Saturday 30 July 2011

Huckleberry Hound — Fireman Huck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Vera Hanson; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound – Daws Butler; Phone caller, dog, kitten – Don Messick.
First aired: week of December 8, 1959 (rerun week of June 8, 1960).
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely; Jack Shaindlin; Spencer Moore.
Plot: Fireman Huckleberry Hound is sent on assignment to rescue a kitten from a tree but ends up in the same predicament.

Hanna-Barbera got a lot of mileage out of an idea, and the studio first tried it in this cartoon with Huckleberry Hound’s antagonist. Granted, the white dog with the reversed ears only appeared in two more cartoons (A Bully Dog and Nuts Over Mutts) before vanishing forever. In fact, he’s not even important enough in the H-B galaxy to have a name. But he had a voice. Okay, he had a wheeze. And Joe Barbera borrowed it for other characters and milked it for years. This cartoon marks the first time a dog that snickered to the audience every time another character got bashed around.

Sure, Tex Avery used the idea earlier—stealing from Tex wasn’t rare in cartoonland—but various writers and producers at Hanna-Barbera knew a good concept when they had it, and made it practically iconic through sheer repetition. Muttley is probably the best-known character to be given the snickering trait; you can read more in this old blog post.

Huck is a fireman in this one, a role he repeated in Huck and Ladder (1961). The cartoon features a cute kitten design by Bick Bickenbach. And it moves along at the usual leisurely pace of Huck’s first season cartoons when Charlie Shows was working on them. In other words, there could have been more gags. I’m surprised there isn’t one with fireman Huck getting zapped trying to rescue the cat from atop a power pole; I’ve read a couple of newspaper stories where that actually happened to a fireman. No mention of snickering dogs reacting, though.

Well, there is one oddity if you stop to think about it. “To handle dogs, you got to be smarter than a dog,” Huck tells us. But wait a minute. Huck is a dog.

Reader Barry Grauman points out that Barbera borrowed from himself as well, as there are a number of plot elements from the 1941 MGM cartoon Officer Pooch in this one. That was one of shorts Barbera and Bill Hanna made before producer Fred Quimby changed his mind and decided the two should only make Tom and Jerry cartoons. Significantly, the dog picking on the dog/human in that cartoon only barks. He doesn’t snicker. But it does have the power line gag.

Huck opens the cartoon watering a very green front lawn of a home next to the fire hall. The phone rings. A woman says a dog has chased her cat up a tree. Huck’s fire engine drives past the same house four times to arrive at its destination. Huck shames the dog away from the tree. The pooch crawls away behind a home, whimpering to upper piano key-like sounds, then swoops his evilly-grinning head back into the scene. The footage gets re-used a couple of times.

Friendly fireman Huck tries to grab the cat. The cat reacts as one might expect. I like how Ken Muse makes the claw bigger on impact. Huck lands on his head at the bottom of the tree. He, of course, isn’t bothered. “Like I said—poor, l’il-ol,’ frightened thang” is his reaction. And then the shot cuts to the dog, giving out what eventually became a very lucrative snicker (in three drawings) for voice artist Don Messick.

The dog occasionally forms words with the guttural sound that Messick gave Astro and Scooby-Doo but doesn’t start each word with an ‘r’ like those two. We get to hear that in the next scene when Huck saws down the branch the cat is on to bring him to safety (“There’s more than one way to skin a cat” is the filler dialogue Shows comes up with for Huck). “On your mark, get set, go!” the dog says to himself as he zooms toward the cat and chases it up the side of a house. The gag is dog realises where is in, remembers there’s a law of gravity and plummets (off camera) to the ground. Cue Huck’s pointing and Ken Muse’s crawling animation.

Now Huck has to get the cat off the roof of the house. He rips the recalcitrant kitten from its claw-hold on the shingles. The force sends the two toward the ground. “Lucky for me, cats always lands on their feets.” The crash is off camera. Cut back to Huck on the ground holding the cat. “Except this cat.” Muttley The dog snickers. Ken Muse, take some time off. We’ll get ink and paint to use the drawings from the last snicker.

Ken gets even more time off as the “On your mark, get set, go!” animation is screened again, this time before the dog chases the kitten (with Huck now holding its tail and being pulled through the air) up the side of the house. The cat and Huck slide back down. The dog on the ground barks. Up go the cat and Huck again. “Shucks. I lost ma cat tay-ull” says Huck as he loses his grip and falls. “Uh, oh” says the dog. Huck lands on top of him. Time for the crawling animation again and for Ken to relax some more.

In fact, the start of the next scene with Huck climbing the ladder to the roof of the house is re-used, too. The gag—the dog sneaks through a basement window. Huck plucks the cat from the shingles (Messick emits an exclamatory “meow” here) and tells it to “un-lax.” The dog screws that up by popping his head from the chimney and barking, frightening the pair much like Frisky Puppy used to do to Claude Cat in Warners cartoons. All that’s left of Huck and the kitten are smears and what looks like markings in red crayon.

The pair land in a garbage can. “That done it, kitty. I got my dandruff up,” says the finally annoyed Huck. He decides to “learn that dog a thing or three” by rapping him on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. Don’t worry, Ken. You don’t have to waste your time drawing any of that. It’ll happen off camera with nothing but dialogue over 13 seconds of a static background shot of the side of a house we’ve been seeing all during the cartoon (the house is actually on a cel on top). The best part is the cat-like “Uh oh” Messick puts in the kitten’s mouth when he hears the dog getting angry about being swatted and Huck yelling for help.

Perhaps predictably, the cartoon ends with both Huck and the kitten meowing for help after running up the side of the house to escape the chasing dog. “Shuckins,” Huck says to the cat, “Ain’t nobody going to hear a poor, little ol’ ‘meow’ like that. You needs help.” No doubt fine readers to the blog can name cartoons with similar “trapped animal” endings.

So it’s not one of Huck’s strongest cartoons but it’s pleasant enough. What would help is something that wouldn’t have cut into the budget—stronger reaction lines for Huck to crack to the camera like the Avery Southern wolf character he’s based on (the “Like I said, poor, li’l ol...” comment to the audience isn’t even made directly to the camera; Bick has Huck laid out at an angle).

But Joe loved that snicker and loved putting it in a dog. He did it again that season in Huck’s Barbecue Hound, which aired on the week of January 26, 1959. The difference is that dog (a brown colour) only snickered once, at the end of the cartoon.

H-B cartoons generally ended with a bang musically. Some of the early ones faded out the stock tunes and that’s what happens here. Bill Loose and John Seely’s ‘Eccentric Comedy’ just noodles along and kind of stops when the cartoon does. The barking/chasing scenes use the two Jack Shaindlin pieces that were favoured in the first season Huck cartoons—‘On the Run’ and (my favourite) ‘Toboggan Run’). The crawling-into-the-house drawings get a chunk of one of Spencer Moore’s cues that was used by the studio as an effect. And I don’t know the source of the electric organ ‘Clementine’ played in this and other cartoons, whether it’s from a music library or Hoyt Curtin did it himself.

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound sub main title theme (Curtin).
0:28 - CLEMENTINE (trad. arr. Curtin?) - Huck waters lawn, talks on phone, pulls us to house.
1:15 - TC 202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Shot of dog, cat swipes at Huck, snicker.
2:32 - TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) - Ladder goes up to get cat, cat toddles away.
3:15 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) - Dog “on your mark”, chases cat up house, realises he’s on house.
3:30 - no music - Dog lands on ground.
3:35 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) - Huck says “bad dog”, Huck and cat land on ground, “On your mark, get set.”
4:34 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) - “Go!”, Huck stops on side of home.
4:58 - TC 201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Huck and cat slide down home, Huck lands on dog, Huck on roof with cat, Huck and cat drop into garbage can.
5:39 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) - Dog tippy-toes into basement.
6:10 - TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) - Garbage can shot, thwap, dog growls.
6:36 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Huck yells help, cat runs, dogs slides and stops at house.
6:49 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Dog barks, Huck and cat meow.
7:10 - Huck sub end title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Huckleberry Hound: Better Than Tom and Jerry?

In the process of selling their cartoons to viewers, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera used to come up with statements that you had to wonder if they truly believed. Joe implied that Yogi Bear’s name had nothing to do with Yogi Berra. He also stated that Jonny Quest was an adult cartoon, like The Flintstones who, he also remarked, really weren’t patterned after The Honeymooners (“Did The Honeymooners have a Polarock camera?” Joe once asked rhetorically).

But one of the more seemingly-outlandish comments by the pair was their insistence that their first TV cartoons were better than their Tom and Jerry shorts at MGM. There’s always an irony at play; during the interviews when they make the comment, they always mention Tom and Jerry and their seven Oscars to boost their animation credentials.

Here’s an interview from January 8, 1959 by Charles Witbeck, a syndicated columnist who started writing about television in mid-1956. He did several pieces over the years about the Hanna-Barbera studio. In this one, Bill Hanna explains why Huck is better than his MGM cartoons, at least in his estimation.

Cartoonists Turn to TV for Work
A year and a half ago MGM’s creators of the Tom & Jerry cartoons, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, decided to do new cartoons for TV.
“MGM closed their cartoon shop, Disney stopped making animated shorts, and there we were—out of a job,” said Joe Barbera, recalling the black day. “So we thought about TV. Where else could we go? We figured it was possible kids might get tired of old guys in clown outfits being real friendly, and then turning on old, old cartoons.”
High Costs
The reason for the movie animated cartoon demise was high costs and low rentals. Also, it takes a cartoon about two years to get back its initial costs. The giant octopus confronting the two unemployed geniuses was how to make cartoons quickly—Hanna and Barbera only did eight Tom & Jerrys a year for MGM—and cheaply for the TV mill.
Old hands in the industry, tiny as it is, scoffed at Hanna and Barbera for thinking of the idea. One pro offered to lay a thousand to one against its success. H & B are considered two of the sharpest men in the business, but the idea still seemed too drastic to most.
“The costs came from all the drawings — the hand work,” said Barbera generalizing somewhat. “We figured we could cut down on the animation by planning. We call our TV cartoons planned animation.”
“For instance, you want to show Huckleberry Hound about to go out on a chase, and you have him going into a closet, putting on an overcoat, walking out. You can get the same effect by cutting from Huckleberry outside the closet talking to another character to Huckleberry in the closet with his coat on. Time-consuming drawing is cut in two.”
Cut Animation
The two men cut the animation down to the point where they felt it wouldn’t be missed and where a reasonable TV budget might be reached.
Then they talked MGM movie director George Sidney into helping out with backing, and hustled over to Screen Gems, Columbia Pictures TV subsidiary, with budget and drawings. After five minutes of talking Barbera had an offer.
It has been a year and three months, or 170 cartoon shows, since Hanna and Barbera’s first effort appeared on TV. They now have two series running, Ruff and Reddy and Huckleberry Hound, during the dinner hour in 180 cities. Their technicians are currently dubbing the shows in Spanish and French for foreign markets.
“I think we’ve proved our point,” says Barbera. “It’s possible to make cartoons for profit on TV. No one else is doing it yet, but they will.”
Of course the two men have only been working practically seven days a week to turn out the huge quantity using a staff of about 20, and farming out animation segments. Both still appear in good health. Barbera even sports a tan probably from his drawing-board lamp.
Better Product
“I think our cartoons are better than our fancy Tom & Jerry movies,” says Hanna, who claims he isn’t punch-drunk or prejudiced. “We use close-ups, our shows are easier to watch, and we let the viewer use a little imagination.”
“We are coming up off the floor,” Barbera chimed in. “We are even getting calls from ad agencies and cartoonists. UPA (makers of “Mr. Magoo”) has looked at our work and thinks we’re on the right track.”
Following Hanna and Barbera may save UPA, which had a charming series on TV for a few months, but costs were so high as to make future programming impossible.
It’s an encouraging Hollywood story. Not only because of the kids who get to look at new material, but it’s the first note of hope for the dying cartoon industry. Others like UPA may take the hint and the animators, artists and story men who are now doing other things may have a chance to go back to the drawing board again.

Witbeck’s prediction about UPA was certainly bang-on but it took a sale to Henry Saperstein to get into the television business and flush the studio’s reputation down the toilet with the noisy, unfunny TV Magoos and the shortcut-laden Dick Tracys.

Bill Hanna is comparing Tom and Jerry with Huck (and Ruff and Reddy) on a purely technological standpoint, considering it was the era of black and white sets pulling in signals via antenna, sometimes 120 miles away. It’s true that picture quality could be poor if the station was far off. But it’s also true the one-time theatrical cartoons—Popeye and the Warners output, especially—played endlessly to laughs of millions of kids, some of whom grew up to begin the whole historical and critical look at animation that didn’t exist when they were young. So Hanna’s wrong. In 1959, the MGM cartoons were just as easy to watch as the Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Using almost any other yardstick, it’s not really a fair comparison. The Tom and Jerrys were marvellously expressive; you always knew what the cat and mouse were thinking. Scott Bradley scored to the action, augmenting what you could see with song-puns, beloved familiar tunes and clever arrangements. Huckleberry Hound never had that luxury because of television budgets and time constraints. But, using the yardstick of humour, Huck’s cartoons could be just as funny as the old theatricals, despite the handicaps. If they weren’t, kids would have turned the channel and watched reruns of Our Miss Brooks or something. They might not have really been better than Tom and Jerry, but they were enjoyable to watch and have provided remarkably long-lasting memories. And that’s good enough for me.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Pixie and Dixie — Mighty Mite

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, El Puncho, Joe – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks, Roger, Dog – Daws Butler.
Music: Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore, Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose/John Seely, Raoul Kraushaar, Jack Cookerly.
First Aired: week of November 2, 1959 (repeat, week of June 6, 1960).
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-031, Production E-84.
Plot: Pixie and Dixie take in a little boxing rooster that Jinks can’t remove from the house.

Hello, Warren Foster’s Diner, what’ll you have today? Some warmed over plotline? Okay, coming right up.

Foster spent too much, for my liking, of the second season of Pixie and Dixie dragging out things that the meece and Jinks had done the previous year, then reworking them. His best cartoons were the ones where he didn’t. But Foster had just come from a studio where he spent cartoon after cartoon trying to figure out how to put a new spin on the one-note battle between Speedy Gonzales and Sylvester, so perhaps it’s not a surprise. So it is that the first part of this cartoon mirrors Boxing Buddy from the previous season—a champion boxing animal becomes detached from the vehicle carrying him and he crashes near Pixie and Dixie.

One can’t help but think of Speedy watching this cartoon. El Puncho the boxing rooster is Mexican, spewing arbitrary Spanish phrases (“Ole! Ole! Cinco de Mayo! Viva enchilada!”) before going into action. Foster can’t even resist planting Speedy’s “Arriba, arriba!” in his vocabulary. Meanwhile, poor Jinks spends the bulk of the cartoon either being angry or woozy and doesn’t get off a lot of wisecracks. Granted, Sylvester never did in the Speedy cartoons either, but he had the great animation of Art Davis and Virgil Ross to back up him, something a TV budget simply wouldn’t allow. We get a few good poses out of Lew Marshall, but it’s mainly head-bobs with a bit of reused animation.

Pixie and Dixie were really never the stars of their series and it’s probably never more evident than in this cartoon. The two set up the conflict between Jinks and the rooster and virtually disappear until the end.

The best part is, as you might expect, the design work of Ed Benedict. I love the busy-body, cross-eyed dog that drives the action in the second half of the cartoon. He may be the best character in it. We get some simple, stylised backgrounds and shadow characters in cars and a fun looking gas station.

“Watch that rock, Joe,” says Roger, as the two of them drive a car to which is attached the trailer carrying El Puncho. Joe doesn’t see the rock. And neither do we. Marshall doesn’t bother drawing it in the road. Instead, he has the trailer lurching and we hear a sound effect. Joe and Roger pull into a gas station and the trailer goes right on past them. It somehow becomes small enough to fit through the open picket fence gate in the Meece and Jinks residence and crashes against a tree. However, Puncho isn’t hurt and he exchanges pleasantries with Pixie and Dixie, who have come out of their front door to investigate and invite him inside to chat. There’s no humour here at all. Foster’s just taking his sweet time setting up the point of the cartoon.

That finally happens when Jinks hears the chatter and demands the mice come out of their hole.

Lew draws a thin, angular Jinks in a bunch of places in the cartoon and this is one of them. The meece and Punchy come out. More dialogue. Jinks accuses Pixie and Dixie of starting a chicken farm. “Eggs all over the place.” Dixie warns Jinks that El Puncho is a featherweight champion fighting rooster. Jinks is facetious in his fear. See one of Lew’s poses below right.

Jinks dares Puncho to punch him. Puncho obliges, the third time knocking him flying through the window and landing against a fence. This is being watched by a bystanding dog with a dumb voice Daws used in some Jay Ward cartoons. The dog keeps throwing Jinks back through the window, and a punch keeps knocking Jinks flying whence he came. It saves Lew a bit of drawing. “It’s hard to tell which is the most chicken, that cat or that banty,” the dog tells the viewer. “Cheer up,” he says, about to drag Jinks to the window, “Tings could be woise. I might not have been here to help yahs.” And the dog makes things woise, uh, worse, by pulling out a slingshot and hitting Puncho with a rock after the rooster and cat agree to a truce. Naturally, Puncho thinks Jinks is responsible and through the window he goes again.

The dog goes to toss Jinks in again “for your own good, pal,” but the cat’s had enough. “Here’s somethin’ for your good,” and Jinksie socks him one. Pixie, Dixie and Punchy are watching through the window. Puncho decides Jinks was taking it easy on him. “SeƱor mices, I just remembered I have a date in Guadalajara,” says Puncho suddenly. The rooster obviously is afraid Jinks is going to “box-fight” the innards out of him but he doesn’t sound afraid. Don Messick gives him the same upbeat delivery through the whole cartoon. Maybe Messick couldn’t get much variation in emotion out of the voice.

Anyway, Puncho yells “Adios,” twirls and zips out of the cartoon, and Jinks orders the mice to their hole. Chuckles the cat to the audience: “You know, sometimes, I act like real tough with ‘em, you know, but way deep down—I hate meeces to pieces.”

Oh, there’s a connection with another Mexican boxing rooster cartoon. Alex Lovy directed one called The Bongo Punch (1957) at Lantz; he’s the story director on this cartoon.

Just a note about the pictures here. You’ll notice Puncho is kind of purple in the title card. That’s because the frame snapshot comes from what looks like an old print that was turned into an .avi file off cable TV probably a few years ago. The rest of the pictures are from Italian TV and look like they’re fully-restored cartoons, though there’s some pixilation and the colours are a bit saturated. Punchy is the correct colour on the Italian title card but the cartoon’s name has been slapped over with an Italian translation so I can’t use it. I can only wistfully sigh and hope these cartoons some day appear in a home video format.

The stock music is typical. La Cucaracha comes from the Omar library, as do the two hollow-sounding cues by Raoul Kraushaar.

0:00 - PIXIE AND DIXIE (Hanna, Barbera, Curtin, Shows) – Opening titles.
0:13 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Car drives, trailer passes car.
0:28 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Trailer rolls down street, into tree.
0:36 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – P&D peer out of door, zip to trailer.
0:48 - OK-787 LA CUCARACHA (Loose-Cookerly) – Trailer door opens, P&D talk to Punchy outside.
1:21 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose) – P&D talk to Punchy inside, Jinks talks to mice and El Puncho, “need those meeces to hold my job here.”
2:42 - 7-MR-183 creepy reverb trumpet music (Kraushaar) – “But chickens are for the birds,” Puncho punches Jinks head.
3:19 - 8-MR-377 creepy reverb trumpet music (Kraushaar) – “I warned you, Jinks,” Jinks punched out window.
3:51 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks flies out window to “We be amigos, yes?”
5:22 - L-78 COMEDY UNDESCORE (Moore) – Jinks agrees to call it a draw, “He left for Guadalajara, Mr. Jinks.”
6:37 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Jinks tells mice to “git”, iris out.
6:58 - PIXIE AND DIXIE (Hanna, Barbera, Curtin, Shows) – End titles.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Sing Along With Ubble and Ubble

The world can partly blame—or credit—Arthur Shimkin for the fact you can sing along to a song about Ubble Ubble.

Shimkin was an economics major and freelance writer who joined Simon and Schuster, the publisher of Little Golden Books for children, in 1948. He did a bit of research and found parents constantly coped with kids who wanted to have the Little Golden Books read to them over and over and over. Couldn’t someone record the Little Golden Books to give us parents a break, they asked. That fall, the company debuted twelve 78-rpm storybook records at 25 cents each and created an instant Little Golden Mine. Golden Records expanded and expanded and by 1956 the company was responsible for half the children’s records sold, outdoing the venerable Capitol Records with Alan Livingston at the helm.

Hanna-Barbera Enterprises got underway the following year and Joe Barbera was quick to capitalise on the success of his early TV cartoons by marketing the crap out of them. A natural medium for his characters was children’s records. Columbia Pictures had its own label, Colpix, which released a Huckleberry Hound album in October 1959. Hanna-Barbera was being bankrolled by Columbia but, for whatever reason, cut a deal with Golden Records to release some kiddie product.

The first one was ‘GLP-51 Quick Draw McGraw and Huckleberry Hound.’ The copyright date is 1959 so it’s conceivable the album was out in time for Christmas, though Billboard magazine doesn’t review it until the following January. It’s one of those albums that would have really annoyed me when I was a kid (which I was when it came out). While the cover says “Produced by Hanna-Barbera” and the back has a picture of Bill, Huckleberry Hound and Joe, the buyer is told the music is “based” on the cartoon characters. In other words, the music really isn’t from the cartoons we kids loved, it’s “based” on them. And we’re also warned the album is “featuring the voice of Gilbert Mack.” Record labels wouldn’t expect well-meaning parents to know the difference between Daws Butler and Gil Mack, but any kid-fan of the cartoons would spot it instantly. While Gil Mack may have been a fine voice actor, he was no Daws Butler. And his attempt at replicating Daws’ characters produces winces at best. His Mr. Jinks is truly painful and his Meeces are laughable.

There’s a perfectly good reason Daws, Don Messick and Doug Young weren’t used—they were under contract to Colpix. So the New York-based Golden had a New York-based stock company of actors to fulfil its contractual obligations.

The album is based around the theme songs for the Hanna-Barbera shows then in existence. The problem was the number totalled seven. Seven songs does not an album make. So the album has been padded with songs about whatever Hanna-Barbera characters had appeared on TV at some point. Thus we get a bunch of tunes about a whole menagerie of secondary characters that appeared on Ruff and Reddy including, as we mentioned above, the totally-forgotten Ubble Ubble. If someone has the album, I’d love to know the composer credits on the obscure songs. I’ve checked the U.S Copyright Catalogue and the ASCAP and BMI databases and the copyrights seem to have lapsed.

To fill time, we get extra verses of the beloved sub-main title themes to the Yogi Bear and Pixie and Dixie cartoons, and lyrics to the Augie Doggie theme. For posterity, here are the words that will allow you to sing along:

Augie Dog was feeling sad,
‘Til he learned from Doggie Dad
Ears can flop and tails can sway.
Flippety-floppety, wiggledy-waggledy,
All of your troubles away.

Augie Dog, he flopped his ears,
Sniffed his nose and dried a tear
Then his tail began to sway.
Flippety-floppety, wiggledy-waggledy,
All of his troubles away.

If you’re ever feelin’ sad,
Take a tip from Doggie Dad—
Ears that flop and tails that sway.
Flippety-floppety, wiggledy-waggledy,
All of your troubles away.

Flippety-floppety, wiggledy-waggledy,
Flippety-floppety, wiggledy-waggledy,
All of your troubles away.

Not exactly Tin Pan Alley, is it?

The album features the Jimmy Carroll Orchestra but the Pixie and Dixie music has been lifted right from the sessions of Hoyt Curtin (at the Capitol studio in Hollywood) and was used in a couple of cartoons. Billboard reveals Don Elliott and the Cartoon Cowboys also appear on the album.

You’ll notice on the album cover, besides the fact Boo Boo has a huge neck and Doggie Daddy’s name is reversed, the presence of Yakky Doodle, still in his pre-starring, Iddy Biddy Buddy stage.

Now that we’ve warmed you up, feel free to enjoy the sounds of Gil Mack as Daws Butler.

Quick Draw McGraw
Baba Looey
Super Snooper
Blabber Mouse
Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy
Ooch, Ooch! Ouch!
El Kabong!
Huckleberry Hound
Mr. Jinks
Iddy Biddy Buddy
Pixie and Dixie
Boo Boo Bear
Yogi Bear
Ruff and Reddy
Killer and Diller
Salt Water Daffy
Harry Safari
Ubble and Ubble
Professor Gizmo

It may seem unfair to you that H-B obscurities like Ubble Ubble have a song while that talented dog who starred in three cartoons, Yowp, gets nothing. Considering the efforts you’ve heard (if you dared), it’s all just as well. Arthur Shimkim had a multiple Grammy-winning career, but not for this album.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Quick Draw McGraw — Chopping Spree

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voices: Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Sam Squeamish, Lumberjack on rail car – Daws Butler; Narrator, Naughty Pine (Foreman), Ronald Rugged, Voice on Phone – Hal Smith; Peachy Blossom – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Phil Green, Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin, Jack Shaindlin.
Episode: M-026, Production J-65.
First Aired: week of March 21, 1960 (rerun week of Sept. 19, 1960)
Plot: Quick Draw McGraw goes undercover to investigate mysterious accidents at a lumber camp.

This may be a cartoon starring Quick Draw McGraw, but the real star is Mike Maltese. He pulls out just about every dialogue trick he’s ever tried and sprinkles them throughout this six-and-a-half-minute short. We get groaner puns. We get characters talking to the narrator. We get characters aware of their situation and commenting on it. And we get a nice little twist ending.

Yeah, I realise what I’ve described is aural; that “illustrated radio” that C. Martin Jones found so distasteful. So what? It’s a funny cartoon. At least, I’m a sucker for silly dialogue that works in its own little world of logic. And the opening pan is attractive and sets up the plot. It’s a good marriage of Bick and Art Lozzi’s talents. The flip-branched trees are a Bick trademark, and Art’s added his favourite star-like leaves. He’s also varied the colours nicely on Bick’s tree designs, with various shades of green, a couple of greys and even a buff in there.

But, before we get to our plot, we’ve got some groaners:

Narrator: There was no room for the squeamish here.
Tough Lumberjack: I’m lookin’ for work.
Foreman: What’s your name?
Tough Lumberjack: Sam Squeamish.
Foreman: Sorry. Like the man said, there’s no room here for the squeamish.
Narrator: Only the rugged were welcome at The Roaring Splinter.
Foreman: What’s your name?
Wimpy Lumberjack: Ronald Rugged, what else?
Foreman: You’re hired.

Now it’s time to get to the action. Maltese sets up his running dialogue joke.

Narrator: You are about to witness another of the mysterious accidents which befell the camp of recent date.

And the rest of the cartoon, just about everyone tosses in the contrived phrase “the mysterious accidents which befell the camp” during some portion of their dialogue, including Peachy Blossom, who the narrator tells us is a “Typical, Helpless, Lonely Lumber Queen.” She’s evidently helpless enough that the narrator has to help her along by explaining there’s a card on her desk from someone who could help her (which isn’t there in the medium shot). It’s a shame it’s not a Paladin-like card with a horse’s head. That would have been an appropriate gag for Quick Draw.

Quick Draw (reading letter): Dear Quick Draw, I need your help. Bad-ly. Signed, Peachy Blossom, T.H.L.L.Q.
Baba: Say, Quickstraw, what means “T.H.L.L.Q?”
Quick Draw: That should be oblivious, Baba Boy. It means “Typical, Helpless, Lonely Lumber Queen.”

Off they go to the Splinter Lumber Camp. Peachy, without any kind of scare take because that would have involved maybe three extra drawings, looks at Quick Draw.

Peachy: Oh, you poor man. You must be the latest victim of the mysterious accidents that have befallen us.
Baba: No, lady. This is Quick Draw McGraw. Always he looks like that.
Peachy: Oh, you poor man.

Quick Draw quickly reveals who is responsible. It’s the butler, because they’re always guilty. But Peachy hasn’t got a butler. She has a foreman. So Quick Draw deduces it’s the foreman.

Peachy: Mr. Quick Draw?
Quick Draw: Yes?
Peachy: Are you sure you weren’t in an accident?

This is where we get the “Don’t you for-get it” catchphrase before Quick Draw and Baba disguise themselves and meet up with the foreman. Maltese digs out the routine he used in Treasure of El Kabong as our heroes spout real groaners trying to convince the interrogating foreman they’re really lumberjacks.

Foreman: So how do you chop a tree?
Quick Draw: I chops it down.
Foreman: What do you holler when a tree falls?
Quick Draw: I hollers “Ouch!” if’n it falls on m’foot.
Foreman: Where does sawdust come from?
Quick Draw: From a dusty saw.
Foreman: Where do we get wood pulp?
Quick Draw: From a young tree when it’s just a pulp, yuk, yuk.

The ruse works but the foreman, being a “yellow, thievin’ polecat,” doesn’t want a “smart guy” hanging around, so he pulls out a pistol. Quick Draw and Baba run to the nearest log-laden rail car and hide to avoid the bullets. The foreman lights a bundle of dynamite on the car and kicks it down a hill. Both Quick Draw and Baba jump to safety before it explodes, Quick Draw “snaggin’ a branch, Western-style.” Maltese comes up with a sequence that would have been at home in a late-‘50s Daffy cartoon from the Jones unit. We hear sawing. Cut to a shot of the foreman sawing off the part of the branch Quick Draw is on. Cut to a shot of Baba sawing off the part of the branch the foreman is on. We hear chopping. Cut to a shot of the foreman next to the falling tree Baba is on. Cut to a shot of Quick Draw next to the foreman, sawing off a part of cliff he’s standing on. Quick Draw and the cliff plummet. Alex Lovy or Bill Hanna couldn’t have timed the sequence much better, though I suspect if Hanna were at MGM, there’d be a great realisation take by Ray Patterson when the sawing sound is heard, then a cut to the two-character shot. Something that never would have happened at MGM—Quick Draw wouldn’t be standing on a different tree in the next shot.

Peachy expresses sympathy for the battered Quick Draw (who almost gets an axe chopping him in an area that isn’t anatomically correct) and asks the lamenting question whether the mysterious accidents will ever cease? “I’m sure they’ll cease if you’ll marry up with the villainous foreman,” Naughty Pine informs her. So Maltese pulls a surprise ending like he did in Masking For Trouble, where the girl decides to run off with the bad guy. That kind of ending certainly wasn’t original with Maltese; Franklin Pangborn’s 1935 melodrama parody Ye Old Saw Mill ends the same way. The foreman decides he doesn’t need his double-bladed axe any more and casually throws it away. It cuts into a hollow log where Quick Draw happens to be hiding.

Baba: Hey, Quicksdraw, where are you going?
Quick Draw: To the nearest tree surgeon, where else? Ooh. That smarts.

Some trivia notes:
● The cartoon’s set in “the Old Northwest” but Quick Draw drives a modern jeep.
● The foreman’s name is only mentioned once, when Quick Draw is being sawed off the tree.
● Quick Draw doesn’t say “I’ll do the thinnin’ around here,” though we hear the word “thinnin’” a couple of times.
● Daws uses a modified version of his Jerry Lewis voice for the lumberjack on the blown-up rail car.

The best use of the stock music is that unidentified sad violin piece underneath the scene of the mournful Peachy in her office. It’s hammy enough to fit Maltese’s dialogue. The harmonica “Oh, Susanna” is a good opening set-up. I don’t know the source of either cue. And I still don’t have the full name of the Jack Shaindlin ‘Fireman’ cue.

0:00 - Quick Draw McGraw sub main-title theme (Curtin).
0:16 - Oh Susannah (?) – shot of lumber camp, foreman talks to Squeamish and Rugged.
0:52 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Mysterious accident.
1:09 - sad string music (unknown) – Peachy on phone.
1:40 - GR-348 EARLY MORNING (Green) – Peachy looks at card.
1:50 – CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw reads letter from Peachy.
2:22 - GR-78 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Quick Draw and Baba in jeep, knock on door.
2:35 - GR-99 THE DIDDLECOMB HUNT (Green) – Quick Draw talks to Peachy.
3:25 - GR-96 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Quick Draw questioned by foreman, foreman shoots.
4:41 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw and Baba run, Quick Draw jumps from train.
5:33 - GR-81 FRED KARNO’S ARMY SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Quick Draw on branch, hears saw.
5:39 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Sawing scene, foreman offers to marry Peachy.
6:25 - GR-457 DOCTOR QUACK SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Accepts proposal, axe lands in log.
6:35 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw runs away.
6:59 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).