Saturday, 13 February 2010

Quick Draw McGraw — El Kabong

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Narrator, Gold Tooth Man, ‘Pay-Up’ Henchman, Don Chilada – Don Messick, Quick Draw/El Kabong, Baba Looey, ’50 Pesos’ Henchman – Daws Butler.
First Aired: November 9, 1959 (Los Angeles).
Plot: Quick Draw McGraw, as his alter ego El Kabong, battles the oppressor, Don Chilada, who has stolen the people’s gold.

In ‘Sunset Boulevard’, Norma Desmond rather haughtily informed Joe Gillis “It’s the pictures that got small,” declaiming how the silent films she appeared in were far superior to the talking pictures of the 1950s.

Despite the fact silents were no longer being made, they still had influence on film. Especially cartoons. That’s worthy of an essay on its own. But the influence reached into the late 1950s and the brain of Mike Maltese. And while Norma Desmond “appeared” in the period drama ‘Salome,’ Maltese was interested in a slightly different kind of silent film, as he told New York Herald-Tribune columnist John Crosby:

“...the original ‘Mark of Zorro’ with Douglas Fairbanks with its chases and its humor depended very much on the sort of action and pace cartoons use now. I’m going to draw Quick Draw as Zorro one day.”

And he did. Maltese pulled out almost every possible cliché used by Fairbanks and his successors, added a few lines that would have been at home in bad B-movies and added his own brand of silliness to come up with four cartoons in the first season of the Quick Draw show, three more the following year, and three (out of six cartoons) in the final season. In the process, he invented an alter ego that, arguably, is more popular than Quick Draw himself. After all, Quick Draw isn’t a band or a “speedy, yet forgiving, SAX-stylee HTML parser.” But El Kabong is.

Of course, Zorro was familiar thanks to the Disney TV series with Guy Williams which debuted in 1957 and was still on the air when El Kabong made his debut.

We get a bonus in the debut of El Kabong. Maltese has written the opening of the cartoon in rhyme, adding gags along the way to show the Zorro wannabe is just as much as a stupid klutz as he is when he’s not in his disguise. The cartoon opens with a left-to-right pan over books. Cue the narrator:

Of all the heroes in legend and song
There’s none so brave as El Kabong.

He appears when most needed,
He rights the wrongs,

Then he’s gone like a flash.
That’s El Kabong!

Now in old California, the story is told
How the folks of El Pueblo lost all of their gold.
‘Twas the cruel Don Chilada who took their last cent.
Why, even the termites had to pay rent!

No one knew what to do, how to stop Don Chilada
When out of the blue came a soft serenad-a.

That’s Quick Draw’s cue to come in strumming one note on a guitar and wailing off-key. One of Chilada’s goons demands a tax for singing in the name of “Don Chilada, the Oppressor.” “You mean like a pants oppressor?” asks Quick Draw. One of the great things about Quick Draw is you can give him the corniest dialogue and the worst puns and it’s funny because it fits his character. Maltese then gives him a line that sounds like it came out a third-rate Superman short: “I’ve got nothing but big bills. Mind if I make a little change first?” And with that, Quick Draw ducks behind a rock and emerges as El Kabong. He has to explain to the henchman who he is.

Henchman: Tell me, Kabong. What do you use—a sword? A whip? A shillelagh?
Kabong: I use a GEE-tar. Kabong!

And with that, we get the patented clobber with an out-of-tune guitar and accompanying sound effect that is recognisable to just about anyone.

The henchmen report back to Don Chilada, who is sceptical there is an El Kabong. The trusty guitar extended through a window provides some proof.

So now, it’s a battle of wits throughout the rest of the cartoon as El Kabong tries to get Don Chilada’s gold. We get a bunch of sight gags. Kabong uses a rope to “swoop down on him like an angry eagle.” Of course, the rope isn’t seem to be tied to anything. It’s simple logic. Since Doug Fairbanks was Zorro and used a rope to get around, then it must follow that El Kabong should, too. Case closed.

Chilada casually laces up a boxing glove and sticks his fist out the window. You can guess what happens. Kabong tries again, gliding in on his cape. But Chilada presses a button on his balony, decorative steel doors close and the balcony rises out of the scene like an elevator as just Kabong arrives.

Next Quick Draws poses as “a poor, but honest potter” to get inside the Chilada hacienda. Once he does, he ducks behind a screen for a costume change and then emerges, demanding Chilada guess who he is. “A ballet dancer,” replies the bad guy. And he’s right. It’s a gag Maltese used with Bugs Bunny in Super Rabbit (1944) and would use again in future episodes. Quick Draw puts his body into the take.

Another familiar gag: Chilada offers El Kabong a choice of swords. Kabong picks one, but Chilada tells him to take the other one. It’s, naturally, a sawed-off version. A stab in the butt by Chilada sends Kabong flying over to the next gag, a convenient sword-selling machine which really has no logical reason for existing, which makes it funny.

First, the sword rolls up. Then El Kabong blows into it and it unrolls like those paper horns at New Year’s Eve parties. Then Kabong’s sword is split down the middle (with an appropriate the two swords tie up in a knot, with an appropriate cloth-ripping noise. Then the swords tie up in knots, which gives Chilada the physically-impossible opportunity to lift Kabong back and forth over his head (which we don’t actually see) and crash him to the floor, yelling “Kabong!” Time for a catch-phrase from Quick Draw: “Hollld on thar! I’ll do the kabongin’ around here. And don’t-you-for-get-it!” Maltese packs this all into about 40 seconds; it’d sometimes take Charlie Shows about half a cartoon to roll out this many gags.

Now comes the big sword-fight climax. Naturally, it takes place up and down a staircase as you’d find in The Three Musketeers (1922), Robin Hood (1938) The Adventures of Don Juan (1948) and who knows how many more. And like in films such as The Mark of Zorro (1940), the two combatants exchange banter. In El Kabong’s case, an earlier gag pops up: “I’ll teach you to o-ppress and dry-clean the people.” And parodying the polite verbal repartee where one swordsman compliments the other, there’s friendly banter. “Say,” remarks Kabong, “Quite a place you got here.” Chilada reveals he’s “adding a swimming pool next summer.” A staircase sword-fight guarantees a Fairbanks-style slide down a banister. “Lucky for me, I was a kid once,” Kabong tells us. “And lucky for me, I am a villain,” replies Chilada with his sword awaiting at the bottom of the banister with the expected result. The impact sends Kabong crashing out an upper storey window, into a fountain, ending with an old cartoon water-out-of-the-body gag (Maltese carries it to a ridiculous degree with water coming out of the top of Kabong’s head for no reason except to be silly).

The evil Chilada thinks he’s won because he has El Kabong’s “kabonger.” But he didn’t count on an armed Baba Looey being inside it, who spouts the mandatory cliché “Your oppressing days are over.”

Our narrator returns to complete his verse:

Today the town bell rings loud and long
Recalling the deeds of El Kabong.

The bell turns out to be El Kabong’s guitar. Someone will have to let me know if this is a send-up of final shot of a Zorro movie; it sure seems like it.

Lots of Jack Shaindlin cues here, but I don’t have names for some of them. And I haven’t any idea if the public domain songs were recorded by Hoyt Curtin or came from the Hi-Q “X” Series, where they parked they’re speciality music.

0:00 - Quick Draw sub main title theme (Curtin).
0:06 - O Susannah (trad.) – El Kabong helps robbing victim, smoker, kid.
0:38 - western string music (?) – Shot of Don Chilada, Quick Draw stolls into scene.
1:05 - guitar strumming (Curtin) – Quick Draw sings off-key.
1:15 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Bandit demands 50 pesos, Quick Draw changes into El Kabong.
1:53 - La Cucaracha (trad.) – El Kabong banters with bandit; hits him with guitar.
2:28 - GR-96 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Don Chilada with henchmen, El Kabong in tree.
3:07 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – El Kabong swoops into boxer’s glove, wall where balcony was.
3:39 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw pretends to be potter, dresses as ballerina, threatens to kabong Chilada.
4:27 - GR-99 THE DIDDLECOMB HUNT (Green) – “Choose your weapons,” El Kabong buys sword.
5:00 - tick tock/flute music (Shaindlin) – sword gags, Chilada kabongs Kabong.
5:44 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Kabong and Chilada on stairs, Kabong stabbed, flies out window, lands in fountain.
6:20 - medium circus march (Shaindlin) – Baba Looey arrests Chilada, pan shot.
6:42 - unknown (Shaindlin) – Bell substitutes for guitar.
6:51 - Quick Draw sub end title music (Curtin)


  1. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    The layout on this Quick Draw McGraw episode (the El Kabong's first appearance) wasn't done by Ed Benedict. It was done by Walter Clinton. I watched several times this episode and I can recognize the Walter Clinton's design on it.

  2. And seems that the background on this same episode, was made by Joseph Montell.

  3. Those Termites always bothered me. Lew at his worst! None the less, this is a ground-breaking cartoon with a wonderful legacy. I await your review of "El Kabong Returns" or "El Kabong vs. El Kazing".

  4. I liked the termites. I thought they had been on loan to Hanna-Barbera from Jay Ward.

  5. It's not beacuse of their looks, its the way they move. It has some evil other worldly quality about it; its PARTICULARLY cheap. Like I've said on other occasions: "They're usually pretty good about avoiding that."

  6. Along the way Zorro made an appearance in Pixie and Dixie through "Makr of the Mouse". Not quite as funny as Quick Draw, though. Mr.Jinks makes Mystery Science Theatre 3000-worthy wisecracks. I wonder what Yowp would say in a review of that one...:)

  7. I wonder why they didn't give Quick Draw a mask in this cartoon when the title card shows it?

  8. That's a great question and I never picked it up in the cartoon.

    Does anyone know when the title cards were made, ie. how long before or after the cartoon was made? I'm presuming Goble did them (I can't find out anything about the guy).

  9. 5/24/12
    I'm looking for a "El Kabong" episode I haven't seen in years; I don't remember the title, but I do remember the plot. Maybe you can post it on your blog sometime. It was about El Kabong helping out a cowgirl (voiced by Jean Vander Pyl) who had no real name, but was described as a "typical rancher's daughter" who always expected someone to help her when she says deadpan-like "help,help,help" so flatly. She is being harrassed by a "typical western villain" again with no real name. After about five minutes of fighting off the "typical western villain", the mood strikes El Kabong/Quickdraw to pull out the guitar and sing a really off-key corny tune. Soon the villain and the rancher's daughter get really interested in El Kabong's off-key warbling, and they decide to form a trio singing the really off-key tune, which soon drives Baba Looey, the sherrif and the mayor of the town crazy.If only I can remember the name of this cartoon, it was my favorite El Kabong episode.

  10. It sounds like "El Kabong, Jr." It featured El Kabong's son (Daws Butler doing Jerry Lewis), villain Toothy Acres and Typical Western Rancher's Daughter Who's Alone and Helpless singing a rock and roll song while playing out of tune guitars.
    There's no mayor or sheriff.

    1. 5/25/12 wrote:
      Thanks for pointing that episode out. I saw on another one of your El Kabong blogs that it was correctly titled "El Kabong Jr.",then checked it out on You Tube. It's been like 25 years since I've seen it, but I enjoyed it as a kid. you are right, there's no sherriff or mayor in the cartoon, and El Kabong Jr. is a simpleton of a character I completely forgotten over the years. I also forgot the villain had a name (Toothy Acres! Ha!) It's been a real joy to see this one again..thanks!