Saturday, 10 July 2010

Pixie and Dixie — Boxing Buddy

Produced by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows, Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Ka-Pow – Don Messick; Dixie, Mr. Jinks, TV announcer – Daws Butler.
First Aired: Week of March 23, 1959.
Plot: Pixie and Dixie bring home a boxing kangaroo, which clobbers Jinks.

In a daring stroke of bold originality, the brain-trust at Hanna-Barbera came up with a cartoon about a cat that mistakes a kangaroo for a giant mouse.

What, you say? It wasn’t original? It was blatantly purloined from the 1948 cartoon Hop, Look and Listen that Bob McKimson turned into a tiresome, one-note series?

Well, you’re sort of right. Mercifully, we’re spared an appearance by Jinks, Jr. putting a paper bag over his head and dolefully exclaiming “Oh, the shame of it all!” In fact, Charlie Shows and Joe Barbera took the idea and used it the best way you could—they made fun of it, calling it “a corny old gag.” And, unlike Sylvester, Jinks is finally convinced the “giant mouse” really is a kangaroo.

Unfortunately, Warren Foster and Tedd Pierce at Warners pretty well used up all the giant mouse-kangaroo gags so there aren’t an awful lot left for this cartoon. Worse still, the kangaroo-pummels-the-cat gags work better in full animation than they do in the limited TV kind.

The cartoon starts with Pixie and Dixie walking down a ranch house-lined suburban street. They spot a truck and read the sign on the side that we can read for ourselves. Despite being in a modern suburb, the road is so already so worn and bumpy, a crate containing Ka-Pow, World’s Greatest Boxing Kangaroo, bounces around and off the back of the truck. You’d think a driver would avoid a crate on the road, but that would be inconvenient to the plot of the cartoon. A car hits the crate, which flies against a brick wall and breaks open. Out jumps Ka-Pow, not affected at all by the impact.

Could someone explain to me why boxers in movies and TV shows, not just of the kangaroo variety, rub their thumb against their nose? Ka-Pow does it here. Don Messick gives him a weird, back-of-the-throat tongue vibrato similar to Gloop and Gleep on The Herculoids (1967).

There’s a weird cut when Pixie and Dixie begin to talk to the kangaroo. Below left, you can see him throwing punches. In the very next frame, he’s facing the other way and standing still. Spencer Moore’s music isn’t cut so I suppose Bick set up the shots this way in layout due to a lack of time.

In this scene, Daws Butler tries something unique. He has Dixie attempting an Australian accent to communicate with the kangaroo. It’s the lamest Australian accent you’ll hear. Of course, I’m sure Daws could probably come up with a good one; in this case, he has to do a American Southerner doing an Australian accent. And I suppose it would sound as lame as Dixie sounds. Dixie answers the unintelligible kangaroo by turning to Pixie and saying “He no speak English, señor” in a little lower pitch than Baba Looey would use later that year.

The mice decide to take Ka-Pow home. Jinks peers at the three of them as they stroll past the tree he’s behind. We get a typical Shows play on words.

Dixie: We’ll treat you like a brother.
Jinks (to himself): “A brother”? (chuckle) Oh, brother! I’m like, uh, disturb-bd by what I see, see?

And then comes the swipe at the tiresome Hippety Hopper (there had been ten “giant mouse” shorts at Warners by this point; it just seems like there had been more):

Pixie: Take your foot off our little friend’s tail, Jinks.
Jinks: Little? (chuckle) Look, uh, this may surprise you guys, but it’s my job to keep meeces off the premis-sis-sis-sis. And that goes double for huge mices, like this overgrowd mice with the mittens.
Pixie: But he’s not a mice.
Jinks: Oh, come now. Us cats knows a mice when we sees one. That’s our business. Why chant you try that ol’ worn out gag and, uh, tell me it’s a kangaroo.

So, now we’ve reached the 3:26 mark of the cartoon and nothing much has really happened. This happens in some of the cartoons Shows worked on and you’ll notice it even more when Maltese and Foster replaced him. In the most lacklustre ones, Shows’ characters have mildly-amusing dialogue that takes almost half the cartoon to set up the plot. Maltese and Foster get into things right away and their words are an awful lot funnier or sillier. Shows tends to go for clever verbal twists and turns (think of the Ruff and Reddy title ‘A Whale of a Tale of a Tail of a Whale’) and the humour comes from Daws Butler’s pronunciations.

At last, we get a couple of violence gags as Jinks goes to punch Ka-Pow. Some of them happen off camera to save animation. Others just take too long to set up, like how Ka-Pow’s feet push Jinks against a tree twice, or Jinks carrying on a running dialogue as he gets himself in shape through cycle animation (no wonder Ken Muse could churn out footage).

A bashed Jinks slowly trudges past the meece and the kangaroo, deciding to retire. “A cat which can’t kapow a mice is washed up. A disgrace.”

We hear Ka-Pow’s handler arrive on the scene and drags him away for his television appearance. Jinks is confused about a mouse being on TV. Finally, in the last scene, the announcer on the tube calls Ka-Pow a kangaroo and only then Jinks accepts the fact he’s not a mouse. Jinks gets brave watching the TV. “Boy, I wish that phoney baloney was here right now. Boy, would I give him a ka-p...” Jinks is interrupted by a punch from the kangaroo on the screen. “Why don’t I just keep quiet?” Jinks asks himself as he falls down and Ka-Pow grins at us from the set. Yeah, the character-out-of-a-TV bit is old, but the timing is very good, making the ending the best part.

This is the last Pixie and Dixie that Shows worked on.

Yowp note: A couple of people have remarked the final gag was pretty much lifted from the final gag of the Tom and Jerry cartoon Pecos Pest (1955). Here’s a frame from that short. By the way, Hanna and Barbera also borrowed the moustache that Uncle Pecos has and plastered it on Professor Gizmo in the Ruff and Reddy series (1957) and several incidental characters on the Huck show. Hey, and they have a colour TV!

And, as Roberto mentions in the comments, Homer Brightman wrote
Nuts About Mutts (1958), with a reach-out-of-the-TV end gag. It seems Mike Lah could only afford a black-and-white set. Lah, Ed Benedict, Carlo Vinci, Dick Bickenbach (animating) and Fernando Montealegre all worked on this and all ended up at H-B Enterprises when it started. Along with the TV gag, it appears. A shame Irv Spence didn’t join them; I’d love to have seen Spence animate Jinks.

There isn’t a single chase scene in this cartoon, so the sound-cutter therefore had no use for Jack Shaindlin’s chase melody ‘Toboggan Run.’ Its omission in a meece cartoon seems rare. A good part of the soundtrack is made up of ‘Grotesque No. 2’ by Jack Shaindlin. At the end, we get a circus march used in a few other cartoons, like the opening of Mark of the Mouse, but I don’t have its title.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie instrumental opening theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:26 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Ka-Pow’s crate comes off truck and bashes against brick wall.
1:11 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Spencer Moore) – Meece talk to kangaroo, take him home.
2:08 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – Ka-Pow and meece go past Jinks, kangaroo punches Jinks twice.
3:45 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – “That, um, mouse sure pack a whallop...”, Jinks “toughens up.”
4:44 - FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Jinks bashed, barrel scene, Ka-Pow’s handler arrives.
6:19 - L-1139 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Handler takes Ka-Pow away, Jinks talks to camera.
6:33 - medium circus march (Shaindlin) – Pixie, Dixie and Jinks watch TV.
7:10 - Pixie and Dixie closing theme (Curtin).


  1. Besides the whole Warner Brothers kangaroo premise, this cartoon seems to have a lot of echoes of Tom and Jerry in it too... Jinks working out (like Tom did when he was preparing to fight Jerry's Cousin); Jinks slinking away, defeated, with a hobo stick like Tom did so many times; and of course the ending, similar to Cousin Tex reaching out from the TV to hassle Tom one last time.

    By the way, I like how Kapow's turtleneck briefly becomes sleeveless!

  2. Oops! I mean UNCLE PECOS reaching out from the TV to pluck Tom's whisker! (Got my cartoon mice Lone Star State relatives mixed up!

  3. Note how the cartoon kicks off with material stolen from another McKimson product, "Sock a Doodle Do".

  4. Hey Yowp. There's a similar gag at the end of Mike Lah's "Mutts about Racing," where Spike ends up in the hospital and Droopy's counting the money he won from the race on TV. Spike gets irritated, so he tries to get him to shut up, but he ends up hurting himself on the ceiling and Droopy, from the black and white television set, uses Spike's tongue to continue counting his earnings.

  5. The ending's also like the ending of a T&J Kids episode, Slowpoke Antonio, where SA lassos Tom into a TV.