Saturday, 2 July 2016

Yakky Doodle – Railroaded Duck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Bill Keil, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig; Cat, English Hunter, Baggage Checker, Joe, Old Lady, Conductor – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-11 (fifth Yakky in production).
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: A cat on board a train tries to catch Yakky Doodle.

Don’t let the cringe-worthy opening of this cartoon fool you. Yakky Doodle imitates a steam choo-choo train, and then Chopper imitates Yakky, opining to the audience: “Now, ain’t that cute!” No, it’s not. But the cartoon picks up from there, and turns into a funny little adventure thanks to the quick pace of the dialogue and action, and gags that seem familiar from old Warner Bros. cartoons (even if they aren’t). Daws Butler gives the cat the voice he’d already used for Fibber Fox (in Production R-7). And at the end, we learn why writer Mike Maltese put in the train-imitation at the start.

(One might wonder if the “chugga-chugga” that Yakky and Chopper engage in resulted in the creation the character of “Chugga-Chugga” the dachshund in the Magilla Gorilla cartoons, since he makes the same noise. Could be. Hanna-Barbera was borrowing from itself before Magilla appeared).

Bill Keil is the animator in this cartoon. Let’s post some of his drawings, accompanied by some top-notch brushwork from Hanna Barbera’s ink and paint department. You’ll notice in the case of the cat (third and fourth frames below), Keil didn’t use the same exit drawings in two difference scenes; he created entirely new animation.

Walt Clinton handled the layouts. As Mr. J. Kricfalusi, formerly of Ottawa, has informed us, Clinton designed a lot of his incidental characters with an ear at collar height. The conductor is an exception. Note his angular design.

There’s an inspired sequence where the cat keeps bashing Chopper on the head with a frying pan to knock him unconscious and Yakky continually tosses water from a bucket on him to wake him up again. The dialogue is quick (some of it below has been snipped).

Chopper: Hey! What’s going on?
(frying pan crashes on head, Chopper sleeps)
Cat: Go to sleep, pal. (giggles).
Yakky: Wake up, Chopper. Wake up. Don’t go to sleep now.
(splash; Chopper wakes up)
Chopper: Hrruhn? Is it time to get up?
Cat: No, it isn’t.
(frying pan crashes on head, Chopper sleeps)
Cat: I’ll call you when it’s time to get up, pal.
Chopper (while sleeping): Thanks, pal.
Yakky: It’s time, Chopper. Get up! Get up!
(splash; Chopper wakes up)
Chopper: Hey! How can I guy get any sleep around here?
Cat: Easy. When you hear the tone, it’ll be exactly beddy-bye time again.
(Yakky puts the bucket on Chopper’s head. The frying pan clobber has no effect).
Chopper: Hey, what did you hit me with, cat?
Cat: This.
(frying pan crashes on head, Chopper sleeps)
The chase moves into a passenger car, where Yakky disguises himself as a decoration in an old lady’s hat. Tweety did the same thing in at least a couple of Warners’ cartoons, including Bird in a Bonnet (1958). And, like Granny in the Sylvester/Tweety cartoons, the gag ends with the woman clobbering the cat with a handy umbrella. The fight is interrupted by the train conductor, who demands to see Chopper and the cat’s tickets. The two rush away and fool the conductor by pretending they are newspaper-reading passengers (wasn’t this used in a theatrical cartoon somewhere?) before resuming the chase.

The next gag is a variation of one from the Yowp cartoon Bare Face Bear (with Yogi Bear) and, before that, Tex Avery’s Ventriloquist Cat. The cat thinks it’s safely locked in his cat-cage and taunts Chopper, not realising the dog has lifted up the top of the cage and can easily grab him. The cat’s taunts slow down and then step as he realises his predicament. (A punch in the face ends the scene). There’s also another bit where Chopper rings the cat’s neck and Yakky rolls out on his tongue. Can you name a cartoon where you’ve seen that?

The cartoon ends with another well-worn gag; you can a similar one in the Sylvester/Tweety short All A Bir-r-r-d (1950). The characters are on top of the train but are knocked off it by a signal arm (usually, the gag involves a tunnel). How do they get to New York now? Simple. They imitate the sound of a train, just like Yakky and Chopper did at the outset of the cartoon. Chopper remarks to us again: “Now, ain’t that cute!” No, it’s not. But it provides a good head and tail to Maltese’s story, and that’s all that matters. It also gave Keil a chance to re-use some of his animation from earlier in the cartoon. To Bill Hanna, that mattered, too.

Some of Bob Gentle’s background work.

By the way, in this cartoon, Yakky is a “priceless Tasmanian duck” as opposed to a “rare Tralfazian duck” in the Snooper and Blabber cartoon De-Duck-Tives (1959) which featured the pre-Yakky version of the duck and was also written by Mike Maltese. The latter would have been funnier. And to the right, you see my favourite drawing of the cartoon. Ah, well. Maybe next time, cat.


  1. I love the artwork. It has more detail and polish than the usual H-B product.

  2. Nice drawings by Keil. But I always thought his animation was rather stiff.

  3. This cartoon partially reminds me of "All a Bir-r-r-d"(1950), another tweety/sylvester cartoon.