Saturday, January 8, 2011

Snooper and Blabber — Wild Man, Wild!

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Professor Schloompf – Daws Butler; Narrator, Gubba-Gubba – Don Messick; Hazel, Eloise – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Phil Green, Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin.
First Aired: week of March 14, 1960 (repeat, week of Sept. 19, 1960).
Production: Quick Draw McGraw M-026; Production No J-75.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired to find Gubba-Gubba, who escaped after being brought to North America from the jungle.

With Mike Maltese and Ed Benedict on board, you’d expect a stronger, funnier cartoon than this. Benedict provides a pre-Flintstone, loinskin-wearing character and Maltese has a great ending (showing why reviewers kept calling the show “satiric”) but the rest of the cartoon really lacks punch. It’s too bad, because Maltese might have taken parts of the storyline of Tarzan’s New York Adventure (1942) and stirred in the bumbling detectives to make a great parody. This was the fourth-last of 78 cartoons put into production in the 1959-60 season and Maltese may have been running on fumes considering the workload. Tony Benedict, a clever writer who arrived at Hanna-Barbera some time in 1960, wrote on a web-site not too long ago:

Mike Maltese deserves a great deal more recognition. Besides everything else he did, Mike wrote an entire television series for Hanna Barbera (Quick Draw McGraw) including every bit of dialogue, story and staging. No script, just storyboards. This happened before the tv networks discovered the gold in them thar cartoon hills. The shows were extremely cheap to produce and the networks could not get enough of them fast enough. Script approvals were not in place yet. Mike only had to please Joe Barbera with his stuff and it went straight into production. From 1960 to 1966 was the sweet age of tv H&B cartoons before it was sold thanks to Mike Maltese.

So, you can’t blame Maltese for a weary misstep along the way.


It takes awhile for Snooper and Blabber to do much in this cartoon. They don’t even appear at the beginning as we focus on the Explorers Club (different than the Adventurers Club that Maltese invented for the Snagglepuss cartoons). First, Professor Schloompf (which is how TV listings show his name) announces to a motley group of explorers he is going to civilise Gubba-Gubba, a wild man from some unnamed jungle where blonds apparently reside. The term “Gubba Gubba” is close enough to Charlie Shows’ baby-talk in the Yogi Bear cartoon Bear on a Picnic from the previous TV season.



After Gubba eats a banana peel and a watch, the professor opens a window to show the wild man civilisation. The noise scares him and he jumps out the window and runs away on a rooftop past the same fire escape three times. So we’re two minutes into the cartoon and we haven’t heard much of Maltese’s famed off-beat dialogue yet.



And we haven’t really reached the plot, either. We have a little diversion now as Snooper launches into what was becoming an increasingly common routine—dialogue between Snoop and his secretary Hazel via radio. The device served a few good purposes. It gave Maltese a place to toss in some dialogue gags that didn’t have anything to do with the plot. It also gave Maltese a chance to have Snoop work off another character than just Blab to freshen the series. And it gave the animators easy footage because Hazel was never seen; all they had to do was animate a cycle of dashes or lines from a background drawing of a car radio speaker.

Maltese doesn’t come up with a gem this time:


Hazel: Hazel to Snoop. Hazel to Snoop. Come in, Snoop. Come in, Snoop.
Snoop: Snoop to Hazel. Snoop to et cetera. Uh, go ahead, et cetera.
Hazel: Hey, Chief. This is Hazel. What’s this “et cetera” stuff?
Snoop: “Et cetera” is Latin for “telephone gal.”

Hazel sends them off to the Explorers Club on their latest case. Blab looks out the window and all he sees is “a nice-looking TV repairman.” There’s a shot of Gubba on a TV antennae. “Eureka, Blab. I think you’ve spotted our quandary,” says Snoop, who dispatches Blab with a violin onto the roof to sooth the savage beast “into a pair of handcuffs.” Even Maltese is wearying of his own puns:

Blab: I’ll play ‘Humoresque.’ Maybe it’ll humour him.
Snoop (tiredly): Oh, boy.

And, indeed, Blab (well, perhaps someone hired by Hoyt Curtin) does start to play Anton Dvořák’s famous piece. Off-camera, Gubba smashes the violin over Blab. “It’s a good thing I wasn’t playing a piana,” opines Blab.

Maltese doesn’t even give us a “Stop in the name of...” pun. We get a dull “Stop in the name of the law” from Snoop. Let’s go through the other gags.

Snoop corners Gubba at the edge of the roof and whips out a match. “It’s fire. You are paralysed with ignoramus fear,” cries Snoop. Gubba whips out a cigar. You know what a cigar means in a cartoon. Kaboom.



Blab is dressed as a blond wildman to befriend and trap Gubba (“here’s where the thick plottens,” says Snoop). Gubba instead grabs the mouse and runs off with him into a laundry. Gubba sees Snoop, drops Blab and jumps into a washer. (“Maybe he’ll come clean and give himself up,” giggles Blab).



After more jokeless dialogue, the professor arrives at the laundry. Blab opens the top of the washer and Gubba floats up and out of trap door of some kind on the roof. Gubba’s hair has been fluff-dried into a curly mass which, for reasons of cartoon comedy, gives it a helium quality.

As hard as it is to believe, the cartoon’s just about over. We’ve reached the final scene where Snooper and Blabber are driving through the middle of downtown wondering about the fate of Gubba-Gubba, who they gave up chasing a year earlier. (“The only blotch on me brilliant et-scutcheon,” says Snoop). But suddenly, downtown turns into a suburb where our heroes spot Gubba in a Hawaiian shirt mowing the lawn. Gubba’s forlorn explanation is interrupted by his henpecking wife, who has the same head design as he does. “She captured me,” he moans. “Did you finish the lawn? Did you beat the rugs?” she nags as she tells him to take the triplets to the playground. Then comes the best line of the cartoon:




Snooper: Isn’t it great what civilisation has done for Gubba-Gubba, Blab?

Yes, a woman has done what the professor could not: turn a wild man into the typical, average, modern, North American husband. Cartoon style.

Eloise: Don’t let the children get dirty.
Gabba: Yes, dear.
Eloise: And pick up the groceries.
Gabba: Yes, dear.
Eloise: And blah, blah, blah, blah.
Gabba: Yes, dear. Yes, dear. Yes, dear. Yes, dear.

In case you were wondering, Mike and Florrie Maltese had a long, happy marriage that ended only with his death in 1981. They wed (in New York?) before he arrived at Warners in 1937.

The sound cutter actually has a piece of ‘Humoresque’ on the sound track. Snippets of classical music weren’t generally used as gags at H-B. The little hoppy music when the professor opens the windows is actually the introductory bars to Jack Shaindlin’s piece that reminds me of happy, frolicking squirrels heard in several different series at that time.


0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:25 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Shot of Explorers Club, Schloompf takes the stage.
0:42 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Gubba-Gubba in cage, drops professor.
1:12 - CB-85A STEALTHY MOUSE (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Gubba eats banana and watch.
1:40 - jaunty bassoon and skippy strings intro (Shaindlin) – Professor opens window, Gabba jumps off flag pole.
2:00 - LFU-117-2 MAD RUSH No. 2 (Shaindlin) – Gubba runs on rooftop.
2:12 - GR-58 GOING SHOPPING (Green) – Snoop and Blab in car, Hazel dialogue.
2:58 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Snooper talks to professor, Gubba on antenna, Blab walks with violin.
3:36 - HUMORESQUE (Dvořák) – Blab plays violin, instrument crushed.
3:40 - GR-76 POPCORN SHORT BRIDGE No. 2 (Green) – Blab ‘piano’ line.
3:45 - LFU-117-2 MAD RUSH No. 2 (Shaindlin) – Gubba runs away, stops at edge of roof.
3:57 - GR-457 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Fire/cigar scene.
4:28 - GR-456 DOCTOR QUACK (Green) – Blab pretends to be wild man, grabbed by Gubba-Gubba.
4:52 - ASININE (Shaindlin) – Gubba runs off with Blab into laundry; jumps into washer, “come clean.”
5:17 - GR-456 DOCTOR QUACK (Green) – Snooper on phone to professor, Gubba floats into the sky.
6:00 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No. 1 (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab in car, Gubba mowing lawn.
6:22 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – Snoop calls to Gubba, wife nags him to take triplets to playground. Gubba starts walking with kids.
6:57 - rising scale music (Shaindlin) – Wife nags Gubba about children, groceries, etc.
7:09 - Snooper and Blabber end title theme (Curtin).

12 comments:

  1. For some reason, this one tickles my funny bone. "You are paralyzed with ignoramus fear" made me laugh out loud.
    In a live-action version, Mickey Rooney would have been a perfect Gabba-Gabba.

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  2. Except Gabba didn't constantly mug for the camera.

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  3. Yes, by this time, Mickey was quite a mugger. But John Frankenheimer called Rooney the most talented man he ever worked with. It was a sad decline.

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  4. In the same way Bamm-Bamm was said to have had a prototype version back in Ruff and Reddy (I think that was on a Flintstones DVD feature.), it looks as if Ed Benedict came up with the initial visual for Barney Rubble (the VERY early version) in this cartoon!

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again: What a shame these cartoons are not on DVD!

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  5. The end gag by Maltese is an extended riff on the end gags from Bob McKimson's first two Tasmanian Devil cartoons (written by Sid Marcus and Tedd Pierce), where Taz can only be tamed by his phone-order bride in "Devil May Hare" and then by his wife in "Bedeviled Rabbit", though by using a human, Mike also gets to have him sound way more beaten-down than Taz ever did.

    (The "idyllic" suburban life end scene may also explain why we get proto-Barney Rubble as the blond wild man here. Maltese's gag was to domesticate Gubba Gubba into what was considered the "typical" suburban family, circa 1960, and the suburbs then were considered pretty monochrome, though since Bill and Joe already had gone through having to dump Mammy from the Tom & Jerry series seven years earlier, they probably also didn't want any new headaches for either themselves or the Kellogg's Corporation.)

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  6. That opening music now that you mention it, reminds ME of happy, frolicky squirrells,too!

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  7. Judging By What Im Seeing in the Photos (Haven't Actually Seen The Cartoon Yet), Yet again, Another Great Design Job For Ed Benedict, His Drawings are Always Funny and Expressive and Very Cartoony, The Guy Was a Great artist and a Awesome designer, Sometimes His Work on this Cartoon on the Lioncloth characters Remind me Hugely of Colonel Bleep, Which Is Designed By C. Jack Scheleh Jr (I Wonder Where he Started in animation before forming soundac), Another Cool, Awesome Designer and An Expert Animator As Well, To Hell to Those Car thieves who Stole his Wonderful Work and Materials, I Will Never Forgive them for stealing his work, Thank God For Anti Car theft Monitor systems today.

    Asim.

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  8. Wasn't Schleh at Jay Ward? Or was that a different Schleh?

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  9. "Wasn't Schleh at Jay Ward? Or was that a different Schleh?"

    Do You Mean That TAP Studio that Produced the Made for TV Crusader Rabbit Cartoons, Or Do You Mean A Later Studio Sans Anderson that did Hoppity Hooper?

    Asim

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  10. Yeah, the studio that did Rocky and Bullwinkle. Seems to me a Schleh was there; can't remember if it was animation or layout.

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  11. That Was A Different Scheleh, Yowp, Im Talking about the C. Jack Scheleh Jr. that Did The Cool Colonel Bleep and The Hugely Bashed (By Jerry Beck with his worst cartoons ever events) Mighty Mr Titan.

    Asim.

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  12. Doesen't the caveman look a little bit like Barney Rubble (from the Flintstones) only a crazier version folks? Let me know your opinions whenever.

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