Saturday 24 March 2012

Quick Draw McGraw — Doggone Prairie Dog

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Gerard Baldwin, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Joe Montell; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Quick Draw, Baba Looey. First Ranch Hand, Third Ranch Hand – Daws Butler; Narrator, Second Ranch Hand, Cook, Cattle Boss, Prairie Dog – Don Messick.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin, unknown.
First aired: week of January 25, 1960 (rerun, week of July 25, 1960).
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-018, Production J-42.
Plot: Quick Draw tries to keep a wagon train’s food away from a thieving prairie dog.

This cartoon owes a great deal to Tex Avery’s MGM one-shots ‘Lucky Ducky’ (1948) and ‘Garden Gopher’ (1950). The duck and the gopher put one over on their opponents time and time again, capping each of gags with a vocal effect before zipping out of the scene. The prairie dog in the cartoon does exactly the same thing in this cartoon, letting out with a “Yip, yip, yip, yippee!” after easily outsmarting Quick Draw McGraw.

Two people who worked on this cartoon soon wound up at the Jay Ward studio—animator Gerard Baldwin and background artist Joe Montell. Baldwin’s animation could be pretty basic at times and he had a tendency to draw mouths up and in on the face. Montell’s backgrounds, at least in some Quick Draw and Yogi cartoons, consisted of a fairly solid brown colour for the ground, with brown and white dots (representing rocks, I presume) clumped together to break up the monotony. It’s fairly evident in the opening pan of this cartoon, featuring cacti geometrically at an angle going into the distance.

There’s silly dialogue and old jokes aplenty from Mike Maltese, who also engages in a literary pun to start the cartoon. “Nothing to eat but bean, bean, bean,” complains a ranch hand, borrowing heavily from Rudyard Kipling’s Gunga Din. Turns out the reason is “some low-down varmint” has been stealing from their chuckwagon.

Narrator: And something was done about it. The boss of the Bar Nothing Ranch sent for the famous lawman, Quick Draw McGraw.
(knock at the door off camera)
Boss: Come in, famous lawman that I sent fer.
Quick Draw: What is the beef, cattle boss?

Here’s the interior of the boss’s office. Notice the stand-in Navajo rugs. Montell loved the southwest and eventually retired there after spending a number of years in Mexico working for Jay Ward.

Baldwin comes up with a clueless effect that was used in the Bullwinkle cartoons. Quick Draw’s so stupid, he’s forgotten his own name. Baldwin shows it by having Quick Draw sprout swirls for eyes (the swirls don’t actually swirl because animating them would cost time and money). The reaction from the range boss: “I gotta lot of confidence in that boy. Whoever he is.”

So Quick Draw goes undercover as the chuckwagon’s fry cook, making bacon and eggs. Another pan shot.

The prairie dog pops out of his hole. He has little motion lines above him that appear after he surfaces and stay there for 20 frames even though he’s not moving (other than some eye blinks). The sound cutter has given him his own quick little theme (I haven’t been able to find the name) from Jack Shaindlin’s library. The prairie dog zips in, puts a plate underneath the bacon and eggs when Quick Draw flips them, then zips off with the food, only to quickly come back to put salt on them and leave the shaker on Quick Draw’s nose (apparently, he moves so quickly, it allows him to fly and suspend himself in mid-air).

So here are the gags.

● Quick Draw decides to munch on an apple while thinking of what to do next (“Give me time. I’ve only got one brain, you know.”). The prairie dog grabs the apple zips out of the scene, then zips back and puts a core in its place.
● A can of peas is left as bait so Quick Draw can rope the prairie dog and tie him “Rodee-odee-odeeo style.” A Half-Hitch, triple Sailor’s Knot and Nautical Noose later, the camera cuts to Quick Draw, who declares “And you’re caught.” Only it’s the prairie dog who has tied up Quick Draw. A nice touch, hard to see, is the prairie dog gives the OK sign. Maltese makes the situation even more absurd by having Quick Draw ask “What’s the time on that, Baba Boy?” “It’s a new record, Quickstraw. Two seconds flat.” Quick Draw unties himself. Baldwin uses five drawings on twos of Quick Draw with the rope around different parts of his body. Four of the drawings are re-used, making 18 frames in all (while the cutter uses the Fred Flintstone ‘bongo feet’ sound effect).
● Another attempt at lassoing has the prairie dog dragging Quick Draw in and out of his holes (we see everything from a surface point of view). Baba goes to clobber the prairie dog with a frying pan but waits far too long and gets Quick Draw instead. “I don’t thin’ we be able to use this fryin’ pan any more,” observes Baba.
● A stethoscope is lowered into the hole of the prairie dog, who blows into it. Quick Draw’s head expands like a balloon, then the air is let out, leaving a shrunken head. Kind of like those alum gags in a Freleng cartoon at Warners.

● In a Wile E. Coyote-esque moment, Quick Draw loads himself into a sling-shot, with a birthday cake as bait. The logic is when the prairie dog runs off with the cake, Quick Draw can zoom after him. Instead, when Quick Draw fires himself into the air, the prairie dog turns the cake toward Quick Draw, who lands face-first into it. “Happy birthday, Quickstraw” is all Baba can muster in reaction.
● A barricade of boxes, barrels and barbed wire rings the chuckwagon. But it doesn’t keep the “klepto-man-aniac” out. The prairie dog burrows a trend around the chuckwagon and it sinks into the ground (with bubbling sound effects). But Quick Draw stays put, reminding Baba that as a captain goes down with his ship, a range cook goes down with his chuckwagon. “And do-oe-oe-on’t you forget it!” Baba takes off his sombrero in mourning, turns to us and says “You gots to admiration that Quicksdraw. He’s got lots of spunks. No brain. Just spunks.” And the cartoon is over.

If you’re wondering why the cook was only serving beans at the beginning of the cartoon when there were peas, ham and eggs and birthday cakes, well, don’t ask. That’s too much thinnin’ for one cartoon.

I haven’t been able to identify the first piece of music in the cartoon. I suspect it’s from the Sam Fox library, where similar styles of underscores were found.

0:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:15 - western string music (?) – Long shot of wagon train, griping ranch hands, Cattle Boss in office, first set of door knocks.
0:49 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Green) – Second set of door knocks, Cattle Boss office scene, Quick Draw at frying pan, “That smells pretty good, Quickstraw.”
1:37 - Oh Susannah (Trad.) – Quick Draw frying, Baba sniffs, Prairie Dog pops up from hole.
1:52 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Prairie dog sniffs, grabs bacon and eggs with his own plate, puts salt on them, zips out of scene, “That must be the grub-grabber.”
2:09 - GR-58 GOING SHOPPING (Green) – Baba asks how prairie dog will be caught, Quick Draw goes to bite apple.
2:23 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Prairie dog grabs apple, somersaults into hole, Quick Draw’s can of peas, prairie dog opens can with teeth.
2:55 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Prairie dog eats peas, Quick Draw tied up, unties himself, swings rope.
3:30 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Lassos prairie dog, Quick Draw goes through holes, Baba clobbers with frying pan.
4:05 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Remainder of frying pan scene, stethoscope scene, Baba shouts “Happy birthday”
5:18 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Prairie dog pops head up, Quick Draw flies into cake, “Same to you, Baba boy.”
5:39 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw on top of chuckwagon, prairie dog digs around it.
6:10 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Chuckwagon sinks, Baba tag line.
6:43 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

1 comment:

  1. To go with the offbeat Baldwin animation, this cartoon has a few 'foreign' sound effects not belonging to the H-B repertoire. A strange downward whistle is heard when the cook drops the bean on the plate; when Baba clobbers Quick Draw with the frying pan, it's to a strange high-pitched 'clonk'. By that time, the studio had at least two stock sound effects for impact by frying pan.

    Given the strict time limit to these shorts, some tended not so much to end as just 'stop' without a climax or resolution- indeed, the prairie dog is never caught. Instead, Quick Draw just slowly sinks with his chuck wagon.