Friday 31 October 2014

Scary Junior

Snooper and Blabber ran into ghosts and a witch but the scariest characters they encountered were the J. Evil Scientist family.

They appeared in four Snooper cartoons (and, later, in one Snagglepuss). The first was “Big Diaper Caper” (1959). Carlo Vinci’s the animator on it, and here’s one of his two-drawing fear takes (pardon the digital pixilation).

Snooper then dashes out of the scene. He does one of those stretch-dive exits that Carlo drew all the time back then. Carlo occasionally made drawings that would have been at home in a Mighty Mouse cartoon; Vinci spent almost 20 years at Terrytoons. The first one below is a good example.

J. Evil Scientist wasn’t really an evil scientist at all. He never concocted or experimented at all, though he had test tubes and creepy ingredients in his home. He and his wife liked the macabre (they were inspired by Charles Addams’ family, after all) but Junior was the one who did the scary stuff. So it’s appropriate that we salute him on this Hallowe’en.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Clementine

Huckleberry Hound never played in the World Series (though he did take on a giant in one cartoon) but that hasn’t stopped him from being part of the Grand Old Game.

I don’t know how often ol’ Huck is on TV these days but he’s still being marketed as if he never went off the air. And part of the marketing involves baseball.

The cap in the top two pictures are being sold by New Era. They also have Yogi Bear and Snagglepuss caps. I like the fact they’re using the calligraphy (by Art Goble?) that you find on the old title cards, as least for Huck.

The bottom two photos are from a different company. The caps have those plastic nubs that make the cap adjustable. Whoever is selling them has a really cool Dino cap in purple as well.

And what would a World Series be without a ring? Someone on eBay was selling a Huck ring, apparently licensed in 1959. It’s adjustable as well. I’m sure one of our collectable readers can weigh in with more about it.

It’s nice to see that Huck is still worth marketing. I sure wish we could get the rest of his cartoons on home video, though.

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Syndie Moppet Oater No Floppola

Today’s subject header is not a real Variety headline, though it uses some of the peculiar colloquialisms found in the pages of that publication. But it could have been applied to the debut of “The Quick Draw McGraw Show” in The Show Biz Bible’s review of the debut broadcast.

The trade paper noted in its August 13, 1959 edition that Kellogg’s had purchased national sponsorship of the half-hour cartoon and expected to place it on 180 stations. Other trades mentioned several months before this that Leo Burnett, Kellogg’s agency, had the show in its stable so it was pretty much a foregone conclusion the cereal maker would sponsor it—especially considering the ratings “The Huckleberry Hound Show” was getting.

The Huck show was a huge success, “socko” or “boffo” if you’re still in a
Variety vocabulary mood. We’ve posted Variety’s review of the premiere in 1958. And the trade publication liked Quick Draw and his cohorts even more when they hit the airwaves a year later. As I don’t have access to the full publication, this is the best that I can do cobbling together the review, published September 30, 1959.

Filmed by Hanna-Barbera Productions for Kellogg's.
Producers, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera; story director, Alex Lovy; writer, Michael Maltese; story sketches, Dan Gordon; titles, Lawrence Goble; production supervisor, Howard Hanson; animation, Kenneth Muse, Lewis Marshall, Carlo Vinci, Dick Lundy, George Nicholas, Don Patterson; music, Hanna, Barbera.
KTTV, Mon., 7 p.m. Running time: 30 mins.
Adults and children seeking something refreshing on their tv sets will find it in this new cartoon series out of the Hanna-Barbera stable. It's easily one of the most delightful and entertaining new programs to come along this season, and a worthy successor to H&B's own "Huckleberry Hound," which it surpasses. "Quick Draw McGraw" is no ordinary western hero. He's a horse. Lest anyone assume this is strictly child's play, it should be noted that "McGraw" is more adult than most so-called "adult westerns."
Others who take turns on the three-parts-per-show format of the new offering are "Bobba Looey," a Mexican burro with a heart of gold; "Snagglepuss," a playful lion with a Bert Lahr inflection; "Snooper," a cat counterpart of Ed "Archie" Gardner; "Blabber," the first mouse to work in cahoots with a feline; "Augie Doggie," a potential juvenile delinquent dog who means well; Angle's dad, an older, bigger dog with a voice like Jimmy Durante; a goat whose voice and romantic outlook resemble that of Maurice Chevalier; and many others.
Writer Michael Maltese brewed up a wonderful script on this initial outing, a script rich in mild satire but equally noteworthy for situations loaded with humorous possibilities and clever, crackling dialog. It's a zooful of laughs, strikingly animated by Kenneth Muse, Lewis Marshall, Carlo Vinci, Dick Lundy, George Nicholas and Don Patterson. Imaginative and well-differentiated voice characterizations are provided by Daws Butler, Don Messick and Doug Young. There's some appropriate, unobtrusive, original music by Hanna and Barbera.
Sponsor Kellogg's has latched on to a good series and should be amply rewarded for a smart investment. Kiddies will love "Quick Draw McGraw," but come show time, they might have to race their mommas and poppas for front seats.

The Copyright Catalogue reveals the first Quick Draw show (M-001) featured the following cartoons: “Baby Rattled” (Snooper and Blabber, production number J-14), “Million Dollar Robbery” (Augie Doggie, J-31) and “Lamb Chopped” (Quick Draw McGraw, J-11). The latter includes the orange, villainous version of Snagglepuss as well as the Chevalier goat (his only appearance). The first and last cartoons were animated by Muse, the middle one by Lundy; evidently the animator credits are gang credits.

The production number on the Augie cartoon is comparatively high; the first Augie (“Foxhound Hounded Fox”) turned out to be the 16th cartoon of the show put into production. I can only speculate it’s because the studio couldn’t figure out what to call the characters until a few months after production on the show began in late 1958. That would have meant delaying the recording of the voice tracks and therefore the animation until after work had already begun on Quick Draw and Snooper.

As in the Huck review a year earlier, the only music credit goes to Hanna and Barbera, with no mention of Hoyt Curtin’s themes (nor, not surprisingly, of the stock music during the cartoons).

Quick Draw ran for three full seasons (1959-60, 1960-61, 1961-62) then rerun before being placed onto CBS’ Saturday morning schedule in 1966. It resumed life in syndication in fall of 1968 and appeared off and on in the U.S. until 1991, when the show found what should have been permanent life on the Cartoon Network. It didn’t. I can’t speak for Variety, but the Yowp rating for that is neither “socko” or “boffo.”

Saturday 25 October 2014

Quick Draw McGraw — The Mark of El Kabong

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: none. Written by Mike Maltese, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Quick Draw McGraw, Baba Looey, Don Fateego, Sergeant, Yellow Kerchief Townsman – Daws Butler; Narrator, Generale Badguyos, Man in Sombrero, White Kerchief Townsman – Don Messick; Senorita Rita – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-044, Production J-136.
Plot: El Kabong takes on Generale Badguyos.

This is the final Quick Draw McGraw cartoon ever made, and it’s one of the funniest. There is some great dialogue and a beautiful plot twist at the end where the people El Kabong is supposed to be saving are so fed up with his clumsiness, they turn against him.

The credits attached to this cartoon in its DVD release are incorrect. ID expert Howard Fein says Bob Carr is the animator of this short. Carr arrived at Hanna-Barbera in March 1959 as an assistant animator. He was promoted to a full animator in September 1960 as “The Flintstones” was about to get on the air. Here’s Carr (at least I think it’s him) in a teeny cubicle at the windowless studio at 3501 Cahuenga Blvd., with Dick Lundy in the background and a piece of Carlo Vinci to the right.

Here are a couple of background drawings. The first is the town San Chihuahua, and opens the cartoon. The rolling hills remind me of Art Lozzi’s work. The cacti, clouds and the rose-coloured mesas as well (compare them with Lozzi’s work in “Mine Your Manners.” The sign lettering is by Art Goble.

Incidental character designs.

A line of dialogue in this cartoon resulted in a complaint to a local TV station. I spotted it some time ago in an old newspaper. Unfortunately, virtually all the sources I had for on-line newspaper archives are behind paywalls and I can’t tell you which paper it was in. However, someone objected to the villain’s line “Like Santa Claus, there is no such a person as El Kabong.” Yowp says: “Get a life.”

While we’re talking dialogue...

Narrator: Tell me, Quick Draw, why do you hide behind the mask of El Kabong?
Quick Draw: Because no one will take my unmasked face seriously.

Quick Draw (singing off-key): Ohhhh, I won’t be at the round-up, Nellie, because I’m such a squaaaaare.

Don Fateego: Who knocks at my fine old hacienda door?
Generale: It is I, Generale Badguyos, (smiles at camera) friend of the people.
Don Fateego: What do you want, you oppressor?
Generale: I have come to ask for the hand of your beautiful daughter.
Rita: For the 117th time, the answer is still “no,” (smiles coyly) you handsome villain.

Generale: Anyone else daring putting me out? (points sword at Baba) How about you, shorty? Do you dare?
Baba: Huh? Oh, you can stay for dinner for all I care.

Rita: You have broken my final guitar on the gentleman’s head, you oaf!
Quick Draw: Sorry, lady, but there are certain occupational hazards connected with being a masked hero.

Mike Maltese glues adjectives that stick to everything. So Don Fateego has a “fine, old hacienda” and that’s how it’s referred to during the duration of the cartoon (Rita hears it so much, she calls her father “a fine, old hacienda” until correcting herself). El Kabong destroys a “fine old chandelier,” “a fine old expensive vase,” “fine old priceless antique table,” “fine old genuine bone-china teapot” and, finally, a “fine old imported window” during the climactic sword fight with the Generale. At one point, Baba acts like a golf caddy, complete with club bag, handing Quick Draw his “number five sword.”

Naturally, we don’t see any of this stuff getting wrecked because it would cost too much to animate. So you get to imagine it, like on radio.

Finally, Don Fateego and his daughter have had enough. They join Generale Badguyos in chasing El Kabong (in a long-shot silhouette). Since this is the final Quick Draw cartoon, they could be running after him to this very day.

Since this is an El Kabong cartoon, we’d better show you a couple of ka-bongs.

We’ve posted the storyboard for the cartoon HERE. You can see some of the things Mike Maltese wrote that had to be cut out, likely for time.

Hoyt Curtin’s music that underscores the scene where we’re introduced to the father and his daughter sounds more calypso than something from the Spanish-tinged Old West. And the dueling scene to the end of the cartoon features a cue associated with “Top Cat.”

Thus ends our reviews of the 45 Quick Draw McGraw cartoons. Quick Draw remains my favourite series out of the nine made by Hanna-Barbera for syndicated television in the 1950s.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Gentle Backgrounds

Hanna-Barbera had three background artists after the studio opened in 1957, one veteran and two relative newcomers to animation. The veteran was Bob Gentle who, like Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, worked at the MGM cartoon studio for the entirety of its 20-year life, excepting military service.

Robert Gentle was one of a number of artists who married someone else in the animation industry and later had a child who ended up in the industry as well. The child in question is Drew Gentle.

Today, Drew lives far from Hollywood in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I stumbled across a story in his local paper about an exhibition of his art. You can read it HERE. But allow me to quote portions of it because it has a little bit of biographical information about his father and talks about the Hanna-Barbera studio in the pre-Taft days.

[Drew] Gentle's career as an artist started in 1965 when he was 17 years old. He had just graduated from high school and was thinking "I don't have to be anywhere on Monday" when his father ask[ed], "Do you want to come to the studio and be my assistant?"
So Drew went to work the next Monday at Hanna-Barbara, where his father, Bob Gentle, was an artist. His take-home pay that summer was $70, Drew recalled, but the environment was incredibly rich.
"I was working with people who had worked in the golden age of animation, the '30s, '40s and into the '50s," he said.
Both of his parents had worked on the first feature-length animated movie, "Snow White" in the '30s for Disney, who pulled in artists from other studios when the financial backers threatened to close it down if it wasn't finished. Bob Gentle, who was a reconnaisance map maker for the Allied advance after D-Day, had worked with Bill Hanna before the war, including producing art for the "Tom and Jerry" cartoon movie shorts shown in theaters.
The first series Drew Gentle worked on was "The Herculoids," he recalled, one of the action cartoons H-B was producing in the 1960s. He also remembers working on "Birdman" and "Thundarr." By the time he was working on "Quick Draw McGraw," censorship had caught up with children's programming.
"They took away his gun," Drew said. "We weren't allowed to draw his gun."
Drew recalled that his father used sponges to create the stones of the caves for the studio's prime-time hit, "The Flintstones."
Drew's mother, Jane Parmele, who once dated Tex Avery and Bill Hanna, grew up in Hollywood and met Bob Gentle in art school.
We’ve never posted a profile of Bob Gentle here, so let’s do it now.

Robert Mac Gentle was born in Norfolk, Nebraska on February 15, 1914 to Burton Coe Gentle and Frances Davenport. His father was later deputy assessor for the County of Los Angeles. The Gentles arrived in Los Angeles around 1927. Bob attended the Otis Institute of Art in 1933, then eventually got a job at the Harman-Ising studio. When MGM dumped Harman-Ising and started making its own cartoons in 1937, Gentle made the jump to the new operation and ended up handling backgrounds for the Hanna-Barbera unit when it was formed a couple of years later.

He enlisted in the military on January 23, 1941 and by April he was in an army uniform along with Metro artists Paul Fanning, Tom Ray and Sam Dawson. Gentle married Jane Virginia Parmele on December 13, 1943 while both were in the service. She was a widow, having married in 1938 (as a matter of record, both Hanna and Avery tied the knot with their wives in 1936). So it would appear by Drew’s account that Gentle did not work on MGM cartoons during the war years, which would explain why veteran Ernie Smythe was the background artist on the first Oscar-winning Tom and Jerry cartoon “Yankee Doodle Mouse” (1943). When Gentle returned to the studio is unclear.
Variety reported on February 6, 1946:
‘Slap-Happy Lion’ newest Metro Star
Fred Quimby returned yesterday from New York after a two-week business trip to confer with Metro officials and attend sales meetings. Quimby announced formation of a new cartoon unit at the studio, which will turn out “Slap-Happy Lion” inkers. Tex Avery is the director and personnel includes Bob Bently, George Crenshaw, Gil Turner, Bud Crabe, P. D. Eller, Johnnie Johnson and Bob Gentle.
One wonders how accurate the story is as Avery already had a unit. Johnson was Avery’s background artist at Warners and followed him to MGM. Gentle did end up back in the Hanna-Barbara unit. When Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera opened their own studio in 1957, he made the jump again, working on all the early TV cartoon series. There appears to have been a bit of a gap in the mid-‘70s, but Gentle’s name can be found on the credits of the studio’s TV cartoons up to “The Flintstone Kids” (1986). He died on January 24, 1988.

We’ve featured some reconstructed long backgrounds of Gentle’s on the site over the years. Let’s repost a few from the first season of the Huck show.

“Tricky Trapper,” layout by Walt Clinton.

“Sir Huckleberry Hound,” layout by Walt Clinton.

“Jiggers...It’s Jinks,” layout by Ed Benedict.

“Sheep-Shape Sheepherder,” layout by Dick Bickenbach.

And, for comparison, here’s one from the MGM Cinemascope theatrical “Down Beat Bear,” layout by Dick Bickenbach, released in 1956. You can click on it to make it bigger.

Gentle’s backgrounds were conservative compared to the work of Art Lozzi and Fernando Montealegre at Hanna-Barbera. But, just as he did at MGM, he provided effective settings for the characters to do to entertain us. And by doing that, he helped entertain us, too.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Augie Doggie — Party Pooper Pop

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Harry Holt, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Lew Marshall, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Doggie Daddy – Doug Young, Augie Doggie, Harold – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-044, Production J-129.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Doggie Daddy tries to teach Augie how to be fun at parties.

Here’s a cartoon with a great premise that, unfortunately, is victimised by being trapped by the confines of television animation. If Hanna-Barbera was producing, say, a dozen shorts a year, Mike Maltese would have had time to come up with punchier observations by Augie Doggie as his dad miserably fails at being an entertainer. And, of course, if budgets were in the theatrical range, someone like Ken Harris could have done a hilarious job of Daddy’s vaudevillian soft-shoe. But the studio had neither the time nor money, so it did what it could.

Harry Holt is the animator on this one. Holt had been living in Portland in 1936 when he visited his mother in Los Angeles and, pretty much on a whim, applied at the Disney studio. There he stayed for 20 years. He worked in Chicago from 1956-60 (for Leo Burnett, perhaps?) and then came back to the West Coast for a job at Hanna-Barbera. He died in Florida in 2004 at the age of 93. You can read more about his life here.

Holt animates Doggie Daddy with lots of head wagging and nodding and even a Dick Lundy-like snout roll at one point. A few times, he has Daddy look at the camera almost straight on. H-B’s animators tended to avoid doing it. Here are four drawings from a stunned reaction. Daddy has thick eyebrows in this cartoon, too.

Doggie Daddy was kind of an animated Ozzie Nelson. “Ozzie and Harriet” was on the air for years. Ozzie was always able to support his family but he never went to work. Doggie Daddy doesn’t seem to have a job. In many cartoons, he’s sitting in a lounge chair reading a newspaper. At least in this cartoon, we know that Daddy did have a job at one time. He reveals he was in vaudeville. Considering his material, we suspect he didn’t play the big time. I can’t help but think besides Ozzie, there’s a little bit of Mike Maltese in this cartoon. Maltese could do a soft shoe dance and seems to have had a pining for performing at the Palace.

The lounge chair in this cartoon is supplied by Monte, who didn’t work on a whole lot of short cartoons in 1961-62. I don’t have credits handy, but I imagine he was spending his time on “The Flintstones” and “Top Cat.” Monte also seems to have loved oval throw rugs in the Daddy residence.

There’s rare interaction between Augie and a human child in this cartoons (“TV or Not TV,” for example, featured a humanised puppy as a neighbour). Here’s Tony Rivera’s design.

The Augie in this cartoon is the boy genius version, who would rather continue his boy genius studies in solitude and avoid the other neighbourhood kids, partly because he doesn’t fit in with them. Today, he’s rechecking Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. “I do believe I caught old Albert in a slight error,” he tells “na├»ve dad.” His Monte-designed bedroom doesn’t have an “H-B” pennant this time.

Daddy forces Augie to go to the party next door and then reminisces about his own days as young party-goer. They were genteel affairs, apparently, as Daddy recalls how he bowed for the ladies. That’s Augie’s cue to walk in blindfolded and stab Daddy in the butt (off-camera) with a tail from a pin-the-tail-on the donkey game.

Daddy now decides to help Augie fit in with the other kids, so he gives him a riddle to tell the kids: “What has four eyes and but cannot see. The answer is Miss-Eye-Sippi.” Augie isn’t laughing. “The joke is based on a play on words, which makes it a childish pun,” he says. One wonders if Maltese was once told that at a story meeting. “I got a thousand of ‘em. A thousand of ‘em,” the Durante-like Daddy tells us (Durante’s line on radio was “I got a million of ‘em”). Augie returns with his head down.

Daddy: Did you forget the funny joke?
Augie: I wish I had, father of old vaudeville days.
Daddy: Ya mean ya told it?
Augie: I mean I told it and I laid a great big egg.
Daddy: Well, maybe it was over their pointy little heads.
Augie: Oh, no, they got it. But the new generation with their pointy little heads also have very sharp brains.

Interestingly, Augie’s comment reflects Joe Barbera’s feelings in interviews about why kids got “adult” jokes in Hanna-Barbera cartoons.

Undaunted, Daddy decides to teach Augie his old vaudeville routine to try on the kids, complete with his rickety-tick fancy dance. Maltese hands Daddy what may be the oldest one-liner in vaudeville—“Folks, on my way to de tee-a-ter, a panhandler stopped me and he said he hadn’t had a bite in a week. So, I bit him!” (“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” reacts Augie). “Go lay ‘em in the aisles,” Daddy tells him. “Why fight it?” Augie shrugs. He returns with Daddy’s straw hat broken over his head. “Another egg, my disappointed father. Rickety-tick and all.”

Finally, dear old dad gives Augie the best advice—be yourself. Augie is. And he’s a hit, showing off the workings of a rocket to the kids next door. A rather nice ending to a well-rounded cartoon. I can’t help but think if this were “Yogi’s Gang” or some such ‘70s cartoon dreck, the “be yourself” message would be unsubtly and didactically hammered into viewers in the least entertaining manner possible.

Daddy ends the cartoon with a Durante catchphrase paraphrase: “Dat’s my boy of tomorrow who said dat today!”

Hoyt Curtin’s version of “While Strolling Through the Park One Day” makes an appearance during Daddy’s vaudeville routine. It’s preceded by an organ cue that I don’t believe was used too often.

With this review, we bid farewell to Augie and dear old dad. All 45 cartoons made in the series have been reviewed.