Saturday, 9 February 2013

Snooper and Blabber — Hop To It

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber – Daws Butler; Hazel – Jean Vander Pyl; Slippery Sydney, Matilda – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Phil Green, Spencer Moore.
First Aired: 1960.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-027, Production J-82.
Plot: Snooper tries to recover the Cumbersome Diamond from Slippery Sydney and his getaway kangaroo.

Don Messick could do many voices. He could handle straight roles, like Benton Quest. He could create waving -tongue sounding creatures on The Herculoids. And he was the man behind the Hanna-Barbera studio’s most popular dog. Yes, I’m talking about me, Yowp. But one thing Don M. couldn’t do was an Australian accent. And this cartoon is proof of it.

He wasn’t alone. At one time, TV was populated with Americans doing impressions of Australians who sounded like they just stepped out of London’s East End. Then Paul Hogan came along and the would-be impressionists simply added the words “shrimp” and “barbie” to their repertoire in a bid to sound more convincing. But this cartoon is long before Mr. Hogan so we have to listen to Mr. Messick do a pseudo-Cockney accent. Mind you, Joe Barbera could have brought in Rolf Harris and it wouldn’t have helped this cartoon.

Ken Muse had a reputation at MGM, then at Hanna-Barbera, of churning out footage. He couldn’t cheat at Metro and some of his Tom and Jerry animation is very funny and expressive. At Hanna-Barbera, he could cheat. And he did. This cartoon has cycle animation of Matilda the kangaroo hopping and stomping which enabled Muse to turn out the cartoon faster. In fact, there are two scenes where Muse has a drawing of the kangaroo on a cel that’s moved up and down. And there are a couple of other cycles as well, like when Snooper is jumping around after being crushed into his deer stalker cap—six drawings on ones, except a couple of the drawings are reversed after each cycle to make Snoop look like he’s hopping in different directions. Planned animation (as Bill Hanna called it) indeed!

Art Lozzi does even less in this cartoon. His drawing of a city street is seen throughout most of it. His other backgrounds are: a close-up of Snoop’s car dashboard, part of a tree and a park with trees and a wrought-iron bench. That’s it. Something I’ve spotted in several Lozzi cityscapes in the 1960-61 season is scaffolding and a thin street lamp with a lantern on top. Both are in this cartoon, too.

As the layout artist, Walt Clinton was responsible for designing incidental characters and props. Clinton seems to have liked a specific, P.A. system style of microphone in the Snooper and Blabber cartoons. It’s in this one, too. And the villain has the collar-length ear that Clinton gave to many of his incidental human characters.

The cartoon’s a little different than other Snooper and Blabbers, although it follows the usual template. Snooper accepts a caper during which Blab gives a one-line aside to the audience. Snoop then butchers the English language like Archie on Duffy’s Tavern (the origin of his character’s voice) and makes with a couple of catchphrases. But in this one, Snooper’s client is referred to and never seen. Our heroes don’t go searching for the bad guy, he just shows up. Snooper wins in the end. And the cartoon relies on the injuries and damage caused by the jumps of the kangaroo ordered by the bad guy to provide a large chunk of laugh material.

It opens with a long scene, almost a minute and a half, of dialogue involving Snoop on the car radio with his secretary Hazel. It’s not great. You know you’re in trouble when Blabber has to explain the main dialogue gag about involving jumping and a kangaroo. “Unhand me the phone,” we get from Snooper, as well as “Holy MacCarol, I mean ‘mackerel’.”

Suddenly, the shot cuts to Matilda the kangaroo and Slippery Sydney (in her pouch) hopping down the street. I shouldn’t have to explain the significance of the kangaroo’s name. As for Sydney, I don’t know if that’s the way his name appears on the model sheet, but since there’s a Sydney in Australia, I will guess that’s how it’s spelled. Sydney’s carrying the Cumbersome Diamond (stolen from Lord Cumbersome). Maltese seems to have had a thing for diamonds; the first season of Snooper and Blabber featured thefts of a diamond and a diamond ring, then diamonds were stolen in two cartoons in the second season (this was one of them). Snooper immediately blurts out a catchphrase: “Stop in the name of Private Eye Institute Glee Club.” Matilda stomps on him. “I’m none the wear for the worse, Blab.”

Next, Snoop and Blab are in their car (a red two-door with tail fins). Matilda stomps on that. “Feet were made before cars,” Snooper rightly estimates, and they chase after the crook. “Your erstwhile number is up. We have you surrounded in the rear,” Snoop yells at Sydney. Matilda stomps on Snoop hiding under an open manhole. Maltese can’t resist an obvious groaner here. Snooper is elevated above the manhole on Matilda’s huge foot. “Snoop, what are you doin’ up here?” asks Blab. The response: “Can’t you see there’s somethin’ a foot?” “I’m sorry, Snoop,” answers Blab. Perhaps he’s channelling Maltese apologising for the pun. Blab then clamps the manhole cover on top of the crook and the kangaroo. Snooper reacts with: “You’ll get a gold star for your underground work.” But Maltese runs out of gas. The kangaroo comes out of another manhole and crushes Snooper into his hat. “ The dialogue to end the scene: “Help, Blab. Get me out of here. Help!” “Comin’, Snoop, comin’.”

The next scene has Snooper and Blabber with bedsprings on their feet. Catchphrase time: “Elementary, my dear Blab. Folly that kangaroo, that’s what.” That’s what they do. And now Maltese gives us a plot twist. Matilda thinks the hopping Blab is her son. She tosses Sydney out of her pouch and snuggles up to Blabber. Meanwhile, Sydney pounds two hooks into the pavement (which don’t move into the pavement, either in a medium or a close-up shot, to save animation and help Muse’s footage quota). Snooper’s springs catch in them and he flies up, grabbing onto a tree branch. The cartoon has now left the street and moved into a park. The branch snaps and Snooper lands on Sydney, thus capturing the crook and the diamond. The 40,000 pounds of money is his (Snooper is thinking weight instead of £). The final scene has Matilda carrying Blab in her pouch in more cycle animation. “What in carnation…” exclaims Snooper which, as far as I know, was one of Archie’s malaprops on Duffy’s Tavern. The furrow-browed kangaroo jumps on Snooper again, this time because he demands Blab come out of the pouch. The cartoon ends with the jumping cycle animation as it’s “once around the park.”

The sound cutter gives Matilda’s hopping scenes their own music. It’s Spencer Moore’s “Animation Movement” from Capitol Hi-Q L-23. It wasn’t used in any other Hanna-Barbera cartoon that I know of. It’s rare that Moore would be used in the Snooper series to begin with. The rest of the music is familiar (though I still don’t have a name for one of the cues) and the cutter limits them either to a scene or a shot.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera).
0:25 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – Car scene, Blab points.
1:49 - L-1149 ANIMATION MOVEMENT (Moore) – Matilda hops down street.
1:54 - GR-348 EARLY MORNING (Green) – Close ups of Sydney and Matilda.
2:10 - L-1149 ANIMATION MOVEMENT (Moore) – Matilda hops down street, Snooper with hand up.
2:17 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Sydney and Matilda on street, Matilda stomps on Snoop, Snoop on pavement talks to Blab.
2:40 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Snoop and Blab zip off camera, Matilda stomps on car and hops out of scene.
3:01 - GR-454 THE ARTFUL DODGER SHORT BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Snooper and Blabber pop out of door, zip out of scene.
3:14 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Snooper and Blabber run down street, manhole scene, Snooper in cap.
4:30 - GR-457 DR QUACK BRIDGE No 1 (Green) – Snoop and Blab talk, Snoop points.
4:41 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No 1 (Shaindlin) – Snoop and Blab hop on bedsprings.
5:08 - PG-160G LIGHT MOVEMENT (Green) – Matilda holds Blab.
5:21 - rising scale vaudeville music (Shaindlin) – Snoop can’t stop, grabs branch, lands on Sydney.
5:59 - PG-161G LIGHT COMEDY MOVEMENT (Green) – “Holy mackerel” line.
6:06 - GR-455 THE ARTFUL DODGER BRIDGE No 2 (Green) – Snoop with diamond.
6:16 - L-1149 ANIMATION MOVEMENT (Moore) – Kangaroo hops with Blab, Matilda hops out of scene.
6:36 - SIX DAY BICYCLE RACE (Shaindlin) – Matilda jumps on Blabber, hops with Blab.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).


  1. I thought that "Animation Movmeent"
    was L-1147 as mentioned earlier in this blog.:)Stee C. It's used in Gumby in "Dog Catchers" and "Gophyer Trouble", and as we know in Sam Singer's 1957 pow Wow the Indian BoySu Sun episode (I've forgotten the title.:))

  2. Of course, regaridng Yowp's comment beginning this review of Don MEssick he also did very well the odd sounds of Matlida

    Like in "Hold the Lion Please"(or one of the other Snagglepusses in this series), Snooper gets the worst, Blabber finds a new friend in the third character.:) Steve C.

  3. Kenneth Muse (animation) and Walter Clinton (design and layout), who were involved on the artistic part from this Snooper & Blabber episode, also would be involved at this same year (1960), with The Flintstones.