Saturday 27 November 2010

Snooper and Blabber — Laughing Guess

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Hardy Har-Har – Daws Butler; Mr. Bringling, Hardy Har-Har – Hal Smith (one line and end laughter); Hazel – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin, Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin.
First aired: week of February 29, 1960.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired by a circus to make a sad laughing hyena laugh.

Some of the characters in the Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw shows have a ring of familiarity. That’s because we’ve seen them before. Thus the whining duckling from the MGM shorts made his way into Yogi Bear and Augie Doggie cartoons and eventually emerged as Yakky Doodle. A clever, smart-ass mountain lion named Snagglepuss dropped in on all three shows in the Quick Draw half-hours and was soon modified and spun off into his own seven-minute misadventures.

And there’s one other prototype character who made an appearance before he was reworked and made a co-star of a series—Hardy Har-Har, the non-laughing hyena of Lippy the Lion fame. He’s the central figure in this cartoon. The two aren’t really the same character; this one has a different design and doesn’t have Mel Blanc’s ‘Happy Postman’ voice from Burns and Allen. But he’s got the same basic depressed personality and Mike Maltese has handed him the catchphrase that would be used in the 1962 series.

Like the original Snagglepuss, the proto-Hardy is funnier in this cartoon than in his own series. But that’s only because he doesn’t really do all that much. The fun is in watching Mike Maltese run the main characters through the plot of Daffy Dilly (1949), where Daffy Duck tries to get a huge fee by making bedridden J.P. Cubish laugh. To no great surprise, that was cartoon was written by Maltese.

At times, this cartoon has a feel of vaudeville, something else that was dear to Maltese’s heart. Besides the corny old comedy routines Snooper and Blabber try out on the hyena, the first part of the cartoon is like an opening act, where Snooper and his secretary Hazel do kind of a two-hander you’d find at the Palace in the ‘20s, though the patter isn’t exactly as snappy. Snoop and Blab are in their chopper (with no eyeball on the side this time) hovering against a re-used background of skyscrapers in various shades of pink.

Hazel (from the radio): I can see you from the window, boss. Your helicopter looks like a cah-razy cake mixer.
Snooper: Hazel?
Hazel: Yes, boss.
Snooper: How’d you like to go back your old job...mixin’ concrete?

That line works if the woman’s voice is low and gruff. The kind of gag suited Verna Felton playing Dennis Day’s butch mother on the Jack Benny show. But it doesn’t work for the flighty southern belle voice Jean Vander Pyl employs here.

While we’re talking about voices, this is the only HB cartoon I can think of where the voice actor changes in mid-cartoon. When Hardy is moaning “Oh, dear. Oh, my,” it’s Daws Butler. The rest of the time it’s Hal Smith. The change is obviously deliberate; it’s not a case of the wrong voice coming out of a character. Such things happened on occasion. Mel Blanc’s one-word “smog” performance as Elmer Fudd in What’s Opera Doc? is the most famous example, apparently the result of Chuck Jones not getting quite the shout out of Arthur Q. Bryan as he wanted. But the change in this cartoon is puzzling.

The case? A 983—‘Trouble in the Big Top.’ By the way, the Quick Draw cartoon that ran in the same show—The Lyin’ Lion—was also set in a circus and was also laid out by Walt Clinton. Clinton seems to like unusual shapes in his designs. He’s given the circus owner a head that looks like a squashed egg in front view, with a slightly angled-nose.

Mr. Bringling doesn’t realise Snooper and Blabber are the detectives he called.

Snoop: Mr. President, we’re at your service.
Bringling: Boys, your funny get-ups are great. But I’ve got all the clowns I need.

So now the two private eyes engage in several routines to try to make the hyena laugh. First comes the little vaudeville show that Blab sabotages by laughing endlessly at the opening straight line. Tickling a feather on the hyena’s foot doesn’t work (“For $10,000, I’d tickle his palate,” says Snoop). Blab thinks the problem is the feather and tests it on Snoop, who reacts by jumping skyward, smashing into a telegraph pole and crashing prone to the group.

“Laughter is contagious,” says Snooper, so he and Blabber yuck it up, hoping the hyena will follow. Hardy looks at the camera for a moment and starts crying. So do Blab and Snoop. It turns out crying is contagious, too. Finally, the two detectives haul in a booth and put on a Punch and Judy show. Daws Butler’s got a funny little sibilant voice as Snoop doing Punch. “Holy mackerel!” groans Hardy, who walks out of the performance as Blab bats Snooper on the head with a board.

Snooper chases after him. “Wait! Don’t go! I’ve got a joke book with a million laughs in it,” shouts Snoop, who doesn’t hear Blab’s warning about a banana peel. He slips and lands with a kettle-drum thud on the ground. Hardy launches into a fit of laughter (in Daffy Dilly, Daffy Duck slipped on a throw-rug and landed in a birthday cake for the same result). Clinton lays out two shots; the first one is a medium shot with the circus background, the second is a close-up with a solid white background. The circus owner is excited but Hardy soon reverts to his cry of woe.

Bringling: Can you make him laugh again tonight?
Snoop: Uh, for the nominal phenomenal fee of $10,000, I’ll do it.

And so, under the big top that night, Blab (standing next to a large bunch of hanging bananas) tosses a peel into the ring and in re-used animation, Snoop slips and falls and Hardy laughs. So we have Punch, but no punch line to end the cartoon.

Most of the music works really well except for the odd choice of using the deliberate tuba strains of Phil Green’s ‘By Jiminy! It’s Jumbo’ when Snooper and Blabber launch into their joke-telling act. There were several Jack Shaindlin show biz/circus/vaudeville style pieces used in other cartoons and one would have fit here. No short bridges are used here but the cutter edits each bed so it ends when a scene ends.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:17 - ASININE (Shaindlin) – Snoop talks Hazel, lands helicopter.
1:17 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Bringling’s office scene.
2:11 - GR-96 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Bringing with Snoop and Blab at the hyena cage, “teacher” joke.
3:29 - CB-83A MR. TIPPY TOES (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Feather and laughing scenes.
5:06 - GR-255 PUPPETRY COMEDY (Green) – Hardy moans, Snoop and Blab set up Punch and Judy booth.
5:18 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Curtains open, Punch and Judy scene, Snoop slips on banana peel.
6:04 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Hardy laughs, Snoop accepts offer.
6:33 - fast show biz music (Shaindlin) – Scene in circus ring.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).

Monday 22 November 2010

Now, These Follow-Ups to Earlier Stories

It’s constantly amazing to me that people actually come here to read what I have to say. Or maybe they’re just looking at the pictures. Actually, some of them are. The blog has been getting over 300 individual hits a day in the last week. Many of them are from people who see an image file during a web search and click here. Others come here while on the hunt for something else (I don’t think people entering “daddy bear” in a search engine are trying to find a Yogi cartoon). But there are those who have apparently bookmarked the site and arrive directly without doing a search.

Last weekend, there were ten hits in a row, each from a different country—Canada, Finland, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Italy, Holland, the U.S., Mexico and Spain. Not too many hours before and after, readers peered in from computers in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Kuwait and England. And Macedonia. I didn’t even know they showed Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw there, but I guess they did. Or do.

Even more of a surprise to me is the number of animators and professional writers who visit, especially considering I can’t draw and I’m not altogether a writer by trade. And, even better, they send me stuff they’ve collected they think I’d enjoy. And I do. So let me share with you some things I received via e-mail in response to several recent posts.

Tim Hollis is the co-author of ‘Mouse Tracks, The Story of Walt Disney Records.’ He sent this note:

When you covered the H-B theme park business a few days ago, I meant to send you this page from a magazine article when King's Island first opened. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of their earliest photos... it looks like Yogi was badly in need of a shave!

Click on the article to enlarge it.

Animator Mark Kausler wrote after the Yowp Story post. He re-sent the Yowp model sheet and some other stuff. Yes, the Huck drawings are signed by Ed Benedict! Mark knew Ed Benedict. And Tex Avery. If I go any further, I’ll sound like Stan Freberg doing Chester in ‘Tree For Two,’ so let me post these. Thanks a lot George, Mark.

The Yowp drawings are by Bick Bickenbach (see his initials in the right-hand corner).

It seems there were several variations of the “cast picture” from the Huck show. You’ve probably seen one posted here that has just the stars, leaving out secondary characters like Li’l Tom Tom, Cousin Tex and (sniff) everyone’s favourite cartoon dog that isn’t named Snuffles or Astro.

And reader Billie Towzer has a collection of photos of H-B stuff. Where they come from, I don’t know, but Billie e-mails me some fun discoveries. Below is a Yogi Bear napkin. Perfect for pic-a-nics, I suspect.

You could use the napkin when you dug into officially-licensed candy.

I was going to write a really bad Candy/Granny Sweet joke, but remember, I’m not a writer. I’m a cartoon dog.

So thanks to all of you who have dropped me a line via e-mail and especially those who have sent me links or jpgs or information/thoughts about the cartoons featured here. I really appreciate it. And I’d like think others who come here do, too.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Huckleberry Hound — Somebody’s Lion

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Dick Lundy; Layout – Sam Weiss; Backgrounds – Joe Montell; Story – Warren Foster; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice cast: Announcer, Director, Elephant – Don Messick; Huck, Leroy – Daws Butler.
First Aired: week of October 26, 1959.
Plot: Huck tells a TV adventure show how he captured Leroy the Lion.

Jack Benny ran into an assortment of odd characters on his radio show, but none stuck out more than John L.C. Sivoney, the slow-thinking sweepstakes ticket-winner whose goofy, redundant rambles were punctuated with a building, wheezy laugh or bawl. Jack broke up. The audience howled. And Jackie Gleason remembered, because he borrowed the character for his TV show, stuck him in a bar with a tender named Joe and created Crazy Guggenheim.

Crazy was played by a man named Frank Fontaine, who witnessed first-hand how one’s character can overwhelm and typecast an actor. Fontaine could do more than act as if his thoughts were fighting a frozen brain and tongue. He was an accomplished impressionist—his first break was on the amateur portion of Fred Allen’s radio show in the mid ‘30s doing imitations—and evidently got tired of doing virtually the same low-IQ, asthma-laugh routine week after week on the Gleason show. The story goes Gleason unexpectedly heard him singing in his dressing room and decided to put him on the show crooning old-time songs in his normal voice. It’s reminiscent of how Jim Nabors wanted to show the world he wasn’t some half-wit hayseed but instead could burst into a stirring baritone version of The Impossible Dream. People seem to have viewed Fontaine’s singing as a kind of a curiosity. But they loved Crazy.

And so did the people at Warners cartoons. Bob McKimson and Tedd Pierce came up with Rabbit’s Kin (1951), where they handed his voice to Stan Freberg and put it in the throat of an incredibly stupid mountain lion named Pete Puma. You’d have sworn there were a whole series of Pete Puma cartoons in the ‘50s because everyone remembers him. But there was just this one, re-run over and over. Later, Friz Freleng would borrow the same voice and stick it in an alley cat named Sam in the Sylvester-Tweety short Mouse and Garden (1960). Sam was voiced by Freberg’s friend and cohort Daws Butler.

But that wasn’t the only time Daws did the voice, and Warners wasn’t the only cartoon studio which borrowed it. Hanna-Barbera remembered Fontaine, too, and Daws inserted his version of the voice into a king-of-beasts adversary for Huckleberry Hound in Lion-Hearted Huck, a first season cartoon written by Charlie Shows. When Warren Foster arrived to write the second season, he dragged the lion out of retirement, gave him a name, added a cynical edge and created Somebody’s Lion.

I love the opening of this cartoon. I don’t mean the pan of the jungle, although it’s nice. What’s great is Foster’s sense of observation. Huck is on an atyptical 1950s interview show about daring adventures, yet Foster’s already noticed that even the most daring adventurers can come across as stiff in the phoney world of television. And phoney it is. For all of Huck’s interview responses to the chatty host are completely scripted as he struggles badly to read them off a cue card. So there you have Foster’s commentary about television, one of many he injected into stories over the years at Hanna-Barbera. To add to the satire, Huck continues to glance back and forth from the camera to the cue cards, even leaning over to get a better look. Daws Butler contributes with a halting delivery, wonderful in its obviousness.

On top of that, the director sounds completely bored and his pre-show countdown is stuck at “two” while a production assistant constantly puts Huck’s pith helmet back in place because it keeps dropping over the hound’s eyes.

Watching all this on TV in his cave (the entrance is decorated with a gold plaque with a crown) is Leroy. Huck reveals (in his normal delivery; the cue card joke’s over, son) that after the show, he’s going to hunt Leroy again—and has a surprise for him.

Leroy: That fu-nny, fu-nny hunter. I love westerns. But a good comedian kills me.

The wheezing, inhaling Fontaine laugh follows. The inhaling is in six drawings, with the timing between them varying. Leroy loses his whiskers along the way. I’ve slowed them down so you can take a look at how Lundy did it, as least in this part of the cartoon. There are five more times (not all drawn the same way) where we see the laugh and several more times when we just hear it.

What’s the surprise? “Huntin’ him, Maharajah-style,” Huck confides to us as he rides an elephant that goes up and down behind the bushes so his legs don’t have to be animated. Leroy loosens the buckle on the seat holding Huck atop the elephant. Huck slides underneath and hangs upside down for a conversation. Leroy asks for “the usual elephant hunting license.” Unlike most cartoon characters, Huck does and whips it out for inspection.

So the gags can now begin. Huck shoots Leroy in the tail, which he puts out on a tree like a cigarette butt (“He’s one of the good ones,” Leroy observes in one of Foster’s favourite lines). The lion responds with the old mechanical mouse bit (used by Foster in Sahara Hare). Huck expects the trick and informs us his elephant isn’t afraid of mice. Afraid you’re wrong, Huck. The elephant, with the hound aboard, climbs a tree and hangs onto a branch. The elephant’s weight does the expected. “You know somethin’?” Huck says to us after popping his head up from under beast on the ground, “That’s a right heavy elephant.”

Leroy gets the worst of it now. First, he surreptitiously empties Huck’s six shooter, counting the bullets to make sure he has all of them, then pretends to be a midway target (with an appropriate wind-up mechanical sound effect) asking Huck to shoot him. He does. “A seven shooter. What won’t they think of next?” the chortling lion comments.

Huck puts out a sign. ‘Lions Club Meets Today Behind Rock.’ Leroy peers behind the rock. “I got a hunch I shouldn’t ask the next question,” the lions tells the audience before asking where the Lion’s Club is. “Right here!” cries Huck. Pow he goes with a club.

The final gag has a lot of padding for dialogue but it involves an old cartoon gag—Leroy hides a cannon inside a box camera and convinces Huck to have his picture taken. We all know what’ll happen next. Leroy accidentally turns the camera around and shoots himself. We don’t see it happen, of course, because that takes a lot of drawings. Instead, the black blanket (or whatever it’s called) that covers Leroy moves, the camera (shooting the cartoon, not the one Leroy is using) shakes and wisps of smoke rise above the blanket.

Back we are at the TV studio watching Huck “Well, I see you finally did it,” the off-camera host joyously exclaims, “You caught Leroy.” How did he do it? Leroy tells us in his own words. “What’s to tell?” hyucks the lion, wearing a paper bag over his head to hide the gunshot injury. “He was just lucky, I guess.” And we get a wheezy inhaled laugh for a final time.

Frank Fontaine’s career had yet to hit its heights, but Leroy’s was finished. Warren Foster seems to have given a bunch of antagonists from the Charlie Shows cartoons— the dog next door, Pierre, Chief Crazy Coyote, Leroy—a try then went off in his own direction. As for Fontaine, he went on to fame with Gleason, gave his wife labour pains on eleven occasions and had friends bail him out when his home was seized in a $450,000 tax dispute with the U.S. government. On the night of August 4, 1978, he walked off stage after his fourth encore in a benefit in Spokane for the Fraternal Order of Eagles, collapsed, and died of a heart attack. He was 58. And after all those years of others doing his duncey voice in cartoons, Frank was about to do it himself. He had been working on a pilot for a TV cartoon show called ‘Happy House’ at the time of his death.

It’s interesting to see Lundy has drawn both Huck and Leroy with half of one eye-lid closed in portions of the cartoon.

Lots of Spencer Moore music here, including one of a number of bassoon effects in L-1158. Huck “dum-dee-dums” ‘My Darling Clementine’ twice in the cartoon over the stock music. The last cue from Jack Shaindlin starts with a fast march, then a trombone going up five notes and back down in an octave, like a scale, but the sound cutter just uses the first part and the stab at the end. And we get that ‘march of the hiccuping squirrels’ muted trumpet music of Shaindlin’s that I haven’t been able to identify.

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound sub-main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:13 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Geordie Hormel) – Pan across jungle and TV truck.
0:26 - TC-432 LIGHT MOVEMENT/HOLLY DAY (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Huck in studio.
1:14 - TC-301 ZANY WALTZ (Loose-Seely) – Leroy’s cave entrance, Leroy watches TV.
1:45 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Huck on elephant, “That lion must’ve gone into hidin’”
2:39 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Conversation under elephant, Leroy shot, mouse zips toward elephant.
3:54 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Elephant scared by mouse; lands on ground on top of Huck.
4:05 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – “You know somethin’” line.
4:11 - L-1139 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Leroy grabs gun, empties it of bullets; Huck shoots him.
4:49 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – “What won’t they think of next?”
4:56 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Lions Club scene.
5:45 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Picture-taking scene.
6:32 - LAF-74-4 fast circus sports ‘scale’ music (Shaindlin) – Huck in studio, Leroy has bag on head.
6:59 - Huckleberry Hound sub-end title (Curtin).

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Daws Butler Goes Home

Huckleberry Hound. Yogi Bear. Mr. Jinks. Quick Draw McGraw. What would they be without Daws Butler?

There are people out there, unfathomable as it may seem, who don’t like the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Either they think the use of limited animation isn’t creative enough or the stories and dialogue lack punch and originality or the cartoons are the spawn of the devil that took the life out of great artists. But even they respect the work of Hanna-Barbera’s mainstay at the microphone, the greatest voice artist in the history of television cartoons—Daws Butler.

Those of us who grew up in the 1960s and watched cartoons grew up with Daws Butler. There were many fine, almost legendary, voice actors in television in that era, but Daws was extra-special. He always seemed to add some funny quirkiness to the characters he created and sounded like he relished in them, enjoying them as much as the young viewer at home.

One of the remarkable things that’s happened as the years have marched on and the world pushes unknowingly into the future is I’ve had a chance, through newsgroups, forums, social media and even this blog, to talk with people who actually knew Daws Butler. If you had told me when I was a kid in a quiet Canadian town sitting on the floor watching Huckleberry Hound in black-and-white 50 years ago that I’d some day chat with those people, I never would have believed it. Even though anything can happen in a cartoon. Through them, I’ve become even more appreciative of Daws’ talent and the kind of man he was. It’s the closest I can come to knowing him myself. Watching cartoons, you can’t see Daws’ skills at writing that he demonstrated on records in the 1950s, or his talent for mimicry that he displayed on stage in his early career (and hints at in one of his first cartoons, 1949’s ‘Out Foxed’ for Tex Avery at MGM).

Oh, I forgot to mention something. Daws Butler was born on this date 94 years ago.

In honour of the natal occasion, allow me (not that you have any choice in the matter) to repost a story from the Elyria, Ohio Chronicle-Telegram, dated June 23, 1960. Daws was from Toledo and the local paper occasionally wrote about him when he returned to visit family. He may have been at his peak at Hanna-Barbera about this time. This was just before the first of the night-time H-B shows which never featured Daws in lead roles, with the exception of Elroy on The Jetsons and briefly on The Flintstones during Mel Blanc’s fight-for-life in hospital in 1961, and seem to have avoided using him a lot. Unfortunately, I don’t have viewable versions of the photos of Daws from the paper where he’s demonstrating to neighbourhood kids how he voices Yogi Bear. What a treat that must have been for them!

Series Popular With Adults, Too
‘Voice’ For Huckleberry Hound Magnet To Elyria Kids In Visit

“Better than the aver-a-a-a-age type bear!”
The familiar Yogi Bear twang rolls off the lips of Daws Butler, now a resident of Beverly Hills, chief animator for America’s most popular adult cartoon show.
Butler, visiting relatives in Elyria, was entertaining every kid in the neighborhood who could walk or crawl, including one tot in a wheelchair.
A former vaudeville performer, commercial writer, and radio announcer, the Toledo-born star is the voice for Huckleberry Hound, Mr. Jinx [sic] and, of course, Yogi Bear.
Butler’s voice is not only familiar to millions as the characters in Huckleberry Hound, but it also entertains the numerous small-fry fans of Quick-Draw McGraw. Tom and Jerry and Ruff and Ready [sic].
While working for MGM on the Tom and Jerry cartoon series, producers Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera approached him with the idea for the Ruff and Ready cartoon show. With the origination of the Huckleberry Hound series, he was hired for the animation.
His job does not stop with the animation of the cartoon, though. He helps edit the script and suggests new story angles to the writers.
Made Hit With Adults
Originally intended as a children’s cartoon series, Huckleberry Hound drew such an adult response that today much of the satire in the series is definitely planned. “It may be poking fun at some government official, popular world figure or just an incident which happened to one of the crew, but it is all in fun,” Butler said.
The 44 year-old father of four children believes that Huckleberry and company may stick around for at least five years. “It could last as long as 10 years of fresh material is poured into the series.”
The series appeals to all ages. An island in the Pacific Ocean has been named after Huckleberry, Butler said. Recently the University of Seattle held a Huckleberry Hound Day and tapes of Huckleberry Hound stories were piped over loud speakers throughout the campus.
Children “Sophisticated”
The controversial point of excessive brutality in today’s children shows does not bother Butler. “Children today are more sophisticated. They realize that the characters in Huckleberry Hound are not real.”
The producers always keep a friendly battle going between the characters and despite the fact that Mr. Jinx may hit the two little “Meces” with a broom, shove them off a cliff or drop them down an eavestrough, when the chips are down the cat will come to their aid. “If you are going to have a ‘heavy’ character in a series, it has to be a humorous type of ruffian.”
Butler’s biggest challenge, in his own opinion, is writing commercials. “It is a real challenge to tell a whole story in 20 seconds.” His commercial work includes the bouncing kangaroo in the Jif Peanut Butter Commercials.
The four Butler boys, David, 16; Donny, 13; Paul, 10, and Charles, 6, all have started in show business already. Charles recently completed the animation for a Disney produced feature, “The Little Fir Tree.”
Butler met his wife Myrtis while in the Navy during World War II. A former North Carolina resident, Mrs. Butler was working for the special services bureau in Washington, D.C. when the couple met.
The Butler family was staying with Butler’s cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Don Kirkbride, 207 Princeton Ave.

The photo you see above was, according to Keith Scott, taken at Daws’ backyard studio (note the sound tiles on the wall) in the ‘60s. It comes from a wonderful fan site for Walter Tetley, the voice of Sherman in the Mr. Peabody cartoons for the Jay Ward studio. Brian and Greg have a bunch of pages about Daws (and some about June Foray, Paul Frees, Bill Scott and even Chris Allen). Brian Kistler tells a personal story about Daws that you can read by clicking HERE.

Writer and cartoon mogul Mark Evanier was a good friend of Daws. If you haven’t read his four-part tribute, click HERE. You won’t be disappointed.

Daws has had an official web site for a number of years, the product of one of his many students, Joe Bevilacqua. You can find it HERE.

And may I humbly suggest you click on Daws’ name in Topics list to your right, and listen to some of his rare records. What better way to celebrate the birthday of someone who brought many happy hours to so many people for so many years.

Saturday 13 November 2010

Pixie and Dixie — King Size Poodle

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice cast: Pixie, Newscaster, Zookeeper 2 – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks, Zookeeper 1 – Daws Butler; Lion – Hal Smith.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-030, Production E-76.
First Aired: week of October 24, 1959.
Plot: Pixie and Dixie hide an escaped lion from Jinks, who is out to collect the reward for its capture.

Every time I see the mice-turn-lion-into-dog scene in this cartoon, I can’t help but think of the marvellous 1946 Warner’s short Roughly Squeaking, where Hubie and Bertie convince a cat that he’s a lion and turn him into one. There’s no way this cartoon can measure up to that one, of course, but we do get a silly running gag, a nicely-designed lion and Hal Smith using his low, gangster voice with a tinge of New York in it. It’s pretty much the same voice Smith used in the Flintstones episode ‘Once Upon a Coward’ (1963) where the robber growls to Fred: “Nice and slow, see. That’s the way to do it. Nice and slow.” By a happy coincidence, Carlo Vinci animated on both of them.

The plot begins pretty quickly. The meece are resting against a tree and don’t believe they really saw a lion swoop past them to hide behind the tree. When the lion tells them to “shhh” they try to do Carlo’s usual back-up-then-stretch-dive exit out of the scene. But the lion stops them with his paw. He wants them to hide him. Then comes a joke I don’t quite get. The scene cuts to a radio.

Newscaster: Attention for a special news bulletin. A ferocious killer lion has escaped from the zoo, savagely attacking 24 keepers and clawing his way through a solid wall of visitors.
Lion: Ohhh! That’s a big fib.

Did Warren Foster think the lion’s line was funny? If the lion sounded like someone such as Joe Besser, the contrast between the voice and the viciousness would be evident and the gag would work better. Or did Foster think the set-up was funny? Today, it would be—it could be seen as a satire on the hyperbole of some broadcast media. But this cartoon was written in the era of Huntley and Brinkley and Edward R. Murrow’s team when what came out of their mouths was unquestioned fact. No hyberbole there.

Anyway, Jinks comes on the scene with a rifle and another line that doesn’t make sense.

Jinks (to Pixie and Dixie): A lion happens to be on the loose and, uh, there’s a huuuge reward for him. And if I see him, kaboom! New rug in the parlour.

Jinks, like, uh, how are you going to collect a reward for the capture of a lion if it’s, you know, dead and on your floor? Oh, well. Jinks isn’t supposed to make sense, I suppose.

A pair of scissors and a ribbon turn the lion into a bad French poodle. Jinks skids into the scene. Now we get our running gag.

Jinks (sceptically): French poodle? Ain’t he, uh, on the big side?
Dixie: A little. Say something in French for the nice cat.
Pixie: Yeah. Anything.
Lion (thinking): Uh....rumm.... Coop de grass.

I love the lion’s expressions. You can see him thinking, then pretending he’s confidently speaking Français, even though he murders “coup de grâce.”

But the linguistically-ignorant Jinks is convinced by the performance. And he makes an offer to the “poodle” to be his hunting dog to track down the lion and “spuh-lit up some easy loot.” Carlo featured an angular head tilt during a lot of his dialogue scenes in these early H-B cartoons. He’d use three different angles of the head in a five-drawing cycle; the second and fourth, and the first and fifth positions were the same. He would stop one or more of the positions, animate the mouth on a separate cell for a bit, then move the head back up in a cycle.

Here are three of his drawings slowed down so you can see what I mean. I’ve added the second drawing again so you can see the cycle. And you’ll notice the wide mouth that Carlo liked to use.

Lion: Loot?
Dixie (to lion): Mon-soor Pussycat means “money.” Comprendzee?
Lion: de grass!

And later:

Jinks: Is it a deal?
Lion: Ohhh, coop de grass. Coop de grass!

That’s the joke. All the lion knows in French is “coop de grass” so that’s about all he responds to anything, though he get a couple of “Oui”s out of him.

The “poodle” acts like an English Pointer as he pretends to spot the lion. He lures Jinks behind a shrub. Bam!

Jinks: Uh, partner. Fill me in. What struckt me?
Lion: Tch tch tch. Coop de grass.
Jinks: Yeah, uh. I get the picture.

He lures Jinks to peer into an open basement window. Bam!

Jinks: What clobbered me from the rear? And don’t give me any of that “cut the grass” double-talk.

Instead, we get a stretch-dive exit out of the scene. Jinks gets lured to some garbage cans. Bam! Here’s one of Carlo’s two-frame shake takes.

The lion’s fun is interrupted by the arrival of two zookeepers. The lion begs Pixie and Dixie to save him. It’s too late.

There’s a voice track mistake here. Daws Butler’s voice comes out of both the zookeepers at first. Perhaps that’s understandable since they look alike.

Keeper 1: Good work, mices.
Keeper 2: You’ll get the re-ward for capturin’ this lion.
Keeper 1 (now with Messick’s voice): Yeah. 15 grand.

Now the running gag runs out as our cartoon ends. Jinks shows up to tell the zookeeper “I hate to disilluding you” but they have a French poodle, not a lion. “Yeah, and I’m a Russian wolfhound,” says Zookeeper 1, as the meece and lion load themselves in the back of the zookeepers’ van. Jinks is frustrated and desperate that Pixie and Dixie are getting the reward.

Jinks: Tell ‘em you’re a French poodle. Say some-minn!
Lion: Coop de grace.

And with an “au revoir-ee, Jinks” from Dixie, the van rumbles away. Jinks turns to the camera and tells us “I hate them meeces.” You can see the bar of teeth that’s another sign Carlo is on the job.

Most of the score consists of Jack Shaindlin’s familiar stock music. There’s a change for what seems like no particular reason in the middle of when Jinks is making the offer to the “poodle” to capture the lion.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:13 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Bill Loose-John Seely) – Pixie and Dixie chat, lion zips around tree, Pixie and Dixie shake heads.
0:24 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Pixie and Dixie look at each other, lion begs, “Attention for a special news bulletin!”
1:00 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) – Newscaster tells of savage escape, Jinks with rifle.
1:42 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No. 2 (Shaindlin) – “And if I see him...”, mice decide to disguise lion.
2:08 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Lion turned into poodle, “you be the hound to track ‘em down.”
3:41 - ZR-52 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Geordie Hormel) – “I shall blast them”, Pixie and Dixie think watching will be fun.
4:09 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Bush scene.
5:03 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) – Basement scene, garbage can scene.
5:52 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Van drives up, lion in van, “coup de grass.”
6:48 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – “Au revoire”, Jinks hates meeces. Iris closes.
6:59 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).