Saturday, 27 February 2010

Augie Doggie — Crow Cronies

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Augie, Crow – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy – Doug Young.
First Aired: February 2, 1960 (BCDB).
Plot: Doggie Daddy is outwitted by a faking crow.

If you’re going to draw on a concept for a comedy cartoon story, you can’t go wrong borrowing from ‘The Man Who Came to Dinner’ about an overbearing house guest who invites himself to stay at someone’s home, takes it over and fakes illness to stay put. It worked for Bugs Bunny (minus the illness part) in the really funny The Wabbit Who Came to Supper (1942). That cartoon was written by Mike Maltese, who pulled the concept out of his memory vault when he arrived at Hanna-Barbera and needed plots, and used it as the basis for this cartoon.

That’s about where the resemblance with the original Kaufman and Hart play ends. Instead of the pompous, self-centred Sheridan Whiteside, Maltese uses a smart-aleck crow as his antagonist. Smart aleck crows seemed to pop up with some regularity in the animated world. Columbia built a hit-and-miss series around one in the 1940s. Buzzy at Famous Studios was a little different; his goal was self-preservation through extreme violence. As a kid, I always though Heckle and Jeckle were crows. I’d never seen a magpie. But I had seen a crow. And they looked like crows. There were one-shots like the one in Warner’s Corn Plastered (1951). Closer to our current subject, Huckleberry Hound found himself taking on a pair of wisecracking crows in his first season.

Maltese has a nice little structure here. The crow is in complete control. He turns the naïve Augie against the befuddled Daddy through con-artistry, so Daddy’s got to get rid of the crow but not upset Augie. Finally Daddy gets wise and accomplishes his goal—all for naught, as we get a surprise at the end.

Another good decision was to give the crow Doggie Daddy’s voice. Well, it’s not quite the same. It’s like Daws Butler’s impression of Doggie Daddy. Daws keeps his pitch down and stays there more than Young does, but still manages to get lots of expression.

The imitation is referred to at the start of the cartoon when Daddy remarks to himself he wants to enjoy the sunny day in his hammock with a glass of lemonade. “Obviously, this character speaks my language,” remarks the overhearing crow, who zips down from a tree, invites himself to share the hammock and starts mimicking Daddy.

Daddy: Oh, Augie!
Crow: Oh, Augie!
Daddy: Bring me another lemonade.
Crow: Make that two lemonades.
Daddy: What do you know? A double echo.

After more similar dialogue, Daddy realises he’s not dealing with an echo but “a lemonade-drinkin’ crow” and tries bashing him with a stick. Then we get a bit that’s pure Warner Bros. and typically Maltese. The crow informs Daddy there’s a good reason to keep him around. He can dance. And he does. It’s a variation on Daffy’s “I’m just slopping over with talent” bit from Duck Soup to Nuts (1944) written by Tedd Pierce who may have been co-writing with Maltese about this time (Warners wasn’t issuing full credits as yet). Animator Gordon Sheehan remarked to historian Mike Barrier that when Maltese was at Fleischer’s, he would go into a tap dance. That’s just what the crow does with a woodblock emphasizing the steps. The crow brags he can do imitations. So, he does Yogi Bear (pretty easy when the voice of Yogi is playing the crow).

Daddy now sets up the premise of the cartoon with a pun. “Okay, then. Let’s play baseball. And you be a dodger.” Daddy throws a stick at him and hits the tree. But Augie thinks Daddy’s hit the crow and berates him (after running past the same tree seven times).

The crow overhears the misunderstanding and realises he can take advantage of the situation, hamming up a death scene to the sound of a silent movie house piano. Daddy insists the crow “is only shammin’” But Augie believes the sick crow act and decides he should stay and be nursed back to health. Now the crow starts snapping his fingers (a crow has fingers?) and barking orders, demanding his lemonade.

The next scene has Augie reading ‘The Three Bears’ to the hammock-ensconced crow while Daddy’s rocking him. The crow doesn’t like the story. Daddy stops rocking the hammock and demands action. Facetiously, Daddy rolls him up in the hammock. The crow zips over to Augie and pulls his con-job. “He’s out to get me. Don’t let him clobber me.” Augie demands an apology. Daddy refuses. The crow has another trick. He agrees to leave and asks Daddy to shake his hand (a crow has a hand?). Daddy doesn’t even touch him but the crow goes into another ham act.

Crow: Oh, my arm! He ta-wisted my little arm. It was a judo cut. I knew it. I’ll never fly again. I’m ruined!

Augie swallows the act again and Daddy again tries to convince his son the crow is a fraud artist. They’re interrupted by the crow demanding a lemonade refill. Daddy comes up with a plan. He’ll get him a lemonade refill all right. That’s the cue for the old spiked-drink gag. Evidently, the crow has watched cartoons, too. “If there’s one thing I’m suspicious of,” the crow tells Augie, “it’s a dear, old dad that wants to be buddies.” Daddy isn’t the malicious type, so there’s no poison involved. Just red pepper, chili powder, mustard, hot sauce, some powder “...and a load of lemon pits.” (the crow had demanded no pits).

The crow’s ready. He tells Daddy to give the drink to Augie. Daddy can’t do that, of course. So he drinks it himself. But the gag has an odd finish. There’s no fire or changing colours or shooting into the sky. Daddy simply holds the drink in his cheeks and jumps into a well. That’s it. Maltese was a strong writer and you’d think he’d come up with something better than that.

Finally, Daddy disguises himself as a saw-carrying Dr. Chirp who has come to examine the “sick, sick crow.” Maltese slips in a pun when Daddy tells the audience about the crow “You gotta out-fox ’em. Get it?” and winks.

Daddy: And from the looks of you, we’ll have to operate right away.
Crow: Hold it. I’ve never been sick. I’ve never felt better in my life. Ooop!
Daddy: Ah ha!

The crow realises what he’s said but it’s too late. Daddy shakes his head to whip off the disguise, and the crow zips out of the scene. Dear ol’ dad throws a brick at him as “a bon voy-a-gee present.” The crow disappears in a tree, the brick follows him and there’s a standard Hanna-Barbera clunk sound effect. Then the surprise comes as dozens of crows drop from the tree, landing on the ground and yell in pain. The falling is a cycle on ones to make it look like more crows are dropping quickly.

The end gag has Augie and Daddy running with trays full of lemonade to the “injured” birds resting on the hammock.

Some of the music is a little odd in this and doesn’t fit what’s happening on screen. A good example is during the tap-dancing sequence; Jack Shaindlin’s ‘Mad Rush’ beds are hardly dance music, but we get Victor Lamont’s arrangement of ‘Winter Tales’ on a tinkly piano and that solo trombone faux melodrama piece that are just perfect for the “death” scene. The Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin piece now known as ‘Stealthy Mouse’ is too disjointed the emphasize the “ta-wisted my little arm” sequence, but builds perfects when Daddy builds the spiked drink.

I still don’t know the identity of the short piece of woodwind music that generally starts with a C, goes up an octave and settles at F-sharp for a half-note (there’s are some introduction bars but are rarely heard in cartoons). It’s maybe one of a dozen Augie cues I can’t trace.

0:00 - Augie Doggie main title theme (Curtin)
0:25 - GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) - Crow on hammock with Daddy.
1:25 - LFU-117-2 MAD RUSH No 2 (Shaindlin) - Daddy shoos crow off hammock, crow shows off, Augie calls him “crow-beating dad.”
2:20 - SF-? WINTER TALES (arr. Vic Lamont) - Crow death scene.
2:38 - sad trombone music (?) - “Don't let him beat me.”
3:00 - CB-89A ROMANTIC JAUNT (Bluestone-Cadkin) - Daddy agrees to care for crow, fairy tale reading, “save me.”
4:00 - CB-85A STEALTHY MOUSE (Bluestone-Cadkin) - Daddy won't apologise, crow fakes hand injury, lemonade scene.
5:48 - C-C-F# short light underscore (?) - Daddy jumps in well, crow doctor scene, crows fall from tree.
6:56 - vaudeville up-scale music (Shaindlin) - Crows in hammock get lemonade.
7:09 - Augie Doggie end title theme (Curtin).


  1. I'd been trying to figure out which C-C-F# melody you'd been mentioning, then typed out "Crow Cronies" in the You Tube Search engine, and found the episode that someone else had uploaded, and recognized it: it's near the open [second cue not counting the Augie theme] in an Augie short "Mars Little Precious" and found out what C-C-F# piece you mentioned.

  2. With two Jimmy Durante impressions, you can really weed out traits in Doug's voice work that usually go without notice.

    For the record, Bick was only an animator on "The Wabbit Who Came to Supper". Friz's layout man back then was Owen Fitzgerald, and the scene in the screengrab is animated by Gerry Chinniquy.

  3. Actually, I find Dad's understated reaction to the spiked lemonade very funny because it's unexpected- and in this case, very well-timed. One ASSUMES there'll be loud vocalizations, gutteral sounds and pyrotechnics. But not this time. Many times deadpan works better for comic effect. Look what it did for Droopy.