Saturday 31 March 2012

Pixie and Dixie — Puss in Boats

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Dick Lundy, Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie, French Cat – Don Messick; Dixie, Jinks – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Spence Moore, Geordie Hormel, Lou De Francesco, Raoul Kraushaar.
First Aired: week of February 22, 1960 (rerun, week of August 1, 1960)
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-39, Production E-104.
Plot: Jinks tries to get past a kicking Gallic cat and retrieve Pixie and Dixie on a French ocean liner.

Warren Foster was adept at fighting when the need arose, fellow Warner Bros. writer Lloyd Turner once observed. And perhaps that’s why Foster knew about the art of savate and incorporated it into this cartoon. You can read the history of it HERE.

This isn’t a bad little cartoon. There are some cute asides to the audience, and the timing’s good at the end which Jinks injures himself. Dick Lundy comes up with some nice angular stretches on the characters, though you can see how he could churn out footage if you check out how many times he uses cycles, eye blinks and holds on backgrounds. And I like the relationship between the cat and mice in Foster’s story.

The cartoon starts with Pixie and Dixie moving out forever because of the abuse Jinks inflicts on them. Right at the start, there’s little for Lundy to do. The shot is a close-up of the mouse hole on Dick Thomas’ background drawing. The camera trucks back to reveal Jinks standing there. The cat doesn’t even blink an eye for the first seven seconds. I like this little exchange:

Dixie: You got the tickets?
Pixie: Yup.
Dixie: Passports?
Pixie: Uh, huh. I picked them up while you were gettin’ your shots.

That’s right. Mice with passports and shots.

Jinks is lead to facetiousness and overacting when the mice tell him why they’re leaving. “You are breaking my heart,” is one of his phoney laments as he clutches his heart. Finally, he points and angrily tells the meeces to leave. The background drawing with the angular shadow on the wall was also in ‘Hi-Fido’ earlier in the season.

When the mice are gone, Jinks laughs about how peaceful it is with no meeces to make his life “miser-ab-ble.” Then his expression changes in five drawings on twos. I’ve slowed it down.

Jinks frowns

He starts crying. He wants his meeces back. Aww. It’s a shame TV animation forced Lundy to keep Jinks’ body on one cell and his head drawings on others. The body remains rigid while he cries which looks a little awkward.

Jinks follows them down the street up the gangway of a French ship. “Let’s let gone-byes be byegones,” he pleads. He’s tapped on the shoulder. It’s the ship’s cat, who claims all mice on the ship are his, and French. “Just one parlez-vous minute,” says Jinks (echoing Daffy Duck’s “Just a parbroiled minute,” during a cooking discussion in the Maltese-written ‘Duck! Rabbit, Duck!) as he explains there are two American meeces on board.. But when Pixie and Dixie appear, they speak French with the weakest accents imaginable, though the French cat is fully convinced.

Jinks (to French cat): Your mice, my foot.
French Cat: No, no, Monsieur. My mice, my foot.

That’s when the cat kicks Jinks off the ship into the water and Dixie explains savate to us all (though it keeps being pronounced “sabatt” during the whole cartoon). And when Pixie and Dixie tell the French cat they want to go home to their mouse hole and Jinks, he threatens to kick them, too. Then he locks them in the hold. Oh, you just know M. Chat is going to get his.

The meece cry for help. Jinks’ hears them and does his best to rescue them. Lundy gets a chance to stretch the characters a bit. First Jinks dashes along the wharf and up the gangway. He’s kicked back down off-camera (all we see is Jinks rolling backward on the wharf). Then he hangs onto a rope and inches his way toward a porthole on the ship. “Okay, wise guy, there’s more than one way to skin a cat,” he cries. Then he stops and turns to the audience. “Shee. Whoever started that expression?” Cut to Jinks in the porthole. The French cat apparently loves Frank Sinatra. “One for my baby and one more for the road,” he exclaims as he kicks Jinks out of the porthole.

Dixie sees Jinks taking a beating and decides they have to save him. Wait a minute. I thought they couldn’t get out and that’s why they were yelling for Jinks to help them. Well, let’s ignore that for now. Pixie ties a rope to the French cat’s tail while Dixie ties the other end to a signal rocket. Look at the stretches.

More Sinatra, this time from the Cole Porter songbook. The French cat says of Jinks “I get a kick out of ‘eem.” Jinks comes up the stairs onto the deck. The French cat is about to kick him accompanied with his “Viva la savate!” cry when he’s suddenly pulled off the ship by the rocket and disappears into the distance. So it turns out the climax, as Frank might sing, involves flying too high with some guy in the sky.

We switch to the Wizard of Oz as the meece tell Jinks they’ve learned “there’s no place like home.” Jinks has learned something, too. The French cat’s savate foot work. He starts chasing the mice. The last gag’s set up really well. Jinks misses the first time his leg takes a swing at the mice. The second time, he unexpectedly kicks a table that happens to appear. He dances around in pain. It’s pretty funny. And the meece pulls a Scooby by laughing together as the cartoons fades out.

There’s no Sinatra on the soundtrack, but we get that echo-ey clarinet and muted trumpet cue by Raoul Kraushaar. And there’s a galop by Lou De Francesco, The March of Time’s musical director before Jack Shaindlin.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera, Shows).
0:13 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Pixie and Dixie bid Jinks goodbye, Jinks emotes “You are breakin’ my heart.”
1:09 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose) – “How can I ever get along...,” meeces leave, Jinks lonesome.
1:50 - L-1139 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Jinks wants to talk to meeces.
2:03 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks chases after meeces, meeces scurry up gang plant, Jinks on deck calls out to meeces.
2:44 - C-14 DOMESTIC LIGHT (Loose) – Tap on shoulder, “Mice on board are mine.”
3:10 - ZR-51 LIGHT ANIMATION (Hormel) – “Oh, now look...,” Pixie and Dixie have fake accents, Jinks kicked, lands in water, French cat threatens meece.
4:32 - 8-MR-377 creepy reverb muted trumpet (Kraushaar) – Meece call to Jinks through porthole, Jinks runs off scene.
5:02 - SF-10 SKI(ING) GALOP (DeFrancesco) – Jinks runs on deck, kicked off boat.
5:15 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – Jinks on rope, kicked out of porthole, Pixie ties French cat’s tail.
5:57 - LAF-20-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Pixie runs away, French cat zooms into the distance.
6:13 - TC-437 SHOPPING DAY (Loose-Seely) – Pixie, Dixie and Jinks in living room, Jinks kicks.
6:30 - SF-10 SKI(ING) GALOP (DeFrancesco) – Meece leap into the air, Jinks kicks table.
6:57 - Pixie and Dixie Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

Yowp Note: With this cartoon, the blog has reviewed all 13 cartoons in Pixie and Dixie’s second season on the air.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Ride With Fred, Bathe With Huck

You almost have to wonder why Pebbles had to be created. Hanna-Barbera didn’t need to make money off an oh-so-cute kid doll from Ideal Toys. It was already marketing the crap out of the Flintstones before Pebbles was around.

Roving correspondent Billie Towzer has found pictures of yet more H-B merchandise on the internet which is generously being passed on to you.

If you play a word-association game with anyone who watched Saturday morning TV, say about 1964, and said “Marx” (as in ‘toys’, not ‘brothers’), the response will likely be “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots.” They must have been advertised on every cartoon show at one time. Nevertheless, Louis Marx and Co. made heaps of other things for kids, including Flintstones items licensed from Hanna-Barbera. Among them were wind-up toy tricycles, made in Japan in 1962, featuring Fred, Wilma and Dino.

Kids love trains, or they used to. Marx came through for them with a couple of train sets. The Flintstones Bedrock Express was kind of cheesy. It had Fred and Barney on a handcar which went around a moulded plastic track surrounding a few houses, streets and three palm trees. This is from about 1962 as well.

How many Perry Gunite toys are there? At least one. It’s a wind-up train, by Marx. Bonus points for an on-model drawing of Baby Puss (by Dick Bickenbach?). The description I found on the internet says:

...train depicts all the various Flintstone characters looking out of the windows. Fred and Wilma ride in the locomotive. On both sides of the train is written in white letters "Bedrock Express." On each of the three cars, as if carved in stone, is text "The Flintstone/Choo Choo/Train." Other characters appear in car windows w/names above. Included are Barney/Betty/Rodney/Rocky/Baby Puss/Dino/Perry Gunite/Stanley Stonedome/Mrs. Dweller. On the back of the train is a .75 x 7/8" bw image w/four main characters w/names below. .25 x 3/8" cast metal bell on locomotive top.

Before we leave the Flintstones, check out a series of buttons. 1964 or so, maybe?

Whitman had a series of Huckleberry Hound colouring books in the early ‘60s. Here’s the cover from one of them, copyright December 23, 1960. The drawings are by John Carey and Bill Edwards. Yes, the same John Carey who animated at Warner Bros. in the ‘30s and ‘40s.

I’ve never heard of Milvern but it seems they were in the bath business. They licensed bath soap with the cast of ‘The Huckleberry Hound Show’ on the box. The artwork’s fun. I love the pissed-off Jinks.

There was a time long before computer games when children could amuse themselves with a simple deck of cards. There was a gin rummy set that my parents bought me which featured Yowp and the always fun Fibber Fox. But this is a different set altogether. I can’t remember if I had these but I’m pretty sure I saw them when they came out. If you look closely, you’ll see they’ve been cut from stiff paper. Perhaps they were on the back of a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box.

My thanks again to Billie. We’ll have more in a future post.

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).

Wednesday 21 March 2012

June Foray

June Foray didn’t get a lot of work at Hanna-Barbera, despite being the top female voice actress around, and having voiced for Joe Barbera in the waning days of the MGM cartoon studio when he and Bill Hanna were producers. Maybe it was a matter of cost; Daws Butler was getting more than scale, according to cartoon producer and H-B expert Mark Evanier, so the acting budget may have been tapped out. Or maybe they just didn’t need her; Daws and Don Messick generally handled the women’s voices in falsetto until Jean Vander Pyl was hired in 1959.

At H-B, June appeared in ‘Bear on a Picnic’ in the first season of The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958). She won, then lost, the role of Betty on The Flintstones (and got a paltry few incidental roles as a kind of consolation). And that was pretty well it until The Smurfs came along some years later.

It’s not like she needed the work. Her talent kept her constantly in demand. And it’s nice to see that she was getting a little bit of publicity back in the day when cartoon voice actors didn’t get a lot of credit.

Here are a couple of newspaper articles, both from 1957. Remember, this was before Rocky and His Friends, the show where she gained her most famous role (and weekly screen credit). First, a feature piece from the San Fernando Living page of the Van Nuys News, dated October 17th. The reference to “Trick or Treet” has me stumped; I thought it was referring to the Warners cartoon “Trick or Tweet,” but that didn’t come out until 1959 (see the comment section for the answer). The photo is a standard publicity shot; I wish had a better copy than a scan of a photocopy of a newspaper.

Valley Girl ‘Unseen Voice’ In Radio, Video Shows
To millions of television and radio fans, June Foray is a voice detached from a body, so to speak.
By way of explanation, it means that Miss Foray is the girl that just about everybody hears but seldom sees.
Most of her work is off-camera, as, to a large extent, her career is concentrated upon recording voices for radio and television commercials, radio programs and cartoons.
Lives in Reseda
Miss Foray, who gets her mail in Reseda, is probably Hollywood’s most outstanding specialist in imitating all sorts of voices and sounds, ranging from a baby to a witch. And this rather unconventional profession earns her an income which could arouse envy of many a big-business tycoon.
In terms of size, Miss Foray is rather a small package of charming humanity. She is about five feet tall and weighs in the neighborhood of 97 pounds, even after her daily luncheon at the Vine St Brown Derby. But she’s packed solidly with talent.
Child Star
After making her professional debut as a child in radio in her home town, Springfield, Mass., Miss Foray eventually penetrated to Hollywood. Her Hollywood debut occurred with “Lady Make Believe” radio program which she produced and starred in.
For five years Capitol records employed her talents as she recorded voices for more than 100 albums, including those slanted at children. With the popular Stan Freberg, she did all the female voices on the best-selling record “St. George and the Dragonette” and other items in the same entertainment area. More recently she has regularly appeared on Freberg’s radio show via CBS.
In the cartoon field, she has impersonated characters in the “Woody Woodpecker,” “Bugs Bunny” and other series. For the fabulous Walt Disney, Miss Foray has recorded voices for “Disneyland,” “Mickey Mouse Club Theatre,” “Trick or Treet,” “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan” and other projects.
Soap to Jello
It’s almost impossible to tune in your radio or television set without hearing the Foray voice extoll the virtues of such products as Helene Curtis, Schlitz, Mars Bars, Dial Soap, Boron, Snowdrift, Budweiser Beer, Randini, Pet Milk, Jello, Pillsbury, Hormel Frankfurts, Western Airlines.
June and her husband, Hobart Donovan, the writer, are lavish hosts in their Reseda home and are planning a new domicile (they recently bought a lot) in Woodland Hills which will afford them greater entertainment potentialities.
Cat and Dog
Their household includes Henry, a rather independent Thomas cat, and Katrinka, a Dachshund, who is strictly a lady.
Miss Foray occasionally finds time to indulge in her new hobbies, which are painting in oils, photography and gardening.
Incidentally, Husband Hobart excells in the culinary as well as the literary arts, especially in collaboration with barbecue facilities.

The United Press also thought the mystery voice-behind-the-show was a good angle for an April 7th story about Shirley Temple’s TV show. Perhaps the biggest revelation is June played the voice of a can of Bud, which would be as far against type as possible.

June Foray Generally Is Unseen
United Press Staff Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD (UP)—You can call June Foray “mousey” and get away with it. In fact, she’ll probably be flattered.
Miss Foray has “played” numerous roles in her theatrical career. They include animals such as mice, chickens, dogs, owls, cats, rabbits, cows, skunks, crows, pigeons, mules, pigs, monkeys and parrots—to name a few. She’s also played houses, chairs, cars, trains, lamps and, for TV commercials, a candy bar, a piece of soap and even a can of beer.
And at some times she has voiced characters such as Cinderella and Pinocchio.
Miss Foray is many voices to many people. Her voice has been dubbed in for so many animals and inanimate creatures hat she can't recall how many there have been. There have been hundreds of cartoons in which her voice has been heard, more than 1,000 radio plays and TV shows and about 300 record albums.
“I guess it’s my fate, generally speaking, to be heard but not seen,” she said. “However, I have appeared as a human on some TV shows — Ed Sullivan, Red Skelton and Johnny Carson. It’s very satisfying for the ego to be seen, but for sheer joy, dubbing voices is to me the greatest.”
Different Mice
She thinks she’s done about 200 mice dubbings. The latest mouse — her character preference, by the way, in animal vocalizing—will be heard April 18 in the “Shirley Temple Story book” TV series. The film by Screen Gems is “Land of Green Ginger,” and Miss Foray analyzed the character before deciding to play it.
“I can’t do a male mouse the same as I’d play a female,” she said. “And the suave city mouse—the guy who eats Roquefort—he’s nothing like his poor old unsophisticated country cousin. Then, of course, there are field mice, timid mice, bold mice, altruistic mice and selfish mice and old mice and young mice—each one calls for a different voice treatment.
“My latest mouse is a ‘feisty,’ forceful type of mouse. I know it’s hard to project forcefulness in a thin, squeaky voice, but it can be done. One trick is to emphasize key words like ‘Go!’ if you want to do it effectively.”
Miss Foray has never studied the habits of mice even she does like to play them.
“Gosh, I might have to look at some of them, and they terrify me,” she explained.

Isn’t that great? Free tips from one of the greats. And there probably isn’t a voice actress who fans today adore more than June Foray.

Monday 19 March 2012

A Page Right Out of History

Ever had a good look at the Town of Bedrock? If you’ve seen the opening and closing of the first couple of seasons of ‘The Flintstones,’ then you have. But David Pruiksma snipped together this background from one of the early episodes (Click to enlarge).

David points out it served as a model for a Marx Flintstones playset that came out about that time.

He suspects the layout is by Ed Benedict. As for the background artist, you can find those same sponged clouds-with-a-tail in a bunch of Quick Draw McGraw cartoons. One of them is “Six-Gun Spook,” with backgrounds by Dick Thomas. It also has the same kind of blue rock face you see in the Flintstones background.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Flintstones, Sunday, March 1962

Maybe it’s my imagination, but network radio and early TV sitcoms seem to have had “girl-crush-on-male-star” among their list of episode plots. The most famous example would be on “I Love Lucy” (Janet Waldo’s character in love with Ricky Ricardo). But here it is again in the Flintstones comics in 1962.

The girl in question has a bone in her hair, perhaps showing a Gene Hazelton influence in those pre-Pebbles days. The March 4 comic also has the script form of “Hanna-Barbera” used in TV cartoons of the day. The comics seem to have varied between this and using a form featuring the Tabitha-like typeface found in animated cartoons the year before.

The pre-historic lizard in the first panel is nice bonus.

After he got dancing lessons from Arthur Quarry in a first-season episode (1961), Fred learned how to dance the Dinosaur Twist in the March 11 weekend comic. At least the instructor isn’t called “Arthur Murrayrock,” a creatively-bankrupt name if ever I heard one (sorry, I’m not a fan of the Frantic episode where Murrayrock appears).

The grouchy, bombastic Fred makes an appearance March 18. Nice looking mastodon in that first panel. A shame not all papers ran the top row.

I really like the reflection panel in the March 25 cartoon. The confused turtle is a nice little addition. Interestingly, dinosaurs were featured in all four Sunday comics of the month, but only as ancillary characters in the first three.

As usual, you can click on each comic to make it bigger.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Augie Doggie — Gone to the Ducks

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse, Layouts – Dick Bickenbach, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Sketches – Dan Gordon, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie, Cat Burglar – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy, Radio Announcer – Doug Young; Duck – Red Coffey.
Music: Phil Green, Harry Bluestone-Emil Cadkin, Jack Shaindlin, Hecky Krasnow.
First aired: week of January 25, 1960 (rerun, week of July 25, 1960)
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-018, Production J-59.
Plot: An orphan duck moves in to the Daddy home, much to the consternation of Doggie Daddy.

The phone jangled in Mike Maltese’s office. It was Joe Barbera on the line.
“Mike,” asked the boss, “Remember that duck that everyone loved in the Tom and Jerry cartoons?”
“Uh, kind of,” replied Maltese, cautiously.
“And he was a scream when we used him in those two Yogi Bear cartoons last season, right?”
“If you say so, Joe.” Maltese was afraid of what was coming.
“I want you to stick him in a cartoon this season,” Joe suggested, though the tone was more than one of a suggestion.
“How about if El Kabong bashes him with a guitar and we bury him on Tombstone Hill, population one dead duck?” offered Mike.
“Don’t be funny. Well, do be funny. In the cartoons, that is. And find a place for our duck,” Joe firmly stated before hanging up the phone.

Now, this conversation really didn’t happen. For one thing, Maltese may have been working from home in his first couple of years with the studio. But Joe and Bill Hanna loved that duck. He was already part of the studio’s marketing campaign (along with a certain yowping dog) as Biddy Buddy. So Maltese, whether at Barbera’s behest or not, stuck him in this cartoon before reworking him the following season into Yakky Doodle.

Maltese’s duck is pretty much the same as the other versions. He’s an orphan (even coming to tears at the end of one scene about his fate in life) but what’s really odd about him in this cartoon is something that happens at the start. After a beautiful establishing background by Dick Thomas, we find rifle-toting Doggie Daddy and Augie in a duck blind. Augie’s weary from blowing a duck call with no results. Then the happy proto-Yakky strolls into the cartoon. The dialogue.

Duck: Is this a gun?
Daddy: Yes, dis is a gun.
Duck: Are you going to shoot me?
Daddy: Well, now, dat’s dee accepted theory.
Duck: Okay. Go ahead.

The duck then leans against a rock, waiting to get blasted.

What I don’t understand is—why? If this were a Daffy Duck cartoon, we’d know he was merely engaging in a ruse to lull the hunter into a false sense of security only to do something violent to him. That doesn’t happen here. Does he piteously want someone to end his life because he’s an orphan? No, he’s not suicidal. He’s just lonely and wants friends. Does he know that Daddy isn’t going to pull the trigger? Nothing shows that he’s gotten into Daddy’s head and is smart enough to understand his motivation.

Setting that aside, the story is well structured. And, no, Daddy doesn’t shoot him. That would end the cartoon before the two-minute mark. Daddy does the standard cartoon reluctant slow count to three, where a character adds fractions because he doesn’t want to follow through with his threat. In Maltese’s case, he finds something different to use as a gag. One of the fractions is 2 and 17/16ths (which doesn’t exist).

Doggie Daddy tells the duck to go home to mommy and daddy, but then proto-Yakky reveals he has no mommy or daddy. Daddy is unmoved; he saved the duck’s life and that’s enough. Daddy tells the duck he and Augie are going home. The orphan duck now becomes deluded stalker duck, where he has decided he is now a member of the Doggie family and Daddy is his daddy, too. The duck follows along, constantly squawking “goodbye” as a bait-and-switch. When Daddy turns around and informs him they already said “goodbye,” the duck then says “Then I say ‘Hello, I’m glad to see you. Are you glad to see me’?” Daddy’s not. And the duck won’t go away voluntarily. So Daddy uses some “stra-gedy.” He plays “fetch” with the duck. And when the bird goes to get the stick, Daddy and Augie take off in their convertible. Now the duck feels sorry for himself. “Nobody wants an orphan duck,” he says between sniffs.

The next scene’s at home. Daddy is trying to console Augie by saying “a little wild duck belongs in da wild blue yonder.” “But, dad, he’s a tame wild one,” is Augie’s response. Daddy now emulates Jimmy Durante’s mangling of words: “Dat’s an amphibious statement, if I ever hoid one.” The scene’s interrupted by the stalker duck rapping on the window. Daddy gives in and lets him stay for the night.

Well, maybe it’s not for the night. The duck echoes Augie and says “Good night, dear old dad.” Daddy responds “Good night, my sons, my sons,” and muses how to legally adopt a duck before he stops and stares at the camera in shock when he realises what he’s just said. The duck isn’t as much as a pain as he was to Yogi when the bear let him sleep for the night in ‘Slumber Party Smarty’ (Yogi can’t take him anymore so the bear ‘flies south’ for the winter). But he does ask for a drink of water and then never stops drinking. The portion of the cartoon where the duck drinks from an oaken bucket lasts 30 seconds before Daddy finally cracks a line to the camera: “Will morning never come? You’d after 30 seconds, he’d come up with something a little stronger.

The scene is interrupted by a bulletin on the radio about a cat burglar in the neighbourhood (or, as Doggie Daddy says it, “a cat bur-gurglar” like Augie did in ‘Watchdog Augie’ earlier in the season). Sure enough, the cat burglar shows up at the open bedroom window. We know he’s the cat burglar because he goes “meow.” Yeah, it’s hokey but it’s still funny. Half-asleep Daddy think he’s Augie until Augie, in bed, informs him otherwise. Who is it? “I’ll give you a hint. Meow. Meoww. Hiss.” Right on cue, Augie and Daddy cry “The cat burglar!” Augie and Daddy run, but the duck comes to rescue. Reminiscent of the climax of Hanna and Barbera’s ‘Kitty Foiled’ (1948), when the canary flew into a closet, grabbed a bowling ball, and dropped it to stop Tom from getting at Jerry, the duck does the same thing. The only difference is he slams the ball into the crook’s head and does it with superfluous dialogue; the action speaks for itself). See the brushwork before the ball-burglar collision?

The finale has Daddy on the phone to the cops, with the tied-up crook next to him. “Your cat burglar has burgled his last burg,” he says (I think; the Durante voice gets in the way a bit). Pan over to what used to be a watchdog house (Wait a minute. A pair of dogs owned a dog?). “After all,” says Daddy, “How many people (?!) can say dey’ve got a real, genuine watch duck?” The duck ends it in a close-up, barking and then laughing at the camera, as so many future Hanna-Barbera cartoons ended (usually after the words “Scooby-rooby-roo”).

The unnamed duck (he’s not called “Biddy Buddy” on screen after the two Yogi cartoons) returned the following season in ‘Yuk, Yuk, Duck’ and ‘Let’s Duck Out’, in the Snooper and Blabber cartoon ‘De-Duck-Tives’, and the Loopy de Loop short ‘This is My Ducky Day’ (also written by Maltese). It would appear these cartoons were in production before the germination of The Yogi Bear Show, where the duck got promoted to his own series.

A couple of notes about the music. The rendition of ‘London Bridge’ is the same arrangement as another tune used in the H-B cartoons which seems to incorporate the opening bar of ‘London Bridge’ several times. I don’t know which library it’s from. And because Hanna-Barbera licensed the Capitol Hi-Q library, the sound cutter would know the cue when Augie is in bed as ‘5-EM-131E Lullaby’ which is as appropriate as its original name of ‘Bedtime Story.’

0:00 - Augie Doggie Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera)
0:25 - GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) – Augie and Daddy in duck blind.
0:49 - London Bridge (Trad.) – Duck strolls onto scene.
1:04 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Daddy aimed rifle at duck, counts, “2 and 17/16ths.”
1:41 - CB-83A MR TIPPY TOES (Cadkin-Bluestone) – “Two, and, and...,” Duck is an orphan, Duck says “Goodbye.”
2:05 - GR-258 THE TIN DRAGOONS (Green) – Daddy and Augie walk away, duck follows, “We already said goodbye.”
2:20 - GR-155 PARKS AND GARDENS (Green) – “Then I say ‘hello’...,” duck runs after stick.
2:54 - LAF-117-1 MAD RUSH No 1 (Shaindlin) – “And here we go, Augie,” duck sorry for itself.
3:11 - GR-257 BEDTIME STORY (Green) – Augie in bed, duck at window, duck allowed in, wants drink of water.
4:26 - EM-107D LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Duck glugs down water, radio says “Attention!”
5:25 - COMEDY SUSPENSE (Shaindlin) – Announcer warns of cat burglar, burglar breaks into home, rushes off to steal silverwear.
6:24 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Duck gets bowling ball, drops it on burglar’s head.
6:45 - THE HAPPY COBBLER (Krasnow) – Daddy on phone to police, duck barks like dog.
7:08 - Augie Doggie End Title theme (Curtin).