Saturday, 22 August 2015

Snagglepuss in Arrow Error

The best part of any Snagglepuss cartoon is the declamations made by the pink lion, generally near the start thereof. Witness this soliloquy from “Arrow Error.” It starts with Snagglepuss (supposedly) reading from Robin Hood, then acting out the part of Robin shooting arrows. It’s Mike Maltese at his best. Phoney Shakespearean English, puns, silliness and borrowing a catchphrase that was pretty well-known in 1961.

“What ho, Sheriff of Nottingham. ‘Tis I, Robin Hood. He, who robbeth from the richeth, and giveth to the pooreth. Hand over the gold. And the charger plates. Or thou shalt feel my sturdy bow and arrow, even.”

Ah, if Robin Hood were but alive today. To help the poor woodland creatures from the hunter’s gun. To assist ‘em, even. Whyyy not!

With bow and arrow. Toing! He’d rescue the frightened katydid. Or is it katy-didn’t? No matter. The forest will re-vertebate with the sound of his toinging arrows. Toing, toing, toing! And again. Toing! The hunter will be put to rout. Scram, even. And the cheery chipmunk could one-st again chip amongst us. Unfrayed. Et cetera, et cetera.


“Whyyy not!” was the exclamation by Dayton Allen during character sketches on The Steve Allen Show (as an aside, Allen was a cartoon voice actor himself, playing Heckle and Jeckle and numerous other characters at the Terrytoons studio from the ‘30s into the ‘50s).

(A side-note: Hanna-Barbera had a character in development named Toing Tiger. One wonders if Maltese was responsible).

So Snagglepuss decides to be Robin Hood, don a green felt hat and a quiver of arrows, and help the less fortunate. Naturally he comes up on the losing end. First he tries to save some ducks from a hunter (“Come back, little ducks! Returneth thou hence. Thou art safe now. Robin Hood sayeth so”). The ducks think he’s a hunter, steal his bow and arrows and attack him with them. Then he unexpectedly crashes into an elephant in a tree and decides to ensure the pachyderm (Wadsworth, by name) isn’t forced at gunpoint to return to the zoo. The enthusiastic, hero-worshipping elephant is reminiscent of Maltese’s Quick Draw McGraw cartoon “Elephant Boy Oh Boy.” In the end, the huge beast crushes Snagglepuss, who asks for asylum in said zoo.

Other than the dialogue, there’s nothing really outstanding in the cartoon. Art Lozzi was responsible for the backgrounds; the blue tree trunks give it away. There’s a pan over a background to open the cartoon.


Another from later in the cartoon.


Walt Clinton handled the layouts and incidental character designs. As John Kricfalusi reminds you, look for the low ear. That means it’s more than likely a Clinton layout. The elephant is attractively designed, too.



The animation is by veteran Hicks Lokey. He gives Snagglepuss an odd chin design in one profile shot.



Let’s give you another endless cycle. Here are the ducks (one is named Charlie) running away with Snagglepuss’ bow and arrows. There are three drawings of wings shot on twos, meaning the cycle takes six frames (nothing else is animated). Story director Art Davis has timed the cycle so the ducks need 12 frames to pass the same trees in the background. This is a little slower than the animation in the cartoon.



Other Snagglepuss dialogue nuggets:
● “The Audu-Bon-Bon Society shall hear of this, forthwith and to wit!” (after the ducks snatch the bow and arrows).
● There’s a “Heavens To Murgatroyd,” “Heavens to peanuts,” “Heavens to submarines” and “Heavens to mashed potaters!” (just before the elephant lands on him).
● “Exit, merrie as ever, stage left!” “Exit, forsooth, stage left!” “Exit, fractures and all, stage left!” “Exit, upside-downee, stage right.”
● “Hark! ‘Tis the voice of a lark in yon bark!” (after hearing a cry for help in a tree).

Daws Butler, Don Messick and Doug Young all provide voices in this cartoon with familiar themes from Hoyt Curtin.

13 comments:

  1. “ So Snagglepuss decides to be Robin Hood, don a green felt hat and a quiver of arrows, and help the less fortunate. Naturally he comes up on the losing end.”

    How is this really different from any Loopy De Loop cartoon? Only Loopy would just be his charming Samaritan-self, rather than adopt a Robin Hood affectation. He’d still get shot by the zoo-keeper, crushed by the elephant, and run off at the end. Indeed, Maltese could probably have written the exact same cartoon for Loopy! Perhaps he even did…

    As with most of you, I certainly think Snagglepuss is the better character – and definitely has the better dialogue, but I’ll never truly understand the (in my view, undeserved and disproportionate) disdain for Loopy. Especially, having seen The Good Wolf’s body of work on the recent DVD collection.

    To me, anything from Hanna-Barbera, pre-1965, is part of a great golden age where everything was nicely-designed, well-voiced, and exhibited wonderful all-ages humor.

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    1. I agree with Joe's assessment of Loopy de Loop and the other wonderful early H-B creations. My personal choice, however, would encompass up to about 1969 to include "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Alice in Wonderland," and the "Huckleberry Finn" series. Also the HBR record albums. I would call those "nicely-designed, well-voiced, and all-ages humor." The late 60's H-B product still had a degree of edge to it (not universally but here and there at least).

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    2. You've answered your own question, Joe. Snagglepuss has the better dialogue. By this stage at Hanna-Barbera, if you had lousy dialogue, you didn't have much. Loopy had lousy dialogue.
      If you take away Snagglepuss' florid chats to himself in this cartoon you're left with two acts that eventually get to violence punch-lines, and a cartoon that ends because it runs out of time. That describes far too many HB short cartoons after the studio started concentrating on prime-time. They're not really great, but they succeed in likeability and at times rise above it.

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    3. The other thing about Loopy was he was Hanna-Barbera's first 'high-concept' character -- i.e. he wasn't just a dog, or a bear, or even a horse in the Old West; Loopy was a wolf, but where wolves were always portrayed as bad, he was the good wolf, but perpetually misunderstood. It was a far more limiting personality than Snagglepuss, who could be in a role Loopy could do, or he could be the snarky adversary to Quick Draw and Major Minor, or he could also be the naive foil as in a few other cartoons.

      The Coyote would have been a little less beloved if all he had done was chase the Road Runner -- the ability of Jones and Maltese to expand his personality by battling Bugs or vary the gag options by making him into a wolf battling a near-motionless sheepdog gave Mike far more leeway to write. With Loopy, even if Maltese had written every episode, the high concept of the character locked him in too much to a set story line to be as good as most of the 'Original 9' characters in Bill & Joe's TV comedy shorts.

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  2. Another catchphrase that Snagglepuss used occasionally (as here) was "Et cetera et cetera" popularized by the character of King Mongkut as portrayed by Yul Brynner in "The King and I"

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    1. "What does 'et cetera, et cetera' mean in Japanese? 'Sucker'?"

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  3. Maltese may have had a few leftover thoughts on the pride of Sherwood Forest from 1958's "Robin Hood Daffy" that didn't fit into that picture but made the cut here.

    (Allen would get to use his own catch-phrase at Terrytoons, in the Deputy Dawg series that came out roughly at the same time as this cartoon debuted.)

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  4. We also get a "Whyyy not?" from the butcher in The Flintstones episode , "The Snorkasaurus Hunter".

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    1. And from Barney in 'At The Races.'

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    2. And from one of the "Boo Birds" in the early 60s Beany/Cecil cartoon "The Boo Birds", and also Poinedexter in another early 6s TV cartoon, Felix the Cat, in one of the outer space episodes..SC

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  5. The Fleischer's feature Mr. Bug Goes to Town contained a song, "Katy Did, Katy Didn't".

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  6. Hicks Lokey is an expert at drawing cartoon elephants, having animated the Pink elephants on parade in Dumbo.

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  7. "And to think I had to leave the flea circus for this jazz." I don't know why but that line always creases me!

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