Saturday, September 24, 2016

El Ka-Ouch

We haven’t talked a lot lately about my favourite Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, Quick Draw McGraw, lately for a couple of reasons. One is all of his cartoons have been reviewed. The other is the series has never been, nor ever will be, released on home video. It means the copies of the cartoons I have are TV dubs with a low resolution and marred with bugs slapped on by cable channels. Removing the bugs is, frankly, too time consuming and not always very satisfactory.

But I want to do a short post involving El Kabong, Quick Draw’s possibly more inept alter ego inspired by writer Mike Maltese’s love of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. as Zorro. Maltese borrowed a few things from his old Warners days to round out El Kabong’s costume. Quick Draw changes into the wrong costume a few times; the same thing happened in Super Rabbit (1943, written by Tedd Pierce). And much like Robin Hood Daffy (1958, written by Maltese), El Kabong swings from a rope (attached to who knows what) only to bash into something instead of landing on his target.

Those cartoons were made back in the days of full animation. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, of course, engaged in what they liked to sell as “planned animation”, a silly term because no animation, by the late 1950s, was unplanned. There were at Hanna-Barbera times—and they increased as the years rolled on—where characters stood rigid as drawings of mouth positions moved across a face, or an arm lifted up and down in two or three positions. But there were other times when a character had to be drawn in full from frame-to-frame; in other words, full animation.

Here’s an example from El Kabong (1959). The animator is Lew Marshall, who was apparently Ray Patterson’s assistant at MGM in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. The villainous Don Chilada engages El Kabong in a sword duel (after assuring the good guy gets a stubby sword). Chilada stabs El Kabong in the butt. The reaction is done in full animation.

There are ten drawings. The first drawing is held for four frames for establishment. Marshall (from story director Alex Lovy or possibly Joe Barbera himself) staggers the timing on the remaining frames. The drawings are held for 2, 3, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2 and 3 frames respectively, judging by the copy of the cartoon I have. That’s a little under two seconds. Here are the drawings.



This is close to the speed the action plays out on the screen.



The drawings work fine for the way the gag is presented, but I don’t know why Quick Draw doesn’t stop and have a funny take that’s held for a few frames before taking off into the air. Tex Avery was a master of wild takes. Chuck Jones was a master of subtle ones. Bill Hanna could milk a take at MGM, too (ah, those Irv Spence scenes!). Nothing like that is tried here. Even in the previous season, Huckleberry Hound or Mr. Jinks would react to something and you could see the reaction before the character zoomed off screen or there was a cut to the next scene. To me, it’s a bit of a wasted opportunity to make the cartoon even funnier, though there was never anything wrong with El Kabong to begin with.

We reviewed this cartoon way-back-when. You can read the post here. But let’s post a kabongggg! just for fun.


15 comments:

  1. It's possible that some of those 3-frame holds are a result of the conversion from 24-frame film to 30-frame video, which is called a "4-3 pulldown".

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    1. I've frozen other parts of the cartoon, David, and don't find duplicate frames. (I certainly have in other .avi cartoon files I have). So I don't think so, but I can't be positive.

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    2. I was thinking the same thing regarding transfer from film to video as every fifth frame is either a duplicate frame or a combined frame consisting of the last frame and the next. The only true way to see this is to view the actual frames on 16 or 35mm movie film. But the thing with limited animation is that you are holding things for 3 or more frames; really you do whatever you have to in order to get the scene to work.

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    1. Maltese never mentioned the TV series. He was interviewed by John Crosby and told him flat-out that he was a fan of Fairbanks, and that Fairbanks was the influence behind El Kabong.

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    2. Just a correction, Disneys version was wildly successful at the time, so it was natural that HB spoofed the character. The star of that show was Guy Williams, not Guy Hamilton as previously stated.

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    3. And Guy Hamilton's not what I erroneously mentioned, either, :) Brian.....I wonder if you maybe misquoted
      the name I wrote as a "copyright trap"
      //

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    4. Also0 the Zorra spooof was also due to later "Lost in Space" star Guy Williams's Disney TV intepretation of the legendary Zorro ,of course [same with the Seson 1, 1958 Pixie and Dixie "Mark of the Mouse" cartoon with that surprise voice guest appearance, especially since it was anti-typecasting, of Howard MacNear as the ordent mssked avener (Very sure)]. Also you can't exactly be sure if our favorite cartoon horse [besides, in my case, myself..] won't be released, at least as far as the music rights, hopefully, they may be able to, though then there's whether or not or owners Warner Home Video can find an audience for it, and of course the prints/masdtes.

      El-Bong!!

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    5. Brian, and Yowp,too (another self-correction) I have now corrected my post. You're right, the old Douglas Fairbanks Sr. films were what started the whole Zorro popularity, in turn being, I believe, based on some 9th century books, as well as Disney's OWN version..too bad Fairbanks himself, outside of us, isn't admired by more boomers (or other post 1940s audiences..)

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  3. Drawings 6-to-7 is where the missed chance was here for an old-time MGM Avery/Hanna-Barbera scream take. In Drawing 6, Quick Draw's mouth already is in the open position, but Drawing 7 it's closed again before the jump, making it for that split second look like nothing's happening. Since the drawing was going to be there in some form, it's just a missed opportunity for a big reaction take.

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  4. This is the first time I've commented multiple times on a post so please excuse my indulgence. While the animation of El Kabong is certainly serviceable, the poses and expressions could have certainly been 'pushed' to make the scene a standout. We'll never know the reason for this, but in all probability, it was a matter of 'getting it done' or 'it's good enough''. I've heard that from animation supervisors while working on full animation in the 90s. Knowing about Bill Hannas tight rein on the animation process, pushing the cartoon through on time and budget was the order of the day.

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  5. "...the series has never been, nor ever will be, released on home video."

    This is part of what makes the short-lived Saturday Morning DVD series so valuable! On the two volumes dedicated to the 1960's, there are two Quick Draw McGraw shows with opening and closing themes on each set! This means that FOUR Quick Draw shows actually have been released on DVD! And of the four Quick Draw shorts, two of them are El-Kabong cartoons.

    Granted--the openings and closings are truncated versions, cutting out the Kellogs sponsor reference, and none of the original interstitials are played between the cartoons. Then, too, four episodes do not an entire series make. And, if you don't use the "Play All" function on the DVD you are forced to hit "Play" afresh for each cartoon short. So these presentations of the Quick Draw show leave much to be desired. But they may be all we'll ever get, so it's at least one opportunity to get a look at "the hi-falutin'-est, fastest-shootin'-est cowboy you ever saw."

    Also on the same sets are Magilla Gorilla shows that include the opening and closing sequences which were left out of the official DVD release.

    It may not be much but at least it's better than nothing at all. I highly recommend the Saturday Morning sets to any collectors, and especially fans of H-B, if you don't already have them.

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    1. "This means that FOUR Quick Draw shows actually have been released on DVD! And of the four Quick Draw shorts, two of them are El-Kabong cartoons."


      NOTE: thoguh, as Yowp will point out, those don't have the early episodes's stock cues due to lincesing but the equally good (though generic Hoyt Curtin ones), so it explains the appearance (the Snooper space one, though IS one with the stock music, by Phil Green and Jack Shaindlin and it IS on the set, and another episode as well.)

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    2. Too bad there's bad interlacing on two of the four Quick Draws. At least there is on my set.
      Six half-hours were made in the final season with Curtin's background music. There's no reason they can't be released in part of some kind of DVD set.

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  6. BTW Ed Graham Prtods's "Linus the Lionhearted" REALLY would take a miracle for ANY of the series to be on video..

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