Saturday, October 29, 2011

Snooper and Blabber — Poodle Toodle-oo!

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Judge, Cup Carrier, Bulldog, Pierre – Daws Butler; Narrator, Chihuahua, Frou Frou’s owner, Toot Sweet, Cop – Don Messick; Frou Frou, Woman with fur – Jean VanderPyl.
Music: Phil Green; Jack Shaindlin; Geordie Hormel; Emil Cadkin/Harry Bluestone.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw No. M-24, Production J-78
First aired: week of March 7, 1960 (rerun, September 5, 1960).
Plot: Snooper and Blabber hunt for a runaway prize-winner that is the home of a French flea.

Bill Hanna said “We want a lively French flea. ... He mustn’t be too effeminate and he has to have that French quality.” So that’s when the studio came up with Toot Sweet.

A syndicated newspaper column related this story a few weeks before Toot Sweet debuted. You can read it HERE. And it was accompanied by drawings of several different ideas presented to Hanna and Joe Barbera by a sketch artist. The quality of the newspaper scan isn’t great but it’ll have to do. I was surprised to find a newspaper editor was convinced by the H-B P.R. people to give up almost half a page for this character artwork.



The sketch artist certainly wasn’t Mike Maltese—the studio had Dan Gordon, Alex Lovy, Dick Bickenbach and Ed Benedict who would come up with appealing characters—but Maltese certainly took the idea of a flea character and, um, flee-d with it. It’s a good thing the cartoons were shorts because I’d ask you to try saying “four flea features” quickly five times. Maltese wrote a quartet of flea cartoons, three of them starring Toot Sweet. This was the first, and the only one that ran on the first season of Snooper and Blabber. In fact, the second cartoon the following season (Fleas Be Careful) refers to “that poodle caper a year ago.”

Maltese’s offbeat sense of humour is, again, the star of the cartoon along with some nice readings from Jean VanderPyl. The voice actors (and character designers) were busy in this one. There are 13 different speaking parts over the course of seven minutes, which must be pretty close to a record. And Art Lozzi wasn’t taking it easy, either. He came up with nine different backgrounds for the first scene alone (it lasted a minute, 25 seconds). Here are some of them. You’ll notice one has dogs surrounding the ring while another has heads with faces. The animation’s easily detectable as the work of Ken Muse; he was the only one drawing a little half-row of upper teeth at the time (John Boersma liked to draw that way when he arrived at H-B a year or so later).

My apologies for the TV cable channel bugs on the screen grabs. I don’t have a clean version of any of the first season Snooper and Blabber cartoons. Some of the colours on the dubs I have are washed out or full of digital pixilation.




The opening’s cute. Don Messick’s narration informs us the Annual Dog Show is taking place at Madison Round Garden and “it’s a very exciting moment.” How exciting? The shot shows one dog doing nothing, a dachshund sniffing its empty food dish and a brown sheep-doggish mutt scratching itself. The chief judge yells at the noisy dogs to be quiet. Then we get a gag that was finely executed by your favourite cartoon dog, Yowp, in Bare Face Bear. A Chihuahua keeps yipping. The judge gives him an annoyed stare. The Chihuahua slows down its yips, finally stops and smiles. Yes, the same gag Bill and Joe used in the cheater cartoon Smarty Cat (1955) and Tex Avery tossed in near the end of Ventriloquist Cat (1950). But Don Messick makes it funny with his delivery and I like the little dog’s giggle before it zips away in a trail of brush strokes.

It doesn’t matter because it didn’t win anyway. Mlle. Frou Frou did. Her French owner is both happy and ‘appy (Don doesn’t quite keep the accent) she won the silver cup, which is gold-coloured. And heavy, the little judge reminds the gushing Frenchman though, it being limited animation, we don’t see him strain with it.

But a shot of Frou Frou’s stall reveals she has run away. That’s the cue to call in The World’s Greatest Private Eye, who is offered $5,000 for the return of the dog. “For that kind of money,” says Snoop, “I’ll bring back a St. Bernard dog ridin’ a tiger.” Just then, a little French voice interrupts the conversation. It’s Toot Sweet, who has lost his happy home now that Frou Frou is gone and offers to help find her. Snooper agrees but first raises his right, uh, paw.


Snoop: In the name of da Private Eye Institute, I now pronounce you Special Deputy.
Toot: In zee name of zee Private Eye Institute, I accept.

A narrator sets the next scene and disappears from the cartoon altogether. Snoop, Blab and Toot Sweet do a walk cycle past a full length of street background (you can see a red building jerk upward where the two ends of the background meet). Blab spots Frou Frou after a tell-tale hair is discovered. Frou Frou runs away. Here’s why Mike Maltese is great:

Toot: Wait, Frou Frou! It is I, Toot Sweet, your life-long tenant.



Maltese now borrows the dialect of French he invented for Pepé LePew cartoons as Frou Frou cries “Le ‘elp!” A bystanding bulldog obliges by punching Snooper three times (saving Ken Muse more drawing). The “bully of a bulldog” figures he can have his way with the lady poodle by asking for a kiss. Toot Sweet defends his happy home by grabbing the bulldog by the tail and bashing him from one side of the sidewalk to the other and tosses him at the foot of a policeman. The gag works a little better when you can suddenly accelerate the pace of the cartoon and add silly sound effects, like at the end of Tex Avery’s Homesteader Droopy (1954).

Here’s another reason Maltese is great:


Cop: (looking down on sidewalk) What’s your trouble, pal?
Bulldog: Fleas.

Frou Frou runs into a fur shop. Anyone know if ‘Wandon Furrier Salon’ is a parody of something? Snooper has skids to a halt and informs Blab “Frou Frou is going to pull the old fur-around-the-neck gag” (previously seen in the Yowp debut cartoon Foxy Hound Dog). Sure enough, some dowager comes out with her neck adorned with a poodle, which Snooper grabs. The woman thumps Snooper into dizziness with her handbag and grabs the dog back. Frou Frou thanks her for the rescue and zips out of the scene. The woman turns to the camera and speaks calmly.

Woman: I’ll bet you think I’m going to scream in sheer terror. Well, you’re right.
(Woman screams)
Toot: Pardon zee interruption, madame. But have you seen my home go by this way?
Woman: (calmly, to audience) Hold onto your hats, folks. Here I go again.
(Woman screams)



Apparently the woman’s not freaked out by a talking cat in a deerstalker hat, but she is by a talking French poodle and a talking flea.

Snoop and Blab chase after Frou Frou onto a dock and toward a French boat where she jumps into the arms of another French poodle (you can tell he’s French because he has the same beret and moustache as Toot Sweet). Ah, but “a true private eye never interferes with l’amour, toujours, l’amour” as Snoop tells Blab (Snoop’s French is better than his English) so he doesn’t doesn’t capture Frou Frou to claim the reward.

Snoop’s failure doesn’t affect his business. The final scene has him on the phone, promising to find a lost dog and put his “missin’ dog operative on the case”—a Canine-03. The ‘operative’ is the flea in detective trench coat. “Toot Sweet will jump on zee case toute suite,” he tells Snoop. The unhappy Blab is sent out as the flea’s assistant. “C’est le guerre, I always say,” he forlornly lets the audience know as he shuffles toward the door.



A couple of notes:
● Snoop doesn’t “halt in the name of...”
● Instead of the window or the office door, there’s an eyeball on Snoop’s certificate on the wall in this cartoon.
● Hazel must have the day off whenever Snoop’s in the office. Her voice isn’t in this cartoon, even though Jean Vander Pyl is.

The sound cutter on this cartoon must have had plenty of time on his hands. There are 16 separate pieces of music used in this cartoon. Only two of them go longer than a minute. I haven’t tracked down the sad hokey violin music used in this and other cartoons, and there’s a Jack Shaindlin cue which has a name I don’t know.


0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:25 - ZR-45 METROPOLITAN (Hormel) – Narrator sets up cartoon, judge says “Quiet!”
0:41 - GR-96 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Dog yips.
0:56 - PG-171 PERIOD FANFARE (Green) – Judge announces winner, Frou Frou’s owner is “‘appy.”
1:13 - GR-81 FRED KARNO’S ARMY SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – “Has won zee big...” to “Frou Frou, mon petit.”
1:24 - PG-177C LIGHT COMEDY MOVEMENT (Green) – Frou Frou’s owner with cup.
1:29 - EXCITEMENT UNDER DIALOGUE (Shaindlin) – Frou Frou’s box is empty, Snooper will be hired.
1:50 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Snooper talks to Frou Frou’s owner, Toot Sweet talks to Snooper.
3:11 - PG-161 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Snoop, Blab, Toot Sweet on street; hair spotted.
3:29 - related to Excitement Under Dialogue (Shaindlin) – Toot Sweet points at Frou Frou; bulldog punches Snooper.
3:51 - COMEDY SUSPENSE (Shaindlin) – Bulldog punch/dances, punches Snoop, demands kiss, Frou Frou screams.
4:22 - GR-253 TOYLAND PARADE (Green) – Toot Sweet demands bulldog unhand Frou Frou; throws bulldog at feet of cop.
4:42 - CB-85A STEALTHY MOUSE (Cadkin-Bluestone) – “What’s your trouble?” fur-around-the-neck gag, fur lady screams twice.
5:53 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No 1 (Shaindlin) – Frou Frou runs to boat.
6:02 - sad violin music (?) – Frou Frou meets Pierre.
6:29 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Snooper and Blab in office, “I’m an assistant...”
7:03 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – “...to a private eye flea.”
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Yogi Bear, Public Servant

There was once a horrendous period in television animation when studios were seemingly shamed into turning entertainment into propaganda. It wasn’t good enough to have a character make the kids laugh. The character had to “teach” something. Thus you had a bastardised Yogi Bear taking animals on an ark as cartoons pounded into children messages against crime, hate and pollution. All of which, as we know, have been eliminated thanks to them and similar cartoons, and those children have grown into adulthood where they now watch, and even create, today’s fine educational programming, stuff like Jersey Shore.

Of course, Yogi originally embodied an occasional “crime doesn’t pay” message which was subtly woven into the entertainment (subtle isn’t good enough for not-so-subtle social activists). And he also seems to have mixed entertainment with a fun message about fitness in a 1963 project.

‘Wake Up America’ was an LP pressed in 1963 by Colpix Records, the arm of Columbia Pictures that released songs and musical material from the artists signed to its films and TV shows. So along with Paul Peterson of The Donna Reed Show, you got Hanna-Barbera characters. The title sounds like something from a ranting political podcast, but Billboard magazine of September 7, 1963, describes it thus, in giving it a Specialty Special Medit label.


Here’s an interesting, and slightly unexpected package, which blends the message of the popular “physical fitness” theme with the appeal of the Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon characters, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw in a combination of musical and narrative which adds a comic and appealing touch to the seriousness of the warning. Yogi Bear appears prominently on the cover somewhat in the didactic attitude of Smokey Bear.

What’s more unexpected is Daws Butler is not providing the voices of the characters he created. Instead, they’re done by Chuck McCann, who’s best known to a certain generation for playing the happy “Hi, guy!” guy in the Right Guard TV commercials. Chuck had a long and funny children’s television career in New York City and, some years later, had a connection with Hanna-Barbera; he was on The CB Bears and fondly remembers voicing the Schmoo. But, in 1963, he seems like an unusual choice.

Some time ago, I sent Chuck a note asking how the job came about but he never responded. The best I can do is paraphrase something from his web site that the gig was done in New York and, for whatever reason, and Daws couldn’t go there. New York was the home of actor Gil Mack who had been voicing the H-B characters on Golden Records but, I presume, Mack couldn’t do it for contractual reasons.

Normally, this would be the part of the blog where I’d link to the record. But I don’t have it. And Chuck’s web site—which is
here, by the way, doesn’t have his Flash players coded properly so if he’s got clips there, they won’t play (there’s a lovely, enjoyable white rectangle where the player should be , though). So, instead, I’m going to link to another message from Yogi that I remember from when I was a kid. It’s not exactly subtle, but it’s entertaining. The animation’s pretty good for television (Mike Kazaleh reveals who did it in the comments) and the PSA feels right having not only the voices of Daws and Don Messick, but Hoyt Curtin’s familiar cues from the mid-‘60s cartoons.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Huckleberry Hound — Hokum Smokum

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound, Horse – Daws Butler; Great-great grandson, Fort Commander, Chief Crazy Coyote – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin; Geordie Hormel; Bill Loose/John Seely; unknown.
First Aired: week of February 9, 1959.
Plot: Old Huckleberry Hound tells his nephew how he captured Chief Crazy Coyote in the Old West.

We’ve got a good, li’l ol’ cartoon right he-ah. There’s a running gag with a payoff at the end, a Joe Besser horse, mood music that fits, a smart-ass great-great grandson who’s funny-annoying instead of obnoxious-annoying (thanks to Don Messick’s voice approach) and the thick-lined, somewhat jerky animation of Carlo Vinci.

Sure, you can see how the opening bit is going to end three miles away and there’s a bit a serving of clichéd corn (hotfoot, exploding cigar) but there’s also dialogue that actually sets up the gags on the screen, something I wish Shows and Barbera had done more often.

Several concepts in this cartoon got tried out later when Warren Foster and Mike Maltese took over the writing for the 1959-60. Foster used Chief Crazy Coyote again in Pony Boy Huck, and then brought back the Chief and great-great grandson in Huck Hound’s Tale the following year. Maltese invented Chief Little Runt in the Quick Draw McGraw cartoon Scat, Scout, Scat but gave him the Joe Besser voice.

I like Crazy Coyote. He’s about as wacky as any cartoon character in the late ‘50s, including what was on the big screen, which was watered-down wacky. By this time, Bugs Bunny was spending too much time flouncing around, Daffy Duck had become a bitter fall guy and Woody Woodpecker was tamely going through the motions for Paul J. Smith in inexcusable cartoons like His Bitter Elf. But Huck’s routine is structured the same way as the old theatrical hecklers: they pulled off a fast one on a sap, had some signature razz (a nose honk, a kiss or a laugh), then zipped off stage and on to the next gag. And ol’ Craze is not really an opponant; he’s bugging Huck for the fun of it.

Someone familiar with the animation procedure can answer this, I hope. Are those flickering shadows around the characters caused by the camera light on the plate glass over the cel? Check out the great-great grandson.

This is from the opening scene, where the enthusiastic kid is trying to coax Huck into telling him, yet again, the story of how he caught Crazy Coyote. The best part may be the quick back-and-forth voice work of Daws Butler and Don Messick. The smiling Huck keeps instantly refusing to tell the story and the kid keeps asking him. The kid turns to walk away and old man Huck corrals him with a cane.


Huck: Hold it, there, son. Pay attention when I’m tellin’ the story.
Kid: But you said you didn’t wa—
Huck: Don’t butt in when I’m interruptin’. I wanna hear the yarn agin’, m’self.
Kid: You gonna tell about how you captured Crazy Coyote?
Huck: If you insist. Well, suh, it all started one day back—
Kid: Yeah, I know. You was in the cavalry and the cavalry sent you out and you followed Crazy Coyote’s tracks and you—

That’s when Huck clunks him with the cane to stop the kid from telling the story. It’s the running gag in the cartoon.

The story flashes back and forth from the present to the Old West. Huck relates how he was cleaning his six-gun. He pulls it out of the water. An eye-roller, but I like it. Cut to the present. The kid interrupts and starts telling the story. Clunk! Back to past. “They called for the bravest, craftiest, most cunnin’ Injun-fighter in the West. Namely, me.” The shot shows reluctant Huck and his horse being shoved out of the fort and the wooden gate slammed shut. The horse pounds on the gate, demanding to be let in after hearing from the fort commander “The last scout we sent out disappeared, hoss and all. Yessiree, hoss and all.”



Another off-screen narration gag. Huck relates how he and his horse “galloped into Injun Country.” The shot shows Huck dragging the horse by the tail. Then the gag is topped by cutting to Huck in the flashback saying “Whoa, boy! Easy there, hoss.”

Carlo used to do a two-drawing head-shake take (on twos) in a bunch of the first season cartoons and he does it in a bunch of places in this one. One is when Huck and the horse hear a coyote yell, which is how “them Injuns sig-a-nal t’each other.” This isn’t as rubbery as some of Carlo’s takes.
Horse head shake
The punch-line to the gag is it turns out to be a real coyote. “What a sneaky trick,” surmises Huck. “Them Injuns is usin’ real coyotes.”

Here’s Carlo at work again with a two-drawing fear shake-take (on twos) that he also used in a bunch of cartoons in that season. Again, the take has been slowed down you can see how Carlo handled the drawings. In takes like these, one drawing has the character in a smooth outline; the other is in a wavy outline. We’ve got one more coming up later.
Huck fear take
The cartoon fades back into the present. The kid interrupts the great-great-grandpappy BS:


Kid: Yeah, I know, I know. You saw somethin’ movin’, so you made your hoss lie down, then you got behind the hoss ‘cause that’s what troopers do, then there was no place to hide and then—”

Clunk with the cane again. I like how Shows doesn’t just have the kid quote Huck’s story but quote Huck interrupting his own story with the opinion “‘cause that’s what troopers do.” It adds to the dialogue.



Back to the past. The scene shows what the kid just described and we finally, more than halfway through the cartoon, meet up with Crazy Coyote (you can click on the pan shot above to enlarge it), who shoots Huck in the butt, gives out his hee-haw laugh, then leaps off camera. Then the old hotfoot gag.



A bunch of Carlo’s typical traits in this scene: thick row of upper teeth, stretch drive exit from the scene, and a two-drawing pain take. Huck looks at the smoke rings that he doesn’t seem to realise come from his foot. Punch line: “Injun smoke signals. Let’s see now. They say... OWWW!” This is pretty close to the speed of the take on the actual cartoon.
Huck pain take
The next line’s great. Huck hands his horse his rifle and tells him to keep him covered. “A horse with a gun?” The horse turns to the audience. “It ain’t right!” And the horse is right. Crazy Coyote pops a paper bag (in the Old West?) behind the horse, scaring him into firing into Huck’s butt.

Back to the present.


Huck: And, son, once-st ol’ Huck got to trailin’ a varmint, I stuck like glue (wheezy laugh).
Kid: You say that every time, Gramps, ‘I stuck like glue’ (wheezy laugh). You always say ‘I stuck like glue.’ (Clunk on head. Kid turns to audience). I keep forgettin’ that cane.

Back to the past. Crazy Coyote tries his “ol’ hat trick.” Why do Indian chiefs in cartoons wear top hats anyway? Someone out there must know. Crazy Coyote dives in the hat. Huck pulls out a rabbit. Then a bird. Then an umbrella pops up and unfolds. Crazy Coyote’s inside. “We smoke-um peace pipe,” offers the chief. The umbrella turns into a tee-pee. The Chief hands Huck the “heap-big” peace pipe then Huck tells the Chief to “puff-‘em” a cigar. You know what’s coming next. They both explode. “Heap good gag, Huck,” says the Chief. “You’re pretty cute yourself,” responds Huck. They’re now good friends.



Back to the present again. Final gag. The kid glibly chatters that isn’t the way Huck told it before and launches into the last version he heard. Huck goes to clunk him with the cane. We hear a crack. Huck lifts a broken cane into the frame. Cut to the kid wearing a WW2 surplus army helmet. “You change the story every time you tell it, great-great-great grand-pappy. You change it every time.” “Smarty-aleck kid,” Huck grumps to the camera, which fades out and ends the cartoon.

I realise the kid says “great-great-great grandpappy” and Huck says “great-great” but I’ve gone with Huck. That’s what’s used in later cartoons. And who wants to listen to a smarty-aleck kid anyway?

I’m sorry much of the music has been left unidentified. Oh, if only someone had copies of the cues with their names. Much of the cartoon contains “Indian” music which, I’m presuming, is by Geordie Hormel or Spence Moore’s ghost writer in the Hi-Q ‘X’ series. I could be wrong. Judging by earlier cartoons which use the same music, there may be only two cues; the loud war dance music used during the chase seems to be part of these cue 4/4 time cue with flutes that builds into strings. The last light march/hiccupping cue has a number supplied by cartoon writer Earl Kress, but he couldn’t remember the name of it.


0:00 – Huckleberry Hound/Clementine Sub Main Title theme (Curtin)
0:27 - ZR-39A WESTERN SONG (Hormel) – Kid and old Huck opening dialogue, kid walks away.
1:11 - TC-205 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Loose-Seely) – Huck looks surprises, hauls in kid with cane, cleans six-gun, kid bopped with cane
2:07 - four beat tom-tom/flute cue (?) – “The minute I heerd...”, Huck and horse shoved out, “I really doooo.”
2:56 - two drum-beat cue (?) – Just before fade into Huck and horse in Injun Country scene, Huck hits kid with cane.
3:54 - four beat tom-tom/flute cue (?) – Horse jumping, Crazy Coyote shoots.
4:07 - two drum-beat cue (?) – Crazy Coyote laughs, hotfoot, Crazy Coyote laughs.
4:50 - four beat tom-tom/flute cue (?) – Crazy Coyote zips out of scene, Huck shot by horse.
5:20 - war dance cue (?) – Crazy Coyote runs away, “keep forgettin’ that cane.”
5:49 - war dance cue (?) – Huck chases Crazy Coyote, skid to halt, jumps in hat, Huck peers in hat.
6:04 - TC-42 RURAL (Loose-Seely) – “Come out of there,” umbrella become tepee, Crazy Coyote hands peace pipe, Huck hands over cigar.
6:34 - no music – light up cigar and peace pipe, explosions.
6:42 - four beat tom-tom/flute cue (?) – Huck and Crazy Coyote congratulate each other,
“...was right good friends.”
6:53 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Kid interrupts, wears helmet, “Smarty-aleck kid.”
7:10 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Huck Hound For President

When I was a kid, a deliberately dour fellow named Pat Paulsen ran a campaign for the presidency of the United States in 1968. Being a youngster, I thought a phoney (albeit satiric) campaign was something new. After all, I didn’t go back too many more years myself. But I later learned this wasn’t true.

Gracie Allen did it on radio, running on the “Surprise Party” ticket in 1940, even stumping across the country, charging $2.50 for people to attend her “rallies.” Eddie Cantor did it eight years earlier. And cartoon characters did it, too. Pogo first trod the campaign trail in 1952. Popeye and Bluto battled it out for the White House in a theatrical short in 1956. While Gracie did it for publicity, Pogo did it for Walt Kelly to comment on the sleaze of politics and Popeye did it for entertainment. Huckleberry Hound did it for another reason—there was a buck in it.

Huck’s campaign was in the election year 1960 (he didn’t win). And, to quote a former president, “make no mistake,” it was a huge campaign. Gracie Allen had one radio writer, John P. Medbury, coming up with material for her. The blue hound had whole phalanxes of people, carefully orchestrated by the two real money people behind Hanna-Barbera—Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures’ television arm, and Leo Burnett, the ad agency that represented Huck’s exclusive sponsor, Kellogg’s.

Ironically, about the only place Huck didn’t stump for votes was on the very TV cartoons that brought him fame. Remember, this was back in the day when anything that smacked of being dated, like Christmas shows, never aired in syndication lest they be broadcast at the “wrong” time of year. And, I suspect, the idea behind the campaign was to get people to watch the show.

The multi-media effort began almost accidentally. An article in an early August edition of Broadcasting magazine has the story:

Huckleberry Hound’s presidential bandwagon really gets rolling
When a Screen Gems colleague asked Ed Justin last month what was in store for Huckleberry Hound, the merchandising chief ad-libbed, “I think we’ll run him for president.”
Two weeks later the star of the weekly cartoon half-hour on 180 stations had his hat in the ring. By now he stands in a fair way to turn the White House into a dog house on a write-in vote.
Stations rallied enthusiastically to the idea and had campaign promotional material in time for station breaks during Republican convention telecasts. Orders for buttons, picket signs and balloons are still rolling in. Dell Publications this Thursday (Aug. 11) will release a comic book, Huckleberry Hound for President, and Golden Records is distributing a long-play record under the same name and subtitled, “The Making of a Candidate,” or “True Democracy in Action.” It includes campaign songs dating back to 1826 and up to “I Like Ike” and the hound’s own song. These are interwoven with the story of the dog’s candidacy, promoted by the Madison Avenue agency of Wheel, Deal, Spiel & Billings, the nation’s greediest.
One of the early rallies was organized by KHVH-TV Honolulu and the GEM department store there. The crowd out to greet Huckleberry with campaign manager Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw (who is slated for a high State Department post if Huckleberry Hound wins) exceeded that drawn earlier by President Eisenhower and visiting royalty from Japan and lran. Traffic was tied up in the air and on the ground, and the store had to lock its doors when 25,000 had thronged in, according to Ed Justin, assistant campaign manager, when he got back to New York headquarters from the barnstorming.
In Roanoke, Va., WSLS-TV staged a rally at a baseball game. WCCO-TV Minneapolis got out the child vote 10,000 strong when the candidate and his party showed up for the station’s “Aquatennial” water show. Politicians are busy organizing rallies and local conventions in other jurisidictions, with KDKA-TV Pittsburgh, WTOL-TV Toledo, WTVN (TV) Evansville, Ind., and KJEO (TV) Fresno, Calif., announced as early dates on the candidate’s whistle-stop tours.
The campaign is also picking up steam in professional Huckleberrry Hound acts that have been making the amusement-park circuit for some months. These are handled by paid performers, packaged on a regular entertainment fee basis.
If the country goes to the dogs, breakfast food may become the national dish. The canine candidate is sponsored on television by Kellogg through Leo Burnett.

The Toledo affair was quite something, appropriate considering that was the hometown of Huck’s voice, Daws Butler. Sponsor magazine of August 15 gushes how a record 45,000 showed up to nominate Huck, Yogi as vice-president and Quick Draw as Secretary of Defence, though one wonders how many actually came solely for the “political rally.” The WSLS tie-in at the local ballpark on July 26 featured giveaways of presidential buttons and balloons to over 3,000 people. Sponsor also revealed Ed Justin was on his way to London to push Huck. And a costumed Huck and Yogi adorned the Wisconsin State Fair, along with the Three Stooges and Myron Floren.

The print media wasn’t spared. The Chicago Tribune’s Clarence Petersen revealed August 23 in a column entitled ‘Critic Bares Soul, Tells List of Payola Gifts’ that one of his story-inducing freebies was “one Huckleberry Hound for President kit.”

One newspaperman that took a fancy to the campaign was Art Ryon, who seems to have fuelled his light-hearted ‘Ham on Ryon’ columns in the Los Angeles Times with regular trips across the street to his personal booth at the Redwood Room. Interestingly, the Times had been a staunch ally of Richard Nixon until Otis Chander took over as publisher in 1960. Now, Nixon was running for president and a Times columnist was, albeit jokingly, backing someone else. But perhaps for a reason we’ll explain in a moment.

Ryon put down his glass at the Redwood Room long enough to announce the big campaign in his column on August 1, 1960.


HAM ON RYON
Huckleberry for President!
by ART RYON
This is to announce the formation of a new and powerful political party. While the two old parties have their two young candidates, there are dedicated millions of us who are rallying around the standard of the Hero of the Hour—Huckleberry Hound.
“Huckleberry Hound for President.” Although this battle cry is swelling across the breadth of the land, there is much organization work to he done. First, of course, as faithful followers of this filmed Fido, we must find a name for our party. Among the suggestions has been the Let’s Dog It This Year Party. But that lacks dignity. And besides, it would give headline writers fits.
As national chairman I am arranging a rigged convention that will be held some Saturday in October at the Greater Los Angeles Press Club. We do not believe in long campaigns. And we believe that at the moment people have had their fill of conventions. You can deduce from this that when it comes to strategy and timing, we’re right with it, boy. When I say rigged I mean that Huckleberry is a shoo-in for the Top Spot.
The real fight is expected to develop over the Vice Presidential nomination. And, of course, the platform. There are already rumbles from the liberals—most of them little old ladies from North Pasadena—demanding civil rights for cats. Field for the Veep vote is wide open. A movement to draft Yogi Bear has begun. But the backers of Augie Doggie, Quick Draw McGraw and Dixie and Trixie [sic] have launched a “Stop Bear” drive contending he is only a front for the corrupt Jellystone Park machine. Looming as dark horses are Henry Wallace and Thomas E. Dewey.
So far the national networks have not indicated whether they will cover our convention, exciting as it will be. So we may have to struggle along without Cronkite, Daly, Murrow, Huntley and the others. But Dick Moore, president of KTTV and close personal friend of Huckleberry, is enthusiastic about this historic political event and may have it covered live on Channel 11. So we may get Putnam and Welsh [George Putnam and Ben Welsh]. This is fine because, let’s face it, a national political convention just wouldn’t be a national political convention without TV. And if Dick’ll do it, we’ll put on some dandy, well-rehearsed, spontaneous demonstrations ...

It’s no coincidence KTTV is mentioned. The Times held part ownership in it. And it also broadcast The Huckleberry Hound Show. One promotional hand was washing the other in between rounds at the Redwood. Ryon seems to have been a big Huck fan though, evidently, a few too many cocktails blurred his vision while watching Pixie and Dixie.

As for the Golden Record mentioned above, it seems to have been released on the A.A. label. Granville “Sascha” Burland, the creator of the Nutty Squirrels, wrote and produced it, with narration by Kenny Delmar. But despite its cover of kids in Huck masks, and the New York Times advertising it under “Recordings for very youngsters,” Billboard reveals it was “a lampoon on advertising and politics of today”, opening with campaign handlers on Madison Avenue. Doesn’t sound like kid fare. The song “Huckleberry Hound For President” was written by Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and/or Warren Foster and/or Hoyt Curtin (copyright catalogues conflict).

The Dell comic was the work of that fine artist Harvey Eisenberg, Hanna and Barbera’s former layout man at MGM who went into the comic book and comic strip business, drawing the first Yogi Bear newspaper comics. It’s in four colours and features a long story of just about all the major Hanna-Barbera characters of the day making an appearance. Huck can’t find a place to live, but Yogi reads in the paper there’ll soon be a vacancy at the White House. Since only the president of the U.S. can live there, Yogi manages Huck’s campaign to get elected. The story goes off on sidetracks along the way, and borrows wholesale from the TV cartoons Freeway Patrol and Hookey Daze. In the end, Huck decides he doesn’t want to be president and that’s Yogi’s cue to step in.

You’ve seen part of one of the pages a little further up the post. Here are a couple of others, including the final page of the story. FDR loved fishing, Truman’s piano playing was a running gag on radio (and in the 1951 cartoon Droopy’s Good Deed) and Ike was a notorious golfer. Click to enlarge.




Ah, but the candidate of today is the has-been of tomorrow. The next election year was 1964. Yogi had eclipsed Huck as the star of Hanna-Barbera’s short cartoons, so he was the one on the presidential ticket, challenging Magilla Gorilla, whose show lasted in first-run on syndication a mere one year, compared to Huck’s four seasons. Yes, Politics didn’t have Huckleberry Hound to kick around any more. And like everything else, it probably didn’t bother him a bit.

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).