Saturday, 2 October 2010

Pixie and Dixie — Batty Bat

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Don Williams; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice cast: Pixie – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks, Cousin Batty – Daws Butler.
First aired: October 10, 1959.
Plot: Cousin Batty comes for a visit and outwits Jinks.

There must have been a day, some time in 1959, when Warren Foster sat in his office at Hanna-Barbera and asked himself “What can I do with a cat and mouse that hasn’t been done before?” Then, he couldn’t answer the question, but wrote a cartoon anyway.

This cartoon would appear to be it.

Foster was so fresh out of cat-mouse ideas, he borrowed two plots from the previous season when Charlie Shows was gagging the cartoons. One was Kit Kat Kit, which he turned into Rapid Robot, and the other was Cousin Tex, which was a pale cartoon to begin with. It’s the basis for this short.

Mind you, Pixie and Dixie are really not the most inspirational characters to begin with. Jinks was the star. So Foster (and Shows before him) tended to bring in a fourth character to battle Jinks. Some were good (Arnold in Pushy Cat) and some were weak (El Puncho the rooster in Mighty Mite) but cousin Batty has to be the worst.

Batty arrives after a long scene where the only real action was Jinks using a fly-swatter to smash Pixie in a model airplane. The rest is all dialogue with no real humour.


Pixie: I don’t get it, Jinks.
Jinks: All right, I will spell it out for you. You guys are m-i-c-e-s, meeces. And I’m a k-a-t, cat. And cats hate meeces to pieces. You got it?
Dixie: Uh huh.
*Jinks: So, uh, we’re havin’ a reas-alistic like cat-mouse relationship, like, uh, from now. Any questions? (* dialogue is approximate.)
Dixie: I guess not, Jinks.

The spelling gag isn’t as clever as Mike Maltese’s in Jack-Wabbit and the Beanstalk (1943) when the giant said to Bugs Bunny “You think you’re pretty C-A-T smart.”

Jinks chases the meece into their hole. Then there’s an interesting idea; whether it was developed on the storyboard or in layout, I don’t know. Jinks talks to the mice in shadow. I don’t remember it being done in any other H-B cartoon.

So cousin Batty arrives with the sound of a knock at the door, except there is no door. The animation is really odd. Batty twitches when he talks. He moves his body or his head forward and back, or his arms out and back for no particular reason, other than to keep him from being static, I suppose. The animation is handled by Don Williams, who started animating at Warners in 1934. Williams handled Foghorn Leghorn for awhile. Foggy gesticulated. So does Batty (though obviously not as well in limited animation). Foggy stole the “I say” sentence interruption from Senator Claghorn on the Fred Allen radio show. So does Batty. Daws uses the same kind of blustery, resonant voice that Kenny Delmar used for Claghorn and Mel Blanc did for Foggy, but you won’t mistake Batty for either.




Just like Cousin Tex in the earlier cartoon, Batty is hungry so goes past the sleeping Jinks to raid the refrigerator. Batty explains he’s going to use “that good ol’ Yankee know-how. Whoops! I mean southern-fried know-how” (there’s more twitchy, cross-eyed animation as Batty realises his mistake). Unlike Tex, Batty is going to “fly the food in.”



Batty is wearing a Dracula cape. But the cape’s wings flap on their own like they’re attached to his body. How can that happen? “All cousins can fly. Batty ones, that is,” Dixie says. Well, that solves that. Then there’s the mystery of the fridge, wherein Batty discovers “eggplant pie, cornpone, chitlins and stuff.” Is Dixie doing all the buying for the household? The fridge door closes with the sound of a kettle drum, not exactly the noise I would have picked for it.

The rest of the cartoon involves Batty flying around. First, he delivers food to the mouse hole. An egg is accidentally dropped on Jinks, who remarks when a roast chicken “flies” overhead “Well, uh, that explains the egg. Log-ical-like.” Jinks uses a plunger to get the meece out of their hole in the wall, but Batty comes to the rescue by dropping a light bulb, a tea-pot and an iron on him. Following cartoon tradition, Jinks’ head is left in the shape of a flat iron (the 1953 Tom and Jerry cartoon The Missing Mouse is an example). “Just call me iron-head,” is his retort.



Finally, Jinks decides to use a baseball bat on Batty. “Must be one of those durned Yankees!” Batty somehow concludes. He swings three times. Batty grabs the bat. “Strike three. You’re out!” and clobbers the cat. Finally, Jinks uses a net to capture Batty, who uses it to lift the cat through the chimney into the sky. The weight of the “fat cat” breaks the mesh of the net and Jinks sails toward the chimney opening below.


Batty: Whoops. Hey, cat! Now’s a good time to learn to fly.
Jinks: (chuckles) I do not have to learn how to fly. Us cats, like, uh, you know, always land on our feets.
(shot of Pixie and Dixie next to a fireplace cringing at the inpact)
Pixie: Look at that. Jinks landed on his feet.
Dixie: Cats always do that.

Cut to a reaction shot of Jinks. “Yeah. We’re fortunate that way.” And the scrunched cat walks away in a two-drawing cycle. The deadpan delivery of the mice and cat is what makes the cat gag work.

It’s Cousin Batty’s time to go. And he’s taught Pixie and Dixie how to fly. He must be out of Dracula capes, because the mice are using what appear to be slats of a fence made into semi-circle wings. “Us flyin’ meeces will be safe from Jinks now,” suggests Dixie. Ah, but he’s wrong. Jinks flaps into the final shot and looks at the camera. “Don’t tell ‘em. Let ‘em, you know, find out for theirselves.” And, with that, the cartoon ends and we’re rid of Cousin Batty forever.

Jinks directs plenty of observations toward the camera in this one. For example, when Batty sings a ditty, flyin’ over Jinks with a cake.


Batty (sings): Keep the cornpone hot, ma! Your boy’ll be home tonight!
Jinks: Wow. A flyin’ tone-deaf meece. Shee. I must be, like, uh, you know, havin’ a night-time mare. Mayhaps, uh, those gold-fish I had this mornin’, uh, were tarnished.

For whatever reason, the sound cutter allows the stock music to keep playing in the background when Batty is singing. Some of the music is edited to time out to the end of the scene, like the ‘comedy mysterioso’-type cue when Jinks tells Dixie why he’s bashed Pixie’s plane.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:13 - LAF-27-6 UNTITLED TUNE (Jack Shaindlin) – Scene of Pixie in plane, Dixie comes running.
0:57 - creepy muted reverb trumpet music (Raoul Kraushaar?) – Jinks explains he’s moody; chases mice into hole, “Yee-ha!” at the door.
1:56 - OH SUSANNAH (Sam Fox Library?) – Batty dialogue scene in mouse hole.
2:52 - C-14 DOMESTIC LITE (Bill Loose) – Egg falls on Jinks, cake and turkey fly past.
4:15 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Jinks hear sound of turkey squeezing into hole, Batty drops stuff on Jinks; hit him with bat.
5:41 - C-19 LIGHT ACTIVITY (Loose) – Batty in net, scrunched Jinks walks away, Pixie and Dixie fly.
6:48 - LICKETY SPLIT (Shaindlin) – Jinks flies.
6:57 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).

13 comments:

  1. Warren may have caught a showing of Jones' "The Brave Little Bat" on KTTV in Los Angeles one afternoon to come up with the 'bat-as-a-cousin-to-a-mouse' idea. At least he didn't make Batty the annoying fast-talker Chuck and Rich Hogan did.

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  2. That cartoon wasn't too good. Don Williams can't draw decent looking Benedict eyes to save his life. Pretty ugly stuff!

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  3. The layout on this Pixie & Dixie epsiode was made by Walter Clinton.

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  4. Rod, this is the last one of your comments like this I am going to post.
    I have asked over and over for you to provide some legitimate source for your credits. You never do.

    Z35, didn't Williams do that one with Boo-Boo dressed as a bee? Seems to me that cartoon gets bashed around pretty good by fans.

    JL, I think Foster saved the blah-blah-blah-blah for 'Mighty Mite.' It's been awhile since I've seen it but all I remember is that little rooster yaps constantly.

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  5. Oh yes, that was 'Queen bee for a day'. His animation in that didn't bother me nearly as much as this stuff though. He must be more in touch with Yogi's design, beacuse he clearly cannot draw Pixie and Dixie with correct preportions.

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  6. The shadow on the wall is a nice touch. Surprising H-B didn't use it all the time, it looks like a real animation-saver

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  7. Batty: "I'll save you cousin, Dixie."

    [Channeling Disney's "Enchanted" from generations later] Pixie: "Yeah, but who's gonna rescue ME!" LOL! [Of course, THAT was never said in the episode.]

    Interesting to see less than ten music beds, and apparently all in full. Only Shaindlin, Krausdhaar, and Loose here.

    The flying egg and chicken one does crack me up no matter how bad this may be.

    Steve J.Carras
    On Facebook

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  8. Mispelling gags are always good for a quick chuckle. Foster did "Cat- K-A-T" at least once previously via Sylvester, as well as "Out/O-W-T" via Daffy in Clampett's BABY BOTTLNECK. (Fred Flintstone would bellow this numerous times.)

    Granted, Maltese could make them quite more elaborate, such as in the Jones classic A BEAR FOR PUNISHMENT. "G-U-N-P-O-W-D-E-R- tobacco! I am a good speller, I am. D-O-G- cat. C-A-T- Rhode Island."

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  9. Don Williams had some very off-kilter facial constructions in the few cartoons he animated for H-B. The eyes tend to be very narrow and shifty, and the lower jaw and mouth very large. This is especially noticeable in three FLINTSTONE episodes he animated at the end of the 1963-64 season.

    These tendencies are also readily noticeable in several of the DFE-made WB cartoons of the mid-60s, especially in ROAD TO ANDALAY when Speedy- with cagey expression- is trying to bluff Sylvester into looking under his sombrero.

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  10. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    Please (and for William Hanna's & Joseph Barbera's sake), don't be rigorous with me!
    I was recognizing the Walter Clinton's design on this Pixie & Dixie episode due to the artistic style.

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  11. You never, ever give specific examples that leads you to your opinions. "Artistic style" is too vague.
    What is in the layout of this cartoon that Clinton does that no one else does?

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  12. Don Williams Animation in The Hanna Barbera Cartoons are Really Sloppily and Very Amateurishly Drawn and Extremely Poorly Animated compared to The Likes of Geroge Nicholas, Don Patterson, Ed Love and Even Ken Muse. and The Animation he did for Several Hanna Barbera Cartoons Is What Makes me Stay away from the Hanna Barbera cartoons at all costs, and it's a really crying shame too, because he did great at the Warner Bros cartoon department in the late forties for Arthur Davis and Later At Depatie Freleng. His Chunky, Smeary animation for The Art Davis shorts is sort of reminiscent of the Great Jim Tyer who did a similar thing at Terrytoons and certainly ranks up there with Him, Emery Hawkins, Dave Tendlar and Johnny Gent IMO. Asim.

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  13. Great cartoon! I had started to love Pixie & Dixie, because of this cartoon

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