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; 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).


  1. So why doesn't Hardy laugh it up when Snooper konks his head on the telegraph pole?

    "Oh, dear. Oh, my." Funny readings by Daws.

  2. Blabber to Snooper:[quoting "ultra-square" Guy Lombardo/Kay Kyser-type 1940s big band leader Sammy Kaye's and Dinah Shore's 1946 hit record, composed, incidentally, by "There she is Miss America" compsoer/lyricist Bernie Wayne]:"Maybe he's crying on the outside, and laughing on the inside, Snoop."

  3. This cartoon has some excellent cinematography considering it's limited animation.

  4. Man, as a kid I would roar with laughter when they'd whack each other during the Punch and Judy bit. And how great is it that they used "Puppetry Comedy" for this part?

    Great cartoon. Lew Marshall always did particularly cute happy little faces.

  5. The changeover from Daws to Smith for Hardy is not puzzling at all, when you consider that Hal Smith could probably do sustained wild laughter better than Daws.

    Think the “Picadilly Dilly” (One of my most favorite Huck cartoons – not on DVD alas!) or Uncle Giggles Flintstone! Even the creepy shadow ghosts on the original Scooby-Doo.

    Smith was probably called upon to do a “stunt-laugh”!

  6. Just watched "picadilly dilly" on the youtube. great don patterson animation.

  7. Joe T, you probably hit it, though I guessed that Hal was hired for the role because he not only did the laughter, he did the line "Holy Mackerel!" which wasn't out of the realm of Daws' talents. It's just the "Oh dear" line which is different. Daws did one of the giggling ghosts in Snooper's "Real Gone Ghosts", though it's not an escalated giggling like Smith's.

    Joe C., the use of "Puppetry Comedy" is a pure coincidence. That is the title on the original EMI recordings, not the Hi-Q library that H-B would have had. I try to use the original names if possible; if you see an "EM" or "PG" at the front of Green's cue, it's from Hi-Q. "GR" is what EMI used.

  8. Great breakdown of this cartoon. I always loved snooper and blabber - heck, their names even make me laugh.

    Love the blog!

  9. Along with spinning off one-shot or recurring characters into their own series, reuse of names for incidental characters was common practice in the early days of H-B- especially if the names were punny or alliterative.

    'Fats Dynamo' was the monicker of a burly prisoner in one of the last Huckleberry Hound cartoons, and a differently designed and voiced burly prisoner the first Atom Ant episode four years later. Touche Turtle spent one episode trying to catch 'Ricochet Rabbit', who other than speed, shared no characteristics (such as clothing or human speech abilities) with the "Ping-ping-PIIIING"ing sheriff of a couple of seasons later.

    One can imagine Hanna, Barbera, Lovy, and the writers sitting around the table planning the MAGILLA segments. "What can we call the rabbit sheriff? Hmmm- I seem to remember the name 'Ricochet Rabbit' from somewhere. That sounds funny and rolls off the tongue- let's use that."