Saturday, 4 June 2011

Quick Draw McGraw — Elephant Boy Oh Boy!

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layouts – Paul Sommer; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Ol’ Vacuum – Hal Smith; Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Barker – Daws Butler.
Music: Phil Green; Jack Shaindlin, Vic Lamont, Lou De Francesco?.
Production: Quick Draw Show M-022, Production No J-66.
First aired: week of February 22, 1960 (rerun, week of August 22, 1960).
Plot: Quick Draw can’t get away from a grateful circus elephant.

Thanks to Mr. Cro for the credits.

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera must have loved circuses. The circus motif popped up in their cartoons from time-to-time and, of course, the opening and closing of The Huckleberry Hound Show (and some of the fun little in-between cartoons) were set in a circus.

And they must have loved circus elephants, too, though they waited until 1977 before giving an elephant his own cartoon show (Undercover Elephant). Yogi Bear hid an elephant (Hide and Go Peek, 1958) who escaped from a circus. Before that, Ruff and Reddy set off on an adventure with an elephant (starting with Pinky, the Pint-Sized Pachyderm, 1957) who escaped from a circus. Before that, Jerry Mouse hid an elephant (Jerry and Jumbo, 1951) who had accidentally escaped from a circus. Actually, Tom and Jerry also found themselves involved with a lion, a seal and a bear, all of which escaped from a circus. It’s a wonder the circus had any animals left.

Maybe Joe Barbera was fond of elephants because he said one of “the first cartoons I had a hand in actually creating from the beginning” (along with Dan Gordon and Jack Zander) was Pink Elephants, a 1937 Terrytoons effort.

Regardless, this cartoon doesn’t get to the elephant right away. But it gets to the circus part right away—in this case, it’s a “travelling show”—and we get a couple of “drop everything and run” gags. As soon as the cry “travellin’ show” is heard, a masked bank robber hands back his ill-gotten loot and makes a run for it (followed by the teller), and two gunslingers who shoot and kill each other come back to life and zip off camera toward the fun. By the way, has anyone seen a less appealing cartoon lion than the one in the shot of the caravan?

There’s eight seconds of a camera pan and zoom over a circus-tent background to save animation (is it a coincidence, or did this always happen in Ken Muse cartoons?) and the shot switches to a walk cycle of Quick Draw (childishly holding a balloon) and Baba Looey, who say hello to the audience at an appropriate break in the narration.

Narrator: Oh, Quick Draw.
Quick Draw: Yes?
Narrator: I see you’re enjoying temporary surcease from your legalistic peregrinations.
Quick Draw (looking annoyed): That’s a terrible thing to say about anybody.

Don’t worry, Quick Draw. I can’t recall using “surcease” in a sentence very often, either. There’s something amusing about the fact the line was written by Mike Maltese, the poor kid from the New York slums who never finished school. Maltese surprises veteran Quick Draw fans with the next gag, where Baba urges our eponymous star to show off his fancy shooting. No, the gun doesn’t blow up in his face. It merely comes apart in his hand. The next gag’s a little more routine. Quick Draw throws some darts to win a doll. Cut to a shot of three darts in the nose of the barker. Is that a Pixie doll in his booth?

Baba reads a sign that says ‘Don’t Feed the Animals,’ but Quick Draw doesn’t think one peanut will hurt an elephant, who uses its trunk to vacuum one peanut, then the whole bag, then Quick Draw (apparently an elephant’s trunk can make a kissing noise) in a bit of animation that gets reused later in the cartoon. The vacuuming is appropriate as the elephant’s name is Ol’ Vacuum. “I wonder if it’s true about elephants...They say an elephant never forgets a favour,” says Quick Draw as he and Baba walk away from the travelling show. Yes, it’s true and Ol’ Vacuum comes running after them. So the rest of the cartoon is spent trying to ditch the elephant.

Quick Draw gets in two of his three catchphrases right away. “Hold on thar!” he shouts at the elephant, who skids to a stop by backing into Quick Draw’s arm (“Now look whacha done. You got my arm all curly-cued!”). The elephant straightens it out. “Oooh. That smarts,” Quick Draw observes.

The moaning elephant is sent away by Quick Draw (over the upright piano sound of ‘Winter Tales’ aka ‘Hearts and Flowers’) but the animal decides to follow him again (with xylophone notes simulating a fast tippy-toe) and conceals his bulk behind a convenient cactus. Eventually, Quick Draw tries to sneak away by having the animal, which is pretending it’s a dog, roll over and play dead. That doesn’t work for long, and the animal follows Quick Draw on a tight-rope strung between two sides of a canyon. The elephant’s weight sends him, Quick Draw and the rope to the bottom of the canyon.

There’s not a lot of clever or funny dialogue through all this from Maltese, who pads for time by having Quick Draw explain to the audience he’s going to get off the rope and the elephant will fly into the air. Anyone who’s seen enough cartoons knows what’s going to happen. Yeah, the elephant crashes on Quick Draw, who does that cartoon thing of running in place for almost three seconds while talking before the elephant lands on him. Apparently, it’s a law of cartoon physics. And there’s more camera work covering up the absence of animation by Muse. For nine seconds, the camera trucks out and in on the cel of the elephant, making it appear he’s disappearing into the stratosphere then coming back down.

If you’re still waiting for funny stuff, you’re out of luck. We’re now at the final scene, where the narrator has inexplicably disappeared and Baba takes over the job. Quick Draw rides Ol’ Vacuum into the sunset, which mainly consists of five seconds of cycle animation with clever camerawork making it look like the two are heading into the distance.

This is one of the few cartoons with an appearance by an underscore version of the Quick Draw theme used in the little between-cartoons on the half hour show. And there are a couple of cues at the end that may be from the Sam Fox library. The second last one is a violin version of the music used at the opening of Doggone Prairie Dog, possibly by Lou De Francesco.

0:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub Main Title theme (Curtin)
0:15 - O Susannah (?) – Gunfire lifts roofs of buildings.
0:30 -(That’s) Quick Draw McGraw (Curtin-Hanna-Barbera) – Travelling Show passes, bank robber, gunfight gags, Quick Draw and Baba walking.
1:16 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Green) – “Temporary surcease” line, Quick Draw pulls out gun.
1:42 - GR-78 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Quick Draw twirls gun, falls apart.
1:54 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Darts scene, Ol’ Vacuum eats all the peanuts, kisses Quick Draw, Quick Draw and Baba walk away.
3:16 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Ol’ Vacuum runs, skids into Quick Draw’s arm.
3:28 - GR-99 THE DIDDLECOMB HUNT (Green) – Quick Draw’s arm sproings, “Stop being grateful.”
3:44 - WINTER TALES (arr. Vic Lamont) – “And git!”, Ol’ Vacuum crawls behind rock.
3:56 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw and Baba run away, Ol’ Vacuum ducks behind cactus.
4:17 - SF-11 LIGHT MOVEMENT (De Francesco?) – Quick Draw walks away from cactus, kissed by Ol’ Vacuum, dog routine, Ol’ Vacuum opens eye,
5:14 - rising scale show biz music (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw and Baba run, tightrope scene, Ol’ Vacuum lands on Quick Draw.
6:15 - GR-81 FRED KARNO’S ARMY BRIDGE No. 1 (Green) – Quick Draw under Ol’ Vacuum, “Peel me off.”
6:27 - plaintive Western theme (?) – Baba narrates.
6:47 - medium dance (?) – “Ol’ Vacuum,” Quick Draw rides into sunset.
6:59 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub End Title theme (Curtin)


  1. You obviously didn't get my post with the credits of this cartoon seriously. That's why I'm posting an image with them:

    Maltese wrote this!

  2. This is an odd get-away from work short. I love elephants. Dumbo, even "Water for Elephants" name it..I think this is rather funny short, and "Winter Tales" itself in ANY version's become such a sob story-parody! And it IS apparently PIXIE in that booth [Screen Gems/Columbia and HB would similairly plug HB stuff in 1962's Columbia feature "Bye Bye Birdie" with..later HB "icons" Ann-Margret & Paul Lynde.]

    Despite our differencesd in opinion on the cartoon, I'm glad you posted it....the elephant weighing down a wire reminds of the gag that Maltese [neverthless, undeniably, with more bang) wrote for Chuck Jones's 1949 short woith the Three Bears"The Bee-Devilled Bruin" (Billy Bletcher to Stan Freberg:"Get Offa dat wire!").

    Mike Maltese sure liked redoing his own old WB stories, with this also borrowed from a Warren Foster story now that I think of it, for Bob McKimson's 195o Porky Pig short "Dog Collared"..(Mel Blanc doing what Daws Butler in the Quick Draw short is, shooing away a likeable animal.)

  3. Admittedly, I always thought the final shot of Quick Draw riding the elephant into the sunset was an odd yet humorous scene - though I was always puzzled as to why none of the circus folk realised that they were missing a whole "elefink" let alone seeking out to retrieve him.

    What I also thought odd was the title, since it didn't seem to be a pun on anything I can remotely remember. But after doing some research, I *think* that Mike got the title from a 1937 movie entitled "Elephant Boy", which seems pretty close.

  4. Mr. Cro, I must apologise. I did almost a half-year's worth of cartoon reviews in December and January; that's when this was written, before you passed on the credits. I've added them.

  5. Quick Draw MAY have rode the elephant because, for some reason, he was never seen RIDING A HORSE! Indeed, he might have been the only western star in the entire history of entertainment who never rode (or even interacted with) a horse… that tiny midget horse he was once assigned to capture, notwithstanding.

    Sure, he drove a stagecoach in his opening and closing credits but he was never ON a horse itself, and he usually walked into town, or drove a jeep!

    Probably for the same reason Goofy didn’t walk Pluto on a leash, I guess…

    Then again, Huckleberry Hound WAS a dogcatcher once upon a time…

    Cartoons… who can figure ‘em!

  6. Elephants have always been favorite subjects for animators due to the huge opportunity of 'heavy' and 'afraid of mice' gags. With the exception of THE FLINTSTONES, in which elephants were used for many household gadgets, virtually every H-B cartoon made before 1966 that featured an elephant (usually stolen or runaway) had a requisite gag of somebody being comically crushed under its weight. Snagglepuss, Ricochet Rabbit, Secret Squirrel- the examples abound.

  7. Even though it's just a money-saving device, the extended shot of the elephant ascending out of sight and descending as seen from Quick Draw's point of view is very effective.