Saturday, 19 October 2013

Snooper and Blabber — Flea For All

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – La Verne Harding, Layout – Don Sheppard, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Scratchit, Mailman, Bow-tie Flea – Daws Butler; J.B. Spiffany, Toot Sweet – Don Messick.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-038, Production J-107.
First Aired: week of February 27, 1961.
Plot: Toot Sweet the flea is brought in when J.B. Spiffany calls on Snooper to solve the case of the disappearing diamonds.

“Mesopotamia” is a funny word, at least according to Mike Maltese, so he’s tossed it in this cartoon as a silly running gag. He’s also got a couple of fun scenes and a great little ending in his story for this cartoon.

This cartoon marks the third and final appearance of Toot Suite, the little French flea. And this is the second of three Snooper and Blabbers animated by former Lantz studio stalwart La Verne Harding.

Maltese sets things up with an opening shot of a Spiffany’s Jewellers (it’s by Art Lozzi but has the same kind of fussy stylisation as some of the designs by Bob Gentle) and then a scene where diamonds bounce down the street in the street and into the large bag by the evil Scratchit, who we later discover is the owner of a flea circus.

Fade to Snooper’s door with the private eyeball on the window; layout man Don Sheppard has the drawing at an angle. This week’s motto when Snooper answers the phone: “Snooper Detective Agency. We’re laughin’ on the outside and pryin’ on the inside.” Snoop thinks it “a impractical joke” so he asks Blab to retrace the call. Blab simply zooms to Spiffany’s (with appropriate zooming sound effect), asks J.B. Spiffany if his diamonds really took off by themselves. Getting an affirmative answer, he zooms back to Snooper to tell him. The music behind this little supersonic sequence is Jack Shaindlin’s “Mad Rush No. 1.”

The next scene has Snooper working out a deal with Spiffany—no charge if he doesn’t find the diamonds, except expenses of $10,000. Spiffany has one diamond left—the Star of Saskatoon—which promptly leaps up into Snooper’s nose and then hops down the street. “Follow that rolling stone!” yells Blab (What? He doesn’t say “folley” this time?) as they chase it to Scratchit’s Flea Circus; Snooper and Blabber are rendered in silhouette, which is a nice change. They get shot at for their troubles after seeing that fleas are responsible for the thefts, and Snooper decides to “fight fleas with fleas” as they run past the same green-doored building seven times in a medium shot, five times in close-up, then eight more times before the scene fades out.

Now Blabber starts blabbering in the next scene when the mail arrives.

Blab: I deduce it’s from France. Why? Because it has a French stamp on it. If it was from Mesopotamia, it would have a Mesopotamian stamp, right?
Snoop: Blab…
Blab: Then I can safely say it’s not from Mesopotamia.
Snoop: Blab…
Blab: Ah, but why isn’t it from Mesopotamia, you may well ask.
Snoop: All right, Blab, knock it off.

Harding has Blab gesticulating in solo animation on twos. A nice little touch.

Toot Sweet pops out of the envelope. He’s flown “all the way from France,” Snooper observes. “From Mesopotamia, I am not,” Toot Sweet replies. Fade to the next scene where Toot Sweet wins an audition for Scratchit’s flea circus by dancing and singing “Alouette”, which has more to do with Quebec than France these days. He joins other fleas in a box. “Say, uh,” says a flea, “didn’t we play on the same bill once in Cincinnati?” “Mesopotamia” would have been funnier, but we’re not through with it yet.

Snooper and Blabber are now weakly disguised as out-of-town high school teachers (Blab’s floppy hat covers his head) as the buy tickets to watch the flea circus. “Ladies and gentlemen,” cries Scratchit, “Direct from Paris, France—not Mesopotamia—Monsieur Toot Sweet, and his version of ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’.” Ah, but Scratchit has a surprise in store. Toot Sweet has convinced the crooked fleas to go straight. They charge out of their little tent with all the diamonds, hop on a getaway sheepdog and presumably head for Spiffany’s. The dog pedals its legs in mid-air before barrelling away, a cycle of six drawings on ones.

Snooper orders Scratchit to “slip on these tentacles” (handcuffs). Scratchit fires at Snooper from the stage and Snoop cries for help from Toot Sweet. What’s Blab doing? Sitting in the seats. He looks at us and does the worst Ed Sullivan impression of all time. “This is reeeally a grrreat showww,” he tells us. It comes out of nowhere and is the funniest thing in the cartoon. You’ve got to be amazed by Daws Butler as he’s able to have one of his characters badly impersonate someone else. Butler actually did a Sullivan-type in a couple of cartoons (Augie Doggie’s “Hum Sweet Hum” being one and the Flintstones’ episode “Itty Bitty Freddie” being another). Anyway, Toot Sweet gets the drop on Scratchit and the case is closed.

The final scene is really clever. We see a close-up of Toot Sweet waving goodbye at the foot of a staircase like the one you climb getting onto a plane from the tarmack. “Have a nice flight to Gay Paree, Tout Sweet,” Blab says. The camera then shows Toot Sweet isn’t boarding a plane at all. The staircase is next to an Air Mail envelope. He hops in, Snooper seals the envelope shut and drops it in the mailbox. The iris closes on a teary-eyed Blab to end the cartoon. Perhaps he knows Toot Sweet will not appear in another cartoon again.

Perhaps appropriately, the cue heard when Blab is pretending he’s Ed Sullivan is called “Asinine.” The rest of the music is typical for a Snooper and Blabber cartoon, though it doesn’t end with “Custard Pie Capers” for a change. There’s no music when Toot Sweet sings “Alouette.”

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera).
0:23 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No 1 (Shaindlin) – Diamonds hop out of store into bag, Scratchit drives away.
0:54 - no music – shot of Snooper’s office door, Snooper answers phone.
0:59 - GR-93 DRESSED TO KILL (Green) – “…an’ cryin’ on the inside,” “Right Chief!”
1:26 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No 1 (Shaindlin) – Blab zooms to store and back.
1:42 - GR-453 THE ARTFUL DODGER (Green) – Snoop talks with Spiffany, diamond hops out of Spiffany’s hand.
2:25 - LFU-117-3 MAD RUSH No 3 (Shaindlin) – Diamond hops out door, Snoop and Blab run to flea circus, Scratchit laughs.
2:46 - GR-96 BY JIMINY! IT’S JUMBO (Green) – Snoop and Blab look through window, Scratchit shoots at them.
3:20 - GR-77 CUSTARD PIE CAPERS (Green) – Snooper and Blabber run down street.
3:40 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Mailman arrives, Toot Sweet jumps out of envelope.
4:33 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – Toot Sweet auditions.
4:49 - No music – Toot Sweet sings “Alouette,” “Steal?”
4:57 - GR-90 THE CHEEKY CHAPPIE (Green) – “I do not understand,” Toot Sweet talks to fleas, Snoop and Blab in disguise, “Ladies and gentlemen!”
5:33 - PG-171 PERIOD FANFARE (Green) – “Presenting!...”, introduces Toot Sweet.
5:43 - no music – “Remember what I have told you…” diamonds hop down street and into sheepdog, dog runs away.
6:06 - ASININE (Shaindlin) – Scratchit cancels show, Blab as Ed Sullivan, Scratchit surrenders.
6:41 - tick tock/flute music (Shaindlin) – Toot Sweet waves goodbye, jumps into envelope, Blab blows nose.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin)


  1. This Snooper & Blabber episode brings the third (and last) appearance of Toot Sweet (that likeable French flea, who's the Snooper's & Blabber's pal).
    Do you remember of him singing Alouette at the middle of this episode?
    It's also the second time which La Verne Harding (from Universal Pictures/Walter Lantz) animates a Snooper & Blabber episode. The first time was in the episode Masquerader Rider.

  2. We cannot forget that La Verne, at the same season in which she was animating this Snooper & Blabber episiode, she also was animating various Universal Pictures/Walter Lantz theatrical shorts.

  3. And, in the following season from The Quick Draw McGraw Show (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia Pictures, 1959-62), La Verne would animate one more Snooper & Blabber episode: Zoom-Zoom Blabber (do you remember of Captain Zoom-Zoom?), now with the Hoyt Curtin's music scores.