Saturday, 17 September 2011

Snooper and Blabber — Big Diaper Caper

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Evil Scientist, Baby – Daws Butler; Mrs Evil Scientist – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin.
First Aired: week of November 16, 1959 (rerun, week of May 16, 1960)
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-008, Production No J-8.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired to baby-sit by Mr. and Mrs. Evil Scientist.

Much has been made over the years about Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera’s love for The Honeymooners, and how it less-than-covertly found its way into their cartoons. Less is made about another affection which inspired animated material for the studio during parts of several decades—the work of Charles Addams.

It’s tempting to credit Barbera for this. He must have felt somewhat akin to Addams. Both were New Yorkers trying to break into the magazine cartoon business in the early ‘30s. Addams’ ghoulish humour became so imitated (and watered down) over the years people may not realise how original and quirky it was at one time. The others were merely trying, even straining, to be funny. Addams was simply observing things through his own odd natural sense of humour, sometimes with little unexpected extras. It wasn’t enough for Addams to draw a woman who appears to have skied through a tree. Addams added to the panel by placing a puzzled observer trying to make sense of it. He managed to maintain novelty when others could not.

Hanna-Barbera was ahead of the game when it came to television borrowing from Charles Addams’ most famous creation. The Addams Family sitcom wasn’t to air for another five years at the time someone in the H-B writing brain-trust of Barbera, Mike Maltese and Dan Gordon came up with Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist. Anyone remotely familiar with the old TV show or the even older New Yorker magazine cartoons can’t miss the Addams resemblance in the Scientist parents, scary exotic pets and even the rundown mansion. And, of course, they live in a world where ugly is beautiful and creepy is ordinary. Hanna-Barbera beat it into the ground, first turning J. Evil and his family into comic book stars and then churning out the knock-off Gruesomes who debuted on The Flintstones and then the knock-off knock-off Creepleys who popped up on a far lesser show in the decades ahead.

This was not only the Evil Scientist family’s first cartoon, it was also the first voice job at Hanna-Barbera for Jean Vander Pyl. Mrs. Scientist’s thin appearance and long cigarette holder apparently inspired Vander Pyl to give the character a Tallulah Bankhead-like voice, a perfect choice. Mr. Scientist isn’t named “J” yet. His first name in this cartoon is Boris, though Daws Butler’s voice evokes Peter Lorre instead of Karloff.

And this was also the first time Blabber was played by Daws Butler. Elliot Field provided the voice in the first four cartoons; Elliot has told me he and Daws did five cartoons together; you can hear him on a Quick Draw McGraw cartoon as well. It’s interesting to note that of the first eight cartoons on the Quick Draw show that went into production, five were Snooper and Blabbers.

While Mike Maltese provides the ersatz Addams, and a nice little ending, Carlo Vinci came up with the animation. It’s vintage Vinci. Snooper has a big, wide mouth and thick upper teeth during some dialogue, there are two-drawing, off-model scare takes and stretch-diving exits off camera.

You can tell this is a little early in the detective racket for Maltese. This is the first cartoon that opens in Snoop’s office. Maltese hasn’t worked out a rhyming phone answering gag yet. In this one, Snoop simply answers “Snooper and Blabbermouse, Private Eyes. Snoop speakin’” And Maltese ditched the “mouse” on Blab’s name not too many cartoons after this (it was never used in the titles).

The boys are offered a thousand dollars to babysit. “Lady, for that kind of dough, we’d baby-sit a bucket of bees.” Blab’s apprehensive when they drive to the home and read the name on mail box. But up a lovely, winding cliff they go along a spiralling road (there’s even a tunnel in the rock) and arrive at the front house. Much like the Addams and Munsters TV shows, the doorbell (it’s a skull and crossbones with a button on the nose) makes all kind of scary noise. The two are ushered in and we get scary/creepy-is-normal dialogue.

Mrs. Scientist: Boris and I are going to a horror movie.
Mr. Scientist: Yes. It’s very romantic. Rock Crusher in ‘Boy Meets Ghoul.’
Mrs. Scientist: You shouldn’t have any trouble with our little monster.
Mr. Scientist: But in case you do, scream for help. It never comes.

Snoop and Blab look in on the baby sleeping in his crib. “Cute, my toot. He looks the normal, obnoxious-type tyke to me,” offers Snoop. The two head to the TV set but walk by “a do-it-yourself mad scientist kit.” We get a close-up shot of glasses marked “Hyde Bitters” and “Jekyll Juice” that’ll enter into the plot in mere moments.

The baby saws his way out of his crib, grabs the two glasses, mixes them and drinks. You know what’ll happen next. The baby transforms into a large version of himself. The juice makes his clothes grow with him.

“We’re in luck, Blab. The Late, Late, Late Horror Show is just startin’,” says Snoop as he and Blab sit on the chesterfield in front of the TV. “Gee, Snoop, that’s my favourite programme,” says Blab, even though it gives him the “pollywogs.” The monster-baby grabs him and shoves him into the fish bowl. I like the dialogue:

Snoop: Quiet, Blab. I can’t hear the commercial. And pass me another sand-a-wich. Blab? Where are you, Blab?
Blab: Here I am, Snoop. And what happened in the commercial?

The smiling goldfish in the bowl is a nice touch.

Blab makes a return visit to the bowl when he is scared by the monster-baby’s face in the TV (it’s the old ‘stick-head-in-open-TV-set’ bit). And then we get another familiar routine where Blabber sees something that Snoop doesn’t believe until he sees for himself. Blab watches the baby transform back into a monster. Since Carlo Vinci’s at work, there’s a two-drawing scare take and a stretch-dive off camera. The scene cuts to Snoop watching TV. Blab is a line of brush strokes that goes to grab Snooper as he zips past. I wish these cartoons were restored because you’d be able to see the effect better.

Blab’s so afraid he can’t talk, so he does charades to explain what he saw (didn’t Lou Costello do that in Hold That Ghost?) He does a nice baby-monster impersonation. There’s about a minute left in the cartoon and the rest is almost one long chase scene. Snoop sees the “little ragged-muffin” transform, does a take and he and Blab start running to the strains of Jack Shaindlin’s ‘Six Day Bicycle’ race. They run out of the room and off camera. Back they come, being chased by a snapping crocodile. They run out of the room and off camera. Back they come, being chased by an “Octo-puss-puss-puss.” The Evil Scientists arrive home. More of the gruesome-is-normal gagging:

Mrs. Scientist: What a delightful movie.
Mr. Scientist: And loaded with laughs. Especially when the lovers were boiled in oil.

Carlo has Evil Scientist rubbing his hands as he describes the oil. Another nice touch. Snooper and Blab stop, then zip past them. Mrs. Scientist scolds the baby for having pets in the living room. I like Maltese’s final lines.

Mrs. Scientist: No wonder we can’t keep a baby sitter.
Mr. Scientist: But remember, darling, we’ve never paid one yet.

The usual routine, especially on the Munsters and Addams TV shows, was the characters were completely oblivious to the fact they were abnormal. In this case, not only are they aware of it, they take advantage of it for financial gain.

The Scientist family returned later in the season in Snap Happy Saps (Snooper agrees to take pictures in their home), Surprised Party (with a two-minute classroom opening which has nothing to with the plot) in the second season and Chilly Chiller (with a tic-tac-toe parody opening I don’t get) in the final one. If anyone has a copy of Snap Happy Saps, let me know. It’s the only pre-1961 H-B TV cartoon I don’t have (besides Ruff and Reddy, which I don’t have a lot of interest in).

Maltese doesn’t toss in a “Halt in the name of...” pun in this one.

The sound-cutter decided to use Shaindlin’s ‘Capers’ after the transformation from baby to monster. It works pretty well. The rest of the soundtrack is fairly typical for a Snooper and Blabber cartoon.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:25 - PG-161H LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Snooper on phone.
0:41 - tick-tock flute music (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab in car, drive up to home.
1:11 - COMEDY SUSPENSE (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab at door, talk to Mr and Mrs Evil Scientist, go into home, “Search me, Blab.”
2:21 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – “Leave us browse into the nursery,” Snoop and Blab look at child.
2:51 - jaunty bassoons and skipping strings (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab see potions, baby saws through crib, mixes and drinks potion.
3:29 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Baby transforms, frightens Blab, Blab in fish bowl, baby in TV, baby transforms back.
4:38 - PG-160G LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Baby walks away, transforms.
4:45 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Baby grunts.
4:49 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Snoop and Blab watch TV, Blab goes to crib.
5:10 - COMEDY SUSPENSE (Shaindlin) – Blab shakes head, charades, baby transforms back.
5:47 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Snoop picks up baby, baby transforms.
5:55 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Snoop scare take, runs away, threatens spanking, baby transforms, Snoop and Blab scare take.
6:13 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Baby chases Snoop and Blab, crocodile, octopus.
6:31 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Mr and Mrs Scientist come home.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).


  1. The title card of a baby in silhouette crying on top of a high chair is very similar to the title card used in Hanna and Barbera's "Baby Puss" a Tom and Jerry cartoon made in 1943.

  2. Never noticed that. Thanks, Steven. It really looks too close to be a coincidence.

    Apparently Bick drew the title cards for these (what Lawrence Goble did at HB still confounds me), but he would have still been at Warners when 'Baby Puss' was made.

  3. Because S&B was written by Maltese, I've always had a soft spot for this H-B series. And now the feeling is justified. Agreed that this should be restored---maybe redo the whole "Quick Draw McGraw" show in the process!

  4. The tic-tac-toe parody opening for Chilly Chiller was based on the televison show "Thriller" hosted by Boris Karloff. The show was similar to "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

    --Harison B. Henry

  5. Readers always come through. Thanks HBH. I've never seen the Karloff show.

    Charles, from what I gather from Earl Kress, the cartoons on the Quick Draw show were restored but the release was stopped mainly because of a disagreement over fees for the rights to use the stock music, which are now scattered amongst their heirs of the composers. It's the same reason no further DVD releases happened for Huck cartoons after season one.

  6. Seconding Harrison above, it WAS the opening to “Boris Karloff Presents Thriller” that was parodied in “Chilly Chiller”.

    Its competing series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” was also parodied in another Snooper and Blabber opening – I can’t remember the precise cartoon, as it’s been decades since I’ve seen it – where Blab walks BACKWARDS into the profile silhouette a la Hitchcock. H&B DID love their TV parodies, didn’t they?

  7. More on the Karloff show and H-B, here’s some PURE SPECULATION on my part as to a Karloff show connection to another well-known H-B property – but it sure seems logical once I saw the Karloff show in question… You decide.

  8. Ah, yes… I should have remembered, as you posted on that one recently! My bad… bad memory, that is!

  9. Snooper and Blabber don't do much detective work but babysit here..I remember this one, with Jack Shaindlin's famous track "Comedy Suspense" played as our boys reached the sinsiter Charles Addmas place..

    ..btw you mave heard about the shocking and premature passing of Earl Kress, so someone else will have to diligently research thos cartoon cues as well as speak at Shu Shostack's show in his place..:(

  10. This 'monster family' would make a return appearance- with noticeable character redesigns- in the Snagglepuss short "Scaredy Cat Lion", also written by Maltese.

  11. Mrs. Scientist: "Junior, how many times I said you to don't let your pets on the loose?"
    Junior: "GWAH-GWAH!"

    Jesus, I remember from this dialogue between Mrs. Scientist and his son (a real project of monster) on the final part of this Snooper & Blabber episode (the snapshot showing Junior and his pets says everthing).
    I also saw that the scene showing Snooper and Blabber being recieved by the Evil Scientist couple (whose snapshot is shown above) is anthological.

  12. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    I could notice that, on the second appearance of the Evil Scientist family in Snooper & Blabber (the episode Snap Happy Saps), Mr. & Mrs. Evil Scientist appear with a different design, done by Walter Clinton: Mr. Evil Scientist has huge teeth exposed; and his wife appears with ponytail, "piú bella" (so beautiful in Italian) and glamourous.

  13. I have the one where they have to take photographs on a VHS somewhere. No idea how I'd share it though!

  14. Andrew, you'd have to patch your VHS machine into your computer and re-record it, provided your computer has the proper plug.