Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pixie and Dixie — Hypnotize Surprise

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Cat – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks, Rocky – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Spencer Moore, Jack Shaindlin.
First Aired: week of February 9, 1959 (repeated week of August 10, 1959)
Plot: Those tricky mice Pixie and Dixie hypnotize Jinks the cat with a spinning watch (from the L.A. Times).

Here’s another first-season Pixie and Dixie cartoon that just kind of stops when the time runs out, but there’s a bit of fun stuff going on before it does.

Likely the highlight is Lew Marshall’s goofy little dancing walks he dreams up for Jinks when the cat is under hypnosis. And the other is Daws Butler’s approach to Jinks before he’s put under the spell of Dixie’s pocketwatch.

Joe Barbera liked to go back into his Tom and Jerrys and find something to re-work into a Pixie and Dixie cartoon, and he and Charlie Shows have done it again. Jerry never hypnotized Tom; a surprise, though it seems like that would have been a perfect plot. But in ‘Nit-Witty Kitty’ (1951), Tom thinks he’s a mouse every time he’s bopped on the head. Mix that with the premise of cartoons like Warner’s ‘The Hare-Brained Hypnotist’ (1942) or the best 3-D short of the ‘50s, Lantz’s ‘Hypnotic Hick’ (1953), plus the concept of the disbelieving dog of ‘Roughly Squeaking’ (1946) at Warners, and you get the basis of this cartoon.

The cartoon opens with a bunch of Marshall’s familiar head bobs and a camera error. Pixie and Dixie kibitz about the watch Dixie’s holding and the hypnotism book he’s reading. Then there’s no animation for nine seconds, just a camera pan over to the book title, then a shot of a page in the book that Dixie reads aloud. But when it comes time to pan from the mice to the book, Pixie is standing in a different spot.



Jinks, naturally, is Dixie’s hypnosis victim. What’s unusual is the utter relaxed way it’s treated. It works because Jinks is casual to begin with, but it’s a little odd. When Jinks goes under, there are no jerky body takes and a glassy-eyed “Yes, master” like you’d find just about anywhere else. Daws is laid back about it. “You are a dog,” instructs Dixie. “Uh, sure I am,” Jinks casually says. It sounds like he’s doubting it. But, no, he starts barking like a dog.

But he doesn’t walk like a dog. Marshall comes up with a weird, paws-like-flipper walk for him, three positions on twos.



Jinks flips his way over to an unnamed buddy of his, bites him on the tail and trees him. Nice design by Walt Clinton on the cat, kind of an angular version of a character you might find on the future Top Cat. There’s a floppy ear and bandage on the tail. Jinks moves on to annoy Rocky with his barking. Rocky thinks it’s some kind of game and punches Jinks into a tree, which snaps him out of the hypnotic state. I suspect Marshall’s following Clinton’s layouts here. The dog looks like a streamlined version of a character you might have found in the Avery/Lah unit at MGM. And the rumbled Jinks isn’t bad, either.



The lame part through all this is the completely superfluous commentary by the meece while it’s going on. It gives some variation to the visuals but the plot would work fine without it. Barbera was so used to coming up with stories without dialogue all those years for Tom and Jerry he’s almost writing that way here. Either that, or he’s using the mice to pad the time to seven minutes. Because there really are four gags in the whole cartoon. That’s gag one.

Next Dixie makes Jinks believe he’s a bird. Marshall comes up with a different walk for him, six positions on twos. In one position, he crosses his legs in mid-air. “He’s strictly for the birds,” is the weak-sister line that Shows comes up with Pixie. Did he really think that was a gut-buster? Yikes.



Rocky wallops Jinks again when the cat climb on the doghouse roof and chirps endlessly. Again Jinks lands against the tree and wakes up. “There’s somethin’ goin’ on around here about which I do not comprehend,” the cat remarks to himself. Marshall supplies another funny rumpled landing. That’s gag two.

“Geeee. Some force stronger than I is at work,” says the clueless cat as he once again tries to sleep before Dixie twirls the watch in his face. Ah, but the meece has outsmarted himself this time. He turns Jinks into a mouse, who reaches into Pixie and Dixie’s hole, grabs their last cheese and eats it. In fact, he starts eating all the cheese in the house, shocking Dixie into the realisation that they’ll starve. Charlie Shows brings us some of his famous rhyming couplets: “Shoo, you!” “Stay out of that trap, sap!” Yes, Jinks-as-mouse sniffs out some cheese in a trap, only to get his nose caught and return to his normal cat self. Gag three.



Dixie decides to fess up to Jinks, but the cat doesn’t believe he can be hypnotised. He defiantly twirls the watch in his own face and tells himself he’s a choo-choo train. You know what happens next. “The Pussycat Express leaving on track nine,” is Shows’ latest weak line. Jinks chugs past the alley cat. “Shee,” says the cat, turning to the camera, “Is there a puss-chiatrist in the house?” Gag four. End of cartoon.



Few music beds were used in this cartoon, and we get Bill Loose and John Seely’s laughing clarinets and tippy-toe xylophone twice.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie instrumental opening theme (Curtin).
0:27 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Dixie studies hypnosis book, turns Jinks into dog.
1:39 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks goes outside, trees cat, wakes up against tree.
2:51 - TC 201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks back in house, turned into bird, Rocky tells him to scram.
4:05 - no music – Rocky tells Jinks to scram, punches him, Pixie says “He even flies like a bird.”
4:18 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks against tree, turned into mouse, grabs cheese from inside mousehole.
5:15 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks eats cheese, nose caught in trap, twirls watch.
6:26 – LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Jinks laughs at idea of being train, choo-choos past cat in garbage can.
7:10 - Pixie and Dixie closing theme (Curtin).

5 comments:

  1. The picture of that dog pretty much defines Clint's visual style.

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  2. Showing some needed love for Shows:

    “Shee,” says the cat, turning to the camera, “Is there a puss-chiatrist in the house?” Gag four. End of cartoon.

    I think that’s a GREAT closing line!

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  3. The problem with it is it's not a closing line. It could have been used equally as well when that cat popped up earlier in the cartoon. Nothing builds up to it.
    Tex Avery mused how you should always put your strongest gag last. The gag can't be your strongest if it can work in the middle of the picture.

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  4. Love it when Jinks says, "Who, what, whom?" Funniest thing in the cartoon. I wonder if Daws came up with that.

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  5. They didn't mention that when Jinks thinks he's a bird his cat buddy sees him coming again & says "Here comes that crazy Jinks" or something & hides in the garbage can. Then after Jinks goes past the other cat looks out & gets his attention & Jinks gets scared & runs off.

    ReplyDelete