Saturday 30 April 2011

Pixie and Dixie — Hi-Fido

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Manny Perez; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Dick (Richard H.) Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence (Art) Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, Dog – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks – Daws Butler.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose/John Seely, Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore.
First Aired: week of Sept. 14, 1959 (rerun, week of May 9, 1960).
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show No. K-027, Production E-79.
Plot: Pixie and Dixie use a home sound system to pretend there’s a dog in the house to scare Jinks.

Hanna-Barbera had a bit of a connection with art of ventriloquism. One of its top character voices starting in the late ‘60s was Paul Winchell, who had spent years on radio and TV making people laugh with Jerry Mahoney. The ending of Quick Draw McGraw Show featured Baba Looey popping out of a chest doing a variation of Señor Wences’ most famous routine. And Don Messick entertained as a ventriloquist before moving to California to work in radio and, later, cartoons. So it’s a bit amazing that this cartoon screws up ventriloquism so badly.

If I understand things correctly, ventriloquism is the art of throwing your voice. On your own. But, in this cartoon, Dixie uses a microphone hooked to a hi-fi set. So what does ventriloquism have to do with it? And why bring it into the plot?

I suppose I should just ignore this little hole in the first of Warren Foster’s Pixie and Dixie cartoons to hit the air waves and just enjoy the rest of the cartoon. Foster seems to grasped the budgetary difference between television and theatrical animation right away. It costs a lot less to rely on dialogue instead of movement and drawings to get humour across, so Jinks does an awful lot of self-musing and talking to the camera in this one. But Foster leaves room for takes like he did for Sylvester over at Warners and Manny Perez, who had animated Sylvester for Friz Freleng, comes up with some pleasant stuff at times. This is Perez’ only Pixie and Dixie short. He animated one more short for Hanna-Barbera, likely working on a freelance basis.

Jinks has a unique running cycle in the opening of the cartoon. He rocks his arms back and forth in four drawings while running stooped with his head down. Unique to Hanna-Barbera, I should say; I caught a Sylvester-Tweety cartoon the other day where the cat runs in a cycle that’s a variation on this. The layout or background artist has come up with a light shadow that Jinks runs past seven times. Pixie and Dixie have an unusual design, too. A single line represents a tail. They’re drawn the same way in ‘Mighty Mite,’ which was also an Ed Benedict cartoon.

Jinks’ tie changes a bit during the cartoon. It’s thin for the most part but, at times, it’s a little wide and fluffy. This comes right after Pixie and Dixie shock Jinks by zapping him with two loose ends of a wire in their hole. There was a great Jinks’ electric shock take in Mark of the Mouse the year before, but Foster doesn’t even try to put it one like it in his storyboard. He follows the old Freleng pattern of violence happens off-camera but, unlike at Warners, the reaction shot is no reaction. Jinks isn’t even singed. We get some jagged teeth as Jinks informs the meeces he hates them to pieces.

The two decide they’ve “got to do something about that cat.” Dixie shows off his ventriloquism book, then shows off his skills. First, he walks to a box and borrows from Señor Wences:

Dixie: How’s the air in there?
(opens lid of box)
Growley-Voice Box: All right.

Then he imitates a cat outside a birdhouse where a sparrow is sleeping. There’s a surprise take by the bird. Nothing funny or elaborate. But I really like the multiples of the bird before he zips into his house.

Now it’s Jinks’ turn and the ventriloquism is suddenly abandoned for a mike and stereo speakers. Maybe it’s because of this line: “Those woofers will make good dog woofs.” Nice anticipation principles as Dixie growls and barks. He also has those same raised forearms that Jinks has in the beginning. Here are the drawings slowed down.

Jinks peers sleepily from under his blanket then jumps into the ceiling before crashing down again. He decides it’s a “nighttime-mare” and tells the audience about it. I like the way he pops up from under different parts of his blanket.

Pixie gets to quote Ralph Edwards from Truth or Consequences, more or less:

Dixie: Jinks is asleep. Run over and spin his dish.
Pixie: Ain’t we the devils?

Pixie becomes brush-strokes and partial ears.

The meece frighten Jinks into running into the basement with a crash. The cat has his eyes half-closed, with the lids at different heights, during portions of the cartoon. It’s pretty amusing. Here’s Jinks checking himself in the mirror.

Jinks: Oh, boy. I have to, you know, like get a grip on myself. Shee! All us cats are high-stringed. But, you know, I’m, like, high-stringed-er than most. (looks in mirror). Shee! I look terri-dible.

Jinks baps himself on the head (with a wood-block sound) in cycle animation to convince himself there’s no dog in the house. His tie has expanded again and has strings hanging down. Note the squinting eyeballs in one position of the cycle. He gets a hold of himself with a head-shake cycle, then determinedly stomps off to “find them meeces.” He turns to the camera and raises his eyebrows up and down, something he also did in ‘Sour Puss.’ But the barking scares the crap out of him until he finally slides to a stop, realises there is no dog and decides to ignore the barking.

Dixie wears himself out trying to get Jinks to pay attention. Both the cat and mice have teeny tongues in this cartoon; Pixie has a little buck tooth.

Jinks has caught on to what’s going on. We get some, like, hipster dialogue:

Jinks: Hey, you. Save it, fellas. Uh, no need to knock yourselves out. I dig your barking bit. It’s a real coooool gag. But, uh, I was hip all the time, you know. I knewwww there was no dog around the house. You meeces tried to fool Jinksie-boy.

During all this, a dog has been listening at the window and wanders in. Jinks goes from casual, to crying after seeing the dog, to multiples as he backs up in fright.

However, Dixie saves Jinks from the vicious animal by barking into the microphone. The dog turns friendly. Foster’s best line of the cartoon:

Dog: Gee, excuse me. I didn’t know you was a dog. All the new breeds, you know. Sorry, my mistake.

But Jinks isn’t grateful. He threatens the meeces, who run away and don’t turn around to realise he isn’t following him. He’s on the microphone. Evidently, the three of them live in southern California for the last shot is of a desert on the way to Arizona, where Pixie and Dixie hope to lose the cat they think is chasing them and yelling about how he hates them to pieces over and over. A running-away scene is generally an unimaginative way to end a cartoon, one Hanna-Barbera used far too often in later years, and that’s how this one finishes.

As the cartoon opens with a chase scene, it shouldn’t be surprising it opens with Jack Shaindlin’s quintessential P&D chase theme. Some beds are snipped together to make them longer and there’s a four-second insertion of a Shaindlin cue with the same tempo and orchestration as the one on either side of it. Why the sound cutter bothered, I don’t know. The funny thing, neither LAF-4-6 or the second use of LAF-4-1 are on the cue sheet for the cartoon, and nothing is substituted in their place.

0:00 - PIXIE ADN DIXIE (Hanna, Barbera, Curtin, Shows) – Main titles.
0:13 - LAF-20-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks chases meece into hole.
0:27 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Meece decide to electrocute Jinks, conversation in mouse hole.
0:58 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Ventriloquism scene.
1:39 - LAF-4-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) – Meece hooks up PA system, barks, Jinks wakes up.
2:13 - LAF-4-6 PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Jinks looks around, barking
2:17 - LAF-4-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) - Jinks jumps into ceiling, falls into basket.
3:10 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Pixie spins dish, Jinks runs down stairs, crash.
3:25 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Pixie and Dixie talk, Jinks looks in mirror, shakes head, starts walking.
4:01 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – “Now to find them meeces,” barks.
4:14 - LAF-20-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks runs into closet, slides to stop.
4:30 - LAF-25-3 jaunty bassoons and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Jinks ignores barking, dog at window, scared by dog.
5:44 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Dog barks, part of Pixie's following line.
5:49 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – "Bail 'im out," dog apologises.
6:21 - LAF-74-4 rising-falling scale circus march (Shaindlin) – Pixie and Dixie run.
6:58 - PIXIE AND DIXIE (Hanna, Barbera, Curtin, Shows) – End titles.

Thursday 28 April 2011

Hanna-Barbera Photo Album

Reader Billie Towzer trawls the internet and periodically sends me random Hanna-Barbera-related pictures. These have been sitting in a file for awhile, so I’ll pass them on.

My favourite out of this bunch are two shots from 1962. The Chicago Daily News was publicising its addition of The Flintstones to its comics line-up and apparently threw some kind of party. Complete with ‘60s helmet hair goodness.

The Daily News decided to start the strip on a Saturday for some reason. Sorry it’s on an angle; this is the best version I can find. Click to enlarge.

I had some H-B toys when I was a kid; the easily-damaged Flintstone Building Blocks come to mind immediately (the little styrofoam nubs connecting the bricks broke off). But there was endless merchandise, stuff that made kids use their imagination. You could create your own living cartoons with these Yogi and Huck puppets. There were Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks ones, too. I’ll bet a lot of kids shouted “I hate meeces to pieces!” playing Jinks. I guess these are from the late ‘50s. No, I don’t know why Huck is red instead of blue.

Here’s one of a number of seemingly endless cereal boxes with H-B characters. Yogi replaced a large Scotsman named Big Otis, hence he’s wearing kilts here. Good thing Yogi took over. Big Otis strikes me as kind of a scary cereal spokesman. And how many Scotsmen are named “Otis” anyway?

More merchandise. Seems to me these were advertised during the Huck show, too, so that would put them in the late ‘50s as well (you’ll note zip codes hadn’t been invented when the ad was published). The International Silver Company is known to fans of Old Time Radio as the sponsor of the Ozzie and Harriet show.

And, finally, a Yogi ride at some park. I’d rather take kids to this than a CGI Yogi movie.

Thanks to Billie for passing these on. There are a bunch more I’ll get around to sharing in future posts.

Saturday 23 April 2011

Quick Draw McGraw — Masking For Trouble

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Lew Marshall, Layout – Dick Bickenbach, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Sketches – Dan Gordon, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (Credits courtesy Earl Kress).
Voice Cast: Narrator, Bad Guy in Saloon, Cleaner, Telegram Delivery Man, Sundown Sam – Don Messick; Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Cowpoke – Daws Butler; Sagebrush Sally – Julie Bennett.
Music: Victor Lamont, Jack Shaindlin, Phil Green, Geordie Hormel, Bill Loose/John Seely.
First Aired: week of Oct. 12, 1959 (rerun, week of Apr. 11, 1960).
Production: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-003, Production No J-10.
Plot: Quick Draw tries to rescue Sagebrush Sal from Sundown Sam.

All the attention on Chuck Jones’ The Dover Boys (1942) has been focused on the style of the backgrounds and the smear animation, but none of that interested me as a young viewer. The fun part was the goofy interrupting guy (a device borrowed from Tex Avery) and the fact the stiff-as-a-board helpless woman (played by the wonderful Sara Berner) beat the crap out of the bad guy. Mike Maltese has kind of borrowed the last aspect from his former writing partner (Tedd Pierce) for this cartoon. Sagebrush Sally has been abducted but is only mildly interested in what’s happened to her. It’s all a game and she goes through the motions. She sits stiffly in a chair, emitted an obligatory and automaton-like “help,” but is more concerned about applying make-up than being rescued. And at the end, she decides to get in on the violence.

Contrast that with the idiotic Quick Draw McGraw, who keeps shooting himself in the face or the foot and has an obsession with being in disguise because, well, that’s going through the motions of being a Western hero. Either that, or Maltese loved putting Quick Draw in secret costumes. The Zorro-like El Kabong was one (half the new cartoons in the last season were centred around El Kabong and not Quick Draw) and the Lash Larue-like Whip made an appearance in another. Here, Maltese goes for a Lone Ranger-type mask but ditches the idea early when he takes a somewhat logical premise and brings it to a silly conclusion.

The cartoon opens with a pan along a western street with some nicely-angled, basic buildings. Don Messick is intoning as gunfire is in progress.

Narrator: As a result of the extreme lawlessness in the Old West, no honest citizen dared brave the blazing guns of these reckless hoodlums, except one, known only as the Master Avenger. He would suddenly appear to mete out justice in his own inimitable way.

At this point, Quick Draw can’t get the stuck gun out of his holster and shoots his foot.

Narrator: Wherever there was trouble, there, too, was this mysterious stranger.

At this point, Quick slides into a saloon and can’t get his gun to fire until he points it at his face.

Only Maltese could come up with something as off-kilter as the next bit. “The Masked Avenger” has taken his mask in to the cleaners. But the cleaners has sent it to the cleaners and it hasn’t come back in yet. Baba’s fed up with the mask business, as you can tell in the tone of his voice, and when he suggests giving up the idea, Quick Draw’s informs him he’ll do the thin’in’ around here.

Quick Draw and Baba leave and pass a couple of cowpokes.

Cowpoke 1: Jumpin’ jackrabbits! Get a load of that insipid, stupid-lookin’ cowpoke over there.
Quick Draw: Huh? Hey! That’s it. Baba boy, I shall assume the role of an insipid, stupid-looking cowboy. No one will ever recogni-size me.
Old guy on scooter: Telegram! (stops scooter) Whoa, Nelly. Are you Quick Draw McGraw who has assumed the role of an insipid, stupid-lookin’ and who was formally the Masked Avenger?
Quick Draw: Yup. The same.

Quick Draw reads the telegram from Sagebrush Sally, “a typical Western heroine who needs to be saved from a typical Western villain” who, among other crimes, has been turning off her water.

We cut to the Sally ranch home where Quick Draw takes a run for the door to break it down. Except it’s unlocked. Quick Draw ends up in an old wood stove. The camera pans to Sally and her lipstick.

The insipid, stupid-lookin’ cowpoke demands to know “where-at’s that villain, Sundown Sam?” Sam’s behind him. As you might guess, he’s a puny guy with a wimpy Don Messick voice who tells him to “get off my stolen property.” His derringer is puny, too. But it works really well on Quick Draw’s face.

The chase is on.

Sally: Help. Help.
Quick Draw: Drop that gal Sal, you sawed-off six-shooter!
Sam: Who’s going to make me, you insipid stupid-lookin’ cowpoke?
Quick Draw: Hmm. Now, that’s a good question.
Baba: Hey, Quickstraw. You’re supposed to make him drop the Señorita Sal.
Quick Draw: I am?
Baba: That’s right.
Quick Draw (shouting in front of him): I’m going to make him drop her, you half-pint vill-ee-an!

Sam pulls out his teeny gun. Quick Draw responds by shooting himself in the foot while trying to remove his stuck gun again. But Sam “can’t wait all day” for that, so before it happens he runs off.

Sam: Marry me, and I’ll give back the ranch I stole from you.

Sam threatens to drop Sally, still in her chair, off the cliff if she doesn’t marry him. “I don’t care,” she responds, still more concerned about her lipstick. Down she goes, but the chair hits a branch and springs back up. Cut to Sam walking away (“I’ll show her. I’ll rustle more of her cattle”), then turning around and catching the chair.

Sam: I missed you while you were gone, Sally-bun.

Quick Draw grabs Sal and the chair and Sam shoots him in the face. “Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size?” asks Quick Draw. That’s Baba’s cue to punch Sam in the nose. Suddenly, Sally gets angry, punches Quick Draw, makes sure “Sundown, baby” is fine, then starts shooting at Quick Draw and Baba. I like the way easily she breaks free of the ropes tying her up, as if they aren’t there and she’s merely playing the role of a kidnapped woman.

Baba: Now what we do, Quickstraw?
Quick Draw (turns eye to audience): That’s easy. Watch for me in my next picture, when the Masked Avenger rides again! And dooooon’t you forget it!

And the pair continues running in medium-close shot until the scene fades out.

This was apparently Julie Bennett’s first role at Hanna-Barbera; certainly it was before Cindy Bear existed. For whatever reason, Joe Barbera didn’t go with Jean Vander Pyl, who played ingénues in other Quick Draw cartoons. Maltese dropped the “ly” in Sally’s name for her other appearance in ‘Standing Room Only’ the following season (so-called databases that claim she appeared in ‘Double Barrel Double’ and ‘Riverboat Shuffled’ are wrong; you can read the cartoon summaries here on this blog for the truth).

The sob-story song ‘Winter Tales’ (also known as ‘Hearts and Flowers’) gets an appropriate workout in this cartoon. Hanna-Barbera also used a sad trombone underscore, especially in the Augie Doggie cartoons, but the sound cutter has cued into the violin portion this time. There’s also an almost indistinguishable ten seconds or so of a David Rose cue assigned by Bill Loose and John Seely to the Hi-Q ‘D’ series. Many of the Theme Craft cues had alternate, non-Hi-Q names; eg. ‘TC-432 Light Movement’ is also ‘Holly Day.’ In this case, the alternate name for TC-74 is the really cool ‘Oppressive Death.’ I think it was the only time used in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, unless it was in Ruff and Reddy, which used a lot of ‘D’ cues.

0:00 - Quick Draw Sub Main Title theme (Curtin-Hanna-Barbera).
0:13 - HOME ON THE RANGE (arr. Lamont) – Gunfight, street scene, saloon scene.
1:12 - GR-99 THE DIDDLECOMB HUNT (Green) – Scene in cleaners, Quick Draw comes up with new disguise.
1:59 - GR-347 GATHERING THE PRODUCE (Green) – Telegram guy shows up.
2:15 - WINTER TALES (arr. Lamont) – Quick Draw reads telegram.
2:44 - related to Excitement Under Dialogue (Shaindlin) – Ranch exterior, Quick Draw in stove, Quick Draw wants to know where Sam is.
3:22 - TC-74 SOMBER (Loose-Seely) – Sam shoots Quick Draw.
3:38 - WINTER TALES (arr. Lamont) – Sam runs off with Sally in chair.
3:49 - LFU-117-3 MAD RUSH No 3 (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw chases after Sam and Sal.
4:11 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Baba tell Quick Draw he’s got to rescue Sally, Quick Draw shoots himself in the foot.
5:11 - sad trombone music (Shaindlin) – Sally dropped off cliff, flies back up, refuses marriage proposal.
5:40 - ZR-94 CHASE (Hormel) – Sam shoots Quick Draw, gets punched, Sally punches Quick Draw.
6:15 - WINTER TALES (arr. Lamont) – Sally comforts Sam, shoots at Quick Draw.
6:27 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Quick Draw and Baba run.
6:59 - Quick Draw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Hanna-Barbera, By Hedda

Want to appear in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon? Then write two glowing pieces about Bill, Joe and their successful studio.

Okay, maybe that isn’t why Hedda Hopper appeared in cartoon-form in the TV special Alice in Wonderland (she recorded her lines in July 1965; the cartoon aired in March 1966, after Hedda’s death). But it looks like she succumbed to the charms (or badgering) of Arnie Carr and the H-B public relations department and devoted space in her column for a ‘gee-ain’t-they-great?’ piece in 1960 and 1963. Arnie hit the jackpot in the latter. Hedda’s weekday column consisted of little items about this-and-that in show biz. On weekends, she devoted her entire thousand-plus words to one topic.

The Hanna-Barbera feature ran on the weekend of July 13-14, 1963 (at least in some subscribing papers. A few published an old one on Paul Burke instead for some reason).

Columns about the studio generally stuck pretty much to the same themes—how Bill and Joe overcame being fired at MGM (the words “Tom and Jerry” and “Oscars” are generally thrown in) and how much people around the world really want their product, either on TV or in stores. Bob Thomas of the Associated Press had written one of those less than a month before Hedda’s column; Arnie’s weekly calls to the Tinseltown typewriter set evidently paid off.

But the columns sometimes went above and beyond that. Hedda’s reveals H-B was looking at runaway production (ie. saving money by making cartoons outside the U.S.) in the early ‘60s. And it includes Joe’s really bad prediction about daughter Jayne.

Looking at Hollywood
Hanna and Barbera: They Live in Enchanted World of Fantasy

BILL HANNA is tall, blue-eyed, calm, and deliberate; Joe Barbera has dark eyes, is volatile and quick of speech and gesture. Together they spell dynamite. Five years ago, they started their own company, Hanna-Barbera productions. Now, each week, 330 million people in 42 countries see The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Top Cat, Ruff and Reddy, Touche Turtle, Lippy the Lion and Wally Gator. In addition to television series Hanna-Barbera produces motion produces motion pictures and newspaper cartoons.
HANNA and Barbera have been asked to open production studios in Italy, Japan, England, Spain, and Denmark. After a thorough look-see at what was offered, the boys settled for home base and a new Hollywood studio.
“WE WENT to Tokyo and visited two studios; we listened to their propositions and inspected their facilities,” Joe said. After looking at their art work, we knew we could do a better job here. They have wonderful craftsmen but they lack definition of character, and in actual animation they lack the subtlety of timing that our artists have developed.
Bill added: “A man came from Copenhagen with films to show us. Italy made us an offer and we sent one of our men there to investigate. Each time the thing zeroed out. Italian work is excellent but it takes them six months to do what we do in a week. So we’ve put all our eggs in the local basket. We employ 250 people, release our TV shows through Screen Gems, our theatrical film through Columbia. We also make industrial films and TV commercials and have a tremendous sale of by-products from our screen characters. Greatest thing in our partnership is the sharing of responsibility; if one of us has to go away, we always know someone vitally concerned is on the spot.”
This partnership dates back to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1937 when the pair got an idea for a cartoon, “Tom and Jerry,” the story of a bungling cat and a mischievous rat. They did 125 adventures and won seven Academy awards. No human star has ever gotten more than two or three. Then M-G-M officials decided they were making as much money from re-issues as they were with new ones. They called the cartoon department, told them to stop making “Tom and Jerry” and fire everybody. Hanna and Barbera were out on an economic wave, but were still under contract; they asked for release and got it.
THERE’S a family feeling about their setup. Both have their daughters working for them as painters and inkers. When I suggested they were raising their own executives, it got a hearty laugh: “I’m afraid there isn’t an executive in the lot,” said Joe. They admit they’ve had differences of opinion, but they say they always manage to come to a final agreement, however.
THEY’RE not sparing in praise of co-workers, will tell you that Ray Gilbert did five of the best songs they’ve ever heard for feature-length cartoon starring Yogi Bear. “One,” said Bill, “is ‘Whet Your Whistle and Whistle Your Way Back Home.’ We’re calling the picture ‘Whistle Your Way Back Home.’ We’d like to get either Dean Martin or Robert Goulet to sing the songs. The interpretation will largely depend on who does it.” Mel Blanc is something of an institution with them. His crying voice of Hardy-Har-Har, the sad hyena in “Lippy the Lion” is being imitated by kids all over "O gee, O gosh, we can’t do that!” Mel also does Barney Rubble in ‘The Flintstones,’ and a half dozen other voices that run through the series.
For a full year after Blanc’s auto accident, the show was done from his bedroom, where he lay in a cast from neck to heels.
When Alan Reed, the voice of Fred Flintstone, had a cataract operation, he worked up to 20 minutes before hospital time and was back on the job in four weeks. The boys made this possible by recording ahead and working around him while he was gone. “He’s in his fourth year of Flintstone,” Bill said. “He tours the country in a leopard skin—he is Flintstone. Before the operation his eyes got so bad we bought a typewriter with huge print and ultimately had to get a sign writer to print letters an inch high so he could read scripts.”
More than a million Flintstone dolls have been sold. One day the phone rang and a voice said, “Wilma Flintstone is going to have a baby; how can we get the date and the picture?” Joe said: “I think we can take care of it. Where do you want it mailed?” The man said, “Copenhagen”; he was calling from there. When they had a contest to guess the weight of Pebbles, it drew 650,000 replies. Hanna-Barbera does an 80 million dollar gross in merchandising and licensing with different manufacturers for Huckleberry Hound pajamas, Yogi Bear bedspreads, drapes for children’s rooms, etc.
The films are dubbed in foreign languages for overseas use. I asked, “What about Russia?” They said, “No, but we understand the Russians are seeing our stuff. They get The Flintstones from broadcasts in Finland. And when we found out Russia was giving their films to Thailand free, we made our films available to the Thais without charge and they’re running out stuff about five hours a day there. They have only one small TV station and can’t afford to pay so we let them have films to offset the Russians.”
Their promotional stunts include an electronic Fred Flintstone that weighs 300 pounds; “We sent it to Scandinavia, and 25,000 people were at the airport for its arrival,” Bill said. “The tape recorder inside is turned on in whatever language we wish. He’s now making his first appearance in Tokyo.”
BILL HANNA was born in Melrose, New Mexico, and studied journalism in college. His first job in Hollywood was as a structural engineer on the Pantages theater. His first knowledge of cartooning came when he was errand boy for Leon Schlessinger [sic]. Joe Barbera is a New Yorker, a guy who doodled incessantly when he was an accountant for a bank. He’d peddle the doodles during his lunch hour and when Collier’s magazine bought one of his cartoons, he quit banking to become a sketch artist.
They’ll do live action films next, have a property, “Father Was a Robot,” which they consider very funny and fine family entertainment. “Dr. Iben Browning, a top scientist from Palo Alto and White Sands, wants to build our robot for us, incorporating a lot of things robots will do in the future,” Joe said. “He says they already have things beyond what we’re writing about—a robot that knows the difference between a sheet and a blanket when making a bed, and a robot that can register pain and will react.”
Hanna and Barbera are proud of their new plant; people who live near it tell them it is the next best thing to having a park. They landscaped it, put in a lot of pine trees and have five fountains in front. “We hope people will money into them like they do in Rome.”

I don’t know about you, but if Alan Reed was appearing in my town in a leopard skin, I’d buy tickets.

We’ve mentioned ‘Father Was a Robot’ before. Barbera was still talking about it in June the following year, but shooting never got under way as planned that October. Then Broadcasting Magazine, in 1965, revealed it was supposed to be on the schedule for 1966-67 and would be developed by Bernard Fain and Al Ruddy, who came up with Hogan’s Heroes. For whatever reason, it never made it to air.

If you’re interested in Hedda’s 1960 column on Hanna-Barbera, you can find it here. And, if you hunt around on the internet, you can probably find her cartoon form, changing hats in front of a baffled Alice in a scene, we suspect, wasn’t from the pen of Lewis Carroll.

Saturday 16 April 2011

Augie Doggie — High and Flighty

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie, Cop, Gas Station Attendant, Co-Pilot, Military Officer – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy, Pilot, Loudspeaker Voice – Doug Young.
Music: Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin, Jack Shaindlin, Geordie Hormel, Phil Green, Victor Lamont, Hecky Krasnow.
Production: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-002, Production No. J-22.
First Aired: week of October 5, 1959 (rerun, week of April 4, 1960).
Plot: Daddy chases after a flying saucer for Mars piloted by Augie.

There were two Augies during the first season of the original run of cartoons. There was the kid-like Augie who wanted a pony, or wanted to be like his dad. Then there was the boy genius Augie who talked to ants or communicated with Martians. This cartoon falls in between. Augie has the ability to go to Mars, not because of any great knowledge, but because he got a flying saucer from a cereal company in exchange for box tops (in a cartoon sponsored entirely by Kellogg’s).

Flying saucers became an instant phenomenon in late June 1947. Within days, everyone seemed to be seeing them. We can only presume radio comedians took advantage of the craze in monologues or sketches, but through the 1950s, Hollywood’s take on saucers involved fear. There don’t seem to have been too many flying saucer comedies, except maybe the Stooges short Flying Saucer Daffy (1958). And, of course, in the world of animated cartoons. Rocket-Bye Baby (1956) at Warners comes to mind, written by one Mike Maltese who also penned this one.

About the first minute of the cartoon is taken up with dialogue, and Daddy thinking Augie is just using kid-like imagination about having a flying saucer (“He’s a regular Julius Vern-ee,” he chuckles in a floral-patterned living room chair seen in a number of cartoons). Daddy doesn’t even catch on when Augie flies over to him in the little saucer and talks to him. After Augie flies away, there’s a realisation take. Daddy follows him to the window. Augie gets to quote Sylvester, Jr. again.

Daddy: Any right-thinkin’ father would say what I’m gonna say, my son, my son.
Augie: Which is what, my dad?
Daddy (shouting): Get outta dat ting!
Augie: Oh, the shame of it. My very own dad interfering with science, progress, and the explora-sha-tion of outer space.

Augie zips away but Daddy runs in mid-air and out of the scene. Next we see him holding onto the back of the little spacecraft, begging Augie to land. Augie doesn’t know Daddy is there. But he knows he has an audience because he turns to us and says “Dad and I are so close, I can hear him talking. Even way up here.”

The saucer smashes through a smokestack and through glass windows of a building before Daddy is stopped by a flagpole while Augie carries on.

No matter. Even though Doggie Daddy doesn’t seem to work for a living, he can afford a 1960 Bickenbach sports convertible and races it along a dirt road to catch up with Augie. And being a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, speeding car = getting pulled over by a cop. This one isn’t Irish, but he’s sceptical like all the others when Daddy lays out his story. Augie shows up in the saucer to wave hello. The cop doesn’t quite go nuts, but he shouts to himself as he speeds away in the other direction.

It turns out Augie doesn’t know how to get to Mars. He flies next to the cockpit of a large jet. Maltese’s sense of the absurd:

Pilot: Hey, look, Joe. A flyin’ saucer.
Co-Pilot: So, what else is new?
Pilot: Yeah, but this one has a dog in it.

The plane scrunches to a stop, turns around and zooms away. Next, Augie decides to get directions at a gas station. The attendant is casually leaning on a pump.

Augie: Could you tell me which way to Mars?
Attendant: Search me, bud.
Augie: Thanks.
Attendant: Don’t mention it.
(Daddy drives up)
Daddy: Did you see a little boy in a flyin’ saucer?
Attendant: Certainly. (points) He went that-a-way.
Daddy: Tanks.
Attendant (to audience): You know, I think I’m about ready for that chicken ranch.

With that, the pump jockey flaps his wings, clucks and flies into the background. It reminds me of the “Thanksgiving turkey” end gag in Roughly Squeaking (1946), co-written by Maltese.

Daddy hopes the Air Corps Defense Headquarters can help him get Augie back but, instead, they’re shooting at the saucer with missiles. While Daddy begs an officer for help, a voice on the P.A. system gives an order to cease firing because “the target has vanished into outer space.” Daddy gets teary over the prospect that Augie is gone forever. The scene cuts to a nice long shot of Daddy slowly walking toward his house, emitting a variation on Jimmy Durante’s famous closing line: “Good night, Augie my boy, wherever you are.” Then, with head bowed, he adds “Maybe there’s a new dog star in Heaven tonight” (a play on the old Jimmy McHugh song after the death of Rudolph Valentino ‘There’s a New Star in Heaven Tonight’).

Maybe it’s my imagination, but there always seems to be footage in a Ken Muse cartoon where he does no animating. There’s a 7½ second held shot of an open back door as the soundtrack carries on. We then hear the word “Augie!” and cut to Daddy chatting with Augie, who had told Daddy at the beginning of the cartoon he’d be home from Mars in time to do his homework. And he brought someone with him.

Daddy: All I can say is how many kids got a real live Martian for a houseguest, I ask ya?

The Martian houseguest idea was revisited later in the season in ‘Mars Little Precious.’

There’s a real disappointment in the music choice at the end. During Daddy’s emotional scenes when he’s begging and then sadly walking home, the sound cutter plays it for yucks. We get the hammy, silent piano version of ‘Hearts and Flowers’ followed by sad trombone music that’s camp sappiness and takes away from the poignancy of the scene. There were certainly better choices in the Hi-Q library, even amongst the Phil Green stuff usually used in Augie cartoons.

The light symphonic string piece used in a flying scene in ‘Skunk You Very Much’ appears in a flying scene here. It sounds like English library music of the late ‘40s-early ‘50s so I suspect it’s from the Sam Fox library. You have to wonder if it has “flying” in the title.

0:00 - Augie Doggie Main Title theme (Curtin)
0:24 - jaunty bassoon and strings (Shaindlin) – Daddy reading paper, Augie says he’s going to Mars.
1:09 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Augie enters in saucer, Daddy goes to window, “Did you call me, dear dad?”
1:30 - THE HAPPY COBBLER (Hecky Krasnow) – “Any right thinkin’ father...,” Daddy runs after Augie.
1:59 - LFU-117-3 MAD RUSH No 3 (Shaindlin) – Daddy on saucer.
3:04 - light symphonic music with strings (unknown) – Daddy with cop.
3:43 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Daddy shouts toward Augie, pilot scene, “I guess they don’t know the way to Mars.”
4:35 - BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Gas station scene.
5:14 - PG-181F MECHANICAL BRIDGE (Green) – Augie flies away, Daddy stops at air force base.
5:31 - ZR-94 CHASE (Hormel) – Daddy asks what they’re firing at.
5:54 - WINTER TALES (arr. Vic Lamont) – Daddy on knees, thinks Augie’s gone.
6:09 - sad trombone music (Shaindlin) – Daddy outside house, goes in inside.
6:32 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Daddy shouts “Augie!”, scene in living room.
7:08 - Augie Doggie End Title theme (Curtin).