Saturday, 17 September 2016

Snagglepuss – Paws For Applause

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Direction – Art Lozzi, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, P.J., Sampson, Hunter, Circus Master – Daws Butler; Mailman, Dimwitty, Tarzan, Circus Helper – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-23.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss is cast in a TV show from which he eventually exits, stage right.

Snagglepuss is pretty much in top form here, spewing mock theatrical prose, twisting phrases and dropping his catchphrases on the audience. If I quoted all the fun stuff, I’d be transcribing almost the entire cartoon.

The secondary characters get in on the fun, too. Here’s P.J. the TV studio boss and Dimwitty the director. Writer Mike Maltese gets a shot in at the insanely fast pace of TV production and the ubiquitousness of TV westerns in 1961.

P.J. – Why haven’t you finished those 22 pictures, Dimwitty? You’ve had three days.
Dim – I know, P.J. But I asked for one measly lion, and look what the casting department sent me.
(Cut to shot of elephants. One trumpets).
P.J. – Sorry, Dimwitty, but you’ve goofed up the schedule, and you know the penalty.
Dim – You mean go back to Westerns? No, no, P.J. Please! Have a heart. Anything but that.
P.J. – I am a lenient man, Dimwitty. I’ll give you (short pause) two minutes to produce a lion.
Dim – But, P.J. That would take a miracle. Even for TV.
(Sound of door knocking)
Dim – Who is it? And get out.
Snag (at the door) – What light on yonder doorway breaks? ‘Tis I, Hamlet A. Snagglepuss. The “A” stands for “applause.” Thunderous, even.

Snagglepuss gets to mangle Shakespeare earlier in the cartoon. The mailman brings him a book and (blog readers have assured me this happened in real life at one time) blows a whistle.
Snag – Hark! What whistle through yonder windward breaks? It is the east. And the mailman is the sun. With the mail, even.
He opens the book and then Daws Butler shows why he was one of Hollywood’s top voice actors. Snagglepuss reads Yogi Bear’s, Baba Louie’s and Quick Draw McGraw’s catchphrases in their voices—but sounding like Snagglepuss doing impersonations of them. It takes incredible talent for an actor to have one of his characters do an impression of another one of his characters and include the vocal qualities of both. It would have been easier just for Daws to do Yogi when Snagglepuss read the Yogi lines, but including the breathiness and pitch of Snagglepuss is a lot funnier.

Snagglepuss is hired by the TV production company. You’ve seen enough cartoons so you know how things are going to end up. Snagglepuss gets the worst of it. But first, one more exchange of dialogue as Snagglepuss storms across the stage to complain to the director.

Snag – What’s the idea? What’s the idea?
Dim – Why? What’s wrong?
Snag – There’s no star on ma dressin’ room door. Paragraph 32 of my contract clearly states that the party of the first whereas, in due abrogation of professional entities, does hereby exclude and nullify tangent reclamations as referred to in paragraph 20. 21, even. Do you know what that means, buster? Hmmm?
Dim – No.
Snag – That’s a relief. I was beginnin’ to think I was the only dimwit around here.

First up, Snagglepuss evidently hasn’t read the script. He doesn’t realise a large brute named Sampson is the film to throw him against a wall (after which he sees the stars for his dressing room door). Next, he chases a hunter through the jungle but is attacked by a Tarzan-ish character with Don Messick doing a Tarzanish yell. Finally, he plays an escaped circus lion who hides in a dark shack and lights a match (Dimwitty: “Get it?” Snagglepuss: “No. But I got a sneaky feelin’ I’m gonna”). Snagglepuss ends up in the wrong shack. It’s full of dynamite.

Director Dimwitty really is dimwitty. He laughs like a nutcase because they ran out of film and the whole thing will have to be shot all over again. “You’re a brave lion, aren’t you?” asks Dimwitty. Snagglepuss proclaims he’s chicken. “What light through yonder window breaks! It is the exit for all us chickens. So exit, cluckin’ all the way, stage left.” And Snagglepuss ends the cartoon running past the same tree 12 times, flapping his arms, clucking, and adding a rooster crow for good measure.

Art Lozzi provides the aforementioned same tree. Here’s the (reconstructed) repeating background in question from one end to the other.

More backgrounds. As usual the foreground layer of rock of the cave is on an overlay. Lozzi really goes for blue rocks and trees.

Don Patterson animates this cartoon. This is a pretty workmanlike job for him. His characters were more expressively drawn in The Flintstones. It would have been neat to have seen Patterson give Snagglepuss some of the kinds of takes he gave Woody Woodpecker in the early ‘50s but Hanna-Barbera wasn’t into that (and Maltese had come from years of working with Chuck Jones, whose idea of a take is to shift a pupil or raise an eyebrow). We get Patterson’s standard bit-lip “f” mouth animation. He also draws Snagglepuss in a couple scenes staring straight at the camera, wagging his head diagonally while talking.

Hoyt Curtin’s music fits the moods of the various scenes.

We haven’t posted an endless run cycle for a while, so here’s an actor playing a circus hand (“The ferocious lion has escaped. After him, Quick. I mean, ‘After him! Quick!’”). The run cycle is on eight drawings on ones. It takes two cycles for the background to repeat; that is, 16 frames or a second of film. (Unfortunately, there aren’t 16 frames with the character’s mouth closed).


  1. As a reminder: Mel Blanc did a wonderful job of having Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck imitate each other in Chuck Jones' Rabbit Fire (1951).

    1. And as ANOTHER reminder.....WHO wrote those..yes, MIKE MALTESE, before he worked for Bill and Joe's own studio. I';m wondering which season this was from, 1960-1961 or 1961-1962...?

  2. I've always perfectly remembered this one, with the producer and director's exchanges, like going on Westerns was some kind of punishment (though there were a LOT of both cowboys AND spacemen..) and the expectations that Hollywood can come up with ANYTHING in a SECOND..right before the last-minute, short-notice appearance of Snagglepuss himself. SC

  3. Naive question, perhaps, but I'm new to these H-B cartoons. Anyone have idea what in the world Bill and Joe had against an honest-to-goodness comic "take" in their cartoons? A "take" in a H-B made-for-TV cartoon always seems to involve the absolute minimum of exaggeration necessary to make the take register at all.

    1. Jeff, I really don't know. My guess would be that by the 1960s, they were considered passe and overdone.

    2. Not to mention expensive, given the reduced animation budget.