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.


  1. Even with the very carefully limited animation of Season 1, you can still see the connections between the H-B cartoons and their theatrical predecessors, particularly in the 'takes', which could either be as wild as Carlo's here, or the sudden pops from one position to another that used the limited animation format to its advantage.

    What happened by the end of 1961 to Vinci's work and that of others at Hanna-Barbera in a way mirrored what happened a little over a decade earlier at the other New York studio Carlo didn't work at -- Famous Studio's went from having wild, but at times off-model animation in the mid-1940s to having very smooth-looking work with on-model characters by the end of the decade.... which were also far less funny in their movement. Same deal here -- H-B's animation was far smoother and the characters looked far more similar from cartoon to cartoon by the end of Huck's run. But as with Famous, that meant far more of the humor had to come directly from a clever plot of dialogue, and the more work Bill and Joe had their staff doing, the less likely that was to occur.

  2. Well, that, and the original season one animators weren't working on Huck at the end. They'd been promoted to prime time (and Marshall was moved out of animation and into story). Guys like Carlo and Ed Love would animate on ones when the need arose. The new guys were on twos and even then used fewer drawings (eg. bodies would stay rigid on one cel during run/walk cycles).
    It may also be a case of the big take being so overused by 1960, it fell out of favour as being cliched. Too bad. If Gazoo had reacted more wildly on proper occasion to Fred and Barney's ignorance, he'd have been a far more palatable character. As you say, dialogue wouldn't have to carry everything.

  3. Carlo did create some great reactions for Huck and Yogi. Huck's episode with " Them Vanderbliff Twins " has always been one of my favorites. No only the voice acting, but also the way it was animated.

  4. I will say I've never seen this Huck 'toon. The reactions and takes are just great. Now what do kids watch? Bubble Guppies? My gawd, what crap. Dora the Explorer? Hate it. I'll just have to expose my grandsons to Top Cat pretty soon.

  5. One of the things I love so much about these early cartoons is that they're not so much funny, as they are droll. Most people don't "get" droll-humor.

    Not only was the art a bit different from cartoon to cartoon, but so was the voice work, which makes the charm of these gems that much more special. Shortly after, there was no real character left, as it was more about grinding them out and generating sales. I love Huck and Yogi, but right about when Ranger Smith showed up, these cartoons had become utterly anemic...

  6. Huck became lot more of a chatterbox once Warren Foster arrived. And Daws brightened his delivery as well. That changed the atmosphere of the cartoons, too.

  7. Fundamentally, Huck has a great follow-through on the pitch, but he must have been too high in the zone over the dish.
    The bratty kid reminds me of the Bugs Bunny short, "I wanna Easta egg, I wanna Easta egg" kid repeatedly bashing Elmer Fudd's dome with a hammer.