Saturday, 13 March 2010

Snooper and Blabber — Gopher Goofers

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Snooper, Blabber – Daws Butler; J. Horti Culture, Gopher – Don Messick.
First Aired: week of January 11, 1960.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired by a millionaire to get rid of a gopher on his estate.

The idea behind Snooper and Blabber was to parody the tired clichés of the TV and B-movie detective genre. But when you need a bunch of story ideas in a hurry and used to write for Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, you’ll use whatever you can to meet a deadline. That’s no doubt what faced Mike Maltese when he was asked to come up with plots for ‘The Quick Draw McGraw Show.’ So he mothered a cartoon where he simply took his detective characters and plopped them into a standard Warner Bros.-style, heckler-comes-out-on-top cartoon.

That can be the only possible explanation for Gopher Goofers. After all, why would anyone hire detectives to get rid of a gopher? Why wouldn’t they hire an exterminator? Well, I guess there is one other explanation—anything can happen in a cartoon. Maltese apparently liked the concept because he used it in Quick Draw McGraw’s Doggone Prairie Dog, which aired the same season with a similarly-drawn (but not identical) title character.

Maltese never wrote the Goofy Gopher cartoons at Warners but this one may remind you of the kinds of violence gags you’d see on one of those. And instead of the oh-so-polite dialogue which was the most enjoyable part of the Warners shorts, Maltese inserts his own style with lots of adjectives that characters dutifully recite, as if they’re reading parenthetical stage directions.

Instead of opening the cartoon with a shot of an eyeball on Snooper’s office door or window, we get it on his helicopter this time, with the title characters in silhouette and the white clouds (sponged?). They are on their way to the “vast, richly estate” of “fabulously wealthy” J. Horti Culture, descriptive terms that crop up several times in the dialogue.

There’s something I really like about the backgrounds here. Bick and Bob Gentle came up with a lot of roses and the main background features a flat gazebo in the back and some kind of tree with little round berries on the leaves. The orangy sky is an interesting colour choice; I’m presuming it’s the correct colour from these TV screen grabs anyway (pardon the annoying TV cable channel bug. I wish these were out on DVD).

Snooper still thinks he’s in a detective cartoon. He deduces he’s been called because Culture has a no-good nephew who is trying to do him in to get the estate. That’s when the ground shakes and we get some sight gags leading up to the appearance of the title character. The best one is how an apple drops from a tree and a buzz-saw noise, the uneaten core is sent back up. It’s almost the same as in Barney Bear’s Victory Garden (1942) except the gopher in that one pulls a tomato plant underground then pops it back up with the tomatoes eaten like apples.

Blab informs us it’s a “13-09. A landscape caper.” Culture offers a million dollars to get rid of the pest and we get some vaudeville-type corn in reply:

Snooper: For that kind of dough, I’d do a bicycle act with a hungry crocodile.
Blabber: What do you mean, Snoop? We don’t own no bicycle.

So now we proceed with a series of gags as Snooper’s attempts to get the gopher out of the garden fall apart through our heroes’ stupidity and the gopher having obviously watched old cartoons and knowing what’s coming. First, Blab lowers a mousetrap with a fishing line into the hole. Like Bugs Bunny, who has multiple holes when convenient, the gopher pops up with the trap through another hole, jibbers to the camera and snaps it on Snooper’s tail. Naturally, Blab thinks he’s caught something and reels Snoop through one hole and out the other.

Next, Snooper tries a metal orange and a magnet. But the gopher pops up through the second hole and offers the orange to Blab who swallows it (with a thud). Snoop uses the magnet and pulls Blab through one hole and out the other.

The rodent dashes off with Snoop loping after him. Don Patterson developed a six-drawing run cycle for the gopher. When he lands on either foot, it’s on twos. The other drawings are on ones. Earlier, when he has the gopher chattering, he varies the cycle again, with some drawings on twos and others on threes. By contrast, Snoop’s run is on twos.

“Stop in the name of the Private Eye Summer School!” is Snoop’s variation on his catchphrase in this cartoon. And the gopher does. To pull the old pick-a-card-with-dynamite trick.

Now, Snooper and Blabber pretend to leave, sounding like they’re reading badly off a script loud enough for the gopher to hear, then hide behind a tree. The gopher sings to himself, toddling along in a little head-bobbing cycle. He’s on ones, except when each foot is in the mid-air and Patterson leaves it there for an extra frame.

The gopher doodly-doos across some atypical Hanna-Barbera paving stones to the diving board of a swimming pool. Snooper runs after him. The gopher does a little knee-bending dance as casually pours glue on the diving board. Snooper mishears Blab’s warning about the glue and attempts his “triple-side somersault swan dive” into the pool after him. He doesn’t get that far.

A hunting rocket set to “gopher” is Snooper’s next weapon. The gopher does a variation of an old Warners gag and draws a picture of himself on the back of Snoop’s trench-coat.

Finally, Snooper decides to use TNT to blow up the gopher’s hole. But, instead, he blows up the grounds of the estate—along with the million-dollar garden he was supposed to protect.

Finally, we get one of those “what?!” endings. As Culture is about to hand over the million-dollar cheque, we hear the gopher, then see the millionaire’s boutonnière disappear into his smoking jacket. Finally, the flowers on the wallpaper disappear into the base-board. How’d the gopher get in there? Oh, that’s right. Anything can happen in a cartoon.

Don Messick once mentioned the gopher voice was among his favourite. I suppose if you asked someone what a gopher sounded like, he’d make the toothy noise Messick makes here. It sounds more like Messick during the scene when he heads to the ironing board. The little woodblock/flute tune of Jack Shaindlin’s fits the little walk he has, even though it’s not scored to the beat.

I still haven’t been able to find the title of that piece nor one of a bunch of marching band-style chase themes chopped at the end of the cartoon. More than half of the music is from the Q-2 series from EMI Photoplay by Phil Green.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:25 - GR-347 GATHERING THE PRODUCE (Green) – Snooper and Blabber in chopper.
0:42 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Snoop and Blab talk to millionaire.
1:13 - ASININE (Shaindlin) – Jackhammer sound, gopher appears.
1:31 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – $1,000,000 offer made.
2:33 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – Mousetrap gag.
3:07 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Orange gag, card gag.
4:25 - GR-76 POPCORN SHORT BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – “A double-dealing gopher.”
4:34 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Snooper and Blabber pretend to leave.
5:00 - tick tock/flute music (Shaindlin) – Gopher heads to pool, puts glue on diving board.
5:22 - LFU-117-3 MAD RUSH No 3 (Shaindlin) – Gopher jumps off diving board, Snooper sticks to glue.
5:41 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Rocket gag.
6:10 - STEALTHY MOUSE (Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin) – Blow-up estate gag, Snooper gets cheque.
7:00 - fast chase music (Shaindlin) - Boutonnière and wallpaper flowers disappear.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber end title theme (Curtin).


  1. The "old pick-a-card-with-dynamite trick" scene was lifted completley from "A Bone For a Bone", a 1951 Goofy Gophers cartoon. And lots of the other material is from "Operation Rabbit".
    The Backgrounds in this cartoon are very nice. Patt doesn't do too much with the animation in the way of funny drawings, but that Gopher has some pretty neat facial expressions. J. Horti Culture does look a lot like Patt's Fred Flintstone.

  2. As a kid, I always wondered why Snooper and Blabber were hired to catch gophers, make Hardy-Har-Har laugh, baby-sit J. Evil Jr., and other non-detecting activities.

    By the mid-seventies, I came to realize that the glut of TV detectives probably forced them into such endeavors. Cannon and Ironside alone were enough to crowd them out of a room!

    To me, this cartoon always stood out because the Gopher was clearly killed in the final blast, and his ghost was going to forever haunt Mr. Culture!

  3. Joe, shows you how dull I am. I didn't realise he was a ghost. I'm used to cartoon ghosts punch-lines actually showing the they're ghosts. I thought he had just moved into the wall because that was the only place left.

  4. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    Seeing the Don Patterson's animation style on the Hanna-Barbera classical cartoons, it worths a while to see how his animation (which's very angular) sounds more Tex Avery-esque.
    We cannot forget that he worked on Universal/Walter Lantz as animator and director in the 50s (until 1959-60). As animator, he animated various shorts directed by Tex Avery, Alex Lovy and Paul J. Smith, between 1955 and 1960 (which also includes the Woody Woodpecker shorts directed by Alex Lovy and Paul J. Smith on this same period).
    And, among the shorts directed by him, there's a short where he was involved on the animation, too. I'm refering to Flea for Two (1955 [which has the scripts done by Michael Maltese]).