Sunday 29 July 2012

Slick City Slicker Storyboard

There was once a place in the U.S. called ‘The Cartoon Network.’ It didn’t have tween-boy shows called “Dude, What Would Happen?” and “Build Destroy Build.” It had nothing but cartoons. Old ones, even. And its web site had great old pictures of people who worked at Hanna-Barbera, like Dick Bickenbach and Carlo Vinci. And it even had cartoons themselves and storyboards from a few of them.

Below is part of the storyboard from “Slick City Slicker,” the cartoon we reviewed yesterday. The size of the pictures is really small, but that’s what was on the site.

I suppose the board was drawn by Alex Lovy elaborating on sketches from Mike Maltese. Many of the character poses were maintained in the cartoon, but the opening pan is quite different. Background artist Bob Gentle used only one side of the street (the distance had islands near the harbour) with a huge house on Nob Hill on the right and the hotel on the left. Homes were in between and streetcar tracks were on the curving road. I suspect the detail in the drawing of the Raindrop Kid walking into the home is in the actual cartoon, if a decent version of it were to be seen.

The big mouth, close-eyed version of Quick Draw in the fourth set of panels is pretty funny. And the word “Kapok” when Raindrop smacks Baba with the racket is pure Maltese.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Quick Draw McGraw — Slick City Slicker

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Dick Lundy; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Desk Clerk – Daws Butler; Narrator, Raindrop Kid, Man in Tub – Hal Smith.
Music: Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin, Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin, unknown.
First aired: week of December 14, 1959 (rerun, week of June 13, 1960)
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-012, Production J-37.
Plot: In old San Francisco, Quick Draw tries to bring the Raindrop Kid to justice.

The highlight of this cartoon is writer Mike Maltese borrowing from his Oscar-nominated short “Mouse Wreckers” (1949), where Hubie and Bertie nail everything from the floor onto the ceiling to screw with Claude Cat’s mind. Here, Baba Looey does it to the robbing Raindrop Kid in a successful attempt to get him to give himself up. Of course, Quick Draw is such a dope that he falls for the ceiling-is-the-floor bit as well, and that’s where we leave the hero and bad guy as the cartoon ends.

Maltese also supplies us with a string of Wile E. Coyote-ish failed capture attempts, a running gag and a pun or two. Dick Bickenbach came up with a sharp-nosed design for Sylvester P. Successful aka the Raindrop Kid. Dick Lundy brings him to life and animates portions of the cartoon on ones, not something terribly common at Hanna-Barbera at the time.

It’s a shame the only versions of this cartoon out there appear to be from TV networks broadcasting someone’s muddy VHS tape. You can’t see the detail in Bob Gentle’s opening stylised panorama of the San Francisco waterfront. The camera pans left past turreted buildings (one appears to take up all of Nob Hill), hills in the distance in the midst of the water (looking more like Vancouver than San Francisco) and rail tracks in front. Maltese sets it up with narration by Hal Smith.

Narrator: This is San Francisco in the late 19th century. Hive of activity in the social whirl, where royalty mixed with scoundrels, is the plush Bella Crystal Hotel.

The camera cuts to a shot of the Raindrop Kid checking into the hotel. Baba Looey is disguised as a bellboy. The narrator (saying “Psst!”) has a confidential message for Baba. The Kid is carrying the stolen Bells Far-to-go money. “Don’t you thin’ I know it,” the annoyed burro replies. We know it, too, because it says so right on the bag. Putting obvious labels on bags is something Maltese was doing as far back as the late ‘40s when he was writing comic books.

Enter Quick Draw McGraw “pretending to be a country bumpkin,” staring at the ceiling “at all the lights and fancy thangs,” kind of a variation of what Bugs Bunny did in “Barbary Coast Bunny” (1956), written for the Jones unit by Tedd Pierce while Maltese was working at the Walter Lantz studio. Quick Draw does the Lundy snout roll when he tells Baba he’s a hayseed “and doooon’t you forget it.” “Gee,” Baba tells the audience, “I betch you Quicksdraw get a Oscar for thees.” The silly thing is he never really uses the disguise to try to arrest the Kid. The concept is dropped in the very next scene.

Here are the routines Quick Draw uses to try to arrest the Kid in his hotel room.

● Baba knocks at door with a pitcher of ice-water. When Kid answers, Quick Draw announces he’s under arrest. Kid clobbers him with a cane. “Ees qood for the head lomps,” says Baba as he pours the water on Quick Draw.
● Baba swings from a rope to Kid’s open window. Kid has a tennis racquet. He’s ready to “play ball with Quicksdraw McGraw” by volleying Baba back like he’s a ball.

● Quick Draw swings from the rope. Into the wrong window. He lands in an Englishman’s bathtub. “I say, old boy, have we been properly introduced?” It’s the start of a running gag.
● Quick Draw shinnies down a rope to the Kid’s window. An arm with a pair of scissors emerges. “Hold it. You’re supposed to be shiverin’ with fright on account of I’m Quick Draw...” The scissors cut the rope. “...McGraw.” Fortunately, our hero lands in the hotel’s awning, which shoots him back up outside the window. After avoiding Kid’s cane twice, he gets clobbered the second time. Down he goes.
● Kid clobbers a plank that Quick Draw uses to try to get in the back window. The vibrations knock him off the plank, onto a flagpole, through a window and into the Englishman’s bathtub. “By George, I have it! Didn’t we meet in an African yak hunt?” Maltese is setting up for the kind of dialogue he’d later use between Snagglepuss and Major Minor.

● Baba knocks at Kid’s door, saying he’s a cane salesman. “I theen this one will make an impression on you.” You know what’s coming. He clobbers the Kid unconscious.
● Baba uses the time to switch the floor with the ceiling of Kid’s room. Lundy and Maltese didn’t have the budget of the Hubie and Bertie cartoon with the similar upside-down, head-game scene, so instead of expression and music to set the mood like at Warners, this cartoon uses dialogue (and a head-shake cycle) out of necessity. Some of the dialogue is off-camera, meaning the shots are of Baba Looey at the door not doing much of anything. And the meandering, low-key Emil Cadkin/Harry Bluestone music in the background just doesn’t suit what should be the climax of the plot.

I love the Today’s-Modern-City-of-1955 music that opens the cartoon. But if you know which library it came from, you’re doing better than I am. The sound cutter uses a whole pile of Bluestone-Cadkin cues which strikes me as something unusual for Quick Draw cartoon.

0:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub-Main Title theme (Curtin)
0:15 - Metropolitan music (?) – shot of San Francisco, Raindrop signs register.
0:40 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Bluestone-Cadkin) – “Only unjailed member...,” Baba as bellboy, “Psst. Hey, Baba.”
1:08 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – “That’s the stolen Bells Far-to-go money,” Baba follows Raindrop.
1:22 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Green) – Quick Draw as bumpkin, Raindrop clobbers Quick Draw.
2:36 - CB-86A HIDE AND SEEK (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Slingshot scene, Quick Draw on rope.
3:10 - CB-83A MR TIPPY TOES (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Quick Draw swings on rope, bathtub scene.
3:24 - GR-248 STREETS OF THE CITY (Green) – Quick Draw on rope, “mercy” scene, in bathtub.
5:01 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Baba with cane, room switch scene, Baba talks to Quick Draw.
6:31 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – “I’m a comin’ on in,” Quick Draw and Raindrop leap upward.
7:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Making Census of Hanna-Barbera

Recently, the U.S. government was nice enough to release scanned copies of the pages of the 1940 Census Report. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t allow you to search for people’s names and unless you know a street name, you’re sunk. However, the folks at are slowly allowing you to search by name and then click on the .jpg of the report’s page to see it. Not all of the country is searchable by name, but the Los Angeles area is. And as that’s where a number of the people who later worked at Hanna-Barbera studio were living, I’ve tried finding some of them. I didn’t hunt for everyone and didn’t find some people, so this post only has a random sampling. You can click on the images to make them easier to read.

Just a note about some of the entries. The first column is the house number, the fourth is the amount of money paid in monthly rent or the value of the home if it’s owned. The next set of columns is gender, race, age, marital status, then you’ll see place of birth. The next three location columns are where the person was living April 1, 1935. The number in the second-last column is annual salary. The Census apparently only went to $5000, anything above that is listed as “$5000+” although one census taker buggered things up and listed $11,000 for radio actor Frank Nelson. Frank was obviously very busy.

Let’s start with the studio heads and a few of the animators.

Joe Barbera later lived in Beverly Hills, but in 1940 he had a three-bedroom place at 2343 Manning Avenue in Los Angeles.

Bill Hanna’s family was at 6500 West Olympic Boulevard. Also living at the address were animators Mike Lah (Disney) and Carl Urbano (MGM). Lah worked for Hanna-Barbera on the side the first two years the studio opened; Urbano went there many years later. Hanna’s already listing himself as a producer.

The other three animators when the studio opened were Ken Muse, Lew Marshall and Carlo Vinci, all of whom came over from MGM. Muse lived with his in-laws on North Florence Street. Carlo was at home with his parents and another couple in a very Italian neighbourhood at 121 Warren Street in New York; he was still going by his birth name of Vinciguerra. He was toiling at TerryToons at the time. I haven’t been able to track Marshall.

Among the animators who arrived at the studio for the 1959 season were La Verne Harding, George Nicholas, Don Patterson, Ed Love and Dick Lundy. Harding was on Lake View Avenue, Nicholas was on North Beachwood Drive, Patterson was on Lyric Avenue and the Love family (note the listing for Tony) were on Davana Terrace in Sherman Oaks.

The Loves lived next door to Paul Fennell, the ex-Harman-Ising animator who was running his own studio. Next to him was radio producer Thomas Freebairn-Smith and who helped found the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with Walt Disney. Love’s home was built in 1937 and has a guest house. Presumably, that’s where their housekeeper lived. Evidently Ed Love was making a good living.

Lundy, who directed at Disney and MGM but never at Hanna-Barbera, had a widow as his housekeeper at his home at 4516 Strohm Avenue in North Hollywood. Two doors down, at 4534, was Merle Gilson, who had been at Disney as far back as November 1929, then moved to Iwerks and Harman-Ising. Gilson had been animating for Walter Lantz in 1939 but the census says he only worked 28 weeks and was looking for a job, so he may have been caught in a studio shut-down. A block away, at 4472, was future Warners animator George Grandpré, who had also been at Lantz and was also looking for work at the time.

Ed Benedict gets most of the credit for the early Hanna-Barbera design style. He was living on South Sweetzer at the time, not far from Beverly Boulevard. His wife is missing on this page. Dick Bickenbach’s family was on Rosewood in Glendale. The third layout man, Walt Clinton, lived his father on Waverly Avenue and background artist Bob Gentle was with his father on La Maida in North Hollywood.

As for the other original background artists, Art Lozzi may still have been back east and I suspect Fernando Montealegre was living in Central America. However, Dick Thomas, who arrived for the 1959 season, was with his first wife on Fernwood Avenue. Thomas was at the Schlesinger studio at the time and just down the street from him was Schlesinger inker Martha Goldman (who lists her salary at $900 a year).

Unfortunately, the Census results available so far aren’t searchable for Daws Butler (in Chicago in 1940) or Don Messick (in Baltimore). I can’t spot Doug Young with any certainty. However, I’ve included Janet Waldo to show you how information can get misspelled. By 1940, she and her sister were supporting their retired parents, who came down from Washington State.

And, at first glance, Art Goble’s name looks like “Gobler” because of the way the ‘J’ hangs down from the above entry. But there’s no doubt it’s him as it matches his entry in the previous two censuses. Art and his wife bought a very small house (880 square feet) on Fischer in Glendale after 1935. Note how Goble makes less supervising ink and paint at MGM than Bick makes assistant animating at Schlesinger’s.

Mike Maltese moved around a fair bit upon his arrival in Los Angeles in 1937. The address in the 1940 Census is the third I have for him. Maltese should have been writing at the Schlesinger studio at this time but still lists himself as an assistant animator. The apartment building he and the family lived in on Gordon Avenue still exists. Another tenant at the time was an actor named Eugene H. Beaumont, better known by his middle name, Hugh.

Warren Foster and his wife lived in a subdivided home on Elevado Street. Note the difference in salary he received for writing than what Maltese got. No wonder Mike would be happy jumping into the writers’ room.

Charlie Shows and his wife Ida are living on Center Street in Indio in 1940 and he’s working as a brakeman on a railway. It could be the information was obtained from neighbours as it’s unusual his wife’s name wouldn’t be recorded. He may have just moved from Texas. His career writing for Jerry Fairbanks was ahead of him.

Dan Gordon had left Terrytoons in New York in 1937 to work at MGM but was working for the Fleischers in Miami at the time the Census was done. Check his salary figure to see why he moved. He was living at the Patricia Hotel at the time. Alex Lovy was the first story director at H-B starting in the 1959 season. He was living in an apartment building on La Mirada and had gone through one marriage by 1940.

Some mention has to be made of the composer of all of Hanna-Barbera’s early themes and incidental music, once the studio ended use of production libraries. Hoyt Curtin was a teenager living at home in San Bernadino when April 1940 rolled around.

The most interesting listing out of the lot belongs to Bob Givens, Tex Avery’s designer (including Bugs Bunny) at the time this census report was made, and an H-B layout man in 1959. Bob was living with a bunch of people who acquired varying degrees of fame. He was rooming at the home of David Swift, who rode the rails from Minnesota is pursue his dream of being a Disney animator. Evidently Swift’s father rode after him, as they were living in a huge house on Arbolada Road overlooking Griffith Park. If Swift Senior lost his money in the Depression, the neighbourhood indicates he gained it back. Swift later went on to create “Mr. Peepers” and direct several live-action films for Disney in the ‘60s.

Also living there were Rich Hogan, Avery’s writer who went with him to MGM from Schlesinger and John Freeman, a Disney animator who worked for Hanna-Barbera starting about 1960. But the surprise here is the name of radio director Rogers Brackett. Within the next dozen years, he became James Dean’s mentor, and something a little more if the stories are to be believed. As Brackett had family in Hollywood, how he ended up living with a group of animators is something a census report can’t answer.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Flintstones, Weekend Comics, July 1962

Gene Hazelton and his crew decided to keep über-cute Amber out of the comics in the month of July 50 years ago. Alas, there’s no Baby Puss, either, but we do get one Sunday comic (Saturday in Canada) devoted to Wilma and Betty.

All the versions I’ve found have a top row. Some aren’t the best quality and a couple have been clipped together from different newspapers.

Mr. Slate is unnamed in his appearance on July 1. The gag is a huge rock is mistaken for an dino egg. Something interesting is the partial silhouette panel, with the lovelorn mother rendered in full while Fred and his dino digger in the background are in silhouette. Dinosaurs apparently spoke in only one syllable.

Fred and Barney quit their jobs and go into business for themselves on July 8. Instead of a drive-in, like on the cartoon series, they open a car wash. Barney’s a little dim in this one. Love the mastodon drawings.

A great end panel highlights the July 15 comic. Fred’s expression is great. The “slurpp” in the middle of the heart is imaginative. Wilma and Betty lean in a bit for a bit of variation. And in the top row, there’s a silhouette. All in all, very attractively drawn.

Fred’s drawn, on July 22, with those beady eyes George Nicholas loved using in various animated H-B shows. We get the pissed-off version of Wilma in this one. Nice Fred laughing panels. Were Italian suits gaudy in the early ‘60s? I’m missing something.

One of moments I liked on the TV Flintstones was when the trumpet blared “charge” and Wilma and Betty would shout “!” in unison (someone will, no doubt, remember the title of the episode). They don’t do it in the July 29 comic. But they’re busy shopping. Nice set up of the gag. Wilma must still be annoyed from last week. Note the separate beds in the top row and a cameo appearance by Dino.

As usual, click on any cartoon to enlarge it.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Augie Doggie — Pipsqueak Pop

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Ed Benedict; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voices: Augie, Caterpillar, Cat, Irish Cop – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy – Doug Young.
Music: Phil Green, Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin, Hecky Krasnow, Jack Shaindlin, Spencer Moore, unknown.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-016, Production J-53.
First aired: week of January 11, 1960 (rerun, week of July 4, 1960)
Plot: Doggie Daddy shrinks, thanks to a reducing potion by Augie.

One has to wonder if the science fiction film ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’ (1957) sparked Hanna-Barbera cartoon plots where the main character had to cope with being made small. It happened to Mr Jinks in ‘Dinky Jinks’ (1958) and it happens to Doggie Daddy in this cartoon. Other than Tom shrinking after glugging down a mixture at the end of ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Mouse’ (1947), I can’t think of any place where the main character went through this kind of ordeal before this cartoon, though I suppose the start of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ could qualify.

Unlike the others, this cartoon is structured around gags involving Daddy coping with being tiny and ordinary things being huge. And Maltese sticks with the Augie-Daddy template: Augie’s a boy genius in a science lab, Daddy unwillingly goes along with his experiments, an Irish cop played by Daws Butler is sceptical at first, then realises he’s actually seeing what he’s seeing (and makes a crack to the audience). Even the stock music cues are familiar as the sound-cutter loads up on the C&B Library music of Harry Bluestone and Emil Cadkin.

Oh, and we have the usual faux-Durante mangling of dialogue, too. Daddy, reading the Sunday paper in the bathtub, asks Augie what problem the boy wants him to “circle-vent” and then responds with “Irrevocabularily, no” when his son asks him to drink his latest formula. But Daddy, with “trepid-deditation,” asks how it works. “A few drops in the tub,” says Augie, “and you’ll feel slim and trim.” “Well, since I feel plump and dumpy, what can I lose?” Daddy asks himself.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of padding going on. It takes two minutes and ten seconds into the cartoon before Daddy shrinks. And Maltese just can’t come up with wisecracks during that time. The shrunken Daddy is on a bar of soap. Augie pulls the plug on the tub. “No, Augie, no. I’ll go down the drain. Anyhow, I’ll go down with my ship.” Later, as Daddy pops up through the sink “You’d better stop now, son, before you strain the drain.” That’s about the best Maltese can muster. Another 11 seconds is taken up with Augie in a walk cycle and saying “I’ll save you.” By the time all this is done, the cartoon’s more than half over.

Things start picking up a bit. A bird sees Daddy’s tail wagging and thinks it’s a worm. He plucks Daddy off a window sill and flies him into a bird house. There’s a familiar metallic clunk which, as all Hanna-Barbera fans know, means Daddy’s punched out the bird (All we see is the outside of the bird house. Saves animation). The bird rushes out with a shocked look and flies away. “I’ll thank you to have a little more respect for a bird dog.” The next little scene is typical Maltese and is my favourite part of the cartoon. While Daddy walks among tall blades of grass and finds a missing golf ball, there’s a snare drum sound and a camera shake. A caterpillar marches past Daddy and lifts his hat. “Good morning, friend,” he cheerfully says, and casually marches off stage right. It’s just something out of nowhere Maltese tossed in for the sake of something odd. “You know, I’d hate to buy shoes for that cater-ta-pillar,” Daddy remarks to the camera.

The scene is interrupted by a shot of a cat singing “lum-tee-dum-dum” to himself and rummaging through a garbage can. Daddy kicks him in the butt. The cat puts on glasses because he can’t believe he’s seeing a little dog. No, cat, it’s not a fly speck on the glasses. Say, that cat’s design by Ed Benedict is a little familiar, isn’t it?

Daddy realises there’s now a size difference between him and the cat, who is now armed with a fly swatter to play “Swat the dog”. Daddy escapes into a storm drain. Fortunately, Augie is armed with a broom to play “Swat the cat.” He uses the same broom with gum on the end to rescue Daddy from the drain.

You can’t mistake Benedict is at work on this cartoon. Look at the aforementioned Irish cop. Angular oval eyes, lump in the back of the neck and a wide grin. And, like every other Irish cop in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, he is stunned by what he sees (“And a top of da mornin’ to you, officer,” the teeny Daddy says to him) and reacts looks at the camera. “‘Tis a sick, sick policeman I am, that’s for sure,” he tells us.

So Daddy and Augie are strolling out of the house toward the car in the final scene. Everything looks normal. But then the camera pulls back. It turns out Augie has shrunk himself to keep Daddy company until the formula wears off (“Dat’s my boy who did dat,” says Daddy, paraphrasing Durante). The house is actually a doll house and the car is a wind-up toy. Hanna-Barbera cartoon cars always had elements of new cars that were on the road when the cartoon was in production. One boxey model had a chequered grille like the one in this cartoon; I think it was a Pontiac.

I’ve already mentioned the music of Harry Bluestone and Emil Cadkin dominate the sound track. There’s one piece with strings I can’t identify; the arrangement and sound is much like one of the cues I have from the Sam Fox library. Interestingly, the few times it appears in cartoons, it seems to be used in flying scenes, like in ‘Skunk You Very Much’ and Snooper’s ‘Cloudy Rowdy.’

0:00 - Augie Doggie Main Title theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin).
0:25 - CB-89A ROMANTIC JAUNT (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Daddy in bathtub, Augie’s a failure, “Just a minute, son.”
1:48 - GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) – “Maybe a more generous helpin’...” Daddy relaxes.
2:37 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Daddy shrinks, “What’s goin’ on?”
2:42 - CB-85A STEALTHY MOUSE (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Bubble sounds, Daddy swims, Augie lets water out, “I’ll save you.”
3:41 - THE HAPPY COBBLER (Krasnow) – Augie walks out of room, Daddy in drain.
4:00 - CB-83A MR TIPPY TOES (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Daddy at flower pot.
4:11 - light symphonic music (?) – Bird scene, Daddy slides down pole.
4:37 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Daddy in grass, sees golf ball.
4:47 - GR-255 PUPPETRY COMEDY (Green) – Ground shakes, caterpillar, cat in garbage can, cat talks to Daddy.
5:50 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Daddy runs away, Swat the Dog, Swat the Cat.
6:17 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No 1 (Shaindlin) – Augie peers in grate, rescues Daddy, cop scene.
6:48 - CB-90 HAPPY HOME (Bluestone-Cadkin) – Augie and Daddy get into two car.
7:04 - THE HAPPY COBBLER (Krasnow) – “But watch out for the cat.”
7:10 - Augie Doggie End Title theme (Curtin).

Yowp note: This blog has now reviewed all the first season Augie Doggie cartoons.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Ed Murrow Versus Huckleberry Hound

Edward R. Murrow is arguably the most respected radio and television journalist in history. Charles Collingwood was arguably the most dashing. Yet, combined, they were no match for a blue cartoon dog from North Carolina.

The Pasadena Independent of April 29, 1960 warned viewers in the Los Angeles area in its daily TV listings:

Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein tonight pre-empts Huckleberry Hound—and Pixie and Dixie, the mice, Dinky Dalton, the desperado, and Yogi Bear. He also pulls his rank, in the 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. time period on Channel 2, on “Dick Powell Presents,” which is no loss.

Huck was cancelled that evening by KNXT for CBS’ hour-long interview of Monty by Murrow and Collingwood on the recent world war and global unrest, chopped down from a whopping six hours. Even though viewers were warned, it seems complaints poured in everywhere. The only Monty people wanted to see was Fernando Montealegre or, at least, his background art behind Huck moseying along.

The Los Angeles Times of May 10, 1959 devoted the cover story of its weekend TV magazine to Huck. Its editorial offices were among the places deafened with ringing phones, demanding to know about The Disappearance of Huckleberry Hound by people who don’t know the meaning of the phrase “check your local listings.” Sorry I don’t have the cover picture discussed in the story (I’m sure some blog reader must have it in their collection), but I do have the story, thanks to some help from Mark Kausler.

“The Huckleberry Hound Show” was an unbelievably enormous success when it first went on the air in 1958. Critics of the day loved it and were astounded with the large numbers of adults who agreed. And watched.

Bon Vivant Huckleberry Is a Humanitarian Dog
“What happened to Huckleberry Hound? He wasn’t on last night. They haven’t taken him off the air, have they?” The lady-like voice on the phone was breathless, a little frantic.
“No, I explained, “Huck was pre-empted by an Edward R. Murrow interview last night. But he will be back next week, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., on Channel 2.
“Thank goodness,” the voice said. “Now maybe this office can get back to work.”
“Back to work?”
“Yes, no one around here has done any work today. Our entire sales force, 15 men, have been standing around talking wondering what happened to Huck. We were worried. Now that we know he’ll be back. maybe we can get some work done. Thanks.” And she was gone.
Noble Causes
This particular call was one of many we received when Huck failed to make his usual weekly appearance. Why all the hullabaloo over Huck? Why all the adult interest in a cartoon character, the star of a children’s show? One look at the TV Times’ cover should be enough to tell you. Huckleberry is no ordinary hound dog. Even in his studied cover pose, Huck’s personality shines through.
Since his first TV appearance last October, Huck has done much to further canine relations, to elevate the status of hound dogs everywhere. But don’t get the idea that Huck leads a dog’s life. None of this back-yard kennel-lounging for him. Far from it.
Huck is a bachelor, a bon vivant and a humanitarian. He’s an expert skier, enjoys big game hunting and even has tried his paw at bullfighting and rescuing damsels in distress Professionally, he emcees his own cartoon show and stars in at least one of its segments every week.
He shares the bill with characters like Yogi Bear and his pint-sized side kick, BooBoo, along with a pair of talkative mice, Pixie and Dixie, who wage a constant battle against a tricky adversary Jinx the cat [sic].
Perhaps the most unique thing about Huck and his crew is their dialogue The drawings are excellent, the music is great, but the conversation is really in a class by itself. Huck speaks with a slight Southern drawl, loves colloquial expressions a la Andy Griffith. Yogi, the bumbling hero of Jellystone National Park, sounds like Art Carney in his Ed Norton period and likes to converse in rhymed couplets. Dixie of the mouse team, like Huck, speaks with a decided accent.
It’s difficult to believe that Huck and his pals are cartoons the work of animators and artists. Specifically they are the brain children of two of Hollywood’s most versatile cartoonists, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who have worked together for more than 20 years and are responsible for the famous Tom and Jerry movie cartoons.
Now the boys find in Huck a full-time job. The first full-length half-hour cartoon made specifically for television, Huckleberry Hound has helped Bill and Joe develop a new TV cartoon technique.
“Now we look at the old stuff for movies, and it seems overdone,” Joe said. “On TV it’s a matter of planned animation. We find that by careful cutting and planning we can get the same effect with 2,000 pictures that we used to get with 20,000.
“This doesn’t mean we are lowering our standards. People seem to like our new characters and the simple backgrounds. We use top talent. Some of our people (they have a staff of 150) have been with us for 20 years. They are all tops in the field.
“We have an open door policy here. And the staff can come and see us about anything, any time. It’s our way of keeping in touch with all phases of the operation.”
Bill and Joe reported that after Huck was born a cereal company requested a new cartoon personality. They already had the name, Huckleberry Hound, liked the sound of it, knew the importance of its alliterative value. After an all-night character sketching session, the character took form.
If you haven’t met Huck yet, you’re in for a treat. Try him Tuesday. That is, if you can find space in front of the set between junior and his father.

About the only thing surprising in the article is the reference to Huck as a bullfighter. Huck had only been on part of one season, yet his one bullfighting cartoon, “Bullfighter Huck,” wasn’t on the air until the 1961-62 season. The writer was mixing it up with Yogi’s “Big Bad Bully,” a first season cartoon.

One needn’t think hard to imagine Edward R. Murrow’s reaction to people who wanted Huckleberry Hound instead what amounted to an hour-long pontification about world military affairs and the Cold War. He told the RTNDA in Chicago in a famous speech in October 1958:

If there are any historians about 50 or 100 years from now and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will find their records in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism, and insulation from the realities of the world which we live.

You will find only fleeting and spasmodic references to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. During the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live.

Lest it be said the inestimable Mr. Murrow is being taken out of context, the speech also included (italics mine):

I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of our culture and our defense. But I would just like to see it reflect occasionally the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live.

Perhaps that means in between raising angst levels, TV should have a place for a blue cartoon hound, too. Even Ed Murrow liked to smile once in a while.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Yogi Bear — Do or Diet

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ed de Mattia, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Story – Warren Foster, Story Direction – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi, Narrator, Anderson, Doctor, Park Superintendent – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Ranger Smith – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore, Victor Lamont, Bill Loose/John Seely, Raoul Kraushaar?.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-045.
First aired: week of December 12, 1960.
Plot: Yogi feigns going along with a doctor’s diagnosis that he has picnicitis to con Ranger Smith into giving him food.

The Hanna-Barbera studio slowly but steadily expanded in its first few years of operation and that meant hiring more animators to handle the workload. A number of veterans landed at the studio in 1960 and one of them was Ed de Mattia. The first Yogi Bear cartoon he worked on was “Do or Diet” and he shows a knack for some interesting, off-model takes which get somewhat lost because of the timing that, I suppose, was the responsibility of story director Alex Lovy.

If U.S. government records on-line are correct, Edward A. de Mattia was born in Illinois on March 27, 1914 and died in San Bernadino, California on January 6, 1997, age 83. A squib in an edition of Broadcasting magazine revealed he began working in animation in 1940. He enlisted in the Air Corps on September 1, 1943. He was single at the time but somewhere along the way he married Xenia Beckwith, a talented artist who contributed to the Los Angeles Times kids page in 1928 and spent the war years at the Walter Lantz studio (they divorced after he returned home from World War Two). De Mattia spent time at Disney, designed ‘Petroushka,’ the first animated TV special in 1956, and seems to have been all over the place around 1960 like a number of artists whose names pop up at Hanna-Barbera. He landed a gig at Animation, Inc. that year, but was also animating at Larry Harmon Productions.

It seems a sad fact that by the time guys like de Mattia, Hicks Lokey and Jack Ozark arrived at H-B, the limited animation had become even more limited, certainly in the short cartoons. Ken Muse may the only exception but it’s because he didn’t go in for a lot of distinctive expressive animation. Carlo Vinci’s “Gleesome Threesome” is smoother but less fun than his work in the previous two seasons and even Lew Marshall’s noses don’t bob as much in “Booby Trapped Bear.” De Mattia tries some things I like in this cartoon but it still isn’t as enjoyable as the cartoons in the 1958 and 1959 seasons.

For one thing, Warren Foster decided to restrict Yogi to a basic formula. It meant the Smarter-than-the-Average Bear now spent his time in Jellystone Park during part if not all of each cartoon, almost always matching wits with Ranger Smith, usually over food, with Boo Boo as his sidekick to express doubt and caution. In the final two seasons, the Ranger appears in all but two cartoons and Boo Boo is in all of them. Indian boys, wily fish and dogs named Yowp were given notice there was no place for them in the Yogi-Boo Boo-Smith world. Audiences loved the battle of wits but, to me, the series lost something by limiting Yogi.

So it is the cartoon begins (after a narrator sets it up) with Ranger Smith in his office with Ranger Anderson, lamenting how he can handle “the forest fires, the kids putting bubble gum in the drinking fountains” but he can’t handle Yogi Bear. The animation’s odd. There’s a part when Smith leans his head on his desk and the animation shows him jerking his body like he’s sobbing. But there’s no sobbing in Don Messick’s voice. He reads the lines the same through the whole scene. As the dialogue is done first from dialogue sheets written by Foster, either de Mattia or Lovy added the sobbing on their own.

Let’s fast forward. A doctor at the door says he’s examined all the bears except Yogi, so the Ranger and the doctor go to see him. De Mattia has a really stiff walk cycle on the ranger, swinging his arm like its joints are connected by rivets. The immobile body is a different shade of green than the moving arms and legs, the little thin kind that layout man Tony Rivera favoured. And the first trees in the background are typically Rivera; isosceles triangles, dissected in the middle, with zig-zag lines. The doctor explains he cured a bear at Yosemite National Park of stealing picnic baskets by telling him he had picnic-itis. So the doctor does the same with Yogi. Incidentally, de Mattia has a nice little touch when Yogi squashes down a bit to salute the ranger, as if he’s bending his knees.

But this is where de Mattia’s takes come in but they’re completely sabotaged. He starts with a shock take featured exaggerated teeth. There are some cartoony anticipation drawings, too.

But the problem is the first drawing is held for two frames, and the last two for three each. That’s eight frames, or a third of a second. It simply isn’t enough time for the viewer to get the full impact. At Hanna-Barbera’s outset in 1957, Bill Hanna timed all the cartoons but as the workload increased, he handed it off to the story directors. I can’t help but think Lovy timed this sequence; I’ve seen other cartoons where he’s the story director where the take goes by too quickly.

De Mattia follows with Yogi turning to the camera and whimpers, then turning back again. I like the drawings; they are two of them alternating on ones for 12 frames (a half second). But there’s no whimpering sound or anything on the soundtrack to set it apart. It just happens in the middle of some animation and doesn’t stand out as well as it could.

By the way, you can see in a couple of drawings above that de Mattia likes using hand movements, at least in this cartoon. Yogi is twirling fingers and pointing, little bits of acting that became non-existent in H-B cartoons.

Meanwhile, back at the plot, Yogi is mournfully contemplating his picnicitis diagnosis but de Mattia tips us off that the bear’s faking. Yogi’s eye (the drawing is in profile) looks toward the ranger and the doctor to make sure they’re catching his dramatics. Yogi admits it to Boo Boo in the next scene as he counters the phoney diagnosis with Plan 431.

Ranger Smith talks to the Park Superintendent on the phone. Rivera’s designs of Ranger Smith and other human generally featured perpendicular 5 O’Clock Shadow lines. Here, de Mattia follows the layout but also has the ranger talking out of the side of his face. And the mouth is a different colour than the rest of the head.

The phone rings again. Yogi’s blocking the highway. Nothing to live for since he has picnicitis, you know. I like the wavy lines as the ranger races in his jeep.

Rivera and Dick Thomas (and maybe Foster on his storyboard) fit in some silhouettes in the background drawings. The first motorists that can’t get past Yogi in their car are in silhouette. Then Yogi’s in silhouette in the next scene when he’s about to jump from Lover’s Leap. Cut to the ranger yelling up at Yogi, the crowd in silhouette behind him. At least they’re going for some variation in the drawings.

Lew Marshall had a way of drawing impacts that de Mattia uses as well and though you don’t notice on the screen, it’s puzzled me. Yogi drops on the ranger and crushes him. In the drawing to the right, you can see the ranger’s hands are still up, but Yogi’s fallen past them. Theoretically, the ranger should start to collapse when Yogi hits the hands, but the impact doesn’t happen yet. I suppose de Mattia is just saving himself making another drawing of Ranger Smith as it’s a hold from the previous frame.

Between the two scenes, Smith balances himself on his left foot with the rest of his body in a motion cycle before making a Gleason-esque exit. Ken Muse would have had a static drawing then some zip lines, which pretty much became the H-B standard. Less animation = less cost.

The Hanna-Barbera cartoons could get sloppy animating dialogue. As you know, the head would remain motionless on one cel while the mouth movements were on separate cels. Occasionally, the mouth movements didn’t quite match up with the immobile face, so you’d have part of Carlo Vinci’s wide mouth being off the head. The same thing happens here. There’s a line that Yogi’s mouth should connect with during the climax when he’s begging for food. But the mouth is off on its own. The drawing is used on a number of frames so it’s noticeable.

Back to the plot. A cute line from Warren Foster. Ranger Smith gives in to Yogi’s phoney begging act and gets him a picnic basket. Close up of Yogi, in profile, now smiling and turning his eye to the camera: “Marlow Brandy is pretty good, too.” This scene is one of several in this cartoon where the visuals don’t match. Lovy will go from a shot of the ranger looking straight ahead then cut to a wider shot of Yogi and the ranger, with the ranger looking down at the floor.

Smith hands the basket to Yogi.

Smith: It’s loaded with goodies. Liverwurst sandwiches. Chocolate cake. Ice cream tortonis.
Yogi: Thank you, sir (interrupts) ice cream what?

There actually is such a thing as an ice cream tortoni. Read how to make one here. I wonder if Foster had them over at Mike Maltese’s place.

Anyway, the unnamed Park Superintendent walks in and gives Smith hell for feeding the bears, wagging his finger in the air for emphasis. Whether Foster intended the Superintendent to be a regular character, I don’t know, but he appeared in four Yogi cartoons early that season (“Booby Trapped Bear”, “Gleesome Threesome” and “Bareface Disguise” were the others). In true H-B fashion, he doesn’t look quite the same in each cartoon, even though he’s designed in all of them by Tony Rivera and has the same Daws Butler voice. Cut to the bears walking away with the basket, as Foster resists the temptation for a rhyming line that we almost come to expect from Yogi to conclude the cartoon.

Some of the scenes are fairly short in this cartoon, so the sound cutter edited the cues down to fit them. When Yogi is at the door begging for only a couple of seconds, the cutter switches to the laughing trombones of one of Spencer Moore’s cues than cuts back to the bed he was using. Twice in the cartoon, you can hear short bursts of comedy music by Jack Shaindlin featuring a muted trumpet stab. Whether these are two separate cues or parts of the same one, I don’t know as I don’t have a copy of it. The cutter also tends to start a new cue just as a previous scene is fading out.

0:00 - Yogi Bear Sub Main Title theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin)
0:25 - ZR-50 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Opening narration over shots of ranger station.
0:35 - WINTER TALES (Lamont) – Ranger Smith laments.
0:52 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Anderson talks to Smith, “Oh, hello doctor.”
1:08 - L-1121 ANIMATION NAUTICAL (Moore) – Doctor at door.
1:26 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Boo Boo and Yogi in cave.
1:51 - C-14 DOMESTIC LITE (Loose) – Ranger and doctor walking, Yogi talks to Ranger.
2:39 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Examination, Yogi in shock.
2:58 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Yogi tells Boo Boo to go away, doctor outlines cure.
3:33 - Comedy Capers bed no 1 (Shaindlin) – Doctor and Ranger walk away.
3:41 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Yogi and Boo Boo talk.
4:20 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Smith and Anderson in office, Smith on phone.
4:58 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Smith in jeep.
5:03 - TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Yogi on road.
5:21 - Comedy Capers bed no 2 (Shaindlin) – Ranger runs into office, talks to Anderson.
5:36 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Lover’s Leap scene.
5:55 - creepy muted trumpet music (Kraushaar?) – Ranger at desk, door knocks, “Oh, no!”
6:06 L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – (Moore) – Yogi begs at door.
6:10 - creepy muted trumpet music (Kraushaar?) – “One little basket..,” Marlow Brandy line.
6:25 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig zag strings (Shaindlin) – Smith brings picnic basket.
6:38 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Superintendent scene, Yogi and Boo Boo walk away.
7:10 - Yogi Bear Sub End Title theme (Curtin).