Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pixie and Dixie — Heavens to Jinksy

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Joe Montell; Story – Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Voice, Dog – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Jack Shaindlin.
First aired: week of January 18, 1960 (rerun week of July 11, 1960).
Plot: Jinks is given one chance to be nice to Pixie and Dixie or face going to Hell. The mice take advantage of it.

Several of Warren Foster’s Pixie and Dixie cartoons in the 1959-60 season owe something to a first season cartoons by Joe Barbera and Charlie Shows, or reach further back into Hanna and Barbera’s Tom and Jerry days. This cartoon does the latter, using the basic idea of Heavenly Puss (1949), to wit:

Cat gets clobbered and knocked out.
Cat’s ghost goes to Heaven’s waiting area.
Cat is told to be kind to Mouse or he’ll go to Hell.
Ghost returns to body, Cat awakens and is rebuffed by Mouse in an attempt to be nice.

Foster does take the cartoon in a bit of a different direction than the nicely expressive MGM effort. For one thing, Jinks doesn’t have to get Pixie and Dixie to sign a Certificate of Forgiveness, let alone have a deadline to do it. There’s no Satanic bulldog voiced by the great Billy Bletcher, though a semi-hellish dog is part of the action here. And the endings are not the same; Tom’s experience was a bad dream while Jinks’ is merely a bureaucratic nightmare (but, presumably, a real one).



Foster explored the chasing cat-returns-from-dead-meets-prey scenario in Satan’s Waitin’ (1954, copyright 1952) at Warners, but the plot’s a lot different and it’s funnier than the MGM cartoon.



My favourite part of this cartoon is when Jinks’ spirit is in the Great Beyond. Jinks is drawn as an outline; I’ve always remembered that from when I was a kid. Something else that’s well done is the use of sound. When it’s explained Jinks could go “up”, there’s a rising xylophone gliss, and when he’s told he could go “down,” there’s a dropping slide-whistle.




Jinks later gives an imitation of the two noises when talking to the voice in the sky. Daws Butler’s pretty funny here, with a bing-bing-bing-bing sound for “up” and a wagging tongue sound for “down.” Ken Muse shakes Jinks’ head on the last one. There are three different positions, sometimes on ones, sometimes on twos, sometimes with the tongue in, and Muse varies the order of the positions. Here they are.


Other than that, there really isn’t a lot to this cartoon, other than some nice bits of dialogue. There’s a bunch of re-used cycle animation in the running sequences and when Jinks bangs into table. I like the twirly eyes and crossed feet.



Ah, the old ‘sign on the eye’ gag is here, too (as in Satan’s Waitin’). Daws must have had fried chicken before his recording session because in this scene, for no particular reason, Dixie says “You think ol’ Jinksy has kicked the buck-buck-bucket?”


Dixie (reading): Out. (puts down eyelid and turns to Pixie) It doesn’t say when he’ll return.

The heartless meece decide to do something—get some cheese from the refrigerator. Then we get Jinks’ spirit ascending and the netherworld scene where the cat’s told to be nice to Pixie and Dixie “or else.” There’s another great use of sound here as there’s a harsh piano chord as Jinks arrives. Descending back to Earth, Jinks awakens to find the mice eating cheese. He spends much of the rest of the cartoon talking to the Voice in the Great Beyond, trying to convince him he’s being kind to the meece.

Pixie: That sock he got seemed to change him.
Dixie: Any change will be an improvement.
Jinks (to the sky): Pixie and Dixie are my pals and I will be nice to them.
Dixie: He acts if he’s sort of, kind of, uh...
Pixie: Nuts.
Dixie: Yeah, that’s it.
(later)
Pixie: He’s getting sloppy about it.

But instead of accepting peace and friendship, the vindictive and revengeful mice decide Jinks is afraid of them and get back at the cat. Of course, if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be much of a plot. First, they demand and get a roast chicken (Ah! There’s the “buck-buck” Daws had earlier). Then Pixie plays “Cowboy” on Jinks in drawings far less fun than Carlo Vinci’s the previous season when Cousin Tex rode Jinks. It looks like Jinks has been eating the fried chicken here. Look at the weight Muse put on him!



All this is watched through the window by a dog who tells Jinks “that’s the most disgraceful exposition I ever seed.” Jinks is about to buy the dog’s line to stop letting the mice push him around when a vocal reminder comes from The Great Beyond.

Much like Jinks forced the meece to play “Bumbly-Bee” in ‘Plutocrat Cat’ the following year, Pixie and Dixie force Jinks to put a fish bowl over his head to play “Monster Space Cat.” The idea is to “smash his space helmet and he’ll have to breathe Earth air. Then he’ll be at our mercy.” The dog decides to get in on the fun, grabs Dixie’s hammer and smash! “Here’s your hammer back, buddy,” the dog says. “I just saved da woild from outer space invasion.” Next, the mice play “William Tell” with Jinks, an apple on his head and little suction-cup arrows. Suddenly a toilet plunger wallops Jinks in the face. Cut to the dog with a cross-bow.



It’s time for Jinks to check in with The Great Beyond and up his spirit goes. But he’s informed “through a bookkeeping error” that whoever up there didn’t realise cats have nine lives and Jinks has eight to go. Evidently things aren’t as perfect Up There as we’re led to believe. But it’s perfect for Jinks, who dives back into his body and resumes chasing the meeces, trying to clobber them with the toilet plunger and giggling in cycle animation as the iris closes.

Daws, once again, does a fine job here. I like the “resigned-to-his-fate” tone he gives Jinks throughout much of the cartoon and the “what-the-hell-do-you-want” sound when the dog calls him over. Don Messick’s dog is good, too. It’s not a raspy growl and it’s not a ‘dumb’ voice but you’re left with the impression the dog’s from the other side of the tracks (does anyone use that reference any more?).

This is the only Pixie and Dixie cartoon after the first season of The Huckleberry Hound Show that was released on DVD. It’s in a compilation set from 2001 that included Huck’s Spud Dud. Both contain the stock music cues that have prevented the release of seasons two and three of the Huck Show because the rights holders won’t pay for their use. This cartoon starts with the quintessential meece-chasing theme as Pixie and Dixie run past the same light socket 11 times. The sound cutter didn’t use cues at all during the times Jinks is in Heaven (or whatever it is). He put together musical effects featuring a harp at the open and close, a dissonant piano chord (used in other cartoons, like The Flintstones as a “Hold it!” accent) and the “twinkling” sound reserved for dream sequence intros and extros.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera, Shows).
0:26 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks chases meece, bangs into table.
0:49 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Meece inspect Jinks.
1:14 - harp sounds – Jinks rises, talks to voice in darkness, goes back into body.
2:04 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) – Jinks tells mice he’s their friend, clobbered on foot with hammer.
3:09 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks threatens to tear meeces to pieces, changes mind, “Blechh!”
3:46 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Jinks and mice at fridge.
3:58 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Pixie rides Jinks, dog stares in window, “Take five!”
4:14 - bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – “Oh, no, not Space Cat,” Jinks talks to dog, Space Cat scene.
5:37 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – “William Tell” scene.
6:00 - harp sounds – Jinks rises, talks to voice in darkness, goes back into body.
6:30 - LICKETY SPLIT (Shaindlin) – Jinks removes toilet plunger, chases meece.
7:11 - Pixie and Dixie end-title theme (Curtin).

7 comments:

  1. I really do love the almost UPA-ish style for when Jinks's spirit goes Up There. Really made the short stand out artistic-wise. Likewise with the mentioned music cues through that scene, too.

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  2. Foster had used the "buck buck bucket" line once before, in "Coal Black and the Sebben Dwarves", while the bit with the dog demanding the cat act like a cat is borrowed (but not really expanded on) from Foster's script for 1949’s "Hippety Hopper".

    So there's a bunch of source material from this one. And I agree the line drawing of Jinx adds a lot to this cartoon, because it's an abstract design that you rarely saw H-B do (the Jet Screamer designs in the Jerry Eisenberg thread below being one of the few other examples), and of course it actually saved some $$$ for the ink and paint department.

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  3. Very good design in outline of Jinks in Heaven, and regarding .Lee's comment, not just "Hippety Hopper", (1949) but the earlier "Hop, Look and Listen"(1948) also had a dog trying to get a cat to, well, ACT like one.

    "Fishy Story" is an excellent cue to use under Jinks's first "coming back to life", and "Lickety Split" ended it perfectly.


    Note Jinks wastes a couple more at the end [see description above by Yowp] of his "nine lives" but still has "six to go, and I'm gonna spend 'em all, chasin' you meeces."

    The piano chord would return with a combination of others as a mid 1960s-198s superhero effect, ending with bells jingling or a longer bell, speeded up, a fun sound effect despite its lasting into the 70s-80s post-Golden era. It first appeared in the 1958 feature "Bell, Book, and Candle". It would stay dormant at H-B till 1966.. UPA used it a lot..WB had a similiar one used once when Daffy dries up in the desert in "Aqua Duck", 1963.


    Naturally Pixie and Dixie [and had Tom and Jerry spoken, Jerry would have, TOO!] thought Jinks had, instead of going up to heaven, just been kooky from the "sock he got".

    Oh, btw, anyone for a buck-buck-bucket of chicken? There was, on that topic, at the time of that line used in Coal Black and the Seven Dwarfs as J.Lee mentioned, a song by Sammy Kaye and his Orchestra, on of the major easy listening big band sof the time, a take on the old song "There's a hole in the old Bucket" that went..you guessed it--"old Buck-Buck-Bucket!" I heard that one on the radio around 15 years ago and thought of Pixie and Dixie making that little crack about Mr.Jinks.

    Maybe Warren Foster had heard the Samme Kaye band [now there is a style and band from that time never mentioned much now] but that was another use of that - for a lack of any better term! - "stuttering" way of referring to a bucket. ..didn't know "Coal Black" used that "Buck-Buck Buck-Buck" it,.

    And I also remember Mr.Jinks being fat when one of the mice rides him, like a bucking horse too..since Mr.Jinks ATE that chicken I wonder if that really WASN'T the reason, rather than just plain "odd-model" drawing as usual!!!!



    And finally, I also have seen "Heavenly Puss,"too.Bulldog: "Send him to ME!!!"

    Steve C.

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  4. Messick does a fine turn as the voice of the Deity in this one too, may I add.
    I don't know if what I'm about to point out is a sometimes sort of occurrence with Ken Muse's animation on these H-B teevee toons, but has anyone else noticed the strange jowls Jinks has on either side of his nose here? Note in the head-shaking sequence how the droopy facial appendages disappear in full frontal views with the mouth open or closed, but reappear in every 3/4 profile shot. I've seen a similar design quirk in some Yogi cartoons as well.

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  5. Gerard Baldwin tended to draw Yogi and Snooper that way, too. There's even a front-view Yowp drawing of Yowp of his with droopy jowls.

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  6. This brings back some memories from my childhood, the show with the cat and the two mise I can't seem to recall, the name, but I know that I have watched it.
    man with van London

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  7. Pixie & Dixie & Mr. Jinks aren't as cool as T&J but they definitely are cool!

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