Saturday, August 2, 2014

Pixie and Dixie — Homeless Jinks

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken O’Brien, Carlo Vinci; Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – Lew Marshall, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (BCDB credits).
Voice Cast: Dixie, Jinks, Jeeves, Hooey – Daws Butler; Pixie, George, Louie – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Pixie and Dixie enlist neighbourhood mice to help Mr. Jinks get his mouse-catching job back after being fired by butler Jeeves.

Back in the 1920s and early 1930s, the ultra-cheap Paul Terry would fill the screen with cycle animation of dozens of mice scurrying about. 30 years later, the thrifty Bill Hanna, Alex Lovy et al wouldn’t even allow that.

There’s a scene in “Homeless Jinks,” when the throngs of mice helping Pixie and Dixie run outside a house in phoney fear of Mr. Jinks. The shot shows Pixie and Dixie standing against a baseboard. “Here they come,” says Dixie. “And there they go,” adds Pixie. At no time do we see any other mice, fleeing in horror or otherwise. There is simply a sound effect of feet, and Pixie and Dixie turning their heads from one side of the frame to the other, watching the mice that we can’t see. It’s ingenious in its penuriousness but I still feel cheated watching it.



Granted, we do get one shot of all the mice. Other than some eye blinks, the rodents remain rigid.



There are no credits on this cartoon but readers Howard Fein and Zartok-35 attribute the animation to Ken O’Brien, the former Disney (and, briefly, Lantz) animator who worked on a few cartoons at Hanna-Barbera. I’ll take their word for it, and some of the drawings of Jinks look very much like another cartoon where O’Brien’s credited. but there’s unmistakably another animator on this cartoon. Near the very end, Jinks swats at the meeces with a broom. Pixie and Dixie churn their legs in mid-air, back up, and stretch themselves to make a diving exit out of the frame. Only Carlo Vinci ever animated like that so he had to do that portion of the cartoon.



Several bits and pieces have been cobbled together in this cartoon’s plot. The butler with the modified Charles Laughton voice from “Sour Puss” (written by Warren Foster) returns and so does the concept of the-meeces-help-fired-Jinks-get-his-job-back from “Jiggers..It’s Jinks!” (written by Joe Barbera and Charlie Shows). This is another cartoon where the cat and the meeces are friends—Jinks comes back to say goodbye to them after he’s fired—but you know it can’t end that way because he has to mix in his “I hate meeces to pieces” catchphrase in somewhere.



Where’s the comedy in this one? Well, there’s not a lot of it, unless you like egg-throwing slapstick by Hooey and Louie. Foster—I’m presuming Warren Foster wrote this—even resorts to the hoary old gag of the meece suggesting to the butler that he re-hire Mr. Jinks and the butler replies with “I’m glad I thought of it.” And instead of giving Pixie and Dixie’s mousey cohort a funny name, Foster settles for “George” (fortunately, he resisted any thoughts of dredging up an “Of Mice and Men” routine). After the messy, lazy Jinks is thrown out of the supposedly-miceless house for good by Jeeves, we get a Jinks soliloquy:


Jinks: They take like, uh, the best years of my nine lives, you know, and then toss me away like a used tea bag.

After Jinks tells the meeces he’s been fired and leaving for good.

Pixie: Sure is lonesome around the house without Jinks, huh, Dixie?
Dixie: Sure is, Pixie. Especially when you figure he’s been gone only ten minutes.

Pixie and Dixie vow to get Jinks back by filling the house with mice, so Jeeves has to hire the cat to get rid of them. That’s when George (who has Don Messick’s growly voice) agrees to help and “get the boys together.” Jeeves is evidently paralysed with fright. Why else would he just stand there (only turning his head) when he hears the sound of mice? Oh, right. Less animation saves money. Eventually we do get a run cycle. Anyway, the mice do their job (frankly, Hooey and Louie are funnier than Pixie and Dixie in this one) and Jeeves brings home Mr. Jinks who he finds—emulating Sylvester—picking through food remains in a garbage can, using the lid as a tray. “They don’t throw much away these days,” Jinks ruminates as he looks at an apple core. “Let’s face it. I cannot live like this. I’m a spoiled house cat.”



So Jinks has his job back with a life-time contract. The meeces tell him he has them to thank for it. “Bushwa!” spits the cat. “I am back because, uh, I hate meeces to pieces!” The statement makes no sense on any level but Foster has to fit in Jinks’ catchphrase before the end of the cartoon. And that’s where we are now as Jinks chases the meeces with a yellow (non-wet) broom to end the cartoon.

George is a unique mouse, and not because he has a turtle-neck sweater with the letter ‘G’ on it. He is green. I don’t know how many green mice are out there. And I don’t think many people, if any, would have seen the show in colour when it originally aired. I wonder if the colour selection had more to do with how George would like on black-and-white sets, much like props and sets on “I Love Lucy” were tinted so they would show up better on black-and-white TVs.

There’s a nice little Hoyt Curtin cue with an organ and clarinet in the scene where Jinks gets the pink slip. Probably the best-known pieces of music are the xylophone and laughing trombone during the mouse attack scene and the fast xylophone “Fred-the-cops-are-following-us” piece at the end.

8 comments:

  1. One of my favorite PDMJ cartoons.

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  2. "Bushwa" is a exclaimation said by Sylvester to his son in 1956's "Too Hop to Handle", and it's actually "bourgeiose" in spelling....:) I personally haven't seen a lot of these fourth season ones myself..SC

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  3. "Bourgeois" isn't even pronounced "Bushwa," and its meaning wouldn't fit the situation as an exclamation. Maybe Foster's using it as a substitute it for a "bull" word. But, yeah, he did write it in "Too Hop to Handle."
    GT, there's no way George is the same colour as Pixie and Dixie. I sampled the colour to get its code (this is the geekiest thing I've ever done) and it comes out Red 109, Green 143 and Blue 141. The various grey shades have the same red and green numbers with green slightly larger. He's the same dull green on three different versions I have of the cartoon.

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  4. Somehow this cartoon and "Mouse Trapped" (which does credit Ken O'Brien with animation) look like they're animated by Jerry Hathcock, who was working on TOP CAT at the same time. The large mouths on Jinks in his bed and the mouse throwing the egg has all of Hathcock's touches. Since there are no known copies of this cartoon with credits, it's impossible to know for sure- unless O'Brien can imitate Hathcock that accurately.,

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  5. Just an incredible breakdown, sir. I have been re-watching a lot of these cartoons recently. The voice talent was so incredible. And the sound effects were absolutely spectacularly funny! And, as you point out here, the dialogue was no slouch either. Thanks for this.

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  6. That's an interesting point about George's color, Yowp. It's certainly possible the color was chosen because it looked good in B&W. I recall reading somewhere that on a version of "Sesame Street" that is produced specifically for Brazil, there is a Big Bird-like character named Garibaldo. Today, Garibaldo is green, red, etc. He's basically colored like some sort of tropical bird. Originally, however, the Garibaldo puppet was a pale blue, because at that time most TV's in Brazil were black and white, and the pale blue puppet looked very good on black and white screens (on color screens, not so much).

    I have to respectfully disagree with you on the fact we can't see the throngs of mice running. I myself don't feel cheated by such necessary cost-cutting measures in H-B cartoons. I rather enjoy the challenge of imagining the scene myself. To me, it's not unlike how fights take place offscreen in "Tom & Jerry" cartoons. (For instance, in "Mouse Trouble," when Tom reads in the "How to Catch a Mouse" book that "A corned mouse never fights," he lunges at Jerry, but we don't see the fight take place. We just see a beat-up Tom saying, "Don't… you… believe it!") Plus, like Mykal, I've always felt that the voices, the sound effects, and the charming, nonchalant demeanors of early H-B characters like Pixie & Dixie more than compensate for any cuts in the animation. Great post in any case. Keep up the great work.

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  7. The voice that Daws Butler did for one of the mice named "Hooey" is the same voice he did for "Yahooey" in the "Yippee, Yappee and Yahooey" cartoons 4 years later in "The Peter Potamus Show." The line: "I glad I thought of it" was used in a Flintstones episode: "Son of Rockzilla" when Fred says it when Barney was being funny of saying Fred can go to the zoo to learn to act like a beast.

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