Saturday 31 October 2015

Ruff and Reddy Storyboard

Ruff and Reddy was Hanna-Barbera’s first foray into television animation but it was unlike any of the other series the studio was involved in. While the show was named for the Hanna-Barbera cat and dog characters, they were only a part of it. Screen Gems, H-B’s bankroller, sold NBC a half-hour show hosted by Jimmy Blaine which featured old cartoons from the original Screen Gems studio (Columbia’s cartoon operation in the 1940s) with Ruff and Reddy’s serialised adventures in between. The series debuted on Saturday, December 14, 1957 back when Saturday mornings were dominated by puppet shows, filmed live action series, and a few old theatrical cartoons strung together.

Mark Kausler, the friend of all fans of old animation, acquired some story sketches for one of the Ruff and Reddy cartoons in Series ‘B’, Pinky the Pint-Sized Pachyderm and has been kind enough to send them so you can see them. He points out they’re from the pencil of none other than Joe Barbera himself. Barbera was an able and quick artist; Bill Hanna once marvelled about how fast Barbara was in creating sketches for the Tom and Jerry cartoons.

These are, perhaps, for a first draft of the story as they don’t quite reflect what ended up on the screen. Far from it, in a way. The board is labelled “B-9 Bungle in the Jungle.” While the title was kept, the drawings describe the storyline in the following episode, “Miles of Crocodiles.” And “Miles” was the 22nd, not the 9th, episode in the series. There may be a good explanation. If you’ve ever seen the Pinky serial, you may get the impression it’s two adventures mashed together. The first number of episodes involved Ruff, Reddy and Pinky on a pirate ship. Suddenly that plot ends and we find the three in a jungle being tracked by hunter Harry Safari. My wild guess is Barbera, Charlie Shows and maybe Dan Gordon came up with an adventure, found it was too short, so they tacked on the pirate cartoons at the start after establishing the story to stretch it out.

You’ll notice the board starts with drawing number 12. My next wild guess is the recap of the previous episode was in the preceding 11 panels (with, I presume, a different production number).

Charlie Shows’ finished dialogue and the scenario don’t match the first page of panels. Don Messick’s narrator begins with: “Ruff, Reddy and Pinky escape. But Harry Safari is hot on their trail again. Sheee.” And the scene cuts to Harry sniffing the ground. Forgive the murky version of this taken off a low resolution YouTube video taken off a cable TV feed. It’s a shame we will never see these on home video. While I’m not a fan of the series, I sure like the jungle background drawings in this adventure.

In some ways, the story stuck pretty close to Barbera’s drawings. Here are 16 and 17 from the cartoon. And Shows’ rhyming dialogue in panel 19 was kept intact.

Panels 20 and 21.

Notice in Panel 34 how Barbera indicates the silhouette of Reddy is to be animated to join up with the static drawing of Ruff and Pinky.

Panels 43 and 45. The “pan” instruction in Panel 44 is ignored. There’s a cut from one scene to the next. However, the camera pans over and then jerks upward a bit to get from 45 to 46. And Shows fits in another one of his rhyming couplets in lieu of the dialogue in Panel 47. “Relax, Max,” says Reddy.

Panel 53 has Pinky pointing with his finger. The cartoon did it better with Pinky pointing with his trunk (in a cycle of four drawings on twos).

In the actual cartoon, the dialogue in Panel 56 is “Fellas! It’s a Crod-ock-odile!” Daws Butler was noted for playing with words; I suspect that’s one of his contributions. Shows gives us more rhymes, as well as the name of the cartoon. The narration from Panel 57 to 59 goes “Not a cro-dock-odile, Reddy. But miles and miles of crocodiles. And each one with a large mouth full of teeth. Aren’t those choppers whoppers?” 56 in the actual cartoon has Reddy with close together cross-eyes. The panel has wide-apart eyes; Dan Gordon liked drawing characters that way, too.

The animation’s interesting. There are drawings of two crocodiles as per panels 57 and 58 on one cel while cycle animation of waves they make are overlaid. The waves fade out. The croc in the foreground suddenly opens his mouth wide (no in-between) and the drawing is held for 58 frames while the narration continues. There’s an eye close held for four frames, an eye open held for 16 frames and, well, it saves a pile of drawing.

There are no credits on any of the Ruff and Reddys except for the names of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. There’s so little animation besides walk cycles, mouth movements and eye blinks, I can’t tell you who was responsible (one scene ends without a mouth on Reddy). One scene has a shake take that Carlo Vinci liked using. The backgrounds may be the work of Fernando Montealegre; there are some flowers in some of the scenes and he drew them the same way in later H-B series.

It’s been speculated Harry Safari was lifted from Dishonest John from the Time For Beany puppet show. D.J. wasn’t an original character. Like Oil Can Harry in the Terrytoons cartoons, he was a caricature of an 19th century villain in stage melodramas. But the lineage of Harry’s “Nyah-ah-ah!” laugh points right to Dishonest John, and the fact that both Charlie Shows and Daws Butler worked on the Beany show make the connection far more than a mere coincidence.

Those of you who are new to the blog and are interested in this series can check out this post from 2009 and this post from 2013.

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Hallowe'en Bear

Did you ever dress up as your favourite cartoon character and go out on that Great October 31st Candy Grab known as Hallowe’en? It seems a lot of kids did. Some of them as Hanna-Barbera characters; the studio licensed Huck, Yogi, and others in costume form by 1960. That year, the AP’s Sid Moody reported maufacturer Ben Cooper Co. had Huck, while another company offered Alvin Chipmunk, who wasn’t even on TV yet (Charley Weaver was big in 1960, too). You can get a gander of an ad for a store in Buffalo, N.Y. that year to the right.

One could get more than a candy-triggered toothache out of the deal. For example, seventh grader JoAnn Segbers won a grand prize for dressing as Yogi Bear in the 1961 Shortsville, New York Halloween Parade. Since you want to know this, JoAnn was later president and salutatorian of Red Jacket Central School and went on to Albany State University College and pledged Chi Sigma Theta. She later became a teacher and married Sgt. David M. Lane who was stationed in Weisbaden, West Germany. See how dressing like Yogi Bear can help you along life’s road?

Artist Dave DeCaro has a blog. He’s a Disneyphile, but I won’t hold that against him because he posted an amazingly bright colour photo from 1962 of his brother wearing a brand-new Huckleberry Hound Hallowe’en costume, the one you see in the ad above. Poor Dave got his brother’s hand-me-downs. I suspect his parents, like mine, grew up in the Depression. Dig the ‘60s table lamp.

Some parents liked the home-made look. Ghost heads out of dying pillow cases were popular. But one mom or dad made Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw heads for their kids in 1963. The children are unidentified.

To switch gears, Hanna-Barbera had costumed characters all year around. Screen Gems’ promotional arm through Honest Ed Justin sent people dressed in H-B costumes to fairs, supermarket openings and so on. There was even a special stage show featuring emcee Eddie Alberian, a former Clarabelle the Clown on TV. But there were unauthorised and decidedly cheap-looking versions of the characters, too. I think I’ve posted this before but, in case I haven’t, try to appreciate that whoever came up with these eyesores had the best of intentions. The year is 1961.

There were theme park costumes, too. Kerry Cisneroz passed on these from his large collection. The first picture below is from 1965. Freddie’s looking like he tried climbing through the window of his home and was mauled by Baby Puss (which would explain why he never tried doing it in his series’ closing animation).

Next is an Associated Press photo dated May 30, 1990. It reminds me of a combination of the Yogi cartoon Space Bear, where an alien dresses as him, thinking he’s human, and Ten Little Flintstones, where aliens manufacture ten Fred robots and send them to Earth. Nobody cheaped out on these costumes. Yogi looks great.

Incidentally, if you’ve wondered what it’s like to spend your working day in a Yogi Bear costume at a theme park, reader Larry Ellis Reed would like to direct you to this post. For someone who supposedly “studied” the character, he sure needs a few lessons. Yogi Bear is not a kleptomaniac. He likes food and, though certainly not in every cartoon, filches picnic baskets. The only other time he deliberately stole anything else was in that cartoon where he and Bruno fought for the affections of Cindy Bear by giving her what she wanted—material goods. And I don’t know how he can describe the Yogi series as having “often racially insensitive episodes.” Other than Yogi’s Pest Guest with the Japanese stereotype Yo-Yo Bear, that leaves 60-plus other Yogi cartoons that don’t touch on anything to do with ethnicity.

Yogi is still More Popular Than the Average Bear, popular enough to warrant a Hallowe’en outfit for the youngsters. Here’s one I found on a costume site that takes orders on-line. Interestingly, it’s the only H-B costume it sells for kids. No Scooby, no Flintstones. And it sure is a few steps up from what costumers under Hanna-Barbera license came up with in 1960, isn’t it?

Yes, I’m sure there will be adults going to Hallowe’en parties as “sexy Wilma” or “gangsta Top Cat” or some such thing, but it’s nice to see the old characters, in their original state, still have an appeal for kids some 65-plus years after they were created by a few old hands in the animation business. Now if we could just get all the Huck and Yogi and Quick Draw and Jinks cartoons restored and on home video. Insert your own trick-or-treat line here.

Saturday 24 October 2015

Snagglepuss in The Gangsters All Here

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Written by Mike Maltese; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Rocky, McGoofy, Cop without gun – Daws Butler; Announcer, Muggsy Magilla, Cop with gun – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-31 (Yogi Bear Show No 13).
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.

The best part of any Snagglepuss cartoon is when the histrionic mountain lion fills the air with one of his speeches, with puns and clich├ęs strung together with non sequiturs. He does it in The Gangsters All Here. The plot’s simple. Two gangsters invade Snagglepuss’ home. He pretends to be a lion-skin rug but after getting shot in the head (with no ill effect), becomes so annoyed that he disguises himself in a ‘30s mobster outfit.

Snagglepuss: You’ve heard of the Unmentionables? Well, I’m one of the Unbearables. Ulysses J. Unbearable. Public Enemy One to Ten. Care to start a gang war? Go for a ride? A walk, even. Hijack somethin’? Lowjack something’. Get muscled in. Get muscled out. Peanuts, popcorn, candy bars. Tennis anyone? It’s my racket. Oh? You won’t talk, eh? (bullet goes through hat) Oh, so you think you’re tough, eh? (bullet whizzes over head) Well, I think so, too. Exit, stage left!

Joe Barbera once said he liked to match writers to characters and Maltese was a perfect match for Snagglepuss. He had a great sense of wordplay and, since Hanna-Barbera’s short cartoons were pretty much dialogue by 1961, as long as Snagglepuss was handed amusing lines that fit his character, he could carry a cartoon pretty well.

This cartoon sure doesn’t rely on animation. There are whole scenes of around three seconds when all a character does is blink or turn his head to and from the camera. And here’s an example of a take when Snagglepuss gets shot in the head. There is no take.

Lew Marshall is the animator. Lew, to me, was the weakest of the four guys animating (I’m including Mike Lah) when Hanna-Barbera went into the syndicated half-hour cartoon business in 1958. But even then, Marshall drew some really nice takes, especially of Mr. Jinks. Here, in 1961, laughs are dependent on the situation and the quip. After the gunfire, the crook Muggsy Magilla says “Dat’s a bad taxidermy job. Da head is empty.” To the right is one of Lew’s crash drawings (“Exit, straight up!”). This is as funny as he gets.

Maltese relies on some tried-and-true routines as the story unfolds.

● The TV switch-up bit. The dialogue makes it appear Snagglepuss has been shot to death before the scene cuts to an announcer on TV urging viewers to tune in next week to “The Unbearables.” It turns out Snagglepuss is merely acting along to the dialogue by the Cagney-esque crook Rocky on the off-stage TV set.
● The disguised-as-rug bit. That’s what Snagglepuss does in the next segment when Muggsy Magilla and his henchman McGoofy bust into his cave. Snagglepuss did it before in the Augie Doggie cartoon “The Party Lion” (1959). Yogi Bear did it before that in “Be My Guest Pest” (1958). In fact, it’s the same kind of gag in Daffy Duck’s “Cracked Quack” (1952), written by Warren Foster at Warner Bros.
This part of the cartoon has a nice piece where McGoofy is too stupid to notice the mustard bottle right in front of him (McGoofy has Daws Butler’s Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom voice). “Oh, for Heaven’s sake! It’s over there. Under your nose, even!” says Snagglepuss, and gets up to point out the various things on the kitchen table. “Oh, gee, thanks, lion rug,” replies McGoofy.
● The “Save-us-police!” bit. At the end of the cartoon, Snagglepuss reveals he’s “[J]ust a lion. Law abiding,’ even. A member of the Kiwanis.” The crooks become so afraid, they run to a cop to give up, as a tuba version of the not-yet-Flintstones theme plays in the background. I can’t begin to guess how many times this was used at Hanna-Barbera; it was the memorable ending to the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Bugs and Thugs” (1954), again written by Warren Foster.

Maltese uses the hugely popular The Untouchables TV series about ‘30s Chicago gangsters as a starting point in this cartoon and a running gag. Snagglepuss is watching The Unbearables. Later, he dresses up as one of The Unmentionables (an obsolete term for women’s underwear). When Muggsy surrenders, he tells the cop “Lions is da Unbeatables.”

Snagglepuss ends the cartoon with the “Ain’t the truth, ain’t it the truth” line copped from Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. And we gets Lahr’s “Heavens to Murgatroyd” as well (which gets repeated by McGoofy).

Bob Gentle handles the backgrounds. He doesn’t get a chance to shine. Here’s his establishing shot (Art Goble did the lettering) and part of an exterior followed by some interiors. The last one looks to have been painted with a roller. Comparisons to The Flintstones are invited.

Dick Bickenbach is the layout artist. His incidental characters are pretty standard-issue for the studio.

Don Messick and Daws Butler supply all the voices. Daws seems to have gone to the dentist before the recording session; some of his “s” sounds are slurpy, like Blabber’s. Messick plays the TV announcer, Muggsy, the cop with machine gun and—I’m going out on a limb here—the fly. The pitch is within either Messick’s or Butler’s range. Messick did a similar sounding, though higher-pitched, buzz in “Baba Bait” as the Masked Mosquito. It’s not the same as Daws’ mosquito in the Huckleberry Hound cartoon “Skeeter Trouble.” The fact I compared several cartoons to make a conclusion about a fly’s voice artist shows you I should probably end this post.

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Flintstones Comics, October 1965

The Flintstones comics that ran in Sunday papers (Saturday in Canada) 50 years ago are enjoyably drawn and thanks to the archives of the Ogdensburg Journal on, you can view nice scans in black-and-white. See the great front-page announcement to your right. We’ll get to them in a moment. First, let’s look at the best copies I can find of the Flintstones dailies for October 1965, also from a couple of papers in New York state. They’re not great, but you should be able to click on each week to expand them and get a decent view.

We’re spared the “Pebbles and the Postman” sub-series, but Pebbly-Poo continues to appear at least twice a week in the dailies. No Betty. No Baby Puss. We get great-looking scary creatures (Oct.4 and 30), funny creatures (Oct. 16), a pregnancy gag (Oct. 7), a swearing gag (Oct. 26) another what-will-they-think-of-next punch line (Oct. 28), a wife-can’t-cook gag (Oct. 22), a gossipy woman stereotype (Oct. 30), Dino in love (Oct. 27) and a funny mole gag (Oct. 20). Fred seems to wear hats more in the comics (Oct. 6, 11, 13, 16, 18, 25, 28).

The “anniversary” comic from October 10th you see below is just terrific, from the letters that spell Anniversary in the opening panel, to Fred yelling (great lettering, too), to the swirling Fred/dinosaur panel (look at Fred’s varied expressions) to the corkscrew gag at the end. Other highlights are the hearts-in-the-eyes look Dino has in the October 24th comic (Fred is quite inventive) and the neat looking dinosaur in the October 31 comic. Again, click to enlarge.

October 3, 1965

October 10, 1965

October 17, 1965

October 24, 1965

October 31, 1965

We’ll at least have the Flintstones weekenders again for you in four weeks.