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).


  1. I do like Lew Marshall's "swirly speed lines" that follow a character who is zipping offstage.

    It's interesting that Marshall never animated on The Flintstones, Top Cat or The Jetsons. After his animating stints on Yogi, Huck and Quick Draw, he moved into storyboarding. I wonder if that was his choice, or if Charles Nichols suggested that he make that transition?

  2. Nimbus looks to be the type of gimmicked villain that Maltese would have created for “The Impossibles” in 1966… only to considerably less humorous effect. No doubt Hal Smith or John Stephenson would have voiced him in such a later effort.

  3. The claw machine gag was an old Jack Benny bit [example, WB's "Slick Hare", 1947], and also appears in the first Sniffles cartoon, "Naughty but Mice".

    Believe it or not, I've seen a lot of those in many a theatre, amusement park and resturant,too!

    Excellent cartoon...Blabber in the sequence almost acts like he's Snooper's boss by going "Say that again, Snoop"..

  4. Lew Marshall seems to have stopped animating early in the 1961-62 production season and became a director soon thereafter, so he never would have animated on THE JETSONS as it is.

    As for THE IMPOSSIBLES, Smith, Don Messick and Paul Frees did virtually all the voices. So they would be the villians, too. One notable exception is an unbilled Paul Winchell, who would use his future 'Dick Dastardly' voice. Winchell wouldn't become an H-B regular till two years later, in 1968.

  5. Maltese originally worked in the animation business for Max Fleischer, and since Max's older brother Charles invented the arcade claw game, there's a certain sort of animation world appropriateness in Mike using it as the focal point for a cartoon.

    Nimbus' facial design is one of the first that would "fit" naturally with the the later (post 1962) character designs that would become standard at Hanna-Barbera in the mid-to-late 1960s, as most of the designs in the Huck/Quick Draw/Yogi shows owed at least a little to the designs MGM had moved towards in their CinemaScope cartoons (kind of an Ed Benedict-to-Iwo Takamoto evolution, though you've got to go all the way to the creation of Scooby Doo in 1969 to see the designs totally stiffen up to the point that nobody could squeeze anything in the way of humor out of them).

  6. Nimbus seems as a foresight to Dick Dastardly.

  7. Currently watching Warner Archive’s “Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles” – and, on show # 9, Maltese’s “Satanic Surfer” (Imagine using such a name in a cartoon today!) is indeed a dead-ringer for Nimbus!

    …And, he’s got the laugh of Chief Crazy Coyote! Check it out!

  8. Mark Christiansen,

    I have two comments for you.
    Fisrt: Lew Marshall was also involved on the Loopy de Loop shorts, during this pre-1962 period.
    Second: neither Paul Sommer nor Tony Rivera (this last one, who had a primitivist design) were involved with The Flintstones, Top Cat and The Jetsons. Both were more involved with the shorts from the Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Yogi Bear trilogies until 1962. Afterwards, Paul Sommer became story director (so as his workmate Lew Marshall); and Tony Rivera followed to DePatie-Freleng.