Thursday 27 February 2014

Carlo Plays Hookey

108 years ago today, one of my favourite early Hanna-Barbera animators was brought into the world. He toiled at the most B-list of cartoon studios in New York before a former co-worker rescued him. His arrival on the West Coast was heralded in the pages of Daily Variety of February 16, 1956.

Carlo Vinci Joins Cartoonery at Metro
Metro cartoonery yesterday hired Carlo Vinci as an animator. Initial assignments are on new Tom & Jerry and Spike and Tyke segments, under co-producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

Vinci and Barbera worked together at Van Beuren and when the studio closed in 1936, got jobs at Terrytoons in New Rochelle, N.Y. And that’s where Vinci stayed for 20 years until getting a call from Barbera to come west. His MGM career was comparatively short. Employees got the news around Christmas 1956 that the studio didn’t need them any more because of a backlog of cartoons. Barbera hired him after Hanna-Barbera Enterprises was created in July 1957.

Carlo had some fun quirks in his animation in the earlier H-B cartoons. For whatever reason, he abandoned them after the ‘60s began. He had distinctive, jaunty walks for some of his lumbering characters like Yogi Bear. He liked to do a little two-drawing stomp before a character ran away. And fear or shock would be with a different kind of two-drawing cycle, with one drawing having a character scrunched up with lines around him.

Let’s look at some of his work from “Hookey Days,” a cartoon from Huckleberry Hound’s first season. Here’s one of bratty kids stomping before taking off out of the scene.

Here’s a nice series of drawings of Huck pitching a ball to one of the little brats. What’s “limited” about this animation? Not much, other than the last drawing only moves an arm. They’re even shot one drawing per frame, except for the second last one which is held for a second frame for timing. Carlo loves finger movements and you can see it here.

Huck pitches the ball and the kid whacks it right back at him before he can move. Here’s one of those shock takes I mentioned.

Did you ever see Touché Turtle react this way? Squiddly Diddley? Hong Kong Phooey? I think not. Too bad. Of course, Huck didn’t react like this by the end of his run, either. And certainly not in his “Cartoons-only-exist-to-teach-kids-a-lesson” phase in the ‘70s.

My favourite Huck take ever is toward the end of the cartoon when our truant officer hero is tied to the toy railway tracks and sees a large train coming. Huck was never more expressive.

You can see a few more of Carlo’s takes at this post from a few years ago. And there are other examples on individual posts featuring his work from the 1958-59 season.

Since Carlo passed away a few years ago, it’s impossible to pass on birthday greetings or thank him for all the fun drawings. But his widow Margaret is still around so we can wish her continued good health and happiness.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Snooper and Blabber — Snap Happy Saps

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Joe Montell, Story – Mike Maltese, Story Sketches – Dan Gordon, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Evil J. Scientist, Junior, Crocodile – Daws Butler; Mrs. Scientist – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Phil Green, Jack Shaindlin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-019, Production J-57.
First Aired: week of Feb. 1, 1960 (rerun, week of August 1, 1960).
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired to take pictures of the creepy Evil Scientist family.

Note: My supreme thanks to Andrew Morrice, who had a copy of this cartoon on video tape. He has digitised it to enable it to be reviewed.

The situation is pretty much the gag in this cartoon, combined with Snooper’s mangling of the English language. The Scientist family (which is never “evil,” despite the name) finds delight in creepy and macabre things just like the Addams Family. Oh, you never noticed the resemblance? This is the second of two cartoons featuring the Scientists in the 1959-60 season of Snooper and Blabber. It ends in a similar way as “Prince of a Fella” the following season, with the detectives being turned into something else.

There are a couple of oddities here, and I don’t mean the Scientists keeping a pet crocodile. The husband isn’t “Boris” as in the first cartoon, “The Big Diaper Caper.” But he’s not “J. Evil Scientist,” either.

And Mrs. Scientist (who has no first name here) has a different design, one with a pony tail. I suspect Walt Clinton redesigned her for this cartoon.

There are some neat expressions here; whether they’re from Mike Maltese’s thumbnails, Dan Gordon’s finished storyboard or Clinton’s layouts, I don’t know. But I like how Junior does an impression of Blab by pulling out his ears.

And the expressions of the alligator are simple but effective.

Kenny Muse churns out the footage on this cartoon. There always seems to be at least one scene in a Muse cartoon where there’s no animation. This one is no exception. Snoop walks off stage (upper half of body only; saves animating the legs) and we see a background drawing for about ten seconds while dialogue and sound effects fill the screen. Here’s Muse having the crocodile eat Blab. Animated on twos. It takes less than a second of screen time. See the difference in the crocodile’s position in the third and fourth drawing. It makes the chomp seem quicker than by having evenly-spaced in-betweens. Bill Hanna’s timing at work, I would guess.

Joe Montell worked on five Snooper and Blabbers and this is one of them. Here are a few backgrounds, including the atypical opening shot of the private eye ball on the office door. Montell is usually pretty stylish. He soon moved to Gamma Productions in Mexico to work on the Jay Ward cartoons.

Maltese’s dialogue...
● Snooper, answering phone: “Snooper Detective Agency. We calm your fright if the fee is right.”
● Snooper, after accepting the “five-grand thousand” offer: “Lady, you’re talkin’ to Snapshot Snoop, the Pride of Tintype-Pan Alley.”
● Snooper, after pulling up in front of the Victorian mansion: “What’s to be scared? Where there’s a cuddly baby, there’s bound to be peace and tranquilizers.”
● Snooper, as Junior pretends to be a dog: “Pretty cute, Blab. Reminds me of a pooch I used to know on Third Avenue.”
● Snooper, after Blab thinks Junior is making a malt: “I think I’ll join you in a little tea-de-tout myself.”
● Evil, after Junior transforms into a wolf boy: “Junior, you’ve been at the Wolf Man Extract again. (Junior croaks) And you promised your daddy. (Junior croaks twice) Now go change yourself back, or I’ll take away all your gargoyles. (Junior croaks three times) I’m sure he’ll behave himself. He loves those gargoyles.
● Snooper to crocodile, who swallowed Blab: “All right, you fugitive from a hand-bag.”
Snooper doesn’t say “Halt in the name of the Private Eye (fill in the blank)” in this cartoon.

Maltese sets up the end gag in mid-cartoon by having Junior mix himself a potion with Wolf Man Extract. Here’s Muse’s transformation art. I believe there are six frames of the toothy drawing before Junior starts to sprout into the wolfboy.

For a change, Snoop presumably collects his fat fee from the Scientists. Before he and Blab depart, they’re offered a “malt” by Junior. Cut to a final scene in the detective agency office. Yes, there was Wolf Man Extract in it and the private eyes are now wolves. It’ll wear off in 30 days. Snooper isn’t too concerned. He answers the phone “Snooper Detective Agency. We specialise in wolf disguises.” Unfortunately, just like the Quick Draw cartoons where Baba Looey almost always got the last word, Blabber has it in the Snooper cartoons whether or not there’s anything funny to say. This one’s lame. It ends “Let’s face it. Snoop’s the greatest. Right folks?” At least Baba usually came up with a pun, even if it was weak.

Familiar Phil Green and Jack Shaindlin cues are on the soundtrack.

0:00 - Snooper and Blabber Main Title theme (Curtin, Hanna, Barbera).
0:25 - GR-74 POPCORN (Green) – Office scene.
0:56 - LFU-117-1 MAD RUSH No. 1 (Shaindlin) - Car scene, street sign scene.
1:27 - EXCITEMENT UNDER DIALOGUE (Shaindlin) – Scientist sign, doorbell, Junior talks.
2:18 - GR-456 DR QUACK (Green) – “Hey, Snoop,” Junior bites Snoop, Junior turns into wolf creature.
3:53 - CAPERS (Shaindlin) – Junior snarls, “I’m sure he’ll behave himself.”
4:28 – skippy strings and jaunty bassoon (Shaindlin) – “He just loves those gargoyles,” crocodile eats Blab, newspaper snap sound off camera.
5:32 - fast circus chase music (Shaindlin) – Crocodile roars, chases Snoop, skid to a stop.
5:44 - GR-90 THE CHEEKIE CHAPPIE (Green) – Junior takes picture, group picture, scene at door, potion drinking scene.
6:29 - ‘FIREMAN’ (Shaindlin) – Evil Scientist answers phone, Snoop and Blab in office.
7:10 - Snooper and Blabber End Title theme (Curtin).

Note: We have now reviewed all cartoons from the first two seasons of the Quick Draw McGraw Show.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Fun With Huck

All the characters on the Huckleberry Hound show, even minor ones like everyone’s favourite dog Yowp, got a marketing push soon after the programme hit the air in 1958. Affable Huck was the bread-winner until he was usurped by the more aggressive Yogi Bear. Let’s peer around the internet and borrow some snapshots of some of the items a Huck fan 50-plus years ago might have wanted to get their mitts on. You can click on each picture to enlarge it.

Here’s a Huckleberry Hound Cartoon Kit from Colorforms, made in 1960. Colorforms is still around; you can check out their web site HERE if you want to read the history of the company. Other than the meece, the characters on the cover look like they were modified from Bick’s publicity or model sheets. It’s a shame the swimming hole scene wasn’t designed by one of H-B’s background artists of the day. Their work was more attractive than what Colorforms buyers got.

The Huck Hound Fan Club was still going in 1961 when this offer was made to kids (1961-62 was the last season new Huck cartoons were made). Check out more fan clubs stuff at THIS post.

Apparently Dell was more than just a comic book company. It was in the toy business, too. This Huck toy is six inches tall and was advertised in a Chip ‘n’ Dale comic with a cover date of June 1960

I suppose kids don’t play Cowboys and Indians any more. Well, they did when Harvell-Kilgore Sales Corp. of Bolivar, Tennessee made this in the 1960s. In this case, though, the kids might play Huck and Dirty Dalton. Wilma, don’t leave that gun around for Pebbles to play with!

Yeah, I know, this has nothing to do with Huck, other than to point out Hanna-Barbera was marketing characters before the Huck show went on the air. Transogram had a number of erasable picture games in the late ‘50s, including Mickey Mouse and Rin Tin Tin. This is from 1958. Professor Gizmo, Crossbones Jones, a Muni-Mula robot, the pirate parrot (I can’t remember if he had a name in the series) and Pinky the elephant are included on the cover. Transogram had some other games we’ve posted here before, including a Yogi ring-toss and a Snagglepuss Picnic board game featuring that fine cartoon dog Yowp in one of his last appearances.

If anyone has more information about these toys, please leave a note in the comment section.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Huckleberry Hound — Two For Tee Vee

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Towsley; Layout – Tony Rivera; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Written By Warren Foster; Story Director – John Freeman; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound – Daws Butler; Narrator, Woman on Phone, Dog – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1962?
Plot: TV repairman Huck is stopped in his efforts to fix a set by a snickering dog.

57 Huckleberry Hound cartoons were aired and “Two For Tee Vee” was the final one put into production. Nine were produced for Huck’s final season (1961-62) with only two of those written by Warren Foster. This is one of them.

“Two For Tee Vee” shows Foster’s cynicism toward television at the start, with Don Messick’s intoning narrator explaining without TV repairmen, “we would miss many of our favourite programmes that have become part of our daily life.” The “favourite programmes” turn out to be nothing more than old “B” and foreign films that were, at the time, constantly on TV because they were cheap for stations to buy from syndicators. Quality had nothing to do with it; filling air-time inexpensively did. The gag is a variation on the “nothing-but-westerns-on-TV’ routine that Tex Avery and Heck Allen pulled off in 1953’s “TV of Tomorrow” (the forest of antennae in the opening of this cartoon owes something to “TV of Tomorrow,” too).

Foster doesn’t have much good to say about the intelligence of television viewers. “Yes, Lady?” says Huck to a customer on the phone, “Your set gets your programmes all mixed up, huh? Well, I mean, that wouldn’t have to be the set, ma’am, uh uh. Y’see, there are a lot of mixed up programmes.” Then he fits in a song reference: “The Texas Rangers get mixed up with the private eyes and it comes out the private eyes of Texas are upon us? That sounds like fun, ma’am.”

After backing his rickety service van into a wall, Huck arrives at the customer’s home. The cartoon now switches to the main plot—a snickering dog in the house tries to stop Huck from doing his job. The idea was used in five previous Huck cartoons and then much later by the studio with Muttley and a number of other dogs.

● The dog plugs in the set to try to electrocute Huck.
● The dog steals the NACL-2504-HB-52-42 spare tube then chomps on Huck’s butt when he takes it back. The dog then grabs the tube back and leads Huck on a chase up a long flight of stairs then down a bannister.
● The dog digs a hole in the yard. Huck peers in. The dogs shoves him in and covers the hole with dirt. At least Huck gets the tube back.
● Huck’s installing the tube in the set. The dog chomps on his butt again. Huck jumps into the set and becomes trapped when the dog screws the cardboard cover on the back of the set. The cartoon ends with the dog watching Huck on TV and snickering for the ninth time.

Assorted Huckisms:
● “They [customers] all get riled when we mention ‘shop.’ See, no matter what’s wrong, we’re supposed to fix it all spread out on the livin’ room floor.”
● “I likes to work with nobody around. No silly questions like, uh, ‘What are all the tubes for?’ As if anyone knows.”
● “On these kind of TV service calls, a fella don’t make a nickel.”

Don Towsley animated this cartoon. He was born in Wisconsin in 1912, spent part of his youth in Atlanta and then worked through much of the ‘40s for Walt Disney. He freelanced on Bob Clampett’s “It’s a Grand Old Nag,” released in 1947. He was in New York City by 1952 and employed for Lee Blair’s Film Graphics, an industrial animation house. The April 1961 edition of “Top Cel,” the newsletter of animation’s union New York local, revealed Towsley was taking a three-month vacation in Mexico. The October edition states Towsley decided to stay at Hanna-Barbera but the December edition reported he was no longer at the studio. He later worked on the Chuck Jones’ Tom and Jerrys.

He does his best to try to get some personality into the limited animation. He draws a little foot-stomping cycle on the bulldog during his snickering at the end of the cartoon. And he perks up Huck’s ears when the phone rings at the beginning. The ears go up when Huck’s moving his head back; it might have been more effective if the ears went up (like a take) after the head stopped moving. He also jerks the head back and forth during dialogue and varies the position of the head from side to side. His Huck’s actually pretty attractive but this is the only Huck cartoon he worked on.

Here are a couple of Art Lozzi backgrounds.

The Hoyt Curtin cues include two snippets of his piano-xylophone version of “English Country Garden” and a couple of versions of “Clementine,” including one with an arrangement with piano and bells. The longest cue is a 45-second electric organ piece meant to evoke a chase in silent films when Huck runs after the dog up, ending the dog digging in the yard. Feel free to let me know if it’s a Hammond or a Wurlitzer.