Tuesday 29 July 2014

Today, He's a Flea or a Roach

If you’ve taken a look at the unpublished photos that we’ve linked to on the blog from a 1960 Life magazine shoot promoting Hanna-Barbera, you may have missed one of the cornerstones of the studio’s early success. Noticeable by his absence is the studio’s star voice, Daws Butler. However, if you look closely enough at one picture, Hanna-Barbera’s other original workhorse actor can be spotted in the background through a recording studio’s sound-proof glass at the door of the control room. We’ve blown it up for you.

Yes, it’s Don Messick. And this picture provides a perfect excuse to post another newspaper feature story about him.

This is a piece by the National Enterprise Association’s Hollywood writer and was published on March 31, 1983. By then, Mr. Messick had made his name as the voice of a number of H-B cartoon dogs, beginning with everyone’s favourite, Yowp (okay, Woolly on “Ruff and Reddy” was probably the first one), and then moving on to Astro, Bandit, Precious Pupp, Muttley and some Great Dane (whatever happened to that dog anyway?). Naturally, there were other dogs and other voices as Don M. was incredibly versatile.

By 1983, he had added another major character to his résumé. “The Smurfs” had become a huge hit for Hanna-Barbera. In this story, Mr. Messick talked about his role on the show and gave a little background about his career.

Speaking for Other People is Big Job for Don Messick
HOLLYWOOD—Hollywood is full of pretty faces. And pretty voices. The faces you recognize on sight. Not the voices.
And so it’s high time you got to know Don Messick, one of the most popular and busiest voice men in town.
You would probably recognize Don Messick’s voice, if he did one of his characters for you.
He’s the voice of Papa Smurf on that big hit Saturday morning show. He’s the voice of another of the all-time biggies of cartoondom, Scooby-Doo.
And he’s also heard dozens of times every day via commercials. He is proud of the fact that he is Snap, on those Snap-Crackle-and-Pop cereal commercials.
He was, when we talked, just about to go off to the studio to do a commercial for an insect spray. He said they hadn’t told him what he was going to be that day—a flea or a roach.
It really doesn’t bother me,” Messick says. “I can do a flea just as well as a roach.”
It’s a good life, but it was a long time coming. Don Messick was born in Buffalo, N.Y., but grew up mostly on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
As a boy, he was intrigued by one of those “throw your voice” ads in a magazine, and he sent away for the device and got it. He still has the booklet that came with it.
He got a few dummies and began doing a ventriloquist act and, eventually, while still a teen-ager, landed a spot on the local radio station, WBOC, in Salisbury, Md.
Messick’s dummy, incidentally, was named Woody DeForrest. He earned enough so he could go off to an acting school in Baltimore.
He went into the Army, then, taking his dummy with him, and he spent most of his service career entertaining the troops. The Army moved him around, and he got his first taste of California, courtesy of Uncle Sam.
“Seeing California was an awakening for me,” Messick says. “It was like a person who has only seen black-and-white movies seeing his first color movie. When my service was over, I came back to California as far as I could, and I’ve been here since.”
He started working here as a puppeteers voice on a TV station back in the early days of Los Angeles television. And he has been specializing in voices since. Don Messick would like to be on camera once in a while—he is, after all, a genuine actor—and he hopes that will happen eventually.
But it is not something frustrating him or gnawing at him. In fact, he has had opportunities to do real acting roles, but turned them down.
“I turned them down,” he says, “because they interfered with my social plans.”
Messick lives about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, in Santa Barbera, and his life is centered there. He makes the drive down to L.A. two or three times a week, and tries to do all of his voice-overs on those trips.
He is, as you might expect, a master of his voice and can do wonders with it. When he auditioned for the Papa Smurf job, he used one voice, a voice he felt was appropriate. It was, he says, a whimsical voice.
He did a few episodes with that voice, but then the producers felt Papa S. should be more authoritative. So they asked him to use a more authoritative voice. No problem.
Messick takes very good care of his voice, which is his fortune. He hasn’t smoked in years. He is careful about not getting colds. And he doesn’t strain his voice.
The result is that he is famous—or sounds famous—but has no problem moving around without getting recognized. It is, he thinks, the best of both worlds.

Don Messick did get on camera a year and a bit after this story was written, appearing on “The Duck Factory,” which won two Emmys but lasted only 13 episodes despite some good talent in front of, and behind, the screen. To me, the characters never seemed that well-defined, likeable or even interesting, to be honest, and someone needed to tell NBC the laugh track didn’t need to jump in constantly. Despite the show’s failure, it’s happy to see that Mr. Messick got a chance to fulfill an ambition of doing some live-action work. A nice guy deserves to meet some of his life goals.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Quick Draw McGraw — Big Town El Kabong

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: none. Written by Mike Maltese, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Quick Draw McGraw, Baba Looey, Paperboys, Mexican Man, Subway Conductor – Daws Butler; Narrator, Wily Witty, Elevator Operator – Don Messick; Mexican Woman, Lady Lavishly – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-045, Production J-126.
Plot: In the big city, El Kabong interrupts his vacation to capture Wily Witty, the jewel thief.

The West of Quick Draw McGraw is a strange land. It’s kind of like the Old West, but it’s not. There are steam locomotives, but there are modern (1959 model) jeeps. There are adobe haciendas but there are cities with modern (1959 model) skyscrapers. Somehow, it all works so you don’t really notice unless you think about it.

There were only new six Quick Draw cartoons in our hero’s final season of first-run shows. Three featured El Kabong, which perhaps gives you an idea how much Mike Maltese loved Quick Draw’s alter ego. Maltese tried to put a different spin on this one by plunking Quick Draw/El Kabong (for the only time) in a New York City-like metropolis. But there’s a lot that’s familiar, too. The bad guy has the same voice (by Don Messick) and similar character design as a bunch of bad guys in cartoons through the ‘60s (early Iwao Takamoto influence?). The cartoon opens with a poem expounding on life in El Pueblo. The narrator chats with the characters on screen. And the climactic scene reminds me of Baseball Bugs (also written by Maltese), where Bugs Bunny gets on a cab and a bus to chase after a fly ball. Here, El Kabong and Wily Witty clash with swords in a duel that takes then down an elevator and into a subway car, ending with a taxi ride (as you might expect, Baba Looey is somehow behind the wheel of the cab and drives the bad guy right into prison). Best of all, any on-lookers aren’t fazed by the fight in front of them. It is the big city, after all.

There are no credits on the various versions of this cartoon I’ve been able to see. Earlier on the blog, opinions were expressed by people who know this kind of thing better than I do that either Hicks Lokey or Harry Holt animated it. Whoever it is draws a lot of dialogue starting with the head looking forward, then raising it for a total of four positions.

As for character design, Lady Lavishly has a variation on the Wilma Flintstone bun.

And incidental characters have dots for eyes.

Some Maltese fun. Here’s the poem:

The town of El Pueblo was peaceful and calm.
Vanished forever was cause for alarm.
(Paperboy: “Extry, extra! Nothin’ but good news! Extry!”)
The town had been cleansed of villains and wrong
By the mysterious masked rider, El Kabong.

The most villainous villain was called Wily Witty.
From El Pueblo he came to work the big city.

After Quick Draw bumps into Witty in disguise:

Quick Draw: Garsh. I’m sure sorry, Don Juan.
Baba Looey: Say, Quickstraw. I theen that Don Juan look like Wily Witty, the jewel crooks.
Quick Draw: So what? Villains need vacations, too, you know.
Baba (to audience): With two weeks stolen pay, I theen.

During the ball:

Lavishly: Are you sure you’re not the real Don Juan? (giggles)
Witty: You dance divinely. Your feet barely touch the ground.
(cut to sight gag of Lavishly’s feet on top of Witty’s shoes).

Incidentally, Jean Vander Pyl lets out a great screech when Lady Lavishly notices her priceless Sultana pendant is gone. Messick's casual “What pendant?” is great, too.

Maltese or Hoyt Curtin or Bill Hanna sure loved the William Tell Overture. There’s a xylophone version of it which accompanies the sword scene. You’ll know much of the rest of the music from the Loopy, Touché and Wally cartoons, or the Flintstones, including that cue which ends with the minor key “Shave and a Haircut.”

Note: Only three Quick Draw McGraw title cards contained the words “Hanna-Barbera.” This is one of them.

Thursday 24 July 2014

Flintstones Weekend Comics, July 1964

One of the similarities between Fred Flintstone and his inspiration, Ralph Kramden, is Fred’s unshakeable belief that he’s right and everyone else is wrong—and he’ll prove it. On both “The Flintstones” and “The Honeymooners,” that usually ended in disaster, followed by contrition.

The four Flintstones comics published on Sundays 50 years ago this month all centred around Fred assuring the world he knows what the score is—and it turns out he doesn’t. There’s more fine artwork as well. The Flintmobile is featured in three of the four cartoons; it’s drawn the same way each time, using the design finally settled on in the animated shorts. Much to my delight, Baby Puss has returned and makes a cameo in the opening panel of the July 19th comic (it has the best punch line of the month). However, Betty Rubble is gone again for a second month, perhaps (as reader Joe Torvicia suggests) undergoing a voice and personality transplant from Bea Benaderet to Gerry Johnson, a most unfortunate decision.

Favourite panel? The Flintsmobile stuck on the volcano with assorted volcanoes and dinosaurs in the background. The roaring dinosaur in the final cartoon’s pretty funny, too.

July 5, 1964

July 12, 1964

July 19, 1964

July 26, 1964

Tuesday 22 July 2014

A Lion, a Swingin' Gator and a Rabbit That Became a Turtle

They had the same artists and writers as Huck and Quick Draw and Yogi Bear. They had the same music. Even the character designs looked fairly familiar. But Lippy the Lion, Touché Turtle and Wally Gator just didn’t have the same charm as the Hanna-Barbera cartoons that had come before. And they weren’t as funny, either.

Oh, there were the occasional nice quips. And the usual fine voice work that the studio was known for. But the cartoons themselves weren’t much more than pleasant little fillers. As a young cartoon fan, I’d make sure I’d never miss Quick Draw McGraw when he was on. I didn’t care if I missed Dum Dum running into a tree. The characters were okay but didn’t have the personality that their forefathers did.

Hanna-Barbera always seemed to be brimming with cartoon ideas. It had partnered with Kellogg’s (and the Leo Burnett agency) to produce half hour shows, first starring Huck, then Quick Draw, then Yogi, for syndication. The studio’s next syndication venture was one without a sponsor tied to it. Not a lot has been documented about it, so I’ll go through snippets of stories in chronological order from a couple of the trade papers.

A brief preface—for ages, portions of the internet have insisted the Lippy/Wally/Touché troika was known as “The New Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Show.” I have yet to find a single instance where that moniker was used to describe the cartoons. The cartoons aren’t even a show per se.

The first mention is in
Variety of October 20, 1960, which outlines a bunch of new projects, including the Yogi Bear show and a Yogi Bear movie. And it mentions some short cartoons:

H-B has just concluded a deal with Screen Gems for production of 104 five-minute segments for syndication. “All our shows have been planned for syndication,” [Joe] Barbera explained, “but so far all have been bought by single sponsors.”
Emphasizing the new five-minute shows definitely will be syndicated, Barbera revealed they will encompass two separate series, one starring “Lippy the Lion” and “Hardy Har Har” and the other starring “Hairbrain Hare” and “Dum Dum,” all of them new H-B creations.

The story leaves some questions unanswered. Was it the intention to work the two series into half hour vehicles, like Huck, with other characters? And did H-B pitch them to Kellogg’s before deciding to syndicate them unsponsored through Screen Gems?

There were certainly serious plans for Hairbrain. A story about Hanna-Barbera in Life magazine a month after the Variety blurb contained a number of photos of a story conference for both Hairbrain and Lippy (who was wearing a king’s crown, like LeRoy the lion in the old Huckleberry Hound cartoons), and shots of concept drawings of Hairbrain on the floor of Joe Barbera’s office with Barbera and Dan Gordon looking at them. Well, it may be Hairbrain. The drawing right between Barbara and Gordon is labelled (the version posted may be impossible to read) “Hairbreath Hare.” You can click to enlarge them.

For the record, the players at the story meeting above are, left to right, Dan Gordon, Alan Dinehart, Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna, Howard Hanson (below Hanna), Mike Maltese, Warren Foster (crouched behind Maltese) and Alex Lovy. And it may be tough to see on the office photo but at the far left, there’s a drawing of Quick Draw McGraw riding what may be Baba Looey. One of the other photos has a better view of some of the drawings. I’ve blown it up as best as I can.

What a neat variety of designs. Some definitely look like Ed Benedict’s. What’s interesting is two of the drawings are of turtles; one at the bottom looks exactly like Touché. Was he the original Dum Dum? Or was he a third character in the series (like, say, Fibber Fox in “Yakky Doodle”)? Ah, well. There are always questions. In any event, a sword-wielding, plume-hatted rabbit was replaced with a sword-wielding, plume-hatted turtle. Writer Tony Benedict tells me he believes the idea of a heroic rabbit was merely filed away for a few years and emerged as Ricochet Rabbit.

The other characters in the Variety story above were in limbo while the studio figured out what to do next (and became busy with something called “Top Cat”). Finally, the studio was ready, almost a year later. Here’s Variety from October 31, 1961 (note the date on the model sheet to the right).

Hanna & Barbera Slate 3 More Cartoon Strips For Screen Gems
Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera have set three new animated cartoons for syndication through Screen Gems, with 156 five-minute shows being developed around “Wally Gator,” “Touche Turtle And Dum Dum” and “Lippy The Lion And The Sad Hyenna.” “Gator” is voiced by Bill Thompson and Paul Frees.

Frees, of course, never starred on any of these cartoons. Knowing Frees’ cache of voices, it’s altogether possible he was cast as Wally, but the voice might have been a little too close to Captain Peachfuzz on the Bullwinkle cartoons.

Now it was time to make the cartoons, and get out and sell them to stations. Weekly Variety blurbed on January 31, 1962 that the budget for the three series was $1,500,000 and they would likely be sold on a station-by-station basis, especially in cities with three or more stations, though it mentioned the possibility of regional sales. Variety reported on August 15th that $1,900,000 had been set aside for the 156 cartoons. Compare that to $2,000,000 for 26 “Flintstones” and the same for 24 “Jetsons,” and $140,000 for 12 Loopy De Loops. Broadcasting magazine published the trade ads you see below; the first four pages were taken out on January 29, 1962.

Broadcasting reported on March 12, 1962 that the first sales of what it called Hanna-Barbera Five-Minute Cartoons had been made to seven stations, the biggest being WPIX in New York. Variety of May 9th stated Westinghouse stations in San Francisco, Boston and Baltimore had picked them up. Variety had this to say on June 21st about a sale to a Los Angeles station.

175G Hanna-Barbera Sale Made To KCOP
KCOP will expend $175,000 for unlimited runs of three new all-color cartoon shorts from Hanna- Barbera. Original asking price was $2,600 per title but understood KCOP paid around $1,200. Titles are “Touche Turtle,” “Lippy The Lion” and “Wally Gator.”

Finally, on August 24th, Variety announced:

KCOP Early-Birding With New H-B Cartoons
KCOP will open the station earlier Monday morning to preview three new Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Starting at 7:30 a.m., the three five-minute color featurettes will be shown for the first time on tv. They are “Touche Turtle,” “Wally the Gator” and “Lippy the Lion.” Beginning Sept. 2, they will be seen as a weekly strip at 6:30 p.m.

Variety got the date wrong. The cartoons debuted in colour on September 3, 1962 on the Beachcomber Bill show (competing against cartoons on two other channels). That can be considered the birth date of Lippy, Wally and the rest, unless you would rather use the KCOP preview date of August 27th. By October 31, Variety reported the cartoons had been sold to 51 stations.

The one unfortunate thing about the cartoons is the cartoons were aired without any credits. From Variety we learn that veteran Frank Paiker did the camera work and Greg Watson was the film editor, but you need to be familiar with animation styles to pick out the artists and use educated guesses to determine who wrote what. The cartoons are average at best, but their creators should get their due.

By the way, the Lippy theme song is another one that suffers from Hanna-Barbera Indecipherable Lyric disease. I had no idea the words were “the most loveable, laughable looneys by far” until listening to a version done by the singers on Golden LP-90, released in 1962 (the Randy Horne Singers belted out the version opening each cartoon). I’ve posted their versions of the three theme songs before, but I’ll post them again. You know that Hoyt Curtin composed them, but Jim Timmens did the arrangements on these. Even though they’re a little barren instrumentally compared to what you’re used to hearing, I really like this version of the Wally Gator theme with a piano, trumpet and guitar. It’s a shame the musicians didn’t cut loose—I mean, if a song’s going to be about a swingin’ alligator, it should swing—but it is a kids’ record after all.




Sunday 20 July 2014

Just Another Day at Hanna-Barbera

Recognise this scary face?

Why, of course you do. It’s Carlo Vinci, animator of some of the funniest drawings in the early days of the Hanna-Barbera studio. And you may recognise the picture as being similar to one which opened a story on the studio in Life Magazine published on November 21, 1960. You can read it HERE.

Amid over at Cartoon Brew was nice enough to point out that all the photos taken in the shoot by Allan Grant for that story are now on-line. Allow me post a few of them (for non-commercial purposes, naturally, as this is a fan site).

Fans of the Modern Stone Age family should recognise the drawing the anonymous inker is working on. Thanks to the DVD of “The Flintstones,” we’re able to see the original opening of the first two seasons of the show where Fred is driving through Bedrock, running errands and then going home. He is stopped by a cop for a fire truck, designed by the great Ed Benedict. The inker is working on a drawing of the “truck.” The dino’s legs would be on separate cels as the animal is running. I have no idea who animated the opening and would accept any and all educated guesses (several people have sent me the same answer; see Mike Kazaleh’s note in the comment section). You can spot a piece of the Flintstones’ size chart in the corner. Inkers and painters were the unsung heroes of old cartoons.

The brilliant Mel Blanc is at the centre of this photo of a break in (or just prior to the start of) a voice session for “The Flintstones.” Bea Benaderet has her back to the camera, and the others are Jean Vander Pyl, Joe Barbera, Alan Reed and associate producer Alan Dinehart. In the corner of the shot, that’s John Stephenson with the pencil; he appeared on several cartoons as early as the first season in 1960. I gather from Tony Benedict’s interview with Mark Evanier at this year’s Wonder Con that this session was recorded at the Columbia Pictures studio. Remember that the Hanna-Barbera studio at 3400 Cahuenga hadn’t been built yet; H-B started in the Kling studio on La Brea in 1957 and then moved to a building at 3501 Cahuenga (a block from their future home and a block and a half from Jack Kinney Productions) by August 1960. Incidentally, those Ampex tape machines in the booth were great. I imagine the studio recorded the reels at 15 ips and then cut reference discs for the animators to use when drawing mouth movements; there’s another picture in this set of Carlo at his drawing board with a turntable and record nearby.

Here’s Joe Barbera paying rapt attention to his secretary.

And here’s a gag picture of Joe Barbera after being kicked out of his office. Alan Dinehart is passing in the hallway. Life doesn’t have the pictures captioned so I don’t know exactly what's going on here.

You’ll notice in picture with the secretary (Scott Shaw! tells me she’s Maggie Roberts), the table has an Emmy (for The Huckleberry Hound Show), a wooden key and little models of Huck, Quick Draw and a wooly mammoth, as well as Tom and Jerry, who were still property of MGM. Someone, maybe it was Jerry Eisenberg, described the window-less studio where H-B was located when he arrived in 1961 as “the bunker.” Those painted brick walls sure leave you with that impression. The building is still there today. It’s still without windows and still has painted bricks.

Look at the talent in this room for what may have been a development meeting. The greatest cartoon writer in the world, Mike Maltese, is on the right side of the picture talking to Alex Lovy (the bald chick-magnet to the right). From left to right in the photo are: Arnie Carr (studio flack), Dan Gordon, Alan Dinehart, Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna and the marvellous Warren Foster to Hanna’s left. Maltese is blocking production supervisor Howard Hanson, who you can’t see. The drawings on the blackboard we’ll discuss in a post next week.

A recording session. No, that’s not Hoyt Curtin conducting. Curtin was a beefy guy with a rum nose; he looked like a character out of Guys and Dolls. Hanna has his foot up on the step. Listen to some of the orchestra’s work by clicking on the button.

“You must live in a hole if you don’t like to bowl! Hey, hey, hey, hey!” The studio had a bowling team. Could the third person in the shot be Tony Benedict? By the way, this building is still there but this side entrance is different today.

And here’s one more of the stars of “The Flintstones” and their cardboard cut-outs. You can see the old-time network radio influence as they’re all gathered around one mike. There must have been a lot of bobbing in and out to read lines but all of them worked in radio in the ‘40s, so they’d be used to it.

We’ve captioned more photos in this post. If you want to look at all the photos, click HERE. There are others of Carlo; one of them shows layout drawings for “The Golf Champion.” My thanks again to Amid for the link.

Augie Doggie — Hand to Mouse

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ed Parks, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie Doggie, Bigelow, Jr. – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy, Bigelow Mouse – Doug Young.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-045, Production J-132.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Doggie Daddy tries to get rid of Augie’s house guest, a Jimmy Cagney-sounding mouse.

Was there an attempt at Hanna-Barbera to build up Bigelow the mouse to launch him into his own series of cartoons? Maybe. The information may be resting in the studio files somewhere. But he made appearances in several different series, including this Augie Doggie cartoon. And he borrowed the voice of Jimmy Cagney, following other Hanna-Barbera characters based on film or TV actors/characters.

The problem with Bigelow is, once you get past the Cagney tough-guy persona, he doesn’t have much else, at least not in this cartoon. Cagney is not exactly a comic character. So the cartoon has to rely on another ersatz version of a celebrity voice—Jimmy Durante’s—and some violence to provide the comedy.

Ed Parks is the credited animator. Here are a couple of his “funny violence” drawings from a little cycle. The gag is Doggie Daddy uses a stethoscope to place a small stick of dynamite in a wall where Bigelow is hiding. It explodes after Bigelow runs out and places it in the stethoscope.

You’d think Daddy would have a funny line to cap the gag. Nah. Either Mike Maltese couldn’t think of something or it was cut off the storyboard for time.

Maltese gets in a few things I like, but they’re not rip-roaringly funny. Doggie Daddy doesn’t make stew for dinner. He makes “del-ih-cee-ous stew.” And that’s how it’s referred to throughout the cartoon. Augie refers to him as “dear old Escoffier-type dad.” Perhaps they loved Auguste Escoffier at Warner Bros.; the other ex-Warners writer at H-B, Warren Foster, referred to the noted chef in a Yogi Bear cartoon around this time. And Daddy modifies a Jack Benny routine when carrying Bigelow out of the home: “Train leavin’ on track five for the livin’ room, the den, and outta da house.” The train is the top of a toilet plunger (“a dome liner,” Daddy calls it).

Anyway, the cartoon has Augie not eating his stew and taking it to his room instead. Dear old dad consults the psy-co-cological book and decides to have a talk with Augie about it. That’s when he discovers Augie’s giving the stew to Bigelow, who has moved in without Daddy’s knowledge. Back to the book for more advice: “When a boy is determined to protect a moochin’ mouse, don’t force the issue. Instead, get rid of da mouse yourself. Then the boy will think the mouse left of his own violation.” So Dad gets Augie out of the house with $1 bill to go to the store, but the mouse outsmarts him every time. Bigelow stretches Daddy’s nose, slams the front door in his face and blasts his ears with the aforementioned dynamite before Augie returns. That’s when five little mice come out of the hole (one who emulates Cagney) and Augie tells dear old dad he’s feeding Bigelow’s whole family. Augie goes into his ‘can (fill-in-the-blank) stay?’ routine. Perhaps empathising with a single father, Daddy agrees. “After all,” he tells us, “a mouse who supports a family can’t be all bad.”

Tony Rivera (or perhaps Maltese) goes for a lot of single-character close-ups in this cartoon with nothing but a green card in the background. That gives BG guy Art Lozzi very little to do. This opening shot fills the first 13 seconds of the cartoon.

In case you’re wondering, the other Bigelow cartoons were:
● Express Train Lion (Snagglepuss)
● Foxy Friends (Yakky Doodle)
● Royal Rodent (Snagglepuss)
Plus, as SC33 mentioned in the comment section, three more in the Loopy De Loop theatrical series.

Hoyt Curtin’s cues are familiar from the Touché, Lippy, etc. shows produced around the same time.

Saturday 19 July 2014

Memories of Hanna-Barbera

Have you got an hour to hear about Hanna-Barbera? Good. Then settle back and watch this video taken at this year’s Wonder Con in Anaheim, California. Former layout artist Jerry Eisenberg, writer Tony Benedict and voice director Wally Burr talk about their creations and co-workers at the studio.

Having chatted with Jerry and Tony (and you can read Jerry’s chat here on the blog), I can’t express enough what friendly and genuine people they are, though you’ll pick that up from the video. Both had many contributions to the comedy cartoons the studio made in the 1960. Mr. Burr was employed at the studio in a later period and had the distinction of being hired by Bill Hanna and fired by Joe Barbera. He tells a funny tale of voice directing Daws Butler in “Laff-a-Lympics,” though I’m at a loss to understand why Mr. Burr just didn’t level with Daws about who was giving the order.

The highlight may be Tony’s video featuring candid footage from the ‘60s of the people he worked with. You may notice it has music by Hoyt Curtin for “Top Cat” and other shows from that period which has never been released on DVD.

The session is coaxed along by another extremely friendly and genuine person, Mark Evanier. I can’t help but think that cartoon writer Earl Kress would have been there, too, if Earl were still with us.

My thanks to Mr. Benj. Edge for pointing out this video. I hope it hasn’t been taken down by the time you read this.

Thursday 17 July 2014

Emmys and Models

A mere three networks dominated television for several decades, so it’s no surprise they had an almost complete stranglehold on TV’s self-awarded honours—the Emmys. But there was a notable exception during that span. For that, you can credit Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and their hard-working staff.

Both the Huckleberry Hound Show and the Quick Draw McGraw Show were nominated for Emmys in 1960—and on a Monday night, June 20th, Huck went home with a statue, beating “Watch Mr. Wizard” (NBC), “Lassie” and “Captain Kangaroo” (both CBS) in the Children’s Entertainment category. I haven’t checked to see whether it’s true, but some newspaper stories the following day claimed it was the first time a non-network show had won an Emmy.

The Huck show was nominated again the following year, but lost to “Young People’s Concert” (the good Captain and Shari Lewis were also among the losers). Huck and Yogi Bear actually appeared on the awards show in footage that may be lost; we talked about it in THIS POST.

With all this in mind, here’s a wonderful drawing, possibly by Dick Bickenbach, of Huck and his award.

The drawing was put up for sale at Heritage Auctions recently and this post is giving me a chance to post some of the other Hanna-Barbera artwork that was up for bid. You can click on each one to enlarge it. Several are initialed by Bick.

The Ding-a-Ling model is interesting in that the date on it is pretty close to when the studio announced that Yogi Bear would be spun off into his own show. Yogi wasn’t replaced with Hokey Wolf and Ding-a-Ling until the new year (the first Hokey cartoon I’ve found listed was for the week of March 27, 1961). The Yogi model sheet is for the third season of the Huck show (1960-61); my eye isn’t so adept to be able to tell if there are any design changes. Certainly Yogi went through a couple of designs in his first season (1958-59), although each animator that year had his own way of drawing the character.

Heritage had other drawings for sale as well. One is crying out to me that I should really do a post about some H-B cartoons that have been mentioned only on rare occasion here. Perhaps I’ll be able to get to it next week.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Yogi Bear — Booby Trapped Bear

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Story – Warren Foster, Story Direction – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voices: Narrator, Boo Boo, Ranger Smith, John’s Wife – Don Messick; Yogi Bear, John, Superintendent – Daws Butler.
Music: Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore, Bill Loose-John Seely, Jack Shaindlin.
First aired: week of October 24, 1960.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-041, Production E-107.
Plot: Ranger Smith rigs picnic baskets to beat up Yogi so he’ll stop stealing them.

This is the quintessential Yogi Bear cartoon. It contains everything anyone associates with Yogi Bear. To wit:

● Pic-a-nic baskets with goodies.
● Yogi versus Ranger Smith.
● Jellystone Park.
● Boo Boo saying “The ranger won’t like it, Yogi” (or words to that effect).
● Rhyming dialogue.

The interesting thing is that, other than the rhymes, these elements weren’t present in many of the cartoons during Yogi’s first season written by Charlie Shows and Joe Barbera—Ranger Smith didn’t exist at all then—but once story man Warren Foster replaced Shows in the second season, he started putting a formula in place. And the formula was a winning one because it’s how people think of Yogi today. I suspect fans today would screech louder than the smarter-the-average-bear being fed nuts and berries if a Yogi cartoon minus all these things were made today (a cartoon, say, like “Foxy Hound Dog,” starring Yowp).

This cartoon has a few others things that are atypical of a Foster-written Yogi comic adventure.

● Don Messick’s opening narration.
● Camera pans over backgrounds of the park.
● Yogi telling us he’s “Smarter than the av-er-age bear.”
● Bill Loose and John Seely’s cue “Zany Comedy” (second and third seasons only).

Even Yogi’s con at the beginning of the cartoon has a ring of familiarity. Or maybe we’ve just seen this cartoon over and over too many times. Yogi pretends to be a park health inspector who confiscates the tourists’ food because of too many calories. Lew Marshall is the animator in this one and simply didn’t believe in exaggerated takes. Witness Boo Boo’s less than outrageous expression when he tastes a “sand-a-wich.”

Angry tourists complain on the phone to Ranger Smith, so he puts bars on the entrance to Yogi’s cave and locks our hero in. “I am government property, sir. I shall report this to the park superintendent,” vows the bear. The ranger then decides to end the thievery by booby trapping some picnic baskets and letting Yogi out. The idea works. We even get a cartoon anvil. And we get a great example of how H-B saved money. There’s a drawing of a tree falling on Yogi. The next drawing is the tree on the ground. We don’t see it hit the bear, let alone get a really funny held drawing of him being crushed. Save the cash, lessen the humour.

Yogi decides to swear off pic-a-nic baskets. But then the superintendent shows up. We’re left to infer, as promised, Yogi has contacted the superintendent in a counter-move against the ranger, hoping Smith gets hoisted on his own petard. And that’s what happens. The superintendent seems to feel he can steal from a picnic basket, too. And the basket is booby-trapped.

The cartoon ends with Ranger Smith, jailed in Yogi’s cave for 60 days, eating a sand-a-wich from a pic-a-nic basket. Score a win for Yogi in this cartoon.

Tony Rivera was the layout artist on this cartoon. Note the parallel jaw lines on Smith (what’s depicted in that painting in the background, anyway?).

Here’s the line-up of the new model Riveras (not to be mistaken with the Buick Riviera). They’re what every sharp-nosed, hat-wearing father of 1960 should drive!

We mentioned the Bob Gentle backgrounds panned by the camera at the start of the cartoon as the narrator sets up the scene. Have a look.

And since we’ve been talking quintessence, this drawing may be as close to the quintessential Yogi as you’ll find.

We mentioned “Zany Comedy” earlier in the post. A lot of the music comes from Geordie Hormel’s Zephyr Records library (Spencer Moore worked for Hormel until a “restructuring”), including the first cue which you can hear in its entirety. Moore’s bassoon work-part cue L-1158 makes an appearance.

0:00 - Yogi Bear Sub Main Title Theme (Curtin-Shows-Hanna-Barbera).
0:28 - ZR-50 UNDERWATER SCENIC (Hormel) – Opening narration, Yogi and Boo Boo walk, health inspector scene.
2:15 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Boo Boo eats sandwich, Yogi beckons to cars.
2:44 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose/Seely) – Ranger in cabin scene.
3:14 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No. 2 (Shaindlin) – Yogi stops ranger, in barred cave, “I don’t like it, Yogi.”
4:32 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Punch-in-the-face scene, anvil scene, fall-in-the-hole scene.
5:35-5:37 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Musical effect as Yogi creeps toward basket.
5:42 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Shot of picnic basket in tree.
5:47 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Yogi runs, clobbered by tree, Boo Boo talks.
5:52 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Yogi under tree.
5:58 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Yogi with ranger, superintendent scene.
6:50 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) - Final scene of ranger in cave.
7:11 - Yogi Bear Sub End Title theme (Curtin).