Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Neenah and the Pink Window Shade

The artist responsible for this background painting had an indirect connection to Bill Hanna from before she was born.



This is from the Snagglepuss cartoon “Be My Ghost,” and the background artist is Neenah Maxwell. Here are some of the other backgrounds.



Here’s what the above drawing looks like without the entrance on an overlay.





The door on the background below is on a cel.



Maxwell arrived at Hanna-Barbera around 1960 and was gone by 1963. Where she came from and where she went in a complete mystery. If I had to speculate, I imagine she might have worked at one time in the ink and paint department at MGM.

On-line death records show that Maxwell was born in California on May 22, 1934 and died on January 21, 1997 in Ventura, California. Her mother’s maiden name was Hanson. But it was her father who Bill Hanna knew and worked with for over two decades.

You won’t find a Neenah Maxwell in the 1940 census. But you will find a Virginia Lee Maxwell living at the Los Angeles home of Carman G. Maxwell and his wife Dorothy, whose maiden name was Hanson. C.G. Maxwell is none other than Max Maxwell, who was production manager for the Harman-Ising studio when Hanna was hired there in the early ‘30s to work as a janitor. Both Maxwell and Hanna were enticed to leave Harman-Ising for MGM in 1937, and Maxwell managed the production end of the cartoon studio for the 20 years it was in existence. California birth records state Virginia Lee Maxwell was born on May 22, 1934, so there’s no doubt she’s Neenah Maxwell. If I had to guess, Neenah was a pet name. And if I had to guess some more, if she had an interest in art, her dad would have found a way to get her a job in the studio (both Hanna and Barbera found work for their children when they opened their own studio). Incidentally, her uncle was Howard Hanson, an ex-Harman-Ising and MGM cartoonist who was the production manager at Hanna-Barbera from the start in 1957 and for almost the next decade. Hanson’s second wife was Vera Ohman, also a background artist at MGM and H-B.

Snagglepuss cartoons generally have a lot of fun dialogue—in this cartoon, Mike Maltese borrows his own “Odds, fish!” line from his great Bugs Bunny short “Rabbit Hood”—but the thing I remember about this from my childhood is the ghosts that roll up like old window shades and then disappear. Harum and Scarum did the same thing in the Snooper and Blabber cartoon “Real Gone Ghosts” a couple of years earlier (Maltese wrote that one, too). Snagglepuss tries it in this cartoon but fails miserably. He’s not a ghost, after all. C.L. Hartman is the animator.



I’m a big fan of the orange version of Snagglepuss, the one before he got his own series, the one where he’s a snooty villain who’s in control and knows he’s superior to Quick Draw McGraw or Super Snooper. But the pink one is funny, too, thanks to strong dialogue from Mike Maltese, the usual clever voice work of Daws Butler, and (at least in this cartoon) some attractive background work by Max Maxwell’s daughter.

9 comments:

  1. When I read that the person who did the background painting had a connection to William Hanna, the first name that came to mind was Michael Lah. As you know, he was his brother-in-law. Didn't know about Neehan Maxwell. Most appreciate the information, YOWP.

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  2. And this Snagglepuss episode brings something familiar in the layouts.
    The layouts were made by Walter Clinton (with his habitual "low-ear" style).

    .

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  3. Pink Snag struggled a little bit to stay out of the 'formula' cartoons with Major Minor. They allowed him to keep his role from his 'orange' period as an erudite heckler who comes out on top, but to me a lot of them start blending together in my mind (they did mix things up with solo Snaglepuss efforts, but in those he tends to be more at the mercy of whomever the co-star(s) of the moment are. As with the Warner shorts where Bugs is on the wrong end of the abuse, even if the gags are funny, the overall vibe just doesn't feel right).

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  4. I dunno, I liked that “Pink Snag” could “dish it out AND have to take it too”! To me, it makes for a better series when a character is just as likely to lose as he is to win – Bugs Bunny, excepted, of course. That’s what makes Huckleberry Hound so great, not to mention Carl Barks’ comic book Donald Duck. I think Major Minor appeared just about the “right” number of times, to be entertaining and avoid repetitive formula. Lyla, too.

    And just one more thing to appreciate about the body of work by Michael Maltese at Hanna-Barbera was his tendency to use “guest characters” in multiple series: Snagglepuss (In Quick Draw, Snooper, and Augie), The J. Evil Scientist family (He very likely wrote the 1960s comic book story where J. Evil met Top Cat.), Bigelow, and Harum and Scarum.

    Why, he even took “Wyle E. Coyote Super Genius” out of the Road Runner cartoons, and pitted him against Bugs Bunny. And, don’t we ALL love that!

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    1. When Mike was working with Friz, the director's complaints about feeling constricted with Elmer led to Maltese's creation of Yosemite Sam as an alternative person to heckle, which is probably what I would have liked to have seen with Snaglepuss. To me, it just seemed as if when they wanted to use him in the same confident heckler way they had in his Quick Draw appearances, they just pulled out the Major, instead of trying to vary the opponents (though lord knows, even though the routines could blur one cartoon with another after a while, it was still better than the variation on the Snaglepuss-Major Minor dynamic Alex Lovy took with him over to Warner Brothers a few years later).

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  5. Oh, and way back when I first saw the cartoons, there was no “Orange Snag” and “Pink Snag”… only GRAY Snag! …Gray everything-else, too.

    And, that’s how he was colored in his earliest comic book appearances. Though, he was “in-the-pink”, before long.

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  6. Snag also appeared with Augie, too in several cartoons and another had Yowp's least favorite little feller, Yakky! :) I love snag REGARDLESS of his color..:)Steve

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  7. Did Max Maxwell end up going to Hanna-Barbera after MGM'S animation studio closed?

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