Saturday 30 June 2012

Huckleberry Hound — Pet Vet

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound – Daws Butler; Narrator, Kitten, Lion – Hal Smith.
Music: Geordie Hormel, Bill Loose/John Seely, Jack Shaindlin, unknown.
First Aired: week of Jan. 18, 1960 (rerun, week of July 11, 1960)
Production No. K-036
Plot: Veterinarian Huck treats a lion with a sore tooth.

This cartoon has the Huckleberry Hound everyone thinks of, the good-natured guy who gets pounded around a bit (and comments to the audience about it) but kind of wins in the end.

Huck has his problems with animals, doesn’t he? Setting aside more dog-like dogs stealing his steaks or stopping him from delivering the mail, he got attacked while trying to rescue a kitten and tame a lion in season one, and in this cartoon he’s assailed by a bulldog and another lion.

There isn’t really a lot to say about the cartoon, other than to quickly go through the story.

“This picture is dedicated,” Warren Foster’s script begins once again, “to the animals’ friend, the veterinarian.” The camera trucks in to Dick Thomas’ background drawing of an animal hospital and then there’s a pan over sick animals. Hal Smith lends his voice to the narrator and the kittens mewing.

Cue Huck walking down the hallway past the same emergency fire hose in the wall three times. “Animals can’t talk,” philosophises Huck, “but, um, their own way of expressin’ their feelings.” A bulldog shows his by biting Huck. We get a two-drawing shake take from Carlo Vinci, which I’ve slowed down.

Huck bite

The phone rings. There’s a roar on the phone. “Sounds like a im-pacted wisdom tooth,” diagnoses Huck. He strolls along the grounds of the city zoo (singing ‘Clementine’) to the lion cage. The gags:

● Huck goes in the cage and tells the lion here’s there to help. The word “help” quickly becomes a cry for one as Huck rushes from out of walled cage and pushes the door closed on the lion’s grasping paw.

● The old gag of hammering on each tooth to see which one’s causing the trouble. We get pain drawings of the lion. “Come on, now, you have to help me. Was that insensitive?” says the clueless Huck. The lion responds by throwing Huck through the door (no animation of the throwing; we see him sail through the closed door) and into a tree. “Well, we’re makin’ progress,” Huck tells the audience.

● Huck tries to hog-tie the lion to work on the tooth. The lion hog-ties Huck instead. Again, we don’t see the action; there’s just a camera shake on a background drawing of the lion cage wall and door. “First lion I ever did see that could tie a decent knot,” Huck observes.

● Soda-phan something-or-other is in a huge needle to put the lion to sleep. Yeah, you guessed it. The needle’s in Huck’s butt. There’s a ten-second hold on the same background drawing as above, with a few camera shakes. Carlo has it easy in this one.

● Huck gives the lion a hotfoot. The idea is to swoop down on a road into the cage when the lion yells and pull out the bad tooth with a pair of pliers. It sure sounds like Hal Smith yelling “Yeeeowww” for Huck here. Pan to the lion’s closed mouth with Huck inside. He pushes open the jaws. “My timin’ was off just a smidgeon,” he reckons to the viewers.

● Huck’s in the lion’s mouth pulling on the tooth. “Close your mouth a little,” he keeps suggesting to the lion. Again, you know what’s going to happen. “Open, I suggest,” yells Huck. He jumps out and makes a stretch-diving exit while the animal swipes at him with his claws. Fosters pulls a Tex Avery-type gag. “You gotta be right fast. Those lion claws are really sharp.” Huck’s feet walk away, separating him into four parts.

● Time for a game. Huck ties a string to his tooth and gets the lion to do the same. “Now, when I count three, we’ll pull the string.” The lion pulls Huck’s string and removes a tooth.

● A string from the lion’s mouth is attached to Huck’s jeep (aka “four-wheeled forsep”). Huck drives away. “When that string tightens, that old tooth is going to go, go, go,” says Huck. The camera pulls back to reveal the proud lion, string still attached to the tooth, riding in the back of the jeep. Fade to black.

You may notice when Huck first meets up with the King of Beasts, the bum tooth is on the lion’s right side, but changes to the left side when we see him in the lion’s mouth and for the rest of the cartoon.

There’s not much more to say about the cartoon. Not too silly. Not a lot of satire. Just a string of gags on a premise that probably dates back to silent film comedy shorts.

The music’s fairly typical. Two snatches of ‘Clementine’ on a small electric organ, like the kind you’d hear on radio game shows 60 years ago, make an appearance. Whether Hoyt Curtin recorded it solo, or if it’s from a production library, I don’t know.

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main title theme (Curtin).
0:14 - ZR-45 METROPOLITAN (Hormel) – Shot of clinic, pan of dogs and cats.
0:32 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Dog bites Huck, on phone with lion.
1:08 - Clementine (Curtin?) – Huck strolls in zoo.
1:17 - GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – Lion roars, Huck goes into lion cage, runs out, closes door.
2:10 - TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck at door, hammers on teeth, in tree.
3:10 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Cadkin/Bluestone) – Rope scene.
3:36 - TC-301 ZANY WALTZ (Loose-Seely) – Shot scene.
4:11 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck gives hotfoot.
4:16 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Huck runs, on tree, lands in mouth.
4:34 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck in lion’s mouth, Huck with pliers, divides into four.
5:16 - LAF-27-6 UNTITLED TUNE (Shaindlin) – Lion pulls Huck’s tooth scene.
6:11 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Huck talks to lion.
6:23 - Clementine (Curtin?) – Huck strolls to jeep, lion nods.
6:42 - LAF-74-2 LICKETY SPLIT (Shaindlin) – Huck starts engine, lion in jeep.
6:58 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

Thursday 28 June 2012

The Man Behind the Cash Behind Hanna-Barbera

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember seeing leaping lines and flashing lights at the end of Hanna-Barbera cartoons with a disembodied voice saying “A Screen Gems film presentation.” (it’s been about 50 years, so forgive me if the quote isn’t exact). The lines were, no doubt, leaping for joy over all the money pouring in to Screen Gems from Hanna-Barbera character licensing fees.

Columbia Pictures, through its Screen Gems subsidiary, not only had a percentage of the Hanna-Barbera studio when it opened, it cleverly had a percentage of the licensing of everything the studio turned out. And licensing was the financial engine that drove the studio (and influenced programming; witness how Wilma Flintstone’s baby had a sex change before it got on the air, thanks to the wishes of Ideal Toys).

Author Tim Hollis is in the process of putting together a book on cartoon character licensing and merchandising. He’s been gracious enough to send a piece from TV Guide dated February 1963 about Ed Justin, the man who handled licensing of the H-B characters for Screen Gems. You can click on each photo to enlarge it.

Tim’s separated the pictures as well. The commentary below each is his.

At the far left hand side, through the window you can see a yellow Fred bop bag with a big red nose. I actually have one of those in the museum, and it's funny because the pet dinosaur on it is labeled as "DEENO."

More inconsistent colors, including blonde Betty!

I'd say that cartoon textiles (clothing, etc) are among the rarest of all collectibles since people rarely had any reason to keep them after their kids outgrew wearing them. I have childhood photos of me wearing Yogi, Flintstones, etc shirts, but while my parents were great about preserving stuff, I don't have ANY of them today.

In this one, TV Guide's relatively cheap printing process really shows up in the poor color registration. Still an impressive batch of books, though! I think I have nearly every one in this shot except the Wally Gator coloring book.

And here's the really good stuff. On the shelf in the background, notice what appear to be vinyl figures (or banks) of the Jetsons, Touche Turtle and even Mr. Twiddle. I have never seen a single one of these turn up for sale or in any collector's hoard, so they must have had very limited distribution or else these were prototypes that never went on sale in the first place. Just how many kids wanted a Mr. Twiddle to play with, anyway?!

Here’s a feature syndicated by the Washington Post about Screen Gems character licensing from the Winnipeg Free Press dated January 31, 1973. You now know who was responsible for those Bobby Sherman records on the backs of Alpha-Bits boxes. You now know why Hanna-Barbera was anxious to keep reinventing the Flintstones and Yogi Bear. It had little to do with making cartoons and almost everything to do with making licensing money. And you now know why actors start calling lawyers when new media featuring their old shows comes along and they get a token amount for it. It’s because licensing profits can be huge.

Ed Justin Rules A Lucrative Empire Of Names
NEW YORK (Special - TPNS) — One of the most unusual offices in this city has to be on the 12th floor of the Columbia Pictures building. Once past the usual glossy receptionists holding court in subdued executive niches, and potted plains with office complexions, the visitor finds a glass store front named in red:
Honest Ed Justin.
(With honest crossed out.)
Jammed in the window are plastic dishes, T-shirts, vitamin pills, comic books, lunch boxes, games, clothes, dolls and stuffed animals wearing expressions of sublime goofiness — all bearing the imprint of past and present television characters, from Yogi Bear to David Cassidy.
Honest Ed (the honest is crossed out because no one would trust a man who says he’s honest ... ) is the sign and the signature of the man who is in charge of merchandising for Screen Gems, the television production subsidiary of Columbia Pictures.
“Merchandising is the easiest business in the world,” says Honest Ed. “But don’t tell my bosses I said so. Essentially, merchandising is the business of licensing private entrepreneurs to use names, likenesses or themes from one of our television shows for the purpose of product advertising or identification.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the U.S. comes to be blessed with such objets d’art as Fred Flintstone vitamins and insecticides, David Cassidy towels, Yogi Bear coloring books, Bobby Sherman records in cereal boxes. Similar items can be found in Japanese, Australian, Mexican, Finnish, Yugoslavian, Venezuelan and Brazilian incarnations, to name a few, which proves that the U.S. hasn’t the only people who have an inexplicable tendency to buy something more readily if it has some connection with show business.
Eddie Justin has been in charge of merchandising for Screen Gems for 37 years; before
that he did the same thing for NBC. Before that he ran summer camp for “overpriviliged
girls” in New Jersey, called Camp Swatona. At Camp Swatona he was known as Uncle Eddie, gave prizes to all the worst athletes, umpired fly balls into home runs and became a nervous wreck.
The job that had started as an escape from the rigors of practicing law (“I wasn’t mean enough lo be a lawyer”) became so ulcer-inducing that Uncle Eddie became Honest Ed and turned in his tent for an executive suite. Now a vice-president of Screen Gems, his department brings in so much money that Honest Ed’s eccentricities are tolerated.
His business card, for example introduces him as Honest Ed Justin, and states his office
hours on the back:
Consulting and negotiating.
Office hours: 8:30 -10:30 a.m. 2:30 - 6:30 p.m.
During othcr hours there will be an additional $5,000 cover charge.
During the four hours he is out of the office, Mr. Justin is swimming at the New York Athletic Club, doing as many laps as he has years, 60.
His mailings are clearly labeled “merchandising propaganda,” and are signed “not needy, just greedy, Honest Ed.”
In the office, behind a door with a dollar sign instead of a name plate, Mr. Justin rules a lucrative empire. “Our inventory is money,” he proclaims.
“We get five per cent royalty on each item. We don’t do any work but grant licenses; no designing or manufacturing — we just collect money.
“Now I don’t want to get into how much this one makes or that one makes; it’s never as much as people think anyway. You don’t really start to make money until a property is established, year after year. Everyone thinks the Partridge Family is such a big deal, but I’d trade a Partridge for a Fred Flintstone or a Yogi Bear any day.”
An item that brings in less than $40,000 is a waste of time, and Mr. Justin was quoted in a T.V. Guide article last year as saying that the Partridge Family has earned $100,000 in merchandising royalties during their first two years; most of which goes into the Screen Gems coffers.
In the merchandising biz, the Walt Disney outfit reigns as originator and all-time money maker. The revenue from Mickey Mouse alone is probably incalculable, not to mention all those Davy Crockett coonskin hats. Screen Gems, however, with more than 20,000 separate items and countless commercials in its inventory, is one of the biggies, and is in a position to consider license requests carefully and not get involved with every sweatshirt vendor with a stencil who knocks on the door. (As a matter of fact, sweatshirts are sure-fire nonsellers, according to Mr. Justin, who wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot Yogi Bear gent pole.)
The big money is in commercials, Justin says, not in the dolls and toys. In the old days, when merchandising was no more sophisticated than 60 million Buffalo Bob rings, the income from television personalities didn’t compare with what Screen Gems earns when, say Elizabeth Montgomery comes on at the end of Bewitched and eats a bowl of Kellogg’s corn flakes.
The Flintstones (Feuersteins in Deutsch) and Yogi Bear are probably the all-time greats in the Screen Gems merchandising repertoire, even though both programs are off the air except for reruns. There are countless toys and games, Yogi Bear restaurants and a chain of Jellystone Park campgrounds (Mr. Justin recently spoke to a convention of 93 campsite owners and managers). There is also the bank in Rhode Island that identifies with Fred Flintstone, as its ads proclaim:
“Yabba dabba doo love that old stone bank.”
One of Mr. Justin’s latest properties is Marjoe, the former child evangelist turned rock star and “the most exciting, new youthful personality in the world!” Among the product possibilities is a lifesize pillow that Mr. Justin’s sister-in-law Valerie, who runs pillow boutiques hi New York and Beverly Hills, plans to sell for $100.
Mr. Justin is also gearing up for a massive onslaught of products connected with Lost Horizons, the first movie he’s cared enough about to merchandise. He’s also branching into music and movie stars, with Isaac Hayes and Richard Roundtree, whom he admires greatly.
“No sweatshirts for them,” he said.
Honest Ed Justin is not a put on — probably. Myrna, his assistant for 17 years, says of her boss:
“He has fun. In this business you don’t have to do business with people you don’t like and there are few hassles.”
She herself smirks only slightly when explaining the meaning of JLAMI, a company Justin created a few years after the first trips to the moon. The initials stand for: Interplanetary Licenses and Merchandising Inc.
Mr. Justin travels a lot setting up deals in foreign countries (for a while he travelled as Hanger Ed with a Flintstone robot as his companion leaving his wife and wire-haired terrier in New York. On airplanes he writes song lyrics, some of which have been recorded by pop stars in Australia. He played one the other day:
“I’m an easy, easy does it guy
Not bursting with ambition.
For me the moon’s for gazing
The falling stars for wishing
I’m an easy, easy does it guy,
Not much on push and shoving—
Don’t want to own the world,
I just want my share of livin’.
A little love, a little laughter
That's pretty much what I’m after.”

Sunday 24 June 2012

Flintstones, Weekend, June 1962

Ah, the annoyed Wilma and angry, loudmouth Fred. Don’t you love them instead of the domesticated version Hanna-Barbera foisted on TV viewers after Pebbles was born? Well, we’ve got both in the Sunday comics 50 years ago this month. Of course, we have the Pebbles substitute, Amber, too, so we’ll just have to put up with her for one week.

The June 3rd cartoon is pretty topical. President Kennedy made his “an American on the moon” speech only a couple of weeks earlier. If it’s good enough for JFK, it’s good enough for Fred Flintstone. He’s got a wide smile through much of this comic. For some reason, the ‘y’ is missing in “Yabba.” Sorry, the first row of panels is missing.

Amber drives the plot in the June 10th cartoon. I really like the layout of the gag drawing at the end. Nice perspective. And the comic opens with a couple of cute incidental kids, one with a pet dinosaur. Imaginatively, the sign with the strip’s name is hanging from the top of the panel.

The annoyed Wilma shows up June 17th. There’s a mastodon watching in the opening panel. Sorry the colours haven’t translated well into a black-and-white photocopy.

Another great layout panel ends the June 24th cartoon. The phone company guy and his “truck” are in the background through the window. I don’t know if Dino laughed at Fred too often in the TV show.

As usual, click on any comic to enlarge it.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Pixie and Dixie — Dinky Jinks

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie – Don Messick, Dixie, Mr Jinks, Dog – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Geordie Hormel, Jack Shaindlin, Spence Moore.
First aired: week of February 2, 1958.
Plot: Jinks’ use of chemistry to catch the meeces goes wrong.

Do you recognise this Hanna-Barbera cartoon—a cat in the basement drinks a home-made chemical brew that unexpectedly shrinks him to a size smaller than a mouse, then the mouse takes revenge? Sure you do. It’s the 1947 MGM cartoon “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Mouse.”

Oh, right. It’s this cartoon as well. Once again, Bill and Joe have dipped into their Tom and Jerry plot reservoir and pulled out some ideas that they’ve reworked into a new cartoon. Of course, it doesn’t have the boisterous action of a Tom and Jerry cartoon (and even theatricals were a lot less boisterous by 1958 when this cartoon debuted on TV). But it’s still likeable. Jinks personality comes through and there are some fun Carlo Vinci drawings. Like this one after the mice ridicule Jinks, saying all his science experiments end in “Kaboom!” and then there’s an explosion sound and a cut to the cat.

Or these drawings after Jinks drinks his “fantastic-ical-al discovery” and reacts to it.

You’ll recognise Carlo again from the crooked wide mouth, and the big row of teeth he gives Jinks. He also cocks Jinks’ head at an angle, something he tended to do in dialogue sequences.

Almost the first third of the cartoon is taken up with Jinks in the lab (when he drinks the formula, there’s a splashing sound effect), shrinking and then deciding he “can now get at them mices.” Jinks’ logic is if he’s the size of a mouse, he can get in Pixie and Dixie’s mouse hole and clobber them.

And that’s what he sets out to do. But first he teases the relaxing mice by making faces outside the entrance to their hole and running away. Note the stretch-dive exit by Jinks. Dixie thinks he’s imagining “a little bitty cat.” He doesn’t feel so good now. Pixie feels his forehead to see if he has a fever. Jinks stretches his foot into the hole and pulls himself in. He and Pixie get into a conversation and agree it’s “rid-ick-aluss” that Dixie sees “a mice-sized cat.” Suddenly, Pixie realises he’s looking at a shrunken Jinks. Now we get one of those two-drawing fear takes that Carlo liked drawing. Here it is slowed down so you can see it better.

Jinks’ plot seems to be working. He holds onto Dixie’s tail. “‘Kaboom,’ huh?” the cat says, throwing the meece’s words back at him. Jinks lets go of the tail with a snap. Then comes a chase. Charlie Shows fills time with dialogue. “Come back here, you mousey mices. Aha! Got you cornered, like mouses in a micetrap.” Jinks outlines his plot to get into their mouse hole and then makes a mistake. He reminds them he’s “littler” than they are. The meeces realise there are two of them to one puny Jinks. So now it’s Pixie’s turn to bop Jinks on the head and hold onto his tail before letting go with a snap. Carlo has Jinks look up at the fist before it comes smashing down. A nice extra.

Dixie says “Shall we have at the small cat?” and “Tally ho! Let’s go!” Ah, it wouldn’t be a Charlie Shows-written cartoon without rhyming dialogue. Jinks scoots under the carpet. The meece pretend they don’t know he’s there. But they do see the lump on the rug. Dixie jumps on it and rides it like a horse as Jinks (still under the carpet) tries to escape. We get the old low-bridge gag as Dixie bashes his head on a chest of drawers while Jinks zips under it.

Jinks is back in the basement, reading his book to find a formula to make him grow big again. He’s being watched by a Reddy-like dog (white, mirror-image ears, square head) with Daws’ Gleason voice who decides a cat’s a cat, no matter what size, and decides to chase him.

Jinks runs into the mouse hole. Pixie and Dixie are in bed. Jinks begs them to save him from the dog. All is apparently forgiven. “Looks like we got a guest for tonight, Pixie” says Dixie. Jinks smiles. Cut to a shot of him in bed between the two mice.

Says Jinks: “I know this look ridick-aluss. A cat and two mices, you know, bunkin’ together. But there’s no other cherce. Hey, whadda goin’ to do? Nighty-night.” And Jinks immediately falls asleep and snores, as the mice open their mouths in delight before the iris closes. Jinks looks a bit like a Terry-Toons cat in this scene; Carlo tended to draw him that way in a number of cartoons.

An interesting decision was made to speed up Jinks’ voice a bit after he shrinks.

Typical Pixie and Dixie music is in the cartoon’s background. The sound cutter uses the Spencer Moore bassoon effects cue L-1158 Animation Comedy to augment Jinks’ shrinking. And this is yet another cartoon where Jack Shaindlin’s ‘Toboggan Run’ is used in a chase scene.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:26 - TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks in basement lab, kaboom, reacts.
1:33 - TC 303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks stares at beaker, drinks, shrinks, tippy-toes.
2:02 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) - bassoon effect as Jinks shrinks.
2:25 - TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks at mouse hole entrance.
3:01 - TC 202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Jinks chuckles, Pixie runs away, Jinks conks Dixie.
3:45 - ZR-48 - FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) - Jinks holds Dixie’s tail, mice cornered, “We were only funnin,’ Jinksie.”
4:24 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) - “Where’s your sense of nonsense?”, Jinks dives under carpet, Dixie rides Jinks, smash.
5:53 - TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) - “Are you okay, Dixie?”, dog watches,
6:32 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - dog chases Jinks, Jinks pleads.
6:48 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) - dog growls outside mouse hole, Jinks snores.
7:10 - Pixie and Dixie End Title theme (Curtin).

Yowp note: Reviews have now been posted of all cartoons in the first season of ‘The Huckleberry Hound Show,’ which was the goal when we started. Along the way, we added reviews of cartoons from the second season. All the Pixie and Dixies have been finished. There are two Hucks and one Yogi to go.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

John Stephenson, Man of a Thousand Roles

I’m thoroughly convinced that there was a rule for years at the Hanna-Barbera studio—the John Stephenson Rule. One that read: “John Stephenson must appear at least once in every H-B cartoon series.” It sure seemed like it, anyway.

Sure, Mel Blanc was the “Man of a Thousand Voices,” but John Stephenson was the Man of a Thousand Roles. For years, he voiced recurring, weekly cartoon characters and countless incidental ones. It got to a point where you expected to hear him and his voice became identified with Hanna-Barbera as much as the studio’s sound effects and the brassy scores of Hoyt Curtin.

Readers of this blog can probably pick a favourite Stephenson role: the perpetually-annoyed Mr. Slate on “The Flintstones,” the Cary Grant-ish Fancy-Fancy on “Top Cat,” the original Benton Quest on “Jonny Quest,” and innumerable growling trumped villains who snarled “I might have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids and that dog...”

Unlike Mel Blanc, Stephenson had a long career on camera as well. He tested out his German accent a bunch of times on “Hogan’s Heroes” in the mid to late ‘60s; at least that’s the first thing that comes to my mind. His television career goes back long before that. While a student at Northwestern University, he debuted in a drama series on WBKB. The first episode, “The Far-Off Hills,” aired April 4, 1946. Ten years later, he appeared in not one, but two series. He was the host of ABC’s “Bold Journey,” showing amateur travel films and interviewing whoever shot the footage, while humorous ads for Ralston-Purina interrupted the proceedings. And he also showed up on NBC on the only show starring a non-animated talking dog: “The People’s Choice.” He talked about his character in this syndicated newspaper feature (I can’t find a version with a byline) that appeared in the Oakland Tribune on September 30, 1956.

How to Stuff a Shirt---And Garnish With Old School Tie
How do you stuff a shirt? Actor John Stephenson recommends this recipe: a full measure of pomposity, add restraint and spice with cliches and false heartiness, then baste with braggadocio, and garnish with an old school tie.
Mix well and serve to television audiences as Roger Crutcher, the stuffy “heavy” on NBC-TV’s “The People’s Choice,” starring Jackie Cooper and seen Thursdays on KRON.
Stephenson, a 32-year-old alumnus of the Kenosha, Wis. Little Theater and Northwestern University’s school of dramatic arts, is an expert on the subject. He’s played many a stuffed shirt on radio, TV and in movies.
He defines the character as “the businessman who feels Sunday afternoon is a poor time to sponsor a television program because ‘everyone’s out playing polo.’
“He reads the Wall Street Journal on the commuters’ train, but can’t wait to get at the Police Gazette in the sanctity of the barber shop.
“He proposes to a girl by saying, ‘Think of what I can offer you...’
“He’s long-winded, a back-slapper of the higher echelon, but looks down his nose at the lower echelon, and can carry it off even if they’re taller than he is.
“He’s not exactly a cube, but a square, who gets a joke a few seconds later than everyone else.
“He’s sartorially correct at all times. He never even puts on a sweatshirt mentally for a down-to-earth talk with anyone.
“He’s often the physical type who once captained the boxing team at Princeton— and doesn’t hesitate to remind you of it, for ‘I’ is the first letter in his alphabet.
“And if he meets with reversal, he’ll rationalize by saying, ‘Oh, well, it’s tax deductible, anyway.’
“But,” admonishes Stephenson, “don’t sell the stuffed shirt short. He can’t be portrayed as completely obnoxious. His good qualities usually out-balance the superficial ones that stamp him as stuffy. He’s competent, proper, and restrained, as well as basically honest.”
Stephenson, a rugged Air Force veteran who saw combat action in China during World II, went to Hollywood for a visit in 1948 and stayed. He lives in North Hollywood with his wife, Jean.
He enjoys playing the role of Crutcher, Cooper’s rival for the affections of pretty Patricia Breslin of “The People’s Choice.”
“The part is not written too stiffly,” said Stephenson. “Roger may be a pill, but every once in a while he gets a chance to show he’s humanly sugar-coated.”

Stephenson was born August 9, 1923 to Wisconsin natives G. Ray and Martha Stephenson; his father had been an embalmer, was Commander of the Kenosha Legion Post and wrote a newspaper story in 1918 outlining how he had survived the sinking of the Tuscania by a torpedo off the Irish coast. He was named for his grandfather and was the oldest son in the family. Young John was making headlines in the early ‘40s. While still in school, he made the finals of the National Forensic League’s annual speech tournament. It’s easy picturing him reciting a serious monologue.

Besides the Man of a Thousand Roles in cartoons, he’s the Man of More Than a Thousand Roles in commercials. He may still be doing work for Dick Orkin’s company; I heard his familiar voice a couple of years ago on some radio spots.

It’s a shame Stephenson hasn’t talked more publicly about his cartoon work. I remember seeing him quoted in a Los Angeles Times News Service piece by Steve Cox a couple of years ago and thinking I’d never read an interview with him before. I’ve dredged up his comments. The piece was published September 11, 2010 to mark the 50th anniversary of “The Flintstones.” Let’s pick out his quotes:

John Stephenson, 87, who carries an undeniably familiar Hanna Barbera intonation in his speaking voice, is one of the last surviving cast members of the iconic show. Most notably, Stephenson portrayed Fred’s bombastic boss at the rock quarry, Mr. Slate, among multitudes of Bedrock citizenry throughout the program's original six-year run.
“I think the show was successful because it was an adult cartoon and viewers associated it with ‘The Honeymooners,’ ” he says. “And with the Stone Age setting and some very good writing, audiences loved it. They still do.”
Stephenson credits [Joe] Barbera’s talent for directing the cast as a key to the show’s charm, at least vocally. During those smoke-filled studio recording sessions (the show was sponsored by Winston cigarettes for a while), it was not uncommon to hear Barbera barking over the speaker, “I paid a lot of money for this script, so I want to hear the lines!”
The verbal gymnastics were always bold and lively. “Very seldom did he want anyone to talk in a moderate tone or conversational tone,” Stephenson explains. “He wanted it up there, right in your face, punctuated, laid out and hit!”

One wonders what Warren Foster would have thought hearing Barbera was paying “a lot of money for this script.”

It seems someone’s always trying to bring back a new version of “Scooby-Doo” or some other Hanna-Barbera cartoon. It’d be nice if they brought back John Stephenson, too. But even if they don’t, it’s reassuring to know he’s still out there, enjoying life we trust. People tend to want some kind of link to their happy childhood times and the Man of a Thousand Roles is one of them.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Quick Draw McGraw — Bow-Wow Bandit

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Animation – Ken Muse; Story – Mike Maltese; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast: Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Snuffles – Daws Butler; Narrator, Naugahyde Kid – Doug Young.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin, Emil Cadkin/Harry Bluestone, Hecky Krasnow, J. Louis Merkur.
First aired: week of October 19, 1959 (rerun, week of April 18, 1960)
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-004, Production J-30.
Plot: Quick Draw enlists bloodhound Snuffles to rescue Baba Looey from the Naugahyde Kid.

For a one-note character, Hanna-Barbera got a lot of mileage out of Snuffles. He was over-the-top enough for audiences to laugh at him, and the studio didn’t overuse him. They probably wrung as much out of him as they could over three seasons, using him judiciously.

That was just fine with Quick Draw’s sponsor. Kellogg’s didn’t just make cereal. It manufactured Gro-Pup T-Bone dog biscuits, so it was anxious to get Snuffles as a spokes-dog and get him on television right away. This cartoon was Snuffles’ debut. It was the 30th put into production for the Quick Draw show, but aired on the fourth show. There were three cartoons per show, so numerically, the 10th, 11th and 12th cartoons put into production should have aired on this show. You can read more about Kellogg’s and Snuffles HERE.

Snuffles didn’t have a name in this episode. Quick Draw just calls him “dog” or “bloodhound.” And while fans remember him floating into the air in ecstacy after eating a dog biscuit, he doesn’t do that in this cartoon; he just hugs himself. And he mutters mock swear words to himself when he can’t have his fix for a biscuit satisfied, much like Muttley used to do years later in ‘Wacky Races’ (1968) and various H-B spin-offs.

This is another fun Quick Draw cartoon, not only because of Snuffles’ fetishism. The narrator turns interviewer and talks to the characters at the beginning. And this is the cartoon where Quick Draw mangles Baba Looey’s name as “Baba Lewis,” as if “Looey” is spelled “Louis” (as in “Saint”). The name “Naugahyde Kid” is pretty imaginative. Naugahyde was big stuff in the ‘50s for suburbanites anxious to have the latest chemically-concocted products that money could buy. So writer Mike Maltese simply modified a good Western name like “Rawhide Kid” and made a fake Western one.

The cartoon opens with a pan over a reddish and brown desert, followed by a shot of Quick Draw with his feet dragging along the dirt as he holds back Snuffles.

Narrator: In tracking outlaws over grim, bleak terrain such as you see here, it sometimes became necessary for lawmen to enlist the aid of a bloodhound. Here we see the nemesis of all outlaws, Quick Draw McGraw.

The narrator then says hello to Quick Draw, “you fearless old bandit-chaser, you.” Quick Draw faces the narrator, doffs his hat and responds. Next, we cut to the Naugahyde Kid’s secret hideout, where Baba is being prisoner.

Narrator: Say, Baba Looey.
Baba: Si. You speakin’?
Narrator: How’s the kid treating you?
Baba: Ees not too bad.

It’s a nice, polite conversation, and the narrator decides to chat with the Kid, who has just poked a gun in Baba Looey’s face. But the Kid is polite, too. He takes off his hat when spoken to.

Narrator: Oh, Naugahyde.
Kid: (surprised by narrator) Huh? Oh, good evening, sir.
Narrator: Why are you holding Baba Looey captive?
Kid: Because, sir, he has a map of the gold mine tattooed on his chest.
Baba: (annoyed) But thees ees not...
Kid: Shaddap!! (looks at camera) Uh, that’s why, sir. (hears barking) That sounds like that stupid, homely, half-baked, ridiculous, no-good, worthless, so-and-so lawman Quick Draw. (looks at camera) Oh, excuse me, sir. I forgot myself.
Narrator: That’s alright, Kid.

So the cartoon’s all set up. And the rest of it consists of run cycles, dog biscuit eating cycles, bribes/pleads to Snuffles and a few sight gag.

After Snuffles squirms in delight over the first biscuit, Quick Draw remarks “Never knowed a dog that was that crazy over dog biscuits.” The Kid fires at them from off screen. Snuffles develops one of those wavy mouths that Don Patterson liked drawing. Snuffles takes off, dragging Quick Draw over some rocks, giving us a chance to hear his Yosemite Sam/Clem Kadiddlehopper-like “Whoa!” and his usual “Oooch, oooch, ouch!”

Another biscuit. Fetch Baba Looey. Snuffles brings back the Kid instead. All the Kid can say is “Is this your dog?” before blasting Quick Draw.

No Baba Looey, no dog biscuit. Snuffles quickly retrieves Baba. Uh, oh. Just as in future cartoons, Quick Draw is out of dog biscuits (even searching his body for them). The muttering Snuffles takes “Baba Lewis” (as Quick Draw is now calling him) back to the bad guy. But the bad guy has no dog biscuits. Snuffles mutters and takes Baba back to Quick Draw, who is frying (?!) a batch.

The only problem is they taste like crap. At least Snuffles thinks so. Snuffles picks up Baba Looey and runs back and forth between the gun-firing Quick Draw and the gun-firing Naugahyde Kid. Finally, the good guy and bad guy skid to a stop at a rock where Snuffles is trying to look innocent. The two start arguing. The Kid’s going to skin Baba alive (he has that map on his chest, you know), prompting Quick Draw to say “I’ll do the skinnin’ around here!” During all this, the camera cuts to a close-up of the bottom of the rock. Baba pops his head up from the ground. “You know something?” he says to the audience. “I theenk I’ll quit when I’m ahead,” and buries himself back in the ground, with his hoof waving “Adios” to the camera.

Snuffles appeared in two more cartoons in the 1959-60 season and seven in the Quick Draw show altogether.

The music cutting is really odd in this cartoon. The music changes in mid-dialogue or mid-scene, instead of changing when the mood does. There’s a square-dance cue that’s used twice that the Capitol Hi-Q library called “Light Movement.” It’s a cue that originally came from the Sam Fox library.

0:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:16 - SF-11 LIGHT MOVEMENT (De Francesco?) – Pan over background, Narrator talks to Quick Draw.
0:43 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Bluestone/Cadkin) – Hideout, Narrator talks to Naugahyde Kid.
1:41 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Green) – Snuffles barks, dog biscuit scene, gunfire
2:28 - SIX-DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Snuffles pulls Quick Draw, skids to stop.
2:49 - THE HAPPY COBBLER (Krasnow) – Quick Draw on ground, another dog biscuit, Snuffles runs off.
3:31 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Quick Draw talks to audience, Snuffles brings back Naugahyde Kid, Quick Draw shot.
3:57 - GR-80 FRED KARNO’S ARMY (Green) – “No Baby Looey, no dog biscuit.”
4:05 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – “Is that clear?” Snuffles disappears.
4:10 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Green) – “Here he comes now,” “Your dog biscuit.”
4:28 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Bluestone/Cadkin) – Quick Draw searches himself, Snuffles zips out of scene.
4:43 - rising scale music (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw calls Snuffles, Snuffles runs back and forth with Baba, skids to a stop.
5:09 - EM-107D LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – “I’m a bakin’ you...” Snuffles starts choking.
5:40 - SF-11 LIGHT MOVEMENT/MOUNTAINEERS' HOEDOWN (Merkur) – More Snuffles choking, Quick Draw runs after Snuffles, Quick Draw and Naugahyde argue, Baba buries himself.
7:01 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).