Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Mike, All We Need is 78 of Them

Somewhere, there must be an interview which definitively answers the question about why Mike Maltese decided to chuck Chuck Jones and leave Warner Bros. for Hanna-Barbera. Certainly he had nothing against Jones; the two worked together in the ‘60s at M.G.M. So, one is left presuming the reason is Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna offered greener pastures—green as in cash, that is.

Maltese has always been my favourite cartoon writer. He had an ear for odd words and always came up with pleasingly silly, occasionally non sequiturial, dialogue and cockeyed situations. One of my favourites from his days at Warners was in Rabbit Hood when the bashed Sheriff woozily exclaims “Odds, fish! The very air abounds in kings.” At Lantz, he came up with my favourite sight gag ever in a Paul J. Smith cartoon in Real Gone Woody when an ersatz Guy Lombardo record is playing in a jukebox at a teen-filled malt shop. The disc is as square as the music.

One can appreciate Maltese’s talents even more considering the workload outlined in this story from the Chicago Tribune of December 12, 1959. The other revelation is how Joe and Bill came up with a follow-up to the massive success of The Huckleberry Hound Show. It’s simple and obvious. They took Huck’s advice to “tune up your TV set” and decided to make gentle fun at the expense of what they saw.

It’s An Art!
Creators of Animated Cartoons Tell the Secret of Capturing an Audience

(Creators of the “Quick Draw McGraw” and “Huckleberry Hound” TV Series)
A GOOD rule to follow in creating a successful, animated cartoon series, we have found, is to give the audience characters they can identify, then follow up with wild antics impossible to duplicate in real life.
We think the popularity of our shows lies in providing a psychological release for humans of all ages. In our cartoons no one ever gets hurt despite the clobberings and the most binding situations.
Quick Draw McGraw, our newest series, appearing on channel 9, Thursdays, at 6 p.m., is the combined effort of our whole staff. We drew up rough sketches of characters based on three of the most standard TV shows—the western, the private eye, and the family situation comedy. The feeling was that an audience of a more adult nature would enjoy the satire, while our prime group, the kids, would watch it for its face value as an action filled story.
These sketches were turned over to our writer, Mike Maltese. Mike developed and named the characters and started in turning out 78 stories for the series. He also had to write the “bridges,” or little introductions that precede each of the three segments of Quick Draw.
Maltese made Quick Draw, the hero of the western segment, the fastest drawing critter west of Peoria. Since these are horse operas, it is only fitting that Quick Draw is a horse. Since all western stars have sidekicks, we gave him Baba Looey, a pint size Mexican burro with an accent to match.
Being in the cartoon field for many years, we know that current trends are vital. The TV private eye show inspired the Snooper and Blabber portion of Quick Draw. There has to be a certain amount of conflict in any cartoon, so Snooper and Blabber step all over each other in their constant fight against crime. Snooper is a cat and Blabber a mouse, because most private eye shows are a cat and mouse affair.
We watched many situation comedy shows and came up with Augie Doggie, a pooch that always harasses Daddy Doggie.
The voices are what make cartoons unique. We have Don Messick, Daws Butler, and Doug Young. It is their talent which keeps the stars in constant character.
TV animation is much more than pen and ink. It’s a lot of talent—organized and hard working.

See newspaper clipping here (Yowp note: Sorry, the clipping is gone now. Such is the fickle nature of the internet)


  1. I knew growing up that Doggy Daddy was a spoof of Jimmy Durante...but it wasn't until decades later that I learned that Augie Doggy was based on Durante's radio straight man--Garry Moore. It wasn't until I saw an episode of I'VE GOT A SECRET on the Game Show Network where Durante appeared, and the two recreated one of their radio routine, that revelation came about for me.

  2. Yeah, Paul, the two worked so well together on radio. I love Durante but his show wasn't as good after Moore decided to go on his own.