Saturday, 25 December 2010

Pixie and Dixie — Sour Puss

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ed Love; Layouts – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle? ; Story – Warren Foster; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson. (no credits).
Voice Cast: Pixie, Bagsley – Daws Butler; Jinks, Milkman, the Master – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose-John Seely, Jack Shaindlin, Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore.
First Aired: week of Sept. 28, 1959 (rerun, week of May 23, 1960).
Plot: Mr. Jinks outwits himself when he has the mice shipped off to the North Pole.

There are two things that stand out for me in this cartoon. The first is the long shot of the Aurora Borealis after the meece are mailed to the Arctic. I don’t know who did the backgrounds in this cartoon but this one’s a real stunner when it first appears on the screen because it’s not what you expect out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

I don’t know how close these colours are to the original because this cartoon hasn’t been restored. Even on a black-and-white TV of 1959, the tones of greys would have looked great. Sorry for the TV channel bug; I don’t have a clean copy of this.

The other fun thing is watching Ed Love’s expressions. Ed decided not to be limited by limited animation. He doesn’t have two or three angles for a head. In the example below, you’ll see seven. The mouth/snout shape likely won’t be the same when he goes back to a head angle for a second or third time, making the animation look fuller. And he’ll stagger his timing, changing positions on ones, twos, threes, or holding the head even longer for a piece of dialogue. On top of that, he’ll hold the mouth for a frame but move an eyebrow so there’s something a little different almost every frame. And he enjoys drawing teeth, almost like buck teeth at times.

We’ll get to more of Ed in a moment.

Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks apparently have two homes. One is a typical suburban place (in Bird Brained Cat, Jinks is owned by a housewife). But in several cartoons, they’re movin’ on up to a splendid, wooden-panelled mansion complete with butler. The butler first appeared in Jinks the Butler in the first season. Either Warren Foster went hunting for ideas from earlier cartoons when he arrived at H-B for the second season, or Joe Barbera told him to re-use some of the incidental characters. Regardless, the mansion and snooty butler (re-designed) make their return in this cartoon. The meece and Jinks were relegated to the suburbs again until one more shot at manservant-assisted opulent living in Homeless Jinks in the third season.

Bagsley the butler is standing, immobile, nose in the air, in the middle of one of the oaken-walled rooms as our cartoon opens. “Halt, you mices!” yells Jinks as Pixie and Dixie and Jinks run into the frame and U-turn around the butler. “Frightfully good show...dashing good show,” comments the butler to himself. Jinks catches the mice off camera (sound effects and camera shakes stand in for action again). Bagsley orders Jinks to “merely see that they are sent away. Far away.”

Here’s limited animation at its subtlest. Here are consecutive drawings of Bagsley talking to Jinks. Lots of little movements on the face here. In the cartoon, the first drawing is on twos, the second on threes. The third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth drawings are all on a single frame. You can see how Ed sometimes moves the mouth and the eyelids stay put and vice-versa.

Jinks is now at a mailbox. Pixie and Dixie are in a parcel addressed to ‘North Pole, Alaska’ (though it’s evident from the script they’re being sent to the North Pole, which we all know is in Canada). Jinks peers in a hole the parcel and ridicules the mice. Dixie gets his revenge.

“See how you like being a couple of smark aleck mice-cicles,” yells Jinks after throwing the package in the mailbox. Here’s Ed again with a four-position evil chuckle.

Jinks has buck teeth as he whistles down the street. Nice suburban home.

The cat arrives on the front porch of his home to find a milkman collecting bottles. “How comes it, uhh, you’re not, like, leavin’ my usual rich-in-butterfat cream?” he asks. “Because, butterhead, I’m told you’re going on a vacation. When the milkman blinks, his hat goes down, too.

“It’s simple deduction, old boy” says Bagsley when Jinks asks about his ‘vacation.’ “You have deducted the meeces, uh, mices...With the mice gone, there’s nothing for you to do...Therefore, we deduct you. Yes, Jinks is fired.

“Be glad to call, friends. Letter of recommendation. Keep in touch, and all that rubbish. Quite simple, all. No mice, no cat” intones the butler as Jinks dejectedly trudges down the sidewalk. Then he comes up a fiendish plan. “I’ll get them miserable meeces back!” he cries. Here are more of Ed’s expressions.

Cut to the long shot we mentioned at the top of the post then a close-up of Pixie and Dixie sitting on the North Pole. Cut back to the long shot with a little figure tramping to the Pole. “You were expecting maybe the Abdominal Snowman?” Jinks asks.

He convinces the mice to come back with him and slips them through the front door mail slot. Bagsley catches them munching cheese. “Here now, let’s have none of this,” scolds the butler. Ed uses four different head positions just to have the butler say “Shoo!” I’ve added the fifth here so you can see Bagsley finish the word.

“Must have cat to do job right,” the butler comments and Jinks instantly skids into the picture with his trusty broom. “Glad to have you aboard, Jinks. Take over,” the butler states calmly. “With alacrity, sir,” Jink says and directs an evil look toward the off-camera meeces. How many cartoons use the word “alacrity?” Jinks even pronounces it correctly.

So the chase is on. Jinks figures he’s got a job for life so long as he never catches the mice. But the cartoon isn’t going to end happily ever after. The “Mawstah” calls over Bagsley, with Messick basically using his Major Minor voice.

Master: Small matter of bills. Overhead, tiger hunts, et cetera, et cetera. Must deduct butler.
Bagsley: You mean, sir, I’m canned?
Master: Quite right.

You can see the butler’s reaction. Then a familiar line:

Master: Chin up. Keep in touch. Letters of recommendation, and all that rubbish.

“That’s the way the wicket tumbles, Bagsley ol’ boy,” Jinks says in consolation. Then he opens his mouth once too often. “Too bad, uh, you’re not a cat. You’d have a job for life.” Bagsley does an astonished take, looks left toward Jinks, then gets an evil idea. Note the devil ears.

Bagsley convinces the Master to hire him back as a mouse chaser (he’s working for nothing, I guess). The butler twirls Jinks’ broom over his head and starts spouting Jinks’ catchphrases—“”Halt, you miserable meeces! I hate you meeces to pieces!”—as he chases Pixie and Dixie in a U-turn around the manor owner, just like Jinks did at the beginning.

The final shot is of the stunned, jobless Jinks, in his North Pole getup, slowly making his way down the sidewalk again. He turns to the camera. “Oh, well. Uh, mayhaps I’ll find me some meeces at the North Pole.”

Since there are mice-chasing scenes, it’s only natural we hear Jack Shaindlin’s ‘Toboggan Run’ and ‘On the Run.’ The sparkly tail end of Geordie Hormel’s ‘Light Movement’ is used almost like a sound effect as we see the shot of the Aurora Borealis. Familiar melodies by Bill Loose and John Seely, and Spencer Moore round out the music.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:13 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Mice chasing scene.
0:59 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks mails mice.
1:34 - ZR-51 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Jinks whistles, “Hold it, man with the milk.”
1:44 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Milkman scene. “Oh, sir!”
2:02 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks is fired; has idea.
3:05 - ZR-51 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Long shot of North Pole.
3:08 - ZR-50 LIGHT UNDERSCORE (Hormel) – Camera moves in on pole, Mice on pole, “Oh, no!”
3:28 - ZR-51 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – (Hormel) – “It can’t be!”, Jinks bargains with mice.
4:07 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks, Pixie, Dixie stroll down street; kitchen scene.
5:09 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks chases mice into hole.
5:17 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Dixie talks to Jinks, butler fired.
6:15 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Butler gets job back.
6:27 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Butler zips off scene and chases mice, Jinks clomps down front walk.
6:57 - Pixie and Dixie end title theme (Curtin).


  1. That "nice suburban home" you mention above looks a lot like the Stephens' home from "Bewitched". Maybe someone took a tour of the Screen Gems backlot and saw that house. I realize this is a bit before "Bewitched" but knows how long the house facade was on the lot. (I do know the "Bewitched" home is based on a real home in Los Angeles, except that it is flipped right for left).

  2. Could be, James, though I don't know when the Stevens house was built at Columbia. It looks like a fairly standard design for the times, much like the cars in the cartoon.