Saturday 30 October 2010

Augie Doggie — Cat Happy Pappy

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Manny Perez; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon, Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Doggie Daddy, Deliverman 1 – Doug Young; Augie, Kitten, Deliveryman 2, Wildcat – Daws Butler.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-015, Production J-47.
First aired
: 1959.
Plot: Doggie Daddy mistakes a wildcat for a wayward kitten that Augie adopts.

Every once in a while, there’s a surprise when the credits of one of the early Hanna-Barbera shorts flash onto the screen. Virgil Ross’ name pops up as the animator of the Augie Doggie cartoon Let’s Duck Out (1961), even though his name continues to appear on Warner Bros. cartoons. And another animator known for his time at Warners also worked on at least a couple of cartoons for Joe and Bill.

Manny Perez spent more than 40 years in animation and, like most veterans who worked for years, went from the glory days of theatricals to something less sublime for television before finally retiring. Perez, for example, toiled on something in 1979 for Ruby-Spears called ‘Plastic Man’, a far cry from Bugs, Daffy and Sylvester. He arrived at Warners by 1938. He ended up in the Freleng unit after Friz returned from MGM and his name began to appear in the credits as an animator at the time Herman Cohen’s disappeared. His first credited cartoon is Porky’s Bare Facts (1941).

Manny spent a fair chunk of his career working under, or for, Friz; he animated on the Pink Panther shorts at DePatie-Freleng in the ‘60s and into the ‘70s. That’s despite the fact the two don’t seem to have gotten along. Animator Greg Duffell revealed in a series of posts on alt.animation.warner-bros in 1999:

There's also confusion about Manny Perez’ status. Virgil Ross told me that Perez was “Friz’s whipping boy”. If credits tell any story, Friz dumped Manny to take on Art Davis only to take Perez back when Chiniquy left. It’s acknowledged that Gerry Chiniquy was favoured highly by Friz above the other animators in his unit.

Why was this?

It’s well known that Friz was quite cantankerous. Virgil felt that Friz belittled Manny, then when Manny left Virgil felt that HE became the target of Friz’ wrath. The way Virgil told it, it was that everyone’s work was compared to Chiniquy’s, with Gerry’s work always deemed to be more appropriate and better than everyone else’s.
I met Manny Perez in 1975 at San Rio Productions during the production of a feature film (I've forgotten the title now) that was like a rock music Fantasia.
I was quite thrilled, of course, to meet Mr. Perez (didn’t know he’d be there) and started to ask him questions about his work. At that time, I wasn't clear which animator did what, though I could see the various styles while watching the cartoons. Manny was very elusive about identifying any of his work for me. At the mention of Friz’ name (Manny is credited on cartoons in the late ‘30's to the middle ‘70’s related to Friz) he said these words, with a tense smile, that I’ll never forget:
“You know, I worked so long for him....well...I got to HATE that little guy...”

In fact, Perez briefly ended up in Bob McKimson’s unit. Greg continues:

I remember Manny’s name on “Pop ‘IM Pop” and “Dog Collared” if memory serves me correctly. I don't know where Manny went...if he went anywhere. I learned from talking with Bob Givens that some top people could be at the studio and not get any screen credit. It’s also possible that Manny might have been demoted for a time during all the confusion that went on in the late ‘40’s.

Manny’s final Warners credit was in Lumber Jerks (released in 1955) by which time ex-Disneyite Ted Bonnicksen was being listed as an animator (Virgil Ross’ name disappears for awhile as well until Bonnicksen was banished to the McKimson unit by later in the year.

The next time Manny pops up in the world of animation, to best of my knowledge, is in this cartoon. The only other time I can find his name in the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons is in Treasure Jest in Augie’s second season, though the credits have been sliced off many of the others. It’s interesting to note Perez, Ross and Art Davis all worked at Hanna-Barbera at this time and all had been in Friz’ unit a few years earlier. Dick Bickenbach and Mike Maltese, who also worked on this cartoon, were with Freleng in the ‘40’s.

Maltese had a few clever sight gags here. He starts the cartoon with a bit reminiscent of the previous year’s Pixie and Dixie entry Jinks Junior, where daddy is teaching his son the facts about “in the run-of-the-millstream language, the ordinary house cat.” But because it’s Maltese writing, and we know his predilection for ersatz Latin names from watching the Roadrunner cartoons, Daddy continually refers to it as a “feline domesticus” during the full seven minutes. Augie is attentively listening as Daddy weaves a tale of a violent, coleslaw shredding animal. He tells dear old dad he’s “all ears” and raises his ears. Daddy responds by saying he’s “all ears, too” and raising his ears in three drawings on ones. It’s kind of corny but I still find it amusing.

Maltese never worked on the repetitious Sylvester/Hippety Hopper shorts at Warners, but bits and pieces of them often seem to work into an Augie Doggie cartoon. Just the way Sylvester brags to Sylvester Jr., Daddy boasts to Augie he’s “Fleetfoot, the Olympic Champeen Cat-Chaser.” And like Sylvester, Daddy’s demonstration of proof ends in clumsiness. “Was this table always here?” he asks the audience.

The lesson is interrupted by mewing and one of Bickenbach’s cute character designs. Augie, as he’s so apt to do, wants to keep the innocent little kitty. Daddy, as he’s so apt to do, says no and orders the animal out of the house. An Augie plot, as it’s so apt to do, usually means Augie gets his way. We’ll see.

The plot moves to another part of town where a delivery truck passing the same brown house 14 times on its way to the zoo loses its boxed cargo—a giant mouse wildcat. Maltese or someone came up with an imaginative idea. He shows the wildcat’s viciousness by turning him into a counter-clockwise-moving swirl accompanied by a buzzsaw noise. The little brown dots act like flying sawdust. We also get a unique walking cycle on ones. There are four drawings of the cat, three of them moved up on the background like the wildcat is rising. Then he “drops” back to the ground with a thumping sound and the cycle resumes. Here it is slowed down.

Back in the Daddy residence, the feline domesticus gets back in the house and runs past the same table a bunch of times into the basement. Coincidentally, the wildcat has clomped to the house and also zips into the basement through a window. You know what’s coming. Daddy gets attacked by the wildcat, but thinks the little kitten’s responsible. The first gags are a real disappointment. The shot is of Augie looking into the basement stairwell. The attack happens off-camera (after a reaction shot of Daddy), which is to be expected in an H-B cartoon; camera shakes and the soundtrack do the work. The first time, Daddy rushes up and closes the door. The second time he goes flying over Augie. But not once is there a cut to a funny drawing of Daddy mangled or something like that.

The best gag is Daddy wearing a suit of armour to do battle in the basement. He comes flying back out in a can with his name and picture on it.

A creative little routine follows. Daddy lowers a noose into the basement “to snare the little pincushion.” The wildcat’s ahead of him and pulls on the rope. Follow the action.

Aren’t the shingles on the Daddy house a little elaborate for a Hanna-Barbera cartoon?

Now Daddy realises it’s a wildcat and beats it out of the yard. Augie still think the kitten is causing all this. He goes to the basement to coax him out with a large saucer of milk. The wildcat’s arm reaches into the scene and grabs it. Augie goes into a bouncing boxer’s position. The wildcat looks at and predates the companion of one D. Dastardly by with a wheezy laugh (not supplied by Don Messick).

The feline domesticus has been hiding in a large work-boot while all this is going on. He pokes his head up and decides to rescue Augie. He turns into white counter-clockwise swirl which strips the fur off the wildcat. Cut to Daddy rolling into the yard—in a tank! But before he can do anything, the white kitten swirl chases the brown wildcat swirl away. Say! That brown house has now moved across from the Doggie home.

Yes, Augie can keep the kitten. We knew it would happen. “But I hope none of my dog chums find out I’m harbouring a feline domesticus,” Daddy confides in us as the iris closes.

What’s now called ‘Happy Home’ by its current rights holders is used twice. The first time when the kitten appears at the door, the sound cutter cues into the music at a bridge almost three quarters of the way through.

0:00 - Augie Doggie Main Title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:23 - EM-107D LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Daddy teaches Augie about cats; crashes into table, Augie opens door.
1:46 - CB-90 HAPPY HOME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Kitten outside door, door slams, kitten meows.
2:13 - CB-90 HAPPY HOME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – “Dad he wants to stay”; “That’s that.”
2:26 - ASININE (Jack Shaindlin) – Crate falls out of truck, wildcat thumps along street.
2:51 - GR-154 PICNIC OR COUNTRY SCENE (Green) – Daddy at cat diagram, runs after cat.
3:19 - EXCITEMENT UNDER DIALOGUE (Shaindlin) – Cat running, wildcat goes into basement, Daddy in can.
5:07 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Daddy lowers rope, pulled into basement, wildcat attacks.
5:21 - circus running music (Shaindlin) – Augie looks down vent hole, Daddy slides into basement, Augie decides to go to basement.
5:53 - CB-83A MR TIPPY TOES (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Augie with saucer of milk, kitten attacks wildcat.
6:32 - SIX DAY BIKE RACE (Shaindlin) – Daddy in tank, kitten chases wildcat away, Daddy chuckles. Iris out.
7:08 - Augie Doggie End Title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday 27 October 2010

My Life in Cartoons

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “Happy birthday, Yowp. Congratulations on your TV debut 52 years ago today.”

But is it a happy birthday?

Forget Marlon Brando and that “could have been a contender” speech in ‘On the Waterfront’. That contender could have been me.

My television career started out with such great promise in the Yogi Bear cartoon ‘Foxy-Hound Dog.’ Sure, Joe Barbera limited me to just one word. But it was a funny word. And I was voiced by Don Messick, one of the most versatile actors in the history of TV cartoons. In part of it, I got to be drawn by one of Tex Avery’s best guys, Mike Lah. They gave me that ‘log over the cliff’ gag that was in all those great Warner Bros. cartoons. It sure looked like my career was all set.

Then they brought me back later that season in ‘Duck in Luck.’ Sure, that’s more than they did with some of the guys Yogi worked with, like Newton Figley from ‘Be My Guest Pest.’ And they gave me the most fun animator Hanna-Barbera had at the time, Carlo Vinci. But I should have known something was up. They paired me with that Little Biddy Buddy. All I saw was some duck plucked off the unemployment line after MGM closed its cartoon studio. I didn’t see that Joe and Bill were testing him for stardom in his own series a couple of years later. Oh, well. At least I can hold my head high that I didn’t have to change my name to “Yakky Doodle.”

That and the studio politics. Yogi got ticked off at me because he thought I bit him too hard in that one scene. Maybe I overdid it a bit, but the ‘50s were a time of method acting. Ask Jinks. He was method acting all the time. And I was told Yogi complained to background artist Vera Hanson, who went to her husband Ollie, the production supervisor, and he went right to Joe and Bill. That sealed it.

Sure, they brought me back next season in ‘Bear Face Bear.’ I was hoping to get one of those funny new animators like George Nicholas or Ed Love. Nah. They gave me to Gerard Baldwin. Nice guy. But he had an odd way of drawing. I didn’t have a neck any more. And you’d think I’d gained 30 pounds. Warren Foster and Alex Lovy tried to calm me down. “You get to say ‘yowp’ a bunch of different ways,” Warren said. “It’s a really funny gag.” “Yeah, I know Joe and Bill used it in ‘Smarty Cat’ at MGM and stole it from Avery’s ‘Ventriloquist Cat’,” Alex told me, “But it’s a real chance to show them you can act.”

For a while, I looked like I was still part of Joe and Bill’s big picture for the studio. They were marketing me like a star. Check out this giant push-out playbook that Woolworth’s was selling at Christmas time in 1960.

I got my own playing card in the 1961 Yogi Bear gin rummy set. I was on rubber stamps, birthday party decorations, lamps, all kinds of stuff.

But then The Flintstones was a hit and that was it. A lot of us little guys got forgotten. Li’l Tom Tom was really bitter. “We helped build this studio,” he used to sigh. “I’m breathin’ your air, kid,” was about all I could say.

But that was it. Roles came and went. I was still at the studio but they went out and hired someone else to hug himself and float into the air in the Quick Draw cartoons. “It’s a speciality act. He’s not taking anyone’s job,” Lew Marshall told me. They even gave him free dog biscuits. And all those wheezy-laugh dogs! Man, they could have given me those parts. I even had the same voice actor. “I can’t do anything about it,” Joe shrugged. “We were told ‘Dastardly and Yowp in Their Flying Machines’ just doesn’t sound right to Fred Silverman’s golden gut.” And don’t get me started on the “We’re-going-in-a-different-direction-with-Scooby” speech I got after telling them at least I could pronounce the letter ‘r’ but they had typecast me with just saying “yowp” over and over.

The trades were just terrible. Looking for dirt everywhere. Everyone knows what they said about Snagglepuss; you still hear it today. Build ‘em up, tear ‘em down, those papers. They once ran a big photo piece on me saying Yowp wasn’t even my name, that it was another example of Joe and Bill reusing stuff from Tom and Jerry, and splashed pictures from a couple of 1948 comics as proof.

They made up a story I had been kicked out of the Moon Mullins strip in 1946.

The worst was when Hanna-Barbera Confidential claimed I was really an old comic that Jimmy Swinnerton had drawn and I had convinced Ed Benedict to give me a makeover to make me look younger for television. Just vicious gossip. Even if it had been true, Ed wouldn’t have done it. “Why bother? I can’t get those damned animators to keep you on model anyway,” he’d have said.

Try to get work after all that. It...oh, just a moment, the phone’s ringing. Hello?.....Oh, hi Yogi. You’re calling to wish me a happy birthday.....You’re reading the blog right now and say it was Iggy and Ziggy who went to Vera? Figures those crows’d be responsible. They loved practical jokes......What? They’re doing what to you?! CGI? Oh, man, that’s awful....Yeah, nice of you to call.....Uh huh, yowp yowp to you, too.

How do you like that? A cartoon icon like Yogi and they’re treating his comeback like he’s a chipmunk or something. Even when you make it real big, the studios are sticking it to you. Maybe it’s not so bad being a little guy in this business after all. And I now have this blog and all you really nice readers to thank for reliving some memories of some really fun old cartoons and their creators and the cool music in them.

Here is part of the cast of the Huckleberry Hound Show in those happy salad days. This sheet was in the George Nicholas collection, though George wasn’t at the studio when this was drawn for the first season. You’ll notice me and the little fox from ‘Foxy-Hound Dog,’ the unnamed funny mosquito from ‘Skeeter Trouble,’ Jinks Junior, Iggy the crow and a great expression on Jinks. Notice how Jinks has the attention of both Yogi and Huck.

One of animation’s fine draftsmen and historians, Mark Kausler, was nice enough to send me a copy of a Yowp sheet with drawings by Bick Bickenbach. You’ll recognise some of the poses from ‘Foxy-Hound Dog,’ including my profile picture.

He re-sent it to me after it disappeared from my files. A pretty nice 52nd birthday present, if you ask me.

Saturday 23 October 2010

Yogi Bear — Robin Hood Yogi

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Dialogue – Charlie Shows; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast: Yogi Bear, Elwood, Driver, Ranger Joe – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Tourist with Camera, Ranger Mack – Don Messick; Honey Bun – unknown.
Music: Bill Loose-John Seely; Jack Shaindlin.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-023, Production E-55. First aired: week of March 2, 1959.
Plot: Yogi acts like Robin Hood to rob picnic baskets from tourists.

Here’s the difference between a Charlie Shows Yogi Bear cartoon and a Warren Foster one (and others who came later): a Foster cartoon would have Yogi steal picnic baskets, or the contents therein, but plot how to get around Ranger Smith to do it. A Shows cartoon simply has Yogi doing it because he’s hungry. There’s no reason for Yogi to dress up as Robin Hood and declare Boo Boo is now Little John. It’s not like the guise will fool anyone, which is the way Foster used guises. Shows does it because Yogi has logically decided his situation is analogous to Robin’s—“We’ll rob tidbits from the rich and give to the poor. Namely us.” And that certainly works for his character.

Shows also brings us some tried-and-true gags, his usual rhyming couplets and a running dialogue gag that caps the cartoon. Oh, and like he did in Pie-Pirates and Yogi Bear’s Big Break, Yogi imitates Jackie Gleason’s stage exit, though he doesn’t borrow the line “And away we go!” Gleason made popular on his TV variety show.

Because Yogi is pretending to be Gleason Robin Hood, the cartoon is set in a forested area of Jellystone Park and we get a wonderful palate of greens from Art Lozzi in the backgrounds.

The running gag starts early.

Yogi: For now on, you and me will be known as Robin Hood Yogi and his Merry Men (laughs). And you will be called Little John.
Boo Boo (innocently): My name’s Boo Boo.

And Boo Boo, who simply doesn’t get Yogi’s sense of logic, naïvely corrects him throughout the cartoon as a set up for the last gag.

Yogi spends the bulk of the cartoon trying to pounce on his victims from a tree à la Robin to grab goodies. But in the role he emulates Daffy Duck more than Errol Flynn. In fact, Yogi’s a failure before he even starts. He climbs up a tree and immediately falls because he picked a “skinny little branch” to sit on.

Spot gags:
 A basket-carrying tourist with a camera snaps some shots but walks away before Yogi jumps. (“I missed” is the less-than-witty comment from the bear).

 A trailer approaches Yogi’s tree. Shows’ gratuitous rhyme: “I shall drop lightly on the roof of the trailer and surprise him in a aerial attack, Jack.” Yogi’s bulk propels him through the roof and he’s lodged halfway through it, watching a woman cooking lunch. More Shows rhyming and a variation on a Ed Norton catchphrase:

Yogi: You got any goodies, madame?
Woman: Scram! Shoo! Skidoo, you!
Yogi: Ouch! What a lady grouch!

Here’s the bashing slowed down.

 Another trailer approaches. Yogi lands on it. In a variation of the old ‘standing-on-a-train-going-into-a-tunnel’ gag, the bear is knocked off the roof when the trailer goes through a hollow tree in the road.

 He lies in the road like an injured bear to stop a car with a couple of tourists. They drive over him.

Driver: When are they going to pave these bumpy roads?
Boo Boo: Are you injured, Yogi?
Yogi: Only my pride, Boo Boo. Only my pride.

 Yogi emulates Robin Hood Daffy by swinging from a rope. “Watch this trick, Boo Boo. It’s tricky” is Shows’ weak pun this time. Well, actually, he emulates Tarzan because he gives out a Tarzan yell before trying to swoop down on a picnic table where the man and wife from earlier in the cartoon are eating. The first time, the rope’s too long and he skids up to his neck in the ground. The second time he grabs a watermelon but glides into their trailer, collapsing all four walls on top of each other. Warren Foster reused the gag in Lullabye-Bye Bear with the ranger station.

And that’s where our next scene takes place. Ranger Smith hasn’t been invented yet, so we have Rangers Mack and Joe. Mac’s the one with the white moustache. Joe goes to investigate a call about a bear wrecking a trailer.

 Meanwhile, Yogi uses a bow and arrow to harpoon a basket of yummies. But the housewife from earlier in the cartoon makes an appearance again with her frying pan.

So what gag about stealing by Shows and Joe Barbera climaxes the cartoon? We don’t get one. The gags don’t build to a finish. Instead, Mack goes to investigate what’s happened to Joe, then finds Yogi has conned him into becoming one of the Merry Men and is teaching him how to shoot an arrow. The climax turns out to be the running gag.

Yogi: And, you, sir, are Friar Tuck.
Joe: But my name is Joe.

Yogi faces the camera in a close-up and remarks: “I ask ya, did Robin Hood ever have trouble like this? Shee!”

And, with that, the cartoon ends. However, don’t fret. Yogi, Boo Boo, Art Lozzi’s tints of green forest, and Ed Benedict’s Ranger Mack all return to the air in a mere two weeks in Scooter Looter.

There’s one other mystery in this cartoon. Daws Butler and Don Messick provided just about all the voices during the entire first season of the Huckleberry Hound Show. Any female characters, they did in falsetto, except the same woman was hired to do this cartoon and Daffy Daddy. It’s certainly not Julie Bennett or Jean Vander Pyl, who worked at Hanna-Barbera the next season. At first, I thought I had matched the voice to Ginny Tyler, who was doing children’s records for Walt Disney at the time and later worked on several H-B cartoons. Now, I’m not so sure (it sounds more like her on Bear on a Picnic; the character has a higher pitch). There is another possibility. We posted an old newspaper story here earlier about Margie Liszt, who it was said played a cat in a Huck cartoon. If you watch the cartoon, it’s apparent Don Messick is the cat. But perhaps Liszt is in this one. I haven’t got a sample of any of her radio work to compare this voice with.

No mystery in any of the background music here. You’ve heard it all before. The cutter tends to let each cue run through scenes and then have a sound effect or no music until the next scene starts.

0:00 - YOGI BEAR (Hanna, Barbera, Curtin, Shows) – Opening credits.
0:17 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Yogi declares Boo Boo is Little John, climbs tree.
1:35 - no music. Boo Boo hears tourist, dashes behind tree. Tourist takes a picture.
1:47 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Tourist takes pictures, Yogi lands on ground, bashed with frying pan, slides back to tree.
3:00 - no music. “What a lady grouch!” “Here comes another trailer, merry Yogi.”
3:05 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Yogi zips up tree, tunnel in the tree scene, run over by car, tourists eating.
4:23 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Boo Boo pops out bush, Yogi jumps from tree with rope.
4:42 - No music. Yogi swings down, buried himself in ground.
4:49 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Yogi in tree, leaps.
5:00 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Yogi swings down, grabs melon, “Like taking candy.”
5:10 - no music. “From a baby.” Trailer collapses.
5:17 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Ranger on phone, Yogi captures basket, hit with frying pan. Mack decides to check on Joe.
6:33 - no music. Mack walks and stops.
6:38 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Yogi teaches Joe how to shoot arrow.
6:59 - YOGI BEAR (Hanna, Barbera, Curtin, Shows) – End titles.