Saturday, August 27, 2011

Quick Draw McGraw — Bull-Leave Me

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Dick Lundy; Layout – ?; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas?; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast: Narrator, Gaucho, Don Town – Don Messick; Quick Draw, Baba Looey – Daws Butler; El Screwbullito – Doug Young.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Phil Green, Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin, unknown.
Production: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-024, Production J-71.
First Aired: week of March 7, 1960 (repeat, week of September 5, 1960)
Plot: Quick Draw searches for a prize bull in Argentina.

If you’re going to borrow a cup of sugar, you might as well borrow the best if you can. So, if you’re going to borrow a cup of ideas from old cartoons, why borrow crappy ideas? Borrow from the best. And you can’t get a lot better than Tex Avery.

This cartoon features some familiar sights and sounds that Tex may not have originated, but they’ll bring to your mind a few of his cartoons. Quick Draw McGraw takes on a bull. Yes, many directors had bullfighting cartoons; writer Mike Maltese worked on Bully For Bugs (1952) and story director Alex Lovy had a hand in the Woody Woodpecker cartoon The Hollywood Matador (1942). But this isn’t just any bull. It’s a smart-ass bull. If I have to explain to you what smart-ass characters Tex developed, you really shouldn’t be reading this blog. But it’s not just any smart-ass bull. It’s a chuckling smart-ass bull. I’ll spare you a list of cartoons where Avery featured a loud, large chortling character (my favourite is 1940’s The Bear’s Tale), but point out one of them was a bull in Señor Droopy, released in 1949.
(See footnote at the bottom of the post).

One of the gags has Quick Draw lured not once, but twice, off a cliff by the bull, akin to the fox and Willoughby the stupid dog in Tex’s Of Fox and Hounds (1940). In that one, the fox comments on the action to the camera. Here, Baba Looey does it. And the final gag’s a variation on a Tex favourite found in The Cat That Hated People (1948) and The Chump Champ (1950).

The man who handled the Avery unit while Tex was on a medical leave was Dick Lundy, and he’s the animator in this cartoon. There isn’t a lot of animating in perspective in Hanna-Barbera cartoons—it’s easier moving them stage left and right—but Lundy does it a couple of times here. One is in the first scene, when the gaucho is trying to capture El Screwbullito by throwing his bolas. The bull casually pulls out a baseball bat and thwacks back the bolas. See how the barrel of the bat is expanded as it pokes toward the camera.

One thing the scene doesn’t have is Tex’s pace, certainly not the kind he was known for at MGM in the ‘50s. There wouldn’t have been any shot of the bolos flying through the air, the bull wouldn’t have waited two seconds before dragging out the bat nor waited another couple before swinging it. Throw-swing-end result-reaction, enough for the eye to register and get it, then on to the next gag. “Give me an opening and a closing and thirty gags and I'll make you a cartoon”, Tex once said. Of course, he didn’t have to grind out as many cartoons in a year as the folks at the Hanna-Barbera studio. That task fell on Mike Maltese, someone who could pack 30 gags in a cartoon as well, but had to settle for fewer because of the realities of television animation. After all, he wrote 78 stories in nine months.



Still, Maltese has come up with a funny cartoon. Borrowing then reworking Avery helps, but he adds his own touches, too. My favourite is the “inquisition” routine, much like he did in The Treasure of El Kabong and Chopping Spree, where Quick Draw answers with groaner puns when questioned about his qualifications. It comes at the outset of the cartoon. The narrator sets up the location (the Argentina pampas) and introduces the gaucho who can’t catch El Screwbullito before the scene switches to the ranch of Don Town. His gauchos turn and run when asked to bring in El Screwbullito, so he sends for “The World’s Greatest Cowboy, Quick Draw McGraw.” Does Quick Draw know his way around the pampas? Our hero zips off-stage and returns in a gaucho outfit. After some bogus Latin-evoking language, Don Town expresses his doubt that Quick Draw is qualified. Let the questioning begin. It’s Maltese at his pun-groaner best.


Don: Okay. What is a gaucho?
Quick Draw: A gaucho is one of the Marx Brothers.
Don: What is the Andes?
Quick Draw: It’s the other half of ‘Amos and.’
Don: What is a bolo?
Quick Draw: It’s something you keep goldfish in. Like ‘bolo goldfish.’
Don (crying): Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no.
Quick Draw: Let’s face it. You’re stuck with me.
Baba: Ees sad. But I thin’ that’s true.

Of course, Quick Draw and Baba are correct, enabling the cartoon to continue. The scene cuts to a jeep, wherein Quick Draw tells Baba to keep his “peels eyed.” They pass the bull, hitching a ride. Much like Elmer Fudd didn’t recognise a wabbit in Tex’s A Wild Hare (1940), Quick Draw doesn’t clue in that he’s just picked up El Screwbullito. The bull pulls Quick Draw’s hat over his eyes (Quick Draw doesn’t guess that it’s “Wosemawy Wane” like the blinded Elmer in A Wild Hare) and jumps to safety before the jeep crashes into a huge rock.

Lundy tries more perspective in the next scene. The bull is chuckling in a three-quarters rear view. Quick Draw runs at him diagonally from the distance but suddenly bashes against something and falls to the ground. The camera pulls back to reveal Quick Draw ran into a pane of glass.



Now an oldie but a goodie. Quick Draw is sent over a cliff twice by asking directions of a poncho and hat covered “stranger” who is really the bull in disguise. The doorway frame at the edge of the cliff is reminiscent of something Maltese put into a Roadrunner cartoon.



Next, Quick Draw tries using a red cape to lure El Screwbullito into charging toward him. There’s a boulder behind the cape. Instead, the bull sends the rock flying into the air. It lands on Quick Draw. No “Oooh, that smarts!” We get some “ouch” and “ooch” instead.

The final gag has Quick Draw charging at the bull with huge horns tied to the front of his jeep. The frightened bull runs toward a corral entrance, grabs a set of big mounted horns, and runs at Quick Draw. The collision breaks up Quick Draw and the jeep into little pieces that collapse on the ground. El Screwbullito points and chuckles until he realises something is wrong. Then he breaks up into little pieces and collapses. Baba Looey’s tag line: “That’s Quickstraw for you. When the chips are down, he goes all to pieces. But I like him.” Thus ends Quick Draw’s sole appearance in Argentina.



The Argentine setting inspired Bill Hanna to spring for the use of three Spanish-flavoured specialty cues. They’re not with the Latin American cues in the original Capitol Hi-Q reel X-4 (Capitol later replaced it with Christmas music). I suspect they’re cues from the Sam Fox library. And there are a couple of common Shaindlin pieces heard in this cartoon I don’t have, either.

There’s also a snippet of music when the bull charges at Quick Draw standing next to the boulder. The sound effects and vocals are so loud, it’s tough to tell what it is. I can make out two notes. I’m going with Bill Loose and John Seely’s TC-215A found in the Hi-Q ‘D’ series, as it has those two notes about two-thirds of the way into the music.


0:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:14 - Latin string music (?) – Pan across pampas.
0:26 - Latin samba music (?) – Gaucho chasing bull scene.
1:30 - Latin strings and reeds (?) – Don Town’s gauchos run away, “Cowards! Pigeons!”
2:01 - GR-85 THE BRAVEST WOODEN SOLDIER BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – “Chickens!”, Quick Draw and Baba skid into scene.
2:18 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw and Don Town dialogue.
3:17 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Hitchhiker scene, Quick Draw runs into glass.
4:13 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Bull chuckles, Quick Draw runs off cliff and crashes.
4:42 - CB-83A MR TIPPY TOES (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Bull in serape chuckles, Quick Draw over cliff again, Quick Draw waves red cape.
5:39 - TC-215A CHASE-MEDIUM (Loose-Seely) – Bull charges, rock goes up, lands of Quick Draw.
5:49 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – “Quickstraw, what happened?”, Quick Draw starts jeep.
6:19 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw drives off, collision, Quick Draw and bull crack up.
6:50 - related to Sportscope (Shaindlin) – Baba Looey talks to audience.
6:57 - Quick Draw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

Yowp note: Hanna-Barbera was working on a theatrical project soon after this cartoon was made, and it involved a bull. Hedda Hopper revealed in her column of April 26, 1960: Hanna and Barbera are doing animation on two sequences of “Pepe;” one a dream sequence where Cantinflas on horseback fights windmills, while in the other he fights the bull.

The studio got involved because the movie was released by Columbia, which bankrolled Hanna-Barbera at the outset, and produced and directed by George Sidney, the first president of H-B Enterprises. Columbia seems to have poured all kinds of money into this elaborate musical comedy that drowns you in great star cameos. But the grating and ubiquitous Cantinflas arouses more cringes than sympathy, the plot is really dumb, and the few neat ideas (eg. a parody of West Side Story’s choreography) are better on paper than in execution.

Perhaps there were so many stars, there was no room for poor Bill and Joe. While a bullfight opens the movie, there’s no cartoon element (at least in the version of the movie I saw). The only animation is when little squares fall together to form the film title in the opening, and again when they spell “The End.” So this could very well be a lost theatrical project for Hanna-Barbera.

11 comments:

  1. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    I've had reason that this Quick Draw McGraw episode was set in the Argentine pampas. Words from a South-American citizen (who lives here in Brazil).

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  2. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    It seems that the layout on this Quick Draw McGraw episode was made by Paul Sommer (who left us recently).

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  3. Lundy also wrapped up his lone Droopy cartoon with a charging bull gag, though in that case it was a bull vs. locomotive, and instead of dual crack-ups, we ended up with a damaged retro choo-choo with a punch-drunk bulk (and wolf) at the back of the caboose dumbly waving at the camera. I actually like Maltese's ending better.

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  4. Ironic that Lundy was making a cartoon with Avery's character that he didn't use Avery's "break into pieces" gag. Though I guess Heck Allen borrowed the stacking box gag from King Size Canary. I don't think Lundy handled Droopy well, though there are some moments in the cartoon.
    Rod, anyone can post a name when there are no credits yet never explain where the information comes from. You do it all the time and never respond.

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  5. I actually like the first half of "Caballero Droopy", because it pretty much sticks to the one-upsmanship spot gag style Tex used in other cartoons (like "Senior Droopy"). Once we get to the bullfighting part, the cartoon starts traveling downhill like a runaway locomotive (or bull).

    Also Quick Draw's puns contain a rare direct dating of the cartoon with the Amos & Andy reference -- audiences today might still get the gaucho/Groucho gag, but that one would have gone over the heads of the many of the kids watching TV in 1960, let alone today, since A&A had been off the air by then for seven years, and the remnants of their radio show had been toned down towards nothingness outside of the L.A. area (Of course the early H-B characters in large part were based on live-action TV shows or movies, but kids didn't have to understand the source to enjoy the characters)

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  6. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    This is the only Quick Draw McGraw episode which's set on a Latin American country, where he doesn't appear as El Kabong (great part of the episodes where Quick Draw appears as El Kabong, are set in Mexico). At this case, we see Quick Draw and Baba Looey appearing on a South American country (Argentina, more exactly on the pampas region [which also involves Uruguay and the south of Brazil]), where Quick Draw appears worn as an authentical gaúcho.

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  7. The Amos & Andy reference may not be as obscure as you might think. AMOS & ANDY the TV show had indeed ceased production in 1953, but it continued to be very popular in syndicated reruns at this time. It wasn't withdrawn from syndication until 1966, as the civil rights movement came to a head. On a related note, Bugs Bunny also made a reference to Amos & Andy at the end of 1960's LIGHTER THAN HARE.

    And as for the "door at the end of the cliff" gag, my first thought was its use in Friz Freleng's HIGH DIVING HARE (1949).

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  8. Amos & Andy was still in regular rotation in Los Angeles at that time (and I believe stayed there into the mid-1960s). But by 1960 the NAACP had been successful in getting the show's reruns yanked from the air in a number of places in the Northeast and Midwest.

    Its continued airing in Los Angeles probably explains why Friz and Mike both used the gag in 1960, but for other parts of the country, the gag even by then would be a head-scratched for many of the targeted yutes in the audience (albeit not for their parents, who might also be watching if the Quick Draw was airing in the early evening hours, as it did in many places during its initial run).

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  9. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    I've read your note about the movie Pepe (1961), directed by George Sidney for Columbia Pictures and which has the Mexican star Mário "Cantinflas" Moreno on the cast.
    I remember when I saw on the Big Cartoon DataBase (http://bcdb.com), a rare cartoon series produced by Hanna-Barbera in 1980, which has Cantinflas on the animated format.
    This series is titled Cantinflas (a.k.a. Amigo & Friends), and it was aired originally in Mexico by Televisa.
    We cannot forget that Cantinflas is considered an idol in Latin America.

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  10. J. Lee,

    Even the audiences from Latin America (including this poor mortal who lives here in Brazil, writes to you) understand the gaúcho/Groucho Marx gag.

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  11. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    I'd like to know which tune (which has a Latin/Caribbean swing) appears being played on the scene where the gaúcho chases Screwbullito the bull.

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