Saturday 29 September 2012

Snooper and Blabber — Doggone Dog, Gone!

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber – Daws Butler; Hazel, Mrs. Van Cash, Viewer 2 – Jean Vander Pyl; Englishman, Dog, Security Guard, Viewer 1 – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Phil Green, Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-22, Production J-73.
First Aired: week of February 22, 1960 (rerun, week of August 22, 1960)
Plot: Snooper and Blabber chase after a dog that unknowingly has the Schmope Diamond on its tail.

Starring characters in cartoons generally get all the best lines, but the guest star dog is the funniest one in “Doggone Dog, Gone!” The dog has an expensive diamond ring on its tail and Snooper and Blabber spend the second half of the cartoon chasing him. “Grab that homely-looking mutt, Blab!” Snoop shouts. The dog’s confused. “That couldn’t be me. I’m a handsome-lookin’ mutt.” Then he realises, “Hey, they do mean me. They should get their eyes examined.” And later, when he notices the ring on his tail, he smiles and says “Well, what do you know? I’m engaged.”

Snooper gets in a couple of good bits too in this enjoyable cartoon. And Walt Clinton provides a line-up of his distinctive stylised characters near the end.

Writer Mike Maltese could have gone for cartoon like the Roadrunners he wrote at Warners, a chase with a string of gags. Instead the chase takes up part of the second half of the cartoon and Maltese decides to go with little scenarios in the first half.

The first scene introduces Snooper and Blabber’s “own prowl car” (no one believed in continuity then; they’ve had several different cars) and own telephone girl, Hazel. If Maltese had more time to work on the story, I suspect he could have done a nice film noir dialogue parody. Instead Snooper inexplicably acts like a stuck record when talking to her. And Hazel (Jean Vander Pyl with a Southern drawl) opens with “Hazel callin’ Snooper, the world’s greatest private eye like you told me,” reminiscent of Rochester on the Jack Benny show answering the phone with Benny’s grandiose list of occupations.

The second scene takes Snooper to Mrs. Van Cash’s suite in the Ritzy Hotel to question her about the missing million-dollar Schmope Diamond (a pun on the name of the Hope Diamond). When Mrs. Van Cash opens the door and is holding her lorgnette, Snoop announces “Fear not, m’lady. The handsome international crook who absconded your diamond ring is practically in my clutches. I see you broke your glasses. Ah, that’s real clever, the way you tied them on a stick.” She corrects him on both counts. The ring fell down the bahth-tub drain. She offers him $50,000 if he can find it before a big showing the next evening. “Madame,” replies Snoop, “it would be uncharitable for me to ask for a penny more.”

The next scene is much like the plot of the Woody Woodpecker cartoon “Bathing Buddies” (1946). Woody tries to retrieve his dime down the bathtub drain by using a wrench on a pipe. The wrench, instead, moves Wally Walrus’ bathtub in the suite below while he’s bathing. The same thing happens here. The chap in the tub, just like the one in the Quick Draw cartoon “Slick City Slicker,” is an Englishman with Don Messick’s Major Minor voice. Snoop’s twisting puts the tub out the window and over the city. Then he turns the pipe which twirls the tub in mid-air. “Extr’ordinary! Spin dry! Wait till the boys at the Punjab Club hear about this.”

Twisting the pipe didn’t work so, in the next scene, Snooper tries Professor Greber’s Law of Diminishing Hydraulics. It’s “elementary school,” says Snoop. Blab sticks his fingers in the sink’s faucets which should force the water out of the bathtub. Instead, it comes out of Blab’s ears in an old cartoon gag. “I can hear the ocean, Snoop. Honest!” A momentary setback. Snoop plugs Blab’s ears and “viola!” A geyser of water shoots up out of the bathtub with the ring on top. But it bounces out the window, down a rainspout and onto the tail of the dog below.

So the chase is on. Cut to the dog balancing himself while walking along some telephone wires. “A dog’s life is for the birds,” he remarks, though no birds are around to augment the gag. “Stop in the limb of the law!” catchphrases Snoop, chasing after him. The dog shakes the phone wires and Snoop falls. There’s nice brushwork by someone in Roberta Greutert’s ink and paint department on the dog zipping out of the scene and Snoop (a head shot only) when he falls. Blab races along the sidewalk with a net to catch him. When Snoop tells him he’ll get his “second class private eye pin,” Blab stops in excitement. Snoop crashes into the sidewalk. “Do I still get the pin?” “Yeah, Blab, but not where you expect it.”

The cartoon’s running out of time, so the chase ends abruptly. Snoop yells about the ring and the surprised dog skids to a stop to figure out what he’s talking about. That’s when he sees the ring. Blab asks nicely for the ring. “Sure, Buster. It was a beautiful friendship while it lasted. Besides, you’re not my type anyway.” The dog steps on Blab’s foot, drops the ring down into the mouse’s mouth then leaves the cartoon for good. Other than for the sake of the plot, I don’t know why the dog has to be a jerk about it. It’s like he’s left over from the heckling-for-the-hell-of-it cartoon characters of the early ‘40s.

Now the ring can go on exhibition as scheduled the next night. But though there’s a saying that anything can happen in a cartoon, there’s an exception. A ring can’t pass through a character’s digestive system in a day. So the only solution is to stick an X-ray machine in front of Blab and people can see the diamond in his stomach. Snoop suggests a lunch break to Blab. “I’m not hungry. After all, I’ve got 150 karats in my tummy.” Karats. Carrots. Get it? A tympani thump, much like the one that followed bad puns ending Jay Ward cartoons follows on the soundtrack.

There’s no office in this cartoon (with an eyeball on a door or window) so we don’t get Snooper’s routine of answering the phone like Archie on “Duffy’s Tavern.”

There’s one animation error. The light on Snoop’s dashboard indicating Hazel is talking to him flashes even when she’s not speaking.

The music features one odd choice. When Snoop and Blab begin to go after the dog, the cutter uses the “uh-oh” strings and wa-wa trumpet of Cadkin and Bluestone’s “Come and Get Me” (as the current owner of the music has re-titled it). Some kind of chase cue would have worked a better. The only thing I can’t identify is the one-note thump at the very end of the cartoon. I’ve heard it but my mind’s blanking out on it.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title Theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin).
0:25 - ASININE (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab in car, stops at hotel.
1:28 - CB-87A COME AND GET ME (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Walk to door, Van Cash scene.
2:26 - jaunty bassoon and skippy strings (Shaindlin) – Drain pipe/bathtub scene, faucet scene, ring down rainspout onto dog’s tail.
4:29 - CB 86A HIDE AND SEEK (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Snoop and Blab zip out of window, dog up phone book, Snoop rushes to get him.
4:54 - GR-78 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Dog walks on phone wires, dog shakes wire.
5:05 - GR-348 EARLY MORNING (Green) – Snoop shakes, crashes.
5:21 - PG-161G LIGHT COMEDY MOVEMENT (Green) – Blab with net talks to Snoop, dog rushes away.
5:33 - LFU-117-2 MAD RUSH No 2 (Shaindlin) – Dog runs into alley, notices ring, “What do you know? I’m engaged.”
6:02 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – “Be a good sport,” Blab swallows ring.
6:19 - GR-87 SKELETON IN THE CUPBOARD (Green) – Snoop on phone, x-ray scene.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).

Yowp Note: The Snooper and Blabber cartoon “Snap Happy Saps” doesn’t appear to exist in anyone’s collection, so there won’t be a post on it. With that exception, all the cartoons from the first season of the Quick Draw McGraw Show have been reviewed on this blog.

Thursday 27 September 2012

Meet the Flintstones Car

While hunting through the Flintstones comics for September 1962, I came across a neat little story from the local paper in Murphysboro, Illinois, home of the annual Apple Festival. Someone made a Flintstones car that won first prize in the Kiddie Parade down ten blocks of Walnut Street. The photocopy of the photo isn’t the best but you can see how it’s foot-powered. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t say who made the car.

People who’ve seen The Flintstones may not love Gazoo or that wretched Sunshine song, but they love Fred’s car. It made Time Magazine’s list of Top 10 Fictional Cars. In fact, it’s not really so fictional. People have built them. Last year, we had pictures of one on the blog. This past summer, a German man who constructed a Flintmobile was told he couldn’t drive it on the country’s highways (see photo to the left).

We don’t know whether young Alan Schumaker still has his kid car. But if he doesn’t, there’s a place on-line to go to learn how to put one together. Click here for diagrams and stuff.

That’s right. You can hand-craft it. In your very own shop. Talk about an idea from the Stone Age.

Sunday 23 September 2012

The Jetsons Are 50

A life of ease and convenience awaits you in the future, thanks to science. That merry message of consumerism has woven its way through popular culture for decades. Tomorrow was laid forth for astonished eyes at World’s Fairs in 1939 (New York) and 1962 (Seattle) and at Disneyland. Commercial films of the 1950s happily displayed gleaming modern suburban homes rid of time-consuming chores and drudgery (thanks to sponsors’ products) as cheery pizzicato strings plunked in the background. Popular Science magazine amazed curious readers with can-you-believe-this contraptions that, it was suggested, were just on the horizon.

They all gave us hope. The fears and problems of the present would disappear and we could optimistically look forward to a new, carefree world. It’s a message that still resonates. And, perhaps, that’s why The Jetsons remains popular after its debut 50 years ago today.

The real stars of The Jetsons weren’t the human characters who weren’t much more than mild, white-bread, Saturn-ringed suburbanites. The real stars were the inventions that left you wondering if they really would exist in the future. Unlike the over-the-top future gadgets of the Tex Avery’s “House of Tomorrow,” the ones on The Jetsons had an aura of authenticity. You wanted to believe we’d be in flying cars and space needle homes some day.

Not having access to studio records (if such exist any more) or the trade press of the day, it’s difficult to say when Hanna-Barbera seriously put The Jetsons in development. Newspaper stories in 1961 make no mention of it, though a United Press International story datelined Hollywood in late November predicts a Top Cat failure and reveals the studio had three replacement shows in the can ready to go. But I suspect they’re the cartoons that made up the Lippy-Wally Gator-Touché Turtle package that went into syndication. A story in the Oakland Tribune dated February 19, 1962 reveals ad agencies in New York had come up with a tentative fall schedule and The Jetsons was on it (Fridays at 7:30 p.m). On April 28, 1962, it was reported Morey Amsterdam and Pat Carroll had been signed for the lead roles and the following day, Larry Marks would be writing for the show. By May 7, UPI released the ABC fall schedule which put the show in its familiar time slot, the “Jet Screamer” episode was in (or had finished) production by May 26 and stories toward the end of June revealed George O’Hanlon and Penny Singleton were voicing the adult leads, with Janet Waldo and Daws Butler as the kids.

September 23, 1962, the show launched at 7:30 p.m., sponsored by Colgate, Dow Chemical (Saran Wrap), MMM (Scotch Tape) and Whitehall Pharmacal (Dristan). While Joe Barbera gushed about the show in pre-premiere interviews, Bill Hanna was more reserved. His measured prediction to the Long Beach Independent:“You just can’t say until the guy in front of the tube watches it.”

After The Flintstones debuted, Jack Gould of The New York Times called it an “inked disaster.” After The Jetsons debuted, Gould blew off the show in one line. All he had to say was: “‘The Jetsons,’ on Sunday night over Channel 7, is a space age cartoon made up of about equal parts of ‘The Flintstones’ and ‘Hazel.’”

The television landscape had changed since The Flintstones went on the air in 1960, riding the universal acclaim of Hanna-Barbera’s late-afternoon syndicated shows and the novelty of a half-hour animated sitcom. The following season produced nothing but prime-time animated failures. It was now 1962 and The Jetsons was blown off as a been-there, done-that concept. A review by UPI’s Rick Du Brow gave it two lines: “ ‘The Jetsons,’ an animated half-hour comedy series about a futuristic family, made its debut Sunday night on ABC-TV. There are robot maids, schools on space platforms, and the like. It is a genial time-killer.”

The AP’s Cynthia Lowry was less impressed. “A new cartoon series—ABC’s plunge into color programs—also came into view: ‘The Jetsons.’ This is the usual suburban set-up—idiot father, cute-trick mother, teen-age daughter with ponytail and small brother. But there is a difference. They live in the year 2062 on what is apparently a space platform where everything is done by pushing button and launching rockets. A very, very little of this can go a long way.”

The gadgets weren’t enough to attract the numbers of viewers ABC wanted. Neither was the fact the show was in colour for the comparatively few homes with a colour set. So was another family show broadcast opposite it—Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. By the end of the season, Disney knocked CBS’ Dennis the Menace into permanent syndication and The Jetsons onto Saturday mornings (for Marx Toys) where it did extremely well, thus re-enforcing the belief that cartoons are kid programming.

Besides the creative gadgets, The Jetsons is best known for the great theme composed by Hoyt Curtin. Curtin never turned down a chance to make a brassy big-band splash. Martin Goodman wrote for Animation World Network in 2007:

Curtin went jazzy for this one, showcasing his songwriting versatility. The lyrics are minimal (11 words) but the instrumentals are wonderful, including a free-form turn by noted trumpeter Bud Brisbois. Curtin originally wrote the piece for a small combo, but Hanna and Barbera wanted a more symphonic sound. Curtin gave the pair their money's worth, with a hint of "Chopsticks" thrown in for good measure.

An Associated Press story from 1985 insisted Pete Candoli was on trumpet. Listen and decide for yourself. This is from the Mark Christiansen collection and includes original titles and bumpers. Your announcer is Dick Tufeld.

Curtin admitted he liked the theme because it was written “to provide challenges to my friends in the band.” It’s full of key changes and sixteenth notes that change from sharp to natural. Not only did Curtin have a knack at writing great themes, he had a great ear for writing underscores that perfectly fit whatever prime-time show he was working on. For The Jetsons, he came up with light music for electric Wurlitzer and marimba that could be easily matched to a particular scene’s mood. Want to listen to some? Just press the arrow below each cue name.




















The names you see are NOT the names of the cues. Each cue was given a descriptional name so it could be found in the music library by the sound cutter. But I have no idea what the names are and had to call them something. Hanna-Barbera didn’t let some of them go to waste; they appeared on later H-B shows.

The Jetsons lasted 24 episodes in one year of prime time but, thanks to reruns, have been a pop culture phenomenon ever since. The show has become a metaphor for the wonderous future that awaits us. I just wish they’d hurry up with those flying cars.

Saturday 22 September 2012

The Cartoon that Predicted the Future

So, did Barry Blitzer invent the big screen TV? Probably not. But he gave one to George Jetson in his story for “The Space Car” (1962) and homes are equipped with them today. The episode features a few things we’re waiting for, like a push-button shaving machine, a flying belt, and prosthetic faces to make someone look instantly beautiful. And, later, Blitzer came up with some we’re not waiting for—the ultimate robotic corporate hypocrite, Uniblab.

The inventions of the future were certainly the things that people remember most about The Jetsons. And they were certainly the things on which Joe Barbera lavished attention in interviews plugging the series shortly before it aired. At the risk of boring you with another one, here’s another one. It appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, September 23, 1962, the date the first episode aired.

Jetsons Live In Future 
Richard O. Martin 
LIKE MANY people these days, Joe Barbera is afraid the world may be moving a little too fast for him.
With a group of TV editors, I was seated in Mr. Barbera’s small, functional office at Hanna-Barbera Productions in Hollywood, the place where The Flintstones is created. On a nearby table a well-dusted Emmy statuette gleamed in the soft light. Mr. Barbera, his hands as animated as a character in one of his cartoon series, was explaining problems encountered in turning out this season’s entry, The Jetsons, which premieres Sunday evening (Ch.4).
LIKE THE Flintstones, The Jetsons deals with an average sort of American family. But instead of a Stone Age setting, the family is projected 100 years into the Goodness-Knows-What-Age.
And that, Mr. Barbera told us, is one of his problems.
“We had to junk gag after gag,” he said with a gesture that indicated dismay.
“Science had either conceived of them already, or worse, was already building them. What can I think of they’re not already working on?
“For instance,” he said, “we worked for weeks on a house that would be suitable for a 21st Century family. We finally came up with just the thing.”
With another dismayed gesture he showed us a sketch. “But Seattle’s Century 21 Exposition beat us to it with its Space Needle.”
However, with a few refinements, the original concept is staying in the show. The Sky Pad Apartments feature adjustments to raise or lower the living quarters to any desired level. This way their occupants can avoid smog and fog and can get just the right amount of sunlight.
DESPITE ALL of Mr. Barbera’s protestations to the contrary, the series has some gimmicks that not even the wildest-eyed scientists have come up with yet, all the while hewing to a format that Mr. Barbera described as: “A ‘Father Knows Best’ pushed into the future.”
For instance there is the atomic bubble car which scoots along at a leisurely 75,000 miles an hour, which makes weekends (four days long, by the way) at Las Venus possible.
Then there is the “foodarackacycle,” which stores, processes, prepares and serves all the family's food. Food cards are fed into the machine and meals are served up instantly.
And in the series even the hallowed game of football will have undergone some tremendous changes. In the 21st Century the grand old game will have become strictly a spectator sport. The players, big bruisers all, will be fierce-looking robots.
PILLS WILL be equipped with electronic gear to track down the causes of illnesses, and children and dogs will be antenna-equipped to make them easier to find at meal-time.
Still, despite such innovations as “slidewalks” and high-speed pneumatic travel tubes, many of the family problems will be just the same as they are today, Mr. Barbera said.
George Jetson occasionally gets picked up for doing 100,000 mph in 75,000 mph zones, and son Elroy is reminded not to lose his rubbers on a school field trip—to Europe. Even health bugs continue business as usual in The Jetsons’ 21st Century world. They lead their adherents in complicated finger exercises to keep them in condition for punching buttons.
In all, the series is pretty good proof for the maxim—coined this very minute—that the more things change, the more people remain the same.

At least one of the inventions in “The Space Car” has come and gone. Blitzer didn’t anticipate computer downloads. George Jetson subscribes to the daily paper which, presciently, isn’t on newsprint. It’s on computer. But it’s delivered to him on a 3 ½ inch disc. I don’t know about you, but it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to buy a new computer that plays floppies.

Many an article has been written about things on The Jetsons that are part of today’s living. George’s “pushbutton-itis” is reminiscent of carpal tunnel syndrome, for example. And I suspect there are people who must have the equivalent of a visiphone (if nothing else, streaming live video from home cameras is not uncommon). Some inventions we’re still waiting for. An acrylic raincoat bubble would be cool, but environmentalists probably wouldn’t like the spray-on aspect (one wonders if everyone on The Jetsons lives in sky towers because environmentalists of the future won a lawsuit to turn the Earth into untouchable green space). And you can’t read a story about a flying car without the word “Jetsons” appearing. The futurism was a huge part of the show’s success, but there was one other thing that was great about the show we haven’t touched on in these posts leading up to the show’s 50th anniversary. We’ll do that tomorrow, if I’m able to predict the future as well as Barry Blitzer.

Huckleberry Hound — The Unmasked Avenger

Produced and Directed by Joseph Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Don Williams; Layout – Paul Sommer; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Lord, Madge, Blue Bouncer, crowd voices – Don Messick; Huckleberry Hound, Giles, Harry, crowd voices – Daws Butler.
Music: Geordie Hormel, Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose/John Seely, Spencer Moore, unknown.
First aired: week of January 21, 1961 (rerun, week of May 1, 1961)
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show No. K-046.
Plot: The masked Purple Pumpernickle (Huck) battles a fiendish, tax-imposing lord.

Good ol’ Stupe!

Huckleberry Hound got into some funny situations in his third season (evil monster potato, evil monster-schnitzel) but the one where writer Warren Foster got in some social commentary was “The Unmasked Avenger.” It’s a spoof of the Middle Ages sword-bearing hero concept of The Scarlet Pimpernel but Foster gets in some digs at consumerism and the fickle nature of taxpayers.

This cartoon can also be blamed (along with a certain one starring Daffy Duck) for confusing any children who were not up on their knowledge of the works of Baroness Emma Orczy. Huck plays the Purple Pumpernickel. For ages, I thought the character was making fun of that great hero of the literary world, the Scarlet Pumpernickel. I didn’t realise the word was “Pimpernel.” Everyone’s heard of a pumpernickel. Who’s ever heard of a pimpernel?

Well, I suppose I might have if I had been playing closer attention to the opening dialogue. This is another cartoon where Huck has a conversation with an intoning narrator, who begins with a list of sabre-rattling doers of good deeds. Foster and layout man Paul Sommer set up things nicely with shots of each of the aforementioned heroes, then a long shot of Huck in silhouette on the tower of a castle.

Here’s the dialogue in full.

Narrator: This picture is dedicated to those heroes of yesteryear, the masked avengers who righted wrongs and protected the weak. Masked avengers came in assorted colours—the Green Gadfly, the White Crusader, the Scarlet Pimpernel. But our story deals with the greatest avenger of them all—the Purple Pumpernickel!
Huck: Howdy, folks.
Narrator: Oh, Mr. Purple Pumpernickel? May we call you “Purple”?
Huck: Sure! My friends call me “Purp.”
Narrator: Well, Purp, to what do you attribute your great success as an avenger?
Huck: Well, I, first of all, no one knows me because of my impenit-tru-bub-ble disguise. Then, of course, I do my own laundry.
Narrator: You? The Purple Pumpernickel? Does his own laundry?
Huck: That’s right. See, you start sendin’ purple clothes to the laundry and, I mean, uh, it’s bound to start talk. Well, I got ta get back to my menial varlet job at the castle, which allows me to hear wrongs which need to be avengin.’

As you can see, Huck isn’t really Huckleberry Hound in this cartoon. It’s like another world where a masked hero behaves just like Huckleberry Hound.

To the next scene we go, where the bad guy lord of the manor is calling for his “stupid, churlish dolt of a varlet.” Huck is henceforth known throughout the rest of the cartoon as a stupid, churlish dolt, or “stupe” for short. Huck talks to us about that and tells us we really know he’s the Purple Pumpernickel. Then he raises and lowers his eyebrows like Groucho. It’s funny because it’s unexpected; I don’t think Huck ever did it in any other cartoon. The scene ends with Huck-as-Stupe deliberately dropping a plate of eggs to look stupid.

The evil lord is handed papers to execute all innocent prisoners. That’s Huck’s cue to become the Purple Pumpernickel. But he’s about as incompetent in his secret, sabre-carrying identity as he was pretending to be stupid. He slides along a table and crashes through a stone castle wall. “What was that?” says the lord. “I don’t know,” replies his assistant Giles, “I just don’t know.” Huck is unfazed by his klutziness. He slides back along the table and takes the executive papers with sword, then tries to fence Giles but his sword curls up. “Who are you stranger and why the ridiculous get-up?” demands the lord? Huck elegantly slides his card across the table then makes his exit out the window. Except his purple cape gets caught. “You know, you’d think with all the carpenters they have around this castle they’d have countersunk this nail.” With that, the cape rips and Huck plunges into the moat.

The card reads “The Perpil Pumpernickle.” “Here’s a very good swordsman,” Giles remarks. “And a very bad speller,” the lord observers. They come up with a plan to catch the Pumpernickel all while Huck is washing the floor. “You just cain’t buy inside information like this,” he tells us. The lord sends him away. “Oh, that stupe! What a churlish dolt,” says the lord. “He always speaks quite well of you, sir,” Giles responds.

“Hear ye, hear ye. A new proclamation by his ‘ighness, m’Lord. All taxes are tripled and all taxes must be paid by sundown,” yells Giles from the castle, adding “With cash. No credit cards.” The townspeople are unhappy. “Blimey, Madge,” says one to his wife. “We can’t use our credit cards.” “We’re ruined, ‘arry,” wails his wife. But the townsfolk brighten. For on top of castle (“Ta da!”) is the Purple Pumpernickel. He tosses down two bags. Confusion reigns.

Huck: Here, good people. Somethin’ to pay your taxes with.
Harry: What is it, Pumpernickel?
Huck: It’s cash. From his lordship’s treasure house.
Madge: Cash? What’s it for?
Huck: Well, you know, you kinda use it like, uh, credit cards.

Credit cards?! Now the townspeople understand and are excited about their good fortune. The lord and Giles decide to escape. “I’ll get some money and jewels,” says the lord. “No time, m’lord,” answers Giles. “We’ll use our credit cards.” Yes, even the government runs up bills on credit.

Now comes the climactic scene where the triumphant Pumpernickel reveals “for the first time, whom I really am.” “It’s the stupid, churlish dolt,” says Harry. “Good ol’ Stupe,” adds his wife. Huck doesn’t seem worried that he’s seen by everyone as a complete buffoon. But his very first act is a political blunder.

Huck: Now I promises you things are gonna be different from now on. I’m gonna build new roads.
Crowd: Cheers!
Huck: Free schools.
Crowd: Cheers!
Huck: Old age pensions.
Crowd: Cheers!
Huck: Of course, this is gonna mean taxes.
Crowd: Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo!

Yup. The taxpayers want things as long as they don’t have to pay for them.

As the crowd (consisting of Don Messick, Daws Butler doing solo voices over top of ambient noise) turns on Huck, a large, masked, caped, plume-hatted guy with a sword slides into the frame.

Huck: Who are you sir?
Bouncer: I am the Blue Bouncer. I right wrongs!
Huck: Well, what do you know? I used to be in the masked avenger racket m’self, Mr. Bouncer. I know the whole routine so, uh, let’s get on with it, huh? You-all ready?
Bouncer: Ready.
Huck: Well, let’s go.

And with that, the Bouncer chases Huck along the castle wall, shouting political buzzwords. “Down with the tyrant Stupe! Down with taxes! Down with everything!” Huck observes to the viewers, just before the iris closes, that something about the word “taxes” gets “folks all riled up.”

The Capitol Hi-Q ‘X’ series makes an appearance in this cartoon, with an “English period” cue by Geordie Hormel. There’s also a quacking muted-trumpet piece by Jack Shaindlin that was used on rare occasion, such as the start of the Pixie and Dixie cartoon “A Wise Quack” (1960).

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title theme (Curtin, Shows, Hanna, Barbera).
0:05 - ZR-127 PERIOD CHASE (Hormel) – Opening narration.
0:32 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck and Narrator chat.
1:15 - creepy muted trumpet music (Kraushaar?) – M’Lord egg scene
1:46 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – “Gad! What a stupid, churlish dolt.”
1:50 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Giles reads executive paper, Huck rushes to get disguise.
2:11 - PG-171 PERIOD FANFARE (Green) – Huck re-enters, crashes.
2:19 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – “What was that?”, “Here he comes back again.”
2:28 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Huck slides on table, sword bends, “Hold it, Giles.
2:43 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – “Whilst I straighten’ out,” Huck out window, falls.
3:11 - comedy flute and quack cue (Shaindlin) – Lord and Giles read card, proclamation, Madge and Harry talk
4:38 - PG-171 PERIOD FANFARE (Green) – Huck on turret, tosses bags.
4:44 - TC-437 SHOPPING DAY (Loose-Seely) – “Somethin’ to pay your taxes with,” Harry and Madge talk.
5:03 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Lord and Giles scene.
5:20 - C-19 LIGHT ACTIVITY (Loose) – Huck on turret, unmasks, crowd ooos.
5:40 - LAF-27-6 UNTITLED TUNE (Shaindlin) – Harry and Madge happy, “This is gonna mean taxes.”
6:04 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Crowd boos, Blue Bouncer and Huck talk, then run off frame.
6:32 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Blue Bouncer chases Huck.
6:50 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

Thursday 20 September 2012

The Jetsons and Seattle

The similarity between The Jetsons and The Flintstones is obvious—both cartoons took “today’s” world and moved it in time. But The Jetsons had another similarity that was more evident at the time the show was first broadcast in 1962—the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair.

Both looked into life in the 21st Century and both showcased futuristic contraptions. And both had the Space Needle. Well, as a five-year-old watching the show’s premiere (on a Seattle station), it looked like the Space Needle to me. And it evidently did to others, for Joe Barbera addressed the similarity in interviews as he hit the circuit plugging his soon-to-be-aired cartoon show, which turns 50 this Sunday.

Let’s give you two examples. First, this newspaper syndicate column of August 23, 1962, where the writer seems more enamoured of Barbera’s performance than the cartoon.

The Wonderful World of 2062
HOLLYWOOD—Joe Barbera is a man who has looked closely into the world of 2062, and he reports that it’s not bad at all.
We’ll all be trim and happy, we’ll live to be 125 and we’ll be complaining about a 3-hour-day, 3-day-week work schedule. Mothers on damp mornings will spray a rain-coat on their children and say, “Don’t forget to peel it off when you get to school.” Ashes from your cigaret will never touch the carpet because ash trays will emerge from nowhere (choong!) and then vanish (toing!).
Barbera’s non-stop monologues, punctuated with choings and toings throughout, are the talk of an enthusiast. And why not? He is a natty ex-cartoonist from Brooklyn, who, with an ex-structural engineer from New Mexico named Bill Hanna, created the “Tom and Jerry” cartoons at MGM 25 years ago. Five years ago, they formed Hanna-Barbera Productions and have since come up with such bread-winners as “The Flintstones”, “Huckleberry Hound”, “Yogi Bear” and “Quick Draw McGraw”. Mr. Barbera is doing nicely.
All this futuristic chatter arises from the fact that Hanna-Barbera will unleash a new cartoon series, “The Jetsons”, on ABC-TV Sunday nights right after dinner, beginning Sept. 23. In his Hollywood studio office, Joe Barbera is surrounded with the wonders of the world of 2062.
“The people won’t be two-headed,” he says, flipping out the words like a card shark dealing. “They’ll be just like us, talk like us. “We’ve settled on a family of five—George and Jane Jetson, their teen-age girl, Judy, and their eight-year-old boy, Elroy, and their dog. Astro. Elroy and Astro have antennae, so they can be summoned right away.
“Their appurtenances are way-out. We’ve got them going around in a bubble capsule car, and here the Seattle Fair came up with a Bubbleator. We’ve got moving sidewalks and now there’s a moving walk. We’ve got ‘em living in the Sky Pad Apartments—dwelling units on top of needles—and now Seattle’s got a needle.
“The Jetsons send the kids off to school in a pneumatic tube. When P.S. 85 sends the wrong kid home at three, Jane Jetson just pushes a button and pffft! the kid’s gone and she gets her own back. One day, Elroy tells her his class is going off on a field trip — they’ll be studying the Siberian salt mines. His mother says, ‘That’s nice. Now don't fight with the little Russian boys.’
“We’ve got an instant hair-do thing that comes down over Jane’s head and, too-choo, she’s got a permanent. And a cement mold that builds instant buildings —dee-uh-lump! dee-uh-lump! — floor by floor. “We’ve got a vacuum cleaner that comes out, finds the dirt, zupp! eats it up and moves back into the wall. In one story, we’ve got somebody spilling a drink, the vacuum slurps it up and gets cockeyed.
“JUDY WINS a date with a pop singer, named Jet Screamer and they go off to the Spaceburger to do the ‘Solar Swivel.’ It’s a heck of a song. Howie Morris did it for us. Listen.” It was quite a song all right, and rather ear-splitting. “Frank Sinatra, we understand, may be interested in doing a recording.
“Oh, yeah, the maid. We’ve got a maid named Rosie the Robot. She’s a bit broken-down. She says, ‘Yes, ma’am, beep-beep.’ You could say she’s a Hazel out-Hazeling a Hazel. Marx is doing Rosie now as a remote-control toy. In fact, the toy outfits are moving in like frantic.”
Mr. Barbera was still going on about a robot football game, a cook-out on the moon, a Peek-a-Boo Prober Pill which gives an instant physical examination and a visit to the showcase of Molecular Motors when I slipped away for a thirst quencher. I found a bunch of robots standing around the Hanna-Barbera water cooler having a break.

Barbera is implying that the studio’s artists came up with the Space Needle before the people at the Seattle World’s Fair did. While it’s true artwork had to have been developed before the show was sold to ABC in early 1962, pictures and concept drawings of the Space Needle were around, too; for example, the Associated Press offered a feature story in April 1961 complete with drawings of the Tower of the 21st Century.

Barbera makes the implication again in this United Press International story that appeared in newspapers beginning September 25, 1962, a few days after the show debuted.

UPI Hollywood Correspondent
HOLLYWOOD (UPI) — Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, purveyors of television’s most successful cartoon shows, are launching still another animated series for adult viewers.
After the blazing success of “The Flintstones,” the partners decided that if a stone age family could enliven the nation’s living rooms a family projected a century into the future might be even more amusing.
Thus, “The Jetsons,” a 2062 clan of the space age.
They live in a sky pad apartment with adjustable levels. In order to escape rain or fog they press a button and their quarters rise thousands of feet above the bad weather.
Everything is super gadgeted. Mrs. Jetson has a seeing eye vacuum cleaner which operates on its own whenever a speck of dust appears. And sometimes it sweeps dirt under the rug.
Trouble Staying Ahead
Unlike “The Flintstones,” the new show is not based on a feuding neighbor policy. It is more like “Father Knows Best” and “I Love Lucy.”
“We’ve taken today’s family and moved them 100 years in the future,” Barbera said. “Their problems are the same we find today, but their solutions are more complicated.
“Our biggest trouble with the series is keeping it far enough ahead of actual scientific discovery to perpetuate the feeling of the way out future. We come up with an idea only to find out that science is already producing the product.
“For instance, we had to discard six months work with future jet air cars when the Seattle World’s Fair had similar models on display.”
In establishing characters that would strike the public fancy the Hanna Barbera crew came up with no fewer than 1,600 experimental drawings of George Jetson. Almost as much time was devoted to his wife Jane; daughter, Judy; son, Elroy, and a lovable mutt named Astro.
Woman Are Human
“As we discovered in the ‘Flintstones,’ the man must be humorous, but the woman even in a cartoon must be human,” Barbera said.
“Each week it will be a different member of the family who finds himself in the starring role. Even Astro has his own starring segments.”
Barbera, a handsome dynamic man, was reminded that last year was calamitous for cartoon shows. Many started. Few finished.
“That is partly explained by a shortage of talented cartoonists,” he explained. “Some of the older ones have retired and there haven’t been many youngsters to take their places.
“We’re trying to develop cartoonists here on the job, training young people as we go along.
“We have three men who do nothing but sit around thinking up new and far out ideas for ‘The Jetsons.’ They have to think fast to stay ahead of the scientists.”

As a side note, it’s perhaps significant in the Scott column that Barbera’s excuse for the failure of the previous year’s prime-time cartoons—which would have included Hanna-Barbera’s Top Cat—had nothing to do with funny animals, like he said in previous interviews. No, it was due to a lack of artists. Mustn’t run down a commodity like Top Cat, salesman Barbera must have realised.

Interestingly, Barbera mentioned a completely different origin for the Sky Pad Apartments in later interviews. He told Scott Moore of the Washington Post in 1999 that they were based on remnants of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. “I saw round buildings kind of on a pedestal…I decided to add hydraulics to the pedestal so you could lift the apartment above the smog of clouds into the fresh, clean air,” he related. Nary a mention of designers like Iwao Takamoto or Jerry Eisenberg or Willie Ito, let alone Seattle.

Almost 50 years later, the Space Needle still defines the Seattle skyline and attracts carloads of astonished visitors, and The Jetsons continues to be a landmark of futurism in pop culture. If you’re interested in seeing the 21st Century as seen by the Seattle Fair, including the popular Bubbleator, click on the cover of this book and browse. Sorry, you won
t find Rosie.

Tuesday 18 September 2012

048 Candles For File 037

“Jonny Quest” debuted on this date in 1964. Hanna-Barbera had a time of it deciding what to name the show, as you can see from the trade industry ad to the right. Some TV listings into October were still calling it “Jonny Quest: File 037.” The first newspaper reference I can find to the show is an Associated Press fall-schedule speculation column from early February 1964 which simply calls it “Jonny Quest” (Broadcasting Magazine, on February 17, quotes a Screen Gems news release from a week earlier saying “Jonny Quest” had already been sold to ABC). Prior to that, I’ve found no evidence in the popular press that the studio was even considering the show but, of course, it had to be in the planning stages for months.

We don’t talk about Jonny all that much here because it’s outside the years the blog is supposed to be touching on and because there’s a web site with a huge amount of information which renders further comment unnecessary. But I’ve had shots of some art that is/was available on the Van Eaton Gallery site that I thought I’d post in honour of the occasion.

Lovely artwork here. You can see the production numbers. Z-3 was “The Mystery of the Lizard Men,” the show premiere, and Z-4 was “Riddle of the Gold,” the fifth episode to air.

Bandit from “Riddle of the Gold,” presumably by Dick Bickenbach. The hind-quarters gallop is an interesting angle. The story’s probably well known about how Joe Barbera wanted comic relief on the show, so ignored all of Doug Wildey’s exotic character suggestions and had Bick draw up a cartoon dog with a design that’s out of place with the surroundings but somehow works. Craig Fuqua at has some 1963 model sheets initialled “E.B.,” presumable by Ed Benedict, but a Quest documentary states the dog was designed by Bick.

What? A Jonny Quest game?! And no one told my parents? I found this while tooling around e-Bay. I had no idea anything like it existed. Did anyone reading have one of these? How did you play it? Could you kill Bandit and make Doug Wildey happy?

The Quest show, unfortunately, failed ratings-wise in prime-time, especially after being moved opposite “The Munsters,” and was shuttled into the Saturday Morning Home for Retired Prime Time Cartoons. Jonny was the forerunner of a bunch of Hanna-Barbera action/adventure shows until do-gooder groups touting their own television fantasy world of butterflies and multiplication tables forced them off the air. For a while, anyway.

Monday 17 September 2012

Hokey (Birthday Cake) Smoke!

The world loves June Foray. The world loves a party. So why not put them both together?

That’s what happened yesterday as Stu Shostak and Jeanine Kasun threw a 95th birthday party for one of the finest voice artists in history (two days early, but who cares?). Among the people there was Fred Frees, the son of Solomon Hersh Frees who appeared with June as Boris opposite her Natasha in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. Oh, yes, S.H. is better known to us as Paul. Perhaps he didn’t want to be confused with Green Stamps.

June’s early Hanna-Barbera cartoon career was limited to one appearance on a Yogi Bear cartoon on “The Huckleberry Hound Show” in 1958 before she won the role of Betty Rubble then had it inexplicably taken away. Anyone who frequents this blog must be familiar with her career so I don’t need to geek out and write some kind of list, though I will point out a guest shot on “Teen-Age Trials” starring Jerry Dunphy some 59 years ago (I presume it was a local Los Angeles TV show).

We’ve had June Foray Day on the Yowp and Tralfaz blogs already this year, but they didn’t include this cover story from Tele Vues magazine from the Independent Press-Telegram of Long Beach, California. It’s from June 11, 1962.

Bert’s Eye View
TV and Radio Editor

June Foray is a girl who goes around talking to herself—and gets paid for it.
On NBC's Sunday “Bullwinkle” TV show, for example, she’s Rocky the Squirrel and Natasha.
The hero squirrel and villainess Natasha frequently are involved in verbal tilts but June never has the bushy-tail sounding like the sinistress.
On the same show, she's also Nell Fenwick in the “Dudley Du-Right of the Mounties” segment.
She supplies the feminine voices for CBS’s “The Alvin Show” and many of the falsetto tones for ABC's “Calvin and the Colonel.”
For Walt Disney, she’s Grandma Duck and Witch Hazel.
She has been, in fact, about 150 “voice-overs” and each character has been a little “different.”
HER FAVORITE VOICES are those that she does on commercials.
“I get paid more money in residuals (repeats),” she said. "And they're always doing something different with commercials."
The real June Foray, a petite, 4-feet, 11-inch-tall, 95-pound doll, smiled engagingly.
“I had quite a challenge with one commercial last year,” she said. “I did an empty peanut-butter jar.”
So how does an empty peanut-butter jar sound—old, blase, young, vigorous?
“I tried it halfway between a straight voice and a Tallulah (Bankhead),” said June. “They seemed to like it.”
Another which the sponsors “liked” was the radio voice June used to sexily plug a fertilizer. You know the one: “So-and-so is the word for fertilizer.”
The advertisement comes across like an invitation from the world’s most glamorous girl to a midnight rendezvous for two, you and Miss Sexy.
And anybody with common sense knows that midnight is a poor time to fertilize your lawn.
FOR THE SEXY VOICE, June used low, breathy tones; Low tones, according to June, are necessary to transmit glamour over the radio.
“Marilyn Monroe, who has a real high voice, would come over flat on radio,” she said.
On television, except for a few rare exceptions, June has been seen and not heard.
“I’m little,” she said. “There aren’t many seeing parts for little girls.”
It’s the TV audience’s visual loss. The small package comes in a pretty container.
BUT JUNE, who made her radio debut when she was six years old and has been working steadily since she was twelve, has found that there can be recognition even for the unseen.
A doctor recently gave her a prescription for a sore throat.
During the course of his examination, he learned why June felt it was so urgent the throat should be healed quickly.
When the doctor left, he told June:
“I’m going to be a big man in my house when they find out I treated Rocky and Natasha.”
June, with her cartoon voices, has “treated” millions of children. The knowledge of the pleasure she’s given them is worth more than her residual payments.
“They may not stop me at Hollywood and Vine to ask for my autograph,” she added, “but I’m the star in my own neighborhood.”

The birthday party was far from June’s first honour. The first one may have been by Los Angeles City Council on May 1, 1963, as reported by Pasadena’s Independent newspaper the following day.

L.A. Council Resolution Pays Tribute to June Foray
Blonde June Foray, “the Lady of Many Voices,” was honored by the Los Angeles city council yesterday for “her contributions of voice characterizations to the entertainment world and for her participation in many community activities.”
The resolution, unanimously adopted by the Council, was presented to the petite performer by Councilwoman Rosalind Wyman, who described Miss Foray as “a person who
is often heard, but seldom seen.”
Her voice has been heard by millions in such shows as “Bugs Bunny,” “Woody Woodpecker,” “The Bullwinkle Show,” “Disneyland,” “Mickey Mouse Club,” “Cinderella,” and “Peter Pan.”
Miss Foray lives in Woodland Hills.

Courtesy of Stu Shostak, here’s a clip from June’s party. In the background you’ll see another trouper—Rose Marie of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”