Wednesday 28 April 2010

Give a Show, Hear a Show, Give a S---

Today’s post is actually three little posts in one. They all have two things in common—they have to do with early Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and they all involve people linking to this blog.

The internet is a miraculous memory jogger of childhood. Some might think this blog is a perfect example, but I’m referring specifically to all the stuff I had as a kid that I completely forgot about until I spotted it while aimlessly traipsing on the internet.

It’s dawned on the nerdy innards of my cowwebbed cranium, in re-discovering old toys, that my parents got me a lot of cartoon-related things I never asked for. Maybe that’s why I’ve forgotten them.

One of memory-joggers is courtesy of a labour of love by Jon B. Knutson, who is responsible for The Give-A-Show Projector Blog. My brother had a Give-A-Show movie projector; ads for them were as ubiquitous (if ubiquity is limited to Saturday morning network television of the early-to-mid 1960s) as ones for Marx’ Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robot and Milton Bradley’s Mystery Date. The projector is really quaint if you think about today’s technology. It’s basically a slide strip of drawings with captions that you could project on the wall and “show” a cartoon.

Jon’s decided to take the 1961 equivalent of PowerPoint and voilà it into today’s technology. He’s put the slide into a computer slide-show programme, added an intro and extro, some appropriate H-B sound effects and music and Ta-da! Instant 43 second cartoons on his blog.

I’ll embed a couple.

First is 1961 “Green” Slide #14 — Quick Draw McGraw. Jon’s using Phil Green’s song ‘Fred Karno’s Army’ in this one.

Next is 1961 “Green” Slide #15 — Yogi Bear. Music by Hoyt Curtin.

And finally is 1961 “Green” Slide #8 — The Flintstones. I don’t know what name Curtin gave to this upbeat little piece.

Jon’s blog has a Facebook page you can check out as well.

2. GIVE A S---
We go now from Give-A-Show to Give-A-Shoeleather, as Beaky Buzzard would euphemistically say. Animator Will Finn gives a shoeleather about the early H-B cartoons and the designs that made them a lot of fun, especially when compared to the watered-down versions of the same characters drawn years later. I can’t explain why I like the Ed Benedict-inspired characters here and the attractive way they’re set up with different sizes and angles. But Will can. And does. Check out his blog post here.

George Nicholas animated my favourite Flintstones episode—the one with Sassy—and he did the scene in the first season cartoon that Will’s analysing (thanks to Mark Kausler for the ID; I would have guessed someone else).

For reasons I have yet to fathom, Joe Bevilacqua decided I am an interesting enough Yowp to have as this week’s guest on his Cartoon Carnival show on Shokus Internet Radio. Joe was very nice to publicise this blog on his show. I’m not a self-promoter. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever asked anyone to tune and listen to me on the radio. So I’m not going to ask you to tune in to listen to me. Tune in to listen to the other stuff.

Joe always has something that interests me on his show, whether it’s old Daws Butler records or (like last week) an interview with puppeteer Craig Marin, who told a wonderful story that everyone can identify with about how he met his TV heroes. Joe also plays soundtracks of old Hanna-Barbera (and other) cartoons. Hear for yourself if Chuck Jones was right to call them “illustrated radio” (Chuck’s description brings to mind that “shoeleather” synonym of Beaky’s). Joe does a show once a week and it plays Monday through Sunday to enable you to catch it. Oh, and Joe has them archived, too. Click here for Joe’s site and you can go to Shokus here.

I’d like to thank Joe for asking me to be on his programme and the other very nice people out there I’ve never met who have linked to this blog. I’m not deliberately snubbing anyone by not reciprocating with a widget full of URLs. It’s just one of those things I just have to get around to doing, though I admit I don’t know what sites point you to this one. But I humbly appreciate it, along with all the comments left here by animators, voice actors, fans and experts. I’m still hoping someone out there has more of the stock music used in these cartoons they can pass along or identify, and that there’s someone who can help fill in blanks I have with some old newspaper stories.

You’ve all helped to try to make sure this blog isn’t shoeleather.

Saturday 24 April 2010

Snooper and Blabber — The Flea and Me

Produced by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Irish Cop – Daws Butler; Karl, Rudolf, Lion – Don Messick.
First Aired: November 3, 1959.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired to return Rudolf the Flea to his flea circus owner.

Cartoons seem to attract fleas about as much as dogs do.

It’s puzzling if you think about it. After all, a flea doesn’t have much personality in real life. But it seems almost every studio had several pretty funny cartoons featuring a flea. The one that may instantly come to mind is A. Flea joyfully singing “There’ll Be Food Around the Corner” in the 1943 Warners cartoon ‘An Itch in Time’ (he appeared in another short several years later). Tex Avery built a few at MGM around fleas, too—‘What Price Fleadom’ (1948), with the same flea that was in Rudy Ising’s ‘The Homeless Flea’ (1940), ‘The Flea Circus’, featuring French fleas, and ‘Dixieland Droopy’ (both 1954). Don Patterson directed ‘Flea For Two’ (1955), written by Mike Maltese. Even Famous Studios got into the act with a ‘One Froggy Evening’-style short called ‘Finnegan’s Flea’ (1958).

The flea infestation moved over to Hanna-Barbera, especially into the Snooper and Blabber series where four cartoons co-starred fleas. The last three—‘Poodle Toodle-oo!’, ‘Fleas Be Careful’, ‘Flea For All’—featured the French flea (there’s H-B borrowing from Avery yet again) Toot Sweet. But ‘The Flea and Me’ has different characters altogether.

Carlo Vinci animated this one and it features his early H-B trademarks—stretched diving exits off camera, jerky head animation and thick rows of teeth when necessary. Unfortunately, not much of it is as interesting as some of the stuff he did in the first season of the Huck show. The opening scene shows Dick Bickenbach at work. The door-less car Snooper and Blabber are in should be a giveaway. There’s also a stock cityscape in the background. You can see the building with the café has another business with a name of non-letters. It appeared in a bunch of cartoons, not all of which were laid out by Bick and not all of which had Monte constructing the backgrounds. H-B’s background artist Art Lozzi once explained to John Kricfalusi that “already-used backgrounds from the files were slipped in” so it could be that Bick laid it out, Monte drew and painted it and it was used in cartoons where others did those jobs.

And the two-frame Vinci frightened shake-take is here, too. It’s been slowed down a bit. The frame grabs aren’t great, so the drawing bounces a bit.

The cartoon opens with our heroes in a hurry to the office of the Mammoth Flea Circus, where producer Karl Von Scratchem Bach is walking in a little cycle, shaking his hands in the air in panic. Snooper has Blab take notes as they get Von Scratchem Bach to explain what happened but all we hear is ersatz German. Finally he explains his star, Little Rudolf, “is gofluten the coopen” and “gescrambled.” The detectives are offered $5,000 for the flea’s safe return. “For that kind of dough,” says Snooper, “We’ll get him back if we have to shave every dog in town.”

Snoop figures the first place to look for a flea is the local dog pound. We now get a shot of a bunch of dogs scratching various parts in various ways (in a bigger-budget theatrical cartoon, this would have been a great place for sight gags. Snooper decides to use some strategy (no, he doesn’t say “stragedy” this time). As Phil Green trumpet music blares, Snooper shouts: “Introducing, the one, the only, the world’s greatest wonder flea, none other than Rudolf!” A little figure jumps from a dog’s back onto its nose.

Snooper: I knew it, Blab. Once a ham, always a ham.

Then Rudolf realises he’s been discovered and does a typical Carlo Vinci escape. The detectives chase after him, with Snoop giving his catch-phrase variation “Stop in the name of the Private Eye Bird-Watchers Society!” At this point, our heroes meet up with one of the few stereotypes left in old cartoons that doesn’t invoke the cry of “racism”—an Irish cop. Rudolf hops inside the officer’s hat as Snooper explains he’s worth $5,000.

Cop: My dog has lots of fleas. And you can have them all. For nothing.

Somehow, the cop is so ditzy he can’t tell his hat is jumping up and down on top of his head. The detectives jump on the job and, somehow, strip the officer as they try to get the flea under the hat. “The flea must have fleed, Blab,” observers Snooper, and as the half-naked cop hides in a bush and calls for the police, Snoop and Blab follow Rudolf into a monkey cage of a zoo.

Snooper takes some clippers and snips all the fur off the monkey. But the flea “Flewed the coop, Snoop” and bounces onto a nearby lion. Snoop orders Blab to try the clippers on the dangerous beast to find Rudolf (“Fantastical. He does anything I say,” the amazed Snooper remarks to the audience. One roar from the lion causes Blab to zip out of the lion cage and past Snooper.

After some filler dialogue, Snooper hands Blab a jar of pepper to shake on the lion with the idea that Rudolf will sneeze and then be caught. Instead what happens is Maltese finishes the cartoon with the running gag from the Oscar-nominated ‘The Legend of Rockabye Point’ (1955) that he wrote for Tex Avery. Rudolf sneezes, but the sleepy lion simply grabs Blab with his arm and holds the mouse against his body. Snooper advises the mouse to put the lion to sleep by singing him a lullabye. So that’s what Blab does. Snoop tries to pull him but ends up getting caught in the lion’s other arm. The advice? Keep singing. And that’s how the cartoon ends. Day turns to night. Blab is still singing off-key and we end with the annoyed Rudolf within the lion’s fur putting on earmuffs to deafen the noise and fall asleep. After all, fleas always carry earmuffs with them.

There are several places in the cartoon where a scene goes from having a full background when the characters are in medium shot to a single-colour background (sponged?) in a closer shot. Here’s an example.

Even though this is supposedly the sixth in the series, the Snooper cartoons had started using very short Phil Green cues as bridges instead of the longer “detective” sounding music of Jack Shaindlin, like in the first cartoon. For example, we get only two bars of a solo flute from somewhere in ‘The Bravest Wooden Soldier.’ The Green cues originally came from the EMI Photoplay library and were picked up for the Capitol Hi-Q library, which gave them ‘PG’ names. I’ve used the original EMI ‘GR’ names where I have them.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:25 - PG-161H LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Snooper and Blabber drive to flea circus office.
0:44 - PG-177C LIGHT COMEDY MOVEMENT (Green) – Snoop reads door sign.
0:51 - GR-98 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO SHORT BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – “I’m ruined!”
1:01 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Snooper and Blabber hear Bach’s story.
1:43 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Snoop and Blab drive to dog pound, dogs scratching.
2:07 - PG-171 PERIOD FANFARE (Green) – Snoop intros Rudolf, flea bows and takes off.
2:27 - ASININE (Shaindlin) – Cop in park scene.
3:43 - GR-80 FRED KARNO’S ARMY (Green) – Monkey scene, Blab goes into cage, “Fantastical.”
4:33 - GR-84 THE BRAVEST WOODEN SOLDIER (Green) – Lion roars, Blab tossed out.
4:39 - COMEDY SUSPENSE (Shaindlin) – Snooper hands Pepper to Blab, Rudolf sneezes, Snoop tells Blab to sing.
5:41 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – Blab sings, Snoop caught in lion cage, Blab sings.
6:36 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Night falls in zoo, Rudolf puts on earmuffs.
7:04 - GR-79 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – Rudolf sleeps.
7:11 - Snooper and Blabber end title theme (Curtin).

Tuesday 20 April 2010

The In-Compleat Cartoon Shaindlin

Yowp note: The music in this post is NOT public domain and is provided as a public service for audition purposes only.

Music evokes memories. Music in cartoons included. Play Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse for someone and see if they can Name That Bunny in four notes.

The music of the Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons is no different, despite being originally designed to linger in the background while setting moods for TV westerns and sitcoms, industrial films and low-budget movies. But because the composers were so adept, the music not only does its utilitarian job, it sticks in people’s minds (especially after endless viewings of the cartoons).

If I had to name a melody that epitomises the early H-B cartoons, I’d have to actually name two. It’s difficult to picture Yogi Bear in action without hearing the tippy-toe xylophone and laughing clarinet of ‘Zany Comedy’, credited to Bill Loose and John Seely. The other instantly conjures the sight of Pixie and Dixie running past the same wall socket for the eighth time—‘Toboggan Run’, credited to Jack Shaindlin.

While Loose and Seely were the masterminds behind the Capitol Hi-Q library, whence Hanna-Barbera found much of its music, Shaindlin was the man responsible for the other library, Langlois Filmusic, which also made its merry way into countless Huck, Yogi and Quick Draw escapades. Not coincidentally, it was distributed by Capitol.

Shaindlin’s story is a little less complicated than that of his library. According to Music and Dance in New York State, edited by Sigmund Gottfried Spaeth, Shaindlin was born April 14, 1909 in Russia. He attended the Crimea Conservatory of Music and then studied piano privately with Glenn Dillard Gunn in Chicago. The International Motion Picture Almanac (1948 edition) further reveals he went to high school in Chicago, then the Chicago Conservatory of Music; from 1926 to 1929 he was the conductor of the N.Y.U. Orchestra and conducted orchestras at movie houses; worked as a scorer for RKO and Universal from 1929 to 1936; was Director of Music for Columbia and Universal (eastern productions) in 1937, then moved on to The March of Time in 1941. It also mentions (unlike later editions) he produced musical shorts and operated a musical scoring service from the Fox Movietone offices in New York.

The book Conductors and Composers of Popular Orchestral Music by Naomi Musiker and David Adès, page 244, adds the following:

Shaindlin was born in Yalta but moved to America after the Russian Revolution. Shortly after landing in America, he won first prize in a newspaper-sponsored piano contest. He began his professional career by playing piano in small clubs and landed his first movie job at the age of sixteen, playing an organ at a theater. At the age of eighteen he joined a large orchestra and became a conductor. He subsequently performed at the Palace Theatre playing the piano, writing and acting in skits.
At the age of twenty-two, he started working for Universal Pictures and thereafter for RKO, Columbia and Louis DeRochemont as well as a twelve-year association with OWI films as musical director. In 1947 and 1948, he received critical acclaim for his conducting of pops symphony concerts at Carnegie Hall. He also lectured on movie music and was associated with the Ford Foundation’s television series. He was credited with the music of films such as Lost Boundaries, Teresa and Cinerama Holiday.

This only hints at Shaindlin’s involvement in the music library business. Stock music expert Paul Mandell, in a chapter of a book published by the U.S. Library of Congress, reveals:

Shaindlin (1909-1983) began scoring the March of Time newsreels [released by RKO] in 1942 and served as music director of Fox Movietone News in New York. Around 1950, Shaindlin and his composer-partner Robert McBride organized their news-reel and documentary tracks and started Filmusic, “the largest sound-on-film library in the US with over 2000 moods for dramatic, news, and comedy films.”

As a side-note, Shaindlin replaced Lou De Francesco on The March of Time. De Francesco wrote music for the Sam Fox library and one of his cues, Ski(ing) Galop, was used in some of the first Huck and Yogi cartoons. Before McBride arrived in 1945, Shaindlin worked with Ernest Fiorito, another composer for Sam Fox.

With all the music Shaindlin and McBride composed for newsreels for three studios (including the Bill Stern World of Sports one-reelers at Columbia) and the De Rochemont shorts, they had a ready-made library.

We now have to back up for a second and make a side-trip along the path of old time radio. A couple of guys, Cyril Langlois, Sr. and radio announcer Ralph Wentworth, branched out from the radio ad agency business in 1935 to create Lang-Worth Feature Programs, Inc., which supplied radio shows and music on transcription. Wentworth sold out to Langlois in 1942 and the business carried on. Among the orchestra leaders who supplied musical material for Lang-Worth in the later ‘40s was Jack Shaindlin. It was perhaps inevitable the two joined forces in the library music business.

Business Screen Magazine in 1954 unveiled the big announcement:

Formation of Langlois Filmusic, Inc.
Provides a Major Music Source

The combined music scoring facilities and all sound track of FILMUSIC Company and LANG-WORTH Publications, Inc. have been merged under the new name of LANGLOIS FILMUSIC, Inc., with headquarters in the Warner Brothers Bldg., 619 West 5th Street, New York 19.
The merger of two of the largest companies in the field of picture scoring makes available a service to film producers that provides the largest library of sound track in the world, produced specifically for television, theatrical, industrial and sound slidefilm use.
Jack Shaindlin, formerly operator of Filmusic Company, has withdrawn from active participation in picture scoring from library track to devote himself to original scoring with "live" musicians [Shaindlin became a live-action producer as production head of Triumph Films on West 54th in New York, with McBride as his musical director]. He has turned over all customer accounts and facilities to Langlois Filmusic, Inc. Mr. Shaindlin will continue to serve the new corporation in an advisory capacity for "live" picture scoring.
Jumping off to a fast start, Langlois Filmusic furnished music scores for over five hundred film productions, including business motion pictures, t.v. films and commercials and slidefilms during its first month of operation in January.

This was the library that was tracked by Hanna-Barbera for the Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw shows—and by syndicators such as ZIV.

Paul Mandell’s meticulous research explains more about Langlois Filmusic:

The fanfare for the “torch lady” logo at the end of every Screen Gems television show was a celebrated piece from this collection.
What made the library famous were the sneak-alongs with spooky clarinets and brass stingers used in Mr. And Mrs. North, Boston Blackie, Science Fiction Theatre and the final year of Superman. “In Cold Blood,” “Closing In,” “Crime Lab,” “Manhunt,” and “Sweating It Out” were typical cue titles. McBride wrote most of them and Shaindlin orchestrated them. They were shrewdly crafted works, remarkable for their economy, with repeated pauses and abrupt hits to facilitate the seemless editing of one with the other.
As Shaindlin's key tracker Frank Lewin observed, “Jack never wrote anything himself. He always had a stable of writers working for him.” Among them were Louis Applebaum, Rick DuPage, George Chase, Lan Adomian, and German composer Richard Mohaupt. Charles Strouse of Annie and Bye Bye Birdie fame ghostwrote much of Shaindlin’s show music. Even Morton Gould lent a helping hand with the light comedy cue “Toboggan Run.”

Mandell’s research shows Langlois Filmusic folded about 1960, though industry catalogues still list it into the ‘60s. But this didn’t end Shaindlin’s involvement in the library music business. Somehow, he maintained or retrieved the rights to his old music and in 1965, Cinemusic was born (though trade ads insist it was founded in 1949; that may be the year of Shaindlin’s original company). He began to repackage—and occasionally re-record, it seems—some of the Langlois library. 20 LPs containing 385 cues of different lengths in 34 moods were advertised in 1965, with a second set in 1966 and a third in 1968. Further volumes followed with a more up-to-date sound than some of the themes designed for fashion shows, sports contests and war footage on newsreels.

Now, let’s take a listen to some of the Shaindlin music that you’ve no doubt heard behind the Yogi, Huck and the Meeces. This is not, alas, The Compleat Cartoon Shaindlin. I have about another half-dozen music beds which are unidentified and, frankly, I don’t have the permission of the person who sent them to me to post them. But they don’t represent all of Shaindlin’s work on cartoons, either; there are cues I simply don’t have. What you can hear in this first batch comes from three different sources and the last two cues are not great in quality.

Langlois Filmusic provided cues on film (hence “filmusic”) and on 78s. Click on the title and whatever you use to play MP3s on your computer should pop up.


Because I promised this post so long ago, I will try to make it up to Jack Shaindlin fans with some bonus Langlois tracks. These were not used by Hanna-Barbera but I know at least a couple were in industrial cartoons produced by John Sutherland.


Finally, I’m going to leave you with a little story about Jack Shaindlin. This is from the book The Art of Writing Music by John Cacavas and Steve Kaplan. Cacavas was, among other talents, a composer for the Sam Fox library.

About proofing music....
I remember one time at a recording session in New York, the well-known film conductor Jack Shaindlin was recording Morton Gould’s score to Windjammer for the soundtrack album. I had been working for Gould as an orchestrator at that time, so I went along with Morton to the studio. This was in the early 1960s, when stereo was in its infancy, and the sound coming from the orchestra was glorious. During a break in the recording, a woodwind player raised his hand and shouted, “Hey Jack, I gotta wrong note in bar 46.”
“Well, play the right one, for God’s sake!” shouted Shaindlin in response.

The first and last screen caps are from a kinescope of an appearance on The Wendy Barrie Show where Shaindlin received the 1956 Clef Award for his work on Cinerama Holiday. The middle one is from the mid-1950s game show Make the Connection hosted by Gene Rayburn.

Jack Shaindlin died in New York on September 22, 1978.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Pixie and Dixie — Pushy Cat

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Paul Sommers [sic], Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Pixie, Arnold – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks – Daws Butler.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-038, Production E-102.
First aired: week of February 15, 1960 (repeat, week of July 25, 1960)
Copyright 1959 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Jinks’ “friend” Arnold invites himself to stay and tries to help himself to a mice dinner.

When Warren Foster arrived at Hanna-Barbera for the second season of the Huckleberry Hound Show, he played around with the personalities and interactions of the characters a little bit. Huck was the least changed from when Charlie Shows wrote for him in the first season. He was still the slow everyman, with different occupations from cartoon to cartoon, though in some of them, he was incredibly clueless (Cop and Saucer, Huck’s Hack). Yogi no longer had spot-gag adventures without Boo Boo in some undefined location. Instead, he became unbreakably hitched to a sidekick, Ranger Smith and Jellystone Park (which only solidified his popularity).

As for Pixie and Dixie, Foster varied their relationship with Mr. Jinks depending on the plot. In Missile Bound Cat, they were enemies much like the Shows-scribed cartoons. In Plutocrat Cat, they started as enemies but were really friends deep-down (in other cartoons, the mood change was reversed). And then you have a cartoon like Pushy Cat where they’re friends through the whole seven minutes.

Of course, you can’t have a cartoon where everyone’s all buddy-buddy (okay, you can, but you get those frolicking animal shorts Disney put out in the ‘30s), so that means an outside threat has to be brought in to move the plot along. And, in this case, the folks at H-B went through their model sheets and dragged out the brown cat who appeared in Jiggers ... It’s Jinks!, Mouse Nappers and Lend Lease Meece. They gave him a new tie, a new name, a new personality and a new voice and now he’s set for a new cartoon.

Carlo Vinci’s tell-tale signs are all over this cartoon—the stretch-dive exit off-screen by the meece, the wide mouth on Jinks and the jerky head animation. His Jinks looks better than in some of Carlo’s first season cartoons and it could be because Paul Sommer did the layouts here. Sommer had just arrived for the start of a lot of years at Hanna-Barbera, but he had co-directed at Columbia in the war years after spending some time at MGM and had been working as an art director at T.V. Spots by 1957.

The cartoon opens Jinks reading the tale of the ‘The Three Little Pigs’ to the meece. But Jinks gives us his hipster version. Here’s how he quotes the first pig to the wolf: “You’re a real cube, rube. Strictly from nowhere, square. Well, like, that put the wolf in the mood, you know. And he huffed, like, and he puffed, like, and he, uh, blowed the straw house down.” Jinks’ story is interrupted by a cheap-sounding buzzer-bell and we get one of Carlo’s standard head-shakes. Here’s a slower version.

Jinks goes to answer the door and Carlo gives us a little loping walk cycle in eight drawings on twos with the cat’s shoulders moving up and down and his butt swaying a bit.

Now it’s Foster’s turn to shine. He’s come up with a great concept. At the door is a cat named Arnold, who greets Jinks like a long-lost friend. Jinks hasn’t a clue who he is or where he’s come from. Other writers would put in some kind of con-artist or freeloader back-story but Foster doesn’t. Arnold just walks in on the confused Jinks and that’s that. And, really, the plot doesn’t need anything more than that.

Jinks (answering door): Uhhhhh, yes?
Arnold: (incredulously) Uh, yes?! Don’t you remember, Jinksie boy? It’s your old pal Arnold. You’re looking great, old buddy, just great!
Jinks: Ar .. ar .. Arnold?
Arnold: (laughs) Same old Jinksie, right there with the jokes (laughs again). Making out like he doesn’t remember old Arnold. Well, Jinksie, like you always said, if you ever get out my way, Arnie, drop in. Well (giggles) here I am. All dropped in. (walks in and laughs).
Jinks (to audience as camera moves in for close up): You know, you’d think that I’d recall a cat named Arnold, wouldn’t you?

Arnold plants himself in Jinks’ basket and informs him he can only stay for a month. The two cats engage in more dialogue, with Jinks still trying to make sense of it all when Pixie and Dixie walk into the scene and ask him to finish the story. We get a Vinci head shake take and thick solid row of teeth as Arnold sees the mice. That’s followed by the Vinci diving exit as Pixie somehow gains Dixie’s voice.

Jinks grabs Arnold by the tail before he can catch Pixie and Dixie and explains to him that “chasing mice is primitive cat stuff” and drags him away to do “something elevating.” They play cards but Arnold can do is think of the mice behind him. So he plots to get a drink of water, though we can tell by his expression what’s on his mind. Off Arnold goes to the bathroom, while Jinks remarks to us that he’s “kinda stone age.” Now, we get a soliloquy from behind the closed bathroom door.

Arnold: What does that guy think I’m made of—stone? I’m a living, breathing pussy cat. So I’m primitive. But I don’t care. I want those mice.

Arnold finds some knock out pills in the medicine cupboard and it turns out he’s put them in a glass of water for ol’ Jinks. Here’s his expression as Jinks drinks.

Now, virtually the rest of the cartoon involves the mice trying to avoid Arnold and wake up Jinks at the same time. “Help, Jinks! Arnold’s being primitive again,” Dixie yelps at one point. They try adhesive tape to keep Jinks’ eyes open. The eyelids are heavier than they thought. Oh, well. It didn’t work in Joe and Bill’s Sleepy-Time Tom (1951), either.

Then they try an alarm clock on Jinks’ head and a stick of dynamite by his butt. The alarm wakes him up, then he smells “you know, like a fur coat burning.” It’s the dynamite. Jinks grabs it and tosses it away—only to have it land next to Arnold, who has a baseball bat ready to clobber the mice. But he doesn’t get that far.

So the beaten, burned Arnold trudges out the door, defeated. The end gag is kind of lame. Jinks tells the mice he’s okay “except every once-st in a while” he can hear bells. It’s the alarm clock that’s still on his head. You’d think real friends would have removed it. Well, they’re back to “sort of” friends in their next cartoon. By the way, you can see how the dark diagonal shadow above Jinks is different in this shot than the “adhesive tape” one above.

There’s a lot of well-known Jack Shaindlin music here, including some short snippets of ‘Toboggan Run,’ which was used more in the first season. The rest of the background music is from the Hi-Q library, most of it by whomever ghost-wrote for Geordie Hormel and his buddy Spencer Moore.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie main title theme (Curtin).
0:12 - TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks reads story, opens door.
1:03 - LAF-27-6 UNTITED TUNE (Shaindlin) – Arnold and Jinks converse, mice enter scene.
2:19 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Arnold sees mice, Jinks tells Arnold the meeces are his friends.
2:35 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks holds onto Arnold; drags him to card table, Arnold in bathroom.
3:59 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Arnold brings water to Jinks, Arnold points to mouth.
4:47 - LAF-20-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Mice zip away; open Jinks’ eyes.
5:06 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Jinks threatens Arnold, mice try adhesive tape.
5:43 - LAF-20-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Mice chased by Arnold.
5:54 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – Alarm clock put on Jinks’ head, dynamite explodes, Arnold leaves, alarm clock goes off over Jinks.
6:57 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday 14 April 2010

New Stars of the Cartoon World

It’s no wonder adults flocked to see the humour of an unflappable blue dog and his cohorts on The Huckleberry Hound Show. In the show’s first season, story after story in newspapers across the U.S. marvelled at how kids weren’t the only ones watching. The reason? All you have to do is look at any TV highlights column that ran next to the stories.

I’ll get to a syndicated piece published April 5, 1959 in a second. But, first, let’s look at the plot summaries from some of the long-running sitcoms that ran that week.

Grandpa has diet troubles.
Rivalry is renewed after an old classmate visits.
Trouble over a big fish.
Grampa’s surprise party plans backfire (a different TV grampa than the first example).
Ricky has girl trouble.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather watch a police officer hound with a funny accent get conned by a robber pretending to be the Masked Hornet than any of those tired old plots. Okay, I’d be watching if the episode of December Bride involved Verna Felton hiding or manoeuvring a big fish. Verna Felton is just plain funny.

Regardless, people loved Huck’s light parody and simple fun in those gentler days when television was new but most of the cartoons and sitcom ideas on it were old. Here’s more proof from the Chicago Daily News syndication service. The picture appeared with the story in the Toledo Blade:

Children’s Show . . . A TV Sleeper
Huckleberry Hound Clicks With Adult Viewers, Too

CHICAGO (CDN)—One of the sleepers of the television season is a cartoon series ostensibly designed for children, Huckleberry Hound (Ch. 13 at 6:30 p.m., Thursdays).
A sleeper is a television program that creeps onto the air without much fanfare and turns into a bit after a few performances.
The new Alcoa Presents series of fantasy shows on Tuesday nights is an example. 77 Sunset Strip began the season with ho-hum ratings but has gained strength.
The Three Stooges still has TV officials shaking their heads in disbelief at the unexpected success achieved by reruns of the ancient comedies.
* * *
HUCKLEBERRY Hound is like that. The show, consisting of three cartoons each program, has done quite well ratingwise.
There are more than a few parents who insist, in a slightly patronizing manner, that they watch Huckleberry Hound most weeks “because the kids are watching, you know.”
Judging from the imitations of some of the cartoon’s characters heard around business offices, I suspect that most of the parents are watching because they like it, too.
* * *
I’VE HEARD more than one dignified advertising executive yell across an office to a cohort:
“I hate you meeces to pieces!”
This is one of the lines of Jinks, a bewildered, determined cat who competes with two happy mice (the meeces) named Dixie and Pixie.
Jinks talks with a modified beatnik and bop slang. Hit by a falling tree or a crashing rock, he’ll blink his eyes and say:
“Like tell me now. Like what happened?”
* * *
THE SECOND of the cartoons features Yogi Bear, an Art Carney type character who wears a Joe College porkpie hat while ambling his way through “Jellystone Park.”
Yogi, who ends every sentence on a rising inflection and who smiles throughout the chaos that besets him, likes to talk to the TV audience.
He smuggled a stray elephant out of a secret exit in the back of a cave one night, turned to the camera and said:
“You’ve got to admit. I’m smarter than the average bear.”
Later, threatened by some zoo keepers, Yogi grinned and countered with, “You dare to threaten government property?”
* * *
HUCKLEBERRY Hound is a sincere hound who talks in a dragging twang straight from the Tennessee hills. He can pronounce “you” with three syllables. Other dogs on the program go “bark, bark, bark” when they appear.
One of Huck’s most recent antagonists was a termite that sang, “buzz, buzz, buzz-deebuzzbuzz” in a deep bass voice. Huck never did “terminate that termite.”
And there was the time . . I give up, these things are impossible to explain.
Ever try to explain a Tom and Jerry movie cartoon to a friend? That’s the way it is with Huckleberry Hound.
As the saying goes, you’ve got to be there.

And, you know, in looking at the TV highlights column of newspapers today, with airhead manufactured “real” people, dragged-out competition shows set up like soap operas, and steady streams of network-annointed political pundits yelling at each other, I’ll take Huck matching wits with a termite over other programming, even today. Considering what’s on now, I’d settle for Verna Felton hiding a fish in her housecoat for that matter.

Saturday 10 April 2010

Augie Doggie — Foxhound Hounded Fox

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Bob Givens; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie, Fox – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy – Doug Young.
First Aired: week of September 28, 1959.
Plot: Augie goes after a Groucho-like fox.

It’s always been a little puzzling about why Augie Doggie got the first billing on this series when Doggie Daddy was the real star. But this cartoon may provide an answer.

In just about every cartoon, Augie was little more than the engine behind the plot. He would do something (eg. make friends with animals) and then the cartoon would centre around Daddy’s reaction/actions in response.

But this one, the first in the series to be released, is different. Doggie Daddy disappears at about the two-minute mark and doesn’t appear again until the wind-up gag about five minutes later. It really is an Augie adventure.

Still, Augie isn’t the star of this cartoon. He’s upstaged by his nemesis, a fox that seems to exist solely for Mike Maltese to litter a cartoon with endless Groucho Marx-style puns and dialogue. Even the groaners are funny because the pace is so fast, and Daws Butler’s delivery is so upbeat, there’s little time to groan.

(If you want to see a really unfunny Groucho derivative in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, check out something called Crazy Claws, produced in 1981. Though we don’t advise it).

Besides Maltese’s stream of words, there isn’t a lot else to this cartoon. The layout was by the newly-arrived Bob Givens, the Schlesinger studio designer in 1940 when Bugs Bunny was created. Whether Bob’s responsible for it, or background artist Bob Gentle is, I don’t know, but there’s a conscious effort to draw shadows in the interior shots. Here’s Augie at the start of the cartoon, peering out after his dad comes home with a birthday present. You can see the colour separation where there are shadows on the floor and on the wall. The diagonal-box wall-shadow was fairly common not only in the Augie cartoons, but in Snooper and Blabber and Pixie and Dixie. They seem to appear in the 1959 season. And, as you can tell in this shot, Doggie Daddy has modernistic tastes in art.

The present Daddy brings him is a toy fox. Augie objects because he’s “grown up” and should be chasing “a really fox” (reminiscent of Maltese’s line about “a really and truly woodsman” in Daffy’s 1942 cartoon My Favorite Duck). Daddy tries to reason with him that he’s too young, and Maltese gets in the ‘my-ears-are-tied’ sight gag he’d use in another Augie cartoon.

Daddy (to the audience): What am I gonna do with this stubborn...
Augie (interrupts): Can I, can I, can I, can I?
Daddy: Kid.

Finally, Daddy acquiesces but tells Augie he wants him home in time for dinner. The next shot is of Augie sniffing on the ground and then giving us a typical Maltese play on words: “All my instincts, and my outstincts, tell me there’s a really fox around here.” Now we cut to the thin-snouted fox.

Fox: I couldn’t get a chicken, so I’m making chicken feather soup. This old feather pillow should tickle my palate. Feather your soup. Or is it feather your broth? That’s a malaprop if ever I hoid one. I’ll give the soup a sip (drinks from spoon and laughs). The feathers tickle my stomach. Funniest soup I ever tasted. I never thought starving could be such fun.

There are six seconds of cycle animation that typifies Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the 1959-60 season. For some reason, the layout people didn’t like full body shots. So you’ll see a character walking—but only the upper half of its body is in the frame. Here, instead of animation of the ticklish fox rolling on the ground laughing, we get a cycle of legs in the air. It gets the gag across the least-expensive possible way.

So, most of the rest of the cartoon involves the fox trying to get rid of the chomping and biting Augie while keeping up his flow of patter. “Something is chomping on my tail. And that could be the end of me” is how he starts it all. Augie drags him into a nearby lake. The fox surfaces, plucks Augie out of the water and tosses him in again. “Children should be seen and not heard. Or is it hurt and not seen?”

Next, the fox tip-toes to a cliff and drops the gnawing Augie over the side. “Drop in again some time. And don’t think it hasn’t been fun. Because it hasn’t.

Then we get the old painted-picture-on-road-becomes-real gag that everyone associates with the Roadrunner but Maltese used as early as Hollywood Daffy (1946). The fox drags a Florida advertising billboard with a road drawn on it to match up with the road (“I’ll beach him in Miami”). Augie runs right into the picture then out of another billboard with a road back onto the real road. Hanna-Barbera would use the same concept in the opening animation of the Yogi Bear show (with Kellogg’s on both billboards for some reason).

The fox tries to escape by jumping onto the last car of a train (of the A + D Railroad). But it doesn’t work. Augie somehow has caught up and is chomping on his tail.

Fox: Look who’s riding my caboose. I’ll just have to crack the whip on this pipsqueak.

The fox jumps into a hole in a hollow tree. Doesn’t work. Augie’s chomping on a leg sticking out another hole. The fox runs away (we only see the upper half of the body). Doesn’t work. Cut to a shot of Augie chewing on a leg. “The kid’s still putting the bite on me.” The fox tries shaking his leg. Doesn’t work. The fox tries twisting him off his leg. Instead, Augie holds firm and the fox twists vertically.

Fox: This boy don’t know when he’s beat. So beat it, will you boy? Play dead.

That works. Augie plays dead and the fox zooms into the background. Augie’s heartbroken and yells at him to come back.

Augie: Now, I’ll never catch him before dinner.

Suddenly, the fox zooms back and we get a Senor Wences/Groucho bit of dialogue.

Fox: Dinner? Did you say dinner.
Augie: I said dinner.
Fox: Would you repeat that please?
Augie: Dinner.
Fox: Hey! You just said the magic woid. So you get to divide the dinner among me. Or is it among I?

Ah, Doggie Daddy’s now back in the cartoon. We’re at the last scene in the Doggie residence, where the Fox is having dinner, much to the disgust of Daddy. And we get one last corny pun: “Pass the pepper. Or I’ll assault you with these peas.” Then Augie, chomping on the Fox’s leg, looks at us and tells us it’s the greatest birthday he ever had, and resumes gnawing as the iris closes. If there’s any doubt the Groucho fox is the star of this cartoon, look where the light shines in this scene.

The fox apparently had his fill after eating his peas. He doesn’t appear in any other cartoons and Doggie Daddy henceforth is the one who does battle with ants, crows, cats, gophers, Snagglepuss and other Butler-voiced antagonists.

The music track is dominated by melodies used in many Augie Doggie cartoons and we generally get to hear most of each tune. The Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin music and Hecky Krasnow’s The Happy Cobbler from the Sam Fox Variety library were pretty well exclusive to the Augie series. I don’t have a name from the frolicking little Jack Shaindlin melody used here.

0:00 - Augie Doggie main title theme (Curtin).
0:25 - CB-90 HAPPY HOME (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Daddy brings home box with toy fox for Augie.
1:56 - GR-65 BUSH BABY (Phil Green) – Augie uses “outstincts”, Fox eats feather soup, Augie drags fox into lake.
3:31 - EM-107D LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Fox drops Augie over cliff, billboard gag, Augie chomps on leg.
4:38 - GR-253 TOYLAND PARADE (Green) – “Return of the swallow”, train scene, Fox jumps in hollow tree.
5:32 - jaunty bassoon and skippy strings (Shaindlin) – Augie gnaws on fox in tree, dinner dialogue.
6:48 - SF-? THE HAPPY COBBLER (Krasnow) – Fox eating dinner.
7:09 - Augie Doggie end title theme (Curtin).