Tuesday 31 December 2013

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, January 1964

The biggest problem Yogi Bear had in the newspaper comic pages to ring in 1964 may not have been kids, though they seem to have dominated the Sunday pages. It may have been in the editorial room at newspaper offices.

I had four sources of half-page (three rows) of Yogi comics I could pick from for the start of 1963. For the start of 1964, I’m down to one. The other three papers dropped Yogi altogether. Maybe they think it’s winter so he’s hibernating. I don’t have figures about how many papers carried Yogi (or ‘The Flintstones’) at any given time. You’d figure with Yogi going into his own feature film, and his TV series still airing, that papers would have been signing up to run the comic.

(As an aside, it’s a shame the one Hanna-Barbera cartoon begging for a Sunday comic treatment never got one. Can you imagine Doug Wildey drawing a weekend Jonny Quest comic?)

Anyway, let’s get to Yogi and those little “ragged-muffins,” as Super Snooper used to call them. Say, it’s been quite some time since any guest appearances by H-B characters in the Yogi comics, hasn’t it?

Well, Boo Boo’s being awfully crotchety in the January 5th comic, isn’t he? Usually it’s Mr. Ranger who’s Mr. Negative. The top row features the only silhouette drawing this month. Can anyone explain why there’s an orphanage in a national park?

Hey, if a “frozen” gag works once, why not try it again? So that’s what’s happened in the January 12th comic. At least Boo Boo is in a better mood. No doubt Eagle Scout Bill Hanna would approve of the story-line. Feel free to click on the musical arrow below and read the final panel.

Hanna-Barbera was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1976 but, to the best of my knowledge, no H-B cartoon character was immortalised with foot prints outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Coincidentally, that’s the theatre where the recent Yogi Bear movie premiered (the real Yogi film, “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” didn’t debut until June 1964). I see Jellystone doesn’t have a “general” in the January 19th comic like it did in newspapers throughout 1963. “Chief” is generic enough to make sense.

Since I was snipping these comics together at 4 in the morning, perhaps that’s why it took me a little while to get the gag in the January 26th comic. Yogi moves the school zone sign to warn people that children are throwing snowballs. Ranger Smith is named “Bill” again.

As usual, click on each comic to enlarge it. I suspect colour versions of the bottom of two rows of each cartoon are, or will be, on Mark Kausler’s blog you see in the list to the right.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Pixie and Dixie — Jinxed Jinks

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Art Davis; Layout – Paul Sommer; Background – Bob Gentle; Written by Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Insurance Agent, Pixie, Bulldog (growling only) – Don Messick; Jinks, Dixie, Evil Jinks, Bulldog – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Jack Shaindlin, Spencer Moore, Geordie Hormel.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show No. K-50.
First Aired: week of February 20, 1961.
Plot: Jinks buys an accident insurance policy for Pixie and Dixie.

It’s a story which worked really well in the Woody Woodpecker cartoon “Wet Blanket Policy.” Buzz Buzzard takes out a life insurance policy on Woody, tries to kill him to collect the insurance, only to have the aggressive Woody bash the crap out of him instead. Warren Foster tries the same sort of thing in “Jinxed Jinks.” Of course, Mr. Jinks doesn’t want to kill the meeces—he’s not that nasty, after all—he just wants them injured in an accident to collect some cash.

This cartoon also favours another well-worn routine, the appearance of an evil alter ego. Unlike a lot of cartoons, there’s no fight with a counter-balancing good alter ego. Despite the familiarity, and an ending you might be able to predict, the cartoon’s a pleasant enough 6½ minutes.

There’s nothing really outstanding in the design, layout or animation. I like how the bad Jinks is in a white outline form. And background artist Bob Gentle gives us a yellow sky and blue-green clouds.

Dialogue samples. First, when Jinks calls the meeces out of their hole:

Jinks: I gather, like, uh, you two ginks kinda, like, uh, think I’m a tyrant-like, mm?
Pixie: Well, uh, the impression...uh, there are times...uh...
Dixie: He means “yes.”
Jinks: Well, fellas, you are observing a changed Jinksie.
Pixie (brightly): Gee, that’s wonderful!
Dixie: Yeah. Any change will be an improvement.
Jinks: I will overlook, uh, that snide-like observation, uh, because I have good news for you meeces.
Pixie: I know! You’re going away on a long trip.
Dixie: Or else you caught your tail in a ringer.
Jinks (to the audience): I love meeces, you know, with a gift for sharp-like, uh, repartée.

Then, when Jinks realises he’s wasted an insurance premium payment, and alter ego bad Jinks appears.

Bad Jinks: It wouldn’t have to be wasted. You could speed up the inevitable.
Jinks: Yeah. I could cut down the time lag. Uh, there’s nothin’ wrong in that. It’s the temp of the times, the speed-up. Yan-kee know-how. It’s almost like, you know, patriotic.
Bad Jinks: Now you’re talking.

Yup. Maiming someone to collect cold, hard, cash is The American Way. That’s Foster’s satire for the day.

It takes about half of the cartoon to get into the violence gags. First, Jinks and the insurance agent-selling cat with Don Messick’s standard ‘growly’ voice facetiously exchange chatter over the need for a policy. (Cat: I hope nothin’ happens. But you never can tell. Jinks: Yeah, that’s right. ‘Cause, you know, the future is veiled, in a mist, like.”) Next, Jinks facetiously talks with the meeces about the policy. Then the scene with Bad Jinks as Dixie flies on top of a kite for some reason. The gags:

● Jinks throws an iron at the meeces. It misses.
● Inspired by Rube Goldberg, Jinks hooks up a trap whereby a bowling ball rolls along a plate-rail and through a hole and drops onto the meeces. Instead, when the meeces activate the trap, the bowling ball simply drops off the plate-rail, onto Jinks’ head and cracks apart.
● At the suggestion of his villainous alter ego, Jinks grabs a croquet mallet (well, this is ‘60s suburbia) and hides in the bushes to bash the meeces as they pass by. Pixie and Dixie approach with a bulldog to tell the cat “the good news.” Jinks clobbers the bulldog on the head instead. “I have pulled, like, a faux pas,” he tells us as the scene fades out.

We miss the violence which, of course, would blow Bill Hanna’s budget to animate. Instead, the camera fades in on Jinks in a hospital bed. The friendly, sincere meeces have a basket of goodies for the cat, and tell him the good news: they paid for it with the accident insurance policy they took out on Jinks. Cut to the outside door of the hospital (?) where Jinks chases them past the same light socket five times, hobbling on a leg cast, shouting “I hate you meeces to pieces” as the cartoon ends. It’s a shame Foster couldn’t fit in more gags but who knows if any were on his story board that had to be taken out.

Jinks chases Pixie and Dixie to “On the Run” at the end of the cartoon. And the George Hormel cue “Light Eerie” works well when the bad version of Jinks appears.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera, Shows).
0:13 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks gets insurance policy, walks.
1:08 - C-19 LIGHT ACTIVITY (Loose) – Jinks talks to meeces, Jinks looks up at kite.
2:44 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) – Jinks talks to Evil Jinks.
3:11 - LAF-4-6 PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Pixie and Dixie walk, iron, Jinks demonstrates bowling ball set-up, ball clobbers Jinks, “You’re welcome.”
4:49 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – “Excuse me fellas,” Jinks walks.
5:04 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) – Jinks talks to Evil Jinks, Jinks with croquet mallet.
5:45 - LAF-25-3 zig zag strings and bassoon (Shaindlin) – Pixie and Dixie with bulldog, mallet clobbers dog, “faux pas.”
6:15 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose) – Jinks in hospital bed. “You what?”
6:44 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Crashing sound, Jinks hobbles after meeces.
6:57 - Pixie and Dixie End Title theme (Curtin).

Friday 27 December 2013

Today's Huckleberry Hound Show Quiz

Can anyone identify the Hanna-Barbera cartoons that are depicted in the composite drawing below?

This was posted on Facebook by possibly our only reader in Peru, Jeanpierre Enrique Robles Ramon. The different colours make it seem likely each drawing came from a different place but I have no idea if they were in a comic book, or colouring book, or what the source is. These are not drawings from cartoons themselves, but are based on scenes in them. (See the note from Joe Bev in the comments).

At the top left, we have the two wolves from the Huckleberry Hound cartoon “Sheep-Shape Sheepherder” (1958-59 season). In the actual cartoon, we only see the barrel roll into the cave (the action is left-to-right) before the camera shakes. The wolves, I suspect, provided a bit of inspiration to the later Hokey Wolf and Ding-a-ling. The drawings probably look closer to Dick Bickenbach’s layouts to what Carlo Vinci did with them in the cartoon.

Below the wolves is Iddy Biddy Buddy who swam in Mr. Jinks’ water dish in “A Wise Quack” (1960-61 season). Iddy, as we know, was based on a duck that Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera placed in a handful of MGM cartoons and then turned into Yakky Doodle in 1961.

Underneath are Pixie and Dixie and the mouse fairy godmother in “A Good Good Fairy” (1959-60 season). It’s one of those bizarre transformation cartoons where the meeces end up as an apple and a banana at the end.

At the bottom we see the start of the peanut-pushing contest from “Papa Yogi” (1959-60 season), where Yogi cons his way into a Father-Son Picnic at Jellystone Park (Boo Boo is the unwilling “son”) to win all kinds of edible goodies. Here’s what the drawing looked like in the actual cartoon; layout by Walt Clinton and animation by George Nicholas.

To the right is a series of drawings based on the Huckleberry Hound cartoon “A Bully Dog” (1959-60 season). The telegraph poles, stone fence, Huck on a wire and snickering dog next to the trampoline are all part of the cartoon but not all together in one frame. Here’s the drawing from the cartoon with the trampoline.

This is the fourth cartoon with a dog with a wheezy laugh. These days, the character with that description who comes to mind is Muttley. You can read a bit about the lineage HERE. In fact, all the cartoons mentioned have been reviewed on the blog.

The composite drawing has inspired a post looking back at part of one of these cartoons. It’ll be the first post of the new year.

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas From Huck, Yogi and Yowp

You know how it is when you turn on the TV over the Christmas holidays. You want to see your favourite old cartoons. “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” “Bucky and Pepito Help Santa Claus.” Okay, maybe not the last one (mercifully, such a cartoon never existed). But you love them and you watch them rerun year after year after year.

Well, we at the Yowp blog are taking the same attitude this Christmas. In almost five years, we’ve HTMLd a number of Christmas posts. So allow us to rerun a few of them.

CLICKING HERE will direct to a post on Alan Reed’s Christmas—before Fred Flintstone (Dino ball picture courtesy of Brian Miller).

THIS LINK will allow you to listen to Yogi Bear sing “Have a Hap-Hap-Happy Christmas.” Well, it’s not really Yogi. It’s Frank Milano as Yogi Bear. Better still, you can read the Little Golden Book “A Christmas Visit” starring Yogi. The artwork is enjoyable.

GO HERE to read the Whitman book “Yogi Bear Helps Santa,” drawn by Lee Branscombe.

THIS POST is where you can find another Whitman book with two Huckleberry Hound Christmas stories and a great drawing of some of the other H-B characters in a Christmas tree.

AND THIS LINK will take you to some background art from “Christmas Flintstone,” the second made-for-TV Christmas cartoon (yes, even before Charlie Brown).

What you see above is a drawing from the collection of Mark Christiansen, one of so many people who have helped contribute not only to this blog, but our knowledge of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Judging by the lettering on Yogi’s bag, I suspect this was drawn at the time all the characters were together on the Huckleberry Hound Show (that is, before 1961). I wonder if the bow-ties are pinned on Huck’s and Jinks’ throats.

Since we’re showing off artwork I’ve purloined from elsewhere on the internet, allow me to pass on a few more things that are pretty neat.

Isn’t this the perfect Christmas gift for your kids? Your little boy can look just like Yogi Bear. Or is it Corporal Agarn? And your little girl can be Huck. Or a leprechaun. Okay, the hats aren’t terrific. But they’re probably sturdier than what you can buy today. The picture is courtesy of John Cawley.

Here’s what may be a draft drawing for a Colpix record cover passed on by Bill Wray, whose name you may recognise from Ren and Stimpy. Bill spent some time at Hanna-Barbera, though it was long after Cornelius the Kellogg’s Rooster (in the picture above) had left the premises.

I gather these are two rough sketches for publicity art, likely from 1958-59. In the top drawing, you can see what looks like an Ed Benedict version of Yogi. The front-facing Boo Boo is a little unusual. The crow is Iggy, voiced by Don Messick. There’s Li’l Tom Tom in a typical pose and the unnamed fox caught by the wily Yowp in “Foxy Hound-Dog.”

And look! There’s Yowp in the drawing below. The unnamed rabbit from the Li’l Tom Tom cartoon (“The Brave Little Brave”) is featured, along with Wee Willie the gorilla and both crows, Iggy and Ziggy. These drawings are from Bill Wray’s collection as well. Don Parmele posted his copy of the publicity photo that was made from the sketch. Don’s worked for a number of studios in a lengthy career.

The day of unnamed foxes and rabbits being on publicity material was brief. Hanna-Barbera used/mentioned secondary characters for the first year of the Huckleberry Hound Show. When Quick Draw McGraw came along in 1959, there was a whole new set of starring characters that began replacing Iggy and Ziggy and Wee Willie in the studio’s P.R. campaigns. When the Yogi Bear Show premiered in January 1961, the studio had enough stars that it didn’t need Li’l Tom Tom or (sniff) Yowp in its publicity and merchandising any longer.

Ah, but this is the Christmas, not the woe-be-unto-Yowp, season. So we wish you and those you love, the best to you each morning the best of the holiday season. If you’re reading this post at another time of the year, keep the Yuletide spirit of kindness and generosity all year long.

Saturday 21 December 2013

Quick Draw McGraw — Shooting Room Only

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Lew Marshall, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Quick Draw, Baba Looey, Fly – Daws Butler; Narrator, Box Office Smash, Ticket Taker – Doug Young; Sage-Brush Sal – Julie Bennett.
Music: Hoyt Curtin, Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose/John Seely, Geordie Hormel, J. Louis Merkur.
Camera: Norm Stainback.
First aired: week of May 22, 1961.
Filmed: May 25, 1960.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-032, Production J-95.
Plot: Quick Draw mixes with a dangerous theatre robber, Box Office Smash.

There’s a little game you can play watching some of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, the Gee-That’s-Familiar Game. It’s a game when you sit watch a cartoon and, suddenly, it reminds you of something from an old theatrical cartoon you once saw. You can play it with “Shooting Room Only.”

The idea of Box Office Smash sitting in the theatre firing off his guns in anticipation of his favourite act brings to mind the same kind of thing in “High Diving Hare” (released 1949), the great Bugs Bunny short written by Tedd Pierce. The scene of Box Office pretending to be an usher leading Quick Draw McGraw up and up numerous flights of stairs is pretty reminiscent of what Bugs pulled on Elmer Fudd in “Hare Do” (also Pierce from 1949). Of course, the gags aren’t identical, what with the confines of limited animation and all. And the ending is pretty much the same as Mike Maltese’s own Quick Draw cartoon “Masking For Trouble,” where Sagebrush Sally changes her mind at the end and runs off with the bad guy. In fact, those were the only two cartoons where Sal appeared.

This is another one of those Quick Draw cartoons where our hero assumes another identity. There’s no real reason for the disguise, other than Maltese wants to make fun of TV westerns. So Quick Draw is the equivalent of Bat Masterton. Except, in this case, he’s Bumbershoot Bam, and instead of Masterton’s cane, he carries an umbrella “which he uses with great dexterity against his enemies,” as the narrator informs us in the opening. Naturally, he demonstrates that he doesn’t, as he clobbers himself and Baba Looey while trying to nab a fly. (Baba erupts in a string of faux Spanish, much like Ricky Ricardo did when he was disgusted with Lucy). And to complete the ineptness, Quick Draw shoots himself in the head after zipping off-stage to remove his disguise.

Here are Quick Draw and Baba running out of the frame after Box Office. They leave little tornadoes.

The little pipe-stem legs on Box Office shows that Tony Rivera supplied the layouts, as the layout man also did incidental character design.

And thin-armed Sal on stage.

The pretty tame colour scheme could indicate Dick Thomas painted the backgrounds. His work is always solid but more lacklustre than, say, Art Lozzi or Monte.

A few of the noteable things in the story:

● Quick Draw emulates spooneristic comic Roy Atwell to the narrator: “What I can I you for do? Foo for you? I mean, do for you?”
● The narrator sings the Quick Draw theme. Whether Doug Young can’t sing or was being intentionally bad, I don’t know. But his weak effort is kind of fun.
● Box Office at the theatre ticket window: “One in the front row. I’ll hold up the box office after I see the show.”
● Quick Draw tries to pawn off Baba as a child to get him a discounted ticket (Jack Benny did the same thing in a radio show with Dennis Day). The ticket seller is sceptical. Baba: “Sorry, Quickstraw. I forgot to shave this morning.”
● Our hero keeps having to buy tickets every time he has to come back into the theatre. It’s a routine I’ve seen somewhere.
● Quick Draw fits in a “Hold on thar!” and “That smarts” but no “I’ll do the thinnin’” this time.
● The best line is a throwaway when Box Office is leading Quick Draw up the stairs. “Just one more flight,” says Box Office. “Good,” replies Quick Draw. “My feet are gettin’ out of breath.”
● Sal’s recitation on stage is just bizarre. I don’t know what Maltese’s inspiration was (see the note in the comment section). It goes:
   The boy stood on the burnin’ deck.
   His feet were full of blisters.
   He tore his pants on a rusty nail.
   And now he wears his sister’s.
● Quick Draw, as a magician (with Baba as his rabbit, complete with white ears), puts trick handcuffs on Box Office. The villain easily pulls them apart. “Well, what do you know, they are trick handcuffs,” observes Quick Draw.
● Sal casually and plaintively emits a “Help” cry as she’s carried away on a chair by Box Office and refuses to marry him, but instantly changes her mind when he promises her a gig at the Palace. A booking at the Palace Theatre in New York was considered the pinnacle of vaudeville.
● Cartoon ends with Quick Draw getting a show for his 47 tickets. Baba, wearing a wig, fills in for Sal. He interrupts his rendition of Sal’s recitation with “But that’s show business, I thin’.”

Hoyt Curtin’s Quick Draw McGraw theme that’s used as background music for those little cartoons-in-between-the-cartoons shows up a few times on the soundtrack. It’s kind of a precursor to the following season, when Curtin’s music would completely replace the stock library music. I don’t know the origin of the old-time melodrama silent piano music behind Sal’s recitation. It could be a Jack Shaindlin cue; he wrote two albums of that kind of music for commercial release.

0:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:15 - ZR-39A WESTERN SONG (Hormel) – Dry Gutch Junction pan, “Watch this lightning draw.”
0:53 - TC-205 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Loose-Seely) – Quick Draw clobbers himself and Baba, “none other than…”
1:14 - (That’s) QUICK DRAW McGRAW (Curtin) – Quick Draw zips off stage, comes back, shoots himself, Baba observation.
1:29 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw talks to narrator, talks to ticket taker, Baba forgot to shave.
2:27 - Medium circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Box Office shoots gun, Quick Draw in umbrella.
3:04 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw at ticket window, falls out door, back at ticket window.
3:44 - SPORTSCOPE-ish (Shaindlin) – Box office shoots gun, curtain up.
3:55 - silent piano music (Shaindlin?) – Sal monologue, curtain down.
4:15 - sad trombone music (Shaindlin) – Box Office gets teary, shoots gun.
4:23 - CRAZY GOOF (Shaindlin) – Quick Draw talks to Baba rabbit.
4:38 - (That’s) QUICK DRAW McGRAW (Curtin) – Curtain up, trick handcuff scene.
5:31 - Medium circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Shot of stage door, Quick Draw and Baba run.
5:41 - SF-11 LIGHT MOVEMENT/MOUNTAINEERS' HOEDOWN (Merkur) – Quick Draw at ticket window, Sal yells help, Quick Draw vows to see the show.
6:38 - (That’s) QUICK DRAW McGRAW (Curtin) - Quick Draw in seat, Baba on stage.
7:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

Friday 20 December 2013

Some Words From Top Cat

It’s been four years since the voice of Top Cat, Arnold Stang, passed away. There’s something about the show “Top Cat” that doesn’t do it for me, although I love Arnold Stang and I love Marvin Kaplan and think Hoyt Curtin’s music on the series is brilliant.

Anyways, I won’t try to analyse the pros and cons of the show, which was Hanna-Barbara’s first real failure (in that it couldn’t make it in prime time). Instead, allow me to go into my Stang file and post some photos (some may have already been posted) and two interviews from the ‘60s. Unfortunately, he doesn’t touch on Top Cat, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy what he has to say nonetheless.

This first interview was for the syndicated “TV Key” service, which provided newspapers with a Q-and-A style show biz column and an another written in the feature story format. This was published by the Binghamton Press on January 6, 1962, when “Top Cat” was in first-run. The fire, incidentally, was in Bel Air, California, in spite of the New York dateline.

Radio Fine Medium, Stang Feels

Arnold Stang was in New York recently between houses. The voice of ABC’s Top Cat was one of the many members of the movie colony burned out during the disastrous fire.
“I was in Boston doing a show and my wife was in New York when it happened,” explained Stang. “It’s a funny thing, though, how people react to tragedy. My neighbor’s house was on fire and burning to the ground, and what do you think he was doing? He was on my roof spraying it with water hoping to protect my house. Of course when the news reached me my first thought was my children, but I must have forgotten how many wonderful friends I have.
"When the kids came out of school that day three of our friends met them and prepared to to take them to their houses to live. I understand it almost ended, up a tug of war for possession of the Stang brood.”
The first reaction from the public when they read about a fire like this is that everything is insured anyway. But as Arnold asked, “How much insurance do you think I carried on a gift I received from FDR? And could I insure a letter from Churchill? Not to mention hundreds of personal belongings and the scripts of every show I’ve ever done, plus recordings of many of them.”
Although he only weighs in at 103 pounds and buys his suits at the boy’s department, Arnold Stang has better than 25 years experience in this business.
He ran away from his home in Chelsea, Mass., at the age of 9 when he wrote a letter to a radio program in New York asking for an audition and they replied that they only audition on Saturday.
Little Arnold hopped a bus, landed in New York, read a serious poem and was signed on as a boy comedian at $10 a week. He made a deal with his folks that he would never miss regular schooling if they’d let him pursue an acting career and he was off.
“Radio had it all over TV,” said the veteran of the microphone.
“The listener was able to draw his own mental images and the actors had the audience imagination working for them. Take Jack Benny’s safe . . . on radio you’d hear five minutes of sound effects including rattling chains, dungeon noises and creaking doors and it never failed to get laughs.
“On TV Benny has to show you what goes on in his vault and, in spite of some wonderfully creative tricks, it’s never as effective.”
Arnold’s favorite radio job was on the Henry Morgan show. No devotee of radio comedy could argue this point with him because, in spite of the nonsense Morgan subjects himself to on I've Got a Secret, his radio program was one of the outstanding achievements of radio’s final decade of supremacy in home entertainment Stang’s voice? In person it’s quite normal but a 103-pound actor with a normal voice could only play a jockey, and Arnold has a family to support.

Prior to “Top Cat,” Stang’s cartoon career had mainly consisted of voicing Herman the Mouse for Famous Studios (which didn’t believe in giving fame to its voice actors as none were credited). He provided a voice in the 1961 feature, “Alakazam the Great,” which hit theatres just before T.C. debuted. But with “Top Cat,” his cartoon career had peaked. Unless someone thinks of “Pinocchio in Outer Space” (1965) as a high point in animation. Stang hit the publicity circuit to push that piece of animated dreck which he once called “a first-class Christmas release film which the kids will love and which will pleasantly surprise the parents.” This is the most complete version of the story I can find but it appears awfully brief.

Cartoon Picture Drawn to Go With Voice
United Press International

NEW YORK, Jan. 26 [1966] (UPI) — When Arnold Stang speaks for a cartoon character, he doesn’t time his lines to fit the picture. They draw the picture to match his voice.
The usual procedure in dubbing is for the actor to sit and watch it being projected and synchronize his voice as nearly as possible with the lip movements on the screen. Stang doesn’t work that way.
“I find there are almost always changes I want to make in the lines, for reasons of style or characterization,” he said at lunch here recently. “Changes in words, changes in timing. No two actors ever read the same passage in exactly the same way.
“So I have an understanding that, when I do a cartoon, I record the voice first and then the picture is drawn to conform to the lines.”
Stang is perhaps best known just now as the voice of television’s “Top Cat.” He also spoke for Nurtle the Twurtle in “Pinocchio in Outer Space” a Universal Pictures’ release.
(A twurtle is a space creature that looks the way a big turtle would if it were closely related to Arnold Stang.)
The performing credits Stang has accumulated in 20-odd years include half a dozen Broadway plays, more than 20 records, nearly that many feature films and so many radio and television shows he has lost count.
“I am usually called in on a guest basis (on television shows),” he says. “I have all the excitement and the public acceptance without the crushing responsibilities that plague comedians with their own programs.
“Most people tell me they remember me best for one thing,” he says, “but it’s rare to find two people who remember the same thing.”

This column is a little odd in that the soundtrack of a cartoon is generally recorded first; it certainly was at Hanna-Barbera. Some of the New York studios used to have the dialogue done last but I don’t know when that practice stopped. It had to be well before 1965.

Stang had some experience as a turtle. He played the voice of Socrates, a turtle with 500 kids and a wife who looked like his brother, on a Sunday afternoon show called “Washington Square.” Ray Bolger starred and it aired every other week on NBC in the 1956-57 season. Interestingly, Stang once told TV columnist Steven H. Scheuer that it was originally supposed to be a cat puppet.

There’s one connection between Hanna-Barbera and “Pinocchio in Outer Space” that’s so obscure, it’s really too geeky to mention. In the scene when Pinocchio first meets up with Stang’s twurtle on Mars, the soundtrack plays a toodling sweet-potato cue. It’s the same stock music cue on the Augie Doggie cartoon “Mars Little Precious” where the Martian baby climbs Doggie Daddy’s wall.

Here are a couple of great TV magazine covers featuring T.C. The one on the left is courtesy of Jerry Beck; I apologise for not noting who sent me the one on the right.

By all accounts, Stang enjoyed his time on “Top Cat.” Maybe one of the reasons was it played against his little runt type on camera. But it could well be because the soundtracks were recorded with all of the actors in a studio playing off each other, just like in radio. Radio was Stang’s favourite medium and one where he truly shone.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Play With Huck

There seems to have been no end of merchandise for kids featuring the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and it wasn’t just put on store shelves for Christmas. To the right, you see a newspaper ad from August 1960. The U.S government copyright catalogue states the playbook was copyrighted on June 28, 1960 while a similar Yogi book was copyrighted August 16. Whitman had a couple of other products that year. A Huckleberry Hound magic slate was copyrighted August 25 (it allowed kids to colour, wipe off and colour again), and there was a Quick Draw McGraw sticker book that was registered on May 13.

We’ve mentioned a number of times when the Huck show was first aired in 1958, the studio didn’t just use its stars in merchandise. It just didn’t have enough stars with only one show on the air. So that’s why you’ll notice in the ad that Li’l Tom Tom, Ziggy the crow and Iddy Biddy Buddy are advertised as if they’re on the same level of fame as Huck and Yogi. Well, Biddy later became Yakky Doodle (though in early publicity material, he was known as “Doodles Duck”).

In peering through the 1960 catalogue, there are a few other interesting items that are now memorabilia. Golden Press bought rights for some H-B products. A punch out book with Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy was copyright September 22. Pixie and Dixie had a stencil book (featuring Huckleberry Hound), copyright May 26. There were colouring books (one drawn by Harvey Eisenberg, another by Pete Alvarado, another by Chic Otterstrom) , comic books, Little Golden Books, a Huckleberry Hound stamp book and my particular favourite—the Quick Draw McGraw search game (for 2, 3 or 4 players), licensed by Milton Bradley and copyright February 27 (a little early for Christmas). And that’s just “books and pamphlets.” It doesn’t include dolls and other kinds of toys. All of which was no doubt designed with the idea that it could make people rich on eBay 50 years later.

By the way, the newspaper ad doesn’t tell anyone, but one of the cutouts is of everyone’s favourite cartoon dog. Yes, one that goes “Yowp! Yowp!” I’m afraid this was about the end of the line for poor Yowp as a Hanna-Barbera product, except in cartoon reruns.

Kids today weaned on every conceivable electronic thing they can wheedle out of their parents’ credit card might be puzzled by the attraction of a $1 playbook. All you do is push out the characters from the pages, slip the parts together and stand them up. That’s it. They stand there. They don’t do anything else. Well, in a way they do. They inspire a kid to use his/her imagination and make up their one little Hanna-Barbera cartoons on the spot as they play with the figures. $1 for imagination is a pretty good bargain.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Augie Doggie — Playmate Pup

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Dick Lundy; Layout – Paul Sommer; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Written by Mike Maltese; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie Doggie, Radio Announcer, Irish Cop, Guy in Window – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy – Doug Young.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Phil Green, Harry Bluestone/Emil Cadkin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-039, Production J-111.
First Aired: week of March 27, 1961.
Plot: Augie invents an invisible playmate whom Doggie Daddy keeps offending.

The best pun in “Playmate Pup” is completely unintentional. Doggie Daddy climbs up the side of a building next to a window. The guy inside it says “What’d you lose, Mac—a parakeet?” The thing is, for two frames, the guy has lost something. His head. The cel with the head on it is missing for two frames. A mouth is in mid-air.

I don’t know if the cartoon would have been any funnier by having a character without a head for no particular reason. It would have fit, though. The cartoon is based on an invisible friend of Augie’s. The whole cartoon is a set-up to one joke at the end. Doggie Daddy has read in a “child sick-ol-lo-logical book” (almost halfway into the cartoon) that kids make up imaginary friends but it turns out Lonesome Leonard isn’t imaginary. He’s just invisible.

Mike Maltese’s story contains elements we’re all too familiar with in the Augie Doggie series:

● Augie imitating Sylvester, Jr. with an “Oh, the shame of it” line. In this one, it’s “Oh, the shame of it. My father would rather patch up his neglected and seedy-looking home-sweet-home than play ball with his only devoted son.” The home-sweet-home line is a verbatim repeat of what dear old dad has just said, another example of Maltese’s echoing dialogue.
● Daddy goes along with Augie’s whim because that’s what a good dad does.
● Daddy gets bashed around for his trouble.
● A disbelieving Irish cop comes to a sudden realisation, decides he’s sick and makes a crack to the camera.
● The “after all, how many” tag-line at the end of the cartoon. In this one, it’s “After all, how many boys have pals who don’t eat?”

Add to that Maltese’s (mis)use of the word “avuncular”. In this cartoon, it’s “Come to think of it, Augie, we don’t have an old oak tree. Will an old avuncular bush do?”

And Maltese dredges up the old cartoon routine of the radio that talks back to the characters. I’ve always liked it. The radio in this cartoon sounds like Fibber Fox. Here’s the dialogue, as Daddy is about ready to play baseball with Augie:

Radio: Friends, this is Repair Your Home Week. Does your house need painting?
Daddy: It does.
Radio:: Is your garage a mess?
Daddy: It is.
Radio: Is your front yard the scandal of the neighbourhood?
Daddy: Well, people are beginning to talk. Heh heh heh heh.
Radio: Are your children ashamed to bring their little friends home because you let it get rundown and seedy?
Daddy: I never tought about dat.
Radio: Well, think about it.
Daddy: I’m thinkin’.
Radio: Are you through thinking?
Daddy: I think so.
Radio: Well, take off that silly-looking baseball outfit and do something about it.

So here’s the story. Daddy’s set to play baseball with his son but he’s convinced by the radio to fix up their home because it’s suggesting Augie isn’t bringing friends over because of it. Daddy thinks disappointed Augie has reacted by inventing a friend. The friend is a jerk but Daddy puts up with it because a book tells him to do it. The friend, Lonesome Leonard, doesn’t put up a ladder to stop Daddy from falling, then demands a “thank-you.” Then he wants to lie down under the shade of an oak tree after Daddy sits on him (because Daddy can’t see him). Only an oak tree will do. Daddy and Augie carry him all over the place for an hour to find an oak tree. They find the sceptical cop instead. The cop’s reaction? He takes off his cop hat, puts on a fireman’s helmet and says “It’s the fireman’s life for me.”

No sooner do they get to the tree that Lonesome decides “to leave forever.” Daddy chases after him up a phone pole, across a phone wire and then up a building which ends with dear old dad chatting with the missing-head guy before yelling for help. The wind up of the cartoon has invisible Lonesome forgiving Dad then sucking up spaghetti from a plate, proving he exists after all. “How about dat? A fig-a-ment of dee imagination. With an appetite.”

Dick Lundy is the animator. Here are some poses. Daddy gives us a blank stare in one.

Art Lozzi’s backgrounds aren’t as interesting as some of the things he did on Yogi Bear or even Loopy De Loop cartoons. Daddy likes pictures in his home. In fact, he has the same couch and large picture in two spots in his home. Well, he walks past it twice in the cartoon.

And here’s a bit of a cityscape. Sorry for the lousy screen grabs. See the house with the door in the middle of the second storey? Daddy runs past it four times to catch Leonard after he and Augie carry him past it three times. I like how he changes the grey tone of the pavement, much like he and other H-B artists (Bob Gentle, particularly), had more than one colour on a wall to break up the monotony (you can’t tell too well but when Daddy walks by the couch above, the wall has a loop of a different shade in the upper-left-hand corner). By my count, Lozzi drew 18 backgrounds for this cartoon.

You’ll know doubt recognise the music in this cartoon. It’s pretty standard Augie Doggie fare.

0:00 - Augie Doggie Main Title theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin).
0:25 - CB-90 HAPPY HOME (Cadkin-Bluestone) – Augie wants to play baseball, radio talks to Daddy, Daddy starts walking.
1:11 - CB-83A MR TIPPY TOES (Cadkin-Bluestone) – “No boy of mine…”, Daddy hit by baseball, Daddy holds onto gutter, “Gettin’ awfully tired.”
2:30 - PG-160G LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – “Tanks, Lonesome,” Daddy drops, Augie turns head.
2:46 - GR-155 PARKS AND GARDENS (Green) – “What’s that, Lonesome?,” Daddy reads book, sits on Leonard, “I didn’t see him.”
4:18 - CB-89A ROMANTIC JAUNT (Cadkin-Bluestone) – “And dat’s da trut,” Augie and Daddy carry Leonard, Irish cop scene.
5:27 - GR-334 BUSTLING BRIDGE (Green) – Scene fades, Dad and Augie at tree.
5:33 - GR-253 TOYLAND PARADE (Green) – “Look, dad,” Augie points.
6:04 - Medium circus march (Shaindlin) – Daddy runs, climbs pole, climbs building.
6:19 - GR-348 EARLY MORNING (Green) – Guy in window scene.
6:41 - GR-65 BUSH BABY (Green) – Augie and Daddy have dinner, spaghetti disappears.
7:01 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – “How about dat?” iris out.
7:10 - Augie Doggie End Title theme (Curtin).