Saturday, 8 May 2010

Quick Draw McGraw — Riverboat Shuffled

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Carlo Vinci; Story – Mike Maltese; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson. (no credits).
Voice Cast: Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Card Player – Daws Butler; Narrator, Bold Weevil – Don Messick.
First Aired: late 1959.
Plot: Quick Draw tries to stop a riverboat gambler from robbing passengers.

Your first reaction watching this cartoon may be like mine—you stop for a moment and ponder the question “I wonder what was the first cartoon to use the ‘five aces’ gag?” Faced with the prospect of writing almost 80 cartoons for the Quick Draw series, and with only limited animation to pull them off, Mike Maltese drew into his Warners memory bank and drew out familiar gags or variations on old gags, augmented with puns. Add to that a bunch of explosion gags and that’s what you get in this cartoon.

For the record, Maltese used the ‘five aces’ gag in the really funny Bugs Bunny vs Riverboat Gambler short Mississippi Hare (1949). The gag’s actually better in that cartoon because Colonel Shuffle’s five aces are topped by Bugs’ six aces. But good guy Quick Draw would never cheat like that, so we unfortunately get a watered-down gag.

There’s another bit of business borrowed from Mississippi Hare—the bad guy is a Southern gentleman, therefore he politely ends every sentence with “Suh.”

I really like some of the designs and colours in this cartoon but I haven’t any idea who is responsible (Bick maybe?). In the opening shot, the Memphis Queen is lazily churning down the Mississippi River. The purple clouds are bordered in tan and the bushes along the side are encased in several shades of green and brown. And the river’s not just one blue, either. It’s very attractive.

This is another H-B cartoon which uses drawings of light and shadows for effect. Here’s one where the light shines on the villain, Bold Weevil, as he’s about to fleece someone at cards with the aforementioned aces. And then we get into one of Maltese’s standard set-ups where the characters on screen talk to the narrator:

Narrator: You are watchin’ Bold Weevil, gambler and river pirate, at work.
Weevil (tipping hat): Hi.
Narrator: He has a bold plan up his sleeve to rob the passengers of the Memphis Queen. The very boat he’s riding on.
Weevil (with finger at lips): Shhh.
Narrator: This very night.
Weevil: Aw. Ya big snitch.

If there’s any doubt this is a Carlo Vinci cartoon, the big teeth and the two-frame twitching moustache ought to give it away. Here is a slower version from what is in the cartoon.


The shot cuts to Quick Draw and Baba Looey and sets up a good part of the first half of the cartoon with a punny sight gag. River Agent McGraw, disguised as a riverboat gambler, informs us Bold Weevil isn’t the only one with something up his sleeve. Quick Draw reveals a loaded mini-Derringer up his sleeve. And his pant legs. And his hat. And a bunch of them inside his jacket.

Baba: You’re loaded, Quicks Draw.

Weevil challenges Quick Draw to a game of chance. Here’s the spotlight effect again, this time on our protagonists. Then Maltese brings out the hoary old corn:

Weevil: Name your stakes, stranger.
Quick Draw: Stakes? Well, if it’s all the same to you, I will have a T-bone. Medium raw.

Now comes something really odd. Weevil demands to know who the stranger is and Baba immediately reveals it’s Quick Draw in disguise. Quick Draw confirms it. Then what point is there in putting a disguise in the plot? Everything unfolds the same way if Quick Draw never had one.

Anyway, now comes the payoff to the earlier set-up. Quick Draw demands to know what Bold Weevil has up his sleeve. Bold Weevil shows him. Naturally, it’s a gun. Notice when it is fired, the background changes to a solid white colour.

Quick Draw decides to fire off all the weapons he displayed in the gag set-up and they all backfire on him. Baba Looey graces us with puns thusly:

Baba: Dun’ you thin’ we should quit while you still got a head, Quicks Draw?
Baba: That’s what I like about Quicks Draw. He’s got a lot up here (points to head). No brains. Just an empty lot.

Weevil checks his pocketwatch and announces it’s time for the hold-up and he mustn’t keep the passengers waiting. Quick Draw, in some pre-El Kabong rope-swinging, declares he’s going to “crash through the winder.” We know he’s going to fail because to do it, he’d have to turn and swing in perspective behind him and that would use up Hanna-Barbera’s animation budget for two years. Instead he swings past the hold-up in the background and the momentum lands him inside the top of the paddlewheeler’s smokestack, which is one those familiar-seeming gags I can’t place (in Mississippi Hare, Colonel Shuffle merely ran into the boiler and the smoke from the stacks spewed ‘Yipe’ into the sky). Unlike El Kabong’s mystery rope, at least we know what Quick Draw’s is tied to in this one.

Quick Draw lands in the Mississippi and pulls himself out. There’s a little coda to the scene that’s again a familiar-seeming gag. The top of Quick Draw’s hat pops opens, a fish jumps out and dives back into the water.

Meanwhile, back at the hold-up in the lounge, Weevil is politely asking for valuables when Quick Draw suddenly arrives with his mini-derringer. But, in a variation of the old water-in-the-gun gag that Maltese put in Mississippi Hare (and Avery used before him in Porky’s Duck Hunt), out squirts Mississippi mud. The scene ends with Quick Draw squirting Baba Looey for making fun of him.

Bold Weevil has stolen all the valuables and is about to escape (even though he’s on a boat) “to New Orleans, the Mardi Gras and some jolly fun” when Quick Draw acts. He rolls out a barrel—a barrel full of flat irons, because he’s going to flatten him. And he does. Hmm. It seems this sort of thing has happened in a cartoon before.

Quick Draw: Not only am I fast with a double barrel, but purty good with a single barrel.
Baba: And here comes the barrel!

Yes, the barrel has banged against a post and reversed direction. Our heroes and the bad guy decide to “barrel out of here” by doing a Vinci stretch-dive into the mighty Mississippi.

The final gag sees the camera pull back to reveal Baba Looey rowing himself and Quick Draw down the river on top of a tied-up Bold Weevil, a concept that seems to me was used in later Hanna-Barbera cartoons. So Quick Draw gets his man and comes out on top, which is more than he did in most cartoons that followed.

Much of the music selection is really odd here. Not much of it really suits the riverboat setting, especially the Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin sneaky stuff. I don’t know where the instrumental version of Stephen Foster’s ‘Camptown Races’ came from; it might be on the Hi-Q ‘X’ series of specialty music.

0:00 - Quick Draw sub main title theme (Curtin).
0:16 - CAMPTOWN RACES (Trad.) – Narration over shot of riverboat and pan of interior of boat.
0:35 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Weevil cheats at cards, narrator gives away his plan.
1:15 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Quick Draw shows off guns.
1:57 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Weevil wants to play cards, gun in sleeve shoots Quick Draw.
2:50 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Quick Draw gets shot by own guns, “empty lot.”
3:27 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Green) – Quick Draw opens jacket, “I can take it.”
3:46 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Weevil checks watch, sticks up lounge.
4:11 - jaunty bassoon and skippy strings (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw swings into smokestack, fish jumps out of hat.
4:52 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Weevil demands valuables; splooshed with mud, Baba shot with mud.
5:43 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Barrel scene.
6:34 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw and Baba on Weevil in river.
7:00 - Quick Draw sub end title theme (Curtin).


  1. This cartoon has some very nice backgrounds. I'm gonna have to say Bob Gentle painted it, and I'm not throwing that around the way I usually do.

  2. And the layout from this Quick Draw McGraw episode (which's also anthologic) was done by Dick "Bick" Bickenbach.
    I can recogize it by his design.

  3. The 'impossible number of aces' gag reappeared in a 1970 HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS episode, whose gang credits include Mike Maltese in one of his very last works. Of course, gang credits make it impossible to determine who wrote which episode.

    Another Maltese-written episode set on a Mississippi gambling scow was Snagglepuss' CAGEY LION. I don't remember if the ace gag was used, but there was quite a bit of gunfire.

    1. Howie,

      On this Snagglepuss episode (Cagey Lion), I could recognize the Walter Clinton's design (caracterized by the low ear in the human characters on it).
      It seems La Verne Harding animated this same Snagglepuss episode.

  4. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    I also could notice, in terms of music score on this Quick Draw McGraw episode, we have, at the end of this episode, the final chords from The Quick Draw McGraw Show theme song (composed and arranged by Hoyt Curtin).

  5. Howard, Maltese used the 'five aces' as a throwaway in that one. There's another "Spot the Warners" routine, the guy with the gun runs out of ammo but, surprisingly, has one bullet left. The set up was, as you might expect, better in 'Rabbit Fire.'

    Rod, none of Curtin's music is used in the cartoon, except over the titles. The last scene exclusively uses one of Jack Shaindlin's show-biz type beds, edited in the middle.