Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pixie and Dixie — Plutocrat Cat

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Rich Cat – Don Messick; Jinks, Dixie – Daws Butler.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Spencer Moore, Bill Loose/John Seely, Raoul Kraushaar?, unknown.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-42.
First Aired: unknown (rerun, week of April 11, 1961)
Plot: Fed up with Jinks, Pixie and Dixie move in with a rich cat next door but don’t find happiness.

Warren Foster spent part of his first season (1959-60) at Hanna-Barbera reworking Pixie and Dixie cartoons written by Joe Barbera, Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon the previous TV year (1958-59). Then he spent part of his second season (1960-61) reworking Pixie and Dixie cartoons he wrote in the first year. “Plutocrat Cat” is one of them. The premise boils down to another cat is now the possessor of Pixie and Dixie and Jinks wants them back. Foster used it the previous year in “Lend Lease Meece” and Shows et al used it in “Mouse-Nappers” the year before that.

Of the two Foster cartoons, I enjoy the first one better. This one misses the fine acting by animator George Nicholas in “Lend Lease,” and features Lew Marshall instead. Marshall’s best-known trait was his nose-bobs during dialogue but by 1960, he’d substituted even that limited head movement with animating mouth and eye blinks on a stationary head. The studio’s limited animation was already becoming more limited. But the story is well-constructed and Daws does his best with dialogue that isn’t terrible snappy.

Foster wrote a Warner Bros. cartoon “It’s Hummer Time” (released in 1949) where a dog forces a cat to pay a “penalty” in the form of some violent game. That’s what Jinks does to Pixie and Dixie at the start of this cartoon. He forces them to strap wooden wings on their arms and pretend to be buzzing bumblebees while chasing them out of the house with a flyswatter. “Okay, so I’m a tyrant,” he tells us. “I, like, uh, you know, find a outlet for my artistic tempera-ment playing ‘Bumbly Bee.’” There’s no actual violence. Every time, the swatter misses the mice who are “bumbling all over the house and making a rack-et.” The scene features a Bilko-like military yell to assemble the mice and a great read by Daws Butler as Jinks pretending to be shocked at the presence of bees in the house.

Outside, the fed-up mice get an offer from a very rich cat on the other side of a wooden fence to live with him. It’s yet another brown cat with Don Messick’s back-of-the-throat growl, just like in “Lend Lease Meece” and “Mouse-Nappers.” The difference is this cat is an educated one (you can tell by the glasses and the lack of a derby hat), though he has a little trouble with the words “fois gras.” “I despise the game. I like only the finer things in life,” he replies when Dixie asks if he likes to play ‘Bumbly Bee.’ So the meece move out. “Aw, we’ve been through this, uh, leavin’-home-bit before, you know, and you guys always come back,” Jinks tells them. And he’s right. You’ll recall how Foster had Pixie and Dixie pack up in “Puss in Boats” the previous season.

The rich cat welcomes the meeces into their new home “down at the East Wing.” There’s a thick carpet joke where a character is buried up to his neck in a carpet, like in Tex Avery’s “House of Tomorrow” (1949) and the Woody Woodpecker short “A Fine Feathered Frenzy” (1954). “If I sink out of sight, save me, Pixie, will ya?” says Dixie. Like I say, the dialogue isn’t terribly snappy. Too bad, because Foster could turn a phrase. Just like in “Lend Lease Meece,” there’s a slow pan across the fancier digs. Unlike the earlier cartoon, the mice aren’t excited. They liked the cozier hole in their old home. They don’t see a need to dress for dinner. And they want cheese, not the menu of “rich food—grouse under glass, truffles, patty de foo grass and caviar” that rich people eat.




The violins emanating from the “expensive hi-fi” in the music room are about all the meece can stand. They decide to go home—except they can’t, because Jinks told them not to come back. So they’re stuck playing chess with the rich cat, who hasn’t moved in an hour. They wonder if Jinks misses them. Cut to Jinks leaning against the wall looking at Pixie and Dixie’s old hole. “I never thought I’d be a symptom-mental pussy-cat,” says Jinks as he walks to the neighbour’s, hoping to convince the mice to return. Instead, he hears the sound of fake laughter (the mice don’t want him to see how unhappy they are.


Jinks (looking in window): Well, I can see that they do not miss me. (walking away) Just as long as they are happy. That’s all that counts. (stops and looks at the camera) Oh, no it isn’t. I’m not happy. And that counts, too.



Marshall gives Jinks a little walk cycle where his body is at an angle, his shoulders are scrunched, his paws are turned inward, at a 90 degree angle from his arms, which go up and down like pistons. His punch-out of the brown cat is pretty weak and, evidently, the cartoon needed to pad for time. One punch and a few face-flattened, flying posts would have looked nice and was all that was needed. Instead, Jinks barely bends the rich cat’s snout in cycle animation that followed by some eye-rolling, then a not-loosely drawn cat flipping backward with a final punch. Marshall had funnier crumpled impact drawings in the first season of Pixie and Dixie but the cartoons got real conservative by the third. Too bad.



Jinks promises the returned meeces “We’ll have, like, you know, cullll-ture around here. Good music, uh, good books, and, uh, games of tiddlywinks.” But, no, Pixie and Dixie know “a swell game.” They happily put on their bumbly bee wings and the game resumes (with reused animation) to end the cartoon.

The string music that the rich cat and the unimpressed meeces listen to was a great selection by the sound cutter, but I don’t know where it came from. It might be a Phil Green cue from the Capitol Hi-Q ‘M’ series. The rest of the music, and not many cues are used, should be familiar. I still don’t know the origin of the opening cue and I’m only guessing it could be the Raoul Kraushaar cue that ASCAP records state was used in the series. It’s edited together to lengthen it.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera, Shows)
0:12 - creepy muted trumpet music (Kraushaar?) – Jinks demands a game of Bumbly Bee, brings down swatter.
1:21 - rising scale music (Shaindlin) – Meece take off, chased out the door.
1:37 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) – Jinks chuckles, Meeces and rich cat outside, Meeces leave with suitcases, walk through new mouse hole entrance.
3:04 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Pixie and Dixie stare at home, dinner, walk to music room.
4:01 - slow string music (?) – music room scene
4:23 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Rich cat doesn’t move playing chess, Jinks misses meece,
4:50 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Meece see Jinks, Jinks decides to reclaim meece, Jinks and rich cat at door.
5:55 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Rich cat puts up fists, gets punched out, Jinks promises culture, meece wear Bumbly Bee wings, swatter comes down.
6:42 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks chases meece.
7:00 - Pixie and Dixie End Title theme (Curtin).

4 comments:

  1. One thing you've got to give Foster credit; even when the animation / animation became lack-lustre now and again, he seemed to enjoy adding some development to the characters and their relationships with one another. "Home Sweet Jellystone" it's another example of possibly fleshing a cast out once in a while.

    But yeah, if asked to choose one rework, "Lend Lease Meece" all the way.

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  2. Yeah, I agree about Lend Lease Meece,, though I en joy this,too, (the older short has a happy ending for all, this has a happy ending for none!). BTW It's the time that, that creepy wah wah cue from R.Krausshaar's Omar service((?) STARTS an episode of ANYTING!.Steve

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  3. I DO DECLARE! I hear Bumbly Bees in the house! And I will clobber them, with my Bumbly Bee Swatter!

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  4. Is it just me, or did a lot of early Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters always wear those round black-framed coke bottle glasses like that rich cat did? Of course, H-B wasn't the only company to use that eyeglasses design: Jay Ward, UPA, Total Television, Format Films (on "The Alvin Show"), and a few others did as well.

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