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, 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 - related to ‘Excitement Under Dialogue’ (Shaindlin) – 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).


  1. I'm glad to see this.

    This one always reminded me of "Rocket Bye Baby" when I started seeing the latter short [written of course by the same genius writer:)]
    around 1974, years after I'd for millions of times seen ALL of the "Augies", and that gas station attendant scene is, as you said, straight out of "Roughly Squeaking".

    As for the hammy sad music at the end, no question about it--Victor Lamont's arrangement of "Hearts and Flowers" is as hammy as it gets (maybe if that other standard sad tune about flowers, used with "Hearts and Flowers" so often in pre-Hanna-Barbera theatricals, "The Flower Song", if such an arrangement exists, it woulnd't have been any better.)

    But as I've always said, regarding the last two:
    (the sad trombone music)
    I don't know----as I've always cited, I've always had a soft spot for that one (the first cartoon here using it was one of those with the part violin arrangement, "Lamb Chopped"), but the final, happy, piece, the reprise of Jack Shaindlin's cue "Fireman" definitely WAS an excellent choice.

    It's funny that the pilots at around :43-4:00
    , know Augie is a dog and make a beeline with their plane for who knows where, almost violating a cartoon logic rule[:)],but--- the Air Force officials at 5:14 just go about the business and act more like cartoon humans in a bipedal talking animal world would [this is typical of a lot of these Augies..]

    Incidentally, one more thing--in the scene at 5:14 when those pilots realize it's a dog in a flying sacuer, they say the thing would characterize that LATER era of Hanna-Barbera--the pilots in unison do one of the earliest uses of the Hanna-Barbera "Let's Get Outta Here' [later a standard 12 years later in all those "Meddling Kids" series] . I can't recall it any earlier except Huckleberry or Jinks sayin' I'm a gettin' outta here.

    Glad to finally see this one reviewed...

  2. The 1960 Bickenbachs did have some of the best German cartoon engineering around. ;)

    "Hasty Hare" was Maltese's first foray into flying saucers landing on Earth, though "Rocket-By Baby" is obviously the template for this short. The scene with Daddy at the Army base is supposed to mirror Mr. Wilbur (Daws as the daddy here) as he falls out the window of the skyscraper trying to keep Mot from returning to Mars on his own. But since that was a one-shot theatrical cartoon playing to adult audiences and this was designed for the late-afternoon/early-evening kiddie hours, that might be a reason why they decided to give the game away with "Hearts and Flowers", because even if it was only temporary, they didn't want the kids at home to seriously get into the idea that Auggie was gone forever.

  3. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    Seeing Augie aboard of a flying saucer, makes looking like a foresight for The Jetsons, which Hanna-Barbera would produce three years after.

  4. Rod, I meant to mention that. I'm under the impression Bick designed the flying cars for that show.

    J.L., I simply thought the cutter did what I used to do when I needed production music in a hurry .. went with the beds at the top of my head. After all, late afternoon/early evening had been populated with old Fleischer Popeyes which aren't exactly filled with tea, crumpets and polite chatter.

  5. You know, I'm wondering for the last few days if the happy string music that we've been trying to identify [also in "Skunk you Very Much"] isn't some Valentino Film Music Library cue by George S.Chase from the.


  6. I can't discount it, Steve. But it also sounds like De Francesco's stuff, too.