Saturday 19 February 2011

Snooper and Blabber — The Case of the Purloined Parrot

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Barnacle Bilge – Daws Butler; Sam Scuttle – Don Messick; Alfy Parrot – Doug Young.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin.
Production No: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-020.
First Aired: week of Feb. 8, 1960 (rerun, week of July 11, 1960).
Plot: Snooper and Blabber rescue Alfy the Parrot from turncoat second-mate Barnacle Bilge.

It would, on the surface, appear improbable that master filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock would have any influence on fairly low-budgeted television cartoons. But he did. Or, rather, his television programme did.

Mike Maltese and Tony Benedict must have been a fan of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which first appeared on small screens in 1955 and has likely never been off since. Benedict concocted a wonderful adversary for Yakky Doodle named Alfy Gator, with a voice and call-for-a-station-break demeanour like the master filmmaker (Hoyt Curtin added his touch with an inversion of Hitchcock’s theme ‘Funeral March of a Marionette’). But before Alfy’s debut in 1961, Maltese borrowed the Hitchcock silhouette opening and closing, and introduction style for this cartoon. Naturally, he makes a travesty of it as Blab backs into the silhouette the wrong way.

By the way, the Warners cartoon parody of Hitchcock, ‘The Last Hungry Cat’, came out at the end of 1961, almost two years after this one. Usually, ideas from Warners cartoons ended up at Hanna-Barbera, not the other way around.

Well, that kind of borrowing also happens in this cartoon. Maltese does a variation on his famous gag from one of the best Bugs Bunny cartoons of all time, Rabbit Hood (1949). You’ll all remember how Bugs rushes to mix and bake a cake just in time for the woozy Sheriff of Nottingham to fall into it. Here, the parrot mixes and bakes a cake just in time to throw at the bad guy as he opens a door. Maltese makes it a birthday cake as a bonus.

After Snooper informs us “purloined means stolen, in case you flunked English”, the “fascinating story” moves to the “fascinating old mansion” of Captain Sam Scuttle. A little gag has the flag on his mailbox suddenly flipping up to reveal a skull and crossbones.

A conversation’s taken place between the retired pirate and his parrot—perhaps not coincidentally named Alfy—revealing only the two of them know where the treasure is buried. Alfy vows he’ll never spill the location. Overhearing the conversation at the window is one Barnacle Bilge.

We switch to Snoop’s office. The phone rings. It’s Sam. Alfy’s been bird-napped by Bilge. Sam offers a thousand pieces of eight for the return of his parrot. “Throw in a few whole eights and I’ll be right over,” counters Snoop.

The plot is pretty simple and straight-forward the rest of the way. Snooper and Blabber end up on Bilge’s pirate ship. We get a walk-under-the-plank gag, a cannonball-bowling ball gag, a tripped-with-rope (off camera) gag and a waterlogged gun-still-fires-when-looked-at gag, as well as the cake-for-the-sake-of-a-gag gag. But after expressing pleasure Sam has sent someone to find him, Alfy switches gears and insists he really doesn’t want to be rescued. Finally, the parrot gives in to Bilge’s demand to reveal the location of the treasure or else see Blab, who has an anchor tied to him, dropped into the sea. What? How can that happen if Bilge cuts the anchor’s rope under Blab? Wouldn’t the anchor fall and Blab stay put?

Anyway, they all row to Gooney Island where the parrot reveals the treasure chest he doesn’t want to give up. It’s full of crackers. As in “polly wanna.” Bilge clobbers Snoop on the head with the chest. The scene now switches back to the set of the Hitchcock-like show. “And so ends the Case of the Purloined Parrot,” Blab tells us, and in the final gag, Snoop walks into a silhouette with a tall bump on his head from chest.

The animation and backgrounds are functional. The best part of the cartoon is the odd or silly dialogue Maltese comes up with.

When the parrot pledges not to reveal the location of the treasure:

Alfy: No one will ever find out from me. It’s “Polly wants a cracker” here and “Polly wants a cracker” there. And, outside of that, I’m as mum as a bloomin’ stuffed barracuda.

There’s a song lyric pun when Snoop hears about the case:

Sam: And, if he talks, it’s back to piracy on the ‘igh seas for Sam Scuttle.
Snoop: Then it’s me boundin’ main duty to find Alfy, and keep you off the straight and narrow plank.
Blab (to audience): Snoop has a soft spot for pirates.

Alfy and the detectives meet for the first time.

Alfy: Ahoy, mates. ‘Ow’s me shipmate, Captain Sam Scuttle?
Snooper (like he’s reading a script): ‘E’s a bit of all right, ‘e is.
Blab (to audience): A good private eye has to be speak several languages.

And when Barnacle Bill fantasises about the treasure that Snooper is digging up on the island:

Bilge: At last! I’m goin’ to live like a bloomin’ Duke. Sippin’ me tea out of a golden sau-sah!
(more dialogue, then the chest reveals its contents)
Snooper: Don’t look so disappointed, Bilge. Crackers is swell with tea.

Some random notes:

The case is a 603: “A retired pirate’s stolen parrot.”
Snoop doesn’t say “Halt in the name of...” in this cartoon.
Snooper’s car drives past the same house in the background 13 times on his way to meet Sam and eight more times on its way to the dock, where he arrives “just in the knick-knack of time.”
When everyone lands on Gooney Island, a bird sound effect is heard that was used in practically every movie and TV show involving a jungle into the 1960s. I think it’s from the Valentino Library.
While Doug Young did incidental voices later in his career, he seems to have restricted himself mostly to appearances as Doggie Daddy in the 1959-60 season. Don Messick or Hal Smith handled most minor characters. I believe this is Young’s first Snooper cartoon (one is missing in my collection).

All but one of the cues is by Phil Green, all originally in the Q-2 Comedy Cartoon series of EMI’s Photoplay Library. Nothing sea-going, though.

0:00 – Snooper opening bumper music (Curtin).
0:05 – GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Snooper and Blabber enter.
0:13 – GR-456 DOCTOR QUACK (Green) – Blab apologises, camera closes in on mansion.
0:47 – GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Sam and parrot talk.
1:22 – GR-98 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO SHORT BRIDGE No. 2 (Green) – “You’ll talk, me feathered bucco...”
1:28 – GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – Snooper office scene.
1:52 – GR-334 LIGHT AGITATED BRIDGE (Green) – Snoop and Blab drive to Sam’s.
2:04 – GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – Sam is questioned, drive to docks, parrot walks underneath plank.
3:22 – PG-161G LIGHT COMEDY MOVEMENT (Green) – Parrot and Snoop talk.
3:34 – GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Bilge runs with sword, cannonball gag, “Please let us save you.”
4:13 – GR-75 POPCORN BRIDGE No. 1 (Green) – Bilge points gun at parrot, gun goes off.
4:27 – SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Bilge chases parrot into galley, cake scene.
5:05 – GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Blab tied to anchor,
5:47 – GR-255 PUPPETRY COMEDY (Green) – Desert island scene.
6:33 – GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Blab talks to audience, Snoop has bump on head.


  1. Doug Young guested in least two other Season 1 Snooper & Blabber shorts that seemed to have been produced and/or aired before this one: "Baby Rattled" and "Not So Dummy". Baby Rattled" seems like a very early short, since it largely uses cues from the three HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW segments and relatively few from Phil Green.

    Likewise, Young did a couple of earlier Quick Draw shorts, notably "Choo-Choo Chumps" and "Double Barrel Double".

  2. And let’s not forget “Alvin Brickrock”!

    Here’s an excerpt from the DVD Review I did for “Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season One” on my Blog”

    “So much a staple of our popular culture did this program – and its host – become that it was often lovingly parodied in the media of its time. Hanna-Barbera Productions created not one but TWO Hitchcock parody characters: Alfy Gator, an alligator sophisticate and gourmet out to ingest little duck Yakky Doodle, and the memorable one-shot “Alvin Brickrock” on The Flintstones. The latter did Hitchcock to a “T”, right through the coda that leaves one with the impression that Brickrock actually got away with murder.”

    Pity *I* forgot about this Snooper and Blabber, when writing that entry!

  3. Kenny sure did alot of the Snooper and Blabber cartoons.

  4. First season, there were 26 cartoons. I'm missing one. Of the 25, Muse did nine (including Hula-Hula Hulabaloo, which is on the internet with the wrong credits). Lew Marshall did seven. Carlo did four, Gerald Baldwin did two and Don Patterson and La Verne Harding did one each. Lundy and Love didn't do any that season, unless one of them is on the cartoon I'm missing (Snap Happy Saps.

  5. Just one reason why Ken Muse bugs me: how did that tattoo end up on the side of his arm? Not Muse's arm, the pirate's arm. :)

  6. Same way as everyone else.. he went to a tattoo parlour.

    Yeah, I see it vanished in a few scenes. The parrot also has a cartoon watch .. the ones that only appear in cartoons when needed for the plot and vanish the rest of the time.

  7. In season 2, Ed and Dick finally make there way over to this series with 'Observant servants' and 'Ala kazoop' respectivley.

  8. Cartoon watches or certain features seem to disappear all the time, and that doesn't really bother me, given the limits of the animation. But the total disregard for proportion or planes really bugs me. Shame on you, Ken.
    However, the hand on that pirate is a thing of beauty.

  9. I believe the jungle bird call effect you mention actually originates from Warner Brothers' library. You can hear it in "Dough for the Do-Do" and "Gorilla My Dreams", for example.