Saturday, 7 October 2017

Yakky Doodle in All’s Well That Eats Well

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Tony Benedict, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Alfie Gator – Daws Butler; Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Alfie Gator tries to eat Yakky Doodle.

Tony Benedict was a big fan of the TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, so he decided to parody it in the Yakky Doodle cartoons by creating Alfie Gator, who speaks somewhat in a Hitchcock manner and employs some of the devices used on the noted director’s anthology show—walking into an outline of his body, lighting turning him into a silhouette, using formalised language to go into and out of commercial breaks. It’s all pretty amusing in cartoon form; as a child, I had either seen enough promos or bits of the Hitchcock programme to get all the references.

One thing about Alfie must have really pleased budget-conscious Bill Hanna; it was the same thing that annoyed Frank Tashlin at Warner’s about Porky Pig—it took forever for Alfie to talk. He was slow and breathy (as was Hitchcock). On top of that, Jimmy Weldon enunciated slowly for Yakky so people could understand him (not like that Darn Old Duck at Disney). So the two characters stood there and yapped. It didn’t make for interesting visuals, but it saved money on animation.

Basically, the Alfie Gator cartoons are spot-gag cartoons. Alfie tells the audience what he’s going to. He fails. He comments to the audience on his failure. Fade out to next gag.

Four cartoons were made with Alfie. This was the first one. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s the only Yakky cartoon that opens with a narrator.

Narrator: Once upon a time, there was a little duck named Yakky Doodle who had a terrible eating problem.
Yakky (to audience): That’s right. Everybody wants to eat me.
Narrator (happily): Yes, everyone wanted to eat poor Yakky. Well, strangely enough, not far away, was someone else with an eating problem.
The scene fades to Alfie, holding his gourmet’s guide. Hoyt Curtin’s cue based on the Hitchcock theme “Funeral March of a Marionette” is heard in the background. Alfie turns to the camera and wishes us “Good afternoon.” He informs us that roast duck is on his menu, but he hasn’t got “the prime ingredient.” Yakky strolls into the scene. “Woe is me! Woe is me! Why was I born a duck instead of a hippopotamus? Woe is me! Woooooe is me!” Alfie continues: “I hope you will excuse me (breathes), but for those of you who weren’t paying attention (breathes), that was a duck, today’s specialty of the house.”

One of the things I like about Yakky in this cartoon is he sticks up for himself. He’s not naïve (let alone ignorant) or needs protection like he does when Chopper is around. Yakky uses a sling shot to shoot a rock into Alfie’s mouth. “Hmmm (breathes). One of my favourite desserts. (breaths) Rock candy,” puns the gator.

The next scene fades in. “Hello, again,” Alfie says to us, and explains (to “advance the plot”) his trip wire/rock contraption. But Yakky’s smart enough to spot the trap and fly over it. Alfie can’t stop in time. Crash goes the rock.



Fade to next scene. Alfie is in a tree, holding a rope with a loop on the ground. Yakky again sees the trap, grabs the rope and pulls the gator who smashes on the ground. Now comes the most predictable line of the cartoon: “See ya later, alligator,” shouts Yakky, as he rushes out of the picture. Time for a Hitchcock-like break. “I shall return after a brief fade out,” says the accurate alligator, as the scene fades out and fades in again. “Welcome back,” we’re greeted with. Alfie is now wearing a backpack with a rotor over his head to enable him to fly and catch the duck in mid-air. “I shall only pursue you,” he says to Yakky, “until you tire.” “Or,” adds the smarter-than-the-average duck, “if you run out gas.” “A point I overlooked,” Alfie remarks as he again crashes to the ground.



The hunt is over. The alligator concedes defeat. “Relax, little friend, I’m not going to eat you. It’s much too dangerous a task...My gourmet guide suggests I watch the Late, Late Show and enjoy a frozen TV dinner. (breathes) People have been known to live on them for years.

Cut to the partial outline of the gator, a la Hitchcock. Curtin’s “March” cue returns. “So, if you will kindly excuse me,” Alfie says as he walks into the outline. “I should like to wish you a fervent (breathes) good night.” With that, the cartoon ends.



Carlo Vinci animates this cartoon, and some of his trademarks are here. The diving exits for one.



Carlo also used the same leg angle when he did run cycles or, in this case, a skid/run cycle.



And there’s a position he animated on exits as well; I’ve seen it in Yogi Bear and Jetsons cartoons and a few Terrytoons. One arm is out, the back of the head is stretched, and the wrist on the other arm is at an angle.



Bob Gentle’s backgrounds are reminiscent of Florida, featuring tall grass and moss hanging from tree branches.


We’ve talked about Curtin’s cues. Other than when Yakky is “woeing” when the music’s a little too happy/tinkly, the music pretty much suits the cartoon.

4 comments:

  1. I think another Yakky/Alfie cartoon opens with a narrator, but I forget which one the moment.

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  2. I praised this cartoon back in August 2009 ("Yakky Doodle Still Going Strong") -- glad to see your turn, Yowp.

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  3. As you've said, Yakky is a stronger character in his shorts with Alfie Gator because he does fight back instead of wallowing in helplessness the way he does with Chopper. Of course, only two of the four Alfie shorts are just him and Yakky. Fibber is in another, and Chopper another to provide resistance.

    It was probably better that Alfie didn't appear in more shorts than he did. His low-key personality kind of limits story possibilities, unlike the manic Fibber who appears in various disguises and takes various approaches in his pursuit of Yakky.

    I'm always enamored of cartoons where the onscreen character talks back to the narrator. Huck, Quick Draw and Baba Looey did it frequently, but this is the only time Yakky did to my knowledge.

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    1. That's hard to say, Howard. Alfie's is kind of used as a talky Wile E. Coyote, whose plots failed. Maltese and Jones got a lot of mileage out of the Roadrunner cartoons. But I think you're right that Fibber had a lot more possibilties.

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