Saturday, 10 December 2011

Snooper and Blabber — Not So Dummy

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, O.U. Goony, Irish Cop – Daws Butler; Baby Pants Pinkie, Ventro, Ringmaster – Doug Young.
Music: Phil Green; Jack Shaindlin, Emil Cadkin/Harry Bluestone.
First Aired: week of December 14, 1959 (repeated, week of June 13, 1960).
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-012
Plot: Snooper and Blabber try to catch a crook disguised as a ventriloquist dummy.

The ventriloquist’s dummy is alive! Well, that’s not really quite the concept here, which was used so well by Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone in 1962. But, a few years before that, Mike Maltese concocted a nice little (and far less dark) story where it turns out the ventriloquist’s dummy really is just a disguise (see footnote).

Maltese and Daws Butler are the best parts of the cartoon. Chuck Jones used to say that Maltese was more of a gagman than a storyman, but the story here is well constructed, with gags, a few surprises and a climax along the way. And Daws tosses in a bunch of mangled pronunciations, something that fits Snooper, whose voice is borrowed from someone who did the same thing—Archie of radio’s Duffy’s Tavern.

Maltese is borrowing from himself, as well. This is the second cartoon where Snooper and Blabber take on Baby Pants Pinkie, who is a reworking of Baby Face Finster of Baby Buggy Bugs (1954) he invented at Warner Bros.

Carlo Vinci’s here, too, with some of his distinctive visual tics. Snoop makes a diving leap exit off stage and Pinkie has that huge bar of teeth that Vinci liked using in the first couple of years at Hanna-Barbera (he seems to have phased them out after the first episode of The Flintstones he drew).

The opening shot closes in on one of Monte’s backgrounds. A bunch of Snooper cartoons opened with a shot of an eyeball on a door or a window, no two of them alike. Snoop answers the phone by tagging out his line with a non-sequitur “We also make keys and restring tennis rackets.” We find out “some dishonest crook”—as if there’s an honest kind—“has been stealing the receipts from Goony Island” (Daws pronounces the “p”).

Off they go. Here’s a rare case of a background being re-used. The same cityscape with the garbled letters on one storefront first appeared in Desperate Diamond Dimwits then again in Flea and Me. Another city background ended up in a couple of cartoons in the first season, the one with fountain in Disappearing, inc.

They arrive at the Goony Island amusement park. Interesting poster by Monte in the background.

On the way to O.U. Goony’s office, they pass Ventro the Ventriloquist with his dummy. Blab gets insulted by the dummy but is too much of a dummy to realise it. Bick tries a silhouette layout in Goony’s office. A shame the studio never tried this more often because it’s a nice effect. Goony explains “the lack of lucre” in the till started happening when Ventro got hired, so Snoop decides to “interrogate this dummy tonsil.”

Snoop butchers the language when he kicks open the door to Ventro’s dressing room and says “Pardon the incision” and decides to check the closet to see what “family skulk-ertons” are in the closet. He opens the door and, just like in a horror movie, the body falls out. But Snoop realises he’s not a ventriloquist at all, which means the dummy is the real ventriloquist or, rather, he’s Baby Pants Pinkie (he introduces himself by whipping out a gun and pointing it at Blab). Baby Pants makes a run for it (to the tune of Jack Shaindlin’s ‘On the Run.’

Snoop: Halt in the name of the alumni of Private Eye High!

Here come the puns. Snoop pokes his hole in a tent. “You ain’t got a chance, Baby Pants, so you’d better play ball.” Indeed he does. Snoop’s peering into one of those throw-the-baseball-at-the-target games. And Baby Pants nails his target—Snoop’s head—every time in a bit of cycle animation.

Snoop: I gotta admit. This Baby Pants’d be great in the Little League.

Baby Pants takes off again. Snoop corrals him inside a tent. “Let him have your gun,” Blab demands. You can guess the result. Next, Snoop chases Baby Pants onto a roller coaster. “Folly that crook,” he says to the empty car. You can guess the result (how would an empty car know to zoom off, anyway?). Snoop gets in another car and rides the coaster standing up. A sign reads ‘Please Remain Seated.’ Snoop begins to read it but by the time he’s finished, uh, you can guess the result.

Meanwhile, a ringmaster—except there’s no ring because he’s outside—is introducing on a platform high above, The Great Divo, who will dive into a glass of water below. He doesn’t get the chance. Snoop drops past him and into the little glass. Maltese brazenly puts this line in the dialogue:

Snoop: Leave us face it. I’m in a glass by myself.

As the audience recovers from the pain of the pun, the scene cuts to Baby Pants marching to Ventro’s dressing room door to grab the loot and get away. He opens the door and is shocked to find Ventro “your dummy” standing there with a gun. Baby Pants runs away to surrender and then Ventro removes his head to show it’s really Blab in there (who did a pretty good impression of Doug Young talking, too). He turns to the camera.

Blab: Who’s the dummy now? Right, folks?

Now that the cartoon’s climax has been reached, there’s one thing left. Blab hears Snoop off-stage crying for help.

Blab (to Snooper): You look terrible. Can I get you a glass of water or somethin’?

Snoop responds and the cartoon’s at an end.

Some of the music selections are pretty good in this. Snoop’s fall is accompanied by a piece of scale-dropping string music by Harry Bluestone and Emil Cadkin. And the climactic scene in the dressing room is accompanied by the giddyup strings of ‘Suspence Under Dialogue’ by Jack Shaindlin. And this is another cartoon that ends with Phil Green’s ‘Custard Pie Capers.’

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:25 - GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) – Office scene.
1:08 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Car scene.
1:25 - related to ‘Sportscope’ (Shaindlin) – Blab talks to dummy.
2:05 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Goony office scene.
2:29 - CB-85A STEALTHY MOUSE (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Dressing room scene.
4:01 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab chase Pinkie, Snoop pokes head through hole.
4:22 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Baseball tossing scene, Snoop and Blab skid to a stop.
4:53 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Snoop demands a surrender, gets shot, Blab points.
5:12 - circus running music (Shaindlin) – Pinkie runs, roller coaster, sign clobbers Snoop.
5:46 - CB-83A MR TIPPY TOES (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Snoop falls, lands in glass of water.
6:21 - EXCITEMENT UNDER DIALOGUE (Shaindlin) – Pinkie goes to dressing room, runs away, Blab takes off mask.
6:53 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Snoop in glass, iris closes.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).

Yowp note: Hanna-Barbera used a ventriloquist dummy disguise, in a manner of speaking, in Itty Bitty Fred (1964), where Fred Flintstone shrinks himself by accident, then tries to cash in by pretending to be Barney Rubble’s dummy. Story by Tony Benedict.


  1. Some real good shots of Carlos's work here, Yowp. Notably the roller coaster scene. Some neat action going on there.

    And you're right about the plot here - another of my faves. I think the "reversed ventriloquist" plot was reused again several years later for a "Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels" story, but was not as effective as Mike's story here.

    Plus, it feels somewhat satisfying that Baby Pants didnae get away like he did in "Baby Rattled" :)

  2. Captain who?
    (insert dog-type snicker here)