Sunday 31 January 2010

Huckleberry Hound — Dragon-Slayer Huck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story Sketches and Dialogue – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: King, Huckleberry Hound, Caller 2, Dragon – Daws Butler; Caller 1, Receptionist, Dragon Map Seller, Horse – Don Messick.
Production E-41; Huckleberry Hound Show K-012.
First aired: week of Monday, December 15, 1958.
Plot: Huck is sent by a king to slay a purple dragon.

There’s a land in cartoons that could be called Chivalry Land. It’s not quite Merrie Olde England. It’s not quite the Middle Ages. It’s not quite the mid-20th century. It’s a land that’s of all of them. It’s a place where maidens and dragons are side-by-side with telephones and people with American accents. And it’s where Huckleberry Hound resides in this cartoon.

There’s something funny about the incongruities in Chivalry Land. There are a couple of sales-pitch ones in this cartoon that I really like. This is one of the better first-season Hucks. The story unspools nicely, Charlie Shows comes up with some amusing dialogue, the voices are like old friends from other cartoons and there are a couple of silly bits that come out of nowhere.

Unless you want to count the time-worn concept of earnest narration over a pan of a storybook, our first old friend is Cap’n Crunch. No, the Cap’n is not in this cartoon. But since Daws Butler is playing a king, he pulls out the Crunch voice he used for kings in Fractured Fairy Tales. This king has an office, a receptionist and some 1959-era phones with no dials or cords on the handsets. Apparently he’s not a wealthy king because he can’t afford a complaint department and handles the calls himself. “Help! The dragon!” shout telephoning frightened royal subjects. “This dragon’s got me draggin’” puns the contemplative king to himself. He decides to send for someone to take care of the beast.

That’s the cue for Huck’s big build-up by the off-camera royal sentry. He’s billed as the “world’s bravest knight” and “foremost dragon slayer”. After that set up, we get the payoff of the joke as a guard shoves the unwilling Huck into the royal office. The hound insists he’s not going to slay the dragon. The king gives him a choice and shows him a photo—do it “or you’ll marry this drag, uh, my lovely daughter.” Huck chooses the four-legged variety and swooshes out of the scene. The king admits “The boy made a smart decision.”

So off trots Huck on his horse. He figures he can get out of the deed by conveniently not finding the dragon. That’s made difficult by some guy hawking maps to the dragons homes. It’s my favourite gag of the whole cartoon. The umbrella’s a nice touch. So he arrives at the dragon’s cave. “Pull Cord For Dragon” says the sign. So Huck obeys. He wishes he hadn’t. Note the three shades of green in the grass in the foreground.

Huck shouts at the cave entrance “All right, you dragon, come out and fight!” And the dragon does, first flaming him with fire, then pounding him with his tail, then jumping on him (after the unfazed Huck says “Leave us face it. That dragon has real spirit”). Some old friends are sort of here, too. The cave is reminiscent of the artwork on The Flintstones. And the dragon could easily be a distant relative of Dino, design-wise.

We get a couple of quick gags next. Huck gets on his horse and charges at the cave with his lance. The dragon simply brings down a wooden door and the lance sticks in it. Next, Huck uses a log as battering ram. The dragon lifts up the door but Huck keeps on going, busting through the stone face at the back of the cave. The best part is the look on Huck’s previously-expressionless, pupilless-eyed horse. He grits his teeth and squints when the lance stabs the door and vibrates. He has a furrowed brow as Huck charges. And he’s exhausted and collapsed under the weight of the log at the end. Look how Muse draws the hooves turned up.

Huck makes another charge for the door, but the horse stops. He’s hungry. He’s gained pupils, too. They decide to have lunch. “Did somebody mention lunch?” asks the dragon, who sounds like another old friend as he’s gained Daws’ Gleason voice. The dragon responds with a routine which has nothing to do with lunch; it’s like Charlie Shows had a funny bit he just had to fit in somewhere. The dragon has set up a stand selling toy replicas of himself. “Get your souveniers of the big battle. Take one home to the kiddies!” barks the dragon. “Blows real smoke when you squeeze it.” Huck gets a demonstration. And takes one. The colour choice is smart here. The toys are a light shade of purple so you can see the “real” dragon when he reaches into them.

As Huck plays with the toy, the horse warns the dragon is galloping toward him. Huck’s ready and raises a double-sided axe to smash him. The axe had a wooden handle. Wood burns in a fire. The dragon breathes fire. It doesn’t take much to figure out what happens next. The dragon torches the handle and the axe blade falls onto Huck’s head. But this just sets up the silly part of the gag. Huck pulls out another axe. Same result. He pulls out a mace. But this time nothing comes out of the dragon’s mouth. The two stop their war for a moment. “What’s the matter? No fire?” asks Huck. “I think my pilot light went out,” answers the dragon. “Oh, I’ll fix that,” helpfully exclaims the upbeat Huck, “Say ‘ah’.” Huck pulls out a lighter and sets on fire whatever it is that’s supposed to be burning in the dragon’s throat. “Thanks for the light,” says the happy dragon. “Don’t mention it,” Huck responds. And the war resumes.

The battle now reaches the climax with the dragon and the Huck-mounted horse charging at each other and colliding head-on. The impact results in another old friend—a Charlie Shows ass joke, as Huck zips across the toothy spikes on the dragon’s back (what do you call those things anyway?), apparently enjoying it like the dog in the Clampett cartoon “An Inch in Time.” The dragon jumps on Huck and gets him in a modified ankle-lock. Huck gives up “Say uncle,” demands the dragon. “Okay uncle dragon, you win far and squarr. It looks like I’ve got to go back and marry up with the king’s daughter.”

Suddenly, the dragon is gripped with sympathy. “Not the king’s daughter! Oh, no, not that dragon.” The dragon wouldn’t let that happen to his worst “emeny.” So he offers to let Huck stay with him in the cave.

The moral of the story is in the windup. “It’s like I always say. You never know who your real friends are,” Huck tells us, as he’s now wearing a chef’s hat and barbecuing steaks, with the dragon supplying the flame. Shows has a nice twist of words at the end: “Medium tough, comin’ up.”

Old friends greet you in the background music, too. It’s odd, because H-B used some Hi-Q “X” series reels with Olde England speciality music in other cartoons. Most are familiar cues here are credited to Bill Loose and John Seely; the last two are by Jack Shaindlin. There are portions with no music or just percussion sounds to emphasize impact, which are effective.

0:00 – Huck sub-main theme with ‘Clementine’ (Trad.-Curtin).
0:26 - no music – pan over storybook
0:31 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – King on phone, Huck shoved into chamber, Huck picks dragon over king’s daughter.
1:58 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck on horseback, map seller, Huck torched by dragon, bashed by tail.
3:17 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck pops head from ground, dragon jumps on him, lance in door, charges at door.
4:03 - no music – door opens, Huck and horse bash through back, “That’s a heavy log.”
4:23 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck charges, horse hungry, souvenir stand bit, dragon charges.
5:26 - no music – dragon torches axe handle.
5:34 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Axe clobbers Huck, pilot light bit.
5:57 - no music “Thanks for the light.” Huck clobbed by mace.
6:07 - LA-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Horse and dragon collide, dragon jumps on Huck.
6:26 - no music – Huck gives up, “King’s daughter/not that dragon” dialogue.
6:44 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – dragon invites Huck into cave, broil steaks.
7:10 - Huck sub end title theme (Curtin).

Saturday 30 January 2010

The Biggest Show in Town is Still...

Oh, sure, Avatar is the biggest movie of all time, and that hand-drawn stuff is only for boomers who need walkers to get to the liver pills in the medicine cabinet and Gen Xers desperately injecting botox to vainly pass for someone under 25, right?

I don’t think so.

And neither do the good people of Riverdale, New York, judging by an ad in last Thursday’s local paper,
The Press. Here’s the relevant portion:

...the next meeting of the Alana Llama Film Club for Kids will take place on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 10:30 a.m. The Y will present a compilation of cartoons from the 1960s, including episodes of The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Porky Pig, Top Cat, Quick Draw McGraw and others. There will also be free popcorn and a small gift for all children in attendance. Tickets cost $7 per person and they can be purchased at the door on the day of the event.

What a great idea: getting kids together to watch cartoons.

Sounds like they’re showing one of those ‘Saturday Morning’ DVDs that was put out last year. Regardless, it shows that after all these years, young people want to see funny cartoons, no matter how they’re drawn or how old they are. And I’ll bet my liver pills they’ll laugh as much at George Jetson kicking Uniblab out of the Skypad apartment with the cool interiors as I did when I was their age. At least they’ll see it in colour.

One would think that they would be showing Archie cartoons in Riverdale, but the local environs are obviously filled with smart children with good taste. Thus they’re denied asking themselves “Why are they so cheap that they keep reusing the same ugly animation of Hot Dog dancing every week?”

And it isn’t dewey-eyed nostalgia talking when I categorically yowp for the record that these were funny cartoons, even though everyone knows the animation itself on The Flintstones could never compare to what the same artists had created only a few years earlier at Disney and MGM. Witness yet another syndicated column, this one dated June 6, 1960. Whether this is the same Barney Glazer who was a movie screenwriter, I don’t know.

Glazed Bits:
Do You Know TV Stars?

So you think you can name all the major television shows.
Try naming the program that includes the following characters.
The hero, a lanky horse, disguised himself as a steer. With Snuffles, the bloodhound, in tow and Baba Looey, a Mexican burro, at their side, they tracked the Phantom Rustler.
The steer, who wasn't a steer, you see, “mooed” when he ran smack into a hot clue, but the rustler nabbed him and thinking he was a real steer, which he wasn't, he branded him (ouch!).
There was Augie Doggie who had a cold in the nose. Since he couldn’t smell, Augie Doggie made friends with a little skunk which is why this episode was titled “Skunk You Very Much.”
Snooper and Blabber, an intrepid cat and mouse private eye team, were assigned to track down a pair of ghosts named Harum and Scarum. The job didn't come off well when Snooper and Blabber finally admitted to each other they were scared of ghosts.
If you haven’t guessed by this time what the heck we’re talking about, we'll let all you uninformed gentry in on our little secret. It’s a television show, quite popular with our younger generation, and it’s called “Quick Draw McGraw,” who is a lanky horse and perhaps the most remarkable Western hero of our times.
Not only is Quick Draw McGraw the fastest draw among man or beast but in the guise
of “El Kabong,” which he assumes on numerous occasions, he is also the masked righter (Wheel) of oppression.
The name “El Kabong” is derived from the guitar he uses to smite villains over the head with the resulting reverberating sound of “kabong!”
Starring voice of this junior-grade show is Daws Butler who is kept as busy as a mongoose at a cobra rally doing voices for this program, for “Huckleberry Hound,” and hundreds of radio and animated tv commercials.
Associate voices are those of Don Messick and Doug Young. Heard in many of the supporting voice characterizations, Messick remembers how he reversed the old parental advice when he was a kid by being the child who was heard and not seen.
In this show, Messick has performed everything from a lion to a mosquito or a Martian to a kangaroo, but among his favorites he lists a humming bird named “Humboldt,” a heroic French flea named “Toot Sweet,” and a garrulous little gopher who remains anonymous.
Doug Young unveiled his talent by impersonating a station manager. The next day, while applying for his unemployment check, Doug commented: “That guy had no sense of humor.”
“Quick Draw McGraw” and his cronies have been riding roughshod over tv ratings since last Fall. The creative talents of Producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera began with the famous Tom and Jerry movie cartoons, continued with tv’s Ruff and Reddy, then traipsed to “Huckleberry Hound” and now “Quick Draw McGraw.”
It’s an open secret that millions of unashamed adults, as well as their bewildering offspring, seat themselves in front of their tv sets come “Quick Draw McGraw” time.
The delightful program is an irresistible web and there is nothing quite so wonderful as being caught in it.

And, if they don’t know it already, kids in Riverdale, New York are going to find out for themselves, 50 years later.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Meet George Jetson — The Other One

Two generations have grown up with The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Top Cat, so it’s hard to think of them as looking or sounding any different than they do today. However, you’ve read on this blog about how Michael O’Shay was to portray Top Cat, and how Bill Thompson and Hal Smith were the original Fred and Barney (with June Foray as Betty). Surely not all the early half-hour shows were plagued with voice casting problems, right? George O’Hanlon and Penny Singleton were perfect and therefore the first selections to play the leads in The Jetsons, right?

Nope. Afraid not.

Once again, Joe Barbera or Hanna-Barbera producer Alan Dinehart hired two well-known television actors with no experience in animation, only to shove them out the door and pick the people we know best in the roles.

So who was the first choice to star as George Jetson?

Would you believe Buddy Sorrell?

As incredible as it may seem, it’s true. Here’s a syndicated TV column, dated May 18, 1962:

Starring “voices” for the new “The Jetsons” animated cartoon series, now signed for Sunday nights on ABC-TV, will be Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll. Since they will be required to work only one day a week, Morey will continue as a regular on the Dick Van Dyke Show and Pat hopes to do the same on the Danny Thomas Show.

One has to wonder why Amsterdam would audition for a cartoon, setting aside the money aspect. Mel Cooley may have had more hair follicles than the Van Dyke Show had ratings when it first went on the air, so maybe Amsterdam wanted a regular back-up gig. And one has to wonder what vision Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera had of George Jetson at this point. Besides his Cooley-baiting banana role as Buddy on Van Dyke, Amsterdam was known to audiences as a fast-talking nightclub club comic, radio game show panellist, and a variety show host in the days when television variety owed a lot to baggy-pants vaudeville acts. None of that seems to describe George Jetson. But, as anyone following the personal lives of “celebrities” today knows, what you see on camera isn’t usually what they’re like in real life.

A couple of days before Amsterdam’s signing for The Jetsons was announced, the Evening Sentinel in Holland, New York revealed the comic was coming to town, and gave a bit of his background thusly:

Morey Amsterdam Heads Saturday Variety Show
Morey Amsterdam has been a night club owner, concert cellist, writer and director, song recording artist, stage performer, orchestra side man, radio and television director, producer and star.
On radio and television, he established somewhat of a record with the amount of shows on which he starred. He began his professional career as a cello player then switched to gags. At one point in his career, he was doing so many shows a week the late Fred Allen was prompted to remark: “The only thing we can turn on in our house without getting Morey Amsterdam is the water faucet.”
He was born in Chicago Dec. 14, 1912, and his family moved to San Francisco when his father Max Amsterdam, first violinist for the Chicago Opera, joined the Symphony Orchestra there. Amsterdam was encouraged to study the cello and his proficiency with the instrument has proved invaluable as a comedy prop as well as a source of relaxation.
During World War II, he wrote material for stars who went on camp shows and then for two years worked the USO circuit himself, covering South America, China, India and Burma.
Describing his diverse activities, Amsterdam says, “I’m a song writer when my songs are sung, a gag writer when people use my jokes and a comedian when people laugh.” But proof of his popularity is evidenced by the fact that his radio and tv shows have always enjoyed high ratings.
Although his professional life is almost hyper-active, he still finds time to spend with his family. He is married to Kay Patrick, a professional model. Their son, Gregory, is beginning to follow in his father’s footsteps — much to Amsterdam’s delight.
Aside from his family, and professional interests, Amsterdam has only one real hobby. He is an avid photography fan and has every gadget known to a shutterbug. He neither smokes or drinks and his excellent taste in clothes was acknowledged by the Custom Tailors Guild which listed him among the 10 best dressed men in America.

It’s telling, perhaps, nowhere in the story is any mention of his TV show that is undisputeably one of the classics of television history.

It certainly would have been a different kind of Jetsons if Amsterdam had been cast with fellow Van Dyke wisecracker Rose Marie (and Carl Reiner as an Alan Brady-esque Mr. Spacely), but H-B picked Carroll, who had won an Emmy for Caesar’s Hour and was doing an awful lot of television at that time. Walter Ames’ column in the Los Angeles Times of June 27, 1954 reveals she had been writing and producing shows as a Civilian-Actress-Technician working for the United States Army, was a grad of local little theatre groups and then secretary to the head of the CBS sound department in Los Angeles, who encouraged her to go into comedy. And it seems Amsterdam and Carroll were a bit of a team at one point, as we witness in Janet Kern’s column in the Milwaukee Sentinel of June 23, 1960:

Morey Amsterdam...has more irons in the TV fires at the moment than majority stockholders in the networks...Amsterdam and comedian Pat Carroll are considering a revival of the great old radio show “Vox Pop.”

But the casting of Amsterdam and Carroll as Mr. and Mrs. Jetson didn’t last long. Less than two weeks after the news broke, a follow-up column of June 1, 1962 disclosed:

Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll have been forced off as “voice” stars of ABC’s new animated “The Jetsons” cartoon series. Too many sponsor conflicts, what with Morey being a regular on the Dick Van Dyke Show and Pat likewise on the Danny Thomas Show.
It didn’t take too long to re-cast the show. A newspaper clipping of June 29, 1962 has everything in its place:

New Animated Series Scheduled
The four principal voices of ABC-TV’s new animated series, “The Jetsons,” to be telecast in full color next fall, have been cast with George O’Hanlon signed to speak for George Jetson, Penny Singleton (“Blondie” in the old film series) as the voice of his wife Jane, Janet Waldo as their teenage daughter Judy, and Daws Butler as Elroy, the kid brother.
“The Jetsons,” a family situation comedy set a century or so in the future, is a creation of Hanna-Barbera Productions, creators of “The Flintstones” and “Top Cat.”

Considering Barbera has compared The Jetsons to the Blondie, it would seem only natural to hire the radio and movie actress who portrayed her. Ironically, O’Hanlon got the role after losing an audition for another role that had been re-cast—Fred Flintstone.

But this wasn’t the end of either Amsterdam or Carroll when it came to The Jetsons, as we see in a wire story the following year:

Cartoon Firm Sued by Two
LOS ANGELES, April 12—(UPI)—Actress Pat Carroll and comedian Morey Amsterdam filed $27,600 suit Friday claiming breach of their contract to do voice characterizations for a television cartoon series.
Miss Carroll and Amsterdam contended in their superior court suit that they entered into a contract last April 28 with Hanna-Barbera Productions to do voice characterizations for the “Jetsons” and were to receive $500 a segment—with a guarantee of 24 segments for 1962-63.
Both said the defendant, Hanna-Barbera, failed to use them for the voice work.

I haven’t been able to find if the case was settled out of court. But reader Bill Mullins found this wire story in the Oxnard Press-Courier, dated Jan. 25, 1965:

TV firm sued
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Comedian Morey Amsterdam and actress Pat Carroll are seeking $12,000 each from Hanna-Barbera Productions, charging the firm signed them to provide the voices for an animated television show called “The Jetsons”—but used their services only once, not 24 times as called for in their contracts.
The case went to trial Tuesday, Amsterdam and Miss Carroll said their contracts called for them to get $500 each for each of the shows, planned for the 1962-63 season.

This wasn’t the end of either Amsterdam or Carroll in the animation business, either. Amsterdam picked up and went over to UPA where he appeared in Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol and as a narrator in Gay Purr-ee (both 1962). And Carroll’s husky voice attempted to lend some class to such (fill in your own description) as A Pup Named Scooby Doo and Pound Puppies. She was also appropriately cast in a couple of Garfield specials and then got to play a bad-guy role when Disney tabbed her for Ursula in The Little Mermaid cash machine.

Amsterdam died of a heart attack in 1996, still acting to the end. Carroll remains with us, having traded quips with Charles Nelson Reilly on Match Game, portrayed Shakespeare’s Falstaff and Gertrude Stein on stage, but never getting a chance to belt out ‘Bill Spacely Won’t You Please Come Home?’ Both brought lots of laughs for decades, both worked on TV productions Sheldon Leonard (Amsterdam on a show with a couple named ‘Helper’ and Carroll on a show with a couple named ‘Halper’) and both find themselves sharing a footnote in the 21st Century about a cartoon set in the 21st Century.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Pixie and Dixie — Jiggers .. It’s Jinks!

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Pixie – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks, Boss – Daws Butler, Bullet (no voice).
Production E-19, Huckleberry Hound Show K-008.
First aired: week of November 17, 1958.
Plot: The mice help Jinks get back his security guard job after he is replaced by a speedier cat named Bullet.

We’ve talked about distinctive walk cycles before, with Yogi Bear’s bongo walk provided by Carlo Vinci probably the best known. Carlo seems to have loved odd walks and runs; he used an angular run in at least two Augie Doggie cartoons, Watchdog Augie and Snagglepuss.

This time, a watchcat has the unusual walk cycle and, if the credits are to be believed, it’s not Carlo who is responsible but Lew Marshall. Mr. Jinks plays a night guard and slowly shuffles along in twelve drawings on twos. It’s a great little cycle, and it was never used again. But then again, Jinks was never like he was in this cartoon again.

Indeed, this entry is quite different than most of the early Pixie and Dixies. Jinks is not only slow but has a great rumpled design from Ed Benedict. Even his hat is slovenly. He has a job. He and the meece are, more or less, friends. And it doesn’t take place in a house. It’s in a cheese factory.

The slow-for-one-cartoon Jinks seems to be a case of Hanna and Barbera dragging out a concept from their MGM days and adapting it. In Old Rockin’ Chair Tom (1948), the mammy character replaces “slowing down” Tom as the house cat with a faster one. Jerry helps Tom get his mouse-chasing job back. The plot borrowing may also account for the rare appearance of a human in this cartoon.

Bob Gentle must have loved nighttime blues and blue-greens. He swathed the Huck cartoon Skeeter Trouble with them and he’s done it here in the first pan shot of the outside of the factory. We get an inside pan as the narrator that Charlie Shows loved to use sets up the premise.

The mice are living in (and eating) a piece of cheese and “slow-motion Jinks” gives them a friendly wave. “But this set-up is too good to last,” says Dixie. The narrator chuckles “You are so right, Dixie.” There’s a shot of a door buzzer and then of a baggy-eyed cat and a baggy-eyed boss. Jinks lopes his way to the entrance. The boss announces to Jinks he’s fired: “I want a speedy mouse catcher around here.” So Jinks cycle-shuffles out the front entrance (though Jinks now has a sad expression instead of the happy one the first time). But the boss has a warning for Bullet, Jinks’ replacement. “If I see one mice around here, you’re through.”

“I wonder why they call him bullet,” Pixie ponders. He finds out quickly. We get lots of streaking brush lines here as the cat turns, zips out of the scene, then zooms past the meece, collecting them in the process. The shot of the mice and bullet is on ones. Here are consecutive frames.

We get the whizzing brush strokes in reverse a few frames later and then cut to Bullet at the entrance, drop kicking Pixie and Dixie. There’s a shot of the sad Jinks watching the off-screen trajectory overhead and then a thump. “You keep those mice out, and you’re in,” says the Boss to the saluting cat. Pixie and Dixie then decide to help get Jinks his job back.

The first plan involves Jinks pretending to be a mailman—he even says “Mail Man” slowly as if they’re two separate word—then shuffling toward (this time, in a different cycle, using ten drawings on twos) the factory with a parcel. Bullet simply presses an electric beam, which zaps the parcel and the disguise off Jinks. He runs away from the factory screaming while the mice, with their feet sticking out the parcel, make a run for it inside. Bullet collects them in a bit of re-used animation and drop kicks the parcel.

Next comes the old teeter-board routine. Jinks jumps on one end and the mice go over the stone wall. But Bullet is ready with a teeter-board and a garbage can on the other side. The mice land in the garbage can, then Bullet jumps on the board which springs the garbage can onto the teeter-board onto the other side. The force lifts Jinks into the air and into the can. The expressions are really clear, even though the animation is limited. Jinks looks like he’s turned into one of those ghosts in Pac-Man. “Any more bright ideas, bright eyes?” the angry Dixie says to Jinks as we get about a four-second hold on the scene.

Jinks looks more like a fox than a cat as he throws a bowling ball, with the meece inside, toward the entrance. The ball rolls into a cannon which Bullet has psychically placed in its path. He fires the cannon and then we get a Tex Avery gag used in cartoons like Wages to Riches (1949), Ventriloquist Cat (1950). The ball goes right through Jinks and leaves a hole. “Well, what do you know? I’m air conditioned,” Jinks observes.

A slingshot is the next mode of transport but as Dixie heads toward an open second-floor window, Bullet arrives with a baseball glove to catch him and his own slingshot. “Quick trip, wasn’t it?” says the mouse before he is shot back. So is the gag—it takes about 25 seconds of screen time. Jinks’ next brainstorm is that Bullet can’t catch two mice at the same time. So as Pixie and Dixie get ready and set to sprint into the factory. Before Jinks can say “go,” a flyswatter comes out of nowhere and crushes the mice. There’s now a medium shot of Bullet with a fly swatter and Jinks. “Chuck-le, chuck-le,” says the goofy-expressioned cat, instead of laughing. “What do you know? Two wit’ one blow.”

The crafty mice now come up with their own plan. They paint a rocket with a nose, eyes and a mousie grey colour (and attach ears). “Put plenty of glue on it, Pixie,” says Dixie. In case the viewer is slower than Jinks at the start of the cartoon and don’t catch on, the tube reads ‘GLUE.’ Jinks now goes into a circus ringmaster routine, though it’s odd considering all the circus-sounding music that was used in H-B cartoons, the decision was made to use one of Spencer Moore’s repetitious frolicking oboe pieces, which continues until it’s faded out at the end of the short and doesn’t really help build the climax scene too well. “Ladies and gentlemen,” cries Jinks. “Announcing the world’s fastest mouse!” That gets Bullet’s attention. The “mouse” whooshes past Bullet, and the speedy cat takes off in a blur. But the plan works. Jinks and the meece relate to us what’s happening off camera; Bullet catches the “mouse. “You mean the mouse got him,” corrects Dixie (yes, it is Dixie, even though Daws Butler’s voice is coming out of both mice). Bullet can’t let go, thanks to the glue and is flying in the air. Conveniently to the plot, the boss happens to show up. “Stop, or...” he yells at Bullet, putting his hand up for emphasis. But he can’t finish the sentence because Bullet knocks him down. The boss turns and hollers to him that he’s fired.

So Jinks has his job back. But instead of thanking the meece, he drop-kicks them out of the scene. “You don’t want me to lose my job, do ya?” says the incredulous, though still rumpled, cat. “From now on, just call me ‘Lightning.’” That cat goes to run away but we get a prat-fall instead. “Aw, what’s the use?” he says in close-up as the camera fades.

Very few pieces of music were used in this short. I’ve always like this particular Hoyt Curtin arrangement of the opening theme; it wasn’t used often. The rest of the music is from the Capitol Hi-Q library. Jack Shaindlin’s music is not to be found here, though some of his cues used in many other cartoons might have been better picks.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie triangle/tuba main title theme (Curtin).
0:27 - ZR-51 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Geordie Hormel) – Jink meets boss and Bullet.
1:34 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Jinks fired, mice vow to get Jinks his job.
2:50 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Mailman and teeter-board gags.
4:10 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Bowling ball, slingshot and fly swatter gags.
5:37 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Spencer Moore) – Mice paint rocket to look like mouse, Bullet glued to mouse, Jinks gets reinstated, Mice kicked out.
7:10 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Huckleberry Hound Show Model Sheets

These were snagged from somewhere off the internet. I’m sure the experts reading this blog can add a bit of insight.

First is a Yogi Bear model sheet from March 1960 signed by Dick Bickenbach.

The next two sheets are undated and unsigned. They came from the George Nicholas collection. I guess the Jinks and meece sheet is for size comparisons; I’m not an expert on these by any means.

And, finally, is my favourite part of the whole collection. This would be from 1959 or 1960 before Yogi got his own show, because Yakky Doodle still has his original name of ‘Biddy Buddy.’ It still has some marginal characters that never really got too far—the two crows who battled Huck in two cartoons; the boxing kangaroo who belted Jinks in, I think, only Boxing Buddy and, naturally, the star of this blog—me. It’s too bad the quality isn’t better so you can see what’s surrounding the Joe and Bill caricatures a little better.

Was this used for publicity posters? It strikes me as a bit much for stationery.