Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pixie and Dixie — Hi-Fido

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Manny Perez; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds - Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Dog – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks – Daws Butler.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose/John Seely, Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore.
First Aired: week of Sept. 14, 1959 (rerun, week of May 9, 1960).
Production: Huckleberry Hound Show No. K-27.
Plot: Pixie and Dixie use a home sound system to pretend there’s a dog in the house to scare Jinks.

Hanna-Barbera had a bit of a connection with art of ventriloquism. One of its top character voices starting in the late ‘60s was Paul Winchell, who had spent years on radio and TV making people laugh with Jerry Mahoney. The ending of Quick Draw McGraw Show featured Baba Looey popping out of a chest doing a variation of Señor Wences’ most famous routine. And Don Messick entertained as a ventriloquist before moving to California to work in radio and, later, cartoons. So it’s a bit amazing that this cartoon screws up ventriloquism so badly.

If I understand things correctly, ventriloquism is the art of throwing your voice. On your own. But, in this cartoon, Dixie uses a microphone hooked to a hi-fi set. So what does ventriloquism have to do with it? And why bring it into the plot?

I suppose I should just ignore this little hole in the first of Warren Foster’s Pixie and Dixie cartoons to hit the air waves and just enjoy the rest of the cartoon. Foster seems to grasped the budgetary difference between television and theatrical animation right away. It costs a lot less to rely on dialogue instead of movement and drawings to get humour across, so Jinks does an awful lot of self-musing and talking to the camera in this one. But Foster leaves room for takes like he did for Sylvester over at Warners and Manny Perez, who animated Sylvester for Friz Freleng, comes up with some pleasant stuff at times. This is Perez’ only Pixie and Dixie short.

Jinks has a unique running cycle in the opening of the cartoon. He rocks his arms back and forth in four drawings while running stooped with his head down. Unique to Hanna-Barbera, I should say; I caught a Sylvester-Tweety cartoon the other day where the cat runs in a cycle that’s a variation on this. The layout or background artist has come up with a light shadow that Jinks runs past seven times. Pixie and Dixie have an unusual design, too. A single line represents a tail. They’re drawn the same way in ‘Mighty Mite,’ which was also an Ed Benedict cartoon.



Jinks’ tie changes a bit during the cartoon. It’s thin for the most part but, at times, it’s a little wide and fluffy. This comes right after Pixie and Dixie shock Jinks by zapping him with two loose ends of a wire in their hole. There was a great Jinks’ electric shock take in Mark of the Mouse the year before, but Foster doesn’t even try to put it one like it in his storyboard. He follows the old Freleng pattern of violence happens off-camera but, unlike at Warners, the reaction shot is no reaction. Jinks isn’t even singed. We get some jagged teeth as Jinks informs the meeces he hates them to pieces.

The two decide they’ve “got to do something about that cat.” Dixie shows off his ventriloquism book, then shows off his skills. First, he walks to a box and borrows from Señor Wences:


Dixie: How’s the air in there?
(opens lid of box)
Growley-Voice Box: All right.

Then he imitates a cat outside a birdhouse where a sparrow is sleeping. There’s a surprise take by the bird. Nothing funny or elaborate. But I really like the multiples of the bird before he zips into his house.



Now it’s Jinks’ turn and the ventriloquism is suddenly abandoned for a mike and stereo speakers. Maybe it’s because of this line: “Those woofers will make good dog woofs.” Nice anticipation principles as Dixie growls and barks. He also has those same raised forearms that Jinks has in the beginning. Here are the drawings slowed down.



Jinks peers sleepily from under his blanket then jumps into the ceiling before crashing down again. He decides it’s a “nighttime-mare” and tells the audience about it. I like the way he pops up from under different parts of his blanket.

Pixie gets to quote Ralph Edwards from Truth or Consequences, more or less:


Dixie: Jinks is asleep. Run over and spin his dish.
Pixie: Ain’t we the devils?

Pixie becomes brush-strokes and partial ears.

The meece frighten Jinks into running into the basement with a crash. The cat has his eyes half-closed, with the lids at different heights, during portions of the cartoon. It’s pretty amusing. Here’s Jinks checking himself in the mirror.


Jinks: Oh, boy. I have to, you know, like get a grip on myself. Shee! All us cats are high-stringed. But, you know, I’m, like, high-stringed-er than most. (looks in mirror). Shee! I look terri-dible.

Jinks baps himself on the head (with a wood-block sound) in cycle animation to convince himself there’s no dog in the house. His tie has expanded again and has strings hanging down. Note the squinting eyeballs in one position of the cycle. He gets a hold of himself with a head-shake cycle, then determinedly stomps off to “find them meeces.” He turns to the camera and raises his eyebrows up and down, something he also did in ‘Sour Puss.’ But the barking scares the crap out of him until he finally slides to a stop, realises there is no dog and decides to ignore the barking.



Dixie wears himself out trying to get Jinks to pay attention. Both the cat and mice have teeny tongues in this cartoon; Pixie has a little buck tooth.



Jinks has caught on to what’s going on. We get some, like, hipster dialogue:


Jinks: Hey, you. Save it, fellas. Uh, no need to knock yourselves out. I dig your barking bit. It’s a real coooool gag. But, uh, I was hip all the time, you know. I knewwww there was no dog around the house. You meeces tried to fool Jinksie-boy.

During all this, a dog has been listening at the window and wanders in. Jinks goes from casual, to crying after seeing the dog, to multiples as he backs up in fright.



However, Dixie saves Jinks from the vicious animal by barking into the microphone. The dog turns friendly. Foster’s best line of the cartoon:


Dog: Gee, excuse me. I didn’t know you was a dog. All the new breeds, you know. Sorry, my mistake.

But Jinks isn’t grateful. He threatens the meeces, who run away and don’t turn around to realise he isn’t following him. He’s on the microphone. Evidently, the three of them live in southern California for the last shot is of a desert on the way to Arizona, where Pixie and Dixie hope to lose the cat they think is chasing them and yelling about how he hates them to pieces over and over. A running-away scene is generally an unimaginative way to end a cartoon, one Hanna-Barbera used far too often in later years, and that’s how this one finishes.

As the cartoon opens with a chase scene, it shouldn’t be surprising it opens with Jack Shaindlin’s quintessential P&D chase theme. Some beds are snipped together to make them longer and there’s a four-second insertion of a Shaindlin cue with the same tempo and orchestration as the one on either side of it. Why the sound cutter bothered, I don’t know.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title Theme (Curtin)
0:13 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks chases meece into hole.
0:27 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Meece decide to electrocute Jinks, conversation in mouse hole.
0:58 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Ventriloquism scene.
1:39 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) – Meece hooks up PA system, barks, Jinks wakes up.
2:13 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Jinks looks around, barking
2:17 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) - Jinks jumps into ceiling, falls into basket.
3:10 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Pixie spins dish, Jinks runs down stairs, crash.
3:25 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Pixie and Dixie talk, Jinks looks in mirror, shakes head, starts walking.
4:01 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – “Now to find them meeces,” barks.
4:14 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks runs into closet, slides to stop.
4:30 - jaunty bassoons and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Jinks ignores barking, dog at window, scared by dog.
5:44 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Dog barks, apologises.
6:21 - rising-falling scale circus march (Shaindlin) – Pixie and Dixie run.
6:58 - Pixie and Dixie End Title Theme (Curtin).

7 comments:

  1. Nice shots from this one...Had Jinkx really BEEN chasing them, but heard only, it would complete the ending's similiarty to 1st Season P&D short "Hypnotize Surprise".

    Jinks confessing to the mice that he's "hep" to them and then the dog apologizing are definitely hilarious...

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  2. Whoops, my bad, the cartoon I meant to mention was "1st Season P&D short "
    Jinks's Mice Device" [the invisibity, or, "IN-div-is-ibilty" one...please disregard my error]. In that one, Jinks IS chasing them, but he's nowhere to be seen, in "Hi-Fi Fido", he's doin' a real, like, swell job of scaring the meeces [proving that they're not very bright!!] with his voice [ungrateful feline].

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  3. Not only does Dixie use a microphone, his lips move!

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  4. Another verntriloquist link besides the ones that Yowp's posted already was Jimmy "Yakky" Weldon..

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  5. Yes, it is interesting that Dixie talks about throwing his voice, then uses a mic and speakers. No voice throwing would have been required-Ha!!Reminds me of the Warner's cartoon where Sylvester looks at the camera and holds up a sign that says something like: " This is a cartoon..I can do anything ", then proceeds to run up thin air to get to Tweety's nest. Steve, good to know that Jimmy Weldon is one of the ever shrinking members of the H-B voice team that is still with us.

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  6. Except that "Tweety"'s a pseudo-"Woody" Woodpecker.

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  7. Tom's not grateful to Jerry, either, when Jerry rescues him from a shark in Cannery Rodent, a Chuck Jones T&J & in Tom-ic Energy, another CJ T&J short, Jerry rescues Tom from a dog just like P&D rescue Jinks from one in this & this time Tom's grateful to Jerry but still chases him.

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