Saturday 7 February 2015

Run, Pixie, Run!

Hanna-Barbera didn’t invent the idea of characters running past the same window or houses or grove of trees over and over again, but it happened so often in the studio’s cartoons that even kids noticed. I don’t know whether it happened more often in Pixie and Dixie cartoons than others, but since chasing was part-and-parcel of the plot, it seemed like the meeces and Jinks legged it out past the same repeating objects more often than, say, Huck.

For those of you who like endless cycles, we’ve created a couple from “Jinks’ Flying Carpet,” an undistinguished cartoon from 1958.

Ken Muse was the animator. He came up with a couple of run cycles for Pixie and Dixie. One has four drawings, the other has six. I presume Bill Hanna indicated on the exposure sheet he wanted the runs done differently for timing purposes. Muse gets a bit of the break as the second run is used again. Pixie and Dixie run in the opposite direction, so the cels would have been painted on the opposite side.

Here are the positions Muse used for the four-drawing run early in the cartoon. The meece push off with their left heel and bring their left knee up.

And here are the positions Muse used for a later, more urgent run. Note the brush work around the legs.

Hanna timed the first scene so that the background would repeat after 16 drawings, or one foot of film. That means the run cycle was used three times before we got to see Pixie and Dixie run past the same curtains and window. In the cartoon, they go past the curtains four times, turn their heads (on a separate cel), run past the curtains again before Muse changes the drawings. Here is the run cycle slowed down to a healthy trot.

Jinks, on the titular flying carpet, chases after the meece. Again, Muse has two different cycles. The first has the back part of the carpet and Jinks’ tail animated while the rest of the cat’s body and the front end of the carpet are on a separate cel. The second has both ends of the carpet changing positions. In the first cycle, Jinks is flying past a set of double doors and it, again, takes 16 drawings before the background repeats. The cycle has four drawings, but shot on twos, so the cycle repeats after eight frames. Here are the drawings. The movement is pretty subtle.

When the scene is shot, you see the gentle movement of the carpet and tail. Here’s Jinks in an endless flying cycle.

Before we run (and not in a cycle), let me post some more of Muse’s work. Here’s Jinks getting up and running out of the scene. I’ve skipped some drawings but the first three are consecutive. Later cartoons would simply have brush lines as a character zoomed away, not what Muse did here.

Here’s an evil Jinks expression, with large pupils and thick eyebrows. I believe Muse drew the same sort of thing in another first-season cartoon but I can’t remember which one. This cartoon may have been lacklustre but there’s always something worth looking at.


  1. I remember some of those chases. There was enough repeat-repeat on the background it seemed like they were running in a house of near-infinite size. Several years later, I had a 'lightbulb' moment. Durp! They were running in circles, but short of an overhead shot (which would have cost more money and more drawings) that really couldn't be shown.

  2. Nothing to do with “runs”, but I always loved that angry, determined expression (seen here with Jinks) with the protruding lower lip!

    Also loved the running (and walking, even) pose where the character’s lower half is out in front of his upper half, going back at least to the “Huck-Hound-Wolf” in Droopy. As seen here with P&D.

    Just more things that made the early H-B cartoons so great!

  3. When my sister and I were young sprouts watching H-B TV cartoons, even we yokels would notice how the same background popped up over and over. Funny thing is, you can see a bit of this in '50s theatrical cartoons as well. One of my favorite Chuck Jones/Bugs Bunny efforts, BULLY FOR BUGS, uses this M.O. frequently, but because the rest of the cartoon is so elaborate, the familiar backgrounds don't get noticed until multiple viewings of the cartoon.