Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pixie and Dixie — Bird-Brained Cat

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Dixie, Mr. Jinks – Daws Butler; Pixie, Canary Owner, Mrs. Jones – Don Messick.
Music: Spencer Moore; Jack Shaindlin; Bill Loose/John Seely.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show No. K-32.
First Aired: week of November 23, 1959 (rerun, week of June 13, 1960).
Plot: Pixie and Dixie keep Jinks away from a canary living in their home.

The Warner Bros. cartoon studio was awarded an Oscar in March 1958 for Birds Anonymous, a wonderful little short where Sylvester’s obsession with eating Tweety has overwhelmed him so much, someone deliberately intervenes every time he gets the urge to gulp down the little bird.

The short was written by Warren Foster, who soon departed Warners for Hanna-Barbera and was faced with writing more than 70 cartoons for the 1959-60 TV season. It’s no wonder he borrowed ideas from his old Warners cartoons to fill the schedule, and he used the basic “help-keep-me-away-from-it” premise from Birds Anonymous twice: in Goldfish Fever and in this cartoon.

It’d be fool-hardy to think Foster could duplicate Birds Anonymous at Hanna-Barbera. The studio had neither the time or money, nor the critically-acclaimed vocal performance of Mel Blanc, nor the beautiful noir opening laid out by Hawley Pratt and constructed by Boris Gorelick. And Foster couldn’t go much beyond the rudimentary Birds Anonymous storyline in this cartoon. For one thing, the bird in Bird-Brained Cat doesn’t talk, so gag payoffs can’t be driven or augmented by Tweety-like dialogue. And, for another, this isn’t a Jinks-and-bird short. It’s a Pixie and Dixie cartoon, so the character interaction and dynamic is going to be an awful lot different than the Warners short. (One of the best things about Birds Anonymous never made it into this cartoon: the Alcoholics Anonymous parody, complete with Salvation Army band-esque opening music by Milt Franklyn).

An oddity that Foster included in this cartoon was a human owner for Jinks. It’s really quite jarring. Sure, Jinks has had human employers in a few cartoons, but the Pixie and Dixie series leaves the impression he lives in a suburbia where talking animals occupy houses with complete with food, a television, electricity, mailboxes with their names, etc. automatically provided for them. Who needs people? Well, Foster needed a couple in this cartoon as nothing more than a plot device so that’s what we get.

It takes almost half the cartoon for the conflict with the bird to begin, so we start off with a conflict with the meece, and then move on to Jinks’ inner conflict. To do this, the cartoon has to rely mainly on the limited (and cycle) animation of Don Patterson. He was probably the right guy to pick for this cartoon. We get buggy expressions and, at least at the start of the cartoon, a floppy tongue. Pixie and Dixie decides the coast is clear of Jinks so they stroll to the fridge for some brunch. They’re surprised the cat hasn’t shown up. Then they open the fridge door. Jinks is hiding inside. A scare take follows. The meece shake in two drawings but Patterson has Jinks’ head in three different positions and has the tongue in and out.

Jinks chases the Pixie and Dixie but stops. We get some eye-takes. Then Jinks starts shaking in cycle animation. Ingeniously, the shaking is on two drawings but the cameraman slides the background back and forth so it looks like there’s more movement than there is. Jinks explains to the puzzled meece he has “canary-itis”, his one weakness that only happens when there’s a canary around. Here are some of Patterson’s drawings.




This lasts for the next minute of the cartoon. The doorbell rings. It’s a woman bringing her canary in a cage for Jinks’ owner, a Mrs. Jones, to bird-sit. Considering it’s a canary, perhaps “Mrs. Freleng” would have been better than “Mrs. Jones.” Oh, well. “He’ll be safe here. Our cat never even looks at birds,” says the unseen Mrs. Jones. Jinks goes into a lament.


Jinks: “Never looks at birds,” she says. Ord-id-inary birds, no. But I’ve got canary-itis.
Pixie: What does that mean, Jinksie?
Jinks: It means I’ll like, you know, lose control of myself. I’ll sneak up on the cage, open it, grab the canary, put him on a buttered bun and then—
Dixie: And then what, Jinks?
Jinks: Canary burgers, what else?
Pixie: Gosh. That’s awful.
Jinks: Uh, when they find the cage empty, they will accept the circumstantial-like evidence of canary feathers on a cat’s whiskers. They’ll run me out. I’ll wander through alleys, like, scrounging in ash-cans for somethin’ to eat. Hoo! What a terrible thing to happen to a spoiled house cat (turns to the camera) and quite loveable house pet.

Dixie must have been so enraptured by Jinks’ dramatic performance that Pixie’s voice comes out of him for the next line.

Jinks begs the mice to “stop him” and they giggle when he agrees they can do it “any way they can.” But it’s not an evil laugh because that’s simply not the way they are.

Uh, no. Jinks has a buttered burgered bun all set in the next scene. Instead of envisioning the bird as a roast turkey, like in Birds Anonymous, Jinks pictures it as a burger. The meece stop the urge with a coffee pot to the head.



The next scene’s has Jinks crawling up to the mouse hole, digging in his claws and pulling himself forward. He’s begging for help. The meece tie him to the piano. It doesn’t work. As Pixie and Dixie walk away, they hear a dissonant piano chord and turn around. Cut to a shot of Jinks carrying the piano on his back. Dixie kicks a bar of soap out of camera range. We hear a crash and the camera shakes. Patterson doesn’t even draw a shot of what happened. Instead we get reused animation of the meeces dragging away Jinks.



Jinks tries to fool them in the next scene, planting a phoney cat tail that slumps over his basket (much like the fake cat tail out of a sock Claude Cat invents in the 1954 Warner cartoon No Barking). They spy Jinks holding his burger bun next to the bird cage. A vacuum cleaner aimed at the cat’s real tail does the job.


Dixie: Are you okay, Mr. Jinks.
Jinks: Yeah, I’m okay, but you’d think they would clean this thing out once-st in awhile, you know?”



It appears Pixie and Dixie have taken it upon themselves to take the bird cage from the counter and screw it into the ceiling. Jinks now uses a kitchen table, with its outstretched leaves as wings, to fly from the top of the stairs and swoop down on the bird. The meece foil that by sliding the double doors to the room the bird is in. Jinks crashes the “wings” into the door.



Apparently Mrs Jones is so clueless, she doesn’t notice a smashed piano, a broken table or a bird cage hanging from a cracked ceiling, or hear the noise (but she could hear a doorbell earlier). Instead, we hear her, off-camera, handing back the bird to its owner. Jinks is happy his canary-itis is cured—“But I still hate meeces to pieces,” he shouts, and the cartoon ends with the cat chasing the mice past the same curtains against the wall six times. Patterson saves animating the legs we only see the upper half of Jinks’ body diagonally sticking out of the frame.

You won’t hear any surprises in the musical score here. The short muted wa-wa trumpet cue has been repeated to try to lengthen it to a full minute. Still can’t find where it originated.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Curtin)
0:13 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Pixie and Dixie walk to fridge, scared by Jinks.
0:55 - rising scale music (Shaindlin) – Jinks chases Pixie and Dixie.
1:00 - creepy reverb trumpet mysterioso (Kraushaar?) – Jinks explains he has canaryitis, doorbell.
1:59 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose) – Lady with bird, Jinks begs for help, “Just stop me.”
3:18 - TC-437 SHOPPING DAY (Loose-Seely) – “Did you say ‘anyway’?”, Jinks in basket, Meece see Jinks.
3:40 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks with bun, hit with coffee pot, dragged away.
4:16 - LAF-27-6 UNTITLED TUNE (Shaindlin) – Bird chirps, Jinks wants help, tied to piano, carries piano, crash.
5:09 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Jinks dragged away, fake cat tail, vacuum scene
6:09 - rising scale music (Shaindlin) – bird on ceiling, Jinks flies into doors, woman picks up bird, Jinks chases meece.
6:58 - Pixie and Dixie End Title theme (Curtin).

6 comments:

  1. Nic,e or, Mice, [Meece wouldn't work here!] to see another weekend cartoon review [interesting that this time it's a P&D short, as the last one was a Augie short and it seems you do Yogi shorts after Augie, but anyhoo as Yogi would say], I love how what appears to be the Kruashaaur creepy cue is lengthened a lot. Of course "Wiki Waka Huck" would leave a GREAT discussion for it, given how it is used there.

    I love this, and I also of course would remember the similairity to that Oscar winning Tweety/Puddytat short and that other P&D/Jinks goldfish short [another to use the medoium march that starts out both "Lionhearted Huck" and "Mark of the Mouse", and used in "Ruff and Reddy", and opens and closes the Goldfish ones.

    Yes, a human owning Jinks for the first time since "Pistol Packi n' Pirates" [one of the last first season Huck show episodes not yet reivewed] and one from that season already done on the blog, "Jiggers It's Jinks", to have a known owner of Jinks, oh, and those two Butler shorts already reviewed in the past here, the first-season "Jinks the Butler" and second-season "Sour Puss". Usually you don't see an owner for Jinks in these shorts. Unlike "Goldfish Fever" Jinks isn't entirely benign to those meeces at the open or end here!!!!
    Steve

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  2. PS Ins't "Licety Splat" by Shaindlin used at the end
    Steve

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  3. Yowp, you forgot the first season Flintstones ep, "Fred Flintstone: Before and After" in Foster's "______ Anonymous" oeuvre.

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  4. Hey Yowp - any more info out there re Boris Gorelick? He did backgrounds on a handful of Freleng shorts after Irv Wyner left and before Tom O'Loughlin's arrival.

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  5. Hi, TC. I didn't forget it. I wasn't writing a filmography. I'm making the point that he had a lot of cartoons to write quickly in 1959 so he obviously borrowed where could.
    Bart, I don't know any more about Gorelick than what you'll find on the internet. I haven't run across anything additional about him. Amid has done some fine research and has a short bio with a link to a transcribed oral historyhere. I blanched seeing Gorelick's name on those TV Popeye cartoons.
    Steve, no, that's not 'Lickety Split.' Thanks for the voice note; I've changed how I compile them and end up getting sidetracked.

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  6. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodswoth and pals,

    Have you seen the vacuum cleaner that Pixie & Dixie used to take off Mr. Jinks from eating the canary?
    It looks like a General Electric vacuum cleaner. Nowadays, the General Electric domestic appliances division is owned by Black & Decker (since 1986).

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