Saturday, February 18, 2017

Snagglepuss – Knights and Daze

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation - La Verne Harding; Layout - Tony Rivera, Backgrounds - Bob Gentle; Written by Mike Maltese, Story Direction - Paul Sommer, Titles - Art Goble, Production Supervision - Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Stormy Knight, Tour Guide, Knights - Daws Butler; Tourist, King Arthur, Sir Round - Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss is told he can become a Knight of the Round Table if he can bring back the sword belonging to the Stormy Knight.

“Then I shall Mildred forth. Or is it Sally forth? Or July 4th, even?”

Plays on words like that are a Mike Maltese specialty. And he had to rely on them in this cartoon because there are not many gags. It takes half the cartoon just for Snagglepuss the Lionhearted to set off on his quest to try to vanquish the Stormy Knight. That doesn’t leave much time for gags.

The first is the weakest. Stormy uses a magnet to pick up Snagglepuss by the armour and then drop him to the ground. Next, he pretends to be a “travelling roundelay” in the best gag of the cartoon. I particularly like the marotte with the Snagglepuss head on it. A joust (“Joust a minute,” Maltese has the nerve to put into Snagglepuss’ mouth) follows, then a sword fight, where Snagglepuss reveals to King Arthur in the final scene that he’s in possession of the Knight’s sword (“What do you think this is?” he asks the king, pointing to the sword puncturing his butt, “A shiskabob?”).

Maltese was the author of Rabbit Hood, in which he fills the cartoon with really funny pseudo-Elizabethan English. He’s at it again in this cartoon because, to be honest, dialogue has to carry it. La Verne Harding’s animation isn’t the least bit distinctive. Perhaps Snagglepuss’ best piece of verbal virtuosity comes as the sword fight is about to begin: “Think I'm scared, huh? Think I'll show the yellow crumpet and run for zounds, eh? Well, I got a trusty sword, too. I still owe six and thruppence on it.” And in disguise as the jester trying to bluff his way into the Knight’s castle: “Why doth a partridge cross the drawbridge?" (After getting inside:) Who cares? I got a better story. Dramatic, even.”

The Stormy Knight uses weather metaphors in his exclamations, including “Buckets around in thunder! What churl doth knock at me castle door?” “By lightning and partly cloudy! This dolt must be dispensed with forthwith” and “By fog and smog!”

Snagglepuss lets out with three “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”s as well as variations on his usual catch-phrases, including, but not limited to a fare-thee-well with:

“Exit, rattlin’ all the way, stage right!”
“Exit, odd-bodkins-ing all the way, stage left!”
“Hold it. Hold it! Stop, even.”
“Heavens to Guinevere!”
“But where, prithee, doth the Stormy Knight dwelleth? Liveth, even?”

Maltese’s story is pretty well constructed. It starts in the present with a guide offering a tour of King Arthur’s castle (Daws Butler, playing the tour guide, doesn’t break down “castle” into two syllables, but we do get his “once-st” for “once”). A tourists asks about the pillows next to Arthur’s chair and then the rest of the cartoon is in flashback, ending with the sword-in-butt gag (Maltese then leaves the viewer to assume the connection between that and the pillows). As soon as I saw the drawing of the tourist with the jaw line dropping down from the nose, I thought “Tony Rivera.” Sure enough, Rivera is in the credits as the layout artist who designed the incidental characters.

Bob Gentle handled the backgrounds. Here are a few drawings.

Hoyt Curtin’s version of “London Bridge” is heard in the opening scenes of the castle. You’ll hear some Flintstones underscore music (some with a bassoon or contrabassoon) on the soundtrack as well.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, February 1967

For reasons I still don’t understand, Fred Flintstone’s boss in the newspaper comics was not Mr. Slate. 50 years ago this month, he was employed at a quarry by a Mr. Rockly, who seems to have been a little snooty but nonetheless had a better relationship with Fred than Slate ever did.

The comic of February 26th (25th in Canadian newspapers) may remind you of Tex Avery’s Symphony in Slang. Pebbles takes what she hears from her daddy literally, and conjures up all kinds of things. No, it doesn’t end with “Sabretooth cat got your tongue?” but there is a black sabretooth cat crossing Fred’s path in the February 5th comic.

February 5, 1967.

February 12, 1967.

February 19, 1967.

February 26, 1967.

Thanks to Richard Holliss for sending the colour versions from his archive.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Aw. An H-B Valentine

Valentine’s Day isn’t an occasion I mark, but many people do. And greeting card companies are there to take advantage of it.

Here are a couple for those of you who get all romantic and lovey (as opposed to Lovy). Why Bamm-Bamm is serenading Dino is best left unanswered. Same with Yogi and a flying fish.

More Valentines in this old post. I don’t know how old they are.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mr Jinks in Have a Ball

Mr. Jinks may have said “I hate meeces to pieces” in the little cartoons between the cartoons on the Huckleberry Hound Show than he did in the main cartoons. That’s how this bumper ends.

In the opening scene, Jinks actually wiggles the bowling ball in his hand when he talks to Huck, which is a nice little touch. In the next scene, Dixie telegraphs to the audience what’s going to happen, telling the mute Pixie (no sense in paying Don Messick to voice something when you don’t have to) that sometime before the action appeared on screen, he put glue in Jinks’ bowling ball.

As you might expect, the crash isn’t seen. The camera simply shakes over a background drawing and there’s a cut.

The animation of the bowling ball toss is on twos. I like how Jinks simply turns into a fox head and brush strokes.

The drawing of Jinks in the last frame reminds me of John Boersma’s work but I don’t know who animated this.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Snooper and Blabber in Gopher Trap

Snooper and Blabber tangled (and lost miserably) with a gopher in Gopher Goofers. But it wasn;t the only time.

Here are the story panels from one of the mini-cartoons that preceded (and introduced) a Snooper and Blabber cartoon on the Quick Draw McGraw Show. It seems like very few drawings for 20 seconds of screen time.

There's no identification of the storyboard artist. The drawings come an animation auction house. You can check out what they have HERE.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Yogi Bear, the Newspaper Star

Hanna-Barbera found a unique way to promote the Yogi Bear Show—with a comic strip.

Today marks the 56th anniversary of Yogi appearing in the weekend papers, six days after his TV show began airing across North America. The New York Herald Tribune reported on January 9, 1961:

Yogi Bear, the popular TV cartoon character, goes into the Sunday newspapers on Feb. 5. The McNaught Syndicate has lined up eighty newspapers, including the New York Herald Tribune, for the start of the Yogi Bear comic strip. The strip, in color, will be laid out for a half or third page. For the past two-and-a-half years, Yogi has been a featured played in the Emmy-winning “Huckleberry Hound” animated series. At the end of this month, Yogi will begin heading up his own show. It will be sponsored by Kellogg’s through Leo Burnett.

What did that first comic look like? You can see it below. The plot is borrowed from the TV episode “Do or Diet” (1960).

The signatures of Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and Gene Hazelton, who was in charge of the studios newspaper comic output, were signed years after this was published.

When did the comic finish its run? I really don’t know, though I have some editions from 1971. If someone has the answer, leave a note.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Yakky Doodle in Witch Duck-Ter

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation - Don Towsley, Layout - Noel Tucker, Backgrounds - Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director - John Freeman, Titles - Art Goble, Production Supervision - Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle, green duck - Jimmy Weldon; Chopper - Vance Colvig, Witch - Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: A witch tries to eat Yakky for her birthday dinner.

Vaudeville comedians got a lot of mileage out of jokes. They'd take a gag and "switch" it by changing the characters or location or whatever.

In animated cartoons, writers switched old gags or plots to make them seem a little different. Hanna-Barbera cartoons got to be awfully familiar after a while. Mike Maltese even switched from himself in this one.

Things start out with a witch brewing a birthday stew, but instead of a rabbit's clavicle (Broom-Stick Bunny, 1956) she needs "one small talking duck." So the witch goes out to look for one. "Like my old friend Snagglepuss says, 'Exit, stage right!'" After rejecting a non-talking green and blue duck (and 96 others), she comes across Yakky Doodle and cons him into going back to her ramshackle house and have a "nice hot bath" in the stew pot (Snow Business with Sylvester and Tweety by Warren Foster, 1951). Chopper comes to the rescue wearing disguises (Bewitched Bunny, 1954) of Hansel and Gretel which don't fool the witch in the slightest. The witch decides he's a potential meal and calls him a "smorgas boy" (Bewitched Bunny again). However, things end happily. Chopper and Yakky escape but take pity on the sobbing witch and return to her home with a birthday cake. Yakky laughs to end the cartoon (later used in virtually any episode of Scooby Doo).

Of course, some of these ideas pre-date the Warners cartoons mentioned above. It seems to me there was at least one cartoon (at another studio) with a recipe calling for "fresh crow meat."

Don Towsley is the animator in this cartoon. He has the witch staring directly at the viewer when she talks to the audience.

There's one scene where the witch supposedly bashes Chopper with her broom. He screams in pain, but the broom never touches him. It goes behind him to the floor.

Here are some brushwork examples during exits.

There are lots of background repeats in this cartoon. The witch chases Chopper past the same windows in the house seven times in one scene, then flies with Yakky past the aforementioned windows 12 times in another scene. The backgrounds are by Dick Thomas. Check out his establishing shot at the start.

And the ratty home.

Jean Vander Pyl uses her standard witch voice in this. Hoyt Curtin's music should be familiar; there's a xylophone chase theme heard from 5:22 to 6:10 that you'll recognise from The Flintstones.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, February 1967

Cartoons have certain rules. Rule 514 states that skunks must always smell. You can find it in animated cartoons going back to the silent days and I’ll bet it surfaced in some ancient Katzenjammer Kids comic strip. As you know, Chuck Jones and Mike Maltese were able to base an entire series of cartoons around le premise de skunque pueue. And we find it in the Yogi Bear newspaper comics 50 years ago this month.

But first, we start with that staple of sitcoms—the bratty kids. The comic of February 5, 1967 doesn’t have them directing their anti-social behaviour at Yogi, say in the manner of Mickey and Icky abusing Huckleberry Hound in Hookey Daze. They’re rambunctious. And Yogi deals with them in a manner that likely wouldn’t meet with approval in this day and age. Perhaps the writer felt Ranger Smith could only have well-behaved youngsters as we get a different ranger in this one. The flowered curtains are very much in the Monty background style.

Ranger Smith is back on February 12th. And, yeah, he’s being unfair to Yogi. I like how the receptionist doesn’t really know how to address Yogi when he barges in. And I still don’t understand the militarisation of the park with a one-star “general.”

Don’t get in a funk. It’s only a skunk. N-hey! Hey! Hee! The February 19th comic includes silhouette panels (of Boo Boo going into and coming out of Yogi’s cave, with something in the foreground), bluebirds and the aforementioned skunk.

Bill Hanna was a life-long supporter of the Boy Scouts, which found their way into a number of Yogi comics and even a Flintstones TV show. So the February 26th comic gives equal time to the Camp Fire Girls. Those of you growing up in the ‘60s will recall the public service messages on TV with the tune “Sing around the campfire. Join the Camp Fire Girls.” They’re still around but they’re not just for girls in today’s litigious society. A panel is missing here, but you get an interesting perspective in the final panel and a silhouette panel, too. You know, a spot-gag animated cartoon of Yogi battling ants for a pic-a-nic basket might have been pretty funny. Too bad the Yogi spot-gaggers ended when Charlie Shows left Hanna-Barbera in 1959.

Richard Holliss supplied the colour versions again this month.