Saturday, 3 October 2015

Yakky Doodle in Nobody Home Duck

At Hanna-Barbera, circa 1960, the relationship between talking animals and humans varies depending on the types of characters we’re dealing with. Huckleberry Hound assumes the personality of a human adult, so he interacts with humans. Yogi Bear is kind of a hybrid. He acts like an adult, but he’s still a woodland creature. Because of his location and various plot devices, he has to interact with humans on their level.

Mr. Jinks is different. He’s a cat who lives in a house. It appears to be a world where cats own houses and get mail and phone calls. Therefore, he interacts with other talking animals. The only humans (with the exception of one cartoon, where he has an owner) he deals with are authority figures—Irish-accented police officers, mailmen, and so on.

The Yakky Doodle world is the same thing. Chopper has a dog house, which would make it evident he’s someone’s pet, but he and Yakky deal only with other talking animals, except for policemen, dog catchers and the occasional witch.

Oh, and an odd exception can be found in the cartoon “Nobody Home Duck.” Chopper’s owner shows up in this one and while he’s there to advance the story, he really does seem out of place. He even has little solid eyes (no whites) which looks odd. (To be honest, he looks to be modeled a bit on sketch artist Dan Gordon).

This cartoon shows why I dislike Yakky Doodle. First, there are no comic villains. No Fibber Fox, no Alfie Gator, no menacing stray cat. That means all the bad stuff ends up falling on Chopper, who doesn’t deserve any of it. Well, maybe he does for being dumb, considering he’s rooked in by yet another edition of Yakky’s pathetic “I’m going to die if you don’t let me live with you” routine. Hey, dog, it’s an act! It’s fake! The duck’s using you! Even the other characters in the cartoon see through it. Chopper’s owner doesn’t want Yakky, a chicken evicts him from a coop, a rabbit kicks him out of a hole and, finally, a gorilla won’t adopt him, choosing a dog instead.

Bob Bentley’s the animator in this one. We’re into 1961 Hanna-Barbera animation now where there’s not a lot of oomph to it; there’s just enough to get the point across. The great exaggeration drawings of Mike Lah in 1958 and George Nicholas in 1959 were but memories. Here are a couple of drawings of “what happens to a homeless duck in the wintertime,” as Yakky puts it, while Hoyt Curtin’s violins play in the background.



By the way, if winter-time is approaching, why does everything look so green in this cartoon? Shouldn’t it be fall? Look at Monte’s background drawing.



Even writer Mike Maltese seems like he’s padding in this one. For example, Chopper tries to pawn off Yakky on a rabbit, who boots the duck out of her hole. “I can see you’re not the mama type,” Chopper growls. Cut to a scene of a bunch of hopping rabbits exclaiming “Coming, mother.” The old breeding-rabbit joke is the punch line, but Maltese keeps on going having Chopper apologising. There’s nothing funny in it. All it does it eat up 12 seconds of screen time.



And Maltese drags out another old cartoon routine, the skunks-are-stinky bit, even when there’s no odour coming from their tail. It would have been nice to have the skunk come back with a witty remark after Chopper grabs Yakky away from her but, instead, the scene fades out with Chopper running away. I get the impression Maltese wasn’t inspired by Yakky a lot of the time; this was just another cartoon on the production schedule he had to turn out, so he churned it out.

To recap the plot: winter’s on its way (Vance Colvig as Chopper sings a little winter song overtop of a piano cue with a different melody but it works). Yakky enacts his death scene twice, Chopper demonstrates it once, Chopper’s owner suggests Yakky fly South for the winter. Yakky’s so pathetic he can only fly as far South as a sandbox two blocks away. Chopper decides to find him a home. That takes up a little more than the first half.

In the second half, Chopper puts Yakky in an egg and shoves it under a chicken. The chicken kicks him out (and a rooster with Daws’ Tilly Schimmelstone voice punches Chopper). There’s a neat piano cue at the start of the scene with a boogie woogie right hand. Then a skunk offers to take in the duck; Chopper scoops him away. A mama rabbit kicks him out.

Finally, Chopper tries to drop him off at the zoo with Mombo Mama, a gorilla who’s snivelling because her youngster was shipped to the St. Louis Zoo. But the animal wants Chopper as her new child instead of the duck, and the cartoon ends with Yakky living in Chopper’s dog house while Chopper’s dressed up as a baby being cradled by the gorilla (note the non-matched consecutive shots from scene to scene). Curtin plays “Rock-a-by Baby” to end the cartoon.



Tony Rivera is the layout artist, Lew Marshall is the story editor, Jimmy Weldon and Colvig play their regular roles while Daws Butler does the remaining miscellaneous voices (though I suspect he’s assisted by the others during the parade of the kid rabbits).

4 comments:

  1. Top Cat also featured a unique association between its feline cast and people in that all cats, not just T.C. and his gang, had the gift of speech, and were regarded as the equal of human beings. But all other species that appeared in the episodes ( anteater, chimp, dog, horse ), were portrayed more or less as "real" animals.

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  2. There's another Yakky Doodle short with human interaction - "Easter Duck", in which Yakky is purchased from a pet shop ( between this guy and Mr. Peebles, you have to feel sorry for H-B pet shop owners ) by a housecat-berating grandmotherly type.

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  3. I basically echo Yowp's feelings on Yakka Doodle though the one one-shot that I saw for years had him tyring to hide a horse named Charlie.

    top_cat_james, I saw that one (IF It's the one that I'm THINKING of) years ago and it MUST have been pre-Fibber Fox: this one had Daws Butler
    doing his Fibber Fox voice for a cat (borrowed from comedian Shelley Berman (a man for those not familiar) ) as he did for a catr for one Yakky set on a train.
    SC

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  4. It would have been funny at the end if Yakky had seen Choppy with the mother gorilla and Yakky would've laugh and said "Now ain't that cute" just like Choppy be saying in most episodes. And one blooper in one of the screen grabs is that Chopper has black ears instead of his white ears.

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