Saturday 29 August 2015

Nottingham and Yeggs Storyboard

Fables and legends provided a rich source of parody for animated cartoons going back to the silent era. The story of Robin Hood was among them. It had enough basic concepts (rob from rich, Sherwood Forest, evil sheriff, etc.) that they could be easily adapted in wildly varying deviations. “Rabbit Hood” and “Robin Hood Daffy,” both written by Mike Maltese at Warner Bros., have nothing in common other than Robin Hood was used as a starting point.

Hanna-Barbera borrowed from Robin as well, twice in two years on the Huckleberry Hound Show. “Robin Hood Yogi” (story by Joe Barbera and Charlie Shows) featured the bear dressed in Robin garb, robbing from the rich (food rich tourists) and giving to the poor (himself). The following season, Huck dressed in Robin garb and robbed from the rich and gave to the poor (himself) in “Nottingham and Yeggs” (story by Warren Foster). Again the cartoon were completely different, but both pretty funny.

That benevolent friend of old cartoons, animator and cat fancier Mark Kausler, has passed on a copy of the storyboard for “Nottingham and Yeggs” for your perusal. The board is by Dan Gordon. There are only minor changes in the dialogue. Animator Ed Love departed from some of the staging suggested by Gordon and Joe Montell’s backgrounds are more stylised than what you see in the panels. Compare Montell’s opening pan to Gordon’s.

In panel 10, the sheriff dismissively tosses the bone, but in the actual cartoon, he’s more contemptuous and angry. And panel 12 has mouths open, tongues out, while the cartoon has the dogs with clenched teeth. Panel 16 has the word “Jester” scrawled and an arrow pointing at Huck. This could have been Joe Barbera’s suggestion (judging by the shape of the “E”) to make Huck’s costume consistent as that’s what’s in the finished cartoon.

I love the cat’s crazy exit Gordon has come up with in panel 28. Love went for something more reminiscent of Jackie Gleason, since the dialogue line is a direct steal from him. I also like the idea of light streaming into the forest like in panel 34 but it never made it into the cartoon.

Panels 56 and 57 have characters in silhouette with a tree and a rock on an overlay cel in the foreground. That didn’t make it into the cartoon. Instead, there’s simply a pan from Huck over to the Merry Men as in panel 59. Panel 75 has one man; it may just simply be a drawing indicating the whole group as the dialogue line says “men.” In the actual cartoon, all the Merry Men move their mouths but there is only one Merry Man (Hal Smith’s) heard.

The remaining panels pretty much follow what ended up on the screen.

We’ll have a Pixie and Dixie storyboard for you next month.

Friday 28 August 2015

The Tony Benedict Documentary

What was it like at Hanna-Barbera when brand new Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear cartoons were being made (and endorsing Kellogg’s cereals along the way), and The Flintstones was just getting off the lightboard? There aren’t a lot of people around any more who can give you a first-hand answer to that question. But one of them is the man who drew that fine picture to the right, the Father of Astro, writer Tony Benedict.

Tony got out of the service and began his animation career at the Walt Disney studio (yes, Uncle Walt was alive and well then) before moving to UPA, the people who brought you Mr. Magoo. Tony and his writing partner came up with an idea for The Flintstones and submitted it to Hanna-Barbera. That got him a job at the studio in 1960 and soon he was providing storyboard drawings for the non-artist sitcom writers and writing stories for Huckleberry Hound and Yakky Doodle cartoons. He was the inventor of Hitchcock-ish Alfie Gator. Tony worked on many other series before leaving Hanna-Barbera after Taft Communications bought it to set up his own studio.

For a number of years, Tony has been planning and working on a documentary about his career at Hanna-Barbera and the great people and wonderful characters he worked with. The studio revolutionised TV animation and it’s a story that needs to be told. Besides, there are always funny stories aplenty about things that go on in a studio while cartoons are being made, so documenting them would provide good humour for an audience. Putting together the film has been a challenge; money for the rights to use the Hanna-Barbera characters on screen being one of them. It’s gone through a number of concepts, but it’s finally ready.

Tony has put together a 20-minute animated film entitled “Pencil Me In.” It features Tony, in cartoon form, telling how Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera developed television animation. Other than animator/layout artist Mike Lah (who left in 1958 or ’59), Tony worked with every major player in the early days of the Hanna-Barbera studio. He was there when the company moved from a small, windowless, cinder block cube to the bright, cheery plant at 3400 Cahuenga Drive that everyone associates with the studio. He was there when H-B jumped into the made-for-Saturday-morning business and began its domination.

“Pencil Me In” will premiere at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival on Friday, September 4th at 1 p.m., screening at the Regal Cinemas L.A. LIVE Stadium 14. I’m sure Tony will let us know more after that. Check out his website HERE.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Snuffles the Model

One of many reasons that Quick Draw McGraw is my favourite Hanna-Barbera cartoon series—Snuffles!

The poses on this sheet come from Snuffles’ first appearance in “Bow-Wow Bandit.” The animation is by Ken Muse, but the layout credits aren’t on available copies of the cartoon. Here are the closest poses I can find in the cartoon to the drawings in the upper corners.

Interestingly, Snuffles isn’t named in the cartoon.

Snuffles was featured in seven Quick Draw cartoons and one with Snagglepuss, “Tail Wag Snag,” (animated by Allen Wilzbach (with what looks to be Dick Lundy animation of Snuffles’ ecstasy leap). Snagglepuss shouts off-camera in the scene, so we don’t see his mouth open as wide in the actual cartoon.

The sheet and rough drawing came from one of the internet auction sites—Van Eaton Gallery, I believe—along with what you see below.

Does anyone think Pixie and Dixie were the stars of the Pixie and Dixie cartoons? Of course they weren’t. Mr. Jinks was. It might have been fun to see him in meece-less adventures, like trying and failing to join a band as the cool cats see through his phoney, like, hipster lingo. He could have ineptly bashed around the drum in this model sheet. I love Jinks’ expressions here. He got watered down toward the end of the series. Too bad, because he had lots of potential as a character. This Jinks sheet is signed by Dick Bickenbach.

I really like Yogi’s stroll on this sheet, dated when the bear was still on the Huckleberry Hound Show. I wish I could tell you what cartoon it’s from. The stroll is different than the one in the opening animation of his own show in 1961 and it’s not as loose-limbed as the “bongo walk” in a couple of the first season Huck show cartoons from 1958.

The cast of my favourite show. Ed Benedict’s designs modified by Dick Bickenbach, I suspect. The “Allen” written in the corner could be for “Allen Wilzbach.”

This sheet can be seen on the wall next to Dick Lundy’s cubicle in the Life magazine spread on Hanna-Barbera published in 1960. Dino is another great character, and he was showcased wonderfully in “Dino Goes Hollyrock.”

This looks like Bick’s work again. I haven’t a clue what all the numbers mean, other than the “P” is the production number. For example, “P-67” is “The Buffalo Convention” from the third Flintstones season.

Are these Fred mouths by Jerry Hathcock?

Layout drawings from Production V-16, “Millionaire Astro.” Frames from the finished cartoon below. Animator ID anyone?

“Millionaire Astro” (aka “The Tralfaz Cartoon”) is a fun half-hour with some great interior backgrounds, squiggly-mouthed George Nicholas animation, the Jury-Vac and a judge that sounds like Cap’n Crunch. We’ll see if we can find time to post on it.

Saturday 22 August 2015

Snagglepuss in Arrow Error

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Hicks Lokey, Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Written by Mike Maltese; Story Director – Art Davis; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Duck – Daws Butler; Hunter, Zookeeper – Doug Young; Charlie Duck, Wadsworth – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-37.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.

The best part of any Snagglepuss cartoon is the declamations made by the pink lion, generally near the start thereof. Witness this soliloquy from “Arrow Error.” It starts with Snagglepuss (supposedly) reading from Robin Hood, then acting out the part of Robin shooting arrows. It’s Mike Maltese at his best. Phoney Shakespearean English, puns, silliness and borrowing a catchphrase that was pretty well-known in 1961.

“What ho, Sheriff of Nottingham. ‘Tis I, Robin Hood. He, who robbeth from the richeth, and giveth to the pooreth. Hand over the gold. And the charger plates. Or thou shalt feel my sturdy bow and arrow, even.”

Ah, if Robin Hood were but alive today. To help the poor woodland creatures from the hunter’s gun. To assist ‘em, even. Whyyy not!

With bow and arrow. Toing! He’d rescue the frightened katydid. Or is it katy-didn’t? No matter. The forest will re-vertebate with the sound of his toinging arrows. Toing, toing, toing! And again. Toing! The hunter will be put to rout. Scram, even. And the cheery chipmunk could one-st again chip amongst us. Unfrayed. Et cetera, et cetera.

“Whyyy not!” was the exclamation by Dayton Allen during character sketches on The Steve Allen Show (as an aside, Allen was a cartoon voice actor himself, playing Heckle and Jeckle and numerous other characters at the Terrytoons studio from the ‘30s into the ‘50s).

(A side-note: Hanna-Barbera had a character in development named Toing Tiger. One wonders if Maltese was responsible).

So Snagglepuss decides to be Robin Hood, don a green felt hat and a quiver of arrows, and help the less fortunate. Naturally he comes up on the losing end. First he tries to save some ducks from a hunter (“Come back, little ducks! Returneth thou hence. Thou art safe now. Robin Hood sayeth so”). The ducks think he’s a hunter, steal his bow and arrows and attack him with them. Then he unexpectedly crashes into an elephant in a tree and decides to ensure the pachyderm (Wadsworth, by name) isn’t forced at gunpoint to return to the zoo. The enthusiastic, hero-worshipping elephant is reminiscent of Maltese’s Quick Draw McGraw cartoon “Elephant Boy Oh Boy.” In the end, the huge beast crushes Snagglepuss, who asks for asylum in said zoo.

Other than the dialogue, there’s nothing really outstanding in the cartoon. Art Lozzi was responsible for the backgrounds; the blue tree trunks give it away. There’s a pan over a background to open the cartoon.

Another from later in the cartoon.

Walt Clinton handled the layouts and incidental character designs. As John Kricfalusi reminds you, look for the low ear. That means it’s more than likely a Clinton layout. The elephant is attractively designed, too.

The animation is by veteran Hicks Lokey. He gives Snagglepuss an odd chin design in one profile shot.

Let’s give you another endless cycle. Here are the ducks (one is named Charlie) running away with Snagglepuss’ bow and arrows. There are three drawings of wings shot on twos, meaning the cycle takes six frames (nothing else is animated). Story director Art Davis has timed the cycle so the ducks need 12 frames to pass the same trees in the background. This is a little slower than the animation in the cartoon.

Other Snagglepuss dialogue nuggets:
● “The Audu-Bon-Bon Society shall hear of this, forthwith and to wit!” (after the ducks snatch the bow and arrows).
● There’s a “Heavens To Murgatroyd,” “Heavens to peanuts,” “Heavens to submarines” and “Heavens to mashed potaters!” (just before the elephant lands on him).
● “Exit, merrie as ever, stage left!” “Exit, forsooth, stage left!” “Exit, fractures and all, stage left!” “Exit, upside-downee, stage right.”
● “Hark! ‘Tis the voice of a lark in yon bark!” (after hearing a cry for help in a tree).

Daws Butler, Don Messick and Doug Young all provide voices in this cartoon with familiar themes from Hoyt Curtin.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Flintstones Comics, August 1965

The postman’s back—at least for one encounter with Pebbley-Poo—in the Flintstones daily comic strips from 50 years ago this month.

There isn’t much to say about them; you can click on each week to make the comics bigger. Interestingly, the writer decided to do a string of Flintstones-on-vacation comics from August 10th through the 14th. There’s no Baby Puss but we do get an octopus twice (Aug. 3 and 10). Betty appears four times (Aug. 16, 19, 26, 27). There are a few Stone Age inventions as well (the hair dryer of August 16 is inventive), and there’s a Mickey Mantle (Aug. 6). I wonder if he’s related to Roger Marble, the rookie baseball slugger who appeared on the TV show (appropriately, Roger Maris and Mantle were teammates with the Yankees for a time). And two baby language barrier cartoons (Aug. 17 and 24) appear.

Sorry there are no Sunday comics available for you to read. Papers which had been printing them had no qualms about dropping them for advertising comics or, on August 1st, a feature that took up several pages drawn by Graham Place, who animated for a number of years for the Fleischer studio and its successors.

An update: Some nice-looking Sunday comics have been discovered since this post was made and have been added. Gene Hazelton’s layouts are top-notch..

August 1, 1965.

August 8, 1965.

August 15, 1965.

August 22, 1965.

August 29, 1965.