Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pixie and Dixie — Price For Mice

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Flat Head Scientist – Don Messick; Jinks, Dixie, Egg Head Scientist, Irish Cop – Daws Butler.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Spencer Moore, Bill Loose/John Seely, Geordie Hormel, David Buttolph.
First Aired: unknown (aired week of April 3, 1961).
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-041.
Plot: Mr Jinks tricks the meeces to be painted white so he can sell them to a science lab for a trip to the moon.

Warren Foster had a bit of an outer space fetish when it came to Pixie and Dixie cartoons during the series’ third season. This cartoon involves a trip to the moon by the meeces. So does High Jinks. Light Headed Cat involves scientists and a trip to Planet X. And Missile Bound Cat centres around Space Cat hauling Jinks to another planet.

None of them are science fiction movie parodies and Missile Bound Cat only lightly spoofs TV space adventure shows (something Mike Maltese did better in both the Augie Doggie and Snooper and Blabber series). But the space race between the U.S. and the Soviets was in full swing by the time this cartoon was made, which was between the time the Ruskies put a dog in orbit (1957) and a human in space (1961), so Foster took advantage of the topicality.

My favourite gag demonstrates the either weakness of the Pixie and Dixie characters or the nature of story-writing for television animation. The space scientists who bought the meece are about to conduct a simple intelligence test on them. Had Foster been writing this for, say, Daffy Duck, Daffy would have suddenly done something crazy and the surprise would have made the scene funnier. Here, Pixie and Dixie talk about what they’re going to do, which telegraphs the gag a bit and makes it less funny than it could have been. Foster’s H-B cartoons tended to be talky; it’s cheaper writing for standard mouth movements than action. On the other hand, Pixie and Dixie aren’t tricky characters like Daffy or Bugs Bunny who instantly do things to get out of situations. So they have to talk. Still, the cross-eyed hopping the meece engage in works, partly thanks to the sound effects that accompany it, partly thanks to the fact the audience isn’t quite sure specifically what they’re going to do, and partly thanks to the juxtaposition of what the audience would normally expect out of run-through-the-maze type of test and what the meece actually do.

Walt Clinton handles the layouts in this one and you can tell by the design of his incidental characters. They have collar-height ears, and there’s one Quick Draw McGraw cartoon where he used a similar egghead design that one of the scientists has. The animator is Ken Muse. You can partly tell by the partial upper row of thin teeth, though new animators hired for the 1960-61 drew that way as well. But every once in a while, Jinks is drawn kind of like a stylised Tom at MGM, especially when he closes his eyes and laughs, just like Muse did at Metro.



Fernando Montealegre paints the backgrounds in this cartoon. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I don’t recall seeing Monty’s name an awful lot on the shorts after the 1958-59 season. Of course many of the 1959-60 cartoons (especially on the Quick Draw show) aren’t circulating with credits. He uses colour very well, though it would have shown up in shades of grey on TV sets in 1961. One background is merely a card of brush strokes in several shades of blue-grey (used for close-up shots). His various exteriors of what is apparently a scientific lab complex have varying shades of light blue and green. The same with the back lawn of the Jinks/Meeces property. The tree has two different shades of green leaves, and the wood is a lot darker colour than other background artists tended to use, with lines of a lighter colour for contrast and depth (Dick Thomas, for example, seemed to like white fences; Bob Gentle’s sometimes had boards that were more abstract).



Foster starts out his dialogue with some small-time corn. Jinks is in his wicker basket reading the classified “advertis-tizements” in the paper and commenting on them to the camera. “Here’s another beaut. ‘Man with fryin’ pan would like to meet lady with cow. Object: hamburgers.’ Uh, you know, that figures.” As you can see, Jinks’ commentary is weak. The funniest part is the way Daws Butler plays with words like “hippotamus-sus-sus-ses.” Then he happens on an ad where a science lab will pay for white mice. Pixie and Dixie are grey. But Jinks has a plan.



Jinks starts his sales pitch:


I was just, you know, perusin’ here in the paper about the latest styles from Paris, France. And, uh, all the French cotour-oor-ouriers agree that the fashion for cats this season is, uh, white meeces. That just means that, uh, you two are out. O-W-T, out. Grey meeces are, uh, obsolete, like, you know, the Charleston and, uh, “knock knock, who’s there.”

So Jinks convinces Pixie and Dixie to get painted white so he can keep them. Of course, it’s special paint that only works on mice bodies. The colour of their clothes is left perfectly intact. Beatnik Jinks immediately takes them in the next scene to Space Age Laboratory. “Why anyone would pay for white meeces is, like way out. Way out, man. Like, uh, crazy.”

Inside the lab, the scientists treat Pixie and Dixie like lab rats, setting up an experiment to see if the meeces are intelligent enough to put in a rocket to the moon. Why mice would need intelligence to be blasted into space isn’t clear, and it’s odd the scientists don’t realise the meeces can understand what’s going to happen to them, considering they gave a talking cat some green dollar bills for Pixie and Dixie. But that gets in the way of the plot. The test is simple. The meeces are released from a box. They’re supposed to find a hidden piece of cheese. One would think that involves a sense of smell instead of intellect, but let’s set that aside. The meeces now play dumb and bounce around cross-eyed instead of going for the cheese.


Scientist 1: Now, what do you make of that manifestation, doctor?
Scientist 2: It’s very simple. They’re nuts.

The scientists reject using Pixie and Dixie for the moon launch (with Daws Butler’s voice accidently coming out of both scientists). “Curios-tity” gets to Jinks and he watches all this through the window from outside. He’s had enough. “No refund you guys,” he tells the scientists. “I couldn’t help it those meeces were like, uh, you know, inept.” The scientists realise they have a smart cat on their hands (“I am the smartest cat in the world,” he informs them). “Looks like Jinksie is talkin’ himself into a trip to the moon,” Dixie correctly observes. “He doesn’t even know what it’s for,” Pixie adds as Jinks is conned into putting on a space suit. (“Well, you know, it’s a little lumpy, but, uh, a good tailor would fix it,” Jinks observes). Jinks finally catches on to what’s happening when he’s asked to memorise a card containing a radio message which ends with “I have landed on the moon.” He stares at the audience before running out of the lab. But he’s corralled off camera by an Irish cop who thinks Jinks is a mechanical toy.



So Rocket X1 blasts off. 36 hours later, the scientists pick up a radio message. What is it? Cut to a shot of Jinks sitting on a crescent moon. “I hate meeces to pieces!!! Over and out, like.” Foster ended a number of cartoons with Jinks’ catchphrase. It’s a pretty simple way to cap a story when the plot’s done.



Notice the different colours Monty gets in the sky as the rocket blasts off, and the white outline around Jinks’ head in the final shot. Compare it with the brownish-grey head outline when Jinks realises he’s going to the moon.

There are occasions on the soundtrack when the background cues overlap a bit. The sound cutter dredges up David Buttolph’s “The Cockeyed Colonel” from the Sam Fox library. It didn’t get a lot of use at Hanna-Barbera, certainly not by the third season of the Huck show. Geordie Hormel’s “ZR-48 Light Movement” is an odd choice when the meece are coming out of their hole. The tempo’s fast and works best for quick movement on the screen. The action’s too casual to match it. The rest of the music works pretty well.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin-Shows).
0:13 - TC-301 ZANY WALTZ (Loose-Seely) – Jinks in basket reads paper.
1:13 - ZR-48 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Jinks calls to meeces, meeces come out of hole and talk to Jinks.
1:30 - LAF-27-6 UNTITLED TUNE (Shaindlin) – Jinks reads paper to meeces, cons meeces.
2:23 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – Back yard scene, Jinks walks away with cash.
2:57 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Scientists talk about meeces, P&D decide to fail test, scientist bob-walks carrying meeces.
3:36 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks at window, meeces fail test, scientists decide Jinks should go into space, Jinks “no refund” speech.
4:56 - SF-14 THE COCKEYED COLONEL (Buttolph) – “Not smart like you…”, Jinks puts on suit, scientist holds up card.
5:35 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – “…Memorise this message,” Jinks runs away, caught by cop, Jinks on moon.
6:57 - Pixie and Dixie End Title theme (Curtin).

Yowp note: There weren't supposed to be more cartoon reviews on the blog as things are winding down here. However, I put away reviews months ago for posting later and am discovering stuff I forgot about.

9 comments:

  1. Yes I Hope You Find More HB Treasures
    This Is A Go To Site
    Please Post As Often As You Can
    All The Best To You
    -Sam

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  2. This is kind of like when the band ends its show, and then comes back on for a few encore performances.

    The "paint the mouse white" bit is kind of a steal from Bill & Joe's T&J short "Mouse for Sale", while Gene Deitch would do his own take on this cartoon's basic idea with "Mouse Into Space" when MGM gave him the T&J franchise.

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  3. J.L., I've never seen the T&J cartoon, otherwise I would have mentioned it. Thanks. I can't help but think Barbera was still involved to some extent in the story process into the '60s.

    There'll be at least one more encore review. I don't know what else I've got filed away. There isn't much but it's scattered.

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  4. The "man with frying pan" bit was lifted-slightly reworded- from Tedd Pierce's Daffy Duck cartoon, "His Bitter Half". One of my favorites.

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  5. Yowp -- It's one of the later non-CinemaScope efforts, best-known for being the episode where Bill & Joe finally gave into changing times and replaced Mammy with the June Foray-voiced homeowner. It also came about the time when (and to paraphrase Tex Avery) all the comments Hanna-Barbera had been getting on the MGM lot about how "you really beat the s--- out of that cat" also seems to have gotten to them, and Joe Barbera began writing more storylines where Tom ends up victorious at the iris out.

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  6. Thanks, J.L. I've watched it. Not only did they give in to changing times, Tom's animation is handled quite differently. There's no way even a few years earlier Tom would have moved by stretching out part of his body like a tube, or had some of the stylised Avery-like expression takes.

    The June Foray housewife doesn't like brown mice, but she'll go to the store to buy a white one. Right.

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  7. Glad to see another review here, Yowp. I agree about the Foray housewife and her inconsistent opinion on mice!Steve C

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  8. Another T&J episode similar to this is The Missing Mouse; another one where Jerry gets painted to look like a white mouse.

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  9. Here's a scene from this Pixie & Dixie episode, where we see the albino-disguised Pixie & Dixie being observed by the two scientists, which's on the following link:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-5_h-HOciWD4/TkLOj_IU6dI/AAAAAAAAEKA/Y8NQY_rZLMg/s300/PLIC%2BPLOC%2BE%2BCHUVISCO%2BEP037.jpg

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