Saturday 27 June 2009

The Cartoon Music of Geordie Hormel

It would seem, at first, to be improbable that there is a connection between Quick Draw McGraw and Spam. No, we don’t mean the e-mail kind of spam. We mean that pre-cooked food-ish product invented of necessity during the waning days of the Depression. For Spam is a product of the folks at Hormel. And one of those Hormel folks brought you some of the music which you hear in the background of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Cynics will suggest another similarity—that Spam bears as much resemblance to real food as the melodies wafting behind Baba Looey’s dialogue does to real music. Cynics are entitled to be wrong.

True, the music was never scored to the cartoons, like Carl Stalling did to everyone’s great delight—and to the cartoons’ benefit—at Warner Bros. Hanna-Barbera went the inexpensive route and paid for needle-drops from production libraries. The composers were all experienced musicians but the most improbable musician out of the lot was Geordie Hormel.

George Albert Hormel II was born in 1929 and named for his grandfather, who started a family meat-packing company in 1891. But Geordie was interested in things other than canned luncheon loaves of, well, something. He sounds like a cool guy I’d loved to have met. He gave away money to charity. He bought the Wrigley Mansion in Phoenix in 1992 (being an heir has its privileges) and could be found there every Sunday playing his Steinway. He married (and divorced) Leslie Caron. He fired a bullet through the window of his home (after being acquitted on a bizarre marijuana possession charge) as a publicity gag. More germane to our story is he founded his own little record label, Zephyr Records, in Los Angeles in mid 1956. Zephyr leaned toward jazz recordings but the label also signed Paul Frees as a singer in August that year (yes, that Paul Frees). Somewhere along the way, Hormel came up with a pile of background music cues (whether he even arranged them, let alone wrote them, is open to question).

About this time, Capitol was putting together a production library. While some of the cues were specifically written for it by Bill Loose, music from other sources was acquired to flesh out the library. A lot of it came from Phil Green writing for EMI, some from the Sam Fox library (for which Loose and John Seely had earlier done work). But Capitol also picked up material from Hormel’s Zephyr Records.

Several years ago, I had a little conversation on the web with someone who had been working for four years with Geordie to restore his music. About the Capitol Hi-Q library, he wrote:

His contibution to the library consisted of 16 of the Lp's we believe. All his Q's begin with the track # and then ZR. We have Lp's in D, L, M, S and X Reel libraries.

Capitol used the term ‘reel’ to refer to both reel-to-reel tape and 33s. As for how Geordie got involved, my anonymous correspondent revealed:

Geordie told me the story shortly after I began working for him, the details are a bit fuzzy but something along the lines of ... while in the coast guard he met a gentleman, name I cannot remember, and after a brief conversation, Geordie had told him of these themes that he had written and before long they were sent to Sweden or Denmark or somewhere like that and recorded and then sent on to Capitol, I am pretty sure it was at the beginning of the Zephyr era, again most of the details elude my memory.

Some of the cues from the ‘D’ reels were re-released. As best as I can tell, ‘D’ stands for ‘dramatic’ and a number of the Hormel dramatic beds ended up (with other Capitol Hi-Q music) in the soundtrack of that cult movie favourite Night of the Living Dead. At least the soundtrack gave them interesting names; Capitol was happy enough with things like “7-ZR-33 Sombre Emotional” (on reel D 14).

The Hormel ‘L’ reels are numbers 3 and 4, and almost all the cues on L 4 were grabbed by the audio cutter at H-B and came to rest in the background of Ruff and Reddy and then in the Huckleberry Hound series (Yogi Bear continued to use Capitol cues in the first year of his own show; the other cartoons that filled out the half hour featured Hoyt Curtin’s new stock music in the background).

Below are links to the nine cues on reel L 4 ‘Metropolitan Movement’. I don’t recall if the second cut was used, but any H-B fan should recognise most of the others. Click on the title and the melody should load into your default audio player.


One note about ‘ZR 48 Fast Movement’—a practically identical cue was written for the Sam Fox library called ‘Water Skis.’ That cue is credited to Bill Loose and John Seely. My wild guess, judging by the arrangement, is it was the original cue, and Hormel re-worked it.

‘ZR 53 Comedy Mysterioso’ was used on Ruff and Reddy but didn’t quite fit the comedy cartoons. I only recall hearing it in the Pixie and Dixie short Little Bird-Mouse.

Considering Hormel was a pianist, it’s odd none of the arrangements feature a piano. They’re all led by strings.

Geordie Hormel passed away on February 12, 2006, leaving behind fond memories for many TV cartoon fans. Which is more than most of us can say for spam.

Pixie and Dixie — Jinks Junior

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall (Mike Lah uncredited); Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Jinks, Junior, Dixie – Daws Butler; Pixie, Puppy, Dog – Don Messick.
Production E-23, Show K-011
First aired: week of Monday, December 8, 1958.
Plot: Jinks teaches his son how to catch mice, but innocent Junior wants to be friends. Jinks ends up taking a pounding from Pixie and Dixie to provide the ultimate lesson.

Delighted children in happy homes with loving parents. That may describe the viewers of cartoons on TV circa 1958 but it doesn’t describe what they’re watching. For the world of animation is a world filled with parent-less or mother-less tykes. We have child nephews (Donald Duck, Popeye, Jerry Mouse, even Bugs Bunny), a nephew and a niece (Woody Woodpecker) and even a son (Sylvester), but narry a doting mother to gingerly cup their little darlings to their sainted maternal bosom. Of course, that would get in the way of the plot, wouldn’t it?

So it is that Mr. Jinks doesn’t have a Mrs. Jinks, but he does have a Jinks Junior. But more amazing than all this female-less cartoon procreation is the fact Daws Butler found yet another child voice for Junior. Daws, of course, was Augie Doggie (say, he didn’t have a mother either, did he?). He was Elroy Jetson. And Aesop, Junior. They all sound different. And Jinks Junior is different still, with Daws using a tinier voice, pretty well the one he used for Pinky the Elephant in one of the Ruff and Reddy adventures. Daws Butler was such a remarkable talent and is one of the big reasons why there’s something to enjoy in these early Hanna-Barbera efforts, even when the story or animation could have been a lot better.

The animation in this one has errors and oddities. In the opening sequence, Jinks’ right cheek fur appears and disappears (and you’ll notice here the arm on a separate cell is covering part of Jinks’ tie). Even worse is something that happens in several places in the cartoon—the lighter-coloured mouth and muzzle jerks back and forth on his face when he’s talking (especially in the last scene).

Junior has that football-with-ears shape that Ed Benedict (or somebody) loved. Ruff is designed the same way. So is the original Tony Junior in the Kellogg’s commercials. The plot’s a simple one. Jinks informs Junior that “Today, you are a man, uh, cat” and that means it’s the day he is to catch his first mouse. Jinks has to explain the delight a cat has in catching a mouse (in extreme close-up, for some reason) to the na├»ve Junior.

Here’s a good indication that animator Lew Marshall worked on the Tom and Jerry cartoons in the ‘50s. Junior has the same head-down, knitted-brow look that Tom used to effect when he was angrily determined.

It turns out Jinks has a problem. Junior makes friends with Pixie and Dixie. So Jinks gives a demonstration on how to catch them instead. And fails. So Junior copies him. Junior, naturally, doesn’t suffer the same pain because he treats it like a game. (As a side note, I like the striped wallpaper here. Jinks’ house seems to have different wall colours or wall paper every cartoon and we get stripes in a couple of them).

So, it’s back to the drawing board—literally—for Jinks. The cat-teach-kitten-about-mouse-using-blackboard idea is lifted directly from Professor Tom, the 1948 Tom and Jerry cartoon that seems to have inspired this one.

Next, the cat uses a wind-up toy mouse to show his son how to catch a mouse. But Junior rides the streamlined metal mouse instead (past the same window curtain five times) coming to an abrupt stop with the old “low bridge” joke.

“Daddy-O” then sends Junior to Pixie and Dixie’s mouse hole, but it turns out the mice gives him a delectable snack. “Thanks, fellas. I like cheese,” says Junior, as Jinks pulls a Tex Avery take with considerably less panache than Avery.

Finally the exasperated Jinks cuts a deal with the meece. He asks them to beat him up so Junior will get mad at them and grow up to be like other cats. They enthusiastically do so in some cycle animation (Jinks’ mouth remains open as if making one long scream, but Daws goes “Ouch” and “Ooch” on the soundtrack). The plot works. The knitted-browed kitten chases the mice back into their hole and tells them “You can’t do that to my dad!” as Jinks happily responds “That’s my boy that said that!” in a manner very similar to the taxi cab/father in Avery’s One Cab’s Family (also voiced by Butler).

Jinks thanks the mice for their help. The characterisation Shows comes up with works really well. Warren Foster expanded on it in later cartoons where the cat and mice are friends instead of enemies. Here, the two are friendly—but the mice still get some pleasure in clobbering the cat, so they’re not altogether friends.

But Jinks’ troubles aren’t over yet. Junior is now outside playing with a puppy. The cat once again is forced to explain the ways of the world—“A dog is a cat’s worst emeny. Dogs and cats are supposed to fight like cats and dogs.” Well, if Jinks wants it that way, the puppy’s daddy reaches into the frame and is willing to accommodate. Jinks lamely tries to talk his way out of it as the iris closes and we’re left to guess what inevitably happens next. Yes, being a TV cartoon, we get dialogue but no action.

Someone can correct me if I’m wrong, but I guess Junior either moved in with the puppy or went back to the Home For Celluloid Orphans as I don’t believe he appeared in another cartoon. The soundtrack for this cartoon was released as a children’s record by Colpix as “Ain’t So Easy to Catch a Meecy”—minus the stock music in the background. (Note, the link to the record in the widget on the right is busted for now).

The syndicated version of this cartoon opens with my favourite arrangement of the Pixie and Dixie theme which features a triangle and a tuba. We get Jack Shaindlin’s Toboggan Run during one of the chase scenes and a full version of a ‘walker’ melody by Shaindlin (if anyone knows the title of it, please e-mail me).

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie triangle opening theme (Hanna-Barbera-Shows-Curtin).
0:26 - TC 204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Jinks announces it’s Junior’s day of man(cat)hood, tells him to catch mice.
1:43 - LAF 25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Junior makes friends with mice.
2:15 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks chases mice into hole; Junior copies.
2:40 - L 78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) – Jinks teaches Junior with mechanical mouse.
3:59 - TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Junior eats cheese; Jinks makes deal with mice.
5:07 - ZR 47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Geordie Hormel) – Mice beat up Jinks; Junior chases them.
5:48 - LAF 25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Junior plays with puppy; dad dog threatens Jinks.
7:10 - Pixie and Dixie end theme (Hanna-Barbera-Shows-Curtin).

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Huckleberry Hound — Cock-a Doodle Huck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Sam Clayberger; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Narrator, Rooster – Don Messick; Huck, Fox, Chickens – Daws Butler.
Production E-38, Show K-008.
First Aired: week of Monday, November 17, 1958.
Plot: Huck vs Chicken-stealing Fox. Both don’t count on angry Rooster, who trees them as they talk about teaming up as roosters on TV.

This is a cartoon with some wonderful examples of gag timing. Bad gag timing. One of two things must have happened here.
• The studio had to rush this through production so they stuffed it with padding and went on to the next cartoon.
• The studio really thought overdrawn-out routines induced uncontrollable laughter.

Here’s a piece of Don Messick’s narration from Cock-a Doodle Huck, describing the arrival of the title character’s nemesis:

DON: This foxy fiend is a shrewd, sly, conniving, cunning, predatory, mean, cruel critter. This barnyard burglar will swipe a dozen chickens at one time. Let’s face it: this guy is a sneaky, low-down, worthless, no-good, cowardly, creepy, ornery, good-for-nothing, chicken-stealing varmint.
FOX: Well, gee whiz! Nobody’s perfect.

Messick does a great job building the dialogue but, gee whiz! It took 29 seconds. For one dialogue gag. Bullwinkle cartoons used to pull off the same type of gag, with the narrator elucidating on Boris Badenov’s evil traits. But Badenov would cut off Bill Conrad after a few seconds and make some kind of funny crack. The timing was perfect. Here, the bit just goes on and on and on, like Charlie Shows needed to find ways to fill seven minutes and couldn’t think of anything, so he let the dialogue run on and on. Either that, or he (or somebody) really thought a 29-second dialogue gag was funny.

I know the Bullwinkle segments were half the length of the H-B cartoons, and I know that Huck had a fairly languid pace about him as a character but, gee whiz! That doesn’t mean the cartoon has to drag.

There are more Get-On-With-It-Already moments later in the cartoon, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

We’re greeted with a promising start: a night-time establishing shot of Huck’s farm, filled with lovely variations of blue. Whether Dick Bickenbach picked the colours or Sam Clayberger did, it’s still a nice little open. Huck is awoken by the sounds of chickens squawking as ‘Brer Fox’ is pacing around the henhouse. Out comes the rifle, and several shots scare away the fox, who does that sideways stomp running exit that Carlo Vinci loved using.

One of the little touches Carlo uses which shows he’s an old-time animator—when the fox puts down the Rhode Island Red, the chicken clucks, and Carlo draws little lines away from the hen’s mouth, like something he would have learned from an animator in silent films, where you see stuff like that all the time.

Next comes the dialogue mentioned above. Inexplicably, Daws Butler uses his Shelley Berman-esque voice for the fox on this one line (the voice he later used for Fibber Fox) but in the rest of the cartoon, he used his Phil Silvers-style voice. Why he changed is anyone’s guess.

Shows puts some alliteration in Messick’s mouth, as the narrator informs us the fox “This pilferer prefers only the plumpest pullets.” We see the fox’s stretched arm feeling the hens for size, and then spend six lonnnng seconds stretching even ridiculously further to pat an anvil and Huck’s nose. But it’s all worthwhile as Huck smashes the fox’s hand with a hammer (out of frame) and we get one of those wonderful pain takes that only Carlo attempted to do. Here are just two of the drawings.

Alas, the cartoon slows down again with our next blackout gag. The fox is in a tree and drops iron pellets into the henhouse. We get six cycles of dropping. The chickens eat the pellets and the fox pulls up the birds with a magnet attached to a fishing rod. We get three cycles of that, with really trite dialogue from Shows like this: “Down goes the magnet. And before you can say ‘chicken cacciatore’, up comes Chicken Little’s mother—Chicken Big.” Of course, being a cycle, both chickens are the same size.

And after more blah-blah-blah by the narrator, we get the punch-line—Huck with a gun. The one gag takes a minute and 15 seconds. What!? Picture a Wolf-Sheepdog cartoon by Chuck Jones. He’d take less than half the time, and the end would be a funny pose of a blackened Ralph Wolf staring at the camera (and maybe a pose within the pose to surprise the audience) instead of just a fade-out on the explosion like we view here.

The next gag misses just a bit. The fox temporarily gives up on stealing chickens, and tries for eggs. Huck plants a firecracker in an egg and puts it under a hen. The fox grabs it, but realises it’s a mini-bomb and puts it back. The chicken becomes the victim of the explosion. Carlo’s take is cute but the hen doesn’t quite cover her private parts, which is the point of the pose, isn’t it?

Now, the fox tries a bullet-proof vest, which does its job. Huck admits defeat and tells the fox to pick up his chicken and go. Huck’s rifle gets around the vest in true Charlie Shows fashion (yes, another ass joke).

Finally, Foxy decides dress up like a rooster (as first the narrator, and then he, describes what’s happening for unnecessary verbiage’s sake). But Huck has the same idea. The two complement each other on their outfits, neither of which impresses the real rooster, who accuses the phoneys of muscling in on his territory, and chases them up a tree. (I think that’s the same tree on either end of the background below)

The narrator inexplicably says “The moral of the story seems to be: don’t try to be something you’re not. Be yourself.” Not only has that nothing to do with the plot of the cartoon, it ends with the fox and Huck doing the opposite, and each complementing the other on his rooster crow impression. Carlo has a nice little bit of animation here, the way he draws Foxy pointing at Huck with those crooked fingers he’d later use when animating Fred Flintstone.

The fox suggests to Huck they take their act to TV. The rooster isn’t impressed as he closes the cartoon with the line: “Now, I ask ya .. did ya hear anything so ridiculous? Did ya?” A nice little commentary on the banality of (’50s) television.

The music doesn’t really augment the action all too well. The sound cutter was happy to let the music play through into the next scene and start a new cue in mid-scene. The tunes are familiar to any Huck fan. All but two are Bill Loose and John Seely products and all come from reels L-1 and L-2 of the Capitol Hi-Q Library. My thanks to S. Carras for correcting my old music notes.

0:00 - Huck/Clementine sub main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:26 - ZR-49 - LIGHT EERIE (Geordie Hormel) – Huck scares Fox with rifle; Fox feels chickens.
2:11 - TC 201 - PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – More of Fox feeling chickens; Fox uses pellets and magnet to catch chickens.
3:28 - TC 202 - ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – More of Fox using pellets, gets shot by Huck; Huck plants egg-bomb; Fox uses bullet-proof vest.
4:50 - TC 303 - ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck shoots at vest, then Fox’s butt; Fox and Huck dress as cock-a-doodler-dooers, "Uh oh!" 6:07 - TC 202 - ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Pan to Rooster, Rooster chases Fox and Huck up tree.
6:46 - LAF-7-12 - FUN ON ICE (Jack Shaindlin) – Fox suggest he and Huck pair up on TV, Rooster disgusted.
7:10 - Huck sub ent title theme (Curtin).

Sunday 14 June 2009

Men Love Huck

The attitude that “cartoons are for kids” has been ingrained in people for a long time. It dates back to the pre-television days where theatres would have regular Saturday children’s shows with cartoons (and other short films) on the matinee menu. Even before that, the L.A. Times of June 15, 1930 noted that producers of talkies faced the problem of winning back the patronage of kids but, fortunately, Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies cartoons (and maybe Westerns) were there for them.

TV heaped reinforcement on the opinion when packages of old theatricals were bought for use as filler on live-action kids’ shows or in 30 and 60 minute morning and afternoon cartoon shows like the ones I grew up watching. Thus, when The Huckleberry Hound Show debuted, various newspaper articles popped up with the “surprising” finding that kids weren’t the only ones watching.

Here’s one, a column by Gene Swindell in the Daily Bulletin of Anderson, Indiana, of March 12, 1960:

ADULT CARTOONS? – The Monday night television viewing begins a bit early at our house when “Huckleberry Hound” bows in on Ch. 13. Although the cartoon show is primarily tuned in for my son’s enjoyment, I have become attached to it myself. And judging from some statistics received this week, I’m not the only adult sneaking a peek at these cartoon characters.
WLW4’s recent rating survey indicates that out of every 100 people watching “Huck,” 40 are children, 12 are teenagers, 24 are women and 24 are men. The show holds 42 per cent of all the TV sets tuned in from 6:30 to 7, a good record for even the best network programs.
“Huckleberry Hound” was created by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, teammates in cartooning for 20 years. Both reside in California and recently formed H-B Enterprises which also handles “Quick Draw McGraw,” another top-rated cartoon show aired Wednesday evenings on Ch. 13.
The voices behind most of the cartoon characters belong to Daws Butler, a native of Chicago. Butler has spent the past two years being the voice of “Huck,” “Yogi Bear,” “Mr. Jinks” and the little mouse, “Dixie.” You may remember Butler’s work on Stan Freberg’s million-dollar record, “St. George and the Dragonet,” in 1948.
“Huckleberry Hound” has avoided the occupational peril of being typed. He may turn up one week as a cop, looking like nothing else on earth and sounding like Jack Webb; then the next week he may appear as Sir Huck, making like a British Andy Griffith.
Ch. 13 considers “Huck” and “Quick Draw” its favorite television personalities. They are even watched by personnel of the station—a critical group of viewers hardened by constant exposure to westerns, musicals, variety and detective shows.

At the time, all the product marketing from the show was aimed at kids. Today, it’s different. DVDs of the old shows are for those of us who watched Huck and Yogi years ago as kids. We can only hold out hope that a second season Huck and a complete collection of Quick Draw McGraw cartoons will finally get their deserved release.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Yogi Bear — Daffy Daddy

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Yogi, Father – Daws Butler; Junior, Ranger – Don Messick; Mother – Ginny Tyler?.
Production E-58, Show K-024.
First aired: week of Monday, March 9, 1959.
Plot: Yogi decides to be the playmate to a cowboy-clad kid ignored by his parents. Junior rides him like a rented pony. Literally.

Charlie Shows must not have liked kids. Which would seem odd for someone whose audience was kids—he wrote for a TV puppet show, moved on to Disney and then concocted stories for Hanna-Barbera (and, later, Hanna Barbera kids records). But what other possible explanation can there be for his string of cartoon featuring absent or inattentive parents, and kids running amok inflicting violence on perfect strangers?

No wonder audiences and TV critics alike viewed Huck, Yogi, et al as biting satire, considering they were subjected to an endless diet of oh-so-happy-together family shows like Father Knows Best or Ozzie and Harriet. Even the laugh track on those sitcoms sounds like it would rather be watching something else.

Ah, but then came Charlie Shows to write a cartoon like this one, with a kid doing whatever he feels like as his parents would rather have him go away somewhere. Sure, Junior is not an outright jerk as those rich twins were to Huck in Hookey Daze, but he still enjoys being sadistic to innocent Yogi.

Well, then again, there’s another possible explanation about the story premise. It could have come from Joe Barbera, in which case he simply borrowed the premise of two of his MGM cartoons, “Busy Buddies” (released 1956) and “Tot Watchers” (released in 1958), which both featured a kid who toddles off from an inattentive and irresponsible babysitter.

We have no Boo Boo and no pic-a-nic baskets in this tale, which opens with Yogi’s “bongo-walk” through the wooded Jellystone Park. That’s a clue Carlo Vinci animated this, as well as the way Yogi’s top teeth are drawn; a little wider than Ken Muse. Vinci seems to have been given cartoons that required violent action, but the takes in this one are unfortunately tamer than usual. The walk cycle lasts ten seconds, stops for some dialogue, and continues for another ten seconds. Some pretty easy footage for Carlo.

“Old Nosey-to-Nose Yogi” hears a noise and decides to see what’s responsible. It’s a “typical type tourist family” (expressing more cynicism, it appears). Junior wants to play “western” with his mom and dad but she’s too busy reading; he’s too busy lazing around. The father tells him to “go shoot something else, like maybe a bear or something.” And that describes the remainder of the plot.

Yogi does a mock death scene with extremes that don’t exactly put Bugs Bunny to shame, though we get a Bugs-like aside about his great acting ability (in this case, he’s “better than the av-er-age TV cowboy star”) and one of Shows’ little rhyming bits of dialogue (“Just bury me on boot hill, Buffalo Bill”). Having accomplished his goal, the kid goes to bug his parents again, but upon seeing Yogi is still alive, goes back to shoot him dead again. And again and again.

Then Junior drags “the big game” to show his mother. She doesn’t want some “dusty old bear” around and throws buckets of water on him. Carlo pulls off a nice little bit here. He backs up Yogi who then does a stretch take-off out of the frame. The wretched mother then gives the kid hell for “bringing home pets.”

Ah, the little pest isn’t finished with Yogi. He lassoes the bear who stupidly offers to give the boy a horseback ride. The kid ends up whipping and choking him and tiring him out. But Junior wants more. So he goes to get a pair of spurs to make sure he gets his horsie ride. Below you’ll see some of the frames of how Carlo handled it.

The cynicism returns when the uninterested snoozy father thinks Yogi’s yelp in pain is “maybe a woodchuck” and when wifey asks if it’s Junior playing with the bear, the indifferent response is “Search me.” Finally, Yogi begs the ranger for help with the troubling tyke. The ranger thinks Yogi’s problem is he doesn’t know how to handle kids. The ranger learns to find out otherwise and demands the parents do something.

Naturally, apathetic mom and dad take their kid and drive home in a huff, not realising in the wind-up gag, the brat has ensured he is bringing home a keepsake from the park.

Don Messick uses his Ranger Smith voice, but the throughout the first season, there were a variety of names, designs and voices before Ranger Smith was finally invented at the start of the second season of Huck. This is one of two H-B cartoons in the first season to use a woman doing woman’s voices; Messick would generally do them in falsetto. It sounds a lot like Ginny Tyler, who was doing children’s records for Disney at the time and later worked for Hanna-Barbera on Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and The Fantastic Four.

There are spots where the sound-cutter wisely hasn’t used any music; we just get Yogi’s bongo-walk sound effect or some galloping hoofbeats. The music’s atypical, other than a rare appearance by a galop that’s among a bunch of Sam Fox library cues than Capitol put on reels L-13 and L-14 of the Hi-Q series, which re-named them all as ‘Light Movement.’ I think 2 ½ of them were used in H-B cartoons on rare occasion, and SF10 was the most common.

The music times are taken from a dub of the cartoon without credits at the start.

0:00 - Yogi sub main title (Hoyt Curtin).
0:14 - no music – Yogi walks through woods, hears Junior going “bang-bang.”
0:43 - TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Parents ignore Junior.
1:48 - TC 301 ZANY WALTZ (Loose-Seely) – Junior shoots hammy Yogi.
2:36 - no music – Yogi walks away.
2:47 - TC 201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Junior shoots Yogi some more; mother throws water on bear and nags Junior.
4:03 - TC 202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Junior rides Yogi; feeds bear hay.
(4:18 – 4:20, 4:41-4:48 – no music)
5:36 - L 81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) – Junior uses spurs on Yogi.
5:51 - SF10 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Lou De Francesco) – Junior keeps spurring Yogi.
6:14 - L 81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Yogi pleads with ranger to get kid off back; Ranger tells parents to get kid off his back.
6:38 - bassoon and zig zag strings (Jack Shaindlin) – Family drives home with Yogi tied up in back seat.
6:59 - Yogi sub end title (Curtin).

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Alan Reed the Candy Maker

This blog is devoted to early Hanna-Barbera short cartoons, so I won’t be touching on The Flintstones all that much; there are plenty of places on the web that do (or is that ‘Yabba dabba do’?). But I love the voice actors on that show and because of that, I thought I’d pass on a 1945 column devoted to Alan Reed.

After all these years, it still sounds like someone has mixed up the soundtrack when I hear Henry Corden’s voice come out of Fred Flintstone, though Corden did it for a couple of decades and did a pretty good job of it. But I grew up with Alan Reed, and his voice just sounds right. He could portray Fred as a Kramdenish-loud jerk, a warm father and a frustrated, growling neighbour to perfection with that rich, expressive baritone.

Alan had an incredibly prolific career. If you’re of a certain vintage, you would have seen him on TV shows (an episode of The Addams Family immediately comes to mind). Long before that, he had an incredible network radio career, starting in 1927 at the time he was in Columbia University. He was the voice of Rubinoff, the violinist, on the Eddie Cantor Show. He was an announcer, too, for ‘Colonel Stoopnagle’ on Quixie Doodle. For a time on the air he used both ‘Alan Reed’ and his real name, Ted/Teddy Bergman, before going exclusively with Reed about 1940. When asked why, he purportedly said “Oh, well, you can’t get along with a name like Bergman,” to which a critic replied: “I dunno about that—Ingrid Reed seems to be doing all right.”

But his biggest fame probably came as hammy poet Falstaff Openshaw, one of the original denizens of Allen’s Alley on Fred Allen’s show (another voice he once did for Allen was a bellowing NBC page who sounded a lot like a later bellowing cartoon caveman). It was at this time Virginia MacPherson of the United Press wire service interviewed Reed. Here’s her column with some stuff I’ll bet you didn’t know about A Man Called Flintstone.

Movie Roundup
Alan Reed Started Out to Become Candy Magnate

HOLLYWOOD.—(U.P.)—Radio and screen audiences would probably never have heard of Alan Reed—better known as Fred Allen’s “Falstaff Openshaw”—if it hadn’t been that pecan pralines melt in hot weather.
“That may sound pretty silly,” Reed grinned. “But I was all set to be a big candy magnate until summer came along.”
After the pralines melted he drifted into a dozen assorted jobs and eventually wound up as a radio comedian, stage star and movie actor. He just finished “Nob Hill” for Twentieth-Century-Fox and goes into Frank Ross’ film version of Lloyd Douglas’ best seller, “The Robe.”
AND THAT LAST role is a far cry from the Reed most of his fans know. He made a small fortune kicking Shakespeare around on the air, but he’s adding to it with serious stuff now.
“I started out a serious dramatic actor,” he explained. “And first thing I knew I was in the candy manufacturing business.”
Seems Reed joined forces with a wealthy chocolate bar king who thought it would be nice to dabble in theatricals.
“But he dabbled a little too much in a stock company that had me as a leading man,” Reed added. “Lost his shirt, he did.”
But the candy bar king wasn’t downhearted. He and Reed went to New York with $800 in their pockets. A little dice manipulation ran it up to $2,800. Then they started another candy business.
“We were going great guns,” Reed said. “Making money hand over first. Everybody wanted pecan pralines.”
Then came the hot weather. And those fancy pralines just went poof!
Reed doesn’t remember what happened to the candy bar king, but he himself went from shipping clerk to real estate to gym instructor to newsreel commentator.
“EVENTUALLY I wandered into radio and worked with Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, George Jessel, Burns and Allen, Bob Hope and Allen,” he said. “That’s where Falstaff got famous with his hammy version of Shakespeare.”
For a while Reed was batting out from 25 to 30 shows every week. Once in a while he’d take time off to do a Broadway show—when he could afford it. Those radio programs paid good money and it was an expensive luxury to do a play.
Each month in the mail came an offer from Hollywood. Regular as clockwork. And each month Reed turned it down.
“I wanted to make a movie like crazy,” he admitted, “but every offer was for a long-term contract. I was too busy to make more than one picture at a time.”
Then last year he got his own radio show, and his booming voice rounded up a whole nation of listeners. The Hollywood offers started pouring in each week.
“AND THEN R-K-O came up with a one-picture deal,” he said, “and I snapped ‘em up fast before they could change their minds. That was ‘Days of Glory.’ No comedy stuff.”
Twentieth-Century-Fox caught on and offered him a similar contract for “Nob Hill.” In that he’s funny.
“And now I’m back in another straight role in ‘The Robe,’” he added. “But before I start that I have to lose some weigh.”
His doctor put him on a diet to trim his 210-pound frame down to the 190s.

No less than Bosley Crowther of The New York Times praised Alan for his role in ‘Days of Glory.’ But if you want to hear Reed as Falstaff, go here to listen to rare copies of the ABC radio show Falstaff’s Fables with his son. I believe he wrote the show, too.

Ben Ohmart has written a biography of Reed and you can read an interview about it here. Ben must have an affinity for voice actors, as he’s also been involved in books about the wonderful Daws Butler and Paul Frees.

As Falstaff might say (as Fred Allen tumbles in his tomb, remarking “That one’s more ‘dog’ than ‘doggerel’”):

Voices come and voices go
Especially in cartoons
Some are straight and some are not
Those ones are mere buffoons.

Some emote in any style
Like one named Alan Reed
Though best known for his “Wilma!” roar
We willingly concede.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Pixie and Dixie vs. Tom and Jerry

Cartoon fans make definitive statements all the time, if I may be permitted to make a definitive statement. Just check any animation message board and you’ll see endless lists of “favourites,” polls, or pontifications about which character/director/studio is so much superior than the others.
So, let’s check the latest mail. Aha! This definitive statement comes from a reader in Springfield, Virginia—

“Pixie and Dixie are great characters but not as great as Tom and Jerry.”

Well, dear reader, it appears you are incorrect, and we cite as our source none other than the creators of all of them.
This column was published on January 3, 1959. The pictures came with the article. I've never seen the duck referred to as “Doodles” anywhere else but the art would have come from the studio so it must have been named that at one time.

TV Keynotes
Jobless, Two Men Turn To Cartoons
A year and a half ago MGM’s creators of the Tom & Jerry cartoons, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, decided to do new cartoons for TV.
“MGM closed their cartoon shop, Disney stopped making animated shorts, and there we were—out of a job,” said Joe Barbera, recalling the black day, “So we thought about TV. Where else could we go? We figured it was possible kids might get tired of old guys in clown outfits being real friendly, and then turning on old, old cartoons.”
The reason for the movie animated cartoon demise was high costs and low rentals, Also, it takes a cartoon about two years to get back its initial costs.
The giant octopus confronting the two unemployed geniuses was how to make cartoons quickly—Hanna and Barbera only did eight Tom & Jerrys a year for MGM—and cheaply for the TV mill.
Scoffed at Idea
Old hands in the industry, tiny as it is, scoffed at Hanna and Barbera for thinking of the idea. One pro offered to lay a thousand to one against its success. H & B are considered two of the sharpest men in the business, but the idea still seemed too drastic to most.
“The costs came from all the drawings — the hand work,” said Barbera generalizing somewhat. “We figured we could cut down on the animation by planning. We call our TV cartoons ‘planned animation.’ For instance you want to show Huckleberry Hound about to go out on a chase, and you have him going into a closet, putting on an overcoat, walking out. You can get the same effect by cutting from Huckleberry outside the closet talking to another character to Huckleberry in the closet with his coat on. Time-consuming drawing is cut in two.”
The two men cut the animation down to the point where they felt it wouldn’t be missed and where a reasonable TV budget might he reached. Then they talked MGM movie director George Sidney into helping out with backing, and hustled over to Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures TV subsidiary, with budget and drawings. After five minutes of talking Barbera had an offer.
It has been a year and three months, or 170 cartoon shows, since Hanna and Barbera’s first effort appeared on TV. They now have two series running, Ruff and Reddy and Huckleberry Hound, during the dinner hour in 180 cities. Their technicians are currently dubbing the shows in Spanish and French for foreign markets. .
“I think we’ve proved our point,” says Barbera. “It’s possible to make cartoons for profit on TV. No one else is doing it yet, but they will.”
Seven-Day Week
Of course the two men have only been working practically seven days a week to turn out the huge quantity, using a staff of about 20, and farming out animation segments. Both still appear in good health. Barbera even sports a tan, probably from his drawing-board lamp.
“I think our cartoons are better than our fancy Tom & Jerry movies,” says Hanna, who claims he isn’t punch-drunk or prejudiced. “We use close-ups, our shows are easier to watch, and we let the viewer use a little imagination.”
“We are coming up off the floor,” Barbera chimed in. “We’re even getting calls from ad agencies and cartoonists. UPA (makers of “Mr. Magoo”) has looked at our work and thinks we’re on the right track.”
Following Hanna and Barbera may save UPA, which had a charming series on TV for a few months, but its costs were so high as to make future programming impossible.
It’s an encouraging Hollywood story. Not only because of the kids who get to look at new material, but it’s the first note of hope for the dying cartoon industry. Others like UPA may take the hint and the animators, artists and story men who are now doing other things may have a chance to go back to the drawing board again.

So as the e-mailman benignly strolls to his next cyber-destination, let us consider the comment he has delivered. As for whether Tom and Jerry are really better than Pixie and Dixie, there’s no question there’s great comic movement and timing in the old theatricals. But, to be honest, I’ve laughed more at Mr. Jinks than Tom. And both cartoons got saddled with an annoying little duck guest star. So perhaps we’ll just say they’re two different types of characters and animation, and leave it at that.