Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Are You Loopy For Loopy?

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera won seven Oscars with cartoons starring Tom and Jerry. They won none with Loopy De Loop.

Let’s face it. Loopy cartoons just aren’t that great, certainly not compared with Quick Draw McGraw or Huckleberry Hound. And putting them up against other theatricals? Forget it. Unless you consider that, perhaps, they set the trend for cheap-looking, unfunny cartoons of the late ‘60s like Cool Cat or the Beary Family that were inflicted on patrons by theatres that still bothered to run cartoons.

You might think it’s odd that I’m not a Loopy fan, despite the fact he was made by the same artists behind the other great early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. But even back in the heyday of theatrical animation, not every character or cartoon was a hit, so the late ‘50s aren’t really any different.

Thus I’ve really said little about him on this blog, but I make an exception today because the Warner Archive Collection has announced it is releasing a DVD of all the Loopy cartoons. It’s great news because Hanna-Barbera fans can see it and make up their own minds about the series. I have no idea if the cartoons been fully restored or are just TV dubs, or if they contain full end credits.

The site has a snippet of one of the cartoons, 1963’s “Sheep Stealers Anonymous.” Here’s the opening shot, another one of Art Lozzi’s blue backgrounds.



The snippet doesn’t have any credit but George Nicholas’ work is unmistakeable. Here’s a neat little take.



The Loopy cartoons were released by Columbia Pictures. It had been releasing UPA cartoons since the late ‘40s. By 1959, Columbia must have figured “Hey, we own part of a cartoon studio. Why aren’t we releasing its cartoons?” Variety of April 29, 1959 mentioned Columbia had terminated its shorts deal with UPA “amicably.” Variety’s Larry Glenn reported in a front-page story on December 2, 1959 that Columbia was nearing a five-year deal with Hanna-Barbera to be its exclusive theatrical producers, with ten Loopy cartoons in the works. Obviously, the two studios had to have signed something before that. On November 23rd, Variety had mentioned Columbia releasing the ten Loopys, and contemporary issues of Boxoffice magazine state the first Loopy, “Wolf Hounded,” was available for theatres that month.

Incidentally, Columbia was supposed to release “Hillbilly Hawk” and “Three Mixed Up Mooses” cartoons from Hanna-Barbera (Variety, May 1, 1963), but something evidently fell through.

It’s a shame the Loopy cartoons weren’t done in full animation. I’d love to know the difference in their budgets compared with the money spent on the UPA shorts the previous year.

It’s also a shame that the Warner Archive Collection can’t see fit to release the last three seasons of “The Huckleberry Hound Show” or any seasons of “The Quick Draw McGraw Show.” The final season of each has no problems when it comes to music rights, as the scores were all cobbled together from Hoyt Curtin’s cues. I’d settle for just the cartoons on their own (restored and with the credits, of course).

The Loopy DVD, says Warners, “ships to U.S. only.” Ironic, considering the cartoon’s about a wolf from Quebec.

16 comments:

  1. It will be available soon through Amazon's CreateSpace program, probably before the end of the month. for those outside the U. S. as it is with all Warners' Archive Collection series releases.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Loopy was really Hanna-Barbera's first 'high concept' character, where the entire reason for his existence was based on a specific premise -- in this case that he's a wolf, but he's a good wolf. It's pretty much a more comedic riff on Paramount's Casper the Friendly Ghost high-concept premise and suffered from the same flaw in that it limits the story options (H-B's other 1958-61 characters could have been anything -- Huck of course originated as Tex Avery's southern wolf, while Quick Draw is a horse simply because horses are linked to the Old West. But the personality of the character isn't dependent on a comedy twist using the species of the character).

    The interesting thing is did Bill, Joe and the staff really have faith in Loopy, or by 1959 was television and marketing of the characters there the way to go, and they just tossed off their weakest character concept of the moment to Columbia's theatrical audiences?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I ordered a copy as soon as I was able to sit in front of my computer. And, if any of us wish to see more classic Hanna-Barbera releases from The Warner Archive Collection, I’d suggest you follow suit. Loopy could be the unexpected "test case" that leads to more.

    Besides, whatever you might think of Loopy as a character, Daws Butler still performs his classic French-speak as Loopy, and stories are by Michael Maltese, Warren Foster, and Tony Benedict – the writers that made H-B great! Hoyt Curtin provides scores that would become vital components of most H-B ‘60s TV cartoons.

    Consider this a "lost" volume of classic era H-B cartoons... that COULD lead to more of what we've been waiting years for.

    ReplyDelete
  4. J.L., I don't what other concepts they had on the drawing board at the time. There weren't really any strong characters to spin off from the TV cartoons and Columbia may not have wanted something based on, say, a Kramden or a Bilko. So they got an original character.
    Loopy is no Huck. Huck gets bashed around but it never bothers him and he has a funny crack about it. Loopy tries the same thing and it doesn't work for me.
    Bruce, thanks for the clarification.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Joe Adamson touched on the same thing in his book on Bugs Bunny, when he noted that Bugs had basically the same personality as the fox and quail Avery used a few cartoons after "A Wild Hare", but only Bugs caught on with audiences -- probably because in the former, Tex put the audiences' sympathies with the rabbit, while in the latter two cartoons, the audience's sympathies were with Willoughby. You were rooting for Bugs against Elmer, while you were rooting, if not against the cocky characters in the next two efforts, at least for them not to do anything too bad to the dog.

      It's the same sort of situation here. The audience's sympathies are with Huck in a way they're just not with Loopy, so the same basic gags/story arcs don't work as well with the latter character (and, as you've noted, Huck had more versatility, in never getting shoehorned into a formula. Loopy was born in a formula, even if the supporting characters involved changed from one cartoon to another).

      Delete
  5. 9/10/14
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    I remember seeing the Loopy cartoons for the first time in the 1980's on USA'sCartoonExpress.Idon't have any memory seeing them on TV in the late 60's or the 1970's with other TV-related Hanna Barbera/Screen Gems cartoons at the time, so I think they were only issued theatrically, not by original TV airings, at least not until USA TV got a hold of the original theatrical prints.The thing I remember best about the credits were the opening titles stated next to a picture of Loopy: Columbia Pictures Presents: A Hanna Barbera Cartoon-Loopy De Loop,next came the title of the cartoon, then various credits (Daws Butler among others.),then produced & directed by William Hanna & Barbera.At the end of the cartoon there'd be a title card-The End-A Loopy De Loop Cartoon by Hanna & Barbera-Released From Columbia Pictures. There were no original TV credits(like Lippy Lion,ToucheTurtle, & Wally Gator) There was no Columbia "Torch Lady" logo on any of these cartoons, nor was there any Screen Gems'Dancing Sticks or S From Hell logos at the end of these prints.Ihaven't seen any of these Loopy cartoons since USA stopped showing them in the early90''s,so a DVD set would only be of historical interests to H-B completists I always thought the Loopy cartoons were mediocre at best with interchangeable scenes of poor Loopy getting the short end of the stick from humans who always mistake him for being a "bad"wolf instead of a "good"wolf out of ignorance. It's all been done better before from the Snagglepuss cartoons only with a wolf in exchange with a mountain lion,with humans acting out of ignorance that Snagglepuss is a "threatening"mountain lion, when Snagglepuss is only being nice, but cowardly. the Loopy cartoons only repeat the formula with less successful results & weaker scripts/characterization.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rob, as best as I can recall, Screen Gems was Columbia's TV arm so these cartoons wouldn't have had the sticks. I see no reason why the original prints wouldn't have had Lady Columbia at the start; I believe all the studio's shorts did. I never saw them in theatres and they never appeared on TV until cable channels rolled around.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yowp,

    Thanks for the heads up about the upcoming DVD. I remember seeing at least one of Loopy’s cartoons in the theater. Back then, anything that had an H-B label was a must see for me. Years later I saw a couple the cartoons on TV, probably USA’s Cartoon Express. By that time my obsession with H-B had waned a little. Loopy appeared to have the same limited animation as anything seen on TV during the mid-60s, although by the 1980s, most of the animation on Saturday mornings was so terrible, Loopy looked pretty good.

    BTW, I agree with you about the absence of Quick Draw on DVD. Although I have season one of Huck, but would love to see more of Quick Draw than what was released on the “Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s” DVDs.

    ReplyDelete
  8. 9/10/14
    RobGems.ca Wrote:
    Thanks for your reply, Yowp. If I definitely remember on some TV re-runs on syndicated or cable airings from H-B of 1957-66 Screen Gems/Columbia era, sometimes the stations intentionally lopped off the logos to make room for more commercials, also by the 1980's Screen Gems no longer had any distribution from these cartoons (at least when Ted Turner bought these cartoons over to Cartoon Network, TNN, or WTBS stations, the SG logos (mostly the Dancing Sticks, rarely the S From Hell) were only shown sporadically if they weren't lopped off by other stations or replaced by the 1980's "Swirling Star" H-B logo, or the 1990's various "character portrait" logos. A few repeats of "Magilla Gorilla" from the 1990's, for instance, still had the Dancing Sticks logos on their prints, at least until 1999, when Warner Brother's bought the H-B episodes from Turner (then they were known as "Time-Warner", then just Warner Brothers Animation; it's weird to see the recent 2012-13 "Tom & Jerry episodes opening with a rather fake W-B shield replacing the MGM lion.) The "S From Hell" logoI Haven't seen on H-B episodes since the early 1980's-The Flintstones' 1965-66 episodes still had them until they were plastered over with W-B logos. Others I don't really know- except if I recall really far back as the early 70's,I think I saw repeats of "Jonny Quest" (from 1972) with The "S From Hell "logo, and a few episodes of "The Jetsons" with the S Fom Hell logo too, this was as far back as 1971. Of course by the 1980's they've been replaced by the "Swirling Star" logos. As far as the Lop cartoons, I never seen them in a theatre, only on cable TV. The Columbia "Torch Lady" probably did appear on 1959-63 theatrical prints, but definitely not on the USA Cartoon Express airings. (My guess is they lopped them off, of course.) Sigh...it's so annoying to original cartoon fans to have original credits & logos lopped off by corporate companies like Taft Entertainment, Ted Turner, replaced by the rather annoying "planet" logo of the 1990's, and of course, most recently, by W-B's denial of Columbia/Screen Gems' former exsistance. For example, I really miss Wilma Flintstone as the Columbia "torch lady" logo on "The Man Called Flintstone" movie. W-B just got rid of the logo, so it's a shame, really. I thought that was the best part of that movie!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I know how you feel Rob. I like seeing cartoons and television shows as they actually ran, logos and all. The only consolation is the fact that these days, those logos are simply electronically covered. On the original 35mm masters of The Flintstones, the Frank DeVol " Dancing Sticks " signature and the " Film Strip/S From Hell " probably still exist. When a certain live action series about a certain maid and the family she works for was in the releasing stages, a number of us were able to talk to the restoring team about those very logos, and yes, they are at the end of the shows.Thankfully, they didn't cover the logos and you see them restored on the DVDs. It is a shame that they would cover Wilma as the Torch Lady with a new logo. As Yowp said, I don't know if Loopy had a logo. I too, never saw them in the theaters, only in 1980's syndication.

      Delete
  9. I've seen Loopy's shorts on Boomerang US in the past; I don't have pay TV anymore, and as far as I know, Loopy's gone from Boomerang now. They only aired his shorts as filler between shows.

    I'm grateful that Warner Archive is releasing SOMETHING from H-B's salad days, if not what we're holding out for; this does seem to be a water-testing release.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I watched one on TV years ago, just out of curiosity, and haven't had the slightest urge to revisit this series.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have several 35mm Loopy cartoons, not one of them has the Torch Lady logo.

    ReplyDelete
  12. If we ever DO get DVD sets of some of the Post-1960 H-B series that have eluded us thus far, (…and assuming music clearance actually IS why we haven’t gotten pre-1961 Huck, Quick Draw, etc.), one reason for this might be because the theatrical nature and budgets of the Loopy De Loop series would have allowed for Hoyt Curtin to compose original scores for the Loopys, starting in 1959.

    And, in 1959, Loopy De Loop would have had the first original scores of any Hanna-Barbera cartoons – even before THE FLINTSTONES!

    Those scores, along with other original music composed for the presumably higher-budgeted-for-prime-time FLINTSTONES, TOP CAT, and JETSONS, would form the basis for all subsequent H-B TV cartoon music scores that followed.

    …So, perhaps Loopy has done us all a “good deed”, without knowing it!

    And, for a character no one supposedly cares about, Loopy sure has drawn his share of comments here!

    ReplyDelete
  13. My first encounter with de Loop (L))) was in 1987, and on....yes, USA CARTOON EXPRESS. It was the one with that itty bitty ducky with "Red Coffee" aka Red Coffey as the character. I likeed Loopy sort of.....NOTE....Sort of..! There were a number of characters that I liked considerably better in the Loopy's..they had a jealous-lover bear character, Bandford or whatever his name was, voiced by Mel Blanc a la his beloved Yosemite Sam, with his girlfirend usually voiced by Janet Waldo but also by surprise..Nancy Wible. Arnold Stang made a rare non-"Top Cat" Hanna-Barbera appearance in the cartoons (complete credits followed at the end of every cartoon and they were ALL rerun with the credits, and intact. In addition to what RobGems .ca wrote about the credits, the standard "Eastmancolor by Pathe" credit, of course, also followed. Most, but not ALL color Columbia theatricals used the Eastmancolor by Pathe (or YogiColor, or MonsterColor,) except for stuff like "Bridge over the River Kwai","Bell Book and Candle"(the source, by the way of many post-1964 HB sound effects), "Guess Who's Coming for Dinner","To Sir, with Love",and other 1960s Columbia Features...though THOSE were all A-list types...Finally, Loopy reminds me of ANOTHER French series (US produced) character, out of Warner Bros.-"Pepe Le Pew", a Casper-like skunk who DOES NOT wanna go around and spray any one with zee perfume le pew of his..but romance a "female skunk"...and legendary one shot characters from books animated by Disney-Munro Leaf's "Ferdninand the Bull" and Kenneth Grahame's "The Reluctant Dragon"(also a 1970-71 Rankin-Bass TV cartoon).

    Joe, I agree, for the Hanna-Barbera fans that, regardless of opinion of Loopy, enjoy the later Curtin-scored shows, the good wolf's cartoons, with those scores, have done us (and Hanna-Barberaa ) an important favor...SC

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just watched the first four cartoons on the Loopy De Loop set and, as expected, they were great fun from Hanna-Barbera’s prime period.

    Two were written by Michael Maltese, and two were written by Warren Foster! Voices were performed by Daws Butler, June Foray, Jean Vander Pyl, Paul Frees and Don Messick. Great writers meet great voices!

    And Hoyt Curtin premieres many of the underscore pieces that would become staples of H-B series for years to come!

    The Quick Draw McGraw theme even sneaks its way into one of the cartoons, as a musical piece played by Loopy!

    One demerit. There is no listing of the cartoon titles anywhere except on the discs themselves. But, certainly for those first four, this is great stuff! Very glad I got this set!

    ReplyDelete