Saturday, 19 November 2011

Quick Draw McGraw — Locomotive Loco

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Joe Montell; Story – Mike Maltese; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits available).
Voice Cast: Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Narrator, Eastern Engineer, Western Official, ‘There It Goes’ Man, Ronald Roundhouse – Daws Butler; Western Engineer, Eastern Official, Moose Caboose – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin; Phil Green; Hoyt Curtin; Bill Loose/John Seely; Lou De Francesco (?).
First aired: week of February 15, 1960 (rerun, week of August 15, 1960).
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-021, Production J-56.
Plot: Quick Draw is hired to find the Golden Spike stolen by Moose Caboose.

Cartoons can teach you more than you can learn in a classroom. Cartoons can teach you the lyrics to “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.” They can teach you there was once an actress named Greta Garbo who had really big feet. They can even teach you that books come to life at night then sing and dance. But they don’t teach history all that well.

A good example is this cartoon. It’s about that event which actually had people hovering around telegraph offices eagerly awaiting the first news via dots and dashes—the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Oh, the cartoon starts out accurately alright. Construction of the first coast-to-coast railroad started on both ends of the country and crews worked toward each other. Trains chugged along the tracks from both directions and finally touched cowcatchers (in Promontory, Utah in the U.S. and Craigellachie, B.C. in Canada). The two lines of track were joined together, with the final spike being a golden one (in the U.S., at least), in a ceremony crammed full of watch-chained dignitaries.

However, don’t believe the rest of this cartoon, kids. Moose Caboose did not steal the golden spike and was not hunted down by Quick Draw McGraw in Abilene. Real history teaches us the last spike was quickly removed and replaced lest any Moose Caboose-like thieves made a stealthy appearance. In fact, real history is completely silent about whether there was someone named ‘Moose Caboose’ but it does tell us there is, in fact, a place named Abilene. And a song, too. Probably sung on Karaoke Night at a pub named the ‘Moose Caboose’. But I digress.

Real history isn’t silent when it comes to the delight this specific cartoon brought, and not just to happy kids in Abilene watching this cartoon when it first aired on KPAR Channel 12 in Sweetwater. Vince Leonard of The Pittsburgh Press had this to say about my favourite bit of dialogue in the cartoon in his column of October 12, 1965:

Cartoons continue to hook the adults with the lines. Liked Quick Draw McGraw’s segment on the railroad’s golden spike, stolen by Moose Caboose. “Why don’t you just get another spike?,” he asked. “Because we railroad men have one-track minds,” came the answer. The theme was carried out and it was enjoyable.

It’s a fairly typical Quick Draw cartoon. Our hero does some idiotic things, Mike Maltese comes up with more overly-descriptive dialogue, and Carlo Vinci’s here with a thinner line around the characters, less jerky animation than earlier in the year but his familiar ticks ticking away.

There’s a clever effect at the beginning that I like when the trains are chugging toward each other. They jerk a little forward and backward on the track when travelling across the moving background. It looks each train was on a different place on each cel in a little cycle of halting movement. You’ll notice the trains aren’t quite identical, though their numbers (and presumably their railroad names) are mirror images of each other. I’m surprised they’re not cars from the ‘H and B Railroad.’ Who knows if ‘C and R’ means anything, though designer in this cartoon was Walt Clinton.

A narrator sets up the plot over the initial action, then we get some of Maltese’s contrived dialogue:

Narrator: Officials met to drive in the golden spike.
Western Official: Drive in that terribly expensive golden spike, Eastern Official.

Notice how the spike shines. The glow is on four drawings on twos. No effects animators; Carlo did this all on his own as far as I know.

The spike is grabbed. The Eastern Official engages in one of Carlo’s two-drawing stunned takes. I’ve slowed it down. I presume Walt put camera instructions on his layout. I wonder why he wanted the camera so tight on Carlo’s drawings.

Official Shock

Moose Caboose is spotted on a hand-car holding the spike. He indulges in a little Yogi Bear-type rhyming.

Moose: When I cash in this golden spike, Moose Caboose will live fast and loose.

At least Maltese didn’t put “vamoose” in there.

The next scene is in the office of railroad president Ronald Roundhouse, who must be an Old West relative of Mr. Cogswell from The Jetsons, judging by his voice. This is where we get Vince Leonard’s favourite line. Quick Draw agrees “by Casey Jones!” to track down the golden spike in exchange for a life-time choo-choo pass. Only one. Poor Baba will have to pay.

So Quick Draw sets out. I’d love to have the animation drawings for this loose-limbed walk cycle. The hands and feet are in eight drawings on twos, while the snout goes up and down in four drawings on twos (the second and fourth positions are the same). This is Quick Draw’s idiot scene. He puts his ear on the tracks to hear Moose Caboose’s rail car vibrate on the tracks. But that means he’s not looking when a train chugs toward and over him (the train chugging along is reused from earlier in the cartoon).

Actually, Quick Draw’s half-right. Moose is on the train. Great contrived dialogue from Maltese:

Quick Draw: Return that terribly expensive golden spike, Moose Caboose!
Moose: If you want it, I’ll be in Abilene, a typical, wide-open, rip-roarin’ lawless Western town that was prevalent at the turn of the century.

This line provides an example of Carlo’s way of handling dialogue. Lew Marshall made a nose go up and down like a hamster smelling something. Ed Love used up to seven different head positions, varying the number of frames for each drawing. Mike Lah had the head still and the mouth moving around on the side of the face. Carlo likes the head tilt. When he started at Hanna-Barbera he was doing it in two head drawings and it looked jerky. He later did it in three head positions, changing when he felt the need. He always seems to have used the same angle. You can get idea of it in these drawings.


There’s the big row of upper teeth Carlo liked drawing.

The next scene has Quick Draw and Baba in Abilene (the repeating background consists of six buildings) where they spy a stranger. Catchphrase 1: “Hold on thar!” Quick Draw says to a stranger.

Quick Draw: Have you seen anything of a bad guy hereabouts?
Stranger: Which one? We’re all bad guys in Abilene.
Quick Draw: This here ‘un had a stolen golden spike.
Stranger: You mean Moose Caboose. Well, bein’ a bad guy myself, I don’t mind snitchin’. He’s getting’ purdied-up at the Polecat Barber Shop.

Quick Draw disguises himself as a barber. His scheme: to spin the bad guy around in the chair and let centrifugal force (Quick Draw pronounces it correctly) anything loose from Caboose’s body. And the plan actually works. Baba makes a checklist of everything that goes flying—and that includes the golden spike. But something’s bound to go wrong. It does. The crook has a gun and starts firing at our heroes. Carlo’s standard stretch-dive exit follows (for Baba anyway; Quick Draw leads with the lower part of his body) and Quick Draw runs smack into a post on the porch of the barber shop (Maltese fits in another rhyme: “It’s the calaboose for you, Moose Caboose.”

Caboose grabs the spike from the prone Quick Draw. Now we’ve reached the big scene. Caboose jumps on his handcar with Quick Draw in a locomotive after him. There’s a static shot of a background with two cliffs and three trestles connecting them. Quick Draw and Caboose zip back and forth from side to side, using tunnels like doors in a French bedroom farce. I don’t know whether Bill Hanna handled the timing in this cartoon, or the story director did, but there’s real speed going on here. The trains appear and disappear in nine frames once and ten frames twice. Then after the two screech to a head-on stop, they leave the trestles, there’s a cut, 32 frames go by, and there’s another cut. At Hanna-Barbera, you think of a medium shot with a bunch of chatter, followed by a close-up to break up the monotony, then back to the same medium shot. Quick cutting like this simply isn’t seen in an H-B cartoon.

It’s a shame the cutting doesn’t become faster and faster and then BAM! After the 32-frame footage, the pace slows so Maltese can fit in a dialogue gag. Baba and Quick Draw are now in separate trains heading head-on, chatting to each other like they’re standing next to each other (forget the distance and the noise of the trains). They’ve got Moose Caboose on the tracks in between them.

Baba: Hey, Quickstraw, I thin’ we got him between second and third.
Quick Draw: (to audience) You gotta admit, the li’l feller knows his baseball.

Nope, no “I’ll do the thinnin’ around here” in this cartoon.

The two engines crash into each other. Remarkably, they’re just fine. And they trap Moose Caboose between them. He gives up.

So Quick Draw brings in the golden spike. But you know something’s got to go wrong. It does. The Eastern Official goes to drive in the spike—but misses and clobbers Quick Draw’s foot instead. Catchphrase 2: “Oh, that smarts!” Quick Draw leaps around in pain. Incidentally, you’ll notice the Eastern Official lost the pinstripes on his pants and the rail line looks different in the final shot.

The sound cutter drops in a honky-tonkish piano version of the Quick Draw theme in the middle of the cartoon. It was used in the background of those cartoons-between-the-cartoons on the Quick Draw show. It’s a shame this version of the cue was never released. The rest of the music is of the stock variety. The last cue is a hoedown piece which does not have a composer listed in the Capitol Hi-Q catalogue. It’s been re-released by another music service with the composer’s name removed. My educated guess is it’s by Louis E. De Francesco, simply because his name has been removed from other cues by the same service.

0:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:15 - PG-181F LIGHT MECHANICAL BRIDGE (Green) – Trains pull toward each other and stop, greetings from eastern engineer.
0:31 - GR-333 BUSTLING BRIDGE (Green) – Greetings from western engineer, “I’ll be glad to.”
0:52 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – “One for the money,” Moose Caboose on train.
1:14 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Green) – Ronald Roundhouse scene.
2:10 - TC-205 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Loose-Seely) – Quick Draw and Baba walk on tracks, ear to track.
2:38 - related to Suspense Under Dialogue (Shaindlin) – Shot of train, train runs over Quick Draw, shouts at Moose Caboose.
3:10 - GR-334 LIGHT AGITATED BRIDGE (Green) – Moose Caboose going to Abilene.
3:26 - THAT’S QUICK DRAW McGRAW (Curtin) – “I shall track him down,” Quick Draw talks to stranger.
4:03 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Quick Draw soaps Caboose, confides in Baba.
4:45 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – “Get going, barber!”, stuff flies out, Quick Draw runs into post, trains crash.
6:13 - GR-98 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – Caboose in between trains, gives up.
6:19 - SF-11 LIGHT MOVEMENT (De Francesco?) – Spike ceremony, “Oooch, ouch!”
6:43 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).


  1. I remember this being the first "Quicks Draw" cartoon I watched on the BBC years ago, again one I happened to have recorded on tape to watch over and over. And it was when I revisited the short on YT did I realise something interesting:

    the crafty BBC folks edited out the scene where Quick Draw is run down by the train. Always a surprise when you discover "missing material" like that later on.

    Is still a neart short though, especially with the trestles scene mentioned. At least for the HB Studio, a sight gag minus dialogue was a rare sight then.

  2. Maltese does a neat variation of a gag from his BABY BUGGY BUNNY five years earlier, whereby an impossible number of large objects emit from someone's body when spanked or spun.

  3. Chris,

    Here in Brazil, this Quick Draw McGraw episode was always broadcasted uncut.

  4. "One for the show, two for the money, three...WHAT?!!!"