Saturday, 21 April 2018

Gerard Baldwin

The animation of your favourite cartoon dog Yowp was entrusted to only four people at Hanna-Barbera. One was the last remaining animator who worked for the studio in the 1950s.

Gerard Baldwin passed away last Wednesday, the 18th, according to the Houston Chronicle. He was 89.

Baldwin started his animation career in 1950 at UPA, as an-betweener I would guess. After a stint in the Korean War, he returned to UPA and then animated commercials at Playhouse Pictures. He arrived at Hanna-Barbera in 1959 and employed his distinctive style on the following cartoons:

Adventure is My Hobby (Snooper and Blabber)
Bare Faced Bear (Yogi Bear)
Bear For Punishment (Yogi Bear)
Big Top Pop (Augie Doggie)
Doggone Prairie Dog (Quick Draw McGraw)
Monkey Wrenched (Snooper and Blabber)
Six-Gun Spook (Quick Draw McGraw)

The backgrounds for five of them were painted by Joe Montell. Both left later in the year for Mexico to work for Jay Ward, with Baldwin directing various cartoons seen on Rocky and His Friends. He returned to Hanna-Barbera from 1979 to 1985 where he directed The Smurfs. Baldwin moved to Houston in 1989.

He had a unique and quirky way of drawing the characters in those ‘50s H-B cartoons. Compare his Yowp to Carlo Vinci’s Yowp (on the left). One of them looks like he’s been chowing down on a lot of duck dinners.

Here’s his Yogi Bear. He drew Yogi with a long neck and with the mouth way up in the snout.

Here’s a take from Doggone Prairie Dog. I understand he did the same swirling-eye thing with Bullwinkle.

He’s partly responsible for a couple of the most un-Hanna-Barbera-looking characters in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Here are the husband and wife in Monkey Wrenched, designed by Bob Givens. I couldn’t tell you how close Baldwin stuck to Givens’ layouts. Wifey badly needs a shave.

Baldwin’s older brother Howard was also in animation, dating back to the 1930s as a writer at Warner Bros.

You can read more about Gerard Baldwin in the Chronicle story and on his web site. We express our sympathies to the Baldwin family on their loss.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Flintstones Weekend Comics, April 1968

Dancing and motoring were the scenarios upon which were hung the stories for the Flintstones’ Sunday newspaper comics 50 years ago this month.

There lots of neat little things in some of the comics. The opening panel of the April 7, 1968 comic has a blue background with characters and settings that are simply lines, kind of like a UPA cartoon. There’s a little dog yapping at Fred in his car and what I guess is a bird stop light. Fred is enjoying a beer (yes, this is the year he was plugging Busch in an industrial film) and a guest appearance at the end by Yogi Bear. Niece Annie, an exclusive character to the comics, who spends most of her time dancing, shows up as well. Note some panels have a solid colour as background.

April 14th has more panels with just a solid buff colour as the background. Hanna-Barbera loved those motorcycle traffic cops, didn’t they?

Pops, Fred’s dad, shows up on April 21st. He’s a real wolf-asaurus, ain’t he? There are no other Flintstones characters in this one (Fred generally appeared unless it was a Pebbles exclusive). I’ve always liked volcanoes that go “poof;” they showed up through the ‘60s in the newspaper comics.

The taxi in the opening panel on the April 28th comic has a great expression. So does the dopey bus at the end. Fred shows athletic abilities he’s never been noted for. I like the set up for the gag at the end. The final panel is well laid-out by Gene Hazelton or whoever.

Once again, Richard Holliss can be thanked for opening his archive and providing these colour versions.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Raindance Bear

Some of the little cartoons between the cartoons on the Yogi Bear Show where a little mild. Here’s a solo effort by Yogi Bear.

He tells the viewing audience he’s going to do a rain dance. Why? Well, for the sake of a gag which you can probably predict.

“When I’m in good form, I dance up a storm,” he tells us before the camera fades out after about 20 seconds.

I won’t venture a guess about the identity of the animator.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

The Future of the Past

What does a successful producer do after a failure? Go back to what it was that was a success and put a twist on it.

In 1960, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera took TV sitcom suburbia, put it in the Stone Age and reaped the rewards of prime-time success with The Flintstones. After failing in 1961 with Top Cat, Hanna and Barbera went back to the idea of TV sitcom suburbia and put it in the future. Thus The Jetsons were born in 1962.

I’m not going to get into one of those “which show was better” things that fans like to endlessly debate. But there were several things I liked about The Jetsons, though some of the ideas were expropriated from that Modern Stone Age family. In no particular order:

Astro. He may actually be the most rounded character on the show. He’s devoted, a klutz, a coward, enthusiastic and talks like a dog in an old vaudeville routine. (Comic: “Fido, where are the shingles on my house?” Talking dog: “Rrroof!” Comic: “Roof?” Dog: “Rrrrright!”).
Gadgets. The ones on The Flintstones were living beings so they talked. The ones on The Jetsons were sterile and antiseptic, like you would expect in the future. And they’re logical. They seem like something we would have 100 years from now.
Space Age designs. Buildings of the future? Well, if the future was at the Seattle World’s Fair a few months before The Jetsons debuted in 1962. But who cares. The designs were extremely clever and attractive. And they still look futuristic.
Music. The title theme is better than The Flintstones’ “Rise and Shine,” even though anyone with a good ear can hear the edits in the closing. Still, you can’t beat Pete Candoli’s trumpet. The electronic instruments used in the cue library were fresh for their time. And how many cartoon scores employed a theremin?
Uniblab. The ultimate office suck-up of the future. A terrific satire on workplace politics.
“Jane, Stop This Crazy Thing!” So it’s not original. Fred Flintstone yelled outside his house after problems with a cat during the closing credits, too. But it’s still amusing. I like how Astro and the cat turn their heads, following George’s path on the Treadmill of Forever.

I should probably add the voice work as a factor as well, but it was great in all the Hanna-Barbera series into the ‘60s.

Surprisingly, The Jetsons could have been very much different. We’ve posted some early Ed Benedict designs for the series and, as you may know, Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll were signed as leads only to have their voice tracks scrapped. This story from Variety’s Dave Kaufman called “Jetsons Projects TV Into Next Century” fills us in, and lets readers of the soon-to-debut series know what was in store. It was published August 14, 1962.

BILL HANNA and Joe Barbera, who brought the stone age to tv via "The Flintstones," are reversing their field and going in the other direction with their new animation series, "The Jetsons," which takes place 100 years from now. Debuting this fall on ABC-TV, "Jetsons" should provide something new in a medium not noted for new frontiers (no political connotation there).
Actually, a couple of years ago, after "Flintstones" scored, the idea of a series based in the future was suggested to H-B, and Barbera admits sheepishly it was rejected becauae they thought it too corny an idea. However, with the revolutionary developments in the space age in the past two years, H-B quickly changed their views and came up with the future, so to speak. "If ever anyone is responsive to much thinking, it's now," the partners say.
After working on the project six months, they junked their material and started all over again, because too much of it seemed contemporary, in view of what they learned science researchers in industry already have come up with in planning for the future.
In the super-electronic age of tomorrow, as depicted in the series, there will be such devices as a seeing eye vacuum cleaner which goes beyond the push-button stage; on its own, the probing eye cleaner picks up dirt, even lifts rugs and cleans under them. There is a "Spaceburger," a space station restaurant in which the trays come out on a light beam when the space travelers order.
There is a rock "n" roll idol of the times, Jet Screamer, and he leads his pack in a dance taking place on a degravitized floor, so that tomorrow's teenagers terp not only feet to feet, but head to head.
There is a three-hour work day, and a three-day work week. And if you want to play in all this spare time, you can go to Las Venus, which has among its attractions the Supersonic Sands, the Flamoongo and the Riviera Satellite. The Sands is shaped like huge silver dollars, and each one is a room which comes to you and slides back into the hotel when you check in. Each room has a built-in robot dealer for those too lazy to go to the casino; each also has electronically designed slot machines which urge you to play them.
There is a mother-in-law space car in which she's separated by design from the couple involved, and If she yaks too much anyway, she can be dropped by an ejector seat. They don t wash dishes—they're disintegrated after one use. There's a "Slidewalk," local and express; a "You-Rent-A-Maid" service; a 10-sec hairdo; robot dancers for femmes married to guys who don't like to dance. You go to buy a space car, and sit down as they show you on a huge screen on the ceiling an actual video view of the robots assembling the cars, just how they're made, etc. This last bit was shown an auto exec from Detroit, who was more than somewhat startled, as he revealed his company has developed just such a system (minus robots) and plans to spring it for use in about two years, "We have taken families and their problems and moved them 100 years ahead. All the problems are basic ones. We try to answer everybody's thinking — 'I wonder what it's going to be like 100 years from now'?" remarks Barbera. He adds that "if we get scientific, we're dead. We have to do it with fun."
H-B term a lot of nonsense the feeling that cartoon series put actors out of work, pointing out they use over 230 actors a year. And they use full orchestras and top writers on their shows. They pay top prices on scripts—up to $3,500 for a half-hour show. H-B, who began their operation in 1957 with five on their payroll, now have 230 employes. In terms of footage on the air, "we turn out more animation than any other company," asserts Hanna.
The series even aired in colour, the first to do so on the ABC network, no doubt to compete against Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on NBC. It couldn’t. Uncle Walt won the ratings war and The Jetsons moved after one season into Saturday morning reruns. Despite the single prime-time season, the cartoon show was hardly a failure, considering the number of times it has been rebooted since 1962. And it’s almost mandatory for the commercial media to refer to the series every time there’s a story about the development of a flying car.

Though The Jetsons was about the future, it is still very much a product of the past. Gadgets didn’t work, bosses were loud jerks and freeways were still ridiculously clogged, but the series reflected a sense of progress and optimism about the future. Today, humanity seems completely cynical and pessimistic about the future, reflected in popular culture today as dystopian not utopian. No wonder people happily look back to the future of the past, something you can see when you watch The Jetsons.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

We'll Save a Ringside Seat

Something was missing from the Huckleberry Hound Show and it was a real disappointment. It was Cornelius the rooster.

Cornelius was the spokes-cockadoodler for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. He appeared in the opening and closing of the Huck show, and fluttered down from the air and knocked on Huck’s dressing room door before the first cartoon. That was in 1958. When the show was syndicated in the mid-‘60s, Kellogg’s wasn’t the sponsor any more. It seems to me Cornelius still knocked on the door but he was cut out of the opening and closing animation. (My fuzzy memory tells me the Canadian version of Huck didn’t have Cornelius, either, but it’s so long ago, I’m not sure).

When the Huck show came out on DVD, I was sure happy to see that roostered animation again. And I sang along with the closing theme, just like I did 55 or so years ago.

Kellogg’s or the Leo Burnett agency employed two of my favourite announcers on Hanna-Barbera series. Dick Tufeld announced the “brought to you by....” on The Jetsons. (Come to think of it, Bill Baldwin did the same thing on The Flintstones and I like him, too). And the great Art Gilmore gave the closing billboard over top of the animation—in the first season only—at the closing of the Huck show, as Cornelius and his jalopy rip a circle after Huck puts his head through it.

The box of Corn Flakes somehow vanished from the car soon after the start.

What?!! Hitchhiking? Doesn’t that teach kids to jump in with perfect strangers?! Boy, you’d never see this on TV any more.

Below, Cornelius turns around the old Tin Lizzie. I love his expressions.

Tony! You’re teaching your kid to hitchhike. What kind of parent are you??

There’s Smacksy the seal. He sold Sugar Smacks. And Sugar Pops Pete. Tony pushed Sugar Frosted Flakes. Someone once observed that you can’t say “sugar” any more because that promotes obesity, yet since the word was taken off the cereal boxes, kids are fatter than they were way-back-when.

Here are the first season (1958-59) titles. Only three animators. Oddly, Bob Gentle’s name is missing from the background list and there’s only one layout artist. Perhaps Mike Lah was working for Hanna-Barbera on a freelance basis. Ed Benedict’s name is missing, too. So is Walt Clinton’s. I couldn’t tell you if there were gang credits for the full season.

Tony Junior bops his head and Huck comes back to rescue him. Because someone will mention it if I don’t, when the series was syndicated in the mid-‘60s, Yakky Doodle was the one whose head got clobbered.

The original animated ending closed with a cut to a Screen Gems title card. The DVD versions don’t. They just stop the tape on this title card.

The animation would have been in colour but Earl Kress told me he couldn’t find it in the Hanna-Barbera archive. I suspect this is from someone’s VHS dub of a 16 millimetre black-and-white print that was sent to one of the TV stations in 1958.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, April 1968

Fans of the Yogi Sunday comics will be a little disappointed in the poor quality of three of our entries this month. Richard Holliss, who has generously shared his colour comics from his archive, only has one Yogi this month and none for May. Our black-and-white source decided to stop scanning the weekend comic section. So what we’ve found is hit-and-miss. Fewer and fewer papers were carrying Yogi and the Flintstones in their weekend sections as more and more ads were purchased (one was for some Campbell Soup noodle product aimed at kids), bumping space from comics.

The colour tabloid is from April 28, 1968. It would seem more appropriate to have published it around St. Patrick’s Day given that a leprechaun is a co-star, but maybe that was too obvious.

Quick Draw and Huck make an appearance in the top row of the April 7, 1968 comic. They’re not part of the plot but it’s nice to see them there.

Boo Boo doesn’t make much of an appearance this month, but we’ve got rangers on April 14th and 21st (including an angry obese one that Doug Young probably would have voiced if it had been a TV cartoon) and Bill Hanna’s beloved Boy Scouts on the 7th. I must admit the house painting story is a little too surreal for Yogi; the bear always had motivation for what he did instead of just doing something silly. Perhaps I’m missing something. I like how Yogi makes an appearance in the window of the final panel on the 21st.

April 7, 1968

April 14, 1968

April 21, 1968

April 28, 1968

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Bowling For Hucks

Huck Hound was a lot better bowler in the cartoon Ten Pin Alley (1959) than in one of the little cartoons between the cartoons on his show.

Here’s our hero (with a very small bow tie) telling us he’s the best bowler in town before rolling a ball down the lane. Note Huck has a shadow, and the background artist has reflections on the lane.

With the shorter ears and the compressed eyes, he looks more like Astro, doesn’t he?

Huck gets his thumb stuck in the ball. Here’s a real interesting scene. As the camera pans to the right, the angle of the bowling alley in the background drawing changes and Huck disappears in perspective. I would have loved to have seen the painting (by Monty?) to get a better idea of what it looked like. (The artwork may have been tilted on the camera stand but I don’t know if H-B had that capability).

He comes back via the ball return.

Fortunately, he’s back in time for the next Huckleberry Hound cartoon.

You can’t tell from the few screen grabs posted here, but this is another one of the bumpers where Huck is animated very fluidly, stretching at times and almost swinging his body and head around in about as full as the animation got on the show. Parts of it are even animated on ones. Mike Kazaleh tells me it’s the work of Phil Duncan, who would have been freelancing for the studio. It would have been great to see a full seven-minute cartoon animated this way.