Saturday, September 19, 2015

Snagglepuss in Legal Eagle Lion

Only the hammy Snagglepuss could build himself into such a ridiculous situation that he not only becomes the presiding judge in the trial of a Western bank robber, he assumes the identities of almost everyone else needed for a court hearing. In the end he becomes his own worst enemy. And the terminology of the legal system was something perfect for writer Mike Maltese to play around with.

In order to don all those roles, Snagglepuss does a lot of zipping around. That means a lot of brush lines. The painting department at the Hanna-Barbera studio kept busy on this cartoon. Some examples...



The animator in this cartoon is veteran Jack Carr. He was born in Manhattan on June 23, 1901 to James J. and Alice (Boland) Carr. He began his career drawing comic strips for the New York Globe before going into the animation business in 1924. According to his obit in the Los Angeles Times, he worked on the silent Felix the Cat shorts. Carr got a job with the Mintz studio and moved West with it in 1930. He jumped from Mintz to Lantz to Warners in a few short years and purportedly was the voice of Buddy in the Warners cartoons (Variety noted in 1936 he was doing cartoon “vocal effects”). By the end of the decade, Carr began a long career at MGM, much of it apparently as an assistant animator as he was only credited on screen in the mid ‘40s in the George Gordon unit and toward the end of the studio’s life in the later ‘50s. Somewhere along the way, he had a spell at Disney. In November 1967, Weekly Variety reported Carr became first employee in 10-year history of Hanna-Barbera Prods. to retire under Motion Picture Pension Fund. Carr died in Los Angeles on August 3, 1974.

Carr uses the same kind of mouth movements as Ken Muse. You can see the characters have a little half row of upper teeth and a small tongue that flips around. But there’s something about it I just can’t explain that’s different than Muse’s work.

Snagglepuss emotes forth with one of his soliloquys. The situation is this. Bank robber Fowler Means and his crooked lawyer Ornery Cuss have used their guns to intimidate everyone to get out of town, thus stopping Means’ trial (“sudden lead poisonin’,” Means calls it). Included is the circuit judge, who takes refuge from the flying bullets in Snagglepuss’ cave. Sayeth the mountain lion:

Who slammeth my door and disturbeth my slumber? Mayhap an errant breeze, mayhap. (Looks down). But ho! Beneath my sleepin’ pad, a pair of boots belongin’ to a sneakin’ cad. Come out! Emerge, even!
More dialogue from this sequence.
Judge: Don’t shoot! I’m the circuit judge.
Snag: A short circuit judge.
Judge: It can get mighty dangerous out there dispensin’ justice.
Snag: Ah! If I were judge, no criminal the law would smudge.
Judge: Why not? You could take my place and split the fee.
Snag: It would be an honour to be a “your honour.”
Maltese pulls a beautiful pun. Snagglepuss is sworn in, goes into town and introduces himself to Means and his lawyer. “I’m the new circuit judge,” he declares. “Have robe, will gavel.”

Judge Snagglepuss now conjures a stream-of-consciousness routine where he invents people needed for the trial to proceed, baffling Means and Cuss in the process. He quickly becomes the prosecuting attorney who, needing a witness, instantly becomes Zelda Scrubbinbrush, the cleaning lady at the bank (Daws Butler uses his Tilly Schimmelstone voice from the Flintstones episode “The Little White Lie” as a great comic tuba cue plays in the background). No sooner does “she” smash an umbrella on the head of Cuss when he objects to the testimony, than Snagglepuss turns into Zelda’s nephew, Wild Bill Hickory Stick, “the fastest draw in the West...or East, even!”

A great sequence follows where Means tries to insult Hickory Stick into a gunfight, but Snagglepuss keeps finding excuses not to do draw a gun. “And I’ll bet she makes terrible apple pan dowdy,” growls Means. “Cain’t draw on that,” replies Snagglepuss. “Most obnoxious apple pan dowdy in the West.”

The two bad guys approach Snagglepuss from either side. Maltese now tosses in one of those fast-talking situation changes he’d pull off in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. He starts giving instructions like the two are dueling and they follow along, They catch on. Suddenly, Snagglepuss resumes being the judge and orders Means from his court, not realising what he just did until he returns to the stand in the next scene. Snagglepuss decides to become the accused, who is convicted by the jury, all duplicates of Means, then returns to the bench and sentences himself to 99 years. The cartoon ends with Snagglepuss bolting from the courthouse and running along Dick Thomas’ Western plain, with rose-coloured buttes and yellow and orange dirt. Carr’s run cycle is pretty basic. Six drawings, one for each frame. Means’ feet are in the exact same position during a run cycle earlier in the cartoon. Unfortunately, I can’t create an endless cycle for you. The background begins repeating after the 16th drawing. Six doesn’t go into 16 evenly.



That background is in the opening scene (the sign is on an overlay). Thomas has another desert scenario in the background when the judge runs into Snagglepuss’ cave (on two overlays). The horse disappears from the cartoon after the first shot.



As you might expect, there’s a “Heavens to Murgatroid!” as well as a “Heaves to Habeas Corpus!” and three “Exit, stage left”s.

Art Davis is the story editor, Lance Nolley is the layout artist. There are only four characters in the cartoon (other than the identical jurors); Don Messick is Ornery Cuss while Butler plays Snagglepuss, the judge and Means.

Production R-60.
Camera: Norm Stainback.
Filmed: July 20, 1961.

10 comments:

  1. I've asked this before but got no response. Seriously, guys and gals, exactly how did the cell painters do the "zips"? Did they lay down paint and then swipe with a paper towel or was the process more controlled than that? Thanks.

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  2. This is exactly why, to this day, I wish there were more Snagglepuss cartoons!

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  3. The painting process for "zips" was called "dry brush". The painter usually paints on the back of the cel, but most "dry brush" effects were done on top, the same side as the ink lines, called "surfacing" in the trade. The watercolor brush is dipped in cel vinyl paint with as little water as possible, then applied to the surface of the cel as directed by the animator's pencil drawings. "Dry Brush" technique allows for some transparency and translucency in the colors, allowing a sort of double exposure without having to do it in camera. The "zip out" brush lines are almost always the same color as the character that's exiting stage right or stage left. The heavy amount of paint causes a dry texture at the end of the stroke as the brush is dragged quickly across the surface of the cel. Does that help?

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  4. Don Parmele, ex of Hanna-Barbera, explains:
    The "Zip" lines are dry brush. You have paint on the brush and you keep stroking it on say a cloth or paper towel until it doesn't have a full load of paint in the bristles. It's "dry". When applied to a cell, it paints a broken streak of a line. It took pratice to apply it properly, but it was a stock and trade technique of cell painters.

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  5. There may not be a lot of them, but all of the Snagglepuss series proper has been released on DVD, so we can enjoy them over and over again. The idea behind this one might also have workec with Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, but it would have had an entirely different feel to it. At their best, the Hanna-Barbera TV shorts invented their own sort of half radio comedy/half slapstick style of humor, and Daws Butler's spirited voice work really helped make it work.

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    1. Thinking of the 50s, Jones' Bugs would never make the gaffe that ends the cartoon, and the Jones' Daffy would never competently pull off all the roles. A late 40s Freleng Daffy might have worked in the story as written.

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  6. Judge: Why not? You could take my place and split the fee.

    SNAG: Mmm, split fee soup! I shall enjoy a pot in the judge's chambers. Whereabouts do you keep the judge's chamberpot? On second thought - third and fourth thought, even - I withdraw the question. Some take-out will do nicely .I'll just order a light lunch - a dozen pizzas should suffice. Away I go - running up the court's expense account all the way - stage left!

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  7. Thank you, Mark Kausler and Don Parmele, for your kind responses to my question.

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  8. Hmm..this is one Snagglepuss cartoon that I don't momentarily recall seeing like many of the others...very funny.

    Apple Pan Dowdy was referred to in the novelty song by (very left-field given the performer who did the song) Stan kenton (who later left those kind behind) w/June Christy and most fittingly, Guy Lombardo (source for the latter: Joel Whitburn, POP MEMORIES, 1890-1954, published in 1986 by Record Research,Memonowee Falls,Wis.):"Shoo Fly Fly, Apple Pan Dowdy".Looks delicious.:)SC

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  9. The gag of a defendant being acquitted by a jury of lookalikes was also used by Warren Foster in 1946 in DAFFY DOODLES, Robert McKimson's first directed cartoon.

    Fowler Means bears a resemblance to the Durn and Gooden Meany, who plagued Quick Draw McGraw in two of his cartoons. Daws uses the same voice for whichever of the Meany Brothers he portrayed.

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