Monday 30 April 2012

Zoinks! An Internet Programming Note

The Hanna-Barbera studio was a mix of young and old, even at the beginning in 1957 when Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera hand-picked people who had worked with them at MGM for their new studio. The artists had long experience in theatrical animation but some of the technical people were newcomers to the industry.

Among them were young Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, who went from Warner Leighton’s sound department to writing, to developing one of the most popular characters in TV cartoon history, to running their own studio (though both it and Hanna-Barbera were owed by Taft at one time). One or both of them were first-hand witnesses to the start of Quick Draw McGraw, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Jonny Quest and the dramatic-fantasy shows, the Banana Splits and, of course, a hungry, clumsy, panic-stricken dog. And they’ll be chatting about their careers in animation with Stu Shostak on “Stu’s Show” at 4 p.m. (Pacific) this Wednesday. You can stream it by going
HERE. In fact, you can find Stu there every Wednesday afternoon at 4.

Ruby and Spears were front-and-centre at the birth of Saturday morning cartoons, and worked through the time when Hanna-Barbera went from merely pleasing Bill and Joe to pleasing networks and their idiotic demands (and dealing with threats of animation contracts being awarded to overseas companies). They have lots to talk about, including the new Flintstones show that Fox handed to Seth MacFarlane before shelving it.

Stu’s done more shows on animation than I can count, with Janet Waldo, June Foray, the late cartoon writer Earl Kress and H-B layout artist Jerry Eisenberg among his guests.

Oh, guests, yes. I should mention that included in the on-air proceedings will be Mark Evanier, who has his own long list of animation accomplishments and probably knows as much about the history of the Hanna-Barbera studio (where he worked) as anyone alive today. And he worked on some Ruby-Spears programmes as well; ‘Thundarr the Barbarian’ seems to be the one which grabs the attention of some fans.

What’s that, Stu? The show’s available for a 99 cent download afterwards on your site? Sorry, this is a commercial-free site. No plugs.

I can pretty well guarantee you there is one question neither Mssrs. Ruby or Spears will answer—the name of the member of the Hanna-Barbera brain-trust working on “Scooby Doo, Where Are You!” who came up with the catchphrase “Zoinks!” for Shaggy. That’s because they admitted in 1999 that they didn’t know. Joe Barbera didn’t know, either. Here’s a Knight-Ridder newspaper feature story, dated November 1, 1999, which shows even the creators don’t treat the show with reverence.

Scooby-Doo turns 210 dog-years old
By Stephen Lynch
The Orange County Register

Scooby-Doo, as astounding as it sounds, is 30 years old (and that’s human years).
This begs many questions. Why has a gang of ascot-wearing, mystery-solving teens resonated with three decades of youth? What possesses nearly 2 million viewers, many of them in their 20s, to tune into “Scooby-Doo” every week on the Cartoon Network? How, indeed, did a show so formulaic, so repetitive, so ... moronic ... manage to become the longest continuously running cartoon ever?
But most importantly: What’s the deal with “zoinks”?
Whenever Shaggy, the bell-bottomed hippie anti-hero of “Scooby-Doo,” opened a closet door to reveal, say, the Spooky Space Kook, he’d fall back on his heels and scream, “Zoinks!” What's up with that?
It seems a simple enough question. Another direct-to-video adventure of everyone’s favorite cowardly Great Dane, “Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost,” was released this month. For the occasion, I have access to perhaps the pre-eminent source of Scooby-Doo information, co-founder of the studio that produced him, Joseph Barbara.
But reached at the Sherman Oaks, Calif., offices of Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc., the animator isn’t so sure he can remember. He tells a couple of stories about how the series was developed, about his love of dogs, from Huckleberry Hound to Muttley, about the show’s homage to Vaudeville.
And “Zoinks”?
“Hmm,” Mr Barbera says absently. “Sorry. Can't help you there.”
Hanna-Barbera was already famous for “Tom & Jerry” and “The Flintstones” when CBS approached them with the concept for “Scooby-Doo.”
Fred Silverman, children’s programming executive at the network, wanted some sort of mystery series involving teen-agers.
The characters — Fred, Velma, Daphne and Shaggy — were lifted from the popular sitcom “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” Shaggy in particular resembles his inspiration, Bob Denver’s Maynard G. Krebs, a beatnik who shuddered at the word “work.”
And no, Krebs did not say “Zoinks.”
The series was originally titled “Mysteries Five,” after the four sleuths and their dog mascot, Too Much. That’s right, Too Much.
“It was what kids said in those days,” says one of the head writers, Joe Ruby. “Like, ‘That's too much!’”
Everyone hated the title, though. They changed it to "W-wh-oo’s S-ss-scared,” or something to that effect (there’s disagreement as to the number of vowels). But it was Mr. Silverman who stumbled onto the infamous name, after hearing Frank Sinatra improvise “scooby-dooby doo” on “Strangers in the Night.”
To the casual viewer, “Scooby Doo” is about kids who always manage to stumble into creepy situations, like a pubescent group of Angela Lansburys. But they’re really a company called Mystery Inc., sleuths for hire Daphne’s father even bought them that fly psychedelic van, the Mystery Machine. And when were they paid?
“That’s one of those mysteries, like what Barney’s job is,” says Mike Lazzo, senior vice president of programming and production at the Cartoon Network.
No matter. Suffice to say, there was a reason the gang spent most of their time in scary mansions and spooky swamps. They were entrepreneurs.
It turned into an enduring venture. After the first episode of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” aired in 1969, the cartoon stayed in production more or less through 1991, adding much loathed characters like Scrappy-Doo, Yabba Doo and Scooby-Dum.
They met the Three Stooges, Phyllis Diller and the Harlem Globetrotters. Busted the Moon Monster, Gator Ghoul and Mona Tiki Tia. Were chastised for being “meddlesome kids” in 310 episodes. Never changed clothes.
“The motivations were very simple,” Mr. Barbera says “Scooby was cowardly, unless you gave him a Scooby snack. Shaggy was always hungry. He’d even eat plastic fruit. People could identify with them.”
Let’s talk about those Scooby snacks and unrelenting appetites for a minute, though. Aron Karten, a fan from Costa Mesa, thinks something else is going on here.
“You got these two stoners — I mean, you never saw them smoke pot, but they’re driving around in that van, hungry all the time,” says Mr. Karten, a 25-year-old retail clerk with black-dyed hair. “C’mon.”
Click on the “I Love Scooby-Doo” Web sites — yes, they exist — or strike up a conversation with anyone between the ages of 20-29, and the questions are likely to surface: why are Fred and Daphne always splitting off from the group? Who’s hotter, Daphne or Velma? What is in a Scooby snack?
These are just some of the pointless questions that keep viewers vegging for hours in front of a “Scooby-Doo” marathon.
“It’s something you put on and you don't have to think about it,” says Stacia Hanley, 21, of Huntington Beach, Calif. “My favorite part is when Velma takes you back through the whole mystery, explains it to you. You’re like, ‘oh, duh, I didn't notice that.’”
She’s being sarcastic, by the way.
“Scooby-Doo” is the same every single episode. Gang stumbles across mystery. Gang finds clues. Shaggy and Scooby bumble about. Plastic mask is pulled off villain. It’s off to the malt shop. It’s nearly impossible to tell one installment from the next.
“There’s this one with this castle and a magician. I must have seen it a thousand times,” says Kristin Harden, 18, of Downey, Calif. And would she watch it again? “If it was on, sure.”
Mr. Lazzo, of the Cartoon Network, believes the predictability of “Scooby Doo” is part of its appeal.
“It’s reassuring Formula can be a positive thing. Every year it creates a new audience, and it’s fondly remembered by a couple of generations.”
And though the adult subtext isn’t the same as, say, the sophisticated humor of “Rocky & Bullwinkle” or “Bugs Bunny,” it does give “Scooby-Doo” a comic afterlife. Heck, there are drinking games centered around its structure drink every time Daphne is kidnapped, for instance.
Mr. Karten may not be able to solve that whole Scooby snack debate, or speculate on Daphne and Fred’s love life, but he does have a theory as to the show’s longevity.
“It appeals to awkward, normal American kids,” he says. “Growing up, there weren’t a lot of shows about teen-agers. Who can’t relate to a bunch of kids hanging out? I mean, ‘The Jetsons,’ OK, it’s the family of the future — but who wants to hang out with their family?”
Dig a little, however, and other answers emerge. In a production office in Burbank sit Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, two cartoon writers who have helped develop every thing from “Captain Caveman” to “Jabberjaw” to "Thundarr the Barbarian.” They were also the original head writers on “Scooby-Doo.”
From the beginning, Mr. Ruby and Mr. Spears knew they had a winner. Scooby was an instant icon. As for the plots?
“Let's put it this way,” Mr. Ruby says. “After we finished the second episode, we said, ‘Where do we go from here?’”
The answer: nowhere. “But it works!” he says.
“You know the characters are going to run into these situations, maybe who the bad guy will be,” Mr. Spears adds, “but it’s how you get between the two points — how Scooby messes up.”
All right, so on to the real questions: What’s with Fred and Daphne? ; :
“Well, they were the straight characters,” Mr. Ruby says, laughing. “At first Daphne was real danger prone. But we got bored with that.”
Basically, the producers got sick of writing — and drawing — Fred and Daphne. That’s why they always split off, not to be seen until the final act. Sorry, no sexual overtones.
Mr. Ruby and Mr. Spears are less playful when it comes to the drug theories.
“No way,” Mr. Spears says. The appetite was simply a funny character trait. Scooby snacks are chocolate-caramel cookies, or something close.
How about the outfits? Mr. Barbera can handle this one.
“If I was creating the show today, I’d put one of the girls in overalls. We just did what kids were wearing at the time.”
And if they rarely changed styles it’s because the characters had become so recognizable — and anyway, bell-bottoms are back. (Thank goodness ascots haven’t returned, though).
“It amazes us to think that it’s lasted this long,” Mr. Spears says. “These things come along once in it a lifetime. It’s amazing — our grand-children watch the show. Who could have guessed?”
Fair enough. But “Zoinks”?
“We were very cognizant of creating catch phrases back then,” Mr. Ruby says. Fred Flintstone, after all, was famous in no small part because of “Yabba-dabba-doo,” a play off of “Yahoo!”
For Daphne, then, it was “Jeepers!” which was already in the vernacular, as in “Jeepers creepers!” For Velma, it was “Jinkies,” which was invented by a writer during a brainstorming session, basically a take-off of “high-jinks.”
And “Zoinks?”
“Someone just said it,” Mr. Ruby says.
“Not sure where it came from,” Mr. Spears adds.
“No idea,” Mr. Lazzo says.
Perhaps it's a mystery not even Scooby can solve. I wouldn't be so bothered by it, either, if it weren’t for those meddlesome kids.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Augie Doggie — In the Picnic of Time

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Layout – Bob Givens, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Sketches – Dan Gordon, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie, Ant – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy – Doug Young.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin, Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin, Bill Loose/John Seely.
First Aired: week of November 2, 1959 (rerun week of May 2, 1960)
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-007, Production J-19.
Plot: Doggie Daddy tries to fend off his picnic from ants.

Dear Old Dad is such a disbelieving soul, isn’t he? One constant thing in the Augie Doggie cartoons is dad writes off anything Augie says as a manifestation of childhood imagination, only it turns out to be true. So it is in this cartoon. Augie, gifted with the ability to talk to animals, learns that ants have declared war on Doggie Daddy. Dad laughs it off but lives to regret it.

To digress for a moment, Hollywood studios liked ants, and I don’t mean the frolicking insect kind of the ‘30s. There were a bunch of ant-and-picnic or battle-with-ants shorts in theatrical animation age. There was ‘Uncle Donald’s Ants’ (1952) at Disney. Ants popped up in two Tom and Jerry cartoons, ‘Pup on a Picnic’ (1953) and ‘Barbecue Brawl’ (1956). Elmer Fudd took on a hill of them in the non-picnicking 1953 cartoon ‘Ant Pasted.’ Elsewhere at Warners, ants take on each other in ‘The Fighting 69½’ (1941) and engage in food gags in ‘The Gay Anties (1947). All were directed by Friz Freleng, who later put ‘The Ant and the Aardvark’ series on TV. As best as I can tell, this is the first-ever TV cartoon that revolved around ants.

Having now set myself up for e-mails from completists wondering why I haven’t mentioned ‘Atom Ant,’ Bob Clampett’s ‘Robot Ants or the ones that invaded ‘Carman Get It,’ let us now move on to this cartoon, what I believe was the fourth Augie put into production at Hanna-Barbera (the first four seem to have been given consecutive production numbers). Monte comes up with a really lovely opening scene. I love his use of colour-within-colour in the trees, plants and stream. And Bob Givens hasn’t cluttered the layout with clouds. The camera pans left to right to reveal Augie and Daddy enjoying a relaxing picnic. You can click on the reconstruction to enlarge it. I wish these cartoons were restored and on home video.

Lew Marshall’s the animator here, so we get his nose-bobbing dialogue using three positions. He starts with a drawing, then he raises the angle of a character’s snout up a bit. That’s the first open mouth position. Then he raises the angle a little higher for the second open mouth position. He alternates between the two, then drops the angle of the snout down to where it started. But he also has nose-wagging dialogue in this cartoon. Again, he starts with an Augie head drawing. Then he moves the head angle to the right for the first open mouth position. The second open mouth position is at another angle to the right. He alternates between the two drawings, on twos or ones depending on the dialogue, and when the talking’s over, the snout moves to the far left where it started. Here are the two dialogue positions as Augie talks to an ant.

Daddy writes off the conversation as some kid-type foolishness but then spots the ant walking away with a piece of his chocolate cake. A fly-swatter becomes an ant-swatter. Notice, by the way, Monte has little flower petals right on top of the grass. Augie gets really hammy now, and I don’t know why Daws Butler would have read the lines that way. Augie’s confessing he’s responsible and the ant didn’t steal the cake. If he wants Daddy to believe him, why would he overact? Shouldn’t he sound sincere and contrite?

Well, the fly-swatter didn’t kill the ant. It just made him angry. Angry enough to declare war on Doggie Daddy and justify petty thievery of food by his buddies in the ant colony. Daddy doesn’t believe it and has a nap. Meanwhile, the ants dress like the Spanish-American War is still on. How do they ant-agonise dear old dad? (Mike Maltese’s pun, not mine)

They throw him in the water. Daddy has apparently been watching a lot of Yogi Bear, as he keeps describing what he’s on as a “pic-a-nic.”

They drag him, Scooter Looter-style, along some sturdy tree branches, as he hangs onto links of hot dogs they’ve pilfered. “Dis is ridiculous. One dog hangin’ on to a string of dogs.” By the way, note Monte’s clouds. They’re sponged within an outline. He drew them the same way in ‘Hide and Go Peek’.

The tiny ant that started it all trips him (much like Bugs Bunny did with various large antagonists in the 1950s) and laughs. Daddy snatches him off the ground but he’s rescued by his comrades-in-arms with a well-aimed pie.

They climb a tree with a big watermelon. Sure, Daddy plunks one of the ants on the head with an apple but they get him by dropping the melon on his melon.

Daddy surrenders. Augie and the ant hold flags of truce. The ant tells him not to let it happen again. Daddy shrugs. “After all,” he tells us in his wind-up catchphrase, “How many daddies can say ‘Dat’s my boy who talks to ants.’

The Hi-Q ‘D’ series makes a couple of appearances in this cartoon. There are several reels with chase themes in them, some by Bill Loose and John Seely, others by Spencer Moore. Two by Loose and Seely (actually written by David Rose) show up here. I don’t think TC-15 (aka ‘Spirited Pursuit’) was used in any other cartoons; TC-14 (aka ‘Zealous Pursuit’) briefly showed up in the Quick Draw McGraw cartoon ‘Scary Prairie.’ The cutter uses only the second half of Cadkin and Bluestone’s CB-90 (I don’t know what the actual name is, just the re-release name). And there’s the deliberately hokey sad trombone cue from the Langlois Filmusic library.

0:00 - Augie Doggie Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera).
0:25 - CB-90 HAPPY HOME (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Augie eating, Daddy relaxing, sound off camera.
0:48 - GR-255 PUPPETRY COMEDY (Green) – Augie talks to ant, Daddy swats ant, Augie skids into scene.
1:26 - sad trombone music (Shaindlin) – Augie confesses.
1:43 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No 1 (Shaindlin) – Ant jumps up and down, Augie suggests leaving.
1:56 - CB-89A ROMANTIC JAUNT (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Dad against tree, Augie warns, Daddy sleeps
2:34 - GR-258 THE TIN DRAGOONS (Green) – Ant peers from behind toadstool
2:46 - bugle call – Ant blogs bugle
2:51 - TC-15 CHASE-MEDIUM (Loose-Seely) – Daddy wakes up, “What’s that racket,” Daddy tossed in lake, defiant, “Hi fellas.”
3:45 - TC-14 CHASE-MEDIUM (Loose-Seely) – “There goes our pic-a-nic,” Dad dragged, “Off to the wars.”
4:16 - light symphonic music with strings (?) – Dad hauled up tree, dragged along branches, thud.
4:45 - CB-83A MR TIPPY TOES (Cadkin-Bluestons) – Daddy drops, ant trips him, pie in face, watermelon up tree, Daddy skids to a stop.
5:58 - GR-258 THE TIN DRAGOONS (Green) – “I could almost admire...,” Daddy drops apple, watermelon lands, Daddy surrenders, “What’s he sayin’ dere, Augie?”
6:53 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Augie translates ant, Daddy talks to audience.
7:10 - Augie Doggie End Title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Mr. Barbera, When’s My Birthday?

Can you imagine living your life not knowing when your birthday is? You can’t plan a party. You don’t know if gifts will ever come your way.

That’s the burden of Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har.

Oh, dear, oh, my.

Before Hanna-Barbera launched its takeover of Saturday mornings, the debut of the each of the studio’s shows can be traced to a single date. ‘Ruff and Reddy’ (December 14, 1957), ‘The Flintstones’ (September 30, 1960), ‘Top Cat’ (September 27, 1961) and ‘The Jetsons’ (September 23, 1962) all appeared on network TV so specific broadcast days and times were fixed. ‘Huckleberry Hound’ (September 29, 1958), ‘Quick Draw McGraw’ (September 28, 1959) and ‘Yogi Bear’ (January 30, 1961) were all in syndication, meaning they ran on different days in different cities, but Kellogg’s purchased the air time and ensured each debut was on the same week. So their birthdays date from the Monday of their debut week.

But the studio came up with another concept for syndication—three different series of five-minute cartoons that stations could pick up and broadcast as they saw fit. The umbrella name that H-B used to sell them was apparently ‘The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series’ but it wasn’t really a cartoon show at all, let alone one with an official name. Unlike the studio’s other syndicated offerings, the three shorts weren’t all contained in a half hour with an opening and closing and a star character. A station could drop individual cartoons into its children’s programming any time during the day, as many or as few as it wanted, or run them as a generic show. There was no sponsorship tie-in to ensure a uniform debut across the continent. So that’s why there’s no birthday for Lippy or Hardy, or the other cartoons in the package—Touché Turtle and Wally Gator.

To add to the confusion, stations that did run them as a show couldn’t figure out what to name it. TV listings in some cities refer to Wally. Others only mention Lippy. Still others advertise Touché.

So when did they first air? The San Antonio Express of February 9, 1962 reveals in a blurb in the TV section:

The production team of Hanna Barbera whose “Flintstones” animated series is seen on ABC-TV, are now offering three five-minute each cartoons for showing on local TV stations via syndication. There are 52 episodes each of “Touche Turtle,” “Lippy the Lion” and “Wally Gator,” all in color.

Next comes a bylined syndicated newspaper story, this version from the The Hayward Daily Review of March 18, 1962, implying the cartoons were already on the air. It features yet another version of the Two-Poor-Guys-Who-Made-Good-After-MGM-Fired-Us story that seems to be little more than a rewrite of giddy, glowing prose flowing out of Arnie Carr’s studio PR department.

‘Flintstone’ Fellas
Hanna, Barbara Smash
By Hank Grant
HOLLYWOOD — For 20 years, two young lads by the names of William Hanna and Joe Barbera had toiled happily in M-G-M Studios, turning out over 125 of their “Tom and Jerry” theatrical cartoons. They felt most secure in their jobs, and why not? Their animated efforts had earned millions of dollars for the company and a record number of industry and public honors, including several Academy Awards.
Then came a phone call from the front office to inform the stunned pair they were being released. Demon television was responsible. Realizing that what theaters wanted less of television would undoubtedly want more of, the pair tried to urge the studio to keep them on and start turning out animated cartoons for home-viewer consumption.
Luckily for the two disheartened lads, the studio wanted no part of television at that time, so they went into business for themselves. Let us see what has happened in the five years since they thought their world had come to an end.
Less than four weeks after their discharge from M-G-M, the pair took a deep breath and, with their fingers crossed, launched Hanna-Barbera Productions with a “Huckleberry Hound” character, who was to prove for them what Mickey Mouse did for Walt Disney.
“Huck” caught on so fast, another half-hour animated series, “Quick Draw McGraw,” was quickly snapped up for the syndicated TV market.
Then, their most ambitious undertaking, the first cartoon series on a first -run weekly series in network class A primetime, “The Flintstones.” When it was announced that ABC had signed the deal for a production cost of some $80,000 per half hour (as opposed to $50,000 for live action shows), Hollywood wise men laughed into their martinis, predicting not only a short run for the experiment, but a huge financial loss.
Flintstones not only started off strongly, hut consistently topped all opposition, as today it continues to do so against “Royte 66” and “Detectives,” the latter, though expanded this season to hour length, bring cancelled for next season by NBC because Flintstones relegated it to a cellar third position in the ratings race.
Their second prime-time effort, “Top Cat,” which even the network was preparing to write off because of a slow start, is now topping “Checkmate” for audience supremacy. Their third syndicates series, “Yogi Bear,” is firmly established, in fact, all three syndicated series — “Huck,” “McGraw” and “Yogi” — never fail to make the top ten listing in every market today.
Thus, Hanna-Barbera has become a multi-million-dollar enterprise, without a single failure to its credit, and has the distinction of turning out more animated cartoon footage every week than any other studio in the world. Ever-expanding, the team has launched a rash of five-minute animated series — “Lippy the Lion,” “Touche Turtle” and “Wally Gator” — which are being snapped up so quickly in syndicated TV markets that the Screen Gems releasing organization has doubled its original order of 52 shows each!
Less than two years ago, Hanna-Barbera built their new studios in North Hollywood. The building is already too small to accommodate its ever-growing staff, which already numbers over 150 creative people. This month, the company will break ground for construction of larger quarters.
“This will be twice the size our old building,” says Joe Barbera, proudly, “a full two-story structure.”
“Maybe we should make it three stories,” Bill Hanna interjected, almost worriedly.

But a good sampling of TV listings don’t start mentioning Lippy, Touché or Wally until September; KCOP in Los Angeles started broadcasting them as part of Bill Biery’s ‘Beachcomber Bill’ show on Monday, September 3, 1962. That doesn’t mean anything; the cartoons were designed to be used in generic TV cartoon carnivals, dropped in amongst old Bugs Bunnys and Popeyes, so they could have been on the air before that. But considering TV stations didn’t start listing them with any frequency (as a separate show) until about October, it’s likely they made their debut no sooner than when KCOP put them on the air. And October was the month the new H-B merchandise hit stores; you could dress your kid as Mr. Twiddle for Hallowe’en (looking at the ad makes me wonder what channel the ‘Caper Cow’ cartoons were on).

Maddeningly, the cartoons only have titles and no credits, so one has to use educated guesses to figure out who worked on them. Hardy Har Har was a character Mike Maltese wrote in a Snooper and Blabber cartoon so it seems probable he developed the Lippy series. Wally Gator’s theme song by the sometimes indecipherable mixed chorus of the Randy Horne Singers tells us he’s a “swingin’ alligator in the swamp.” But his cartoons don’t take place in a swamp. Wally’s in a zoo. And he wasn’t much of an “operator,” either, certainly not like Top Cat or even Hokey Wolf. Either Bill Hanna wasn’t thinking carefully when he wrote the lyrics or the concept got changed. The zoo setting ensured a regular combatant for Wally, just like Yogi got tied down with Ranger Smith. And one wonders if Maltese, with his penchant for Doug Fairbanks’ swordplay, came up with Touché. Even though there are no credits, the studio made it known who was behind the stars. One newspaper story revealed the cartoons featured the voices of Bill Thompson, Alan Reed and Daws Butler, which is more than the shorts themselves did.

Despite all the talent that went into the cartoons, they’re really not much more than pleasant time-fillers. The characters don’t have the charm of Huckleberry Hound, the goofiness of Quick Draw McGraw or the oddball wordplay of Snagglepuss. They spent their time going through watered-down versions of previous Hanna-Barbera situations. The non-Kellogg’s-funded animation is more simplified from what the studio was doing on TV even in 1959; the studio obviously tried to cut corners by making the cartoons two minutes shorter than the Hucks and Yogis. The top-notch voice work carries them, and the character design has the familiar H-B Bickenbach-from-Benedict style that makes the characters seem like old friends. But they could use a bit more personality. And birthdays.

Monday 23 April 2012

Half-Time Huck

Personal appearances by cartoon characters can be difficult. I mean, what do you do, hold up a drawing?

The folks at Kellogg’s or their agency or Columbia Pictures came up with the idea of having people dress up as Hanna-Barbera’s stars to make appearances in costume at stores, fairs and public events. There was even someone who went with them to do an act.

From what I can tell, those costumes looked kind of tacky. But they didn’t look as off-model and home-made as the ones in Rochester, Indiana that you see below.

Here’s a picture from the Rochester Sentinel, dated October 10, 1961. Even Dumbo didn’t have ears the size of the Pixie and Dixie costumes.

The idea of Huck et al parading at half-time makes me wonder, was there one of those little cartoons-between-the-cartoons that featured a sports stadium setting? If not, the idea lends itself to some pretty good gags. Yogi appeared in “Rah Rah Bear” (1959); I can see Huck in a football cartoon of his own, maybe against Powerful Pierre. Oh, where’s Ed Love to draw “Half-Time Huck”? I’m pretty sure it would look a lot better than those unfortunate costumes.

Saturday 21 April 2012

Yogi Bear — Scooter Looter

 Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Carlo Vinci, Layout – Ed Benedict, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast: Yogi Bear, Scooter Rental Guy, Elwood, Fisherman – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Touque Guy, Ranger Mack, Golfer, Customer – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Spence Moore, Geordie Hormel, Jack Shaindlin.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-025, Production E-61.
First Aired: Week of March 16, 1959.
Plot: Yogi borrows a park scooter but doesn’t know how to drive it.

The two highlights of this cartoon are Ed Benedict’s character designs and Art Lozzi’s colourful rendition of Jellystone Park. The story? There really isn’t one. What can you say about the animation when the starring character spends most of the cartoon sitting?

John Kricfalusi wrote about Lozzi’s technique on this cartoon on his blog. It’s hard to believe the post is over five years old. You can read it HERE. But allow me to post several of Lozzi’s backgrounds.

I like the blended colours, which makes the backgrounds seem more detailed, but without distracting from the characters.

The characters in this one are fun, too. Ed liked creating people who looked like their collars were too tight. Check out the guy who runs the scooter rental place.

I like the golfer who gets (wait for it, folks) teed-off at Yogi.

And we get a return appearance of Ranger Mack from ‘Robin Hood Yogi.’ Carlo loved head shakes to register all kinds of emotions in the Huck show’s first season. Ranger Mack shakes his head three times in this cartoon. Here’s one of them, four drawings ones, slowed down for you. Carlo seems to have preferred two-drawing shakes in other cartoons.

Carlo’s other highlight is Yogi’s bongo walk that he used in a few cartoons. It wasn’t the only walk he gave Yogi and it pretty well bit the dust in the second season. It’s hard to do dialogue when there are drums banging under the talking. Yogi walks flailing bent wrists on twos at the start of the cartoon, there are eight drawings on twos. Writer Charlie Shows fills for time by having read a sign. He fills for more time by having Yogi say “‘Scooters for rent.’ That’s what the sign says. The sign says that.” It’s a variation on the old Rochester line from the Jack Benny radio show: “That’s what the man said, he said that.”

Yogi meets up with the scooter rental guy. It sounds like Shows has him channelling Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons: “I will gladly pay, sir, out of a small inheritance I am expecting momentarily, sir.” The rental guy shoos him away. We get Carlo’s thick upper teeth here. The indignant (but “responsib-bable” bear) responsible concludes he is entitled to ride a scooter, despite Boo Boo’s warning, so he does. And most of the rest of the cartoon, other than dialogue, Yogi’s animation pretty well consists of cycle animation of him pressing the button for the toy horn on the scooter, with a blank look on his face. He runs down the scooter guy. And he runs down Boo Boo. I keep thinking if this happened in the ‘70s, goody-goody groups would complain about the violence. Fie on them.

He chases guys in sleeping bags. I love their little hop cycle, six drawings on twos. The rental guy and the sleeping bag guys call head-shaking Ranger Mack. Much like Ranger Smith in the later season, he’s sceptical of what the callers are saying about a bear on a scooter. He learns they’re right when Yogi drives through his cabin.

Yogi goes into, and up, a hollow tree, coming out on what, I guess are three dead trees suspended in the air horizontally by the weight of the forest. He drives along three of them, including one upside down. That high-larious Joe Barbera!

The next bit’s cute. Boo Boo attaches a lasso to the scooter rental shack to rope and stop Yogi. The rental guy looks morose. He knows what’s coming. It does. The shack collapses because Yogi keeps going and puts out the support beam with the rope.

Yogi screws up a golf shot because the scooter leaves tracks that deflect a ball away from the hole.

The golfer throws his club at the bear. It wraps around his neck. “Ouch, what a grouch,” says Ed Norton Yogi. The bear drives into a lake. A fisherman’s hook gets caught on the scooter. Yogi comes out of the lake and drags the scooter into a stump (why the scooter missed the stump but the rowboat following directly behind didn’t must be some Cartoon Law). The fisherman turns to the camera. What witty crack does he have for us? “A bear on a scooter?! The boys at the office will never believe this one.” Hmm. Maybe that passed for humour in 1959.

Finally, the end comes, in a manner of speaking. It’s another old cartoon ending familiar to Hanna-Barbera viewers. It’s a variation on the one where someone’s being chased by something with almost endless amounts of fuel and the gag line revolves around how he’s going to be chased for months and months. In the case, Yogi’s back up along those trees in the air (in reused animation). He tells us he’ll come down “When I run out of gas. When else?” Maybe that passed for humour in 1959, too.

There’s a musical gag, something rare at H-B because they were scoring to stock music. Part of Spencer Moore’s ‘L-81 Comedy Underscore’ is used to indicate the sleeping bag guys are just realising they’ve seen a bear on a scooter. The music takes the place of animation. In a way, it’s like in a TV or movie mystery when you hear a bar or two of dramatic trombones after the words “And someone’s been murdered!”

The soundtrack features the well-known ‘Pixie Pranks,’ which gets edited into itself to lengthen it. And, wisely, there’s no music while the bongos are accenting Yogi’s walk.

0:00 - Yogi Bear Sub Main Title theme (Curtin, Shows, Hanna, Barbera)
0:13 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Yogi and Boo Boo talk.
0:20 - Bongo sound effect – Yogi walks.
0:26 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Yogi looks at scooters.
0:31 - Bongo sound effect – Yogi walks, guy drives off on scooter.
0:40 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Yogi talks to scooter rental guy.
1:10 - Bongo sound effect – Yogi walks.
1:17 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Yogi looks at scooters, starts riding, rental guy calls ranger, “I was disconnected.”
2:17 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Yogi beeps horn, runs down Boo Boo, rides over campers in sleeping bags, skid sound.
2:51 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Campers on ground.
2:52 - no music – “It is a bear. On a scooter,” campers zip out of scene.
2:55 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Yogi chases campers, rental guy run over.
3:18 - LAF-4-6 PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Ranger Mack in office, Yogi on tree branches, call to Ranger Mack, Mack on scooter, “I couldn’t care less, shorty.”
4:56 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Boo Boo swings lasso, rental shelter collapses, golfer, ball misses hole, Yogi drives past golfer
5:41 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Golfer throws club, Yogi under lake, drags fisherman, Yogi goes into tree.
6:31 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Yogi on branches.
7:00 - Yogi Bear Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

(The cue sheet for this cartoon states the music at 5:41 is LAF-4-1 aka Fishy Story by Jack Shaindlin).

Yowp Note: With this post, all the first season Yogi Bear cartoons have been reviewed on the blog.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Raise a Glass to Uncle Tex

Hal Smith was a typical television overnight success. “Overnight” took over a decade.

By “success,” we mean “national fame.” Until he landed the role of Otis the town drunk on ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ in 1960, Smith was known in Los Angeles as a jack-of-all-trades in the pre-network feed days of local TV, bouncing from station to station starting by 1950. He was what was known in the press as a “zany.” He appeared as a panelist on game shows hosted by Art Baker (“Stop, Look and Listen”) and Chet Huntley (“Who Knows?”). He hosted a bunch of movie shows, one with future voice artist Nancy Wible, another dressed as a Keystone Kop and still another where he showed the first film he appeared in (“Stars Over Texas”). He did kid shows, including appearances as Santa Claus (preparing him for later cartoon work in that role). And when network shows began shooting on the West Coast he found work, as you’ll soon read.

Hal’s name vanishes from newspapers around 1956 and doesn’t re-appear until his hit recurring appearances as the happy, responsible, weekend-only drunk in Mayberry, beginning October 10, 1960. That’s when everyone started noticing him. Interestingly enough, the stories I’ve run across mention his cartoon work, which we’ll get to in a moment.

The Milwaukee Sentinel of March 26, 1961 gives a bit of a biography in an unbylined story.

He Has Staggering Assignment
Hal Smith Plays Town Drunk in Griffith Series
AS OTIS, THE town drunk of Mayberry, on the Andy Griffith show actor Hal Smith feels right at time.
Not because he’s an alcoholic, but because he’s familiar with small towns. He’s lived in enough of them. Born in Petrosky, Mich., with his family Hal moved to Wilmington, N.C., then to Dickinson Center and Massena, N.Y., and ultimately the large and small towns of show business, as a traveling musician before he became an actor.
Formed Team
“I had good indoctrination for my future career,” the rotund actor says. “My father was the end man with High Henry’s Minstrels and when I was 6 years old, my brother and I played elves in the Follies of 1923, down in Wilmington. Later in high school my brother and I formed a vaudeville team and I finally started singing with Freddie Cornburst and his orchestra, later known as Freddie Kaye.”
It was after service in World War II in the South Pacific that Hal came to Hollywood, broke into radio and ultimately motion pictures.
“I don’t think the fact I’d lived in North Carolina had anything to do with my being cast as ‘Otis’ on the Andy Griffith show,” he says, “but I can fall into a southern drawl without much effort,” he drawled.
Many Roles
He can do many other voices too, as witness to the fact he did over 100 filmed commercials last year. And if the face seems as familiar as the voice, it’s because Hal played the next door neighbor in I Married Joan, Floyd the Barber in The Great Gildersleeve, the barber in Jefferson Drum and roles in 22 segments of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
In addition, he does voices on The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw.
“The part of ‘Otis’ is the hardest acting of all, though. It’s because I’m generally—shall we say, inebriated. And I don’t drink,” he concluded with a tone of futility.
The Griffith show is seen on CBS-TV at 8:30 p.m. Mondays.

Here’s a piece from the Syracuse Post Standard of Sunday, December 31, 1961. Syracuse is not far from Massena where they gave a day in Smith’s honour in 1964.

Hal Smith Returns Home
TV Comedian Visits Massena

MASSENA—The story of Hal Smith, television and motion picture personality is one of a Massena area resident making good. Hal is perhaps best known in entertainment circles for his current role as Otis Campbell, town character, on the Andy Griffis [sic] TV show.
He graduated from Massena High school in 1936. Hal left Massena after graduation for Utica. After a long pull at a radio station there he joined the Air Force during World War II. After discharge he went to the West Coast.
While in high school in Massena Hal acted in several school productions.
He was known as “The man of a thousand voices” and still has quite a few tucked away in his vocal cords. Hal does some of the voice work on the popular cartoon series “The Flintstones,” “Huckleberry Hound” and other TV favorites.
His parts in movies and television have been primarily comic. Perhaps one of the least publicized bits he played was in the film “The Apartment.”
Hal was the drunken Santa Claus who rushed into a bar and ordered a “quick one” because his reindeer were double parked.
Acting is hard work, he said, and to stay in the business you really have to like it and Hal Smith loves his work.
[missing line]
Durante, Loretta Young, Claude Raines, the Great Gildersleeve and many others.
On his visit to Massena, Hal had little time to call his own. Wherever he went he was greeted by old friends and fans. He said he had found that Massena was a far cry from what, he remembered it to be many years ago. “But I think I could still find my way around if I had to,” he added.
Hal makes his home in Santa Monica, Calif., with his wife and son.
In relating some of the odd incidents which have happened in his TV and movie career, Hal said he remembered an episode during the filming of a western TV series.
A stunt man took the part of the show’s star for a scene where the star was to get punched in the face, Hal said the stunt man had rehearsed the part and had it down pat. “He must have forgotten to duck, because he really got clobbered. In fact it broke his nose. And then. . . to top it off. . . the director made them shoot the scene over because the punch didn't look real.”

Yes, with fame came profiles by national TV columnists, all of whom pointed out Smith’s side-career at Hanna-Barbera. Here’s on from May 29, 1965 by Erskine Johnson of the National Enterprise Association.

Heavy Elf Blends With Tots, Pancakes
HOLLYWOOD. — We have with us today the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of television.
He’s a gregarious, roly-poly comic with a rubber face and a bundle of trick voices who once played an elf in a kiddie show.
“And,” laughs Hal Smith, breaking himself up, “I’m still an elf—just a few hundred pounds heavier.”
YOU HAVE seen Hal for five years now as lovable Otis Campbell, the Saturday night drunk who locks himself up with his own jail cell key on CBS-TV’s The Andy Griffith Show.
But now hear this:
Every morning, on a Los Angeles television kiddie show, Hal Smith is the delight of the kiddies as “The Pancake Man” for a chain of Southern California pancake houses.
Hal, children and pancakes are a happy blending.
“I love children AND pancakes,” he laughs.
The kiddies are in on Hal’s double life.
“I TELL THEM I’m Otis, the good-natured drunk on the Griffith show but they don’t mind. Happily, the sponsor doesn’t, mind either."
When you get down to it, the other lives, careerwise, of Hal Smith are more than just double. He’s Otis and The Pancake Man and he’s also the voice of Uncle Tex on The Flintstones and the voice of Elmer Fudd in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. He’s also 50 or 60 other fellows in TV commercials, which he makes as fast as his morning sponsor makes pancakes.
“I’m lucky,” beams Hal, a one-time Utica and Buffalo, N.Y., radio announcer who landed in Hollywood in 1946 after keeping the fellows laughing during World War II as an Air Force special service officer.
“I HAVE A RUBBER face, with a different voice for any occasion. I can lift an eyebrow, wear a mustache or a beard and look and sound like 50 other fellows.”
Just how well he is doing as a man in a revolving door who never looks or sounds the same way every time he comes around, is the envy of his fellow actors.
He lives in Santa Monica, with his wife and 15-year-old son, owns a 25-foot boat, a 400-acre ranch in Northern California and passes out expensive cigarette lighters to friends and strangers.
“I’m a happy man doing what I like to do,” says Hal.

And this United Press International column from August 18, 1966 points out cartoon voice work had come a long way from Bill Hanna’s policy of “Scale for everybody but Daws” at H-B in the late ‘50s.

Sober Hal Smith makes convincing toper on TV
UPI Hollywood Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD (UPI) — Inebriation is frowned on in television, but for the past six years Hal Smith has been bombed out of his mind as the town drunk on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Smith is jolly Otis Campbell who staggers in and out of the Mayberry jail to sleep it off. Even has his own key to the cell.
Playing both souse and jailbird is a mixed blessing for Smith. It provides him with a handsome income but plays hell with his personal reputation.
“Strangers come up to me and ask if I’m sober,” he says. “Others are surprised to see me walking the streets, figuring I should be in jail.”
Smith himself is a light social drinker, guessing, that he downs fewer highballs than the average householder and certainly less than most Hollywood actors. He can’t recall the last time he was flat out stoned.
Early American
The actor and his wife of 18 years, Louise, live in a rustic early American home with three bedrooms, three baths, family room and den. Their swimming pool is the Pacific ocean which is a scant two blocks away.
They are the parents of Terry, 16, who takes a good deal of teasing about his father’s television drinking habits.
Smith’s role as the town toper on the CBS-TV series probably brings him less income than his other activities, primarily dubbing voices for cartoon characters. He has a wide range of dialects and voices, sometimes putting them to use five days a week for the Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio.
In the mornings he usually rises early enough to fix his own breakfast in time to report to Desilu studios by 7:45 clear eyed and ready to pretend he’s drunk.
Depending on the schedule, he returns home between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., or goes directly from Desilu to the Hanna-Barbera studio in the San Fernando valley for recording sessions, driving the 15 miles in a large and expensive sedan.
Once home Smith finds himself surrounded by knotty cedar paneling and early American wall paper and antique furniture. The kitchen is a change of pace with copper appliances and cabinets painted a Chinese vermilion.
Upstate New Yorker
Hooked rugs cover most of the floors and Smith is especially proud of reproductions of the famed paintings of Blue Boy and Pinkie done in petit point with yarn. There also is a picture painted by his mother at age 75 depicting the old maple sugar farm in upstate New York where Smith was raised.
There is a gardener to tend the Smith lawn and flower beds, but the actor spends much of his free time in a greenhouse cultivating birds of paradise plants.
On sporadic vacations the Smith family packs off for a plush ranch home on the Klamath river near the Oregon border where Smith raises cattle and alfalfa on 400 acres of rich farmland.
“We’re going to start raising thoroughbred horses up there soon,” Smith says. “It’s a wonderful place to get away from the hustle-bustle of work.”
Smith fancies himself an exceptional outdoor cook and on weekends can be found at the barbecue broiling anything from hotdogs to steaks. On these occasions the family dachshund, Fritz, frolics nearby, hoping for scraps.
The Smiths entertain at two or three big parties a year, but two or three times a month friends stop by for a casual dinner and a round of drinks.
Actor Smith also is an amateur airplane pilot but has little time to fly.
His wardrobe is geared to television, but the slovenly outfit he wears as Otis Campbell is restricted to the show.
One more thing, Hal Smith has never been jailed for drunkenness—or for any other reason.

In the few years between his local TV gigs drying up and gaining TV immorality as Otis, Hal jumped into the world of animation. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were looking for new talent in 1959 as they were adding another half-hour syndicated TV show (Quick Draw McGraw) and a theatrical series (Loopy De Loop). They tried a bunch of different people but the only ones who kept getting called back were Smith and Jean Vander Pyl. A year later, both won starring roles on ‘The Flintstones,’ but Smith’s Barney Rubble was re-cast with Mel Blanc in the role. Interestingly, Hal apparently was given a reprieve and lost the role a second time. This is from Hedda Hopper’s column, dated February 25, 1961.
Oh, by the way, don’t judge an actor’s abilities by the role he happens to be portraying at any given time. Hal Smith, for instance, who plays the town drunk on “The Andy Griffith Show,” will be subbing for the injured Mel Blanc on “The Flintstones.”
He may have “subbed” for Blanc, but the fill-in for Barney was Daws Butler. We can only guess Joe Barbera still wanted an Ed Norton quality to the voice and that’s what Daws gave him.

Regardless, Hal didn’t need the role. He was the announcer on ‘Hazel,’ and voicing countless commercials and cartoons at the time I won’t even try to enumerate; you couldn’t escape his voice. And that’s even before his huge, lucrative career at Disney.

Hal died of a heart attack on January 28, 1994. The sad thing is the popular press didn’t report it for more than another two weeks. Maybe no one told the wire services. Too bad. That’s treating him like the town drunk.

Monday 16 April 2012

Flintstones Weekend Comics, April 1962

Why, oh, why, was there this obsession with turning Fred Flintstone from a jerk who gets his come-uppance to a doting softy? Why?

Pebbles hadn’t been invented by April 1962, so Gene Hazelton and his staff working on the Flintstones comic strips came up with a stand-in, the oooh-too-cute neighbour girl, Amber. She’s featured in two of the weekend comics that month (Saturdays in Canada, Sundays in the U.S.). However, we get three of the original versions of Fred in the same month so that balances it out.

Well, we can’t get away from having a cute girl in the April 1st comic; the child is an incidental character in the first panel. Cobblestone Lane is apparently a downtown, not a residential, street.

April 8th features Betty with stripes in her hair and Dino saying “Gleef!” At least Fred isn’t spending his birthday in jail, like the animated version did.

Nice mastodons on April 15th. The second panel has a neat angle on Wilma; it’s not quite front view.

Oh, Fred. You really want to run into Little Amber, don’t you? Sentiment in the April 22nd comic. There’s a silhouette panel, the only one this month.

And more sentiment on April 29th. And a front version of Wilma. Hey, who would leave burning pancakes on a stove?

As usual, click on the drawing for a larger version.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Meet the Sethstones? Not Likely

By now, you’ve likely heard the news that Seth MacFarlane’s proposed remounting of ‘The Flintstones’ is on hold. The initial news about the Fox series brought about reactions from fans much like the one by Fred you see to the right. Word about the shelving has brought whoops of thanks to the Deity. Even from atheists, I suspect.

When MacFarlane was given the green-light a number of months ago, I avoided comment about the whole idea. Uproar was generated elsewhere over fears his version of ‘The Flintstones’ would become some kind of bastardised ‘Family Guy,’ yet there wasn’t even one drawing out there to prove the fears were founded on anything except a hunch. There was nothing really to comment on.

I still don’t really have any comment, other than what I’ve said about reviving other old cartoons and TV shows. The original voice artists are gone. So are the writers. So are the great Golden Age animators and designers. And some people out there seem to be doing what they can to make the whole cel-based process that put the Flintstones on TV in the first place obsolete. I realise there are animators and writers out there who love the characters and might be able to do them justice in a half-hour form. But it just wouldn’t be the same. To paraphrase a song, The Flintstones are a place right out of history. Let them stay there.

Comments have been made that the show is merely postponed and could jump off the shelf, ready to take the title of Flintstones Nadir away from Gazoo or the Schmoo or Flintstones Babies or whatever the low point was. It could. But it could be like uncountable other Hollywood projects that have been in limbo then the option on them runs out. By the way, didn’t I read three years ago about Zac Efron as Jonny Quest?

Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, here’s Pudsey the dog dancing to Hoyt Curtin’s famous Stone Age song on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Whether this is a high point or a low point for the Flintstones, I’ll let you decide. Cue in to the 2:40 mark.

Saturday 14 April 2012

Snooper and Blabber — Hula-Hula Hulabaloo

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse, Layout – Paul Sommer?, Backgrounds - Dick Thomas, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Direction – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits)
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Sledge Hammer, X-9, Peter Pistol, Flying Fish – Daws Butler; Narrator, Perry Pliers, X-12, – Don Messick
Music: Phil Green, Roger Roger, Jack Shaindlin, Eddie Lund, Bill Loose, unknown.
First Aired: week of March 14, 1960 (repeat, week of Sept. 12, 1960)
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-25, Production J-74.
Plot: In Hawaii, Snooper and Blabber try to get the Ping Pong Pearl back from a flying fish.

Yowp note: Versions of this cartoon are circulating with incorrect credits from a 1962 cartoon.

Smart-alec cartoon fish have been around since the Van Beuren short ‘Jolly Fish’ (1932). But the one in this cartoon doesn’t show up for a couple of minutes from the start. This gives Mike Maltese the chance to do punny gags on the detective genre. Well, after Bill Hanna saved a bunch of money.

Maybe it’s a coincidence, or my imagination, but it seems there are whole stretches of cartoons that Ken Muse animated at Hanna-Barbera with no animation. This one starts with two background pans, then a static shot of a third background. There’s no animation for the first 21 seconds. Then, when the camera pans over to two characters, all we get is mouth animation and an eye-blink when each is introduced. Of course, Muse is just following instructions handed to him, either by Hanna or Alex Lovy, a cost-conscious guy who had just come from the cost-conscious Walter Lantz studio.

Well, on to the detective name parodies. We’re introduced in the hotel lobby to Perry Pliers and Sledge Hammer (some 26 years before the Sledge Hammer! TV show) .

Perry: How’d you finally crack the jewel case?
Sledge: I didn’t. My wife used a hair pin.

Two undercover officers are next. One is under a rug. The other is in a plant pot. All we see is their hands they shake. Next is Peter Pistol. “Not anymore,” he evenly says. “I got a raise. I’m Ralph Rifle now.” He puts a rifle on his shoulder. Sky High, Out of Space Private Eye wear a space suit with a propeller on the helmet. H20, Underwater Cop is in a large fish tank and carrying a spear gun.

Now we’re slowly getting into the plot. We’re introduced to Forchoon Kooki, a Charlie Chan parody, complete with white suit and hat. The scene cuts to Snooper and Blabber in a rowboat, fishing “where the Omo Omo Nupa Nupa go swimmin’ by.” Maltese has me baffled. Sounds like part of a song lyric. Blab is equally confused about it (see note in the Comment section). It’s time for lunch. Now we meet our antagonist. Blab pulls out a sand-a-wich and a fish with wings flies out of the water, swallows the sandwich whole and dives back into the water. The fish is a cannibal because it’s a fish and poi burger. Then it eats a banana. “I heard they were doin’ great things in flyin’,” Snoop tells us, “But this is ridickaluss.”

Forchoon Kooki pulls up in a motorboat. He wants Snooper to deliver the Ping Pong Pearl to San Francisco. Kooki can’t do it because he “splained ankle. Slipped on wet Chinese noodle.” Kooki now departs. Aloha ‘Oe, honourable stereotype.

Snooper’s delivery is complicated by booby Blab, who is entrusted with putting the pearl in the food basket for safe keeping. Wrong move. Blab pulls it out again, thinking it’s a hard-boiled egg. So does the flying fish, who jumps out of the water, gulps it down and jumps back in.

So the gags centre on Snooper and Blabber trying to catch the fish.

● A pineapple ring on a fishing line is lowered into the water by Blab. The fish twirls the fruit like a buzzsaw and eats it. He then flies up and attaches the hook to Snooper.
● “If the mountain won’t come to Mahoney, Mahoney will have to go to the mountain.” Snoop is wearing a diving mask and jumps in the ocean. The fish opens the diving mask and it fills with water. Well, the fish did knock on the front of the mask and Snoop did tell him to come in.

● The fish swims out of the water and into the sky. Snooper follows him. “Stop in the name of the Private Eye Fish Fry Society!” You know what happens when cartoon characters suddenly realise they’re in mid-air. It’s an old gag.
● Blab leaps into the ocean wearing a shark fin, designed to scare the flying fish into the boat. The fish instead blows water into Snooper’s face. “The little squirt’s onto us,” says Snoop as he pulls the fin from the water. Surprise! (or maybe not). It’s attached to a real, toothy, angry shark that starts chasing the detective. The flying fish realises Snoop’s in danger, plucks him out of the water as the shark is about to bite down, and flies him to safety.

The cartoon ends with Snooper pasting stamps on the fish, who’s going to deliver the pearl by airmail. The fish lifts off with an “Ahoy aloha” from Snoop. The fin then returns, gliding to the shore. Snoop zooms up a palm tree and yells for help from the shark. No, it’s just Blab. “Gosh,” Blab surmises, while standing on a Hawaiian island, “Snoop really needs a vacation.”

The sound-cutter has dug up some interesting mood selections. Forchoon Kooki gets the theme ‘Chopsticks’ from the Valentino library. It’s not the version you played on a piano as a kid; it’s a short, oriental-sounding melody from Roger Roger, a Frenchman who composed for a number of production libraries while using a couple of different names. Some of his early works sound very symphonic but he was later a pioneer in electronic music. The cartoon starts with a ukulele theme from Eddie Lund. He specialised in music from the islands of the Pacific, especially Tahiti. A couple of other pieces seem to have only appeared in this cartoon. One is from Capitol Hi-Q X-4, a version of ‘Streets of Cairo’ that’s more Mid-Eastern than Hawaiian. And there’s a Chinese-evoking underscore when Forchoon Kooki meets up with Snooper which could be a Sam Fox library cue.

The cutter doesn’t let most of the music drag on for any length of time. Most of the cues are under 30 seconds.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin)
0:25 - UA HAAVAREVARE (Lund) – Pan of Hawaiian background, hotel exterior.
0:42 - GR-348 EARLY MORNING (Green) – Perry Pliers and Sledge Hammer.
0:54 - C-135 SNAKE CHARMER-COMIC (Loose) – Undercover.
1:05 - GR-456 DR QUACK (Green) – Peter Pistol, Sky High, H20, “Excuse please.”
1:28 - CHOPSTICKS (Roger) – Forchoon Kooki scene.
1:50 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – Snoop and Blab in boat, fish eats sandawich and banana.
2:33 - far east underscore (?) – Forchoon Kooki in motorboat.
3:22 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Snoop hands pearl to Blab, fish eats pearl, Snoop laments.
3:51 - GR-346 FIRST BUDS (Green) – Snoop worried he’ll be drummed out, fish looks up.
4:05 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Pineapple bait drops, fish spins pineapple.
4:11 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Fish eats pineapple, attaches hook, reels in Snoop.
4:48 - PG-168J FAST MOVEMENT (Green) – Snoop in diving mask.
4:57 - GR-457 DR QUACK SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – “A good private eye...”
5:03 - PG-181F MECHANICAL BRIDGE (Green) – Snoop underwater, fish opens mask, fills up.
5:18 - circus running music (Shaindlin) – Snoop chases fish into sky, falls into water.
5:40 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Blab with fin, shark, Snoop runs.
6:10 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Green) – Fish rescues Snoop from shark.
6:30 - GR-80 FRED KARNO’S ARMY (Green) – Snoop on phone, stamps on fish, Snoop zips up tree.
6:53 - GR-99 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Blab surfaces, talks to audience.
7:08 – Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).