Thursday 31 January 2013

The Art of Art

One of the mysteries of the credits on the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons appears to have been solved.

About a year ago, we cobbled together some information about Art Goble, the former M-G-M ink and paint supervisor who is credited with “titles” at Hanna-Barbera under his real name, Lawrence. A few ex-Hanna-Barbera employees have said that Bick Bickenbach drew the title card art, leaving us to guess that maybe Art handled the calligraphy. But reader Wayne Bryan has found an indication of at least one job Art had at the studio. He sent this layout Flintstones layout drawing with a notation for Art on it.

Here’s another one.

It would appear Art Goble was assigned the task of putting the stone-engraved style lettering on background objects in The Flintstones cartoons, at least in the early seasons.

The second layout drawing is from the second-season cartoon “Fred Strikes Out.” I can’t tell you much about the cartoon, other than you can spot some of George Nicholas’ animation at the beginning. The first layout drawing is from “The Girls’ Night Out” from the first season. Some of, if not all, the layouts are by Walt Clinton. Here are some other scenes from that cartoon with Art’s lettering. I won’t venture a guess about who did the backgrounds. Simple but with a little style.

Wayne also sent a link to a copy of Hanna-Barbera’s Exposure Sheet newsletter from (I think) March 1968.

Something about “The Girls’ Night Out” and other cartoons like it bothered me as a kid. It was all too obvious, even as a child, that Alan Reed wasn’t the singing voice of Fred Flintstone in it (as far as I know, it’s Duke Mitchell). I could handle Fred being able to sing, but it was a bit of a stretch to accept that the singing Fred didn’t sound anything like the talking Fred. You wouldn’t suddenly have Fred talking like, say, Hal Smith, for part of the cartoon, so why would he be singing like someone else?

Saturday 26 January 2013

Pixie and Dixie — Kind to Meeces Week

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Hicks Lokey; Layout – Paul Sommer; Background – Vera Hanson; Written by Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles –Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Dixie, Mr Jinks – Daws Butler; Pixie, Spike – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose-John Seely, Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore.
First Aired: week of January 16, 1961 (rerun, week of June 5, 1961).
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-047.
Plot: Jinks must be kind to Pixie and Dixie, or face a clobbering by a dog.

I wonder if there were days Warren Foster sat in his office swearing because he had to write for Pixie and Dixie.

The cartoons were originally designed, as best as I can tell, to be watered down versions of Tom and Jerry. Pixie and Dixie were to use their wits to defeat the menacing cat. But when Warren Foster took over writing the series in the second season, he seems to have realised something. Pixie and Dixie aren’t funny characters. Instead of making them lippy, sarcastic characters like a certain wabbit he wrote for at Warner Bros., he left the comedy up to Mr. Jinks. And it got to the point where the meeces didn’t even defeat the menacing cat any more; they brought in an outside character to do it. That’s the situation in “Kind to Meeces Week.”

Unfortunately, something else was working against Foster besides weak title characters. Hanna-Barbera’s animation was not only limited, it started becoming downright dull. In the first season even Lew Marshall, the weakest of the studio’s four animators that year, could come up with some funny poses for Jinks after getting bashed around. By season three, when this cartoon was made, the drawings are pretty perfunctory. Witness this one, which is after some camera-shaking violence (which we don’t see because it saves money drawing all that action):

Not a ruffled bit of fur, let alone a crumpled body. Whether that’s because of the layout artist—and it’s Paul Sommer in this cartoon—or the animator, I couldn’t tell you. But something happened at the studio that made its cartoons blander, and it happened after Hanna-Barbera took on more staff as it expanded its operation with The Yogi Bear Show and The Flintstones on the horizon, in addition to the two half-hour syndicated shows and Loopy De Loop (and possibly the final season of Ruff and Reddy) still in production. It hasn’t been completely knocked out of the cartoons. Here’s my favourite (and about the only) take in the cartoon, one of three drawings on a cycle on twos. Jinks has literally had his bell rung.

Anyway, if the animation doesn’t enhance the comedy, which is hamstrung by two not-altogether-funny characters to begin with, you’re sunk.

The animator in this cartoon is Hicks Lokey. Not being someone who can draw, let alone know the principles of cartooning, I’m not exactly one to try to point out how you can recognise an animator’s work. But I have noticed on a couple of the H-B cartoons that Lokey worked on at this time that he draws a pointed end at the bottom of the mouth in certain positions, kind of like a shovel digging into the ground. You can see a good example below in Mr. Jinks.

And he seems to like sketchy, wavy upper lips on characters that have elongated snouts, like Jinks and the dog.

The cartoon starts out with Pixie and Dixie playing handball, batting the ball over the sleeping Jinks’ basket. Then the ball hits Jinks in the face and rings a cowbell around his neck. “The bell we put around him works swell,” says Dixie. But wouldn’t they know if the bell could clang before that? And the purpose of belling a cat is so you know when he’s coming; but the meeces can already see Jinks. Ah, well. Jinks gets his revenge by letting a broom sop up with water and chases them out the door with it (after calling them out of their mouse hole with a Bilko-like army yell). To save you counting, the meeces run past the same electrical socket in the wall eight times (not shown below).

“I’m like in a doozy of a mean mood today,” Jinks says. “But, uh, that is the image I am projecting. A mean pussy cat.” The dialogue in the cartoon so far is more explanatory than funny, just like when the meeces keep saying what they’re going to do in the next scene. First, Dixie spies a newspaper with the headline “President Proclaims Be Kind to Animals Week” (which he reads aloud even though we can see it) and the meeces decide to wave a flag of truce and present it to Jinks so he won’t hassle them. “Okay, I will ac-cede, like to a parlez,” says Jinks to the meeces, then moves a pupil to the audience and informs us “That is a French word for, like, yuckin’ it up.” Jinks then mispronounces “animals” as he reads the headline. “President of Meeces Incorporates, I presume” is the best Foster can come up with for Jinks. “No, Jinks. The real one,” Dixie corrects. “You know. The president,” Pixie adds. Jinks scoffs. “You meeces can not kid me. George Washington has not been president for a long time,” then turns his pupils toward the audience again and confides “I read a lot.”

With the cartoon half finished, Pixie and Dixie present a bone to the dog next door, who (being a Hanna-Barbera character) has a bit of a resemblance to Chopper from the Yakky Doodle cartoons, though he’s not as blocky. He’s got Don Messick’s growly voice. The dialogue merely furthers the plot, there are no gag lines. And the plot moves on in the next scene where the dog intimidates Jinks into agreeing to be kind to the meeces. “Kind of rough,” the cat tells us in the following scene as he soaks his broom (in re-used animation) and then chases the meeces out the door (in re-used animation). Jinks again clobbers the dog with the wet broom, and the dog grabs him by the throat.

Jinks invokes the name of “Kindness to Aminals Week. It’s all week, you know.” “Dat’s the only thing that saves ya,” says the dog. “Otherwise…” The camera remains on Pixie and Dixie as they engage in some shrugs and cycle animation of their eye pupils moving around before the scene shakes. It’s the old Hanna-Barbera You-Don’t-Really-See-the-Violence Trick. Jinks agrees to be nice to the meeces. “OK, cat, see dat ya are. And remember,” scowls the dog. He breaks into a smile. “If it wasn’t for Kindness ta Animals Week,” and the dog scowls again, “I woulda woiked ya over.” Cut to Jinks laying on the grass. “Shee. I’m sure the lucky one. Like wow.” In this, and other scenes, Hicks draws heavy eye-lids.

So we’re back to the handball game again (in re-used animation). A ball hits Jinks in the eye. “I hates meeces to pieces,” Jinks grumbles to himself before looking at the camera to end the cartoon and adding, “And you may quote me.” Hicks then gives Jinks an odd little mouth-to-the-side hold as the iris closes.

Incidentally, the dog’s name is Spike. Not an unfamiliar name for a dog. Of course, there was Tex Avery’s Spike, Hanna-Barbera’s Spike (a behavioural forerunner to Doggie Daddy) and Friz Freleng’s Spike, as in Spike and Chester, in Tree For Two, written by one Warren Foster.

Foster’s written a bunch of little scenes, so the sound cutter has (more or less) used a cue for each scene. You’ll recognise most of the music. There’s a very short comedy cue featuring flutes and a muted trumpet stab that was in a few Pixie and Dixies and one Yogi Bear that’s obviously Jack Shaindlin’s work but I haven’t been able to find its title.

0:00 - Pixie and Dixie Main Title theme (Hanna-Barbera-Curtin-Shows).
0:13 - ZR-52 LIGHT QUIET (Hormel) – Handball game, Jinks in basket.
0:31 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks’ first line.
0:37 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig zag strings (Shaindlin) – Ball over Jinks’ head, Jinks hit by ball.
0:53 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Pixie and Dixie talk then scram.
0:59 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig zag strings (Shaindlin) – Jinks holds bell.
1:12 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Broom in sink, broom goes splat.
1:49 - LFU-117-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Meeces run, out of house.
1:58 - TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Close-up of Jinks.
2:08 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Pixie and Dixie on lawn, newspaper.
2:45 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Jinks in basket, meeces talk to Jinks.
3:49 - L-1139 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Meeces with Spike.
4:30 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Jinks and Spike at door.
5:16 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Jinks walks.
5:26 - LAF-93-2 comedy flute and quack cue (Shaindlin) – Broom in sink scene.
5:35 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Meeces run, Jinks beaten up off-screen.
6:11 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Jinks giving up scene.
6:30 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Handball scene, ball in Jinks’ eye.
6:45 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Jinks talks to audience.
6:57 - Pixie and Dixie End Title theme (Curtin).

Thursday 24 January 2013

Flintstones Weekend Comics, January 1963

It was kind of a blah month in the Sunday pages for the Bedrock gang 50 years ago this month. There are echoes of the TV cartoons in spots.

Dino’s on a leash in the January 6th comic. Notice the Dino surprise take in the final panel. The first panel has two incidental women in the foreground. The work of Harvey Eisenberg? The people at Hanna-Barbera hadn’t gotten lazy yet by putting “rock” or “stone” at the end of every name, as if that was funny in and of itself. So the store is called “Rumbles,” which I guess is a play on “Gimbles,” but it’s really a stretch. The store’s on “Rocky Road.” Sigh. Nice silhouette in the middle row. Note the smoking volcanoes in the background of the last panel on the middle row.

We get another bullet-nosed car on January 13th except the nose is brown instead of (off) white like the previous week. Grouchy Fred turns out to be Hero Fred. The middle row has the most interesting panel with the bird and turtle in the foreground and Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty in silhouette in the background, along with another smoking volcano.

The fire truck/dinosaur’s reactions are the most interesting thing in the January 20th comic. He goes from content to confused to one of those reaction lines that you’d find in the animated show. The sabre-tooth cat siren is a nice touch. And Barney does his little Barney laugh like on TV. One of the neat things is the bit of action in the top row that has nothing to do with the plot. The story could simply had Fred and Barney walking. Instead, there’s a bit of business with Barney walking into Fred and Fred bowling over Barney. It adds something. Today, some artists seem obsessed with having the same drawing in every panel.

My decidedly untrained eye thinks the January 27th comic was drawn by someone different than the others. The setting is a company event but Mr. Slate hasn’t been invented yet.

Unfortunately, Baby Puss gets the month off.

As usual, click on each of the drawing for a blown up version, courtesy of the Google archive of the Palm Beach Post.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Yogi Bear, the Second Choice

Yogi Bear almost didn’t get his own TV show. But he did because of Hank Saperstein.

The revelation is buried in the pages of Top Cel, the newsletter of the New York local of the Screen Cartoonists. Michael Sporn recently posted a few issues from 1960 and 1961 on his blog. The period was a great time of expansion in television animation. The networks looked at the success of “The Flintstones” and started adding cartoons to their prime time schedule. H-B looked to expand in syndication. And a big change was happening at 4440 Lakeside Drive in Burbank. That was the home of UPA, the erstwhile darling of film critics all too eager to dismiss the “Illusion of Life” at Disney, the raucousness at Warners and all other cartoons in between. UPA’s foray into feature films flopped, and an important chunk of the staff quit in October 1959.

Top Cel picks up the story in its August 1960 issue, revealing Saperstein and Chicago film distributor Peter DeMet bought UPA. And it also reveals:

A “Mr. Magoo” series will be sponsored by Kellogg Cereals this fall. The half-hour animated show with Magoo as m.c. is being produced by UPA especially for tv.
Kellogg? The people who sponsored the Hanna-Barbera half hours?

Yes, the same Kellogg. And the September 1960 Top Cel revealed the cereal company’s plan in a story about Terrytoons’ Deputy Dawg.

In the South, the series will run on the 5th day of a daily spot which Kellogg Cereal clears for its four national cartoon strips, “Huckleberry Hound”, “Quick Draw McGraw”, “Mr. Magoo” and “Woody Woodpecker”. They run the same time every day, four days weekly, with “Deputy Dawg” getting the fifth spot, under different sponsorship.
What about the “The Yogi Bear Show” you ask? Simple. It isn’t on the schedule because it didn’t exist. Kellogg’s went with Magoo; a series distinct from the Magoo shorts that were being prepared for syndication along with Dick Tracy. Yogi, at this point, was still a character on “The Huckleberry Hound Show” and that was that, it appears. But then Hank Saperstein got annoyed and the breach was filled by Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and a bear with a hat and tie. Here’s Top Cel from October 1960.

UPA has withdrawn its new tv animation series, “Mr. Magoo”, from a scheduled sponsorship by Kellogg Cereals.
The cancellation of the deal reportedly was initiated by UPA because of too much interference from the Leo Burnett ad agency in the creative aspects of the show.
“Mr. Magoo” is being put directly into syndication by UPA itself. The program will debut on tv this fall. A special premiere in behalf of Navy Relief was given recently at Pacific Missile Range, Point Magu, California.
Meanwhile, Kellogg and its agency have been negotiating a possible deal with Hanna-Barbera for a new cartoon half-hour series with a January start date. H-B’s “Huckleberry Hound” and “Quick Draw McGraw” is sponsored by Kellogg’s in over 160 markets. The cereal company is expected to renew Walter Lantz’ “Woody Woodpecker” as its third national show pending selection of a third show for January.

It’s possible Hanna-Barbera planned a show with Yogi Bear before this. But it seems doubtful as it had no sponsor and no time slot. In fact, Yogi isn’t even mentioned in the above squib.

Despite being based on the East Coast, Top Cel reported on major happenings on the West Coast (the animators belonged to a different local of the same union); likely some of it came from Variety or the popular press. H-B came in for notice. Michael’s site reprints the following news:

November 1960
Hanna-Barbera Productions is launching an expansion programme for 1961 with a resultant increase of 100% in its annual production budget. Added to its present activities will be two new tv series and plans for a third tv show, plus production of a feature length theatrical.
H-B is scheduled to spend more than $6,000,000 in 1961. If “the Flintstones” hold up and a second batch of 26 segments is ordered, the budget will increase to nearly $7,700,000. Three and a half million dollars was spent this year.
The company is already committed to production of at least 35 hours of tv product for the 1960-61 season. Its current crew numbers 140, with the addition of 17 new inkers and painters in the past month. Half the staff is reported working at home, due to a shortage of studio space. A fourth camera has been added to the round-the-clock camera operations. Hanna and Barbera are looking for two acres of real estate to build new facilities, including a sound stage.
A new Hanna-Barbera program, “The Yogi Bear Show,” has been purchased by Kellogg Cereals, effective January, 1961. At that time, Yogi will be promoted from “Huckleberry Hound” and given his own show. He will be replaced by “Wacko”, a wise-cracking wolf.
H-B concluded another deal with Screen Gems for production of 104 five-minute segments for national syndication. They will be comprised of two separate series, one starring “Lippy the Lion” and “Hardy Har Har” and the other with “Hairbrain Hare” and “Dum Dum”.
A new feature length film is being written by Joe Barbera and Warren Foster. The film, which is to star Yogi Bear, is aimed for a Columbia release next summer.
Hanna and Barbera are reported working on another family-type tv series, a la “The Flintstones”, for a fall 1961 showing.
H-B productions are seen also on CBS’ Saturday show, “The Magic Land of Alla Kazam”, not to mention “Huckleberry Hound”, “Quick Draw McGraw” and “Ruff ‘N’ Reddy” on ABC-TV.
Its commercials operation budgets $300,000 to $500,000 per year – and, oh yes, H-B has an exclusive five-year contract for production of “Loopy De Loop” theatrical cartoons. The studio recently completed animated sequences for “Pepe”.

January 1961
Hanna-Barbera and Screen Gems will share about one million dollars in royalties from merchandise tie-ins, it is estimated by “Variety.”
This figure is based on a 40 million dollar retail gross for products endorsed by Huckleberry Hound and his friends. This ought to be 20 million dollars at the wholesale level, of which five per cent royalty is the usual licensing arrangement. A new promotional project calls for “live” tv dates by the H-B characters.
Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Cindy Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looie [sic] will make appearances via costumed actors.
During 1960, Huckleberry et al made over 150 promotional appearances at department stores, football games, parades, fairs and amusement parks.

March 1961
Hanna-Barbera is planning an additional “adult” cartoon tv series for next season. “Top Cap” [sic] is expected to be shown on ABC-TV. “Huckleberry Hound”, “Quick Draw McGraw,” and “Yogi Bear” all have been signed up again for the 1961-’62 season by Kellogg’s Cereals. A renewal of “The Flintstones”, current H-B series on ABC-TV, is expected. The debut segment of “Yogi Bear”, H-B’s newest show, credited writers Warren Foster and Mike Maltese and animators Lew Marshall, Laverne Harding and Brad Case.

Arnold Gillespie is the new president of Quartet Films, succeeding Art Babbitt, who resigned in order to be able to devote more time “to special aspects of the animation craft”, it is announced by Quartet. Babbitt will continue with Quartet as animation director and creative consultant.
Joining Quartet are Michael Lah as vice-president and animation director; Dan Gordon as head of story department, and Ken O’Brien as supervising animator. Lah was most recently owner of Cinema Ad, while Gordon was at Hanna and Barbera.

Just a few notes about some of the articles above:
● We’ve mentioned Wacko Wolf on the blog before. His name was changed to Hokey.
● The braintrust at H-B reworked the concept for its first non-Kellogg’s syndication package. As you know, Dum Dum was paired with Touché Turtle and a Wally Gator series was added into the mix. Hairbrain Hare never aired; it’d be interesting to know if it ever made it to the pilot stage or if any concept drawings or storyboards are around.
● Yogi’s stardom rose quickly. One month, his own show was announced out of the blue (seemingly as a replacement for Mr. Magoo) and the next month, he’s been announced as the star of his own movie. One wonders if a news story we posted here earlier was correct and the feature film was originally to star Huck. “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear” wasn’t released until 1964.
● I’ve still never been able to determine when “Ruff and Reddy” ended production. I don’t think all four seasons were drawn in 1957. Another item in Top Cel mentions the show was being replaced by King Leonardo in fall 1961.
● They sure pushed Cindy Bear early. I don’t believe she had appeared on screen in any cartoons at this point; “Acrobatty Yogi” aired during the week of April 17, 1961. Only two shorts were made with her in the 1960-61 season.
● Judging by the Yogi Bear Show DVD that came out several years ago, “Oinks and Boinks” was the first Yogi cartoon to air on his own series. But that couldn’t have been the case, according to Top Cel. “Oinks and Boinks” was animated by Don Patterson, not one of the three animators listed above. I’ve found one newspaper which is specific about the first Yogi show. The Philadelphia Inquirer TV column of February 14, 1961 mentions Snagglepuss’ segment was pre-empted for the Snooper and Blabber cartoon “Zoom Zoom Blabber,” which was animated by La Verne Harding. It doesn’t reveal the other cartoons. If you look at the DVD that shows the “Yogi Bear Show” end titles, all you’ll see is gang credits and no mention of Brad Case at all, though he most definitely animated on the show.
● It’s a surprise to read Dan Gordon left Hanna-Barbera. He had been at the studio since it opened in 1957. He returned in time for the creation of the Magilla Gorilla in 1964. Gordon’s name doesn’t appear on titles for either “Top Cat” or “The Jetsons.” O’Brien, by the way, had freelanced at H-B before moving on to UPA to work on the abysmal Dick Tracys and TV Magoos. And Mike Lah’s background should be known to readers here.

There are lots of interesting historical items in the Top Cels on Michael’s blog, including the creation of Bob Clampett’s Snowball Studio that made Beany and Cecil cartoons (and attempted to sell a series based on Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy), proposed series by the Jay Ward studio, a deal to make Tom and Jerry cartoons in Europe, and everyone’s favourite TV cartoon “Keemar, the Invisible Boy” (which the story doesn’t say was in development by Format Inc. in January 1959, featuring a tights-clad hero, the beak-nosed Dr. Z, and Skip Harrigan, Boy Scout). Take a look HERE. We look forward to Michael having the time to scan and post more of these newsletters.

But maybe the most surprising relevation is that Yogi was a second-choice for a series by the folks from Battle Creek. In the process, UPA helped boost the careers of Yogi, Snagglepuss and a little yellow duck. Ain’t that cute?

Saturday 19 January 2013

Quick Draw McGraw — Scooter Rabbit

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Bob Bentley, Dick Lundy (uncredited), Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Quick Draw McGraw, Baba Looey, Scooter Rabbit, Snuffles – Daws Butler; Mayor – Hal Smith.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin, Clarence Wheeler?, J. Lewis Merkur.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-036, Production J-106.
First aired: week of February 14, 1961.
Plot: A Texas mayor up for re-election hires Quick Draw to bring in Scooter Rabbit.

A smart-ass rabbit quickly outwits a western character and, before anyone knows it, leads him in a boisterous college football-type cheer for no particular reason. That describes a scene in the war-time Bugs Bunny cartoon Super Rabbit. And it describes a scene in the Quick Draw McGraw cartoon Scooter Rabbit made some 17 years later.

Scooter Rabbit is no Bugs Bunny, but he is tricky and dispenses non sequiturs along the way. Making him a fast-talker quickens the pace of the cartoon; it doesn’t seem like the characters are standing around and talking. Add to that Daws Butler doing his Groucho Marx-inspired voice (heard in Bugs in the 1956 Warner Bros. cartoon Wideo Wabbit), Quick Draw’s usual cluelessness and an appearance by Snuffles doing his dog biscuit routine, and you have a pretty good cartoon.

The similarity to elements of a Warners cartoon is not purely coincidental. This one was written by Mike Maltese, and readers here well know his lineage (his writing partner, Tedd Pierce, came up with the story for Super Rabbit). Even the animator spent some time at Warners. Bob Bentley was a journeyman, bouncing from Warners to Fleischer to Lantz to MGM to Lantz to Hanna-Barbera. Robert Jarvis Bentley was born in Philadelphia to John Harrison Bentley, Jr. and Hannah Helen Jarvis Bentley on March 11, 1907, eleven months and one day after his parents got married. He was the oldest of three children. You can read Bentley’s biography at Joe Campana’s website. Perhaps the most interesting thing was Bentley’s father died in 1918 (in the flu epidemic?) and three years later his mother married animator Les Elton. Mrs. Bentley and the kids had been living with Elton’s family in 1910; at the time, Elton was 13 and Bob Bentley was 3. The Elton marriage didn’t last.

I’ve never really examined Bentley’s drawing style but, in this cartoon anyway, he likes heads that are proportionately bigger than bodies. And big eyes. Also, when eyes are closed, he has a duplicate curved line above the eye.

The plot starts with a Texas mayor who, following a storyline of at least two earlier Warners cartoons, has managed to get rid of all the rabbits in his area. All but one that is. Scooter Rabbit. And he won’t be re-elected unless he does, so he hires Quick Draw to do it. The mayor is played by Hal Smith, his only part in this cartoon, and he pulls out a quieter version of the voice he later used for Cousin Tex on The Flintstones. Maltese gently spoofs political oratory that was old-timey even when the cartoon was made. “In behalf of our fair city, I welcome you, and I say, without fear of successful contradiction…” And on and on he goes. He even fits in “From the rock-bound coast of Maine to the sun-kissed shores of California…” I presume someone actually said that in a speech at one time but I can’t find who it was. “What a windsbags!” remarks Baba Looey. “Hooolld on thar, mayor,” Quick Draw butts in. “Give it to me, quick-like. I could be double-parked, ya know.”

The whole contretemps is interrupted by Scooter Rabbit, who has a little leaping-run cycle, and a catchphrase of “yahoo!” (which, as you may know, was supposed to be Fred Flintstone’s until Alan Reed changed it in a recording session to something involving “yabba”). Scooter’s stream of patter is borrowed from Groucho on “You Bet Your Life.” “Welcome to ‘You Bet Your Life You Won’t Catch Me.’ Hiya, mayor. Been stuffing any ballot boxes lately?” With that, Scooter jumps up and zips out of the scene. I like Bentley’s drawing of the rabbit when he’s held in mid-air for six frames.

It’s time to bring in Snuffles to hunt down Scooter. I like how Snuffles just happens to be sitting there in the desert doing nothing until Quick Draw shows up. Snuffles wants a dog biscuit. You know the routine. Snuffles hugs himself and floats into the air and down again in post-hunger ecstacy. The animation is re-used from Ali-Baba Looey from earlier in the season. That cartoon was animated by Dick Lundy. The Snuffles-ecstasy drawings look more like George Nicholas’ than Lundy’s (beady eyes, wavy mouth) but I’ll bow to the earlier credits.

Scooter plays with Snuffles’ head. Literally. He knocks on Snuffles’ nose like it’s a door. More Groucho-like patter: “Is anybody home? Not it’s any of my business, but how do you do? I hope you’re hale and hardy. I used to know a hale and hardy once. They used to go to different schools together.” The rabbit zips out of the scene and zips back in wearing a doctor’s head mirror. He has Snuffles say “Aw” and crawls halfway into the dog’s mouth. The rabbit diagnoses lots of rest. Cut to the next scene where Quick Draw and Baba see Snuffles wearing a leg cast in a hospital bed.

Scooter looks at Quick Draw and Baba and blurts out a running gag: “Well, if it isn’t hale and hardy. Why aren’t you at different schools together? Then we get a radio reference, just like in a Warners cartoon. Snuffles bares his teeth at the rabbit. Scooter: “You have 32 teeth. Would you like to try for 16?” A honk on the nose follows and Scooter zooms away. Snuffles is supposedly chasing after him but then the rabbit zips up behind Quick Draw. “Come on, let’s have a little school spirit.” That’s when Scooter leads Quick Draw in a cheer that we document for posterity:

Strawberry shortcake, huckleberry pie,
Will we win?
Well, I guess.
Snuffles, Snuffles, yes, yes, yes.
Hooray, Snuffles!

“Uh, Quickstraw…” Baba starts to assess the situation. Quick Draw tells us he’ll do the thinnin’ around here. “Well, I thin’ Scooter is doin’ all the thininn’,” Baba rightly points out. Now comes a scene where Scooter goads Snuffles into grabbing him. Scooter’s on a bluff in the distance. Snuffles is in the foreground. The two keep exchanging places in some nice perspective animation, with their bodies leaving behind a trail of speed lines. By the way, you’ll notice the lumpy clouds and lumpy hills. That shows you Art Lozzi’s drawing the backgrounds.

Well, this is getting Quick Draw nowhere. He orders Snuffles to get the rabbit. The dog wants another dog biscuit. He gets one. You know what happens next. But now, Scooter Rabbit wants a biscuit. So Quick Draw tosses one in his mouth. The expected reaction follows. Little feet lines get left behind as the rabbit leaps into the air. “Well, what do you know. It’s spring again,” he says upon landing.

Quick Draw and Baba conclude the dog biscuit has calmed down the rabbit and the mayor can get re-elected. Scooter launches into the “rock-bound coast of Maine” cliché political speech. Baba’s tag line is a little lame: “You know sometheen, Quickstraw? He’s pretty good. I theen I vote for him.” And the iris closes.

This was the only cartoon featuring Scooter Rabbit. Hanna-Barbera came up with a quick rabbit a few years later called Ricochet Rabbit whose cartoons weren’t nearly as funny as this one.

The sound cutter wisely decided to avoid any music during the cheerleading sequence. The rest of the music is pretty typical for a Quick Draw cartoon; Phil Green’s “Custard Pie Capers” ends it, as it ended many Snooper and Blabber cartoons. The cue that I think is “Woodwind Capers” by Clarence Wheeler is used when Scooter eats the dog biscuit. The cutter also digs up the familiar harp music when Snuffles floats down in post-biscuit delight.

0:00 – Quick Draw McGraw Sub Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:15 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Green) – Quick Draw and Baba walk on desert.
0:27 - Oh Susannah (Trad.) – Knock on door, mayor prattles, “What a windsbags!”
1:01 - GR-472 HICKSVILLE (Green) – “You mean Billy the kid…”, Quick Draw and mayor talk.
2:06 - jaunty bassoon and skippy strings (Shaindlin) - Scooter rabbit “Yahoo!”s, zips out of scene, Snuffles points to mouth, floats.
3:02 - GR-99 THE DIDDLECOMB HUNT (Green) – Baba dog biscuit comment, Snuffles on trail, Scooter looks down Snuffles’ throat, Snuffles in bed, “After him Snuffles!”
4:37 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – “Don’t let him out…”, Scooter zips behind Quick Draw.
4:50 - no music – cheerleading scene.
5:06 - GR-96 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Baba talks to Quick Draw, Scooter zips away.
5:23 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No 1 (Shaindlin) – “Grab him, Snuffles,” cliff scene, Quick Draw tosses dog biscuit.
5:55 - tick tock/flute music (Shaindlin) – Snuffles eats biscuit, floats up.
6:07 - C-C-F# short light underscore (Wheeler?) – Snuffles lands, Scooter wants biscuit, floats down.
6:32 - SF-11 LIGHT MOVEMENT/MOUNTAINEERS' HOEDOWN (Merkur) – Baba talks to Quick Draw, Scooter gives political speech.
6:52 - GR-79 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – Baba Looey tagline.
7:00 - Quick Draw McGraw Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

Wednesday 16 January 2013

See Fred Split

One of Carlo Vinci’s most well-known pieces of animation at Hanna-Barbera is his tippy-toe bowling steps for Fred Flintstone in “The Flintstone Flyer” (1960). Carlo animated the entire cartoon; his style is all over it. Some of the drawing looks downright crude (I’m sure that’s one reasons critics panned the show) but it’s sure a lot more interesting than what the series looked like toward the end of its run six years later.

Anyway, here’s part of the famous walk. It’s as animated as any Disney cartoon—seven drawings, one for each frame of animation. We watch Fred release the ball (which then splits in half and knocks down the 7 and 10 pins). It takes up a little over a quarter of a second so you can’t appreciate watching the cartoon how Carlo gives Fred all kinds of angular shapes while he tosses the ball. The movement looks perfectly natural with Fred maintaining his balance.

By the time the show ended its run, it’s really tough to tell Carlo’s footage from anyone else’s, other than he had some tics in the way he animated dialogue. I suppose because more than one person animated on a cartoon, Hanna and Barbera wanted the characters to look consistent, so individuality went out the window. It’s too bad because Carlo could come up with some funny drawings, even within the budgetary confines of television animation. He did on the early Huckleberry Hound shows and he did when “The Flintstones” began.