Saturday, 20 January 2018

Judo Jinks

In the early days at Hanna-Barbera, one animator would be responsible for an entire cartoon, but there were exceptions. For whatever reason, Mike Lah would be brought in to handle a couple of minutes of footage.

One of them was Judo Jack, which was the Pixie and Dixie cartoon that Joe Barbera remembered screening for Kellogg’s to try to get it to sponsor its nascent Huckleberry Hound Show.

Lah liked weird little mouth shapes in dialogue. He moved the shapes across a character’s face, requiring no other animation. Here’s an example from one of my favourite drawings of Mr. Jinks, when Judo Jack turns him into a pretzel using “a pretzel hold.”

Lah must have driven Ed Benedict nuts. Benedict once complained the Hanna-Barbera artists never stuck to the model sheets. Lah sure didn’t. Here’s Jinks again, being pulled under a door by the tail by Judo Jack. These are funny drawings.

Lah had been animating on a freelance basis after MGM shut down its cartoon studio in early-ish 1957. He was supposed to be part of the original Hanna-Barbera partnership—his wife was the twin sister of Bill Hanna’s wife—but something happened to prevent it; possibly Lah didn’t have money to invest. His H-B career seems to have lasted into 1959. He bought into the ownership of Quartet in 1960 and eventually ran the company. Why he left H-B may be in hidden away in an unpublished interview, especially at a time when the studio was adding staff to make the Quick Draw McGraw Show, but it’s a shame he didn’t stay. A Lah Jetsons could have been pretty funny.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Flintstones Weekend Comics, January 1968

The forecast for Bedrock—rain or snow. At least, that’s the variety we get in the Flintstones weekend comics 50 years ago this month.

Richard Holliss supplied the colour versions; apparently there were some comics in the paper he clipped that were in a red tone only.

Fred wore a hat in the comics on occasion; I don’t recall him wearing one very often on the TV show. Here in the January 4th comic we see that golf is omnipresent in Fred’s mind, even when he doesn’t speak.

Aw. Fred’s being a good daddy in the January 11th comic. Apparently the reader has seen enough of these that they’re supposed to recognise who Pops is, though he never appeared in the TV series.

This is the best version I can find of the January 21st comic; my sources have dried up again (in other words, papers kept dropping the two Hanna-Barbera strips as the ‘60s wore on). You can’t see the mastodon bookends very well. The story is good, definitely not directed at kids.

The temperature has been warming up in Bedrock. It went from snow to rain and now it’s warm enough to make ice unstable in the January 28th. The old know-it-all Fred is in this comic. I like the opening panel. Pops shows up at the end. Sploot!

Poor Dino isn’t around this month. They didn’t showcase him very much in the comics. Too bad. Maybe next month.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Snagglepuss in Charge That Lion

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Art Davis, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Vera Hanson, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss – Daws Butler; Hunter, Joe, Sergeant – Doug Young; General, Men in Jeep – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-17 (seventh cartoon in production).
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss, disguised as a soldier to escape a hunter, is mistaken for real one by the Army.

Art Davis was looking forward to being in charge of a unit to direct commercials at Warner Bros. He had been promised it. He had begun to get staff together. But then he discovered someone else was brought in to do it. So he got out when the studio resumed operations in September 1960 after the usual two-week summer break. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do.

Then he talked to Warren Foster, who was writing at Hanna-Barbera. The two had worked together in Friz Freleng’s unit at Warners. And Foster helped him get in to Warner Bros. as an animator, though he shouldn’t have needed much help. Davis had been in the cartoon business since the silent era so everyone must have known him.

Davis arrived at a fortuitous time. In October, Kellogg’s signed a contract to sponsor a brand-new half-hour series to be part of its syndication distribution, The Yogi Bear Show. Hanna-Barbera needed new cartoons, pronto; the series had to be ready in about three months. Davis recalled he was in animation for about three weeks and then became a story director. Writer Tony Benedict, who was at the studio at the time, tells me the story director drew up the production board from the writers, then numbered the scenes, panels and backgrounds and timed out scenes for dialogue and action. This all followed the voice audio tracks. The production board then went to a layout artist.

Artie had a peculiar way of animating dialogue in some H-B characters in side or almost three-quarters view, you can see it in his Yogi Bear and Yakky Doodle cartoons in addition to this cartoon. He had mouth lines curve way up into the face, with teeth represented by a few vertical lines (no uppers and lowers). I wish I could describe it better. See the drawing to the right. I don’t recall him animating anything like that in theatrical cartoons.

There are plenty of mix-ups in this cartoon which ends with Snagglepuss being mischievous. It starts out with our hero being indignant at a poster announcing a $15 for his capture for attempted sheep stealing (which he never did in any of the cartoons in his own series) and adding he’s not too bright. “Why, I was so bright, my mother called me ‘Sunny’,” is Snagglepuss’ response. He decides to draw a huge handlebar moustache on his picture so no one will recognise him. Besides, it makes him look “Dis-ting-gay. Handsome, even!”

Enter a hunter. I thought layout man Tony Rivera re-used him from another cartoon (he and Davis teamed up on Yakky Doodle’s Whistle-Stop and Go) but the other red-suited hunters I’ve spotted aren’t quite the same. Snagglepuss points to the poster and asks the hunter if he looks like that. The hunter draws a moustache on Snagglepuss. Time for an exit, stage left. Davis animates a mouth movement on the hunter, evidently forming two words, but there’s no voice on the soundtrack.

We cut from Snagglepuss running to a soldier who is swimming in a lake. Snagglepuss reaches out from behind bushes on a cel overlay and decides to disguise himself and make a getaway in the back of an Army jeep. Incognito, even. The two soldiers in the jeep, for reasons of the plot, simply leave their friend in the lake and drive away from him.

Some Tony Rivera designs. He really liked those jaw lines and overbites.

The jeep roles into Fort Nitt but Snagglepuss somehow thinks he’s in a Boy Scout camp (“How healthy! How outdoorsy!”), that the noisy drill sergeant is a scoutmaster and the assembly of Rivera-designed soldiers are “just little kids.” “Temper, temper! T-sk, t-sk, t-sk!” he chides the sergeant (Daws Butler turns the word “tsk” into two syllables). Sarge assesses the situation as being a nightmare, caused by eating pickled cream puffs. Snagglepuss adeptly wraps him up in a rope while demonstrating “a few keen scout knots” namely the “double hitch quadruple grandma knot.”

“Hiya, general. I see you’ve been eating pickled cream puffs, too.” Yes, the general enters the cartoon. Snagglepuss hears the word “army” and realises the situation he’s in, though the military people all think he’s a soldier. There’s a lot of running back and forth between the base and the hunter outside as Snagglepuss tries to escape bullets. “Caught between second and third,” he anxiously exclaims. Sarge stops the firing. “I’m going to recommend you for a medal, rampant with peanut clusters, even!” says Snagglepuss, who is then put on guard duty but refuses to let the general enter. The general puts Snagglpuss on K.P. “What’s K.P.?!” he demands. Cut to Snagglepuss peeling potatoes. “No wonder they don’t spell it out. Nobody would do it.” Sarge tells Snag the general likes his potatoes scalloped. “Who’s the general? Sittin’ Bull? Scalped indeed!”

There’s more gunfire when Snagglepuss reveals himself to be a lion, as the Flintstones’ cue “Chase” (aka “Cue 3-1”) plays in the background. He shrugs philosophically as he runs away from the bullets.

The final scenes take us to the lake. The general is now swimming. Snagglepuss grabs his clothes from behind the bushes. “I hope you enjoyed your swim, general, sir,” says the sergeant. “Immense-itively, sergeant. Immense-itively,” says Snagglepuss, now wearing the general’s uniform. And I hope I enjoy my scalped potatoes, even.” Cartoon ends.

More on the music. The opening cue was originally written for the Loopy De Loop cartoons, but you’ll recognise some Flintstones music as well. For example, the piece when the sergeant has the soldiers marching is “Cue 6-14,” informally known as “A Putter to Drive With.” When Snagglepuss is thanking the sarge, the music is “Cue 8-11,” also called “Bouncy Fred,” and when he’s peeling the potatoes, it’s “Cue 8-6C,” aka “Sad Fred Dirge Pt. 3.”

And some brushwork as Snagglepuss exits.

Vera Hanson, the background artist, was married to Howard Hanson, the production supervisor. This is the only Snagglepuss cartoon she worked on.

The blog has now reviewed all of the cartoons in the Snagglepuss series.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Wanna Buy a Huck?

There was, and I suppose still is, more to cartoons on TV than just watching them. Many kids wanted to carry on with their enjoyment of their favourite characters after the set was turned off. And cartoon studios were ready for you. And hoped your parents’ bank accounts were, too.

Games and toys were all part of a cartoon studio’s bottom-line. The more successful characters a studio had, the more chances for successful merchandising. And marketing stuff to kids was a huge aspect of cartoondom; in reality, it went back to the silent days of the 1920s when mom could get you a stuffed Felix the Cat doll. In the ‘30s, Walt Disney started taking advantage of merchandising. And in the TV era, so did Hanna-Barbera.

Daily Variety crunches the numbers about licensed products in this article from August 13, 1962. Mention is made of Marx’s Rosey toy. Marx signed a licensing deal and then apparently complained that it was making a huge investment only to discover Rosey wasn’t going to be a regular character. My guess is she was included in the end credit animation to placate Marx.

The story also talks about the studio’s budget for the coming season and plans to leave the cinder block bunker studio at 3501 Cahuenga for larger and far nicer digs down the street.

By the way, if my parents had ever bought me one of those Huckleberry Hound or Mr. Jinks dolls that Knickerbocker put out in 1959, I’d probably have asked them “Who’s that?”

Hanna-Barbera's Huge Merchandising Bonanza
Merchandising, a handsome money-in-the-bank offshoot of vidpix, continues to flourish for those series which have caught on with the public, and makes millionaires out of producers.
Latest illustration of the fancy dividends from the merchandising end is Hanna-Barbera Productions, which reports merchandising from its various cartoon characters grossed $39,000,000 past fiscal year.
The H-B cut for licensing is 6%, and this is split with Screen Gems, which distribs the H-B series. The take thus will be $1,950,000 for H-B and as much for Screen Gems. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, partners in the animation telefilmery, say that Eddie Justin, head of merchandising for SG, estimates the gross on their merchandising will hit $50,000,000 in 1963.
What manner of merchandise triggers such huge sales? Well, it ranges over quite a spectrum, including a Flintstones pool toy, a Huckleberry bath salts, Flintstones pajamas, Huckleberry sheets, pillowcases and drapes, pencil cups, Yogi Bear and Flintstones comic strips syndicated by McNaught in 238 newspapers, with the Flintstones also seen abroad. Over 60,000,000 comic and coloring books have been sold, over a million records.
In Sweden, an enterprising candy manufacturer put out a Flintstones candy—rock candy, of course—and reported he sold 1,000,000 boxes the first day it was on the market. This year's royalty cut from merchandising is a record for H-B, topping the previous fiscal year considerably. In fiscal year ended June 1, 1961, their products merchandise grossed $22,000,000 which brought home a royalty pie of $1,100,000. If the SG estimate on the next fiscal year proves correct, the royalty dessert will add up to $2,500,000.
The partners have issued over 700 licenses for various venders of their animated by-product. Strongest of the characters merchandisewise were The Flintstones and Yogi Bear, they report.
As a rule, merchandising doesn't get underway until a series is on the air and a proven success—for obvious reasons—but on H-B's upcoming "The Jetsons," which bows this fall, a merchandising deal has already been made with toy manufacturer Louis Marx for a Jetson character, the maid, called "Rosey The Robot." Other Jetson characters are now being licensed also.
In addition to their record take from merchandising, the Hanna-Barbera team is shelling out a record $8,500,000 for new product for the coming season. The breakdown goes like this: $2,000,000 for 26 "The Flintstones"; $2,000,000 for 24 "The Jetsons"; $1,900,000 for 156 syndicated five-min. cartoons on three series, "Lippy The Lion And Hardy Har-Har"; Touche Turtle And Dum-Dum" and "Wally Gator"; $140,000 for 12 "Loopy De Loop" cartoons for theatrical release via Columbia; $900,000 on commercials for their shows; $1,200,000 for a Yogi Bear feature for Columbia, to be released in June of 190%. Not included in this tabulation is a "Flintstones" feature planned for Columbia in June of 1964.
Hanna and Barbera said they expect additional orders on "Huckleberry," "Yogi" and "Quick Draw McGraw" this fall, but even without these the production coin outlay is of record proportions.
H&B's "Top Cat" series, which was on ABC-TV for only one season, will be seen on that web next season, on daytime, in reruns.
H&B, because of their expanding operations, are going to construct a new building, one with 38,000 square feet. Near the present site, the structure will cost $1,100,000. It will be ready by Jan. 1.
Expansion is the capper on a Hollywood success story not too often seen these days. Neither partner is a novice — each is 52 — and when they headed MGM's animation department they created the "Tom And Jerry" theatrical shorts series while there. In 1957 they exited MGM to go it on their own.
Renting space at the old Chaplin studios, they spent three years there but began to build so rapidly they had offices in four different locations as well as the studio, before leaving for site between Hollywood and San Fernando Valley.
But they're still growing, and are headquartered in nine separate buildings; hence the decision to construct one which will encompass all their activities. High production costs killed the once-prosperous field of theatrical cartoons, and for their upcoming theatrical product, H-B "have geared the cartoons to the present economy," they say.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Yakky Doodle in Mad Mix Up

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Bob Carr, Layout – Jack Huber, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Chopper – Vance Colvig; Yakky – Jimmy Weldon; Fibber Fox, Mad Scientist – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production J-64 (final Yakky production of 1961 season).
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: A mad scientist temporarily switches the brains of Yakky and Chopper, confusing Fibber Fox.

The best part of this cartoon is Art Lozzi’s establishing shot. Excellent design and colour, and I like the brush strokes in the sky in the background. The next-best part is the takes and expressions that animator Bob Carr gives to Fibber Fox.

The plot is pretty simple. A crazy scientist with a large head and a voice similar to Wally Gator wants to test his Switcho Brain Machine. Yakky and Chopper knock on his door. They’re thirsty from hiking. The scientist offers them Chinese tea (and “Chinese hats”) but switches their brains (and strength) instead. “Hurrah for me!” he shouts.

Yakky and Chopper beat it out of the castle. The scientist tells us the effect only lasts an hour.

The bulk of the rest of the cartoon is spent with Fibber Fox totally baffled about why Yakky can beat him up and Chopper is swimming like a duck.

Anticipation and extremes.

Fibber tries putting on glasses to make sure he’s not seeing anything. Fibber thinks he’s hallucinating (“Well, gosh, I’m entitled to a little hallucination now and then”) so he tries a cold shower, a little exercise and fresh air to snap out of it. Of course, it all fails.

The effect wears off...

Now Chopper as himself bashes Fibber to the ground. “Hallucination or no hallucination, I can go along with the gag.” Fibber starts acting like a dog and a duck. “Look, I’m a dog! Bark, bark, bark!” “I’m a duck! Quack, quack, quack!” (Fibber even flies for good measure).

“Hey,” says Chopper. “What’s wrong with him?” “Maybe it’s something he didn’t eat,” suggests Yakky. Chopper unnecessarily repeats Yakky’s line, adds his “Now, ain’t that cute” catchphrase and the cartoon ends. And so does this post.