Saturday, October 16, 2010

Snooper and Blabber — Masquerader Raider

Produced and Directed by by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – La Verne Harding; Layout – Walter Clinton; Backgrounds – Joe Montell; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber – Daws Butler; Quentin/Baby/Old Woman/Santa/Elevator Boy, Floorwalker – Hal Smith.
First Aired: 1959 (no date available).
Plot: Snooper tries to capture shoplifter Quick Change Quentin in a department store.

Emily La Verne Harding spent a great deal of her career at the Walter Lantz studio, even animating for (and learning from) Tex Avery during his short directorial stop there. But she bolted from Lantz, animated for a brief time at Hanna-Barbera, and then went back to Lantz for a couple of more years. That’s if she left at all. La Verne’s name doesn’t vanish from Lantz cartoons until after April 1961 (Papoose on the Loose) but she was at H-B in 1959, as she animated Masquerader Raider and a few other cartoons. Perhaps she was freelancing while still working for Lantz.

Why she ended up at Hanna-Barbera may never be known. But two other ex-Lantz employees—director Alex Lovy and former director Don Patterson—appeared at H-B roughly about the same time, though their names remained on Lantz releases into spring of 1960.

La Verne was long Hollywood’s sole credited female animator. In 1932 she was a student at Chouinard Institute when someone encouraged her to take her art to Lantz. He hired her first as an inker and then as an in-betweener. In 1934 she was made was made a full-fledged animator. After her time at Lantz and Hanna-Barbera, she worked for Warner Bros. and DePatie-Freleng then finished her career at the Filmation churn-out-the-dreck factory. La Verne was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on October 10, 1905, the oldest daughter of John Burruss and Pearl Wadley Harding; her oilman-lumber baron uncle J.K. Wadley founded the Wadley Research Institute in Texas. The family moved briefly to Kensett, Arkansas in 1910, back to Louisiana the following year, to Texas around 1913 and then California by 1915. She died at her home in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles on September 25, 1984, age 79.

With that, let’s look at the first Snooper and Blabber she worked on. Blab, by the way, has the same basic circle-headed, big-earned design as Baby Face Mouse, one of Lantz’ characters when Harding worked for him in the late ‘30s. “Jumpin’ bail jumpers!” says Snoop, as he reads the paper.


Snoop: Guess who’s back in town to plague us?
Blab: The man from the finance company?

No, it’s Greatest Shoplifter of Them All—Quick Change Quentin. I always like how the background people in cartoons take real newspapers and plaster a cartoon headline and “photo” on them—Warners used to do this. I’ve tried to find the date of the newspaper that was used, but all I know is it’s from 1959 (before July 4) and not the L.A. Times. The phone rings. Snooper now borrows a bit from his voice-sake, Archie on Duffy’s Tavern, who opened each radio show by answering the phone with a rhyme.

Snoop: (answers phone) Super Snooper Detective Agency. When others fail, we fill the jail. Snoop speakin’.

On the line is the unheard Mr. Grumble (see newspaper sub-headline above), who saw a customer change into a baby—smoking a cigar, just like in Warners’ Baby Buggy Bunny (1954), written by Maltese. It’s a concept Blab can’t comprehend and is used as a running gag throughout the cartoon. “Isn’t he a little too young to be smoking cigars, Snoop?” he asks after they arrive in Grumble’s and spot Quentin-as-a-child. So Quentin changes into a floorwalker. It’s done in a swirl of lines. The lines always change colours a few times before Quentin assumes his next (different coloured) guise.



Quentin goes from a baby to a floorwalker to an old woman to Blabber to Santa Claus to an elevator operator. Snooper pummels the real floorwalker by mistake, the old woman manages to slip a baby grand piano under her shawl, Blabber doesn’t notice he’s being impersonated (“Who was that handsome little devil?”), then sits on Santa’s knee during a July clearance sale (he wants “a fingerprint set, a private eye badge and a pair of handcuffs”) and, finally, the elevator operator lures Snoop down an open shaft.





“Two can play at this quick change game,” says Snooper, no worse for wear from his fall. Obviously inspired by Wile E. Coyote, whose cartoons were penned by one M. Maltese, Snoop paints the elevator door to look at the door of a safe and lures Quentin in—and down the shaft—with a bag of cash he whips out of nowhere.

The ending has gun-toting Snoop and captured Quentin marching into a patrol wagon, then Snoop coming out. Oh, wait. It’s not. It’s Quentin in disguise. Blab runs after the police van with the real Snoop inside. “What’s going to happen to me?” Blab yells. “At this point, Blab,” asks Snoop, “How do I know it is you?”

Quentin returned in the final Snooper and Blabber cartoon, Person to Prison, animated by Hicks Lokey, who worked with Harding at the Lantz studio in the late ’30s.

As usual, the best part of any Maltese cartoon is the dialogue. After “baby” Quentin dashes away:


Snoop: Halt in the name of the Private Eye Chowder and Marching Society! (rushes away)
Blab: (to camera) I still think that baby was too young to smoke.

Off-camera Snooper tears off “Quentin’s” disguise, then we get a shot of the floorwalker with his clothes ripped off.

Snoop: Oops. You’re the real floorwalker, aren’t you?
Floorwalker: Well, I’m certainly not Yogi Bear.

When Snoop spots the “old lady” whoosh the piano under her shawl:

Snoop: Stop in the name of the Private Eye Institute’s Annual Barbeque!
Floorwalker (seeing Snoop coming off-scene): Oh, no!
{Floorwalker dives behind camera supply counter)
Snoop: Did you see a sweet old lady with a baby grand piano under her shawl?
Floorwalker: Keep away from me! Keep away! It’s only fair to warn that I’ve had three judo lessons.

Blab thinks he has the stogey-sucking baby thing figured out. He walks up to Snooper and the phoney Blab.

Blab: Hey, Snoop! Maybe they allow babies to smoke cigars in this state.

Later:

Blab: Gosh, Snoop, even Sherlock Holmes was an amateur compared to you.
Snoop: I always enjoy this kid’s thinkin’.

And as Snoop disguises the elevator with paint:

Snoop: And, “viola!,” as the French say...

This is another of the cartoons where Snooper says “Elementary, my dear Blab-son.”

Harding has an odd running stomp exit for Quentin’s disguised characters and the real floorwalker. It’s accompanied by woodblock clattering for the old lady and the elevator operator, and two notes on a xylophone for the real floorwalker. Each uses two drawings on ones. Here’s the old lady about to run away.




Harding also uses an ‘outline’ dash off scene, for want of a better phrase. She uses a regular drawing of a character, then the next drawing has an outline of the character on a different spot on the frame with smeared colour lines from where the character was in the previous drawing to where it is now. This effect wasn’t used often in H-B cartoons. It’s tough to see on this frame grab taken from a television feed.


Masquerader Raiders may be one of Hal Smith’s most versatile cartoon jobs. He’s growly for Quentin, but has higher pitched voices for the “old lady”, floorwalker and “elevator boy.” He even adds a little flutter in the granny voice.

Most of the music is by Phil Green and Jack Shaindlin. I don’t have names for a couple of the common Shaindlin pieces, one has “Fireman” in the title. There’s also a short wind instrument cue used in several cartoons I can’t identify. It starts with a C, rises an octave and falls back to an F-sharp, followed by four notes, three in triplet.


0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:25 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Snoop and Blab in office, walk into store, “Hold it, Blab.”
1:42 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – “Do you see what I see?”, Quentin changes into floorwalker.
2:00 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Quentin as floorwalker, Snoop rips clothes off real floorwalker.
2:50 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – Yogi Bear reference, old woman swipes piano,
3:31 - ASININE (Shaindlin) – “Stop in the name of...”, Snoop slides up to floorwalker.
3:40 - C-C-F# short light underscore (?) – Snoop and floorwalker, fake Blab scene, Snoop walks into room.
4:44 - GR-456 DOCTOR QUACK (Green) – Blab on Santa’s knee, Santa slides to elevator door.
5:25 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Quentin changes into elevator boy, Snoop crashes at bottom of shaft.
5:46 - CB-85A STEALTHY MOUSE (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Snoop paints elevator door, Quentin crashes at bottom of shaft.
6:35 - circus running music (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Quentin walk into police van, Blab runs after van.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).

10 comments:

  1. The few HB shorts that Harding worked on were treats - she also did a few Quick Draw McGraws and some Snagglepuss series entries. Her character designs were quite interesting.

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  2. The shape of the floorwalker's head-horizontal forehead and nose-is similar to the design of the director in "Show Biz Bear".

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  3. Jesus, "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth!

    This Snooper & Blabber is anthologic! And also due to the La Verne's animation style (for those ones who have watched various shorts produced by Walter Lantz for Universal Pictures, more exactly those ones which were animated by her).

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  4. Hey Yowp, great post on LaVerne Harding's animation style. That little two drawing scramble you illustrated was used by Tex Avery in "Crazy Mixed-Up Pup", when Maggie frantically tries to point out to Sam some of their dog's weird antics. Tex used the two drawing scramble to convey Maggie's wild frustration and indecision at the intrusion of the insensible unknown. This certainly looks like LaVerne's animation to me. Mark Kausler

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  5. The character designs don't have nearly as much to do with Verne animating as much as with who laid out the cartoon; in this case Walt Clinton, who has a very neat and distinct design sense.

    La Verne always drew thicker rectangular looking eyebrows on Hanna Barbera characters, and it's quite apparent here.

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  6. Even though the incidental characters are designed by the layout man rather than the animator, the floorwalker bears a strong resemblance to most adult male characters appearing in Lantz cartoons at the time: flat head, huge nose. Or maybe the fact that LaVerne Harding animated this cartoon has just made me think that.

    Given the removal of many individual cartoon credits, identifying the animator is not always easy. But I don't recall Harding having animated any Quick Draw episodes- just two Snooper & Blabbers and three Snaglepusses. BCDB credits her on "Huck The Giant Killer". But that one looks like it was animated by Dick Lundy, whose style is much 'squarer' and more retained than that of Harding's.

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  7. The 1959-60 production season saw the hiring of many animators who would stay with H-B for decades: Lundy, Love, Nicholas, Patterson, and to a lesser extent, Don Williams. But there were also a few, such as Harding, who only stuck around for a couple of years. Gerard Baldwin animated QD, Snooper and Yogi shorts for only the '59-'60 season. Manny Perez did one Augie episode.

    Given the introduction of new series in fall 1960 more animators joined such as mainstays Bob Carr, Hicks Lokey, Harry Holt and Bill Keil. Others were apparently hired as freelancers. Some Yakky and Snagglepuss shorts were animated by Phil Duncan, Clark Mallery, Gil Turner, Don Towsley, Jack Carr, C.L. Hartman and other names not normally associated with the studio. So there are some shorts in which the characters appear decidedly 'offbeat'.

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  8. Looking at the end credits for the Huck show for the second season, only six animators are mentioned. I wondered if the rest were freelance (egs. Williams and Baldwin).
    I've done a Perez post; it'll appear in a few weeks.

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  9. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth, Howie Fein and fellas,

    We cannot forget that La Verne also worked in other studios, such as: Warner, DePatie-Freleng, UPA and Filmation.

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  10. La Verne Harding was my great-aunt!

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