Saturday, 5 July 2014

Snooper and Blabber — Bronco Bluster

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – John Boersma, Layout – Jack Huber, Backgrounds – Anthony Rizzo, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Lew Marshall, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Bee – Daws Butler; Saddle Bumpley, Cop, lion - Doug Young; Twister – Hal Smith/Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1962.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired to find escaped rodeo horse Twister.

That noted tunesmith, Michael A. Maltese, brought us the following touching lyrics of a man, pining for the land of endless prairie:

Oh, the wide open spaces call me,
There’s lots of room to roam.
The city isn’t for me,
The west, my home sweet home.

The ballad of the Golden West touches Blabber Mouse. Responds the sniffling Blab: “Makes me kind of sorry I’m from St. Louis.”

This refrain sets up the climax of “Bronco Bluster,” which has a number of used Maltese story concepts. The song is one. Quick Draw McGraw strummed an out-of-town tune guitar on occasion to break into song (much like Porky Pig crooning Maltese’s “The Flower of Gower Gulch”). The ending is reminiscent of the first season’s “Bronco Bustin’ Boobs,” where Baba Looey had to dress up in a horse costume so the show would go on (a Wild West show in that cartoon, a rodeo in this one). And there’s the old cartoon gag of a character using a stamp to create phoney footprints.

John Boersma is the credited animator on this short. His dialogue is animated just like Ken Muse, with the little row of upper teeth and the tongue moving around. Jack Huber is the layout artist and he’s designed the Saddle Bumpley, the rodeo owner, with the round, beady eyes like Paul Sommer would put in characters. And Tony Rizzo’s the background artist, drawing foliage much like Bob Gentle did in some cartoons.

As best as I can tell, this is the only H-B TV short Rizzo worked on until late in the ‘60s, perhaps on a freelance basis. After leaving Disney, Rizzo provided backgrounds for Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy TV cartoons, and the Rudy Larriva Roadrunner cartoons. Format Films received a sub-contract for them, from UPA in the first two cases and Warner Bros. in the last. He also painted background art for “Top Cat” and “Jonny Quest” and got saddled with a Loopy De Loop, so he could have been employed by Hanna-Barbera in between gigs at Format.

There’s a familiar opening, as well. There’s a shot of Snooper’s office door (with the private eyeball) and Snoop answering the phone in his best Archie-of-Duffy’s-Tavern manner. “Hello? Snooper Detective Agency, where the indiscreet meet defeat.” It’s a 12-0-7—robbery at the rodeo. Twister the performing horse is missing. “And you’ll pay us a Texas oil well to find him? Throw in the barrels and it’s a deal,” says Snoop on the phone. Maltese shows his New York roots. Blab rushes off screen, zips back wearing a ten-gallon hat and exclaims: “We’ll take a short cut and head ‘em off at the Bowery.”

The next scene is in Saddle Bumpley’s office (yes, it includes a shot of his office door) as the rodeo boss outlines what “trans-perspired.” Boersma’s attempt at getting movement in the scene is by having four head positions for Bumpley, a few hand gestures, and some eye blinks, though Bumpley shrugs at one point. The scene sets up the plot as Blab figures out the horse is homesick (“Beginner’s luck,” spits an annoyed Snoop).

They spot Twister in the park. The horses raises and lowers his eyebrows like Groucho Marx but unlike Groucho or Bugs Bunny, he’s not someone you can like all that much. Maybe the fact he (mostly) neighs as he pulls his stunts takes away a quality that could be added with snappy dialogue. Interestingly, the neighs are by Hal Smith. Maybe they were taken from another cartoon, as Daws Butler gives the horse the other voice effects.

We get a catch-phrase: “Stop in the name of the Private School of Horsey Set!” shouts Snoop.

The gags are basic—Twister substitutes himself for a statue of General Sherman’s horse (Snoop kicks the statue by mistake), then rides off the statue of the general atop him (cue the puzzled cop gag), plants footprints leading to a lion’s mouth, and sits in a lake making it look like he’s in ten feet of water (Snoop and Blab dive in to mud a couple of feet below). That’s when Snoop pulls a guitar out of nowhere (“That’s the secret of our profession, Blab. Always be prepared,” is his explanation for its availability) and stars crooning to make the animal come out of hiding. It works. The bawling horse pops his head out of the bushes.

And just like an earlier Snooper and Blabber cartoon where Snoop gave up his reward to let a rare Tralfazian duck go free, he decides not to bring Twister back to the rodeo. The steed hops a freight train and waves goodbye. But since Bumpley promised a wild horse show, it means Snooper and Blabber have to dress up in a horse costume and perform. “Quit your gripin’, Blab,” says Snoop. “After all, you got the best seat in the house.” Blab is the end of the horse.

There are a few pieces of Flintstones music here, and the sad violin when the horse is crying made an appearance on both “The Flintstones” and “Top Cat,” if I recall. The final scene is underscored with “(That’s) Quick Draw McGraw.”

1 comment:

  1. As was common practice in the early H-B years, the name of an incidental character is used for a future character, either incidental or regular. Another horse named Twister appeared in a Loopy de Loop cartoon a year or so after this one was made, the main distinction that the later Twister spoke English (with Doug Young recycling his Doggie Daddy 'Jimmy Durante' imitation).