Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pixie and Dixie — Mighty Mite

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, El Puncho, Joe – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks, Roger, Dog – Daws Butler.
Music: Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore, Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose/John Seely.
First Aired: week of November 2, 1959 (repeat, week of June 6, 1960).
Production: No. K-31.
Plot: Pixie and Dixie take in a little boxing rooster that Jinks can’t remove from the house.

Hello, Warren Foster’s Diner, what’ll you have today? Some warmed over plotline? Okay, coming right up.

Foster spent too much, for my liking, of the second season of Pixie and Dixie dragging out things that the meece and Jinks had done the previous year, then reworking them. His best cartoons were the ones where he didn’t. But Foster had just come from a studio where he spent cartoon after cartoon trying to figure out how to put a new spin on the one-note battle between Speedy Gonzales and Sylvester, so perhaps it’s not a surprise. So it is that the first part of this cartoon mirrors Boxing Buddy from the previous season—a champion boxing animal becomes detached from the vehicle carrying him and he crashes near Pixie and Dixie.

One can’t help but think of Speedy watching this cartoon. El Puncho the boxing rooster is Mexican, spewing arbitrary Spanish phrases (“Ole! Ole! Cinco de Mayo! Viva enchilada!”) before going into action. Foster can’t even resist planting Speedy’s “Arriba, arriba!” in his vocabulary. Meanwhile, poor Jinks spends the bulk of the cartoon either being angry or woozy and doesn’t get off a lot of wisecracks. Granted, Sylvester never did in the Speedy cartoons either, but he had the great animation of Art Davis and Virgil Ross to back up him, something a TV budget simply wouldn’t allow. We get a few good poses out of Lew Marshall, but it’s mainly head-bobs with a bit of reused animation.

Pixie and Dixie were really never the stars of their series and it’s probably never more evident than in this cartoon. The two set up the conflict between Jinks and the rooster and virtually disappear until the end.

The best part is, as you might expect, the design work of Ed Benedict. I love the busy-body, cross-eyed dog that drives the action in the second half of the cartoon. He may be the best character in it. We get some simple, stylised backgrounds and shadow characters in cars and a fun looking gas station.




“Watch that rock, Joe,” says Roger, as the two of them drive a car to which is attached the trailer carrying El Puncho. Joe doesn’t see the rock. And neither do we. Marshall doesn’t bother drawing it in the road. Instead, he has the trailer lurching and we hear a sound effect. Joe and Roger pull into a gas station and the trailer goes right on past them. It somehow becomes small enough to fit through the open picket fence gate in the Meece and Jinks residence and crashes against a tree. However, Puncho isn’t hurt and he exchanges pleasantries with Pixie and Dixie, who have come out of their front door to investigate and invite him inside to chat. There’s no humour here at all. Foster’s just taking his sweet time setting up the point of the cartoon.



That finally happens when Jinks hears the chatter and demands the mice come out of their hole.

Lew draws a thin, angular Jinks in a bunch of places in the cartoon and this is one of them. The meece and Punchy come out. More dialogue. Jinks accuses Pixie and Dixie of starting a chicken farm. “Eggs all over the place.” Dixie warns Jinks that El Puncho is a featherweight champion fighting rooster. Jinks is facetious in his fear. See one of Lew’s poses below right.



Jinks dares Puncho to punch him. Puncho obliges, the third time knocking him flying through the window and landing against a fence. This is being watched by a bystanding dog with a dumb voice Daws used in some Jay Ward cartoons. The dog keeps throwing Jinks back through the window, and a punch keeps knocking Jinks flying whence he came. It saves Lew a bit of drawing. “It’s hard to tell which is the most chicken, that cat or that banty,” the dog tells the viewer. “Cheer up,” he says, about to drag Jinks to the window, “Tings could be woise. I might not have been here to help yahs.” And the dog makes things woise, uh, worse, by pulling out a slingshot and hitting Puncho with a rock after the rooster and cat agree to a truce. Naturally, Puncho thinks Jinks is responsible and through the window he goes again.




The dog goes to toss Jinks in again “for your own good, pal,” but the cat’s had enough. “Here’s somethin’ for your good,” and Jinksie socks him one. Pixie, Dixie and Punchy are watching through the window. Puncho decides Jinks was taking it easy on him. “Señor mices, I just remembered I have a date in Guadalajara,” says Puncho suddenly. The rooster obviously is afraid Jinks is going to “box-fight” the innards out of him but he doesn’t sound afraid. Don Messick gives him the same upbeat delivery through the whole cartoon. Maybe Messick couldn’t get much variation in emotion out of the voice.

Anyway, Puncho yells “Adios,” twirls and zips out of the cartoon, and Jinks orders the mice to their hole. Chuckles the cat to the audience: “You know, sometimes, I act like real tough with ‘em, you know, but way deep down—I hate meeces to pieces.”

Oh, there’s a connection with another Mexican boxing rooster cartoon. Alex Lovy directed one called The Bongo Punch (1957) at Lantz; he’s the story director on this cartoon.

Just a note about the pictures here. You’ll notice Puncho is kind of purple in the title card. That’s because the frame snapshot comes from what looks like an old print that was turned into an .avi file off cable TV probably a few years ago. The rest of the pictures are from Italian TV and look like they’re fully-restored cartoons, though there’s some pixilation and the colours are a bit saturated. Punchy is the correct colour on the Italian title card but the cartoon’s name has been slapped over with an Italian translation so I can’t use it. I can only wistfully sigh and hope these cartoons some day appear in a home video format.

The stock music is typical. I still don’t know where the creepy muted trumpet piece comes from; it’s cut together twice to lengthen it. And I haven’t identified which music library (unless Hoyt Curtin banged off a version) La Cucaracha comes from.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Hanna, Barbera, Curtin).
0:13 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Car drives, trailer passes car.
0:28 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Trailer rolls down street, into tree.
0:36 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – P&D peer out of door, zip to trailer.
0:48 - La Cucaracha (?) – Trailer door opens, P&D talk to Punchy outside.
1:21 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose) – P&D talk to Punchy inside, Jinks talks to mice and El Puncho, “need those meeces to hold my job here.”
2:42 - creepy reverb trumpet music (Kraushaar?) – “But chickens are for the birds,” Puncho punches Jinks out window.
3:51 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks flies out window to “We be amigos, yes?”
5:22 - L-78 COMEDY UNDESCORE (Moore) – Jinks agrees to call it a draw, “He left for Guadalajara, Mr. Jinks.”
6:37 - FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Jinks tells mice to “git”, iris out.
6:58 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).

3 comments:

  1. The other borrowings here would be Foster from himself, and Bob McKimson's 1949 "Hippety Hopper", where the dog keeps tossing Sylvester back into the house, and Foster from the later McKimson-Tedd Pierce effort, "Sock-A-Doodle Doo", where a lost bantam rooster (apparently from Brooklyn instead of Mexico, and with Sheldon Leonard's voice) ends up in the middle of the Foghorn-v.-Barnyard Dog battle.

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  2. J.Lee: I was thinkin' the same things....and "Hop Look and Listen" as well. [Sheldon Leonard's voice was apparently sped up for the WB short. Yowp, I'm SURE the creepy cue is a R.Kraushaar one.]

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  3. Thanks, J.L. I never thought of Sock because the plot is so much different but, yeah, the opening has the same idea as this one.

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