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).


  1. The shadow work is a Givens trait which he used to best effect in the Chuck Jones short "Transylvania 6-5000." Givens' style can be seen as late as 1969 in Bob McKimson's "Rabbit Stew and Rabbits Too."

  2. Not a bad cartoon, but it seems quite different from usual Augie/Daddy fare.

    There's something about the fox and the way he's designed (by Robert Givens, no doubt) that makes him nice and different from the other Hanna Barbera characters.

  3. I'm not convinced Givens is responsible for the shadows. They're used by other layout and background people, such as Bick and Monty in Not So Dummy with Snooper and Blabber.

  4. I've ended to watch this episode (dubbed in Portuguese) on YouTube.
    And the layout seen on this episode, it seems being made by Dick "Bick" Bickenbach.

  5. I thought Augie Doggie was kind of annoying in this cartoon, similar to the way that Tyke the pup used to hassle Tom Cat by following him around and barking, etc. (Hmm.. his dad talked like Jimmy Durante too, although in this case the dad dog didn't support his son by bullying the victim to cooperate.)

    I wonder if the wisecracking fox was later retooled as Fibber Fox? He's closer to Fibber than the fox in the Huck cartoon.

  6. I gotta say that Dan's correct about the fox, also, despite the Groucho voice, the voice seems similiar to Fibber [whioh was Shelley Berman's impersonated by Daws].

  7. Dan, it's mainly because of the writing. In the Huck cartoon, Charlie Shows handled most of the dialogue through the narrator. And when the fox talks, he's using the Bilko voice.

    In this cartoon, the fox has a steady stream of wisecracks, just like Fibber. And the cadence is pretty similar. The difference is Fibber's voice was higher pitched and would rise in different places for emphasis than Daws' Groucho voice for the fox in this one.

  8. Augie does act more like a real dog in this episode than he does in others. If he were human he might want his dad to get him a gun so he could hunt foxes & shoot them.