Saturday, 16 July 2016

Snagglepuss – The Roaring Lion

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Voice Cast: Tall Construction Worker, Snagglepuss, Sucker Kid, Irish Cop, Newsboy, Cheerleaders, Circus Truant Officer – Daws Butler; Mike, Dean, Housewife, Construction Worker, Cheerleader, Cheerleaders – Don Messick.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Hungry Snagglepuss goes to university to get food but ends up in a football game.

Sorry, Snagglepuss, this cartoon doesn’t do too much for me. Maybe I’m not suspending my disbelief enough. But if you’re really and truly hungry and you think a football is a meatball, why aren’t you trying to eat it? Then again, maybe writer Mike Maltese had a chewing-attempt gag in the cartoon that got cut out.

Or maybe I’m just “meh” over Lew Marshall’s work. Here’s what I mean. These two drawings are the beginning and end of a surprise take (there are a couple of scrunched-eyes in-betweens in the scene as well). It isn’t really much of a take, is it?



And to your right, you see the dean of POW University suddenly panicked after seeing his star football player is a mountain lion. Panic? All he does is stand there, then twirl around and leave. I don’t wish to denigrate Lew Marshall’s talent. He was a capable animator. But the studio’s short cartoons developed a churn-‘em-out quality in the early ‘60s with animation that could have been more interesting. (As a side note, all but the first few scenes are told in flashback. The Dean looks no younger in the flashback than he does at the start, even though it took place over 30 years earlier. He even has the same hat and shirt). And aren’t the Dean’s teeny legs a little too far back on his body?

The best part of the cartoon comes in the first half. I guess I should go through the storyline. Things start with a crew tearing down the university (one of the explosion crew workers is named Mike). The retired Dean looks on and reminisces about the time when the graduating class didn’t get their diplomas. Fade to a circus train pulling out of town. “Oh, would that I were free, unfettered and uncaged! ” declaims the caged Snagglepuss. “But hark! Or is it “herc”? The cage door is open. Ajar, even. What a chintzy outfit. Can’t even afford a lock.” So Snagglepuss escapes and eventually hears a newspaper boy’s cry about sheepskins at the university, whereat, and to wit, he shows up looking for a mutton dinner. Before that, Maltese engages in a series of gags where Snagglepuss unsuccessfully attempts to score anything resembling a meal. His sense of ridiculous dialogue carries things. The scene cuts to a shot of a pie cooling on a window ledge.

Snagglepuss: Heavens to Betsy! It’s a succulent melonberry pie. Or is it a razzen-huckle pie?
(Snagglepuss is hit by a broom from inside the home as he tries to grab the pie)
Woman: Keep your grimy paws off’n that cherry chitlin pie.
Why use the names of real fruit when you can use silly, made-up names?

Snagglepuss exits, hungry as ever, stage left. He spots a chubby kid noisily slurping on a sucker. “Heavens to Murgatroyd,” he says. “Let’s hope that urchin’s heart is as big as his mouth.” Daws Butler’s standard Irish cop shows up to stop Snagglepuss from trying to get one measly slurp of the kid’s sucker, but before that, I like how the kid is lifted up in mid-air, still sucking away. That’s one strong lollypop stick.

The latter routine ends with a fade-out of the cop-bashed Snagglepuss. Both scenes would have been better if Snagglepuss made some kind of crack at the end (eg. about getting the type of pie wrong), like Huckleberry Hound did so well, but Maltese moves on.



The second half begins with Snagglepuss disguised as a vo-de-oh-doe-ing college boy (with a raccoon coat) mistaken for the new football team halfback, with the story built on misunderstanding after misunderstanding. Snagglepuss doesn’t comprehend the sports of football. He thinks the football itself is an overripe meatball. He thinks the opponent Bayshore Rams are the “sheepses.” He thinks the college mascot goat is “a sheepses, with handles to hold like a lollypop.” The Rams keep running toward Snagglepuss, the goat butts the football-holding mountain lion over the goalposts for a touchdown, and the Don Messick cheerleader jumps, all in cycle animation used over and over.



Anyway, Snagglepuss wins the game, the Dean runs away (as mentioned above) and the scene cuts to Mr. Murgatroyd casually walking out of the university (see background drawing above) with stacks of diplomas; presumably he scared everyone off campus and just helped himself. He’s recaptured and put back on the train. “These sheepskins don’t taste like such a much,” he tells us. “But at least I’ll be the only lion in captivity with a PhD stomach.” He chomps away to Hoyt Curtin’s faux Dixieland music as the iris closes.

If the credits are correct, Bob Gentle is the background artist. The sketchy grass looks more like Dick Thomas’ work to me, to be honest, but I’ll accept the credits (Art Lozzi once mentioned the credits weren’t altogether accurate and he was credited on HB cartoons he didn’t work on).

5 comments:

  1. This is super. And "just in time for football season!" (Snorrre!!)

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  2. Cherry chitlin pie does not sound delicious.

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  3. Interesting how cheerleaders back in those days were guys.

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    1. Well, just college ones......(I have been a cheerleafder ten years ago for a sports clinic!) Don Messick or Daws Butler could have just as easily voiced female cheerleaders unless they wanted Julie Bennett or Jean Vanderpyl (or, had this been the following season, Janet Waldo), say, play a female cheerleader but even then it would be very briefly.



      I remember this cartoon, even some of the music.....Snagglepuss eats a football...well..it's pigskin!

      I also remember something non-Hanna-Barbera but kids TV 1960s nonetheless along this line:
      In 1969 McDonald's had a hungry Little Leaguer, a catcher, advised such by a certain CLOWN, EATING a BASEBALL!

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    2. I just found that the guy with the megaphone was a cheerleader!

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