Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pixie and Dixie — Rapid Robot

Produced and directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Joe Montell; Story – Warren Foster; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Robot Cat, Robot Dog – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks – Daws Butler.
First aired: week of Sept. 21, 1959.
Plot: Pixie and Dixie and Mr Jinks use a robot cat and a robot dog in a spirited effort to best each other (Chicago Tribune summary).

For some reason, when Warren Foster arrived to write for the second season of The Huckleberry Hound Show, he felt he had to re-work the first season cartoon Kit Kat Kit. This cartoon suffers from the same problem Charlie Shows’ story did in the first season—it takes too long for anything to happen and it isn’t really laden with gags. About all you can say is the dialogue’s better than the earlier cartoon, but dialogue is about all you’ll find in this one. Even Carlo Vinci’s animation isn’t very inspired, though he gives us lots of tongue.

Robot cat-chase-mouse cartoons don’t always work very well. David Mackey points out in the comments that the germ of this one is in Hanna and Barbera’s fast-paced MGM short Push-Button Kitty (1952), another ‘replace-lazy-Tom’ cartoon, where Mechano and his remote control arrive in a package by mail. Chuck Jones did a couple of ‘robot’ Tom and Jerrys that, frankly, induce boredom (one with the subtitle Science on a Wet Afternoon that’s pure Pretentious Jones). Far better was the (mouse-less) Bugs Bunny short Robot Rabbit (1953), with funny dialogue and strong gags. I’ve always like “The rabbit kicked the bucket” scene for pure silliness. Foster wrote that one, and it’s a shame he couldn’t have imbued this short with some of the same humour, though perhaps that’s asking a bit as Pixie and Dixie are not aggressive characters like Bugs.

Even their lippiness is tamer than Bugs, and that’s about all we get in the first scene of the cartoon. The meece stroll past the sleeping Jinks to get some breakfast (“We’ll be as quiet as mice,” puns Dixie). The cat wakes up and threatens the calm mice with “Endsville.” “Talk, talk, talk, talk,” responds Dixie. “Actions speak louder than words, Pussycat!” adds Pixie. That’s Jinks’ cue to start the chase. The angular, jerky animation, big wide mouth on the cat and the diving exit off scene should tell you right away that Vinci drew this cartoon.



“Come on, Jinks, we can’t wait all day,” goads Dixie. “Humilerate me, will ya?” shouts the cat. The mice run into their hole. Jinks doesn’t quite make it. The dialogue isn’t exactly brimming over with Bugs Bunny-type wit.


Pixie: Every day, the same thing—chase, chase, chase.
Dixie: Yeah. Then ‘bam!’ and his eyes roll around.
(Mice laugh)
Jinks: Awwwww-wl right, you meeces. Uh, you will not be yuckin’ it up when a certain thing comes from a certain place.
Dixie: Yack, yack, yack, yack.

Just then, the doorbell rings. We get a two-drawing head shake. This is the showed-down version.


Jinks gets a package at the door. Inside is the title character. Jinks gives him a little test drive. There’s nothing funny here. It’s just action to fill time. So, we’re almost three minutes into the cartoon and we’ve had one chase, cycle animation of a metallic cat and some unbiting sarcasm. This is not one of Foster’s best.

Finally we get to a facetious conversation between the mice and the cat wherein Pixie and Dixie inform Jinks what they plan to do that day (in short, watch him fail) and he replies that he’s through chasing them and “I ain’t goin’ a bang my head no more, no more” (Foster seems to have resisted the temptation to add “Hit the road, Jack”). That’s the cue for the robot cat to chase (and pass them), suck them inside him like a vacuum (except there’s a magnet sound effect; are the meece made of metal?) and deposit them outside.


Pixie (stuttering): Eh, wa-wa-wa-dih-dih-dih-dee-dih...
Dixie: Pixie, you took the words right out of my mouth.



While Jinks snoozes, the mice bring in a box containing an electric dog. They test it out and it growls and barks. “Save me, Dixie!” cries Pixie after jumping on the other mouse. Carlo’s phoning it in. Pixie doesn’t look frightened.

Jinks hears the mice and presses a button to active his robot. Dixie does the same. But the mechanical dog swooshes past the robot cat to go after Jinks. The metal cat continues on after the mice. The funniest animation comes here where the dog, in a couple of quick drawings, swallows Jinks. Dogs don’t normally consume cats, but they do in Warren Foster’s world. He wrote Gift Wrapped (1952), where Hector the Bulldog swallowed Sylvester. In fact, Foster loved the gag so much, he did it twice in this cartoon (the second time, with re-used animation after the dog chomped on a broom handle).



Jinks yells for help. I love the floppy tongue here. Four positions.


More floppy tongue as Jinks screams while he’s being chased. Finally, Jinks and the meece meet at a vent in the wall. They all dive through before the two robots smash into each other. But all the collision does is create a two-headed robot, with the cat’s head at one end, and the dog’s at the other. So the conjoint contraption now chases Pixie, Dixie and Jinks.



The final scene has the three of them up a tree while each of the heads of the bizarre robot take turns growling and screeching at them.




Dixie: When do you think we can get down, Jinksie?
Jinks: Ah, when their batteries run down. And they’re, like, uh, guaranteed for six months. Wow.

That’s the end. Less than a wow.

There’s a rarity in this one. Jinks actually says the word “mice” early in the cartoon, though he uses it as a singular noun.

All you favourite Pixie and Dixie composers are here and, as usual, we get Jack Shaindlin’s ‘Toboggan Run’ and ‘On the Run’ during the chase scenes.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie main title theme (Curtin).
0:13 - ZR-51 LIGHT ANIMATION (Geordie Hormel) – Mice stroll past Jinks with cheese.
1:05 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks chases mice into hole and crashes.
1:20 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Mice in hole, Jinks gets package, presses gold button.
2:13 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Robot cat shakes; goes for a test run; skids to a stop.
2:35 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) – “Welcome back, slave”; Jinks talk to mice, “Yikes! What’s that?”
3:38 - TC-221A HEAVY AGITATO (Loose-Seely) – Robot cat chases mice; plops them outside.
3:54 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Pixie at a loss for words.
4:03 - L-1139 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Jinks decides to nap, mice bring box into house.
4:34 - L-1121 ANIMATION NAUTICAL (Moore) – Mice test robot dog, “Sounds like those meeces are back.”
4:55 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks presses button.
4:59 - TC-221A HEAVY AGITATO (Loose-Seely) – Robot cat goes after mice, robot dog chomps down Jinks.
5:34 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks opens mouth; runs off; is swallowed again; zips out of scene.
5:55 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks and mice dive into vent, robot dog and cat crash.
6:14 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks and mice look at damage, cat/dog robot shakes.
6:26 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Cat/dog chases Jinks and P&D up tree.
6:58 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).

8 comments:

  1. This seems like a refry of Hanna-Barbera's T&J "Push Button Kitty", but with 100% more mouse.

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  2. Which was a mechanical remake of Old Rockin’ Chair Tom from four years earlier.

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  3. "Science On A Wet Afternoon" is the subtitle to "Guided Mouse-ille" which was directed by Abe Levitow. Ben Washam directed the similar "Advance And Be Mechanized." Chuck Jones isn't blameless, though, as his signature is in the producer credit of both films.

    No one seemed to learn much from Friz Freleng's "Nuts 'n Volts" which was one of the weakest Speedy Gonzales cartoons (at least up to 1964). It also has a robot dog attacking a cat, which raises suspicion that Friz made the cartoon in an attempt to "show up" his former storyteller.

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  4. Good one, Dave!

    Hey, Yowp:
    I know of at least ANOTHER time that Jinks says Mice. It's in one of his very first appearances [you can tell due to the very heavy use of "Ruff and Reddy" stock music such as the sea chanties and the David Rose-ghosted dramtic chases, "Pistol Packin' Pirates", at the end, but it may have been due to Jinks being courteous to the pirate or more LIKELY...due to its being very early [1958].]

    Steve C.

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  5. Tony, I can't honestly tell the difference between Jones and any of the guys who directed for him while he was off doing 'The Dot and the Line' and whatever else actually interested him. I can't help but think Jones' hand-prints are all over those MGM cartoons.

    Yes, Steve, there are a bunch of them. It wasn't my intention to give a shopping list of every single time. I just named one as an example. Daws uses it as a singular form instead of "mouse."

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  6. Didn’t THE JETSONS also do this with “Lectronomo” the robot dog, vs. Astro? Was that by Warren Foster?

    And, as long as we’re veering into Warner Bros. theatricals, how about the “Robot Sam vs. Robot Bugs” sequence in “Lighter Than Hare” (1960), where “Robot Sam” mirrors his mentor’s personality to the extent that, when “Robot Bugs” goads him into pressing a booby-trapped button, he says “Ahm a pressin’!”

    Though that was written by Friz Freleng himself, after Foster departed for Hanna-Barbera.

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  7. Joe, I dragged out the DVD when I got home. It's Tony Benedict. Stupid gang credits and Orbitty title card.
    Lectronimo kind of looks like a streamlined Muttley.
    That Bugs one is so mediocre, I completely put it out of my mind.

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  8. I remember watching this cartoon many a time in Italy when I was younger - where, apparently, they still show these HB 'toons as fillers from time to time - and the two-headed Robot CatDog always stuck in my mind as rather funny. Though I will admit while your thoughts add some new light here to me, it's slightly better than Show's robot short.

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