Saturday, September 5, 2015

Yakky Doodle in Duck Seasoning

The origins of Yakky Doodle can be found in a 1950 Tom and Jerry cartoon called “Little Quacker.” He’s actually a good character in that short. He’s sympathetic. He hatches and Tom tries to turn him into roast duck without deserving any ill fate. But in later shorts he got self-pitying about his orphaned state and bawled constantly to get someone to give him a home.

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera liked the character, so when they started their own studio, they put the duck in several cartoons. It was the same old thing. He was a user in “Slumber Party Smarty” (1958), playing the sympathy card to have Yogi Bear take him in, then selfishly ignoring a kind request to remain quiet (Yogi ends up leaving while the clueless duck wonders why).

In September 1960, Kellogg’s had announced it would sponsor a half-hour, early-evening, syndicated cartoon series featuring Mr. Magoo, similar to the half-hours it was sponsoring that were fronted by Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw. But UPA, the studio behind Magoo, pulled out of the deal. Kellogg’s needed something fast. Hanna-Barbera was ready. Yogi Bear had pretty much eclipsed Huckleberry Hound as the studio’s No. 1 star—so he got his own show. To fill the rest of the half hour, Hanna and Barbera pulled out two characters that had been used as supporting players—Snagglepuss, and the duck, at the time named Iddy Biddy Buddy.

His name got changed but he still exhibited some of the same traits. He still pulled guilt trips, faking how he’d freeze to death if he wasn’t able to mooch a home. He whined about being an orphan. Fortunately, writer Mike Maltese realised there were very few laughs to be mined with a star that was a pest, so he eliminated a lot of the negativity and put the comedy in the mouths of villains. Maltese came up with Fibber Fox, then Tony Benedict, who spelled off Maltese on the series, spoofed Alfred Hitchcock Presents by creating Alfie Gator, right down to the silhouettes and character outline. Daws Butler doesn’t do a Hitchcock impression, but he evokes Hitch with an English-esque accent punctuated by heavy breaths.

(As an aside, something else that helped Yakky was his voice. The earlier duck had been voiced by nightclub performer Red Coffey/Coffee whose imitation Donald Duck delivery was sometimes stiff and undecipherable. Children’s entertainer Jimmy Weldon won the Yakky role; he had a duck puppet character on his popular local Los Angeles TV show. Weldon was a great choice. Compared to Coffey, his diction was much clearer and his line reading more enthusiastic).

This lengthy introduction brings us to the cartoon “Duck Seasoning.” Benedict wrote this one and it’s one of the best in the series. It’s a two-character cartoon, Yakky and Alfie. Yakky isn’t constantly crying for his dog friend, Chopper, to bail him out of trouble. Yakky takes care of Alfie himself. His independence is refreshing.

Alfie keeps up a steady stream of patter to the viewers, just like Hitchcock addressing the audience in his show. He is revealed after entering in silhouette and, again like Hitchcock, wishes us a “good evening.” And he tells us there will be brief pause before fading out, then welcomes us back when the next scene fades in; Hitchcock used the same device for commercial breaks on his show. I didn’t watch Hitchcock when I was 6 but I still got the reference when I saw these cartoons for the first time (thanks to station promos that ran during daytime hours). Best of all, Hoyt Curtin composed a tune reminiscent of the well-known Hitchcock theme Funeral March of a Marionette. It fit perfectly.



Here’s the opening dialogue. Tony had a good ear for the Hitchcock format; Hitch would explain what was about to unfold for viewers.

Alfie: Good evening. (Breathes). Welcome to Roast Duck Season. You are about to witness the decline and fall of a duck (breathes) at the hands of Yours Truly.
Roast duck under glass is a must for any cultured gourmet. (Breathes) I shall attract the main course with this ingenious dinner bell (breathes) known as a “duck call.”
(Alfie blows duck call four times)
Yakky: Quack quack?!?
Alfie: For my next number (breathes), I shall play the ballad “The Duck I Left Behind Me.”
(Alfie blows duck call twice)
Yakky: Sounds like some poor duck left behind me.
“What am I going to do with this rifle?” Alfie says, repeating Yakky’s question when the two finally meet. “Such bland naiveté would melt a heart of lesser stuff,” he tells us. Tony doesn’t give us a gag to end the scene; Yakky simply runs away after being fired on before a fade out.

Now a series of blackout gags follows, with Alfie commenting on each failure. In a way, it’s reminiscent of what Maltese did with Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius, in cartoons with Bugs Bunny. Alfie captures Yakky in a pot. “Modesty (breathes) forbids my pointing out the particular brilliance of the foregoing manoeuvre.” Yakky responds by bashing Alfie on the head with the pot. “Action (breaths) seems to speak louder than words. And, I might add, much harder.”

Alfie decides to shoot himself into the sky from a cannon to capture the duck. While he’s explaining his theory of flight to us from inside, Yakky plugs the mouth of the cannon with a rock. Kaboom.



Next, Alfie tries to send himself aloft through the force of a tree he is riding, and is about to cut loose after tying it to the ground. Crash! “I shall return in a moment (breathes) with renewed vigour and courage.” Return he does to use a rocket strapped on his back to “thrust me into the duck’s orbital trajectory.”

Unfortunately, the missile stops in mid-air and crashes back to Earth. “That is what is known in the missile industry as a (breathes) ‘successful failure,’” Alfie opines.



Yakky stops to rest on a tree branch. Alfie climbs it “with the finesse of a telephone lineman” (he even attached hobnails to his feet). Yakky simple chops down the tree. “For the laymen in the audience,” he remarks before the tree smashes to the ground, “timber means ‘look out’.”

“That forces me to accept the subtlest form of victory (breathes)—defeat,” he concludes and there’s a wipe to the next scene showing Alfie ordering a hot dog. “Naturally,” he confides, “the hot dog is somewhat below the dignity of a true gourmet, however (breathes) it’s never been known to retaliate by fighting back. So, if you’d excuse me, I shall say (breathes) goodbye.” And Alfie wanders off, leaving an outline of his head while Curtin’s faux marionette march plays.



Don Williams is the animator; there’s nothing distinctive about his work in this cartoon. Dan Noonan handled layouts while Bob Gentle was the background artist. This setting opens the cartoon over Daws Butler’s narration.


Tony Benedict hit on a good formula for this cartoon, or at least one I like. Yakky standing up for himself, no Chopper, lots of bad guy with self-commentary. With that, we wish you “Good evening.”

20 comments:

  1. As a child, I never "got" these cartoons featuring Alfie Gator. The references to Alfred Hitchcock Presents went over my head, as it was a show my parents never watched, or at least they never watched it with children present. The character's demeanor is mostly charming and pleasant, so I never understood why he would do a mean thing like try to catch Yakky for food. I much preferred the cartoons with Fibber Fox and Chopper.

    As an adult, I find these Alfie Gator outings a refreshing change of pace, and I can now appreciate the Alfred Hitchcock spoof. I recently re-watched the Yogi Bear Show in its entirety and got a lot more out of the Yakky cartoons (generally my least favorite of the three offerings). If you watch Alfie's appearances in sequence, there is a slight continuity. He even teams up with Fibber Fox in one cartoon.

    But here's the real puzzler...suppose Alfie did manage to catch Yakky and eat him? The little quacker would not even make a mouthful for an alligator and he would still be hungry. Maybe then his appetite might turn to foxes?

    The gator goes through an awful lot of punishment to obtain what would amount to a mere fraction of a meal. Oh, well, skewed logic is part of what cartoons are all about.

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    1. Perhaps a duck dinner is thought to be tasty, so much that even the smallest portion is enjoyable. It's sure better than Gabby Gator wanting to eat a woodpecker.

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  2. Years later, in 1995, Bill Hanna would reuse the basic concept of the Yakky Doodle cartoons in a short for Cartoon Network titled "Hard Luck Duck." Like Yakky, Hard Luck Duck is pursued by a fox. Unlike in the Yakky cartoons, an alligator is Hard Luck Duck's protector, à la Chopper.

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    1. That was part of ''The What Cartoon Show''.

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  3. Believe you mean September 1960 for the date above. Yogi and Magoo's programs were already airing by then.

    I think Alfie was one of those H-B supporting characters that really should have starred in his own series of TV cartoon shorts. With The Flintstones' "Alvin Brickrock Presents", and "The Last Hungry Cat" from WB in the same year, the impetus was certainly there for a Hitch-inspired animated series.

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    1. "...already airing by then", meaning September 1961.

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    2. Yes, TCJ. Thanks for catching the typo. Yogi was announced Oct. 60 and aired at the end of Jan. 61.

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  4. For what it’s worth, Alfie Gator has always been my favorite of the non-starring, secondary H-B characters!

    Tony Benedict did wonders in spoofing the wonderful framing sequences of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents”, of which I *was* aware back in the day! Indeed, Tony is unjustly underrated as an animation writer. I feel he was one of the best, particularly with the sort of verbal humor I enjoy, and try to employ in my own writing. Alfie is a perfect example of this.

    Yakky Doodle was a character who certainly benefited from his villains. Fibber Fox and Alfie Gator were the best parts of any Yakky cartoon. This is clearly evident when viewing any cartoon in which they did not appear. It’s a shame that Alfie came along late in the run, and was limited to only a few appearances. If memory serves, two with Yakky alone, and one each with Chopper and Fibber Fox.

    If I may be allowed to momentarily dream, I would love to write the first Alfie Gator appearance in comic books - and to write early H-B characters in general. It’ll never happen, of course – but, then again, I never imagined I’d ever have the opportunity to write UNCLE SCROOGE!

    So, hope, as they say (Breathes), springs eternal… as do these words from… Our Sponsor (Breathes).

    Getting back to writers… Assuming we all concede that Michael Maltese and Warren Foster were the best who ever lived, where do we rank the others? And, I mean BEFORE the modern-era that would include Animaniacs, The Simpsons, etc.

    I’d cite Tony Benedict, John Dunn, and Bob Ogle (just to limit my list to three, and from different places) as being writers whose reputations should be greater than they are. What do you all think?

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    1. I'd agree with you on Tony Benedict, John Dunn, and, perhaps to a lesser degree, Bob Ogle. I know Yowp hates it, but I think "Casper's First Christmas" (which Ogle wrote) is a nice, heartwarming story with a great message -- perfect for the Christmas season. (Though I agree with Yowp that the Yogi Christmas comic book story he posted last December would have made -- and, for that matter, would still make -- for an even better Hanna-Barbera Christmas special.)

      Besides those three, I would add Mark Evanier, Glenn Leopold, and Fred Freiberger.

      Evanier, especially for his work on "Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo" -- yes, I actually like Scrappy-Doo.

      Leopold, especially for his work on "The Smurfs" and "The Pirates of Dark Water." I'll probably get "boos" from most of the readers of this blog, but I really enjoy "The Smurfs." I think that show was the funniest show Hanna-Barbera had produced in a very long time, perhaps since "The Flintstones." I love the hilarity that results from the interaction of such drastically different personalities. It kind of reminds me of the relationship between Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.

      As to Freiberger, I'll probably get "boos" for this too, but earlier this year, I watched several episodes of "Sealab 2020" for the first time. (I'm young, so, unfortunately, I didn't grow up on Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Fortunately, I've gotten hooked on H-B cartoons and H-B history, thanks to the magic of the Internet.) And you know what? I LOVE "Sealab 2020." Quite possibly the most underrated H-B property. An imaginative premise, balance between adult and child characters, surprisingly strong personalities (I get a real kick out of the homesick scientist gone crazy in "Green Fever"), and surprisingly good animation considering the era in which the show was made (the design of Sealab itself is spectacular).

      Don't get me wrong. I agree with Yowp and most other commenters on this blog that the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons are the very best, but there were still a few gems after 1966.

      I hope you get your chance to write early H-B characters. I would love to see it happen; these properties deserve FAR more exposure than they get these days. You should get in touch with other writers that have ties to Warner Bros. Who knows? They may be able to help make your dream come true. After all, there are signs that Warner Bros.'s neglect of its H-B properties is ending. Warner Bros. has recently made new "Flintstones" and "Jonny Quest" direct-to-video movies, and obscure H-B characters have made appearances in some of the newer Scooby-Doo productions. In the realm of comics, DC Comics is currently producing a series called "Scooby-Doo Team-Ups," in which Mystery Inc. teams up with the Flintstones, the Jetsons, and the Quest team, among others.

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    2. Sergio:

      As intended, there would be no “boos” in response to my question about writers – only interesting and varied responses. And your response does indeed vary from my own, as your fondness for post ‘60s H-B product similarly varies from my own. But, that’s what makes comment threads great!

      Believe me, script-writing for the current American Disney comic books is a lifelong dream come true, and an experience I hope never ends but, if there was ever another group of characters I wanted to become involved with, it would be the early H-B characters.

      Anyone who might read my Blog knows of my great fondness for the SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP title – as seen HERE, and in numerous other posts. I have the greatest admiration for its writer Scholly Fisch, for the way he deftly handles the Scooby characters and the wide variety of “guest stars” from DC Comics and Hanna-Barbera, and the great amount of “affectionate fannish humor” he injects into his stories. Alas, beyond SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP, there doesn’t seem to be much room for classic H-B character comic books anymore.

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    3. Tony Benedict fits in seamlessly. He completely understood the characters.
      Other people who wrote cartoons? This is tough because by the start of the 70s, the writers started being told "There can't be violence. He can't have a gun. Tom and Jerry can't hit each other. Put an environmental message in here." I feel sorry for writers with one or two hands tied behind their backs. I'm sure someone like Cal Howard could write funnier stuff than what he was giving Lantz and Warners, who had one eye on future TV airings and didn't want expensive editing.
      I absolutely love George Atkins and the guys who worked for Jay Ward. Irv Spector wrote some nice theatricals (but the less said about 'Corn on the Cop', the better). Jack Mendelsohn has his fans. And Tedd Pierce wrote funny cartoons before he petered out in the '50s.
      (Waves at Dale Hale, who may be reading).

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    4. Tedd Pierce goes without saying, as he was the “third” of Warner’s “Big Three” and, in my view, not quite as outright “underrated” as the others I’d mentioned. But George Atkins is very much deserving of bigger props than he has gotten.

      Oddly, now that I think about it, perhaps Tony Benedict was the “Tedd Pierce of Hanna-Barbera”, playing third fiddle to the same two guys that Pierce did! How ‘bout that!

      And yeah… Pity those poor seventies and eighties folks. Small wonder their names don’t immediately come to mind in such a discussion.

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    5. Joe:

      I didn't intend to slight your job as a writer of Disney comic books. I hope you didn't take my comment that way. Writing Disney comics, especially Disney Duck comics, is an honor and a privilege.

      It's a shame the Disney Duck comics are not more well-known in the United States. As it happens, I only own one issue of "Uncle Scrooge," but I love that issue and it is one of my most prized possessions. It's got to be at least thirty years old; at least one of the stories in it is by Carl Barks. Though I read and enjoyed a few comic books as a kid, I only just recently got seriously interested in comic books, thanks to the comic book club at my college. The other day, I mentioned to the club president that it would be great if the club could acquire some "Uncle Scrooge" comics. Sadly, he had never even heard of "Uncle Scrooge" comics! I should show him your blog, which I have got to start visiting more often. Maybe I can convince him to buy some of your own comics. From what I have seen of your blog, your comics are hilarious; you are an excellent writer.

      Thanks for sharing the link to your piece on the Scooby-Doo/Flintstones team-up. It looks great! I first heard of the Scooby-Doo Team-Ups title a few months ago, but actually have yet to read any of the books. I was a bit skeptical, but nonetheless very happy that at least classic H-B characters were getting exposure. But I needn't have been skeptical. Scholly Fisch and Scott Jeralds did a superlative job. It is a very loving, convincing tribute to classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

      I, too, wish there was more space for classic H-B comic books. I often wonder how much exposure the classic H-B characters would have today if Ted Turner hadn't sold his company to Time Warner, which already had so many iconic properties between Looney Tunes and DC Comics. Surely they would have more exposure than they do today. In 1994, Joe Barbera told the Los Angeles Times, “Ted Turner didn’t pay $320 million for these characters to have them shunted aside.” Yet, “shunted aside” pretty much sums up what happened to all the H-B properties except Scooby-Doo in the 2000s. I can only imagine how disappointed Barbera must have felt in the final years of his life.

      But I'm absolutely delighted that stuff like "Scooby-Doo Team-Ups" is being made. It's a start. If you look at how much Hanna-Barbera stuff WB is making today compared to six or seven years ago, it's pretty clear that they are doing far more now than they were then. It would be great to see, at bare minimum, one non-Scooby H-B story a month in the “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” title.



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    6. My criteria for ranking my favorite cartoon writers are how entertaining their output is to this day.

      David Detiege would rank on my list of favorite writers. His earliest credits include the hilarious Humphrey Bear shorts at Disney. He then joined his partner crime John Dunn at Warner Bros and later at De-Patie Freleng, where he scripted a majority of the Daffy and Speedy’s, Ant and The Aardvark, Panthers, and The Inspector.

      John Dunn is most impressive as he scripted shorts for all three directors upon the departure of Maltese and Foster for H-B. He wrote a good chunk of the De-Patie Freleng cartoons from start to finish. From the beginning I liked how zany the cartoons he wrote, especially at DFE.

      What is a good sign of a great writer such as the ones you have listed is there diversity to write both dialogue driven and pantomime series. Their creativity shines through the shorts they crafted. They wrote many entries for a given series simultaneously maintaining the quality. I look at the crop of work of a writer in baseball circles by comparing the number of hits to misses. Detiege, Dunn, Maltese, Benedict, Foster were masters at the art of a gag.

      Would not “THE SIMPSONS” writers be a separate category as most of them had written live-action shows previously? The current crop of animation writers would definitely include the late Earl Kress, Mark Evanier, Floyd Norman, Tom Reugger, and Scott Shaw!.

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    7. Sergio:

      Thank you for the kind words! And, no… I never felt you were slighting my Disney writing.

      More that MY OWN expressed desire to work with early H-B characters might be seen as doing so. I am having the time of my life writing for Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse – and the reactions indicate that folks are enjoying those efforts. Just wish I could somehow throw Huck and Yogi into that mix as well.

      And, to retain ties to Yowp’s original post, I would LOVE to write Alfie Gator! Unlike Fibber Fox, Alfie did not appear in the Silver Age Dell and Gold Key comics, that remain the standard for H-B characters in comic books – certain modern products from DC Comics like SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP excepted.

      Look forward to seeing you (and anyone here) at my Blog – and apologies to Yowp for the “plug” on his dime!

      And, Adel… THE SIMPSONS is a matter of interpretation that can go either way. I view it as: “How would I categorize The Flintstones, Top Cat, and The Jetsons?” But, you can just as easily categorize it with live-action sitcoms.

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  5. There may be no series more defined in its success by its secondary guest-star bad guys than Yakky's series was at H-B.

    People remember Alfie and Fibber, but not much that Yakky actually did in the series other than "Help, Chopper! Help!". The things he's remembered for in general are more connected to his Tom & Jerry origins and to his earlier uses on the Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw shows.

    (Also it's interesting that Alfie came out pretty much at the same time that Friz Freleng, John Dunn and Dave Deteige over at Warners were dreaming up "The Last Hungry Cat" which also plays with the Hitchcock narration. The main difference is Benedict made Alfie a central part of the story, while in the Warners' effort, Hitchcock is only used as the narrator, other than the bonk on the head he takes from Sylvester at the finish.)

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  6. Thanks for the article, Yowp. In the 1970s, they'd show Yakky Doodle with Fibber Fox/Chopper except for one dealing with a farm horse that was a solo (and had that, eh, yech quacking open..)..but no Alfie.
    \
    \In the later 70s-80s, the Alfie shorts surfaced, making more Yakky shorts shorts,,,

    J.Lee: Of course,it's known that yet another Hitchcock spoof in 1961 was on the "Flintstones"
    in the Alfred Hitchicock Presents episode (the generally obscure Elliott Field was Alfred in this one..Fred and Barney think Hitchcock's murdered his wife..)

    On Scooby team-ups..I'd like to see Scooby team up with Snoop and Blab and Snoop get immensely irraitated at Scoob and nag Blabber to take care of him or "
    i'll return Scoob to his owner"...(of course S&B came from Quick Draw who, with his buddy Baba had Snuffles, who shared Scooby-Doo's reliance on snack as an incentive..wonder if a Quick Draw McGraw/Baba Looey/Snuffles team up with Scooby-Doo might be TOO hard to take for old Quick Draw..can yoiu imagine him having to feed TWO dogs..all of this would be comic book team ups that I would like to see..)

    But getting back to Yakky, how about the ultimate:
    Yakky and his whiny predecessor meeting..and Yakky urging his sad predecessor to cheer up, in a comic book..(that would be Elmer Fudd, the derby-wearing Egghead, and the toupee wearing Egghead, the two characters that were Elmer's forerunners all meeting up.LOL!)

    Again, thanks for another weekend review very well done (like how Fibber or Alfie would like Yakky!) SSC

    SC

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    1. I would LOVE to see Scooby team up with Snooper & Blabber, and with Quick Draw. Great ideas!!

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  7. I've always loved Daws Butler's Alfie voice.

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  8. Not only does Yakky take care of himself nicely in this cartoon, there's a hilarious moment when he imitates Alfy's tendency to take a deep breath in the middle of a sentence.

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