Saturday 28 May 2011

Augie Doggie — Whatever Goes Pup

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – George Nicholas; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie, Mailman, First Bluebird – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy, Second Bluebird, Duck – Doug Young.
Music: Phil Green; Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin; Jack Shaindlin.
Production: Quick Draw McGraw M-013.
First Aired: week of December 21, 1959 (rerun, week of June 20, 1960).
Plot: Doggie Daddy floats after drinking Augie’s formula and can’t get down again.

Anyone hoping to see a lot of Ed Benedict’s great stylisation in this cartoon will be disappointed. His background layouts have been given a fairly tame interpretation by Dick Thomas, who had a fairly traditional approach to his construction. One of the only real hints Benedict was here is in the design of a mailman, who has a large, triangular nose and a head that juts out to the back. Still, he’s a little less distinctive than something like Benedict’s scooter salesman in Scooter Looter the previous season.

And there, unfortunately, isn’t a lot of George Nicholas’ distinctive animation style here, either. He’s not flopping around a tongue in a big mouth like he did with Yogi Bear and Fred Flintstone. But he does come up with his usual beady-eye, stunned look for Doggie Daddy a few times.

Augie Doggie had two different personalities. At times, he acted like a real kid, with TV heroes and wanting to adopt a pet. Other times, he was a scientific genius, making formulas (this cartoon and Pipsqueak Pop), inventing things (Ro-Butler) or talking to space aliens (Mars Little Precious). I prefer the former but the latter probably left more room for Mike Maltese to come up with gags that couldn’t be duplicated on a live-action sitcom.

This cartoon starts like a bunch of them. Daddy’s in his living room chair (which had a different design almost every cartoon) reading the paper when he smells something. The camera pans over a motley group of coil-connected beakers and tubes and stops on a wide-smiling Augie with part of one eye over top of the other. It reminds me of Dick Lundy’s drawings in Million Dollar Robbery (though it could be Benedict’s influence again; he laid out that cartoon, too).

Scientist Augie declares “I got somethin’, Dad. Or maybe I haven’t,” and induces Daddy to drink the green concoction. Daddy carries on reading the paper, not realising he’s floated to the ceiling until he looks up, then down. Then comes the reaction, in nine drawings. Daddy hides behind the newspaper in the middle of it before he ends it with part of his head sticking into what must be a rubber ceiling. Nicholas varies the drawings of the take. Some are on ones, so what you see below isn’t the exact timing.

gif animation maker

The rest of the cartoon is split into two parts—Daddy’s attempts to get back to the ground, despite being full of Lighter-Than-Air formula, and then Daddy giving up and just enjoying flying around. Nicholas uses the old Carlo Vinci trick of stretching and thinning out Daddy’s body when he zips out of the screen in his attempts to get back on “terra cotta,” as he puts it the first time.

Hanna-Barbera cartoons could be a little sloppy in matching medium and close-up shots in consecutive frames. Here’s one of the more blatant examples you’ll find after Augie finishes nailing Daddy inside a piano.

This scene also features a great example of how the studio saved money. The piano is never animated. It’s simply on a cell that slides up. Daddy getting out of the piano and then the instrument crashing to the floor is never shown on camera, not even a drawing of the piano wreckage. It’s conveyed by shots of Augie wincing in reaction to sound effects off camera; it’s sure easier to animate than a piano breaking apart. There’s a really cute read on the dialogue here. Augie and Daddy are completely matter-of-fact when they say “bye” to each other ask the piano floats toward the ceiling. They make it sound like an everyday event.

Augie uses a vacuum cleaner and sucks dad down (they both laugh at Augie’s bad pun “It’s in the bag.”) Cartoon physics are in play because the vacuum, with Daddy in it, aims itself for the chimney for some reason and levitates into the air. Daddy casually floats out of the top of the vacuum bag and zips down toward the nearest rooftop TV antenna (“restin’ between channel 14 and 15”). Just before this, Augie races a wall socket to unplug the vacuum. He runs past the same shadow on the wall eight times. How long is the Daddy home that an electrical outlet isn’t closer?

Daddy’s been kind of kidding around at this point but he seems to go absolutely looney. “Whoops! I see a space station for wounded space ships,” says Daddy during his next ascent. He means a mailbox. He somehow fits into it (“Now I can drop anchor,” he remarks), but the mailman comes, opens the door to the box, and a disgusted Daddy floats up. The mailman looks at us and says “I’ve heard of air mail, but this is ridiculous.”

Daddy decides to do enjoy floating around while Augie thinks of something (a shame he’s not doing an dog paddle instead of an Australian crawl). A couple of bluebirds with big, ovular eyes that Benedict likes decide to hitch a ride. The jokey Daddy tells them to get off (“I haven’t got my pilot’s license yet”) and puns “I guess you could say dat I’m for the birds.” The dialogue’s not exactly Maltese’s strongest material.

Daddy and a white duck collide in mid-air. Nicholas used a nose-crinkle effect when he could. He did it with Augie reacting to the off-camera piano destruction and he does it during the collision. Daddy apologises to the duck, but the mallard wants no part of the plot of this cartoon. “When dogs start flyin’, I start walking,” says the disgusted duck, who stomps away in anger.

Maltese doesn’t really have an outstanding topper ‘stuck-in-the-air’ gag. The cartoon’s time is just about up so he just ends it. Daddy grabs onto a flag pole atop a building (“never thought I’d be flyin’ at half mast”) and Augie races in, make it up to the top of the building and back down in no time flat and emerges with Daddy floating at the other end of a rope. The perspective is interesting. The lamppost evidently is close to the foreground, so you can get an idea how high Daddy is flying. That means the buildings in the background must really be far in the distance.

So we’re back to Augie in his darkened room mixing a formula to try to get Daddy down. But the old dog isn’t worried in the slightest. The final shot has the floating father in silhouette, wearing a kite tail, the full moon behind him (the previous shot shows the rope going skyward from a nail in a window sill). Now it’s time for Maltese to end things with one of Daddy’s “after all” observations: “How many fathers can fly like a kite?”

Music is from the C and B, EMI Photoplay and Langlois Filmusic libraries, the first two re-released in Capitol Hi-Q.

0:00 - Augie Doggie Main Title theme (Curtin, Barbera, Hanna).
0:23 - CB-89A ROMANTIC JAUNT (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Daddy reads paper, floats to ceiling.
1:51 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Daddy notices he’s on the ceiling, jumps toward floor.
2:20 - jaunty bassoon and skipping strings (Shaindlin) – “Augie, who put out the lights?”, piano scene, Daddy sucked into vacuum.
3:36 - fast show biz music (Shaindlin) – “I’ll turn the machine off”, Daddy on TV antenna.
4:23 - GR-155 PARKS AND GARDENS (Green) – Augie with flat irons, mailbox scene, birds hitch ride, duck scene.
6:22 - GR-58 GOING SHOPPING (Green) – Daddy spots flag pole, Augie takes him home, Augie in lab.
6:55 - rising scale show biz music (Shaindlin) – Augie at window, Daddy in front of moon.
7:07 - Augie Doggie End Title music (Curtin, Barbera, Hanna).

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Daws Butler, Man of Voices

“Man of/with a thousand voices” is a cliché that’s been applied to all kinds of folks over the years. Mel Blanc comes to mind first, but it’s also been a tag that publicists and newspaper writers have pasted on Allen Swift, Billy Bletcher, Rufe Davis and Harry Foster Welch (who is barely known today as the war-time voice of Popeye).

Oh, and Daws Butler, too.

Even people who don’t like early Hanna-Barbera cartoons (as shocking as that sounds) have favourable words for Charles Dawson Butler. As well they should. Daws never gave a bad performance despite, on occasion, not being given the best material to deal with (especially as time wore on into the ‘70s). And who doesn’t love the word-twists Daws tossed into his delivery? Credit Daws for adding to the vernacular the universally-known adjective/noun “pic-a-nic.”

It’s always a treat to find Daws getting a bit of recognition in the popular press way-back-when, though some writers had a hard time figuring out he didn’t have an “e” in his first name. Stories about cartoon voice actors, prior to The Flintstones, almost begin and end with Mel Blanc (having your name show up in cartoon credits on TV daily has its advantages). But with the success of The Huckleberry Hound Show, Daws got an occasional mention, too. Here’s an unbylined piece from the San Antonio Light, dated February 8, 1959.

the man with a thousand voices
THE next voice you hear might very well be that of Daws Butler, the man with a thousand voices.
Since 1935, Butler has been imitating voices. As a vocal impersonator he has fooled the sharpest ears in the country. Since the advent of television, he has been the voices of over 200 commercial cartoon characters.
Today he runs riot on two popular cartoon shows, “Ruff and Reddy” and “Huckleberry Hound.”
On the NBC network program, “Ruff and Reddy,” Butler is not only the cartoon character voice of “Reddy” hut also that of Harry Safari, Killer Diller and Pinkie the Elephant..
On “Huckleberry Hound,” Daws is the voice of Huck, Yogi Bear, Mr. Jinks and Dixie.
Who is this man? How did he develop this genius for voices?
Daws says it all began when as a youngster he discovered that he was uncomfortably shy and retiring:
“I decided to combat this shyness by a self-inflicted therapy. While in high school at Oak Park, a Chicago suburb, I forced myself to appear before groups at amateur contests. My repertoire at the time consisted of a Ford starting on a cold day—President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Rudy Vallee. The therapy worked and I found it easier to b« extroverted.”
While running from one amateur contest to another, he teamed up with two other youngsters doing the same kind of an act. They decided to become professionals and obtained their first engagement at the Black Hawk restaurant in Chicago.
“I was now in show business. My real ambition, however, was to be a cartoonist and commercial artist. Hut the, bookings continued and before I knew it, I found myself a professional entertainer,” Daws continues.
ALTHOUGH he forced himself to become an extrovert, he admits that he is happiest when doing a voice which gives him complete anonymity.
“I guess I compromised with my natural shyness by becoming adept in a field of show business which would offer me complete anonymity and still give the satisfaction of solid accomplishment.”
During the heyday of radio, Daws began studying voices. At one time he played an entire drama by himself, being all the voices in the story.
During World War II, he spent four years in Naval Intelligence. When he was honorably discharged from the service, Daws headed for California where he picked up his career.
In 1948, Daws joined Stan Freberg and the two starred in the west coast’s first TV puppet show for children, “Time for Beany.” The show ran for five years and won for Butler and Freberg several coveted “Emmys.”
“We manipulated the puppets, did all the voices, and ad libbed like crazy, driving the camera director to distraction, trying to find the ‘new lines’ that never appeared on his script.”
HE next collaborated with Freberg on a phonograph record which sold over 1,000,000 copies. It was “St. George and the Dragnet.”
It was after the success of this popular recording that Daws moved into the field of animation writing and voicing many of the cartoon commercial messages.
He enjoys doing the cartoon characters for “Ruff and Reddy” and “Huckleberry Hound” best of all.
“Although I never realized my ambition to become a cartoonist, 90 per cent of my work is with them, so my original ambition was half-realized at that.”

The story isn’t quite correct with respect to Daws’ animation career. He may have been first hired at the Columbia studio for the cartoon Short Snorts on Sports (1948). He was given work by the great Tex Avery, who had been using people like Frank Graham, Harry Lang and Wally Maher to provide voices. Avery needed someone to do a Ronald Colman voice for Out-Foxed (released 1949, the voice track could have been cut up to two years earlier) and, somehow, Daws’ abilities as a mimic came to his attention. Daws supplied the same voice in the marvellous Little Rural Riding Hood and, soon, Lang and Maher disappeared and Daws got a fair chunk of work in MGM cartoons until the studio closed in 1957. People reading here likely know Daws’ Huckleberry Hound voice is modified from the one he gave the laconic wolf in Avery’s Billy Boy (released 1954). His first cartoon screen credit came at the Walter Lantz studio (originally working again with Avery) before he was given top spot on Hanna-Barbera voice roster.

It’s really tough picking a favourite Daws Butler voice from the ‘50s. They’re all fun. Best of all, you can hear that Yogi, Huck, Quick Draw are all distinctive characters, not just some guy changing his pitch and intonation. Daws didn’t have just one little kid voice—he had several. Augie Doggie and Elroy Jetson don’t sound the same. Daws may not have had a thousand voices, but considering how many smiles and laughs he gave us with the ones he had, who’s counting?

Saturday 21 May 2011

Yogi Bear — The Runaway Bear

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse; Dialogue – Charlie Shows; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice cast: Narrator, Tall Circus Worker, Clown, Dog – Don Messick; Yogi, Col. Packingham P. Putney, Short Circus Worker – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely; Jack Shaindlin; Geordie Hormel.
First aired: week of January 5, 1959 (rerun, week of July 6, 1959)
Plot: Yogi tries to avoid being turned into a trophy by a wealthy hunter.

You can’t get farther away from the typical Yogi Bear cartoon than this one. There’s no Ranger Smith, no Boo Boo, no pic-a-nic baskets and no Jellystone Park. Instead, Yogi is the World’s Greatest Skating Bear. Yogi wasn’t chained to the same format until he got his own show in 1961, though parts of it appeared in many cartoons before that. In fact, elements in this short were not new in the Hanna-Barbera world and would continue to surface through the 1960s. The “escape from the circus” idea was used in the Yogi cartoon Hide and Go Peek later that season; it was ripped off from the starting point in the Pinky story arc on The Ruff and Reddy Show the previous year, which was ripped off from the Tom and Jerry short Jerry and Jumbo (1951). The lineage can also be traced to the T & J cartoon Down Beat Bear (1956) where a bear with Ed Norton’s vest and porkpie hat escapes from a carnival.

A lot of people growing up today must reel in shock at the idea of a wild animal being killed just for the fun of it, then having its head stuffed and mounted on a wall. “Animal rights” and “endangered species” were not commonly heard terms amongst the general population before the mid-1950s. And so it was cartoons written by men from an earlier generation featured animal characters pretending to be, or avoiding becoming, trophies. This is one; another example at Hanna-Barbera was Major Operation (1961) with Snagglepuss and Major Minor. It, like this cartoon, featured an English hunter, something already familiar to Yogi viewers from the two Yowp cartoons in the 1958-59 season. Don Messick uses the same stuffy English voice as Yowp’s owner in this cartoon and the character looks similar to him; he has the same moustache and size but is missing the monocle. A few years later, the idea of a rich Englishman hunting an escapee was the premise of the Wally Gator cartoon Droopy Dragon (1962). So Hanna and Barbera managed to wring a fair bit of mileage out of this idea fuel tank.

Hanna and Barbera also managed to save money by having no animation in the first 38 seconds of the cartoons. All we see is pans over background drawings that act as sight gags over Don Messick’s narration. Is it my imagination, or did Ken Muse cartoons feature a lot of non-animation? The gags are the same kind that Warren Foster used in Showbiz Bear the following seasons, showing wealth through exaggeration. They’re pretty cute, actually. “Double-decker tennis courts. A pool for each foot. Dozens of big, shiny cars. With a little car in each big car.”

After a pan of Colonel Putt-Putt’s trophy room we get ‘50s minimalism at its best. The floor of his mansion is indicated by squares on a green background. And, just to compare character designs, here is a drawing of the Englishman from the Wally Gator cartoon four years later.

After we learn from this scene the Colonel wants a bear head to complete his collection, we switch to more non-animation. For 10 seconds, we get stationary shots of circus tents then a pole with a poster before Yogi peeks his head out. The bear is on the lam. It was decided to draw the circus workers and their not-Yowp tracking dog in silhouette. A couple of nicely-drawn clowns spot Yogi as well. (Fans know Yowp has a forehead, a tail that points in a different direction and only says “Yowp!”)

Yogi escapes by skating away while the background dissolves from the circus grounds to a countryside. It’s the only time I think they tried that kind of effect in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Yogi decides to hide out in the mansion. He meets up with the Colonel, who is pondering how to get a bear head. Let’s go through the scenes.

● The Colonel sneaks off to get his rifle when he realises he’s not imagining a bear is in his home, then blasts the chatty, joking. “Hey, watch it, will ya?” says Yogi. “You almost blew my head off.” Which was the idea. Except the Colonel realises that would have ruined the head. So he tries another tactic.

● Putt-Putt sits Yogi one end of a table, then goes to the other end and pulls out a bow and arrow. But the bear ducks under the table because he dropped his napkin so the arrow lands instead in the back of the chair where Yogi was sitting, picking up some fruit on the table along the way. Yogi pops his head back up. “How about that. My favourite goodie. Shishkabob!” Yogi begins heating the fruit with a lit candle that somehow suddenly is on the table.

● The Colonel tricks Yogi into laying down for a nap. A guillotine is rigged above the bear’s neck. “Chin up,” says the Colonel, which is Yogi’s exact position. Then Charlie Shows comes up with a line that’s either a subtle pop culture reference or purely coincidental. Putt-Putt remarks “It’s later than you think.” The phrase was the tag line of the radio horror show Lights Out, sponsored at one time by the maker of Schick Blades. Anyway, this blade misses Yogi because he sits up, somehow the wooden stocks his head was in comes off the guillotine.

● The old covered-cannon-disguised-as-a-camera trick. However, the Colonel tilts the cannon up, the ball goes on the air and lands on him. “Shee. Too bad. The little guy saved my life. Oh, well. C’est la guerre. That’s the way the cannon ball bounces” is Yogi’s uproariously funny response from writer Charlie Shows. Paging Warren Foster! You’re wanted in dialogue!

● The old midway shooting gallery gag. The Colonel shoots Yogi over and over. Instead of pain or blood or death, a ‘ping’ sound is heard and Yogi mechanically changes direction every time he’s hit. To top the gag, Yogi skates off stage, comes back with a rifle and does the same thing to the Colonel.

Putt-Putt raises a white flag of truce and the two work out a deal. Yogi now resides in the mansion with his head sticking through a hole in a wall, and displayed on a plaque (when he’s not eating lunch). “Well, anyhoo, this beats working in the circus,” the bear tells us and laughs before resuming his dead-eye trophy-like gaze as the iris closes.

The music cues here are from the DVD version of the cartoon. There has been a version on the internet recorded from Canadian television which has a different music track. Jack Shaindlin’s ‘Toboggan Run’ has been deleted, other cues have been moved up and ‘L-78 Comedy Underscore’ by Spencer Moore has been added until the regular music track is rejoined for the final cue. Perhaps there’s a rights issue with Shaindlin’s music in Canada.

0:00 - Yogi Sub Main Title theme (Curtin-Hanna-Barbera)
0:14 - ZR 49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) - Shots of Putt-Putt’s mansion, Yogi decides to scram.
1:51 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Yogi skates toward clowns, skates away, stops at mansion.
2:28 - no music - Yogi at mansion gate.
2:34 - TC 201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Yogi at window, blasted by Putt-Putt, Yogi at table.
3:52 - TC 202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Putt-Putt pulls out bow and arrow, bed scene, cannon ball drops.
5:17 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Yogi looks in hole, “shooting gallery” scene.
6:26 - TC 436 SHINING DAY (Loose-Seely) - Putt-Putt in chair, Yogi in plaque.
6:58 - Yogi Sub Title End Theme (Curtin).

Thursday 19 May 2011

Yogi and Huck at the Emmys

Appearances by cartoon characters on award shows are usually a welcome sight. It’s something to break the monotony of maudlin back-slapping, thank-yous that turn into a phone book reading, comedy bits that try too hard and categories viewers don’t care about.

Someone had to be the first cartoon character to appear on a televised award ceremony, and that somebody was Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. It happened 50 years ago this week, on May 16, 1961 (in a 10 p.m. tape-delayed broadcast on the West Coast to satisfy sponsors). Yes, the Emmys took place in May way-back-when. 25 awards in 90 minutes, too. Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, take note.

There’s a good reason Huck and Yogi were picked, and not just because Huck was an Emmy-winner the previous Year, and Yogi getting a huge push from ubiquitous TV sponsor Kellogg’s. The Hanna-Barbera shows were known for their gentle satire, especially of television’s western, detective and household sitcoms. And television decided to satirise itself on the 13th annual Emmy Awards. A story in the Williamson Daily News of May 13 reveals some routines that sound not so bad on paper.

Lorne Greene and Dan Blocker, who play a scene from their “Bonanza” series as it would be performed in the United States, England and Japan.
Richard Boone, who will deliver a soliloquy on television, and Robert Stack [of The Untouchables], with a surprise interview; Lola Albright, Amanda Blake and Dorothy Provine, singing a parody on single girls who are always left behind.
Art Linkletter will discuss with children their view of television, and Mitch Miller will do a musical commentary on television.
Martin Miller and George Maharis, stars of “Route 66,” will appear in a filmed sketch dramatizing the growth of TV across the nation and will show how the famous cross-country highway brought them to Hollywood and the “Emmy” show.
For the first time in “Emmy” history, an animated cartoon will be integrated into the program. Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound, internationally famous TV cartoon stars, will be featured in a specially created animated film.
Yogi will present for the first time his own invention—an electronic prognosticator. Huck will assist Yogi in pushing the many buttons on the device which if operated correctly, will produce the “ideal” television show and star.

Unfortunately, you could just smell the disaster brewing, and not because of the inevitable stereotype of Hoss in yellowface saying “Honoloable Uncle Ben, prease.” As the ad reveals, the show was hosted by Joey Bishop in New York and Dick Powell in Hollywood. The dual locations were a compromise due a war of egos between the Academy’s chapters on the east and west coasts. The dispute made it onto the air, with the Unfunniest Rat Packer snipping on the air that he was, or wasn’t, getting the same share of camera time as Powell, who was a big-time independent TV producer by 1961.

Reviewers panned the broadcast (“Comments were witless,” summed up Fred Danzig of UPI), and the selections, proving not an awful lot has changed in television. However, Yogi got kudos from the Miami News:

Emmies for honesty should have gone to...Yogi Bear. Yogi asked his infallible Niel-Trende-Tron audience rating machine for a picture of everybody’s favorite TV star, and it spewed out a picture of Yogi, of course. “This is an advantage when you build your own Niel-Trende-Tron,” commented Yogi.

Here’s a question I hope someone reading can answer: does the footage of this cartoon exist anywhere? Drawings, maybe? Has anyone seen it? I can picture it being like one of those little cartoons-between-the-cartoons on the Huck show, which were just as enjoyable as the regular cartoons. In fact, the animation is a lot fuller and rubberier than in many of the first cartoons.

Monday 16 May 2011

Seth MacFarlane Presents The Flintstones

Flintstones fans survived Gazoo. They survived the Schmoo. They survived a live-action moo(vee). But can they survive Seth MacFarlane’s coming version of The Flintstones?

The original animators are gone. The original story men (save Tony Benedict) are gone. The original voices (save John Stephenson) are gone. Those are huge strikes against the proposed series to begin with. We can only hope:

● The people hired to work on the show are fans of the original and try to hew as closely to it as possible (okay, they can ditch Gazoo, the Gruesomes and either the baby or married version of Pebbles).
● MacFarlane doesn’t turn Fred into the Modern Stone Age “Family Guy”.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Snooper and Blabber — Cloudy Rowdy

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Kid – Daws Butler; Man at Bus Stop, Aroused Citizen, Nimble Nimbus, Mayor – Hal Smith; City Hall Receptionist – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin, Lou De Francesco?
Production: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-014
First Aired: week of December 28, 1959 (rerun, week of June 27, 1960).
Plot: Snooper investigates a mysterious, thieving cloud.

Here’s another cartoon that’s mostly carried by Mike Maltese’s repetition-dialogue gags, though I like the incongruity of the bad guy wearing a space helmet (perhaps it’s because he’s in the clouds). Bick’s layouts, I’m afraid, aren’t terribly inspiring. Almost everything is played out like it’s on a stage; at least Walt Clinton gave you some angular patterns to look at. And Snooper and Blabber are inflicted with that ailment known as Nodding Head Syndrome, causing by hanging around Lew Marshall too much.
Lew had a long career ahead of him as a story director at Hanna-Barbera, and had worked in Joe and Bill’s unit at MGM, but his animation isn’t all that inspiring in this cartoon. This is supposed to be a drawing of “open mouth astonishment.” It’s pleasant enough, but instead of a couple of drawings of a real-wide take, like George Nicholas might have done, we just get a simple head shake to signal the astonishment.

So that leaves us with Maltese, who uses a newspaper story to reveal the plot of the cartoon, and toss in some gags besides. The opening scene cuts back and forth between Snoop and dramatisations of the newspaper’s stories of a mechanical claw descending on a steel rope grabbing stuff from people then ascending.

Snoop (reading): Mystery cloud reigns terror over city.
Blab: It hasn’t rained, Snoop.

Man (after claw takes money): I’ve heard of money flyin’ but this is ridiculous.

And we get our first repetition dialogue gag:

Snoop (reading): City Hall is swamped with aroused citizens.
(cut to City Hall receptionist answering calls. Mousey man walks into scene).
Man: Er, eh, pardon me.
Receptionist: Yes?
Man: I, I would like to see the mayor.
Receptionist: What for?
Man: I’m an aroused citizen.
Receptionist: I’m sorry. You’ll have to wait with the other aroused citizens.
Man: Thank you. (man walks out of scene).

Snoop gets a call from Spiffany’s to guard the Spectacular Sapphire from the cloud. So the detectives drive past Maxime’s twelve times while Snooper reveals the crook behind the dastardly cloudy business (“elementary school, dear Blab”) is Nimble Nimbus. He concludes with “Sherlocks Holmes, the Bard of Av-vonn, have nothin’ on me.” The next scene has the pair in Spiffany’s. The claw descends into the jewel case when Snooper’s away and acts like a claw machine at the circus trying to pick up the diamond. In a clever little routine, Blab gives the claw advice and cheers it when it successful grabs the sapphire.

Snoop: You blunder-bustin’ Blab. That was Nimble Nimbus.
Blab: Say that again.
Snoop: That was Nimble Nimbus.
Blab: Say that again.
Snoop: That was...oh, come on!

We’re half-way through the cartoon, and we now see Snooper and Blabber in a helicopter searching for Nimbus. Blab checks out each passing cloud. “Nothin’ suspicious about that one. That one’s above suspicion. Likewise for that one.” Except “the last cloud had a man with a moustache in it” as Blab tells Snoop upon questioning.

Snoop: Moustache? You butterhead Blab. That was Nimble Nimbus!
Blab: Say that again.

So they turn around and “Folly that cloud!”

Snoop: Increase speed to 2,000 RPMs.
Blab: Gosh! What’s that?
Snoop: Search me. But it sounds good.

The good guys catch up to Nimbus’ nimbus. Here’s another repetitive gag that no doubt has its origins in vaudeville.

Snoop (to cloud): Alright you, pull over.
Blab: Yeah, where’s the fire?
(Nimbus pops his head up from the cloud, along with a mini-cannon)
Nimbus: Here’s the fire.
(Nimbus shoots mini-cannon at the helicopter).
Snoop: Ask a foolish question, get a foolish answer.
Blab: All I said, Snoop, was “Where’s the fire?”
Nimbus: And I said “Here.”
(Nimbus shoots mini-cannon at the helicopter again).

The pace helps the gag because the audience doesn’t have time to think how corny the routine is.

Snoop orders Blab to dive into the cloud and fight Nimbus. Naturally, we don’t see any of the fight. There are sound effects on the track and little puffs of cloud appear like smoke. The claw finally deposits Blab in a garbage can back on Earth. “It’s a pleasure to meet a neat crook now-a-days,” says the smiling Blab, looking up. Maltese does a variation on his line from Quick Draw where bad guys declare they’re “off for San Francisco and some jolly fun.” Nimbus announces he’s “off for Hong Kong and a merry fling.” Afraid not. Snoop does what he could have done all along, but that would have left us with about two minutes of cartoon to fill—he sucks the cloud into a vacuum cleaner and Blab catches the falling Nimbus in the garbage can. Case closed.

In the final scene, Snooper is about to accept the reward from the mayor when Blab appears in the mystery cloud. It turns out the cloud was made with ‘Cloud 9 Spray.’ Snoop makes his own cloud and he and Blab zoom off into the background for “a well-earned vocation” as the mayor waves “Aloha hooey to you-ey.”

Snooper gives us a “What in carnation...” much like his voice-sake, Archie the bartender on Duffy’s Tavern, used to do.

The background music cues weren’t apparently long enough for the sound cutter. Shaindlin’s ‘Mad Rush No. 3’ is edited together several times as is the final cue. There’s also some music, likely from the Sam Fox library, in the middle of the cartoon, but I don’t know if they’re two cues or one due to the dialogue and effects on the sound track. The first is also heard at the opening ‘Slick City Slicker’—a stringed, medium-up tempo piece that reminds me of industrial films telling of the busy, modern world of 1955. The other is heard in ‘Skunk You Very Much’; a light orchestral piece similar in arrangement of Hi-Q’s ‘SF-225 Light Activity’ which, unfortunately, has no arranger listed.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title Theme (Curtin).
0:25 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Snoop and Blab in office.
0:51 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Claw reaches down from cloud, steals wallet, apple, candy.
1:19 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – Snoop reads paper, city hall scene, Snoop on phone.
2:15 - ASININE (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab drive to Spiffany’s, claw game,
3:33 - ‘50s modern living music (?) – Snoop and Blab go past Nimbus, copter turns around.
4:09 - light symphonic music with strings (?) – Snoop and Blab chase Nimbus, shot with gun twice.
4:54 - LFU-117-3 MAD RUSH No 3 (Shaindlin) – Nimbus with sapphire, fight, Blab dropped in garbage, Snoop vacuums cloud, “The case is closed.”
6:22 - rising scale music (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab with mayor, clouds disappear.
7:09 - Snooper and Blabber End Title Theme (Curtin).