Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pixie and Dixie — Cat-Nap Cat

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Bick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story Sketches and Dialogue – Dan Gordon and Charlie Shows; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Voice on Phone – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely; Jack Shaindlin; Geordie Hormel.
First aired: week of March 9, 1959.
Production: Huckleberry Hound Show K-24.
Plot: Pixie and Dixie stops Jinks from having the cat-nap he needs to make him an effective mouser.

This cartoon is kind of the inverse of Hanna and Barbera’s Sleepy Time Tom (released 1951) where Jerry tries to get tired old Tom to sleep so he can be kicked out of the house. Here, Pixie and Dixie learn Jinks’ secret to catching them—he gets catnaps. So they try to keep him awake. The one thing they have in common is both cartoons were animated by Ken Muse. You can see the similarity in the split upper lip in the way that he Jinks to the way the cats are drawn in the nice little opening and closing sequences of the Tom and Jerry cartoon.



Sleepy is kind of the operative word here because you could snooze waiting for this cartoon to get into the plot. A real failing of some first season cartoons is they’re brimming with humourless (and occasionally superfluous) chatter and cycle animation to fill time. This is one of them. It isn’t until the 3:15 mark that the mice do much. In the meantime, there isn’t a lot going on, just a long set-up. In the opening scene, we learn Jinks is a domineering jerk. He runs back and forth in their yard, stopping Pixie and Dixie from getting away from him by stepping on their tails with time being filled with cycling drawings of the mice running in place (Why? Is the grass slippery or something)? The best part of the scene is the multiples and brush work when Jinks zips off stage right and re-emerges on the next background drawing stage left.



Here’s some of Shows’ witty dialogue during the opening scene: “Ever hear the expression cat playin’ with the mice? That’s what I’m doin’.” And after he scoops Pixie and Dixie in a paper bag: “Well, what have we here? A sack of goodies.” That’s the best he can come up with? And Shows can’t make up his mind. It was pretty well established by the time this cartoon was written that Jinks calls Pixie and Dixie “meeces” because he doesn’t know the plural form of the word “mouse.” But in this scene, Shows uses “meeces,” “mouses” and “mice”. Yes, he gets the word right. Joe, can you hurry up and hire Warren Foster, please?

This goes on for the minute and 15 seconds of the cartoon. The scene is interrupted by an off-camera phone ringing. Then we get 3½ seconds of a static shot of a garbage can. “Ta ta and aw revvor, meeces,” is how Jinks mangles French as he tosses the crunched up paper bag with Pixie and Dixie in it into the aforementioned can.

The dialogue’s a little better in the next scene when Jinks is on the phone but the humour’s undermined by the music the sound cutter has picked. It’d be perfect over a pan of scenic Jellystone Park (which is what it was used for in several cartoons) but it’s too low-key for the arrogant braggart Jinks. “I’ve just been named Cat of the Year? A wise decision,” he jauntily tells whoever is on the other end. He’s also been elected captain of the Olympic Mouse Catching Team and asked to endorse cat food (he accepts “for a reasonably exorbitant fee, of course”). During the scene, Barbera cuts back to shots of the meeces’ head sticking out of the garbage can. One lasts seven seconds and the other ten. They consist of nothing more than eye blinks and head turns in three drawings. No wonder Ken Muse could slash out the footage.

Jinks explains on the phone the secret to his mouse-catching success is getting a cat-nap that gives him “wim, wiggour and witality” (with those “w”s for “v”s, Jinks have originally spoken Latin). The meece overhear it and decide to see that Jinks doesn’t get any sleep. Now we can finally see some gags.

● Jinks is snoozing on a hammock. The meeces pull it down and let go. Jinks flies straight up, then back down into the hammock, which twirls him around and lands him hard on the ground. Jinks: “Them mices has attack-ed me.” Sweet milk of magnesia in a bottle, Charlie, that’s a quip? The best part is Bob Gentle’s background, which shows the meece have their own address (and I don’t think the stylised brick wall was used in any other cartoon).



● Jinks goes for a “short, snappy siest-er” on the living room couch. Oh, geez, Charlie Shows is back with his rhyming dialogue. “Shall we try this pot on for size, guys?” says Dixie. But there’s no “guys.” He’s only talking to one “guy”—Pixie. Great barking antelope, Charlie, stop being so contrived. Anyway, Dixie puts a pot over Jinks’ head and Pixie hits the pot with a spoon. There’s a bell sound and Jinks’ head vibrates in three drawings on twos. He has no comeback. He just stares at the camera. I guess Charlie Shows got tired of me complaining and decided no dialogue was better than lousy dialogue.

Pixie runs one direction and Dixie runs the other way into a mouse hole. Jinks wags his finger. “You guys can’t humil-erate the Cat of the Year, you hear?” But there’s no “guys” again. Pixie ran away in a completely different direction, there’s only one mouse in the hole, Charlie. Sigh.

● Jinks gets sleepy at the mouse hole and dozes off. Dixie puts a balloon in his mouth. Jinks’ snoring blows up the balloon and it pops, waking him up. “Uh, what went ‘kapoom’?” Jinks says at the camera.

● The meece thoughtfully leave Jinks a “sofy piller on which to rest my weary head bones” outside the mouse hole in the other side of the living room. It’s just a ruse. Jinks sleeps. Dixie sticks a bugle through Jinks’ ears and blows. It sounds like a ’53 Pontiac instead of a bugle, but we get the gag. You’ve seen it before.



● A closet seems like a good place for a nap. Nope. The meece have left a stick of dynamite inside. The fuse goes under the door. Pixie lights it. Whoever in Roberta Greutert’s ink and paint department (I think she was in charge at the time) uses a nice bit of brushwork here to show the meece getting away from a standing position. Shot of the door moving, smoke coming out, camera shaking and the door falls. We don’t see how badly Jinks is scarred but we do see the surrender flag waved (four drawings on twos).




Those are the gags. All four of them.

So Jinks signs a peace treaty (with three Xs) including an agreement to sleep in the doghouse. Then Jinks falls asleep on the paper, talking in his sleep “I hate mice” in between snores until the time on the cartoon is up.



The music is sufficiently dreamy in the closet scene and a sound cutter can never go wrong using ‘Toboggan Run’ in a chase scene.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Curtin-Shows-Hanna-Barbera).
0:26 - LAF 5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks steps on meeces tails; blows up bag.
1:36 - no music. Jinks pops bag.
1:40 - TC 204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Phone rings, phone call, part of “win, wivour” line.
2:52 - TC 436 SHINING DAY (Loose-Seely) – end of “wivour, vitality” line, Jinks in hammock, Jinks sproings up.
3:34 - ZR 47 LIGHT ANIMATION (Hormel) – Jinks in air, crashes to ground, skids to mouse hole, shakes finger.
4:04 - TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks on couch, pot clanged over head.
4:24 - LAF 5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks sees mice run, goes to mouse hole, starts snoring.
4:46 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Dixie comes out of hole, balloon bursts.
5:11 - ZR 48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Mice running, Jinks sleeps on pillow.
5:47 - no music. Bugle blown through Jinks’ ears.
5:51 - ZR 49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) – Jinks in closet, kaboom.
6:26 - F 3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Jinks waves flag, signs agreement, sleeps.
7:10 - Pixie and Dixie End Title theme (Curtin).

8 comments:

  1. As sparse as some of the Huck and Yogi efforts in Season 1 could be gag-wise, Shows really had trouble with the Pixie & Dixie cartoons, since the cartoons' star is Jinx, who's a low-key character to begin with, but is also the main antagonist (Huck's low-key, but he's the victim of guest antagonists in his cartoon who could liven up the proceedings).

    Combine a shortage of gags with a character who's not designed to move things along all tat fast and you end up with the audience circa early 1959 wanting to take a nap, or at least hurry up get to the third cartoon in the show (Charlie"s rhyme obesession found a better match with Bozo the following season, while H-B found better writers in Foster and Maltese).

    ReplyDelete
  2. The shortage of gags, I suspect, had to do more with Hanna and Barbera saving money.
    In fairness to Charlie, he did have a big load. He had a whole season to write, plus he was still working on Ruff and Reddy. But the dialogue clearly picked up when Foster arrived, though had some clear misses with Jinks in his first season.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oddly, as Shows’ biggest (and, perhaps only) defender in this forum, when you wrote: “Yes, he gets the word right. Joe, can you hurry up and hire Warren Foster, please?”, for a brief moment, I thought you were addressing me. Funny, huh?

    BTW, it really rubbed me the wrong way to have Jinks repeat “I hate mice” at the end. Wouldn’t he have “known the drill” by now? For all we know, perhaps he even CREATED the word “meeces”! Though, I’d probably give it to Daws, if I had to choose.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's very possible Shows invented "meeces." The line "I hate meeces to pieces" is much in line with Charlie's rhymes, but Daws was certainly capable of coming up with stuff like that.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Joe, I also am a Charlie Shows fan,too. In the last 1st season Pixe and Dixie, their last to be featured on this blog before on to the next ones "Pistol Packin' Pirate",itself a very early short, Jinks tells the pirate at the iris out, "Well, least I got rid of the mice, didn't I"? But that was an early one.Steve C.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Glad to have you stand with me in “Shows-solidarity”, Pokey!

    Yes, I always regarded “Pirate” as being early enough to forgive… This one, not so much. Mostly because Jinks REPEATS it over and over at the end.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have to say these cartoons were my favorites. Just try to watch one of todays so called cartoons and you'll know why I feel these cartoons from my childhood were the greatest.

    ReplyDelete