Saturday, August 7, 2010

Augie Doggie — Million-Dollar Robbery

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Dick Lundy; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie, Bank Guard, Teller – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy, Newscaster, Blinks Guards, Bank Robber – Doug Young.
First Aired: December 1, 1959 (BCDB, unconfirmed).
Plot: Doggie Daddy thinks Augie has stolen $1,000,000 from a bank and tries to return it.

There’s something about this cartoon that bothers me and it really shouldn’t.

After all, we’re not talking about Citizen Kane or Sunset Boulevard or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. We’re talking about an Augie Doggie cartoon for TV. But Mike Maltese has a hole in his plot and I’m still wondering why he wrote it that way.

Other than that, the cartoon’s fine. Ed Benedict has laid out some interesting exteriors and simple character designs, Dick Lundy provides some distinctive poses and Doug Young gets a chance to stretch his voice a bit, especially playing the dumb robber. First, let’s look at some of Ed’s layouts put together by Monty (yes, you can click on them to enlarge them a bit).




So here’s the set up. Doggie Daddy’s woeful bill counting is interrupted by the child-like version of Augie playing with a toy machine gun. Daddy explains if he can’t pay his bills “it’s over the hill to the dog house for me.” Lundy tries to avoid the two-position nose-bob like you’d see in a Lew Marshall cartoon. In between phrases, he has Daddy move his head to the side and back in four drawings. He varies the timing, so one drawing is on twos, another on threes and another on fours. Here are the positions, slowed down.


“My father in the dog house. Oh, the shame of it!” exclaims Sylvester, Jr. Augie. “And to pay all dem bills, I’d have to rob a bank,” says Daddy. Augie replies, “I’ll be happy to rob a bank for my dear, desperate dad.” And off he goes with his wagon.

Daddy hears gunshots and reacts. Lundy simply goes from pose to pose. Here are a couple.


Next thing, Augie has a hyper grin as he runs back home with a bag of cash, saying to himself “No dad of mine is going to no dog house if I can help it.”

This is what bothers me. We learn later in the cartoon Augie didn’t take the money. OK. But his intention is to give the stolen loot to Daddy as a gift. I have a problem believing that the young and naïve Augie would be so dishonest. Wouldn’t the first thing he’d so is tell Dear Old Dad about his discovery and get him to call the cops?

No. Instead, he hands Daddy the “bag of goodies.” Daddy thinks it’s jellybeans. Until he bites into one and Augie asks him why he’s eating money. Before Dear Old Dad can answer, there’s a flash announcement on the previously-silent radio. Someone has just robbed the Last National Bank of $1,000,000. Augie reacts with a hyper wide grin. What?! Daddy’s reactions make more sense. I love the ‘60s wallpaper.


It’s only now that Augie tries to explain, but Daddy keeps covering his mouth. Augie’s head construction makes that difficult, so Lundy has Daddy squash in Augie’s snout, complete with appropriate squish sound effect.

So why did Augie wait until now to reveal he found stolen money in his yard? Why didn’t Maltese write it so Augie excitedly raced in with his wagon, anxious to reveal what had happened, then Daddy misconstruing the situation instantly and never giving his son a chance to explain before deciding to right the wrong? That would have made more sense to me. Maltese would have had time leftover to fit in another gag later in the cartoon, too.

Anyway, the rest of the cartoon works out well. Doggie Daddy gets an idea. He decides to sneak the money back into the bank “so it won’t be stolen no more.” Maltese comes up with a series of spot-type gags. First, Daddy pretends to be Doggie Mommy and dresses up the bag as a baby. The stroller ingeniously has a trap door, which Daddy opens and the money slides into a waste basket. But Daddy is stopped by a sharp nosed bank guard with an Irish accent, who gives the “baby” back.


Next, Daddy sneaks into an underground construction site and uses a jackhammer (and his “cal-cu-culations”) to try to break into the bank. And he does. He breaks through to the vault and bags of money shower down upon him.

Maltese comes up with a silly gag now. Daddy joins a line of identical, eye-less, mouth-less Blinks armoured car guards bringing million-dollar bags to a teller. But as Daddy walks away, the teller throws it back at him. “Hey, bud! One million too many,” cries the teller (Daws uses a voice that reminds me a bit of Mr. Billingsley on the Jack Benny radio show).

Finally, Daddy ties some balloons to the bag and shoots it down over the bank. But in a Wile E. Coyote-like turnaround, the bag drops onto a flag pole which spoings the loot onto Daddy. He gives up.


Back home, depressed Daddy tells Augie to “get your toothbrush and your clean undies, because we’re spending the next 20 years together.” Just then, the bank robber screeches up to the house in one of those late 50s tail-finned jobs. The crook’s design can’t get much simpler.


Doggy: And always remember, my son, my son, crime does not pay.
Robber (grabbing loot): You dad is right, son. Especially when dishonest people keep stealing your stolen money.

The robber dashes away, still looking at Augie and Daddy behind him. The shot cuts to a close-up of Augie’s wagon then pulls back just before the robber steps in it and flies off scene. The shot cuts to a camera-shaking crash reaction shot of the two dogs, then to the crook on the ground against a tree.


Robber: It must have been a lady driver.

The final scene has the robber tied up in the wagon. Daddy’s pulling it with one hand and holding the money in the other. Augie’s on top of the crook pointing a gun at him.

Daddy: Son, can you ever forgive your dear old dad for doubtin’ ya?
Augie: Oh, that’s OK, dear one-track mind dad. After all, you’re one in a million.
Daddy: Heh, heh, heh. And I had a hard time trying to give it back. Heh, heh, heh.

The ending’s a little different. There’s no iris out this time. The scene fades after group runs into the bank. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems the cartoons usually end with characters staying in the middle of the shot with the background being the only thing moving. In this one, the shot is static, the characters enter left to right and it’s over.

There’s an odd choice for the music for the climax. The sound cutter uses Phil Green’s ‘Skeleton in the Cupboard,’ which doesn’t help build the scene. It’s really too low key. But Jack Shaindlin’s ‘Excitement Under Dialogue’ is a perfect crime bed and works well when radio announcer Young is describing the robbery. The cutter is content to use the cues in full, so you get all of one Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin piece to start the cartoon. It isn’t one I would have picked but since it’s a scene with differing emotions, choosing a good stock bed would have been tough.


0:00 - Augie Doggie main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:24 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Daddy counts bills; talks to Augie, bites into money.
2:15 - EXCITEMENT UNDER DIALOGUE (Shaindlin) – News flash on radio, Daddy at window.
3:04 - GR-75 POPCORN SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – “I got it!”, close-up of front of bank.
3:18 - GR-255 PUPPETRY COMEDY (Green) – “Baby” scene in bank, drilling scene.
4:28 - GR-258 THE TIN DRAGOONS (Green) – marching bank guard scene, flag pole tosses money at Daddy.
5:44 - GR-346 FIRST BUDS (Green) – Daddy and Augie inside house.
6:02 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Car stops at fence.
6:45 - rising scale vaudeville music (Shaindlin) – Augie and Daddy wheel robber to bank.
7:09 - Augie Doggie end title theme (Curtin).

10 comments:

  1. Tying into the post below on the development timetable of Augie and Daddy, the story/visual quirks in this cartoon could have been due to the production schedule -- if it flew through the system in time to make a Dec. 1 airdate, there may have been little time to smooth out the story line or polish the ending for the typical Hanna-Barbera iris out head-shot/closing gag line.

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  2. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    Besides Disney and Hanna-Barbera, Dick Lundy also worked in MGM and Universal/Walter Lantz.
    We cannot forget that Dick Lundy worked at Hanna-Barbera until early 80s. And one of his last works on Hanna-Barbera, was The Flintstones Comedy Show - a.k.a. Flintstones' Frolics (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia Pictures, 1980).

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  3. JL, I figured that much. I'm amazed at the job Maltese did. He had the whole Quick Draw series to write, plus some of Loopy, and he had to suddenly adapt his style of gag to fit limited animation (no one would ever mistake these for Jones cartoons). And he doesn't seem to have had a lot of time to get it done. It's surprising how well they pull together and flow. I can't think of many cartoons in that first season where I wonder what he's doing.
    The ending works fine; sitcoms back then would end with the cast going out the door or driving off as the camera fades (The Beverly Hillbillies comes to mind for some reason). It just struck me as something I don't see in cartoons often.

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  4. There’s another remarkable aspect to this story. Mike Maltese apparently held down a side-job as a writer for Western Publishing, the producer of the Dell and Gold Key funny animal comic books.

    There, he wrote comic book stories for the characters he handled on screen like Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Beep-Beep The Road Runner (…”Beep-Beep” differed from his screen counterpart by speaking in rhyme and having triplet sons. His comics version of Wile E. Coyote spoke as he did in Maltese and Chuck Jones’ “Operation Rabbit” cartoon), Snagglepuss… and Woody Woodpecker.

    And it is the latter that we are concerned with today.

    It seems that, Maltese may have “done double duty” with the bank robbery story, because the IDENTICAL PLOT was used for Woody Woodpecker as a ten-page comic book story (illustrated by famed Mickey Mouse artist Paul Murry) for WALTER LANTZ TV FUNNIES # 279 Cover Date September, 1959.

    Woody is fretting over his bills, while Knothead and Splinter play cops ‘n’ robbers. The kids pledge to help Woody with his bills, and return with the wagonload of money. Woody bites into a coin, thinking it’s candy play money.

    He tries to return it as a bank guard (same), janitor (different), and with a baby buggy (same) no jackhammer or flagpole – as those gags might not have worked as well on the static page, before he gives up, the real robber steps in and is done in by the kids wagon!

    A September cover date might have had the comic on sale on July, 1959 – not long before the premiere of The Quick Draw McGraw Show – and about six months before the airing of this cartoon!

    How about that!

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  5. CORRECTION ALERT: The comic book was WALTER LANTZ TV FUNNIES # 271 Cover Date September, 1959.

    Typed the number wrong.

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  6. I'll be damned, Joe. Thanks. I know nothing about the comic book world, unlike many who read here.

    I can't help but think Maltese might have put other story ideas to use in both media.

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  7. You can see other bits of Maltese’s animation humor in his comics… individual lines, attitudes, and gags (if you know where to look), but not an outright story duplication as this clearly was. Sorry that I can’t scan any pages… don’t have a scanner.

    Oh, and for the record, the story was reprinted in Gold Key's WOODY WOODPECKER # 103 (November, 1968) – as well as the original Dell WALTER LANTZ TV FUNNIES # 271, if anyone cares to look it up.

    (…This time, I’m typing the CORRECT issue number!)

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  8. Just wanted to drop you a line to let you know I discovered your blog yesterday and was knocked out! I'm now a subscriber. Keep up the awesome work!

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  9. Poor Dick Lundy - resigned to this after directing some of the most lush animation at Lantz and MGM.

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  10. In addition to the all 135(!) episodes of all three Quick Draw segments over three seasons, Maltese also wrote all 32 Snagglepuss episodes (the earliest of which aired during the hiatus between QD's second and abbreviated third seasons) and more than half of the 32 Yakky episodes.

    The Quick Draw, Snooper & Blabber and Loopy shorts were pretty formulaic, dealing with respectively Western outlaws, urban criminals and a wolf trying to debunks his evil stereotype. The Augie episodes did have some variety in their stories; one could involve Augie's invention, Dad coping with a pesty intruder, or the two of them on an outing.

    The Snagglepuss cartoons took place in a wide variety of settings, which presented interesting use of his self-vaunted thespian ability. There were a couple of recurring elements, i.e. Major Minor and the lioness who unsuccessfuly pursued Snag for romantic purposes. But Maltese succeeded in keeping the series fresh via its many situational approaches.

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