Saturday, 29 October 2011

Snooper and Blabber — Poodle Toodle-oo!

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Judge, Cup Carrier, Bulldog, Pierre – Daws Butler; Narrator, Chihuahua, Frou Frou’s owner, Toot Sweet, Cop – Don Messick; Frou Frou, Woman with fur – Jean VanderPyl.
Music: Phil Green; Jack Shaindlin; Geordie Hormel; Emil Cadkin/Harry Bluestone.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw No. M-24, Production J-78
First aired: week of March 7, 1960 (rerun, September 5, 1960).
Plot: Snooper and Blabber hunt for a runaway prize-winner that is the home of a French flea.

Bill Hanna said “We want a lively French flea. ... He mustn’t be too effeminate and he has to have that French quality.” So that’s when the studio came up with Toot Sweet.

A syndicated newspaper column related this story a few weeks before Toot Sweet debuted. You can read it HERE. And it was accompanied by drawings of several different ideas presented to Hanna and Joe Barbera by a sketch artist. The quality of the newspaper scan isn’t great but it’ll have to do. I was surprised to find a newspaper editor was convinced by the H-B P.R. people to give up almost half a page for this character artwork.

The sketch artist certainly wasn’t Mike Maltese—the studio had Dan Gordon, Alex Lovy, Dick Bickenbach and Ed Benedict who would come up with appealing characters—but Maltese certainly took the idea of a flea character and, um, flee-d with it. It’s a good thing the cartoons were shorts because I’d ask you to try saying “four flea features” quickly five times. Maltese wrote a quartet of flea cartoons, three of them starring Toot Sweet. This was the first, and the only one that ran on the first season of Snooper and Blabber. In fact, the second cartoon the following season (Fleas Be Careful) refers to “that poodle caper a year ago.”

Maltese’s offbeat sense of humour is, again, the star of the cartoon along with some nice readings from Jean VanderPyl. The voice actors (and character designers) were busy in this one. There are 13 different speaking parts over the course of seven minutes, which must be pretty close to a record. And Art Lozzi wasn’t taking it easy, either. He came up with nine different backgrounds for the first scene alone (it lasted a minute, 25 seconds). Here are some of them. You’ll notice one has dogs surrounding the ring while another has heads with faces. The animation’s easily detectable as the work of Ken Muse; he was the only one drawing a little half-row of upper teeth at the time (John Boersma liked to draw that way when he arrived at H-B a year or so later).

My apologies for the TV cable channel bugs on the screen grabs. I don’t have a clean version of any of the first season Snooper and Blabber cartoons. Some of the colours on the dubs I have are washed out or full of digital pixilation.

The opening’s cute. Don Messick’s narration informs us the Annual Dog Show is taking place at Madison Round Garden and “it’s a very exciting moment.” How exciting? The shot shows one dog doing nothing, a dachshund sniffing its empty food dish and a brown sheep-doggish mutt scratching itself. The chief judge yells at the noisy dogs to be quiet. Then we get a gag that was finely executed by your favourite cartoon dog, Yowp, in Bare Face Bear. A Chihuahua keeps yipping. The judge gives him an annoyed stare. The Chihuahua slows down its yips, finally stops and smiles. Yes, the same gag Bill and Joe used in the cheater cartoon Smarty Cat (1955) and Tex Avery tossed in near the end of Ventriloquist Cat (1950). But Don Messick makes it funny with his delivery and I like the little dog’s giggle before it zips away in a trail of brush strokes.

It doesn’t matter because it didn’t win anyway. Mlle. Frou Frou did. Her French owner is both happy and ‘appy (Don doesn’t quite keep the accent) she won the silver cup, which is gold-coloured. And heavy, the little judge reminds the gushing Frenchman though, it being limited animation, we don’t see him strain with it.

But a shot of Frou Frou’s stall reveals she has run away. That’s the cue to call in The World’s Greatest Private Eye, who is offered $5,000 for the return of the dog. “For that kind of money,” says Snoop, “I’ll bring back a St. Bernard dog ridin’ a tiger.” Just then, a little French voice interrupts the conversation. It’s Toot Sweet, who has lost his happy home now that Frou Frou is gone and offers to help find her. Snooper agrees but first raises his right, uh, paw.

Snoop: In the name of da Private Eye Institute, I now pronounce you Special Deputy.
Toot: In zee name of zee Private Eye Institute, I accept.

A narrator sets the next scene and disappears from the cartoon altogether. Snoop, Blab and Toot Sweet do a walk cycle past a full length of street background (you can see a red building jerk upward where the two ends of the background meet). Blab spots Frou Frou after a tell-tale hair is discovered. Frou Frou runs away. Here’s why Mike Maltese is great:

Toot: Wait, Frou Frou! It is I, Toot Sweet, your life-long tenant.

Maltese now borrows the dialect of French he invented for Pepé LePew cartoons as Frou Frou cries “Le ‘elp!” A bystanding bulldog obliges by punching Snooper three times (saving Ken Muse more drawing). The “bully of a bulldog” figures he can have his way with the lady poodle by asking for a kiss. Toot Sweet defends his happy home by grabbing the bulldog by the tail and bashing him from one side of the sidewalk to the other and tosses him at the foot of a policeman. The gag works a little better when you can suddenly accelerate the pace of the cartoon and add silly sound effects, like at the end of Tex Avery’s Homesteader Droopy (1954).

Here’s another reason Maltese is great:

Cop: (looking down on sidewalk) What’s your trouble, pal?
Bulldog: Fleas.

Frou Frou runs into a fur shop. Anyone know if ‘Wandon Furrier Salon’ is a parody of something? Snooper has skids to a halt and informs Blab “Frou Frou is going to pull the old fur-around-the-neck gag” (previously seen in the Yowp debut cartoon Foxy Hound Dog). Sure enough, some dowager comes out with her neck adorned with a poodle, which Snooper grabs. The woman thumps Snooper into dizziness with her handbag and grabs the dog back. Frou Frou thanks her for the rescue and zips out of the scene. The woman turns to the camera and speaks calmly.

Woman: I’ll bet you think I’m going to scream in sheer terror. Well, you’re right.
(Woman screams)
Toot: Pardon zee interruption, madame. But have you seen my home go by this way?
Woman: (calmly, to audience) Hold onto your hats, folks. Here I go again.
(Woman screams)

Apparently the woman’s not freaked out by a talking cat in a deerstalker hat, but she is by a talking French poodle and a talking flea.

Snoop and Blab chase after Frou Frou onto a dock and toward a French boat where she jumps into the arms of another French poodle (you can tell he’s French because he has the same beret and moustache as Toot Sweet). Ah, but “a true private eye never interferes with l’amour, toujours, l’amour” as Snoop tells Blab (Snoop’s French is better than his English) so he doesn’t doesn’t capture Frou Frou to claim the reward.

Snoop’s failure doesn’t affect his business. The final scene has him on the phone, promising to find a lost dog and put his “missin’ dog operative on the case”—a Canine-03. The ‘operative’ is the flea in detective trench coat. “Toot Sweet will jump on zee case toute suite,” he tells Snoop. The unhappy Blab is sent out as the flea’s assistant. “C’est le guerre, I always say,” he forlornly lets the audience know as he shuffles toward the door.

A couple of notes:
● Snoop doesn’t “halt in the name of...”
● Instead of the window or the office door, there’s an eyeball on Snoop’s certificate on the wall in this cartoon.
● Hazel must have the day off whenever Snoop’s in the office. Her voice isn’t in this cartoon, even though Jean Vander Pyl is.

The sound cutter on this cartoon must have had plenty of time on his hands. There are 16 separate pieces of music used in this cartoon. Only two of them go longer than a minute. I haven’t tracked down the sad hokey violin music used in this and other cartoons, and there’s a Jack Shaindlin cue which has a name I don’t know.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:25 - ZR-45 METROPOLITAN (Hormel) – Narrator sets up cartoon, judge says “Quiet!”
0:41 - GR-96 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Dog yips.
0:56 - PG-171 PERIOD FANFARE (Green) – Judge announces winner, Frou Frou’s owner is “‘appy.”
1:13 - GR-81 FRED KARNO’S ARMY SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – “Has won zee big...” to “Frou Frou, mon petit.”
1:24 - PG-177C LIGHT COMEDY MOVEMENT (Green) – Frou Frou’s owner with cup.
1:29 - EXCITEMENT UNDER DIALOGUE (Shaindlin) – Frou Frou’s box is empty, Snooper will be hired.
1:50 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Snooper talks to Frou Frou’s owner, Toot Sweet talks to Snooper.
3:11 - PG-161 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Snoop, Blab, Toot Sweet on street; hair spotted.
3:29 - related to Excitement Under Dialogue (Shaindlin) – Toot Sweet points at Frou Frou; bulldog punches Snooper.
3:51 - COMEDY SUSPENSE (Shaindlin) – Bulldog punch/dances, punches Snoop, demands kiss, Frou Frou screams.
4:22 - GR-253 TOYLAND PARADE (Green) – Toot Sweet demands bulldog unhand Frou Frou; throws bulldog at feet of cop.
4:42 - CB-85A STEALTHY MOUSE (Cadkin-Bluestone) – “What’s your trouble?” fur-around-the-neck gag, fur lady screams twice.
5:53 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No 1 (Shaindlin) – Frou Frou runs to boat.
6:02 - sad violin music (?) – Frou Frou meets Pierre.
6:29 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Snooper and Blab in office, “I’m an assistant...”
7:03 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – “ a private eye flea.”
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).


  1. It's episodes like this that explains why/how Mike wrote the entire run of Quick Draw McGraw. Endless imagination, even with lifted gags.

    The scene with the cop and dog was brilliant. A "zinger", I do believe.

  2. At the end when Blabber looks up at Snoop at his desk, you can see several frames where they forgot to ink in part of Blab's trilby hat.