Saturday, 18 September 2010

Augie Doggie — Talk it Up Pup

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie, Thug – Daws Butler; Baseball Announcer, Doggy Daddy – Doug Young.
First aired: Tuesday, November 10, 1959 (BCDB)
Plot: Augie refuses to speak to Doggie Daddy for 24 hours, despite Daddy putting himself in harm’s way.

You have to wonder if this was a cartoon idea that Mike Maltese squirrelled away at Warner Bros. and brought with him to Hanna-Barbera. The immediate ancestors of a bunch of H-B gags and situations can be traced to cartoons of Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and even Hanna and Barbera themselves. But not this one. It has a story concept—a dad getting bashed because his son won’t talk to him—that could have made an excellent theatrical cartoon. It’s also a concept that doesn’t strike me as something that would appeal to Jones if Maltese had pitched it to him. Funny violence against animals (coyotes), yes. But funny violence against a parent? I can’t see Charles M. jumping at it. Jones directed the Maltese-written Rocket-Bye Baby (1956), with a one-shot parents and boy, but filled it with atypical static poses and camera stares, not slapstick and bashings like Daffy Duck took in Robin Hood Daffy (1958). So I can very well seeing Maltese hanging onto the concept until he could use it, though I have no idea if this happened.

Augie acted like a younger child in many of the earliest cartoon, and this one is probably the best example. He’s like the kid who holds his breath when he doesn’t get his way. I can’t see the later test-tube experimenting, friend-of-Bigelow-the-Mouse Augie behaving like this. But having him act a little differently stretches his character a bit and makes him a little more than a warmed-over Sylvester, Jr. Though we get some of that here, too.

I’m not adept at all at identifying layout artists and would love to see someone post a breakdown of specific traits to look for. But I like all the scene designs that I’ve seen identified as Walt Clinton’s. Clinton, of course, was one of Tex Avery’s animators and character designers after arriving at MGM (a studio which seemed to benefit a whole heap from additions after the strike at Disney). His street scenes aren’t terribly showy but they’ve got a nice flat ‘50s style and are interesting to look at. His establishing shot (pardon the TV channel bug) features contrasting angles and nicely designed cars.

The story starts with a baseball game, with Augie at the plate and his team behind in the ninth inning. There’s a full count on him. Here comes the pitch. Doggie Daddy is umpiring and calls it a strike. You can see by the drawing that Daddy made the right call. Daddy calls Augie out and Augie is surprised by the call. We get his Sylvester, Jr. “Oh, the unsportsman-like shame of it” right off the, um, bat.

Augie: We lost the game ‘cause my dad doesn’t know from umpiring.
Daddy: That guy who said that children should be seen and not heard was right.
Augie: Okay, father of fathers. I shall be seen and not heard for 24 hours. Beginning as of now.

And, with that, we’re right into the plot of our cartoon already. Maltese didn’t waste time.

The suburban house designs in H-B cartoons are fun to look at. Here’s about half a long background drawing; the other part has hedges and trees to the left. Augie and Daddy pass the pink house twice. It’s where the ends of the background meet up; if you watch the cartoon, you can see the background jerk and the house looks a little different.

Daddy spends the rest of the cartoon trying to get Augie to talk. First he tries kissing up to him by buying him “a nice chocolate soda” (which is coloured pink) and reasoning with him. Augie just sucks on the thing and walks out. To your right is another fun exterior. And when was the last time a giant malt cost 30 cents?

The two go past the same houses again and the annoyed Daddy tells Augie to go to his room. Their progress is stopped by a thug on the street. I’m not sure why Maltese or Dan Gordon picked a stereotypical burglar for this character because the guy didn’t steal anything and he’s not going to kidnap Augie. I suppose he just needed a menacing character; a cop wouldn’t quite have worked considering Daddy gets punched. Anyway, Daddy picks up Augie as they walk into the scene where the thug is standing. The guy wants to know what’s going on, although there’s been no ruckus or even sound for the last three seconds.

Thug: You got the kid so scared, he can’t talk.
Daddy: But he’s the apple of my eye.
Thug: Well, here’s an apple for your eye.

The thug hits Daddy in the eye. It looks okay on the screen because it goes so fast but frame-by-frame, you can see Marshall’s perspective is odd. The fist looks to go past the eye, then Marshall draws the impact which is fine. As the thug accuses Daddy of being a dog-napper (why does this guy care anyway?), Augie bashes him with a board he got from somewhere.

Thug: The poor kid’s so confused, he’s hittin’ da wrong guy.

Every time I look at the reaction shot, I think of the Flintstones.

So Augie and Daddy walk past the same houses again. Daddy’s tactic for the rest of the cartoon is to put himself in danger to prompt Augie to yell a warning to him, dropping hints in a conversation to himself designed for his son to overhear. But now, Augie is more than seen and not heard. He’s completely inert. He doesn’t even physically, though silently, stop him. So Daddy walks into an open manhole. You can see it with the full background snipped together.

Then he’s hit by a truck. You can see again in this frame that Marshall has the truck go past Daddy before the impact. On the screen, it works fine.

Daddy fakes drowning (“Dat water looks awful cold and drown-y,” Daddy says, looking back at Augie off-camera). After going down for the sixth time with no action by Augie, Daddy gets out the water, stands up to his ankles in the pond and remarks, “Lucky for me it’s low tide.” He then drops a safe on himself before Augie walks past him (“Hi, gabby! How are things in Talkville?” the uninjured Daddy asks). Then he walks into a dynamite shack with an open match. You can guess what happens next.

During all this time, Augie is either standing in the same pose or doing the same walk cycle (the drawings appear to be turned around when he goes in the other direction). So Marshall saved himself a chunk of work.

The cartoon ends with Daddy—missing a nose, at first, for some reason—in his hospital bed. The shot pans to a door that opens with Augie standing there. Daddy pleads with him to talk. Augie checks his watch—on a different wrist than at the beginning of the cartoon—sees 24 hours has past, whips out some flowers and a steady stream of chatter.

Daddy’s so excited, he moves his arms, which cause the weights holding them to move and send him crashing to the ceiling (off camera) and hanging upside down over his bed. This gives Maltese a chance to end the cartoon with a variation of Jimmy Durante’s famous line—“Dat’s my boy dat’s saying all dat!”

Since you’re wondering, the Durante line was purely an invention for radio. Durante’s career had been foundering for a while when he was cast in a replacement show with one of those ‘young rising comedians,’ Garry Moore. If you read newspaper stories about the show just before it debuted, it’s obvious it was supposed to be Moore’s and Durante was considered a kind of celebrity cohort/stooge. That changed very quickly. Durante had such appeal the odd combination worked, with the 50-year-old vaudevillean calling the 28-year-old Moore “junior.” The writers played up the age aspect, so phrases like “my son, my son” and “dat’s my boy who said dat” entered the scripts and eventually entered the lexicon of one Doggie Daddy.

The music is really used well here. It’s allowed to set moods and generally lasts through a whole scene. The cartoon opens and closes with two different sports marches by Jack Shaindlin that sound like two other different sports marches by Jack Shaindlin. I don’t have the cues you hear in the cartoon so I can’t give you a positive ID. The first cue is a short one that sounds very much like ‘Boxing Greats No. 2’. But it doesn’t end the same way, so I’m presuming it’s a variation (no, I have not heard ‘Boxing Greats No. 1’). The final cue is abruptly joined in progress for timing purposes and ends when the cartoon ends. Shaindlin wrote (likely with Robert McBride) a cue called ‘Sportscope’ with a melody like you hear in the cartoon, though the tempo is slower and the ending isn’t identical. But the cartoon cue was used elsewhere by Hanna-Barbera and has a completely different start and opening melody than ‘Sportscope’; it begins with a trombone glissando. Shaindlin wrote all kinds of sports marches for Columbia’s sportsreels (The World of Sports, narrated by Bill Stern) and for Fox newsreels, so I suspect these are among them.

One of my favourite Phil Green cues, ‘Streets of the City’ from his Big City Suite No. 2, makes a couple of appearances.

0:00 - Augie Doggie main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:24 - related to ‘Boxing Greats No. 2’ (Shaindlin) – Daddy calls Augie out on strikes.
0:45 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Augie objects to call, chocolate soda scene, Augie walks toward thug.
2:13 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin) – Scene with thug.
2:59 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Manhole and truck scenes.
3:45 - GR-155 PARKS AND GARDENS (Green) – Drowning and safe scenes, Daddy lights match.
5:29 - related to ‘Suspense Under Dialogue’ (Shaindlin) – Dynamite shack scene.
6:29 - GR-256 TOYLAND BURGLAR (Green) – Shot of hospital, Augie checks watch.
6:51 - related to ‘Sportscope’ (Shaindlin) – Augie starts talking.
7:08 - Augie Doggie end title theme (Curtin).


  1. 'I’m not adept at all at identifying layout artists and would love to see someone post a breakdown of specific traits to look for.'

    Check this out:
    Keep in mind, Walt Clinton is easier to desipher compared to others.

    I love that corny into camera stare Dad does a couple times in this cartoon.

  2. I've seen it before but it's not terribly helpful to me. I was hoping to find clues in background layouts. By the second season there were four layout guys.