Saturday, 27 October 2018

An Interview With Huck, Quick Draw, Yogi and Baba Looey

Today is the 60th birthday of one of Hanna-Barbera’s most underrated cartoon characters.

Me.

Yes, it was on this date 60 years ago that the first Yowp cartoon, “Foxy Hound-Dog,” appeared on TV screens. At least in some cities, like Battle Creek, Michigan (via WOOD-TV).

How can the world dislike a dog that says nothing but the word “yowp”?

Yeah, it is kind of limiting, story-wise, isn’t it? There were two Yowp cartoons in the first season of the Huckleberry Hound Show in 1958-59 and then another in the second. By that time, Warren Foster had been hired to write for Yogi Bear and decided what would work best would be to give Yogi a regular ranger adversary in Jellystone Park. There was, sniff, no need for Yowp any longer. Consigned to cartoon retirement, I was, along with Iggy and Ziggy, Li’l Tom Tom, Cousin Tex and a few others who enjoyed a brief period of marketing by H-B Enterprises until new characters came along.

Yours truly was written up in only one wire service story that I have reprinted on this blog and, even then, the writer called my name “yelp” (and Dangerfield thought he got no respect). However the article below, in the November 16, 1960 edition of the Tampa Times, included Yowp publicity art taken from one of Bick Bickenbach’s model sheets. The unidentified rabbit next to the unidentified Yowp is from the first season Yogi cartoon “The Brave Little Brave.”

This article takes some of the usual publicity information at the time (“planned animation,” fired by MGM, seven Oscars, Flintstones gadgets) and turns it into a cute dialogue involving the major Hanna-Barbera characters. You’ll notice no mention of Ruff and Reddy, but Hanna sings some of the Yogi Bear Show theme song lyrics more than two months before they were first heard on TV. And the story plays up how studios and sponsors instantly snapped up their cartoons, a far cry from the underdog tale of woe involving snow, mixed-up reels, months of waiting and such that Joe and Bill poured out in interviews several decades later.

Interestingly, the story states there was no Flintstones “pilot film.” I honestly find it difficult to believe the short reel that everyone calls a “pilot film” (without any proof it was used as such) with its markings visible on screen was ever shown to a potential network or agency. (I also dispute that Daws Butler is the voice of Barney on it; it sounds nothing like Daws and it’s questionable whether the voice is done by a professional actor).

Anyway, enjoy this story with art and photos that accompanied it. Reader Lance Smith has identified the Ed Benedict-looking Stone Agers as incidental characters from “The Monster From the Tar Pits.”


THE WHIMSICAL WORLD OF HANNA-BARBERA
By BILL MIDDLETON
Huckleberry Hound blinked.
“So what if I wasn’t elected president! I put up a dog-dandy fight, you can bet! I just might’uve made it, ‘cept for one thing.
“Me.”
The droopy-eyed hillbilly dog, star of his cartoon series, “Huckleberry Hound,” gave a sigh. “There’s always somethin’ to be thankful for. Like Bill and Joe. Their real names are William and Joseph, but we’re sort of hound-dog informal ‘round here.
“They call me Huck, an’ I don’t mind a bit.”
Huck was referring to his creators, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who have practically revolutionized the cartoon world in recent years. Three years ago the two men were fired from their jobs. At that time, they looked upon their situation with a dim view, but today they are thankful that it happened, because it lead to their present amazing success.
Today, Hanna-Barbera Productions is one of the largest cartoon companies in the world. $5,000,000 is invested in their cartoon shows, which include “Huckleberry Hound,” “Quick Draw McGraw” and their latest, ABC-TV’s “The Flintstones.”
How did they do it?
“Shucks,” said Huck, looking around the new offices, “they did it like I do things—ter-nac-ity! But you take those two fellows.
“I mean, don’t go and really take ‘em, ‘cause then they couldn’t cartoon me, and where’d I be? In the hound soup! And that’s where they were—in the soup.”
Huck was speaking of the dismal day in 1957 when Hanna and Barbera, and the entire cartooning staff, were suddenly let go by MGM. Bill and Joe had been with MGM studios for twenty years, during which time they drew the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons and won seven Academy Awards.
But because of an economic cutback, the studio decided to liquidate its cartoon department, and that was that.
Dark-haired Joe Barbera sat at his desk and smiled.
“We’re both in our ‘40s, and out of work. We went around to all the other studios, trying to sell the idea of cartoons produced only for TV. They said sorry, no thanks.”
“They said it couldn’t be done,” chortled Huck. “Well, here I am—livin’, animated proof that it could be done!”
“We had a new process,” explained Joe, “that we called ‘planned animation,’ Cartoon[s] used to look too much like life. That’s what killed them.
“Where the old process used as many as 17,000 cartoon drawings for a seven-minute cartoon, the new technique uses only about 1,000 to 2,000 drawings for the same length production.”
Barbera explained that if the TV viewer will notice, when a cartoon character such as Huckleberry walks across the screen, his entire body doesn’t necessarily move. Maybe just his legs, with the rest of the body motionless. But the final effect is still one of full movement.
“Then finally,” said Joe, “Screen Gems bought our idea. In fact, they took one look at our presentation and said they’d make a deal. Just like that. It was all settled in fifteen minutes.”
Huck first appeared in 1958, and in1959 an obtuse horse came along to star in “Quick Draw McGraw.”
Quick Draw is not the brightest of cowboys, and seldom gets his man. However, he stopped trying to get his gun out of his holster, and looked down at his side-kick, Baba Looey.
Baba Looey who is a Mexican burro with a Cuban accent, shrugged.
“A horse like you, Queeksdraw, I theenk.”
Quick Draw nodded. “That sounds okay to me. Kind of looks good on me, this obtuse.”
“Olay!” said Baba.
It was mentioned to Barbera that his office and studios didn’t seem to have the tension and hard-core pace that would seemingly be expected in such a large operation.
“Oh,” he said, “the pressure is here. But we have no time clock, no memos. If a cartoonist feels he can work better at home, he works at home. We even have whole families working for us. A great many of our people work at home. Doesn’t matter, so long as the work gets done.”
At this point his partner, Bill Hanna, walked in with some sketches on their way to the layout department.
“Bill,” said Joe, “worked this up for a 45-second opening. Now a musician comes in and we get the full musical arrangement. Bill does all the original music.” Bill grinned, and sang a couple of lines. “Yogi Bear is smarter than the average bear. Yogi Bear is always in the ranger’s hair.”
A voice demanded: “Did I hear my name in the-mention of things?”
This was Yogi, the bear with the devil-may-care innocence and sloppy pride. Yogi reminds many TV viewers of a certain sewer-cleaner friend of a certain stout bus-driver hero of a certain situation comedy of recent vintage.
“Hey, hey!” said Yogi. “If that guy can sing, I’m a big boo boo of a bear!”
“Watch yourself!” said Bill.
“Olay!” said Baba.
“Me,” said Quick Draw, “I’m obtuse.”
And what of “The Flintstones”?
“Well,” said Joe, “we hope it’s cartooning that adults, as well as children, will enjoy. It’s suburbia in the stone age. Freddie Flintstone reads the newspaper, the Daily Slate, that has the latest dinosaur race results.
“And the garbage disposal unit is a ravenous old bird in the sink closet.”
Hanna and Barbera explained that it takes over seven months to produce a half-hour of animation such as “The Flintstones.” The reason is simple—every inch of animation is done by hand.
Each half-hour segment consists of over 12,000 individual drawings and requires the labor of 150 skilled artists, layout men, editors, inkers and printers.

The story behind the sale of “The Flintstones” involved a transaction that was contrary to the standard procedures of the industry.
“I did the presenting of the idea,” said Joe. “This was kind of unusual because producers never go out and sell shows. But I did, I flew to New York, carrying my storyboards. No film, just storyboards telling the story of one of the episodes.”
In New York, Joe placed the storyboards all around the conference room, and proceeded to race around, enacting the roles of each character in the series. In no time, the Madison Avenue executives were laughing, and the series was sold immediately.
“Speaking of New York,” said Huck, “did you say you were from Florida?”
I said yes.
“Well,” he said “if you’ll pardon the expression—I’ll be doggoned!”
“Why, do you have friends in Florida?”
“I hope so! I like to have friends everywhere. I get ‘thusiastic about friends. Even the Flintstones. They got rocks in their heads and all that, but let’s face it. They’re cartooned.
“I’m cartooned. All of us right here—cartooned!”
What about Hanna and Barbera?
Huckle chuckled.
“You kiddin’? They’re not for real. Gawrsh, no. Ever watch the way they move their legs? One—two—three. Three little old motions, jus’ like us.
“Don’t let ‘em fool you. They’re just tryin’ to star in a cartoon series, but they’ll never make it. No talent.
“Like I said, us cartooned guys got to stick together. Just not anybody is cartooned!”
There was a silence. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera slinked off into a corner and started chewing on their drawing boards.
I went out into the hall.
But behind me, there echoed sounds.
Huck: “I’ll make it yet. Jus’ wait ‘till 1964!”
Quick Draw: “I dunno about this obtuse stuff. I don’t feel good.
Yogi Bear: “Hey, hey, hey! Sometimes I think you guys better get back in your ink bottles!”
An argument started. Just as I was closing the door, a small burro face appeared around the corner.
“Olay?” said Baba Looey.
“Olay!”
I theenk.

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