Saturday 20 September 2014

Pixie and Dixie — Mouse Trapped

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ken O’Brien, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – John Freeman, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Pixie – Don Messick; Dixie, Mr. Jinks – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First aired: 1962.
Plot: Jinks tries to turn Pixie and Dixie against each other with a mechanical female mouse.

If there’s anyone on “The Huckleberry Hound Show” that strikes me as lacking sexual virility, it’s Pixie and Dixie. Yet here we are to believe that, suddenly, the two meeces are so full of uncontrollable lust for a woman that they’d pound the crap out of each other.

Sorry, I don’t buy it.

Mr. Jinks, sure. He liked to give everyone the impression he was a swaggering cat-about-town. Yogi, perhaps weak from lack of pic-a-nic baskets, had his heart captured by Cindy Bear (Boo Boo strikes me as being on the pre-pubescent side). I can even see Huck as the Southern gentleman, behaving with old-time gentility toward the Fairer Sex. But the meeces? Come on. They barely have a personality to begin with.

Despite that, Warren Foster cooked up a jealous rivalry angle between Pixie and Dixie over a woman in this cartoon and we’re supposed to buy it. In fairness, Foster sets up the plot well, and quickly, during Jinks’ soliloquy in the opening scene.

Jinks: Chee-heh-hee-hee. Those miserable meeces are really going to get it this time. They have been acting too buddy-buddy. And their friendship, you know, is, uh, like sickening. They work together against me. But what I’ll do, uh, I shall divide and conquer them electronically.

He shows off his electronic female mouse, going through a bunch of technical specifications ending with “Which is, uh, pretty good, you know, when you consider, like, I’m only a cat.”

As you can see, you’re supposed to ignore the fact that in other cartoons, Pixie and Dixie are related, not friends. But no one cared too much about the finer points of continuity 50 years ago (for example, if “The Flintstones” was in first run today, fanbois would screech ad infinitum on the internet that Fred’s house address keeps changing). We’ll also ignore it’s a little creepy that Jinks is so impressed with the sexpot he’s created that he tells us “I think I’ll get a cat my size into production.”

Jinks commands the robot mouse through a microphone to do a silent, come-hither act on each of the mice separately.

Pixie: We’ve been good friends a long time, Dixie.
Dixie: We’ll always be good friends, Pixie. Nothin’ will ever come between us.
Pixie (puts out hand): Shake.
Dixie (puts out hand): Buddy!
Pixie: Right, pal. It’s not very often one is fortunate enough to establish such a relationship.
(Dixie sees the girl mouse and his heart becomes aflutter)
Dixie (angrily): Let go of my hand.

The two make up until the robot mouse winks at Pixie and then he goes nuts for her.

Jinks eggs on the growing dispute by sending mash notes (from “Tina”) to each of the mice. They start fighting. The force of the battle knocks the robot mouse head off. The meeces realise they’ve been had, hear Jinks confess to Charlie on the phone about what’s been going on, then use the mike to command the somehow-repaired Tina to pick Jinks up by the tail (what strength!) and bash him to the ground over and over as the cartoon ends.

The high point for me comes as Pixie decides to move to a hole in another room so he can be alone and plot to win over the girl. Daws Butler and Don Messick volley the lines quickly back and forth with phoney sincerity. They give great performances in this cartoon.

Pixie: Well, it’s been fun.
Dixie: Sure was.
Pixie: We’ll see each other around.
Dixie: Sure. We’ll have lunch together some time.
Pixie: Sure. I’ll call ya.
Dixie: Don’t forget.
Pixie: Forget what?
Dixie: To call me.
Pixie: What for?
Dixie: I forget.
Pixie: It doesn’t matter.

Ken O’Brien is the credited animator. He draws a wide mouth on Jinks and even tilts the cat’s head at times like Carlo Vinci. He likes crossing Jinks’ eyes, too.

It’s unclear when this cartoon was made. It is copyright 1962. O’Brien was hired by March 1961 as supervising animator at Arnold Gillespie’s Quartet Films. Dan Gordon left Hanna-Barbera at the same time to work for the company. O’Brien had been at Disney for a number of years and was an animator on some of the most attractive cartoons ever produced by Walter Lantz (with his buddy Fred Moore in the late ‘40s). He animated on the stylish John Sutherland propaganda short “Destination Earth” (1956), and spent some thankless years toiling on such dreck as the TV Magoos (he joined UPA in August 1960) and “He-Man.” He also worked on animatronics in the mid-‘60s at WED and taught at Cal Arts. O’Brien was from Butte, Montana, spent some teenaged years in Seattle and was supporting his widowed mother on a Disney salary by 1940. He died January 17, 1990 at age 84.

Art Lozzi’s talent is absolutely wasted here. All the backgrounds are interiors and much of the action is set against a baseboard.

There’s nothing of note about the underscore cobbled together in this cartoon. They’re the same cues you hear in all the short cartoons produced around this time. Tina has a mechanical sound effect when she’s walking that you should recognise as later belonging that great character on “The Jetsons,” Uniblab, who was about as likely to fall in love as Pixie or Dixie. And it might be funnier than this cartoon if he did.


  1. Jinks at the end: "I've created a Franken-Tina monster."

  2. I for one am glad to see Pixie and Dixie showing some love interest--brings an interesting dynamic to their relationship wherein they become rivals instead of friends. Similar to Chip 'n' Dale in "Two Chips and a Miss."

    Thanks for the information on Ken O'Brien. It's always fascinating to learn about the animators behind the cartoons. All we did as kids was just watch 'em, with little to no thought about the artists and technicians who brought them about. It makes them even more worthwhile to view and study, knowing something about the people involved in their creation.

  3. Sure, the meeces may not have had much personality compared to Mr. Jinks, but Warren Foster did give it a try with this short anyway. Daws and Don's performance, as mentioned, also helps carry the story through.

  4. Agreed with scarecrow33. The love notes also, no one mentioned, are similiar to Season 2's (1959-1960) "Woo for Two" with the "meeces"/Jinks at the end and C.Jones's 1952 Warner cartoon "Mouse-Warming" which was the start of his return to "softness" that would sink in and stay with him. Scarecrow, I forgot all about Disney's (Jack Hannah?) "Two Chips and a Miss" in the case of rivals and you're right about the story similiarity. Steve C.