Saturday, November 30, 2013

Snooper and Blabber — Outer Space Case

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Brad Case; Layout – Don Sheppard; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Written by Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Martian on phone – Daws Butler; Mailman, Martian, Door, Monkey – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Phil Green.
First Aired: week of June 12, 1961.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-041, Production J-120.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber travel to Mars to capture a thieving monkey.

In the 1940s, there was something advertised on the radio called ‘Serutan.’ Listeners were reminded “It’s ‘natures’ spelled backwards.” Such a silly concept was just begging to be spoofed. Pretty soon, Jack Benny, Bob Hope and other radio comedians were doing routines about words spelled backwards. Evidently Mike Maltese thought the idea was funny, too, because he uses it as a running gag in this cartoon, though he beats it into the ground a bit.

Maltese also grabs a concept he used over on the Augie Doggie series, namely Augie talking in some gibberish language to outer space creatures he has somehow befriended (Augie and dear old dad end up on Mars in “Vacation Tripped” in 1962). In this case, Blabber has somehow come in contact with Martians along the way. The odd thing is the Martians don’t speak backwards. So why all the reverse English in the cartoon?

Hanna-Barbera fans may be interested in this cartoon from a design standpoint. Part of it is set in outer space, so it’s a little reminiscent of The Jetsons. True, The Jetsons wasn’t an outer space show, but there was a futurism/life-in-space cross-over in the 50’s and early ‘60s. We posted a bit about it HERE. Don Sheppard came up with the designs, based on Alex Lovy’s storyboards from Maltese’s thumbnail drawings. Whether Sheppard worked on The Jetson is unclear—credits for individual episodes have been gone for ages—but it’s possible.



Here are Snoop and Blab riding a “saucer cycle.” You can picture this on The Jetsons can’t you?



Wasn’t there a disintegrator gun on a Jetsons’ episode, too? (I don’t mean the ‘80s revival; the show ended in 1963 as far as I’m concerned). Note the portrait of the King of Mars on the wall in the background.



And here’s the spacecraft that arrived on Earth to take Snooper and Blabber to Mars to capture an Earth monkey that landed there and stole the royal ruby from the Martian king’s palace.



Let’s show off a few more of Sheppard’s settings painted by Dick Thomas. The private eye-ball found in most of the Snooper and Blabber cartoons is on a window this time. It’s nicely framed by a tree.



And Snooper and Blabber’s office is run-down. Even the bulb in the overhead light is a warped shape. Snooper has a picture of a cop on the wall for some reason.



Brad Case is the animator. A couple of times he indulges in the outline/brush strokes drawings when characters move off scene, like in “Crew Cat” we reviewed earlier.

And, as usual, the cartoon features Maltese’s silly and punny dialogue, mainly from the mouth of Snooper. Snoop says, besides “What in carnation” (borrowed from Ed Gardner’s Archie, the main inspiration for Snooper’s voice) and the catchphrases “Drop that ybur in the name of the Private Eye Telescope and Chowder Society!” and “Elementary school, me dear Blab”:
● Ah, spring-time! When we can remove our shoes and run barefoot through fields of beautiful avunculars.
● Leave us not be nave (a Warners Bros fan can tell us which cartoon Bugs Bunny mispronounced “na├»ve.”)
● A ‘1207’? That means “Old Ladies Stealin’ Kumquats.”
● Uh, ask him to stop with the rock ‘n’ roll and give us a clue (after excited Martian jumps up and down).
● Help! I’m being attacked by Martian saucers (after monkey throws plates at him). Blab: Poor Snoop. He’s bein’ dishwacked.
● Just in the nicholas of time.

There are two dialogue short scenes with a robotic voice at the door of the Layor Ecalap. “Wipe your feet,” the voice helpfully tells our heroes, adding “This is a recording.” The “recording” line must have been fairly new around 1960. My guess is it was invented when automated phone systems came into being.

So Snooper and Blabber get taken to Mars, get the Royal Ruby from the earth monkey who crash-landed on the planet (and, presumably, the 12,000,000-crymolian reward) but Blab stays behind because the Martians made him their leader. (What about the old leader in the portrait?) Snoop grants him a month’s leave of absence without pay. Blab expresses his gratitude, kind of like in a routine between Jack Benny and Rochester.

The cartoon ends with the kind of pun I hated as a kid. It shows the monkey in a trenchcoat, sitting on a pile of peanuts. Snoop tells someone on the phone that the monkey’s filling in for Blab “And, what’s more, he works for peanuts.” Said young I to the TV set: “Well, I could come up with that one.” As a cartoon viewer, I like clever puns, stuff I’d never think of. If the pun is going to be tired and obvious, it’s best to make fun of it, like Tex Avery used to in his cartoons.

Looking at the production numbers available on a couple of internet sites, this cartoon was the last Snooper and Blabber to feature music from the Capitol Hi-Q (Phil Green) and Langlois Filmusic (Jack Shaindlin) libraries. And it’s the only Hanna-Barbera cartoon with stock music recently released on DVD. We get a good portion of the happy, skippy cue that opens the cartoon, including the introduction, and the full version of Shaindlin’s “Asinine.” The first two cues take up almost half the cartoon.


0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera).
0:27 - jaunty bassoon and skipping strings (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab in office, phone scene.
2:16 - ASININE (Shaindlin) – Blab points, space ship, land on Mars, Blab talks to Martian, monkey runs into building, Snoop and Blab skid to a stop.
3:32 - GR-255 PUPPETRY COMEDY (Green) – “Just hold it a sec,” conversation at door, monkey behind dishes.
4:10 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Snoop runs down hall, “…the royal Ruby,”
4:31 - GR-98 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – “That’s layor ybur…”
4:40 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Monkey with gun, saucer cycle scene, crash land.
5:47 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Blab on top of Snoop, Blab and monkey chat, Blab stays, Snoop on phone.
7:00 - ‘Fireman’ (Shaindlin) – Shot of monkey, Snoop “peanuts” joke.
7:09 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Huck-san

Hanna-Barbara cartoons have been enjoyed the world over. I wouldn’t want to estimate the languages they’ve been translated into, but Japanese was one of them.

Charles Brubaker sent along these pictures of Huck picture books and a postcard.



Here’s the note he sent in explanation:


Until TV anime became the norm, Japanese TV stations had to rely on American cartoons to fulfill their animation fix, so shows like Huck, "Quick Draw McGraw", "Spunky and Tadpole", "Clutch Cargo", etc. were being dubbed and broadcast in the Land of the Rising Sun.

You probably don't care about how those cartoons were shown in other countries, but here's the broadcast info:

Japanese Title: Chinken Huck (which translates to "Huckleberry the Unusual Dog")
Broadcast Network: NET (Nihon Educational Television)

Schedule:
February 15 to August 30, 1959 (Sunday, 6:00 pm)
December 6, 1959 to March 27, 1960 (Sunday, 6:00 pm)
August 13 to December 24, 1961 (Sunday, 7:00 pm)

Despite the name, NET was hardly educational. It started as a for-profit educational network in Japan, but it soon became a general TV network in the country, constantly airing shows that had very little educational content, including cartoons (both American and Japanese). In the late 1970s the name was changed to TV Asahi, and it's still known as that today.

We can only guess what the Japanese thought of this Pixie and Dixie cartoon:



True, Judo Jack is the hero of the cartoon (Mr. Jinks proves to be a jerk by making fun of his accent and politeness). Maybe stereotypes didn’t make people wince as much back then.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Huckleberry Hound — Lawman Huck

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Bob Carr; Layout – Tony Rivera; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Written By – Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound, Dinky Dalton - Daws Butler; Narrator, Sheriff – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose-John Seely, Spencer Moore, Geordie Hormel, Phil Green.
Production: Huckleberry Hound Show No. K-049.
Fired Aired: week of January 30, 1961.
Plot: Huck must guard Dinky Dalton as he’s being transported to Kansas City.

Huck was placed in the Old West in three cartoons in his third season (the other two were “Huck Hound’s Tale” and “Fast Gun Huck”). This one brings back Dinky Dalton, who had appeared in “Sheriff Huckleberry” in the show’s first season. Dinky had the honour of being part of several Hanna-Barbera efforts a couple of decades later when the studio was past its best-before date. But let’s not get into that.

As usual, Huck’s observations to the audience and his dialogue are the best part of the cartoon. Warren Foster plants something at the outset that he brings back at the end. And Huck comes out a winner, despite being a little dense.

It seems the studio worked background artist Dick Thomas like the proverbial rented pony, as he painted the backgrounds in an awful lot of the 1960-61 cartoons. He wasn’t responsible for this one, though. Long-time MGM veteran Bob Gentle got the assignment and here’s a reconstruction of his western village that is panned at the start of the cartoon.


In this cartoon, Huck’s a “devoted deputy” who does whatever the sheriff tells him to do. “I make his coffee for him. Sheriffs drink lots of coffee, you know.” As he enumerates his responsibilities he suddenly realises the sheriff does nothing and he does everything.

One of the duties is feeding the prisoner, who happens to be Dinky Dalton. Dinky’s using a file on the bars of his cell. “Stay away from me, ya lily-livered varmint. Can’t you see I’m busy?” Huck writes off the comment (and subsequent punch in the snout) as moodiness. “They sometimes say things they don’t mean after being cooped up for a long time. And Dinky’s been with us for nigh on six, no, it’s closer to seven minutes.” But the Dalton Brothers are on their way to spring their kin. Neither Dinky or Huck can remember all their names. “The Daltons are sure a close-knit family,” observes Huck. “Yeah, they close-knitted ten banks last year,” adds the sheriff. They’re so close-knit, they’re bunched together as one character, with only their legs and an arm or two moving. The sheriff reacts by grabbing his bags and running away, telling Huck to take Dinky to Kansas City for trial.



The scene switches to the back of a train. The Dalton gang is following behind on the tracks. Both Huck and Dinky wave goodbye to them, with Huck being held over the back of the train by Dinky’s handcuff. And the Dalton Brothers leave the cartoon for good.

Inside the rail car, as Huck guards Dinky, the best routine is Huck’s fake death scene. Dinky’s bullet punctures a canister of water, which sprays all over Huck. He lays down on the floor.




Huck: Hold your fire, Dinky. You got me. I’m headin’ for the last roundup.
Dinky: Garsh. I’m sorry deputy.
Huck: Don’t be. I couldn’t have lasted long anyways. See? My veins is full of water.
(The scene turn black)
Huck: It’s gettin’ dark in here, Dinky. Does that mean …. I’m a goin’?
Dinky: It means the train is goin’ through a tunnel.

Dinky escapes to the roof of the rail car, but won’t fall for Huck’s suggestion to duck so he won’t get clobbered by the tunnel ahead. Too bad, because there was a tunnel. Dinky bashes against it and falls to the tracks as the train carries on. Huck: “Our tickets didn’t allow for any stop overs.” So the cartoon winds up with Huck and Dinky on a hand-cart. Huck has appointed Dinky his deputy “so he’s got to do everything I tell him to do.” Huck enjoys a cup of coffee and sings “Clementine” as the cartoon fades out.



Daws gives Dinky his Jackie Gleason voice, though the inflections aren’t quite the same.

The sound cutter puts the clatter of a train on the tracks behind much of the cartoon, even the final scene when Huck and Dinky are on the handcar. The sound effects would drown out any music so there are parts of the cartoon where there’s no music in the background.


0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title Theme (Curtin).
0:12 - ZR-39A WESTERN SONG (Hormel) – Opening narration, Huck talks to audience.
0:35 - no music – sheriff sleeps, “He saves himself….”
0:56 - C-19 LIGHT ACTIVITY (Loose) – “Um, hmmm.” Huck takes lunch to Dinky, Huck punched, Dalton in cell, gunshots, Sheriff runs off camera.
2:43 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Sheriff with bags, “Don’t worry none.”
3:12 - no music – Huck and Dalton on back step of caboose.
3:37 - TC-437 SHOPPING DAY (Loose-Seely) – Chained to seat, Huck with glass of water.
4:00 - no music – seat gone, Huck has one gun.
4:17 - no music – Huck and Dinky fire guns at each other.
4:48 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Water pours, Huck death scene.
5:50 - no music – top of rail car scene, Dinky crashes to ground.
6:14 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck and Dinky on tracks, handcar.
6:39 - no music – “Faster, Deputy Dink…”
6:45 - Clementine (Trad.) – Huck sings “Clementine.”
6:55 - GR-79 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 2 (Green) - cartoon fades out.
6:57 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Flintstones Weekend Comics, November 1963

“Yabba Dabba Doo!” is the exclamation of you-know-who. But in the weekend comics for quite some time, Fred Flintstones uttered the phrase “Abba Dabba Doo!” Why there was a difference, I don’t know, but from what I can tell, he finally got it right in the Sunday comics 50 years ago this month.


The November 3rd comic features two gags. One is in the upper row that some newspapers didn’t print, the other in the lower. I like how, in the opening panel, Pebbles is sniffing Dino’s bone. The turtle-scale in the middle row is a unique concept.


“Berry’s Lumber Company”?! Couldn’t anyone come up with “stone” or “rock” pun, like the ones that became increasingly contrived as the TV series wore on? For a minute, I thought the company was employing Dino in the November 10th comic. The bee with the triangular nose reminds me of a Dick Bickenbach character from an old Huckleberry Hound cartoon.


Hanna-Barbera cartoons rarely had the luxury of angular perspective animation like in the old theatricals. But in the comics, all you need to do is make one drawing. So the November 17th comic opens with an attractive angle of Fred bowling. The end gag’s a variation of the old “noise-while-the-other-guy’s-golfing” routine in old cartoons. I like the dullard guy with the cigar in the second row. Note how the bowlers in that panel are all leaning a little differently. I suppose I shouldn’t ask where Fred got all the instruments.


So if Uncle Buster and Aunt Marion can get their car out of a hilly driveway, why can’t Fred? Well, let’s set that question aside. The mangy cat in the November 24th comic is no Baby Puss, who seems to have completely vanished from the weekend comics. Even Dino doesn’t make an appearance in this one, though the gag set-up doesn’t need him. Dino only makes a brief appearance once this month. The opening panel is, again, nicely laid out, with some depth in the background to the right.

Click on any comic to enlarge it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Where the Jetsons Live and Work

It wasn’t unusual for Hanna-Barbera cartoons to open with an establishing shot of a background drawing before getting to the first bit of action. There are some nice pan shots of Jellystone Park that start off a number of Yogi Bear episodes. And “The Jetsons” was no exception. Let’s give you a few examples. Captions are below the screen grabs.



A shot of the camera moving in on Skypad Apartments greets viewers at the outset of “Rosie the Robot.”



The second scene of “The Coming of Astro” features a shot of the apartments again. I can only presume that in the Jetsons’ era, construction crews ripped down and put up apartments almost instantly. The other apartments around the Skypad always change. Or maybe it’s just a different camera angle on the building.



“A Date With Jet Screamer” starts off with a slow pan over two paintings of some buildings, with space cars animated over top.



Here’s the opening of “The Space Car.”



Rain is animated over the darkened colours of the Skypad in “Jetson’s Night Out.”



You must remember the scene where Henry throws a switch and the apartment building rises above the rain clouds into the blue sky. This bothered me as a kid. What if someone else wanted the building lowered because they liked the rain? Wouldn’t the building be constantly going up and down at the whim of people living in it? Yes, I asked myself this kind of stuff 50 years ago.



And here’s the familiar sight of the Spacely Sprockets building. I’m not geeky enough to count how many times this drawing was used, but it opens “The Flying Suit.”



You’ve probably noticed stylised clouds in several of the drawings. Similar ones can be found (albeit not in various pastel shades) in Quick Draw McGraw and other cartoons. Here’s a good look at them from “A Date With Jet Screamer.”

Unfortunately, the people who put together the Jetsons DVD thought it’d be a great idea to take credits from one show and paste them on all the others, so I have no idea exactly who was responsible for each background drawing you see here. Art Lozzi worked on the show. So did Fernando Montealegre and Bob Gentle. There were others, like Fernando Arce, Rene Garcia, Lee Branscombe and Bob Abrams. The Space Needle-y homes and other “futuristic” backgrounds are one of the reasons this is such a fun series to watch.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pixie and Dixie — Crew Cat

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Brad Case; Layout – Paul Sommer; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Written by Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Poop Deck Paddy, Captain – Don Messick; Dixie, Mr. Jinks – Daws Butler.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose-John Seely, Spencer Moore, unknown.
Camera: Norm Stainback. First aired: week of February 6, 1961.
Filmed: September 12, 1960. Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-049, Production E-135.
Plot: Jinks tricks Pixie and Dixie to board a ship so he can get a free trip as the ship’s cat.

If you were watching this cartoon and concerned you wouldn’t get a chance to see Pixie and Dixie running along a wall with Jack Shaindlin’s “Toboggan Run” playing in the background, don’t be. It just takes a while to get there.

The first half of the cartoon is nothing but yack-yack-yack, and the first half of that isn’t even funny; it just sets up the situation. And, realistically, not a lot happens in the second half, either.

The most interesting thing in the cartoon may be a few drawings by Brad Case. Instead of swirls of lines when characters rush off-camera (like Ken Muse would do), Brad leaves behind an outline and some coloured brushwork. Here’s Mr. Jinks running up the gangway.



Here are the seasick meeces being pulled away from the side of the ship by Jinksie.



And Pixie and Dixie running away from Jinks and his trusty mop (no broom in this cartoon).



Warren Foster’s story-line’s pretty basic. Jinks’ cat buddy Poopdeck Paddy quits his job as a cruise ship’s cat because he caught all the mice. Jinks thinks he can get the job—and take advantage of the relaxed cruise-ship lifestyle—by conning the meeces into coming along with him. After two weeks on board, Pixie and Dixie realise they’ve been taken, and get Jinks (and themselves) tossed off the ship by making the Captain think Jinks swacked him in the face with a mop. A convenient pin punctures their life raft and the gang fly into the background, and presumably on their way home, to end the cartoon.

Paddy doesn’t have an Irish accent or a pirate voice. Don Messick simply gives him the growly voice heard in neighbour cats in a number of cartoons. Interesting design that layout man Paul Sommer has given to the Jinks home. It has a jalousie front window. Dick Thomas adds some green-within-swirls trees in the background. The best part of the first scene is at the end when Jinks reads his palm and says “Jinksie, I see a long ocean voyage in your future.”

Jinks then tricks the “miserable meeces” into wanting to go with him by outlining his itinerary: “I shall like, uh, visit Parree, and see Awful Tower. Roam around Rome. Lean on the leaning Tower of Pizza. Stop off at Monte Carload.” Pixie and Dixie have a wooden awning over the entrance to their mouse hole. I didn’t realise they had to worry about the weather inside. Jinks ends the scene with a wide, evil grin.



The meeces get in a couple of bad puns. During the con job, Dixie calls Jinks “a salt-water tabby.” Then when Pixie reminds Dixie the ship’s captain lives in “quarters,” Dixie responds: “Gee. I didn’t know you were so salty.” Uh, yeah. The ship’s captain is sort of ignorant. He doesn’t know which end of the ship’s map is north. But that’s just a throwaway gag. The character isn’t developed at all because he enters the cartoon so late and really has nothing to do except get angry and order Jinks from the ship toward the end. Sommer has designed him with the floppy Major Minor moustache that was popular at Hanna-Barbera in the Ruff and Reddy days.

The rest of the cartoon isn’t much more than a character explaining what’s going to happen next and then it happens. It ends with their life-raft carrying Pixie, Dixie and Jinks, flying through the air from the force of the air coming out of it, turning and then zooming off into the distance.

The Pixie and Dixie series seems to have inspired Foster the least. His Yogi Bear cartoons are helped by a solid, though confining, template, and he always found enough different spoof-worthy situations that fit the laid-back attitude of Huckleberry Hound. But the meeces really don’t have defining character traits (Pixie, especially), leaving it to Jinks to carry the load, and generally only with quasi-hipster dialogue and mangled words. Still, you can’t dislike a cartoon with the line “Oh, hi, Cap. Uh, I’m pretty handy with the ol’ mop-eroo, huh?” with Daws Butler adding an appropriately over-confident delivery.

The sound cutter confines the different music cues to a particular scene. A version of “Sailor’s Hornpipe” heard in a sea medley used in several cartoons is heard here as is Spencer Moore’s “Animation Nautical.” There’s also that flute and muted trumpet stab cue by Jack Shaindlin that I haven’t been able to find anywhere.


0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera, Shows).
0:14 - L-1121 ANIMATION NAUTICAL (Moore) – Paddy walks to Jinks’ door.
0:22 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Paddy and Jinks talk, Paddy leaves.
1:09 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks solo scene, decides to become ship’s cat.
1:36 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Jinks walks in house.
1:48 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks cons meeces.
3:23 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Jinks chuckles.
3:25 - comic flute and quack cue (Shaindlin) – Shot of ship.
3:29 - TC-437 SHOPPING DAY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks and meece outside ship, meece board ship.
3:55 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – shot of captain’s door, captain and meeces, captain and Jinks.
4:44 - seagoing medley (?) – Pixie and Dixie seasick.
5:00 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks grabs Pixie and Dixie, meeces run in mid-air.
5:14 - LFU-117-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Broom comes down, Jinks chases meece, Captain pleased.
5:28 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – Pixie and Dixie in lifeboat, captain hit with mop.
6:06 - rising scale chase music (Shaindlin) – Meeces run out, give Jinks mop, mutiny.
6:32 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Life-raft, Pixie shoves in pin.
6:46 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Air comes out of life-raft, cartoon ends.
6:57 - Pixie and Dixie End Title theme (Curtin).