Saturday 30 August 2014

Augie Doggie — Vacation Tripped

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – John Boersma, Layout – Noel Tucker, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Direction – John Freeman, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Augie Doggie – Daws Butler; Doggie Daddy – Doug Young; Greech, Martian Ranger, Akba – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-043, Production J-135.
Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Doggie Daddy goes greech hunting on Mars.

In 1957, Evelyn E. Smith wrote a science fiction short story called Once a Greech, about a pink furred, blue tongued creature on another planet. Mike Maltese may have had that in mind when came up with story for this cartoon. More than that, elements of the story are familiar from old Warner Bros. cartoons. The greech’s mock death scene is pure Bugs Bunny (“A Wild Hare” and others), his surprise yelling emulates Bugs screaming at Elmer Fudd “Confidentally, I am a wabbit!!” (“A Wild Hare” again), while the routine of the “dying” greech pulling out a picture of his wife was lifted from a Daffy Duck cartoon of World War Two vintage. And it seems to me Doggie Daddy’s obliviousness of being transported to outer space has a little similarity to the Maltese-penned “Jumpin’ Jupiter,” a Porky Pig-Sylvester short. Maltese also borrowed from his earlier work at Hanna-Barbera; the idea of Augie Doggie communicating with Martian friends came from “Mars Little Precious” two seasons earlier.

There’s an inside gag in this cartoon as well. There’s an H-B pennant on the wall in Augie’s bedroom.

John Boersma receives the animation credit. Is it really him? There’s some really odd animation. There’s one scene where he jerks Daddy’s head and body around during dialogue, like Don Williams drew in that Uncle Batty cartoon in the Pixie and Dixie series. At times, Dear Old Dad goes from having two eyes to one, depending on the position of the head. Sometimes he draws Daddy’s eyes overlapping one another, while other scenes have them separated. Other times, Daddy is cross-eyed. There’s one spot where Augie’s head is down during dialogue so the animator doesn’t need to draw a mouth moving. And he likes to have Daddy’s eyes closed and teeth exposed during laughter.

Here are some of Daddy’s reactions when the greech screeches in his ear.

Ex-Disney type Noel Tucker handled layouts, so he could have designed the incidental characters. Here’s a Martian version of Ranger Smith and a shot of the newly multiplied greech family.

Here are some of Art Lozzi’s backgrounds. It’d be nice to have a drawing of the Martian trees free of characters.

Maltese dialogue:

● When Augie asks where they’re going to spend their vacation, Daddy replies: “Well, we could hunt caribou in Timbuktu, moose in Moosopotamia or even wild pizza in South Pizzarie.” Unfortunately, Daddy has no money (does he even have a job?) so they’re “forced to fish for minnows at Shlump’s Swamp.” Daddy is, as usual, in an armchair, but he’s not reading a newspaper this time.
● Via radio, Akba teaches Augie how get his house to blast off for Mars. As the house rises, Daddy wakes up and asks Augie what’s going on. “You were merely having a flight-mare,” replies the son-my-son.
● We get a Sylvester, Jr.-like “Oh, the shame of it!” from Augie after Daddy shoots at the Martian greech, who goes into a phoney death act. Then a paraphrase of an old song—“Mine own papa is a greech killer!” Daddy’s response: “But, Augie, my boy, boy, I got a huntin’ license.”
● Daddy and Augie rush into the house and it lands back on Earth. “Ah, it’s good to be back on good ol’ terra cotta once more!”
● Augie indulges, once again, in the old “Can they stay, huh, can they, dad?” routine. Daddy doesn’t exactly want to go back to Mars, so he agrees. “Well, after all,” he says to end the cartoon, “how many families have genuine Martian greeches for house guests?”

Miscellaneous notes: Some sources say this was the last Augie Doggie cartoon put into production....Akba has that wavering voice Don Messick used for aliens in a number of Hanna-Barbera series....The greech hops along to a sound effect made with a large rubber band....All of Hoyt Curtin’s cues picked by the sound cutter fit the cartoon nicely.

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Neenah and the Pink Window Shade

The artist responsible for this background painting had an indirect connection to Bill Hanna from before she was born.

This is from the Snagglepuss cartoon “Be My Ghost,” and the background artist is Neenah Maxwell. Here are some of the other backgrounds.

Here’s what the above drawing looks like without the entrance on an overlay.

The door on the background below is on a cel.

Maxwell arrived at Hanna-Barbera around 1960 and was gone by 1963. Where she came from and where she went in a complete mystery. If I had to speculate, I imagine she might have worked at one time in the ink and paint department at MGM.

On-line death records show that Maxwell was born in California on May 22, 1934 and died on January 21, 1997 in Ventura, California. Her mother’s maiden name was Hanson. But it was her father who Bill Hanna knew and worked with for over two decades.

You won’t find a Neenah Maxwell in the 1940 census. But you will find a Virginia Lee Maxwell living at the Los Angeles home of Carman G. Maxwell and his wife Dorothy, whose maiden name was Hanson. C.G. Maxwell is none other than Max Maxwell, who was production manager for the Harman-Ising studio when Hanna was hired there in the early ‘30s to work as a janitor. Both Maxwell and Hanna were enticed to leave Harman-Ising for MGM in 1937, and Maxwell managed the production end of the cartoon studio for the 20 years it was in existence. California birth records state Virginia Lee Maxwell was born on May 22, 1934, so there’s no doubt she’s Neenah Maxwell. If I had to guess, Neenah was a pet name. And if I had to guess some more, if she had an interest in art, her dad would have found a way to get her a job in the studio (both Hanna and Barbera found work for their children when they opened their own studio). Incidentally, her uncle was Howard Hanson, an ex-Harman-Ising and MGM cartoonist who was the production manager at Hanna-Barbera from the start in 1957 and for almost the next decade. Hanson’s second wife was Vera Ohman, also a background artist at MGM and H-B.

Snagglepuss cartoons generally have a lot of fun dialogue—in this cartoon, Mike Maltese borrows his own “Odds, fish!” line from his great Bugs Bunny short “Rabbit Hood”—but the thing I remember about this from my childhood is the ghosts that roll up like old window shades and then disappear. Harum and Scarum did the same thing in the Snooper and Blabber cartoon “Real Gone Ghosts” a couple of years earlier (Maltese wrote that one, too). Snagglepuss tries it in this cartoon but fails miserably. He’s not a ghost, after all. C.L. Hartman is the animator.

I’m a big fan of the orange version of Snagglepuss, the one before he got his own series, the one where he’s a snooty villain who’s in control and knows he’s superior to Quick Draw McGraw or Super Snooper. But the pink one is funny, too, thanks to strong dialogue from Mike Maltese, the usual clever voice work of Daws Butler, and (at least in this cartoon) some attractive background work by Max Maxwell’s daughter.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Snooper and Blabber — Eenie, Genie, Minie, Mo!

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – C.L. Hartman, Written by Mike Maltese, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (BCDB credits).
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, Genie, Sinbad – Daws Butler; Aladdin, Alibi Baba, Jug Vendor – Don Messick; Scheherazade – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-039, Production J-124.
First aired: week of March 13, 1961.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired to capture an escaped genie in Persia.

“Say, Snoop,” says Blabber to open this cartoon, “when am I going to get a salary for being your assistant?” “Blab, your golden opportunity has come at last,” replies Snooper, though he doesn’t realise how golden it is until the cartoon’s over. Snooper informs him “some things are bigger than money.” Today, Blab will be the private eye and Snoop “the lowly assistant.” Blabber rapturises about it and strikes several poses. Here’s some of the animation. Look at the fingers.

The version of the cartoon currently circulating has the incorrect credits. The Big Cartoon Database credits the animation to former Disney artist C.L. Hartman. If someone can confirm or deny that, leave a comment.

It’s pretty obvious Mike Maltese wrote the story. There are some repeats of some old routines, like the parody on the Dragnet-style of questioning when Blab grills Scheherazade (Blab’s repetitive “Yes, m’am” becomes unstoppable after a while) that Maltese worked into the dialogue of ‘Prince of a Fella’,’ ‘Slippery Glass Slipper’ and elsewhere. And the newly-freed genie peppers Snooper and Blabber with questions about stuff that happened while he was inside the lamp: “Are they still doing the Charleston? Did Lucky Lindy make it to Paris? How are the Dodgers doing?” just like in the Augie Doggie cartoon ‘Skunk You Very Much’ (which includes the Charleston question and one about the Dodgers).

I won’t guess at who handled the layouts (I suspect Bob Gentle is the background artist) but I sure like the design of the genie.

Here are the other incidental characters. Sorry I can’t mask the TV logo in some of these.

Their voices should be familiar from other H-B cartoons. Note that Don Messick does the same kind of accent for Aladdin and the jug merchant, but Aladdin’s voice is softer. The genie has the same voice as Fibber Fox.

Some of the dialogue highlights:
● Blab answering the phone a la the radio show ‘Duffy’s Tavern’: “Blabber Detective Agency. Roses are red, violets are blue, we’ll take your case and solve it for you. Chief Blab speakin’.”
● The genie signs his note: “Genie with the light brown hair.” Snoop: “Oh, good. We got a description of the suspect.”
● Blab to Alibi Baba, the used flying carpet salesman: “We’re detectives, and we’re lookin’ for someone.” Alibi: “Oh, the police! I run an honest business, lieutenant. There’s no dirt under my carpets.”
● Blab, questioning Sinbad: “Where were you on the Arabian night of January 16th?” Sinbad: “Huh.” Snoop: “Blab, what in carnation has that got to do with it?” Archie on ‘Duffy’s Tavern’ was big on “what in carnation...” as well.
● Jug merchant: “Heavens to Halavar!” Halavar is in Armenia which is adjacent to Persia, the setting for this cartoon. Then again, he could be saying something else.

Snooper tries to capture the genie by grabbing his turban. Instead, the genie ties the end of it to a palm tree and Snoop crashes into it. The genie thinks he’s made a getaway on a flying carpet but crashes into a turret.

Booby Blab proves he’s not so booby in this cartoon. Blabber cons the genie back into the lamp by pretending to refuse to believe he’s a genie unless he can prove he can do something—like fit in the lamp. So, as amazing as it sounds, the cartoon ends with our heroes a million dollars richer. Well, not both our heroes. Blab caught the genie. So Blab tells Snoop he can take back the job as chief private eye, while he (Blab) keeps the million bucks reward. Blab chuckles to end the cartoon.

No private eye ball on the window to Snoop’s office door in this one, nor do we hear the catchphrase “Halt in the name of the Private Eye (fill in name of organisation).”

You’ll recognise plenty of Flintstones cues here (I don’t have names for most of them), such as “Chase” when the genie flies away and Snoop vows to reel him in like a fish. The cue “Walking” (aka “Here’s What We’re Gonna Do”) shows up when the genie tries to catch up on the Charleston, etc. Hoyt Curtin also came up with an Asian sounding piece with a guitar and xylophone when Snooper’s talking to Aladdin. There are parts of the cartoon with no music, like when the helicopter rotor sound effect is on the sound track, a wise decision by the cutter.