Saturday, 24 December 2011

Augie Doggie — Fuss N’ Feathers

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds - ?; Story – Mike Maltese; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie, Chicken, Archie, Joe – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy, Bill – Doug Young.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin; Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin.
First Aired: February 29, 1960 (rerun August 29, 1960).
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-024, Production J-77.
Plot: Doggie Daddy copes with Augie’s hungry pet Ostrich.

Evidently, there’s much that goes on when the camera is turned off on our favourite cartoon characters. Toward the end of this cartoon, Augie points out that Archie the ostrich laid an egg. “It’s time you learned the facts of life, Augie,” says wise old Dad. “He didn’t leave no egg. She did.” Well, if we’re following the facts of life, since Augie and Daddy had Archie since the time it was hatched, how did Archie get pregnant? The ostrich has been seemingly been in their house the whole time, being a nuisance. We can only presume that in between scenes, when the camera was off, Archie stole away to tryst with another ostrich that happened to live in the neighbourhood.

Or we could just ignore the facts of life. One can go nuts applying real-life logic to cartoon plot holes.

The cartoon’s pleasant enough because the characters are pleasant enough, but poor Mike Maltese is working on fumes here. This was the second-last, and 77th, cartoon he wrote for the Quick Draw show that season. He did at least one Huck cartoon as well and perhaps some Loopy De Loops. And the Flagstones were about to go into production. So Mike’s dialogue doesn’t have a lot of oomph here.

The first part of the cartoon is taken up with watered-down Pepé LePew. Maltese could write inspired fractured Français for Chuck Jones at Warners but the best he can come up with here is “Eggs dee Chicken Over Easy.” And Augie reading his menu isn’t even consistent; sometimes “the” comes out as “zee” instead of “dee.” “Dat’s my boy whose talkin’ Lithuanian,” Daddy remarks to the viewers.

Then Maltese gives us a couple of premises well-worn at Hanna-Barbera even by 1960. 1) Something escapes or accidentally falls from a van (elephant, kangaroo, Mexican fighting rooster) and 2) Augie wants to adopt it (horse, kitten, annoying duck). In this case, it’s an ostrich egg that bounces out of a zoo delivery van. Hanna-Barbera ate up ideas quickly and both Maltese and Warren Foster had to start repeating them.

So Mike does his best with sight gags. The best one may be at the beginning. The egg rolls into the Daddy family hen house (yes, a dog lives in the suburbs and keeps chickens), and into the nest of Cleo-Elizabeth; the chicken’s name is a delightful bit of incongruity. The chicken is excited to see “her” huge egg, proving that size matters and rushes to tell Augie. “You should be proud of yourself, Cleo-Elizabeth,” beams Augie. The chicken strikes a sexy pose to demonstrate how attractive (and, therefore, fertile) she is.

Augie runs past the same house in the background six times (the Daddy back yard must be a Back 40), cracks open the egg and an ostrich pops out. So now Augie names him Archie (maybe Maltese thought it was a funny name) and wants to keep him. “He won’t eat much,” Augie assures Dad. Except the ostrich eats his pipe.

We cut to six weeks later (during which time the aforementioned tryst must have happened). Archie has swallowed Daddy’s favourite bowling ball. Dear old dad goes through a list of stuff the ostrich has eaten and everything is ordinary sounding; if Maltese were on his game, he would have thrown in something offbeat. Augie does some more begging to give Archie another one more chance. So Daddy does it. We’re about halfway through the cartoon now.

Augie stretches logic for the sake of the plot by carving a clay statue of himself. Augie explains dad will be so happy seeing it, he won’t be mad at the ostrich. Uh, okay. Anyway, Daddy walks off camera to the sound of a gulp. Cut to a shot of the ostrich with the statue in his throat. Of course, Daddy thinks he’s swallowed the real thing. Does he mourn? No, he starts chasing the ostrich. “No son of mine is gonna be for the birds.” Ken Muse gives Daddy a weird running cycle with his arms hanging down, six drawings on ones.

Archie has stopped in the back yard with his head in the ground. “Where did he go? Ostriches have a peculiar way of hidin’,” Daddy says to himself. Then he buries his head under ground. What? That’d make sense if he spotted the ostrich and wanted to talk to him, but he didn’t know where the ostrich was. Apparently, there’s a huge cavern under the Doggie yard as neither of the heads are surrounded by dirt. We can see them clearly. Of course, if they were truly buried, it’d make any dialogue impossible. Then Augie shows up. He doesn’t notice the bodies sticking out of the ground but buries his head instead. Don’t worry, Mike. You’ve only got about two minutes of story to fill.

Now that Daddy learns his son is okay, Archie runs back into the house and swallows a box of bullets. That gives him the hiccoughs and he turns into a living rifle firing at, well, you can guess. Now both Augie and Daddy have a stiff-armed run cycle as they get away from the bullets. “If it’s one thing I can’t stand,” Daddy remarks, “is an ostrich who shoots his mouth off.”

The zoo delivery truck we saw earlier appears again. It has one person in the cab in the medium shot but two in the close up. The guys are named Joe and Bill for reasons I shouldn’t have to explain. Now Bill stretches logic for the sake of the plot. “Hey, look Joe,” he says, “there’s our lost ostrich egg. Only he ain’t an egg any more.” How he made that deduction is something we won’t try to figure out, but one of the two slam a butterfly net on him and drive away to the zoo, with the bird still firing bullets at Augie and his dad. Quips Dad: “He’ll be safer there. And so will we.”

The last scene has Daddy in his living room chair, reading the Daily Bugle, telling us how things are “back to sub-normal.” He’s more correct than he thought. Augie discovers another egg, the Archie look-a-like ostrich hatches and swallows Daddy’s pipe. The Muse striff-armed run cycle is back, except the drawings are reversed and the two run stage left. But Daddy’s never really bothered by anything. He chuckles and says “Here we go again folks,” as the ostrich makes his strange “gepp gepp” noise and looks at the camera as the iris closes.

Incidentally, the last cartoon put into production that season was ‘Poodle Toodle-Oo’, which was a lot funnier than this one. It was a Snooper and Blabber cartoon, so maybe Maltese just tired of coming up with gags for the Augie series.

Phil Green supplies the bulk of the music in the cartoon. I don’t have names for two of the Jack Shaindlin cues. Of the two versions of the cartoon in circulation, there are no end titles and only an opening title card.

0:00 - Augie Doggie bumper music.
0:05 - GR-155 PICNIC OR COUNTRY SCENE (Green) – Augie reads French breakfast items, egg falls out of van, rolls into nest, chicken excited, Augie breaks egg.
1:52 - GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) – Egg hatches, pipe swallowing scene.
2:32 - EM-107D LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Closet scene.
3:15 - GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) – Augie makes sculpture, Archie swallows it, runs away.
3:58 - MAD RUSH No. 2 (Shaindlin) – Archie runs out door, Daddy skids to a stop.
4:06 - G-255 PUPPETRY COMEDY (Green) – Daddy looks around, heads in the ground, Archie swallows bullets.
5:08 - related to SPORTSCOPE (Shaindlin) – Archie shoots bullets.
5:18 - Fast Circus Music (Shaindlin) – “Run, Augie,” Augie and Daddy arrive.
5:36 - MAD RUSH No. 1 (Shaindlin) – Van on road, Archie caught, Daddy and Augie run.
6:06 - CB-83A MR TIPPY TOES (Cadkin and Bluestone) – Daddy reads paper, ostrich hatches, eats pipe.
6:35 - Fast Circus Music (Shaindlin) – Daddy and Augie chase after ostrich.
6:49 - iris out.


  1. "Cleo-Elizabeth" was this cartoon's answer to the 20th-Century Fox movie "Cleopatra," which started five years' fractious production in the fall of 1958.

  2. [Smacks head]
    Duh. Didn't even dawn on me, Tony. What else could it be? Thanks.

  3. Which HUCK cartoon did Maltese write? I never knew that!

  4. 'Grim Pilgrim', if the credits are correct. The only one. I can only guess Foster hadn't arrived yet.

  5. The line "injured an [ahem] Injun" and "talking Turkey" at the close would give it away to those schooled in Maltese's writing..

    As for the Augie short, early Mickey, early Porky, Casper, and the mid 1960s animated Laurel and Hardy [animated and co-produced by H-B themselves during their waning era] all had encounters with Ostriches

    Steve C.

  6. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    Don't forget the Maggie & Sam short The Ostrich Egg and I, which Alex Lovy directed for Walter Lantz/Universal Pictures in 1956.

    Maggie: "Samuel! Did you bring a woman to this house?"
    Sam: "It's only an ostrich!"
    Maggie: "Well, get rid of it! Or I'll get divorced!"

  7. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    Have you noticed that Archie (the ostrich) on this Augie Doggie & Doggie Daddy short - with the Walter Clinton's design - looks like Daffy Duck (more exactly, the Chuck Jones version)?

  8. Actually birds will lay eggs even without male birds being around. Not regularly but they do it.