Sunday 26 July 2009

Tralfaz. Yeccchh!

Many mysteries grip the world of Hanna-Barbera cartoons, ones the Scooby-Doo gang in the Mystery Machine could never solve (like why some people enjoy Scooby-Doo cartoons). But none are more baffling as the origin of the word “Tralfaz”.

Those who have a love for the word remember it from the Jetsons. It surfaced on one episode, Millionaire Astro, which first aired January 6, 1963 (and forever after in reruns). Astro was originally owned by the fabulously wealthy J.P. Gottrockets, who called him Tralfaz. The plot sees a Jury-Vac award the dog to Gottrockets, who finally decides to return him to his adopted family which divests him of the unwanted moniker for good (Astro spends the cartoon going “Tralfaz. Yeccchh!”).

The episode was written by Tony Benedict, who I don’t ever think has commented on where he got the name. But cartoon watchers have heard it before. In fact, Benedict likely heard it only a few months earlier.

Fish and Slips was released by Warner Bros. on March 10, 1962, which opens Sylvester and son watching TV and Mel Blanc intoning “A record-breaking, sharp-nose tralfaz was caught by Mr. Treg Brown.” It was written by Dave Detiege. But before that, Sylvester and “Tralfaz” tangled again in the form of a sign outside a run-down mansion in The Slop-Happy Mouse, written by Tedd Pierce and released on September 1, 1956.

But before that, “Tralfaz” appears as the name of part of a secret weapon that Private Snafu tells his girl-friend about in the Warners-made short Going Home (1945). The cartoon was never released—something about a war ending was the reason—but an animation drawing of it can be found in Chuck Jones’ book Chuck Redux.

But before that...

Warners cartoons were known for grabbing all kinds of catch-phrases and personalities from network radio, far too many to even begin to mention here. One show they seem to have left alone was Burns and Allen. Maybe it’s because George Burns and Gracie Allen didn’t have catch-phrases (other than “Say goodnight, Gracie”), and their show changed formats several times. They adopted the format they later used on TV—George suffering through the illogical logic of his wife—after Burns decided a format with the two of them as single people just wasn’t working. That was despite the presence of Artie Shaw and his orchestra.

This incarnation of the show, on September 9, 1940, opens with the following dialogue with announcer Bud Hiestand (who, incidentally, was later the announcer on the Mel Blanc Show):

George: Am I happy tonight.
Bud: Well, you should be, George, winning that $200,000 breach of contract suit against Elsie Tralafaz.

And later:

George (to Gracie): Well, I’m going down to write out that check for $25 for court expenses which will clear up that Elsie Tralafaz case once and for all.

So what was all this about?

There were several consecutive episodes of the show beginning on August 19th where George meets a bimbo named Elsie Tralafaz at the beach and, fed up with Gracie, offers to make her his new radio partner. The following week (August 26), Elsie decides to sue George for reneging on the offer, then the following week (September 2), a judge dismisses the case. That brings us to the September 9 broadcast, after which the character disappeared for good. You can hear the broadcast here and have to cue in to about the four-minute mark for the first bit of dialogue.

I realise there’s an extra ‘a’ in the character’s name, but if you say the word fast enough, it sounds like “Tralfaz;” it did when I first heard the show and that prompted this post. It could very well be Tedd Pierce (who was writing for Jones when he was making the Snafu shorts) heard the shows and remembered (or misremembered) the funny name and pulled it out when he needed one.

Then, again, it could all be coincidence. But if someone has the definitive explanation, they can let me know.

There’s another little connection between “Tralfaz” and Hanna-Barbera, if you want to stretch things a bit. The Burns and Allen Show at the time all this happened was sponsored by Hormel. And Geordie Hormel (heir to the Spam fortune) wrote some of the background music picked up by the Capitol Hi-Q library which was used in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Saturday 25 July 2009

Huckleberry Hound — Postman Panic

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layouts – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Huck, Bulldog – Daws Butler; Dog, Homeowner – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Jack Shaindlin, George Hormel, Spencer Moore.
Production E-54, Show K-022.
First aired: week of Monday, February 23, 1959.
Plot: Postman Huck tries to get past snickering dog to deliver letter to Mr. Jones. It turns out Jones lives next door. Huck now has a different dog to get past.

As mentioned in the post below, this is one of those early cartoons in which Hanna-Barbera featured a dog whose response to someone’s misfortune was to wheezily snicker in a three-quarters head shot at the camera. Joe or Bill didn’t seem to realise what they had right away, as it took several years before a starring cartoon character was built around a dog with a snicker. And then another character. And another.

Otherwise, this is a pretty routine cartoon with a few neat poses by Carlo Vinci. It’s built around one of the principles of the cartoon universe—a dog that doesn’t act like a dog isn’t treated like a dog by other dogs. So, though Huck is a dog, he’s treated as a human stand-in as he’s walking upright, talks and is employed by the U.S. Postal Service. The dog vs. dog-that-is-but-isn’t plot was used in each of Huck’s three seasons.

It starts with Don Messick’s “intoning” narrator voice (Don used several different narration styles) announcing “This picture is dedicated to...” which was an opening device Warren Foster carried on when he took over the Huck series. It also has a rare background problem. Hanna-Barbera cartoons are famous for characters going past the same tree, lamppost or table six or seven times and unless you’re paying attention, you don’t notice. But at the beginning of this cartoon, the background jerks when Huck is walking as if the two ends of the background drawing used in the cycle didn’t quite match. It’s tough to see below, but you’ll notice before Huck passes the door in the frame to the left, the divide on the upper window is slanted. In the frame to the right, not only is the divide straight, there is less lawn and more pavement below it. You can see the pavement “move” on screen as Huck walks right. It actually happens twice.

The narrator asks the question “Speaking of dogs, I’ll be doggoned if I know why the poor postman has always been considered fair game by the dog of the house.” And that sets up our story. The unnamed white beagle jumps out from behind a bush, readies himself with a growly “On your mark! Get set! Go!” and chases Huck off the property before he can deliver a letter. And then we get the snicker. While Hanna-Barbera later put the snicker in Muttley, the line the dog says to himself is done by Messick in the voice he would use for Astro on the Jetsons, though this dog doesn’t start each word with the letter ‘r’.

So Huck tries again. He pats the dog, assuring us his bark is worse than his bite. That’s before the bite. “On second thought...” says Huck as he addresses his viewers without any pain. He tries to get the dog to release his hand by pulling out a dog biscuit, but takes so long making the offer, the dog grabs the bone-shaped treat, swallows it and resumes putting his claws on Huck’s arm. Carlo put together a nice little sequence of drawings here that takes up about a second of screen time. Check out four of them.

Next, Huck turns the letter into a paper airplane. The tricky dog responds by sticking his head out the mail slot and blowing the letter back. Huck responds in kind in a cute little sequence, featuring one of Carlo’s signature poses where the character leads with his stomach with the head pointing up.

Huck and the dog have a tennis-like match with the letter, getting closer and closer to each other as the pace quickens. It ends when the dog sucks in the letter and an indignant Huck fishes it out of the dog. Repeat animation follows as the dog chases Huck off the property then snickers.

I’ve always wondered if Stan Freberg influenced Daws Butler, or vice versa, or if it was a little bit of both. Daws lifted his Mr. Jinks voice from Freberg after the two worked together. Daws also loved bending his vowels when doing Huck, especially ‘u.’ In this scene, Daws does it to the dog when he exclaims “Just a darn minute, you!” Freberg did the exact same thing as the Texan in his record of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas.’ when he yelled “You smart-aleck Yankee drummer, you!”

Huck decides to strap on a pair of roller skates and barrel past the dog to the house. The home must have the world’s longest sidewalk, as Huck skates past the same tree nine times. But the cagy canine pushes a makeshift ramp into Huck’s path, and the postman goes up it, and sails over the house, landing on an equally-long sidewalk behind it (skating past the same tree 14 times). Huck tells us “Three-point landing, folks.” But then we get a telegraphed ending with a cut to a shot of a mailbox, wherein Huck comes to an ironic rest.

Huck decides to use the mailbox as a shield but the dog, somehow, has a key to the back door of the metal box. Perhaps writer Charlie Shows gave it to him so Charlie could indulge in one of his patented ass-pain gags. We also get a painting error for Huck isn’t coloured blue as he runs away in the mailbox; he has the same white colour as the dog.

Charlie loves those ass jokes we get one again in the next scene as the determined Huck ignores the pain of another dog bite and delivers the letter.

However, it turns out he’s got the wrong house. Mr. Jones lives next door. So, that’s where Huck heads next. In the meantime, the dog calls the bulldog next door to alert him.

“Oh, no, not another goddone dog!” moans Huck as he goes through the same run cycle again, and the whole process starts over again, to the familiar snicker of his original antagonist.

Two of Bill Loose and John Seely’s better-known melodies from the Capitol Hi-Q library (‘L’ series, reel two) take up a good portion of the soundtrack. We also get four dum-dee-dum versions of Clementine out of Huck; only one of them is over top of the stock music.

0:00 - THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SONG (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin-Shows) – Opening Titles.
0:28 - ZR 51 LIGHT ANIMATION (Geordie Hormel) – Mailman Huck delivers letter, goes to second home, dog chases after him.
0:52 - Clementine over top (trad.)
1:14 - LAF-20-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Jack Shaindlin) – Dog chases Huck from yard, snickers.
1:27 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Dog chomps on Huck’s arm.
2:14 - Clementine a capella (trad.) – Huck drags dog along sidewalk.
2:21 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck makes paper airplane out of letter.
2:44 - TC 202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Letter flies back and forth, Huck pulls it out of dog, chased off property; Dog snickers.
3:42 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck approaches home on roller skates.
3:57 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Dog sets up teeter board; Huck flies over house, hits mailbox.
4:41 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Dog snoozes.
4:49 - Clementine a capella (trad.) – Huck in mailbox approaches home.
5:02 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Dog opens mailbox, chomps on Huck, chases him away.
5:32 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Spencer Moore) – Huck bitten by dog but reaches door.
5:55 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck is at the wrong house, dog phones bulldog next door.
6:36 - Clementine a capella (trad.) – Huck approaches Jones house.
6:56 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Bulldog chases Huck, dog snickers for a third time.
7:10 -THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SONG (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin-Shows) – End titles.

Monday 20 July 2009

The Dog that Snickers in the TV Flickers

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera weren’t above borrowing—especially from themselves—when coming up with new characters. But as time marches on, it becomes fuzzy in the minds of new viewers who came first.

Say the words “snickering dog” and the response you’ll likely get is “Muttley.” He first appeared in Wacky Races, which began its broadcast life on Saturday mornings in 1968. It was one of the last Hanna-Barbera shows I really enjoyed, mainly because of the voice work, and the fact I liked the movie The Great Race. And breaking out into stardom were Dick Dastardly and Muttley, who ended up with their own vastly ho-hum cartoon later. Dastardly was Hanna-Barbera’s less funny version of Snidley Whiplash while Muttley was Hanna-Barbera’s version of, well, a bunch of Hanna-Barbera characters.

It was only a few years earlier (1965) on the Atom Ant Show that the best segment featured a character named Precious Pupp. Precious would loudly bark, which would surprise a robber, postman or other antagonist into getting bashed, and then snicker in a close-up. Muttley did the same thing. Sometimes, Precious would do a rassen-frassen-rattle-dattle mumbling-swear routine that Muttley expropriated, too. Ah, but none of this originated with Precious Pupp.

While the bark-scare routine was lifted from the Frisky Puppy-Claude Cat cartoons that Mike Maltese wrote for Chuck Jones at Warners, Joe and Bill borrowed from themselves for the snickering Pupp. The earliest instance I can find is in ‘Fireman Huck’, which first appeared on December 11, 1958. Maybe because this is written by Charlie Shows, the concept is a little different. The dog begins to snicker not because of anything he’s done, but because the “poor, li’l old, frightened” kitten Huck’s trying to rescue bares its claws, swipes and Huck lands on his head.

The wheezy laugh came from the larynx of Don Messick, whose financial planner probably came to appreciate it as much as cartoon fans.

Shows brought the evil snickering back in ‘Barbecue Hound’, released on January 26, 1959. Unlike the previous dog, or the later Precious, this one only snickers once, at the end of the cartoon as it fades out.

In a newspaper story here, Joe Barbera mentioned Kellogg’s liked certain incidental characters and wanted them to make return appearances in case they could be marketable. So Huck again tangled with Iggy and Ziggy the crows, Powerful Pierre and Leroy the Lion. And a nameless dog with the wheezy laugh was brought back, too, to complicate Huck’s life in:
Postman Panic, aired February 26, 1959 (written by Charlie Shows).
A Bully Dog, aired November 2, 1959 (written by Warren Foster).
Nuts Over Mutts, possibly aired October 2, 1960 (written by Warren Foster).
Two for Tee Vee, possibly aired October 13, 1961 (written by Tony Benedict).

It would seem odd, given the obvious love that Hanna and Barbera had for the idea of a snickering dog, that the next major canine characters in their cartoons went in a different direction. Snuffles on Quick Draw McGraw, merely leaped into ecstasy over dog biscuits (and occasionally grumbled under his breath, something H-B repeated with Precious Pupp) while the Jetsons’ Astro pronounced all his words starting with an ‘r’ (something H-B repeated with an unfortunately far more durable character named Scooby Doo).

But there was at least one other snickering character in the early H-B cartoons, and it wasn’t a dog. It was the wildcat in the Augie Doggie cartoon ‘Cat Happy Pappy’, released December 26, 1959. Mike Maltese wrote this cartoon and uses the snickering differently and logically. Augie tries to defend his dad’s honour by telling the cat to put up his dukes, and the cat raspily snickers at the absurdity of it.

There have been other similar-sounding animals since. There was a one-shot watchdog on The Flintstones named Buzzsaw in the first season’s ‘The Golf Champion’ (1960). It was the only cartoon written that year by Syd Zelinka, who was a live action writer from The Honeymooners. One can speculate that Warren Foster, who wrote the majority of Flinstones episodes that year, added the snickering gag. Even more Muttley-esque was Mugger, the bad guy pet/sidekick in Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear! (1964).

Other snickerers were regular characters. Hanna-Barbera paid Dan De Carlo to rip off his own drawing style to rip off Filmation’s wretched Archie and invent the somewhat-less-wretched Josie and the Pussycats, featuring a snickering Sebastian the cat. Then a few years later, someone, somewhere came up with something called Mumbly. But he isn’t Muttley, he .. um .. er.. just sounds like him and almost looks like him! Yeah, that’s the ticket!

There may have been others, but by this time, Hanna-Barbera cartoons became completely unwatchable for me. Viewing the animation credits for something like Mumbly with names like Carlo Vinci, Ed Benedict, Dick Thompson and Dave Tendlar just makes me sad. Many of those artists did fine work for Warners, M.G.M., Fleischer, Lantz, even Disney. Some provided enjoyable characters when H-B was starting out, a time when Huck took on a dog with a wheezing laugh in a show that gave at least one generation of young cartoon fans lasting memories.

And that’s nothing to snicker at.

Update from Yowp: It’s been pointed out to me that Hanna-Barbera may have borrowed the evil snickering from the brilliant Tex Avery and one of his finest M.G.M. creations—‘Bad Luck Blackie’, (released January 22, 1949). The cartoon begins with the laughing dog (who snickers only once) being cruel to a desperate, defenceless kitten running terrified from him, and ends with the kitten becoming the evil snickerer with the desperate, defenceless dog running terrified into the sunset. Avery used it later that year in ‘Wags to Riches’ when Spike decides to kill Droopy to get his fortune (in a skunk-transformation gag, yet), and again in ‘Daredevil Droopy’ (1951) when Spike bends a rifle before handing it to Droopy.

And due to popular demand, you can listen to the snicker here. It’s a Muttley version, but it’s the same.

Saturday 18 July 2009

Augie Doggie — Snagglepuss

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci, Layout – Walter Clinton, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Sketches – Dan Gordon, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Snagglepuss, Augie – Daws Butler; Doggy Daddy – Doug Young.
Released: February 20, 1960.
Plot: Snagglepuss parks himself in Augie and Doggie Daddy’s home to avoid being hunted. Daddy tries to get the orange mountain lion outside to be able to shoot him.

There are two kinds of funny cartoons. There’s the kind where something completely unexpected and outrageous happens, like in every great Tex Avery cartoon. Then there’s the kind where which features routines, familiar as the proverbial old shoe, with just enough of a twist to be different or interesting so someone doesn’t go “Not that old gag!”

This cartoon falls into the latter category. Mike Maltese, my personal favourite of cartoon writers, borrowed—really borrowed—from his days in the Chuck Jones unit at Warners to come up with gags for this one. Witness this exchange between Snagglepuss and Doggy Daddy, attempting to remove the pre-pink version of the mountain lion in a rigged armchair.

Daddy: You take it.
Snag: You take it.
Daddy: After you.
Snag: No, after you. I’ll take it.
Daddy: I’ll take it.
Snag: No, I’ll take it.
Daddy (annoyed): Whose house is this anyway? I’ll take it.

All we’re missing is Doggy Daddy saying “Pronoun trouble” after getting in the chair and inevitably being bashed.

(If you need me to explain the reference, you really shouldn’t be on an old animation blog).

And like in the pronoun-troubled Rabbit Seasoning with Daffy, Bugs and Elmer Fudd, Doggy Daddy tries the routine again—and once again comes out a loser because Snagglepuss is a few steps ahead of him.

But here’s the difference between a Hanna-Barbera cartoon and a Warner’s theatrical short (besides the superior artwork of the Jones unit). After the dialogue in Rabbit Seasoning, Daffy Duck is instantly shot by Elmer Fudd and stands in a typical Jones-designed pose. In this one, we have to wait through words and a telegraphed set-up. Doggy Daddy yells “Help, Augie.” We see a moving truck. Daddy says “Oh no!” Then the truck hits. We knew it was going to hit. That spoils it a bit.

H-B cartoons were havens of unnecessary words. After the dialogue between Snagglepuss and Doggy Daddy, nothing else need be said. The gag would have been better if Maltese had avoided any padding and simply saw fit to have Daddy and the chair zoom out the door, then roar down the street for a couple of seconds before they unexpectedly hit something.

But we do get necessary words, too. Ones put into the mouth of the title character, which always provide a lot of fun. Snagglepuss pokes his head out of his cave and happily starts exclaiming things to himself in his soon-to-be-familiar style. Then he spots an artist with a palette, who could be a bit of a caricature of animator Carlo Vinci, as he had dark hair, a distinctive nose and a small moustache back then. Maltese then comes up with an unexpected juxtaposed line when Snagglepuss asks the artist, while still really talking to himself, “Will it make you shoulder if I look over your nervous?”

The theatrical cat goes to investigate the “painting” and discovers it’s—Heavens to Murgatroyd!—a sign that says ‘Hunting Season Opens Today’ (can someone explain why H-B characters insist on reading every sign or newspaper headline that viewer can see on their own?). Then a whole bunch of long-snouted rifles emerge from the trees and begin firing.

Snagglepuss exits stage left in one of those angular Vinci run-cycles where the character leads with his feet. He seeks refuge in a very two-dimensional house where we find Augie Doggy and Doggy Daddy (each wearing cute little red caps) about to embark on a hunting trip.

Daddy starts firing, but Snagglepuss demands a halt to the bullets, cagily explaining hunting season signs are outside “then, it follows like night the day” that hunting is not allowed inside, “to wit, to woo.” The lion then settles down on a decorative chesterfield and decides to “take a little nap, and smoothen out the wrinkled lines of care,” as Maltese paraphrases (who else?) the Bard’s line in MacBeth: “Sleep knits up the ravelled sleeve of care.”

The rest of the cartoon sees Doggy Daddy trying to trick the performance-prone puss into going outside so he can shoot him. First, Daddy tries a smudge pot. But Snagglepuss is ready, though he aims his firehose directly at Doggy Daddy instead of the smokey vessel.

Next, Doggy Daddy ties an inner tube to a tree, then attaches the other end to a chair wherein Snagglepuss is reading a book. But, again, the cat sees what’s afoot and nails the chair to the floor. Then, more dialogue:

Daddy: So long, Mr. Lion.
Snag: Why? Are you goin’ out?
Daddy: No. You are.
Snag: I are?
Daddy (looking at chair): Hmm. I guess you aren’t.

Daddy decides to go to the door to investigate, at which point the tree is uprooted by the force of the stationary chair and crashes into the luckless dog.

Now comes the gag series where Daddy builds a “super-jet armchair” designed to whoosh Snagglepuss out of the house. The brings up the aforementioned ‘pronoun trouble’ bit during which Carlo continues, as he has in much of the cartoon, to have Snagglepuss crook his fingers in different directions. The second time, the gag works better, as Daddy turns to the audience and remarks how “there’s no truck this time” and suddenly whams into a tree.

Maltese gets in a “this is really a cartoon, folks” line in here, as Snagglepuss looks at a picture portfolio belonging to Doggy Daddy, and remarking “How droll! I thought this old family album was a comic book.” While the cat is laughing, Daddy rigs a hydraulic lift to the house, which raises it off the foundation, and into the sky. That puts Snagglepuss “smack in the middle of the great outdoors” and ripe for hunting.

Daddy fires some shots to scare away the cat, but then tells Augie he’s too tired to go hunting and all he wants to do “is sit down in a nice, comfy chair.” Unfortunately, it’s the rocket chair, which takes off down the street, where he bangs into a hitch-hiking Snagglepuss, who requests to be dropped off at the (and you saw this coming) Lions Club. They pass the same mailbox and directional arrow 12 times before Doggie Daddy looks at the camera and remarks “All I can say is: ‘Heavens to Murgatroyd!’” (which is heard three times in the cartoon).

We get a couple of my favourite Phil Green music beds here—Bush Baby and what I think is part of Big City Suite No. 2. I’ve listed the latter under the Capitol Hi-Q name; the rest of the Green titles come from the original EMI 45s. There’s a skippy piece of music featuring an electric guitar that got a fair amount of play in the Augie cartoons. Animation historian Ray Pointer identified it as ‘The Happy Cobbler’ by Hermann (Hecky) Krasnow, aka Lee Herschel, aka Steve Mann. Krasnow wrote ‘The Whistling Walk’ and 12 other pieces for the Sam Fox ‘Variety’ library, some of which ended up re-released in the Hi-Q series.

Jack Shaindlin wrote three 30-second-or-so beds for Langlois Filmusic called ‘Mad Rush’. They were generally heard in Snooper and Blabber cartoons, but two are in this one.

If anyone has ‘The Happy Cobbler’ and could send it to me, I’d be really greatful. You can click on the names of the Phil’s cuts in green (how appropriate) to hear them.

0:00 – Augie Doggie main title theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin)
0:25 – GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) – Snagglepuss peers at hunting sign; runs from hunters.
1:16 – GR-256 TOYLAND BURGLAR (Green) – Snagglepuss decides to hide; Augie and Daddy get set to go hunting.
1:50 – LFU 117-2 MAD RUSH #2 (Shaindlin) – Snagglepuss bursts into Augie’s home.
1:58 – GR 154 COUNTRY OR GARDEN SCENE (Green) – Snagglepuss snoozes; uses fire hose on Daddy
3:31 – GR 258 THE TIN DRAGOONS (Green) – Daddy hooks inner tube to chair.
4:08 – SF ? THE HAPPY COBBLER (Krasnow) - Tree hits daddy.
4:27 – GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) – Daddy moves rocket chair into home; pronoun trouble.
5:16 – LFU 117-3 MAD RUSH #3 (Shaindlin) – Daddy and chair hit by moving van; more pronoun trouble.
5:46 – LFU 117-2 MAD RUSH #2 (Shaindlin) – Daddy and chair zoom into tree.
5:56 – EM-107D LIGHT ACTIVITY (Green) – Daddy lifts house off support, shoots at Snagglepuss, sits in rocket chair and takes off.
6:57 – LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Chair and Daddy pick up Snagglepuss on street.
7:09 – Augie Doggie end title theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin)

Sunday 12 July 2009

The New York Times on Huckleberry Hound

Quite unfairly, I’ve always considered the New York Times to believe itself to be above aggregating pages with agate about such mundane things as animated cartoons on television. A failed second act of a Cole Porter remounting on Broadway, yes. The misstep of a former ingenue in making a comeback in a turgid cinematic melodrama, most definitely. But a pair of meece gracelessly running past the same lamp over and over? Surely not!

Ah, but embarrassingly incorrect am I. For in the August 28, 1960 edition, next to a profile on the multi-talented Polly Bergen, the venerable Times published the following feature story about the Hanna-Barbera studio. It would have been nice if “The Newspaper of Record” had spelled native New Yorker Joe Barbera’s name correctly. And a few other things.

Though North Carolineans may take issue with some of Warren Foster’s opinions, the last line sums up why the early H-B cartoons are appealing, even after all these years.

THOSE who would seek out the lair of that great avenger of injustice, “The Purple Pumpernickel,” will have to come to Hollywood. For it is here that Huckleberry Hound puts on such disguises as member of the French Foreign Legion, American fireman, London bobby, international veterinarian trying to extract a lion’s aching tooth.
Since this hero’s voice is always the same soothing Tennessee mountain talk, and his speeches are forever those of the same amiable mongrel, an estimated 16,000,000 Americans are satisfied to look for him eagerly on some 200 television stations on the half-hour program known as “Huckleberry Hound.” It appears Thursdays at 6:30 P.M. on New York’s Channel 11.
The true home of Huckleberry Hound, however, is in a maze of corridors of three loosely connected buildings here, where Charlie Chaplin once made silent films. Huddled over drawing boards, the artists of William Hanna and Joseph Barberra [sic] put the good humor into Hucklberry’s [sic] rubbery face; flatten the pork-pie hat on Yogi Bear’s head; adjust the tie on Boo-Boo, the bear cub; plant the pompous smirk on Jinx [sic], the cat, and the mischief in the eyes of his tormentors, Dixie and Pixie, the mice.
Though all these characters are but cartoons, their sponsors of nearly three years obviously find them more alive than most performers of the Westerns, private eyes, situation comedies and panel shows that fill most of television.
The atmosphere of the Huckleberry Hound residence is appropriately zany. Since all offices are cluttered, with doors either wide open or nonexistent, it is difficult to tell which are the offices of the bosses. Grown men will be down on their knees as though in a dice game. Actually they are examining a series of comic-strip panels known as a story board.
Mssrs. Barberra and Hanna are proud of the informality of their enterprise and resent the “factory” to describe their incessant output of television cartoons by the 150 employes [sic] who do, in addition to “Huckleberry Hound,” “Ruff N Ready [sic],” “Quick Draw McGraw” and “The Flintstones,” which will make its debut this fall.
“We have no time clocks here,” said Mr. Barberra. “We have no closed doors and nobody makes appointments. They come in when they want and they leave when they want. All they make is money—and cartoons.”
Mr. Barberra vows that this Bohemian atmosphere will not change when, in the near future, the Huckleberry Hound workshop moves into a new air-conditioned building with its own dining room and kitchen. He and Mr. Hanna did a twenty-year stretch in a movie factory called Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where they created a world-famous cartoon about a cat and a mouse called “Tom and Jerry.”
Mr. Barberra, who wrote the first twenty-six installments of “Huckleberry Hound,” recalls that when he first proposed the introduction of this character, one serious objection was raised. One of the sponsor’s representatives was afraid that the name of the hero was a bit too long for a television screen.
The present author of the scripts is Warren Foster, a mild-mannered man, who worked on Bugs Bunny cartoons for twenty years and has a fondness for his creatures that transcends their employment record.
“I think of Huck as human,” he said. “He is a sort of Tennessee-type guy who never gets mad no matter how much he is outraged. He is the fall-guy, and a large part of his humor is the way he shrugs off his misfortunes. To Huck nobody is really bad.”
Yogi Bear, the incurable filcher of picnic baskets from visitors to Jellystone Park poses two problems.
Since he is “bright in a stupid sort of way,” his adventures must show ingenuity as well as blunders. Second, there is the problem of what to do about the morality of thievery.
“So we let him get his picnic basket—and then we get him punished.”
Mr. Foster is happy about the philosophical quality of the mice, Dixie and Pixie, toward the cat, Mr. Jinx. “The mice make allowances for the occasional attacks on them by Jinx. They understand he is not evil. He is just a cat and he can’t help being himself. They are disillusioned each time the cat’s thin veneer of civilization cracks. The important thing in these stories is to keep out the rough stuff and mayhem.”
One rule is applied to all the creations of the “Huckleberry Hound” series: all animals must have something around the neck—a tie, a collar, a scarf. This is not for good manners or cuteness, but because the neck camouflage makes it unnecessary to worry about whether the neck of a particular character looks the same each time it is drawn.
The motto of the House of Huckleberry is that children can understand a great deal more than adults realize. No script is “written down” to the child’s level. The show is not afraid to use puns. Thus, when Yogi Bear was punished for stealing a witch’s broom and riding around on it, stealing picnic lunches, he said:
“They lowered the broom on me.”
Some connoisseurs of cartoon shorts think Huckleberry Hound and his friends have done the business a good turn.
“Disney’s trend was more and more toward beautiful art,” says Mr. Foster. “Huck and the others have restored cartoons to caricature and fun.”