Saturday, February 6, 2016

Yakky Doodle – Judo Ex-Expert

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Harry Holt, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Art Davis, Titles – Howard Hanson, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig; Fibber Fox, Fernwood Fox – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Plot: Chopper helps Yakky convince Fibber that he’s a deadly judo expert.

Today’s lesson in cartoon dialogue:

Chopper: What’s the trouble, little feller? Fibber Fox after ya?
Yakky: Oh, no, Chopper. (Laughs). I wish he was.
Chopper: Ya wish he was? Why, Yakky?
Yakky: Because, Chopper, I am now a judo expert. Here’s my diploma from judo school to prove it.
Chopper: Your diploma from judo school?

What’s the matter with you, Chopper? Are you deaf? Why are you repeating everything?

This, in a nutshell, is one of the reasons Hanna-Barbera cartoons started going down the tubes. We all know Mike Maltese is a witty and talented writer of both dialogue and sight gags. Subjectively, he’s the best there ever was. Certainly, he’s my favourite. But either the workload or lack of inspiration sometimes gripped his cartoons. This is one of them. Maltese succumbs to the Little Sir Echo Syndrome, where characters repeat stuff for no comedic reason. Or they explain to the audience what they’re about to do, then they do it. Why? They’re padding for time. Padding usually isn’t very funny. And once the dialogue stops being funny, there isn’t a lot left in a TV cartoon.

What’s that you say, Chuck Jones, famous Warner Bros. director? “Pretty soon the plots of our cartoons showed up at Hanna Barbera”? Well, yes, yes, they did, though they’re not always exactly the same. “Judo Ex-Expert” may remind you of the Sylvester cartoon Tree For Two where Spike thinks Sylvester’s beating him up but it’s really a black panther that he doesn’t see due to different circumstances. And then there’s a Pixie and Dixie cartoon Strong Mouse where boss cat Gus thinks he and his mugs have handed their kitty butts handed to them by Pixie when it’s really Hercules, the world’s strongest mouse.

There are elements of both in this cartoon. Yakky thinks passing a mail-order judo course means he can take care of Fibber Fox any time with a double flip over his shoulder. “I’d better help the little feller,” says the observing Chopper, who grabs the fox by the tail and flips him. Naturally, Fibber thinks Yakky’s responsible for it. Apparently he can’t feel his tail being grabbed and pulled up.



Fernwood Fox comes along and is disgusted that Fibber is now afraid of a little duck. You’ve seen enough cartoons so you can accurately guess how the rest of the cartoon goes. (Trivia note: when Maltese first worked at the Leon Schlesinger studio, it was on the Warners lot at Fernwood and Van Ness).

Time for an endless run cycle past the same white house, red barn and red silo. It takes 24 frames for the background to repeat. The run is on six drawings, shot on twos. The mouth movements are on separate cels from the cycle because Chopper’s talking. Harry Holt, an ex-Disneyite, is the animator. I’ve slowed this down so you can see the movement of the background vs the drawings clearly.



When Yakky goes into the cave to a neat walk cycle with clenched fists to “beat up” Fibber and Fernwood, Holt gives him a neat little walk cycle with swinging clenched fists. I’d love to isolate it without the background and overlay (I’m technically inept and don’t know how to work Photoshop) but here are a couple of the posts.



For the record, here are Fernwood and Fibber. Neither are wearing pants, though Fibber’s sweater is longer so you don’t notice is as much.



Daws gives Fernwood a toned-down version of his punch-drunk Slapsy Maxie voice. You’ve heard it in a bunch of Fractured Fairy Tales for Jay Ward. Some of Jimmy Weldon’s grunts when Yakky is trying to flip the foxes are on a tape loop and are used over and over (does “flip the foxes” sound rude to you?).

I don’t have production numbers for the series but if the Yogi DVD release is to be accepted as a source, this was the last Yakky cartoon to air in first run. It wasn’t the best way to end the series, but judging by the comments people leave every time I post notes about Yakky Doodle, he’s still liked by a number of TV animation fans.

9 comments:

  1. This one's a guilty pleasure, because Jimmy Weldon's duck grunts spliced in a loop sound very funny! The more they repeat, the funnier they sound. Yakky is so tiny compared with the foxes he's trying to throw, that his situation seems even more ridiculous. Not a great cartoon, but it's still one of my favorite Yakkys.

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  2. Harry Holt's animation of Chopper running on twos encapsulates one of my pet peeves about H-B animation, running on twos, panning on ones. It gives the illusion of skating or slipping feet on the background. You wouldn't catch Ed Love animating on twos against a pan on ones, never! Harry Holt's daughter Renee, was an assistant animator on Roger Rabbit. She did some beautiful inbetweens for me on the Droopy sequence, building on her family tradition of animation. She really cared about the scenes and expertly handled the odd design of Droopy's cranium in a 3-D head turn. Her paw woulda been proud.

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  3. Maltese also copped a little bit of Warren Foster's idea here from "Hop, Look and Listen" (which Foster would reuse again with Bob McKimson a short time later), where a third character enters in the picture and is disgusted by the thought of the second character getting beaten up repeatedly by a smaller character (Sylvester being the victim of Hippety Hopper and McKimson's generic bulldog taking the place of Fernwood in those earlier cartoons

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  4. No Yakky cartoon with Fibber Fox, or especially Alfy Gator, could be all bad!

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  5. H-B's repeating dialogue contrivance was also used when it was felt that audiences would find a character's speech unintelligible (i.e. Astro and "The Certain Great Dane We Don't Talk About On This Blog")

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  6. I'm sorry, but what does "on twos" or "on ones" mean, exactly? You've used these terms on many a blog post, but I've never understood what they mean.

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    1. On ones = a fresh drawing every frame.
      On twos = a fresh drawing every other frame.

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  7. Problem with animating on twos and moving a background on twos, is that it creates a staggering effect that is uncomfortable to watch. Correct way to do it is to animate the character & background on ones. But we all know that these cartoons were produced for as little money as possible, so the ones had to go! It's unbelievable to think that it would have only required four more drawings for the run cycle and a bunch more mouth overlays for the lip sync.
    I'm sure Bill Hanna was very happy to let ol chopper slip and slide throughout that pan!

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