Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pixie and Dixie — Strong Mouse

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Hicks Lokey, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Warren Foster, Story Direction – Art Davis, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Mack – Don Messick; Mr Jinks, Dixie, Hercules – Daws Butler; Gus, Duke – Doug Young.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Cousin Hercules pretends to be Pixie and roughs up Mr Jinks.

“Ooh, those miserable meeces! They have did it again,” complains Jinks as he pulls a milk bottle out of the fridge and drops it onto the floor. “They have cleaned out all the lactic fluid.” That’s a great little start to this cartoon. Unfortunately, it kind of stalls from here and is maybe amusing at best. Daws Butler puts on a good performance of the nervous Jinks dealing with the fear and intimidation of Gus, the local boss cat. But there isn’t a lot of wit. There is one cute exchange. After strong mouse Cousin Hercules lifts a piano with one hand, we get:

Pixie: Wow! How does he do it?
Dixie: Oh, it’s just leverage and balance. And, of course, Cousin Hercules is strong.
Pixie: I bet that helps.

Parts of the story may remind you of other cartoons. Jinks mistaking the strong cousin for Pixie is much like the climax of “Scaredycat Dog,” where Jinks thinks the strong twin brother is really the timid dog. And the cats shoving Jinks back in the house to deal with “Pixie” has echoes in “Mighty Mite,” where a neighbourhood dog keeps tossing Jinks into his home to deal with a little rooster that beats him to a pulp. I keep thinking the same kind of thing happened in a Sylvester cartoon in the ‘50s. Actually, this plot was pretty much reused in the “Meowtch” episode of Hanna-Barbera’s unsold “Henpecks” series.

Art Davis is the story director. The two hench-cats that peer through the window at Jinks look like something that could have come from a late ‘50s Friz Freleng cartoon at Warners; Davis worked on those.



Both Pixie and Dixie refer to Hercules mouse as “cousin.” Presumably, it means Pixie and Dixie are related, but that’s not the impression that’s left in “Mouse Trapped,” which aired the same season. Continuity wasn’t all that important back then, so Warren Foster just wrote whatever fit the story. The Jinks/Meeces relationship varied depending on the cartoon. Here, it’s pivotal to the plot. The dialogue goes thusly:


Jinks: I’ve been so lenient with you guys, you forget you forget who I am (ceases smiling and glowers). I am the cat! When you see me, you should cringe. Beg for your miserable lives. Tremble in abject-like ter-ror!
The meeces laugh.
Jinks: Ah, boy. What a loose ship I’m runnin’ here. Okay, okay, what’s so amusin’?
Pixie: You can’t fool us, Jinksie.
Dixie: We know you don’t want to be mean to us.
Pixie: Yeah, you like us.
Dixie: Like we like you, Jinksie.
Pixie: You’re the greatest, Jinks!
Jinks: Durn meeces. They’re onto me. They know my weakness. Flattery.

Jinks then apologises for “getting peevish” with them. In this case, he tried using a canister of bug spray (because they “bugged” him) on them. Hey, what suburban home in the ‘60s didn’t have a convenient sprayer filled with DDT?



This whole exchange of friendship is being eyed through the window by Duke and Mack, the enforcers for the heretofore unknown Gus, the head cat in the neighbourhood. The two sandwich Jinks between them and take him to see the—dare I say it?—top cat? Only this top cat doesn’t sound like Phil Silvers. Doug Young is affecting a Humphrey Bogart mumble. Jinks promises to be meaner to the meeces and Gus promises his boys will be watching to make sure he is. In this scene, Jinks has a bullet nose like Hokey Wolf.



Meanwhile, back at the Jinks/Meeces residence, the title character finally arrives halfway through the cartoon. Cousin Hercules is in town with the circus where he does his Strongest-Mouse-in-the-World act, which includes lifting a piano.



Pixie suggests a good-natured trick. Hercules can dress up like him and then lift the piano in front of Jinks, making the cat think Pixie can lift a piano. The rest of the cartoon is pretty well devoid of clever dialogue. It consists of violence gags we don’t even see; they’re almost all off camera. Hercules keeps tossing out the newly-aggressive Jinks out of the house, then does it to Gus’ henchmen when they step in, then finally does it to Gus. The cartoon ends with Hercules explaining the clothing switch, then flipping Jinks one more time as a warning to “to be nice to mice,” even though the cat just wanted to shake hands. Jinks can’t win. “Oh, boy,” he sighs at the camera as the cartoon ends.



There’s no music when Jinks sprays the meeces with DDT and they come out of their hole coughing. But Hoyt Curtin fills the rest of the background. There’s a nice little Shearing-style piano piece when Pixie and Dixie first talk to Hercules. Very Top Cat-ish. Curtin has an interesting musical effect. When Hercules lifts the piano, some arbitrary piano notes are played over the background music.

6 comments:

  1. Come to think of it Yowp,the music cue does have somewhat of a George Shearing sound to it.I have this on on an old VHS tape somewhere.As I've said many times before, taken from an old Cartoon Network Super Chunk. Syndicated print, no long title music, just the silent H-B Enterprises panel, and then music when the title card plays.. So that was Doug Young that did the " Bogie " cat. Was wondering all these years who did the voice.

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  2. The Sylvester cartoon you're thinking of is Hop, Look, and Listen (1948), with the debut appearance of Hippety Hopper.

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  3. I was beginning to think this short didn't exist anymore. It's one of two (along with "Lend Lease Meece") that Boomerang never aired in their recent P&D show.

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  4. One of my favourite episodes. For some reason the way the two hench-cats walk with Jinks squashed between them always amused me. Also, I wonder if this is what Ren Hoek references in 'Stimpy's Big Day' when he says 'I AM THE CAT!'

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  5. I suspect this story has its genesis in Bill & Joe's earlier "Jerry's Cousin", where it was Cousin Muscles (voiced by Paul Frees instead of Daws) who impersonated Jerry to beat up Tom and the 'hit cats' he brings in to take care of the problem.

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  6. Of course, this in 1961-62 being right on the heels of the Hercules movie craze, with many more revivals(including that 1997 gagged up Disney movie/TV spinoff) plus the upcoming attemted Paramount/MGM remake
    with Dwayne "The Rock' Johnson upcoming as I write this.

    Even the Three Stooges did their first movie in 1959 based on this particular era's occurence of the craze (prior to those more recent attempts as mentioned..seems
    Herc is just one of those constantly attempted "revivals").

    And of course in the meantime between the first Hercules 50s movie and the Pixie and Dixie Strong Mouse short, the animated Trans-Lux "Hercules"-"Winner of song and story",remember-TV cartoon!Steve

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