Saturday 29 November 2014

Yogi Bear — Missile-Bound Bear

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Bill Keil, Layout –Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Written by Warren Foster, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yogi Bear, General – Daws Butler; Boo Boo, Ranger Smith, Fired Soldier, Driver – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Yogi, Boo Boo and Ranger accidentally launch themselves into space.

Jay Ward cartoons were known for taking shots at things. Hanna-Barbera cartoons were not. This cartoon is about as satirical as Hanna-Barbera would get. The cracks at the U.S. military are the highlight of the cartoon. Not an awful lot else happens.

It opens with a general at a secret briefing in Washington, D.C., revealing how a rocket shot from Jellystone Park (a national park?!) will put a man in orbit for the first time. “We’re using an entirely new system of rocket launching,” says the general. “This new system is to launch the rocket first then talk about it. We’ve never done it this way before, but it’s worth a try.”

Yogi, Boo Boo and Ranger Smith end up in the rocket and accidentally make it lift off. A guard, who didn’t notice the three goes inside, watches the blast off. “Typical operation,” he says to the camera. “The enlisted man’s never told a thing.”

He reports the launch to the general. “The rocket? That is impossible. It would take hours to press the right buttons, pull the right switches, in the exact sequence. Even we don’t know how. That’s why we’ve been delayed.”

The three try to figure out how to get back to Earth. Boo Boo remembers reading about an escape hatch in a magazine article. Ranger Smith clasps his hands. “Thank goodness there are no military secrets in this country.”

The general fires the guard who reported the launch. The guard’s so delighted his helmet jumps off in excitement. “Fired?” From the Army? Mabel, baby’s coming home!” says the guard. So much for dedication for the serving the country.

The rest of the cartoon is the typical. It’s yet another cartoon where Yogi hibernates. It’s yet another cartoon where Boo Boo is “the good bear.” It’s another cartoon that ends with Ranger Smith promising Yogi a picnic basket if he won’t do something, in this case publicise the rocket launch (Yogi, ever the iconoclast, is willing to disobey the general’s “order” to keep quiet about it, while the uniformed, ex-military Smith is happy to comply). And it’s another cartoon that ends in a rhyme: “You’ve a lot of cheek, but when it comes to pic-a-nic baskets, I’m very, very weak,” says Yogi after the Ranger bribes him into silence with food. I do like the bit that Yogi is awoken from his sleep because Ranger Smith hadn’t finished singing the lullabye to him.

Let’s look at some background drawings.

The credits say Monte did the backgrounds for this cartoon. Monte’s stuff was much flatter in the earlier cartoons. The frame below has a tree with the fronds hanging down. Art Lozzi drew trees like that, so it’s possible he contributed some backgrounds. Lozzi once mentioned that the credits weren’t altogether accurate.

Bill Keil animates Yogi with a little line from the nose to the lip, with the head slightly turned.

Hoyt Curtin’s underscore is typical for 1961. For whatever reason, the ranger is humming Brahms’ Lullaby while one of Curtin’s tunes is playing. It clashes.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Jay, It’s Bill. Can I Borrow An Animator?

Occasionally, an unexpected name pops up in the credits of Hanna-Barbera cartoons around 1960. Clarke Mallery, Phil Duncan and Gil Turner come to mind. Turner, for example, was at UPA and Format Films around the same time. You might wonder whether he had trouble holding a job but that may not have been the case at all.

Variety of June 7, 1960 had a lengthy article on a lack of animators in Hollywood. Hanna-Barbera was humming with two syndicated half-hour shows on the air (Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw) and had “The Flintstones” in production for a fall debut on ABC. Al Brodax had subcontracted for a pile of new made-for-TV Popeye cartoons. Limited animated versions of Dick Tracy and Mr Magoo were on the small screen. Larry Harmon was making Bozo cartoons. And some portions of Jay Ward’s beloved “Rocky and His Friends” were being drawn in the U.S. There were only so many animators to go around and it appears some were working at more than one studio simultaneously. That may explain some of the more unexpected animator credits.

Here’s the story from
Variety. It was, more or less, reprinted in the weekly edition from New York eight days later.

Shortage Of Animators Due To Videmand,
Producers Ask Art Inst. To Teach The Art

A far-reaching program of “laying down a vintage of talent” for the animation film industry has been underway locally with “at least” 15 independent animation film producers sponsoring the plan to ease the shortage of trained help.
According to producers Jay Ward and Bill Scott of Ward Productions, “there are only about 1,000 persons trained in the field, and the industry could use at least 2,500 right now.” In some cases, it has necessitated producers going out of the country, notably to Japan and Mexico to have their work done.
“The issue is so critical,” declared Herb Klynn of Format Films, “we have grouped together and are meeting Thursday night with the Chouinard Art Institute in an effort to have a four-year course set up which will somewhat ease the shortage in the foreseeable future. At the rate of progress this phase of the industry is growing, we can now only barely meet our 1961 commitments and will certainly not be able to expand our programming unless we ‘rob’ talent from each other.”
At the moment, it is known that considerable “moonlighting” is going on, with talent working at one studio during the day and performing for others at night. Television spot commercials have increased the demand but it is in area of the half-hour animated cartoons that the shortage is most seriously felt.
“Cartooning is an essential part of television programming,” said Scott, and a successful cartoon series is “worth $7 million dollars.”
As more talented people entered the field, it became obvious the need for knowledge in the basic crafts was known by but a few, and there has not yet been found a training ground for those who wish to enter the industry. Jay Ward Productions, planning a one-hour special for this fall, will combine live and cartoon talent in “The Magic of Christmas.” However, since the company is already committed to three other shows, it has found it necessary to use animators and artists in Mexico.
“This has proved unsatisfactory,” Ward stated, “due to the language barrier. We can’t seem to communicate our exact feelings of satire to them and the result is usually not comical or funny but either ludicrous or grotesque.”
Among the producers who have banded together to find a practicable solution to the shortage of help, are: Quartet Films, Play house Pictures, Hanna-Barbera, Ray Patin Productions, TV Spots, Larry Harmon and Jay Ward. The group has made surveys within its own ranks and because they have been “vying for particular talent,” and they are now “at least 150 people short in key situations and can use 1,000 more right away.”
At Chouinard Art Institute, Mr. Mitchell A. Wilder, director, claims there is no such instruction given in any of the universities on the West Coast.
“It is a long-range program to satisfy a particular need,” he said “and we are meeting with the producers to determine exactly the course of instruction during a four-year course.”
The producers have stated they will pay part of the cost of such a program by assigning one of their top executives to teach one day per week, thus providing an adequate faculty to any school program set up.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Fibber Fox Chases Yakky Doodle Forever

Running and chasing are ingrained in the DNA of animated cartoons going back to the days of silent film. So it’s no surprise you find pursuits all over the place in Hanna-Barbera cartoons (especially past the same objects in a repeating background drawing). Run or walk cycles have the added advantage of allowing the studio to save money by reusing the same drawings.

Some cycles were eight drawings, others were six or four. But Clarke Mallery came up with a three-drawing run cycle in “Hasty Tasty,” a 1961 Yakky Doodle cartoon.

Clarke Ellis Mallery was at Disney by 1941; he had worked as a caretaker at a school before that. Mallery played clarinet in the Firehouse Five Plus Two. He opened Mallery Productions by 1955 and later worked on the Magoo Arabian Night feature, that frightful bore “Gay Purree,” and for Jay Ward Productions.

Let’s put together Mallery’s cycle in an endless loop. Go get that duck, Fibber!

Saturday 22 November 2014

Snooper and Blabber — Chilly Chiller

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – John Boersma, Layout – Jerry Eisenberg, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snooper, Blabber, J. Evil Scientist – Daws Butler; Mrs. J. Evil Scientist – Jean Vander Pyl; Ghost, Junior, Wolf Monster – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Quick Draw McGraw Show M-044, Production J-128.
First Aired: 1962.
Plot: Snooper and Blabber are hired to evict the J. Evil Scientist family from a haunted house.

Boris Karloff hosted a horror anthology series from 1960 to 1962 called “Thriller,” which featured a series of lines appearing on the screen and the word “Thriller” fading in as his face faded out.

Something like couldn’t be passed up by Mike Maltese, who parodied it in “Chilly Chiller.” In the cartoon, the lines instead form a tic-tac-toe game before the word “Chiller” flashes on the screen.

Your host for the show isn’t the ghostly-sounding Karloff, although there is a ghost in it. Snooper welcomes viewers with the words “Greetin’s, lovers of spine-chilling stories. If you are the scary type, do not watch this show. You had best go prune a daffodil, or something.” “Snoop is right, folks,” adds Blabber. “This is a real scaaaary story. Honest.” The appropriate mock-scaaaary mood is enhanced by a solo Wurlitzer in the background playing a Hoyt Curtin cue called “Wild Organ For Prowler (Take One).”

We’ll get to our story in just a moment. First, let’s check out some of Bob Gentle’s backgrounds. The haunted house exteriors are top notch and the overhead angle on Snooper’s office door is unique; perhaps it comes from Jerry Eisenberg’s layout. (Note Scott Shaw!’s note about layouts in the comments).

The story starts with Snooper admiring his “fabulous butterfly collection.” The phone rings. The detectives are called to Creepy Mountain House by someone who finally has to shout “Help!” into the phone to prove he needs them. “Now are you convinced?” says the phone. “Yeah. Especially me left ear.” The cartoon cuts back to the present and Snooper outlining the story. “So, after a visit to me left ear doctor...” he begins, then allows Blab to pick up the story. John Boersma animated the cartoon. See what he does with Snooper’s pinkie in one frame. You’ll see the same pinkie-crooked-up hand on Blab “Bronco Bluster,” Augie Doggie in “Vacation Tripped” and Huck Hound in “Bars and Stripes,” all Boersma cartoons. He liked gestures. See one of Blab’s below.

Our heroes arrive at the spooky mansion to find its occupant, a ghost with the Professor Gizmo voice from “Ruff and Reddy,” can’t haunt it because the J. Evil Scientist family (though unnamed in this cartoon) has moved in and refuses to move out. J. Evil ignores Snooper’s “writ of habeas vacancy” so the detectives decide to remove the furniture from the home, starting with Junior’s crib. That brings on the gags. First, Junior pushes a button to zap Snooper with electricity. Then Junior pushes another button so Snoop falls through a trap door into the basement, where he fights a huge octopus with a chair (“What a dastardly tribulation experience,” says Snooper after closing the door on the creature).

Next, Junior mixes a formula (with a cue used during the Pebbles birth episode of “The Flintstones” in the background) which he feeds to a mosquito. The insect grows to a huge size and smugly battles a sword-wielding Snoop (“That giant mosquita is going to shiska-blab us, Bob, I mean shiska-bob us, Blab”). After escaping, our heroes run from a wolf monster that Junior lets out of his TV set.

“I’m not takin’ in every Tom, Dick and Scary Ghost,” says Snoop as their client wails that he’s now homeless. But the final scene has Snooper on the phone trying to sell his life story to a TV station. “It’s bein’ written now. By a ghost writer.” Cut to a shot of the ghost at a typewriter. Oh, but Mike Maltese’s groaners aren’t over. Blab observes: “When it comes to ghosts, Snoop has the right spirit.” With that truly cringe-worthy pun (and cringing is, no doubt, what Maltese had in mind), the cartoon ends.

And, with that, we end our reviews of all 45 Snooper and Blabber cartoons.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Little George Jetson

Above you see the opening background drawing for the Jetsons’ cartoon “The Little Man,” the 17th show put into production. And to the right, you see a dialogue page from the opening.

Heritage Auctions had the latter up for auction awhile ago, along with some storyboard panels that you can see below (and click on to enlarge). The final dialogue in the cartoon isn’t exactly the same as what you can read on the panels. Lines have been added and subtracted. There’s a salt gag that’s not in the panels on sheet 21.

The story was written by Tony Benedict and the sketches below are his. If you look at the numbering, you’ll observe that number 22 is broken down into four sheets: A, B, C and D. Whether the story was expanded later to include those scenes, I don’t know. And there’s a whole bedroom routine in the cartoon that takes place between the first and third panels of 22A.

Saturday 15 November 2014

Huckleberry Hound — Bullfighter Huck

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ken Southworth, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Tony Benedict, Story Director – John Freeman, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervisor – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound, Crowd – Daws Butler; Narrator, Bull, P.A. Announcer, Crowd – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: In Spain, Huck fights a bull.

A staple of Hanna-Barbera cartoons was for characters to whisk themselves off-screen, followed by a camera shake and sound effects to indicate violence, and then a cut to a character in some kind of disarray. In this cartoon, there are a lot of impact drawings involving Huck and the bull he is fighting.

The animation in the cartoon is by Ken Southworth, who settled in at Hanna-Barbera after bouncing around in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Thomas Kenneth Southworth was born in England in 1918 and came to the U.S. with his parents. They settled in Chicago where his dad Thomas was a janitor and Ken got a job as an office clerk at a wholesale grocer. He graduated from the Chicago Institute of the Arts then headed west to Disney. Southworth moved on to the Walter Lantz studio, then MGM (where he was in the Hanna-Barbera unit) and was introduced to the world of TV animation through Sam Singer Productions, the home of the astoundingly bad “Bucky and Pepito.”

Southworth managed to escape thanks to a company called Animation Associates, set up by John Boersma, Lou Zukor and Rudy Cataldi to make animated commercials; Cataldi had worked for Singer. Variety reported the company had completed a pilot for a cartoon tele-series about a private eye. The trade paper then announced on August 19, 1960 the company had hired 11 animators to work on Q.T. Hush cartoons—the ten listed were Bill Carney, Xenia DeMattia, Jack Ozark, Dan Bessie, John Freeman, Clarke Mallery, Volus Jones, Don Williams, Ed Aardal and Virgil Ross—along with a second film cutter (Lucky Brown, in addition to Charles Hawes). On the 31st, Variety blurbed that Southworth had been hired by the company to direct 20 cartoons (as a side-note, the paper also revealed in the same edition that “Ruff and Reddy” would be replaced by “King Leonardo” on Saturday mornings in the fall). A number of these people ended up doing work, freelance or otherwise, at Hanna-Barbera soon after; perhaps H-B contracted out to Animation Associates. Southworth’s career at the studio lasted into into the 1990s. He died in 2003 at the age of 89.

This may be his best cartoon. He tries to a little something extra out of the limited animation. H-B almost always animated action horizontally or vertically. Here are two drawings of an angular run. Southworth either drew in perspective or a camera trick was used. Either way, the studio rarely did this.

When he draws Huck being ploughed into by the bull, Huck’s montera comes off his head and twirls end-over-end in the air. Southworth could just as easily have it fly from the frame or land on the ground and save work (in one scene, there are duplicate monteras for a couple of frames; it may be a camera error). Instead of straight run cycles, Southworth changes Huck’s body position, and he also stretches out the bull’s body, giving them some variety (and making it look like the characters are accelerating). There are also some little extras, like nostrils flaring in a little cycle, and the bull’s lips wavering in anger. And he actually gives a real startled take in the cartoon, not something lame like eyes getting a little wider. Huck pulls his sword on the bull. With perfect timing, the bull chomps on it. Huck’s body shows the surprise. It makes the scene funnier, though the drawing is on threes (two of them have brush lines) so it may not register as well as it could.

Dick Thomas constructed the backgrounds. Here are a few.

Tony Benedict’s story starts with the usual format. Off-screen narrator Don Messick sets up the scene. Huck is a matador in Spain. As usual, Huck butchers the native tongue as he chats with the viewers. “Bonus daisy!” he happily tells us. He arrives at the stadium. “Well, I’d better get into my purdy bullfightin’ suit, the embroidery and all like that,” he tells us. “Keep your eye on me, folks, ‘cause I gets terrible handsome once-t I get my bullfightin’ garments on.” And the version of “Clementine” he sings this time includes the word “Tory-dory” (as in “toreador”).

As you’ve seen by the drawings, the bull pounds Huck pretty well. The crowd boos. “Folks around here always ‘boo’,” he explains to the viewers at home, “you know, to kindly show their contempt.” Then he adds, in Daws Butler talk, “But they don’t reas-lize that this is the basic matador stra-gedy.”

Tony pulls off a funny little scene where Huck and the bull run out of the arena. That doesn’t faze the P.A. announcer one bit. “We shall continue with the audio version of the programme,” he decides. Then he continues with a play-by-play of the fight that’s completely made up. “Of course, I ad-lib just a little,” he confides in us. While he’s doing this, he’s oblivious that the bull and Huck are running back and forth behind him. Finally, they stop and look at him. When he realises where they are, he shouts “¡Ay, Chihuahua! I think it’s time for a station break!” and he dives right off the broadcast area (with the sound of crashing dishes). Huck turns to the bull and says “Let’s get on with the show, Toro.” And they do. Southworth, incidentally, doesn’t simply have the announcer’s body rigid on one cel during the play-by-play. He puts him in about four different positions, with hand-claps and an arm thrust. He’s trying to keep the scene from looking stagnant.

Finally, the bull sends Huck crashing through the wooden barrier in the ring. “Does the matador have some last words for his fans about the moment of truth?” asks the announcer. “Just one thing, a-mygo” replies the pain-eyed Huck. “The moment of truth shore hurts.” At this point, the bull sticks his head in the frame and happily growls “Ain’t it de truth?” and gruntingly laughs as Huck turns his eyes to the audience to end the cartoon.

There’s a camera error during one of the run cycles. The camera man has the background going in the wrong direction for four frames.

The Hoyt Curtin underscore doesn’t include any Spanish-sounding music. Some short neutrals are used for the first minute and a bit. During one of the Huck-runs-from-bull scenes, there’s a Hammond organ piece used in a number of cartoons. You can also hear a short variation of the Flintstones “Rise and Shine” when Huck walks into the ring and before the bull comes out.