's drawing style, but I'm not sure.

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  3. Roberto, the bumper's always puzzled me. I thought it was Mike Lah but someone here knows this stuff better than I.

    It's a shame these aren't on TV as often any more. It's like anything else .. newer programming replaces the old, and a lot of programming has accumulated over the years now. If you take away all the stuff created from the 1970s to today, it would have to be replaced with something, and HB cartoons like this and old theatricals would be it.

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  4. JL, thanks. I didn't know Maltese did that one. If I had, I would have added that to the post because the tout bit is pretty memorable. I like how Foggy and the dog twirl then acquire capes and shoot the fox. The timing's really good (can't say I remember much else from it, though).

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  5. This is one of my favorite Augie Doggie cartoons, mainly because of his characterization. He's more childlike and likable, unlike his later personality when he was more of a smug 'boy genius'. I really like the skunk too, he's unflappable in the face of all of Doggie Daddy's efforts to get rid of him. I like him a lot more than the overrated Pepé Le Pew.

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  6. I never realized that was Sheldon Leonard being caricatured with the "Hey, bud- c'mere". But it makes sense in that context. Butler would use this voice in other H-B cartoons, most memorably as 88 Keys Louie in the Season 1 FLINTSTONES episode HOT PIANO- one of the few episodes written by Maltese.

    Leonard would also be caricatured as the dispatcher in DFE's first TV production, 1966's SUPER SIX. Paul Frees did the honors.

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  7. The story structure in this one actually ties together the two subplots very well. Of course Augie should be smart enough to know that, even with his sense of smell temporarily unavailable, that a skunk would not be welcomed by Dear Old Dad. But it adds to his likability.

    Seeing these early episodes corroborates what Dan says about Augie becoming more intellectual as the series progresses to the point that he's basically interchangeable with Elroy Jetson in voice and personality. It seems that both Butler and Maltese 'matured' his character fairly early on.

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  8. Howard, you and Dan are right. Augie was more like an innocent boy (who accepts an animal for what it is) in many of the earliest ones. He started talking to ants in the fourth cartoon, then became a flying-saucer builder in the fifth one. Maltese ended up revisiting those kinds of plots instead like the one in TV or Not TV, which is a pretty basic kid rivalry-sitcom premise.

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  9. That SF-1004, which is in "High and Flighty" with Augie, does seem to be a KPM tune at that-by none other than PHIL GREEN, titled "They're off"-----found THAT out four years ago in 2006!!

    -Steve J.Carras, aka keeper of the Pokey blog

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  10. It's not the Green song. It's not even close. Thanks for the try, Steve. In fact, in listening to it again, it's not SF-1004 either. I've heard it somewhere and it's going to drive me nuts where.

    KPM music is on Hi-Q reels L-95 and 96. Some cues have the same name today. At least one has had it changed, or perhaps a slight arrangement change to proclaim it a new song ("SF-1002 Champs Elysees" is now Man About Town by Laurie Johnson).

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  11. That Sheldon Leonard skunk and other resilient [whether the "other character" likes it or not] characters probaly would design such &&& like that "Security Tool" nonsense [if the internet existed back inb the 40s and 50s that gag would add to the omnipresence] and such spyware that does the same thing---popping up whether you want it to or not [even the TV version in 1958 of Felix did in one with the Rockbottom bulldog villian in his only appearance without the evil Albert Einstein caricature-Professor and Tennessee Tuxedo did this bit in an episode about trying to get a friend, otherwise not seen, a cat named Freddy, to complete an inheritance ritual by sleeping in [sound familiar?:-)] a haunted house.]

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