Saturday 29 May 2010

Pixie and Dixie — Lend-Lease Meece

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – George Nicholas; Story – Warren Foster; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision - Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast: Pixie, Charlie, Pathetic Mouse – Don Messick; Jinks, Dixie – Daws Butler.
First Aired: Week of December 20, 1959.
Plot: Jinks loans Pixie and Dixie to the cat next door then has to fight to get them back.

George Nicholas did some marvellous stuff when he first arrived at Hanna-Barbera, though there’s no way it had the fluidity or style of his work at Disney. But his characters are expressive. You know exactly what they’re thinking. That’s why people accepted and liked the Hanna-Barbera characters, even though they weren’t drawn with the same intricate design or movement that the studio’s animators used at their former workplaces, especially in the 1940s. Look at how Nicholas draws Jinks below. There’s no mistaking his emotion.

Lend-Lease Meece was apparently the first Pixie and Dixie cartoon that Nicholas worked on and joined well with Warren Foster (and whoever did the layouts) in coming up with a nice cartoon. It opens with a moving van pulling up to the Jinks and meece residence. The camera closes in on a window and the shot dissolves to Jinks staring out it talking to himself (and the audience) as the camera trucks in for another close-up. That’s fairly elaborate camera-work for an H-B cartoon.

Someone has moved into “the domicile-type house next door” and Jinks decides to move to another window to get a closer look. Nicholas gives us some nice posing. He comes up with a wide-mouthed, floppy-tongue Jinks and then, later, a look of relief as the cat’s body collapses in the window sill.

Jinks discovers a dog hasn’t moved next door, but “a real cool cat” has. Yes, it’s our old friend, the brown cat with the bow-tied collar and Don Messick’s back-of-the-throat voice who we saw in Mouse-Nappers. This time, his name is Charlie instead of Shortie. Jinks welcomes him to the neighbourhood and offers him anything he needs. Nicholas invents a low, loping walk for Jinks, who has a cross-eyed look.

Charlie stops Jinks and explains there is something. He’s worried about being kicked out of his home because it’s too new to have mice in it. Jinks volunteers to loan him Pixie and Dixie. Evidently, Foster was a big fan of the Phil Silvers show because this is one of several cartoons where he calls the meece out of their hole with “Hi-Yup-Oh-Yee-Ya!” shout like Bilko used to assemble his motley troops on the double at Fort Baxter.

Jinks orders the mice to go next door until Charlie get some of his own. Pixie and Dixie rejectedly walk away. But they brighten when they’re told there are three meals a day and get a look at their “mouse house.”

Of course, in return, the meeces have to be chased by Charlie, so they both do a rehearsal, where it’s evident they’re play acting.

Two weeks pass, and Pixie and Dixie haven’t been returned. So Jinks goes over to reclaim them, hinting what he wants.

Jinks: Mice today, huh? Looks like it’ll be mice tomorrow, too.
Charlie: Thanks for the weather report, but I’m busy. So long. (slams door in Jinks’ face).

Jinks peers in the window and waves hello to Pixie and Dixie, who are riding on a wind-up toy car.

Pixie: Hey, Dixie, look! It’s ... what’s-his-name.
Dixie: Oh, yeah, the cat next door. Hi, mac!
Jinks (to camera): Mac? The cat next door? How could they forget so soon?

Jinks hammers on the door more insistently and we get the yelling animation you saw at the beginning of this post. He shoves his way into the home and goes to the canopied entrance of the mouse hole, then does his Bilko yell again. “Whatever you’re selling, we don’t want any,” says Dixie. “Yeah. Come back after the holidays,” adds Pixie. Undaunted, Jinks grabs the mice from their home, telling them “the holidays is like over.”

Jinks stomps back (the shot shows only the upper half of his body) toward his house but now the clobbering and namely calling is on. Finally, the two cats call a truce and agree to let the mice decide where they want to live.

Jinks: Do you natterally want to live in a atmosphere of love and affection with your pal Jinksie? Or, uh, do you wanna, pardon the expression, like, live with...
Mice (pointing to Charlie) : Him!!
Jinks: I do not accept that. (points at Charlie) You brainwashed them meeces.

Now the clobbering resumes. Pixie and Dixie remark to each other about how it’s nice to feel wanted. At that moment, the most pathetic mouse in cartoon history walks into the scene and feebly moans that no one wants him and he’s never had a home, with appropriate tear-jerking stock music playing in the background. Jinks yells at Charlie to stop the bashing and suggests he take home the pathetic mouse instead.

The cartoon concludes with a worn-out looking Jinks being told by Pixie and Dixie they were only having fun with him and they’d never leave him, while the pathetic mouse hugs Charlie going in the other direction, squeaking that he’s never been so happy, like he’s about to cry. This is a real tour de force for Messick. He goes from the growly cat voice to a high-pitched squeal for the mouse, one after another. Messick’s really a marvel.

Foster would re-work the plot of the rich cat next door who acquires Pixie and Dixie until Jinks fights to win them back in Plutocrat Cat later in the same season, except the mice express boredom once they get to the home of the gravel-voiced brown cat in that one.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie main title theme (Curtin).
0:14 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks watches van pull up; goes to window.
0:37 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose-Seely) – Jinks greets Charlie; agrees to lend Pixie and Dixie.
1:34 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Jinks kicks mice out of house.
2:24 - LAF-27-6 UNTITLED TUNE (Shaindlin) – mice knock on door, go into luxury pad.
2:58 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Charlie chases mice, mice in beds.
3:22 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks goes to Charlie’s; gets door slammed in face.
3:58 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks sees mice in window; demands meeces back, does Bilko yell at mouse house entrance.
4:44 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Cats fight over mice.
5:23 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Jinks asks mice where they want to live; doesn’t accept decision.
5:45 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks and Charlie fight.
6:01 - sad solo violin and trombone music (?) – Pathetic mouse tells his tale of woe.
6:34 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Jinks takes Pixie and Dixie home, Charlie promises hot meal to pathetic mouse.
6:58 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).



    This is a wonderful cartoon. I needn't mention the George Nicholas aniamtion, beacuase of how consistently good it is.

  2. Awesome cartoon. George Nicholas is quickly becoming one of my favorite of the early HB animators because of the life he puts into the characters he was assigned to animate. I love all the cool, cartoony expressions he added to Jinks. In a way, it's kind of what Bob McKimson often tried to do when he was animating for Clampett and in his early directorial 40s efforts.

  3. Great short. The version of the faux-melodrama cue used here is the Lamp Chopped mix [violin and trombone] and I'm CERTAIN it's gotta be a Philip Green one [cf. Bedtime Story and And they all lived Happily ever after.] Love that pathetic hobo mouse-ya just gotta.:)

    [I think that the tale of woe is a Queen for a Day bit.]

    Charlie/Shorty also appeared first as Bullet in Jiggers it's Jinks, too.


    Again, that scene alone sold the short for me. George did some fab animation here :D

  5. Kinda off-topic, but I was watching this Terrytoon yesterday called "Sno Fun," and I noticed that there was a character named Powerful Pierre in it. Is it a coincidence that there was a character in the Huckleberry Hound cartoons with the same name, or is there more to it than that? After all, Hanna-Barbera had a reputation for plagiarism and stealing other artist's ideas from what I've heard.

  6. Roberto, it seems coincidental to me. He didn't become "Powerful" Pierre until the second season. The first season cartoons borrow from MGM cartoons (Joe Barbera's influence) and the later stuff from Warners (Foster and Maltese at work).

    Chris, seeing stuff like this makes it sad that the cartoons took a drop just a year later. Look at the Yogi show. Snagglepuss and the annoying duck don't have this kind of expression that I can remember. Lots of heads going up and down and running cycles and not much that stands out off-hand.

  7. The top left screencap of the set of four on top reminds me of the deliberately sloppy animation of Mr. Jinks in the CN 'Shortie' HARRASSCAT. (For some reason, Boomerang only shows this one during late night hours while it runs the two Quick Draw Shorties endlessly during the day.)

    George Nicholas excelled at wide-eyed, mouth-flapping facial expressions, especially on expansive characters like Yogi, Fred and Magilla. Notable is Fred's relapse into gambling ("Bet? BET? BET-BET-BET-bet-bet-") and his all-too convincing performance as 'the Frogmouth'. And somehow, any lengthy speech of Fred animated by Nicholas would have him doff out imaginary suspenders at some point.

  8. Jinks asking Charlie to take home that pathetic mouse is right after he does the Jack Benny thing - "Wait a minute-Wait a minute-WAIT A MINUTE!!"

  9. I wonder if the sad mouse's cue is (from one of several label scand that I;'ve seen, on L-53) Spencer Moore's 8-LM-8H PLAINTIVE UNDERSCORE)?Steve C

  10. PS Yowp (thru Dan Goldmark) found it's Shaindlin's untitled LAFMU?-72-3.