Saturday 28 November 2015

Adventure is My Hobby Storyboard

Cartoon spoofs always have an origin and, occasionally, they can have several inspirations mashed together. In the very early ‘50s, KTTV in Los Angeles broadcast a show called “Mystery is My Hobby.” In 1955, shooting began on a syndicated TV show “Adventure is My Business.” About the same time, John Stephenson hosted “Bold Adventure,” where ordinary people would come on and narrate over home movies of various adventures. These all may have inspired Mike Maltese to come up with the Snooper and Blabber cartoon “Adventure is My Hobby.”

(Some of you may be asking why the plural of “spoof” isn’t “spooves.” I am a cartoon dog, not an English professor).

That cat-loving friend of all cartoon dogs (and cartoon fans), Mark Kausler, has sent me scans of the storyboard drawings from “Adventure is My Hobby.” Other than Daws Butler playing around with a few words, the dialogue is the same as in the finished cartoon. Most of the drawings are, too, though some of the camera instructions aren’t followed. Mark’s note to me:

The drawings of the sea monster are really funny and full of personality. This board is probably Warren Foster's drawings, the last few pages are the Colerase red pencil lines, maybe he didn't have time to graphite over them.

The board doesn’t really need much of an explanation from me. You can read the review of the cartoon in this post.

Here’s a little comparison to show you how well animator Gerard Baldwin stuck to the story drawings. Compare what you see at the left to drawing 3 below.

The director doesn’t cut to a tight shot as per panel 10. Saves a bit of work for the cameraman. And background artist Joe Montell adds a picture to Snoop’s office in panel 12. He changed the light, too. Montell doesn’t seem to have been beholden to the story panels in concocting his backgrounds. He and animator Baldwin ended up in Mexico later that year working on Jay Ward cartoons.

Evergreen trees? That’s for Yogi Bear. Montell goes with a styled elm (panels 20 and 21). Or is it a birch? No matter. The car has become a four-door with those tail lights like a ’54 Cadillac. The instructions “open on small field” and “truck back to l.s.” (long shot) are ignored. A little less camera work gets the cartoon produced faster though, aesthetically, it was probably the right decision. And what was that old saying at Terrytoons? If one mouse is funny, five are funnier? Panel 22 has Montell adding extra milk bottles and newspapers.

Check out panels 31 and 35 and see how they matched the finished cartoon. 31 implies the monster slides in from left of the frame but he pops up instead. And since he’s animated over top of Snooper, the fishing rod is behind him.

Panel 44: the take. Baldwin adds a head shake take, uses the first frame below in the dialogue, and then does the oval mouth/wide eyes take.

Panel 68 is a little different. “Rep. 19” seems to mean to use the background from Scene 19 as that’s what we see. The dots on the trees in the background are a tell-tale sign of Montell’s work; you can see it in his MGM cartoons, too.

Panel 80 has an instruction to, I presume, rotate the camera or whatever is holding the cels and background to a 90 degree angle. In the actual cartoon, the sky/cloud background is panned up instead of across.

The instruction between panels 97 and 98 reads “Fade off Burgess Cel.” Can anyone fill me in on what that means?

There is no camera shake as indicated on panel 110. There is a whip sound effect when Snooper hits the tree, a crash when he hits the branch and a kettle drum when he lands; effects familiar to many H-B cartoons.

Panel 126: Perspective animation? In a Hanna-Barbera cartoon? Nope. I don’t know if there’s a two field pan like the instructions say, but the boat passes the same humpy hill four times.

The chopper in panel 128 inherits the name “J-19” (not the production number of the cartoon) and is on an angle. Note how Baldwin renders 134. He stuck to the panel.

Panel 143: in the cartoon, the monster doesn’t flip over his head like the panel instructs. Got to save on animation, you know.

Panel 150 has Blab talking to the camera. In the cartoon, he’s in profile and turns his head after he’s finished. Not only do no fish food flakes shake from the box during the cycle animation, the sea monster (played by Hal Smith) makes his “bllloooop” sound without any mouth movement. “A penny saved...” says Bill Hanna Ben Franklin.

Mark Kausler is bound and determined to keep me blogging as he has more storyboard goodness from his collection for you. We’ll try to post a Huckleberry Hound board next month.

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Let's See Who's Under That Disguise

When you think of a Hanna-Barbera mystery involving some creature scaring people away only to be revealed to be a disguise perpetrated by a bad guy who wants something, what show do you think of?

Right. Ruff and Reddy.

That’s what’s driving the story in Ruff and Reddy No. 6, a Dell comic cover dated July 1960. Unlike a Certain Great Dane We Don’t Talk About On This Blog™, the bad guy is portrayed as more misguided than evil, certainly not in the John Stephenson “And I would have gotten away with it, too...” manner from the aforementioned Great Dane cartoon series.

The lack of a narrator and Charlie Shows’ rhyming couplets gives this more of a feel of a standard comic book adventure as opposed to something distinct to Ruff and Reddy.

You can click on the pictures below to make them a little larger.

You can read a bunch of Ruff and Reddy comics at Comics Books Plus.Com. It’s too bad there are no Huckleberry Hound or Quick Draw McGraw comics posted, but you can’t argue with a site generously posting a lot of stuff for free.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Jerry, Tony, Joe, Bill and Harvey

A note came in from Jerry Eisenberg the other day letting me know about the short reminiscence on video he and Tony Benedict did some time ago in the Eisenberg studio room several years ago.

Tony linked to it on his site but we’ll link to it here. Blogger won’t let you play it here; I think it takes you to another site.

Jerry, for those of you just joining us, was a layout artist on The Jetsons and Jonny Quest (the original series in both cases), designed a bunch of Wacky Races racers and did a pile of other things not only at Hanna-Barbera, but at other studios. Tony was the first cartoon writer at Hanna-Barbera to get a screen credit whose name was not Charlie Shows, Dan Gordon, Mike Maltese or Warren Foster.

Jerry’s dad worked with Joe Barbera at Terrytoons in New York in 1936 and was later induced by Mr. B. to come to Culver City and work on Tom and Jerry cartoons at MGM. Jerry talks about him to open the video.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Snagglepuss in Spring Hits a Snag

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Southworth, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – John Freeman, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss – Daws Butler; Lila – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-69 (second of eight Snagglepuss cartoons in second season, 1961-62).

This blog has been percolating along in a happy way for almost seven years and, in that span, I have managed to avoid a long-standing question about one particular Hanna-Barbera character that has riveted some people for years.

Is Snagglepuss gay?

The assumption by the people who care about this, or have a casual interest even, is the answer is “yes,” because Snagglepuss fits several stereotypes (he’s pink, has a high, breathy voice, and likes the legitimate theatre far too much). However no less of an authority than Joe Barbera weighed on the matter when someone casually brought it up during a story meeting on Johnny Bravo many years after the creation of the Snagglepuss cartoons. Johnny’s creator Van Partible was a witness to the conversation. “Mr. B bluntly said, ‘Snagglepuss wasn’t gay! He was modeled after Bert Lahr who was anything but gay. He beat his wife!’”

Now, Joe Barbera tended to veer a little from the facts in the interests of a good story, but if you want some proof that Mr. B. was correct, you don’t have to look much further than the cartoon “Spring Hits a Snag.”

Mike Maltese came up with a female counterpart for Snagglepuss and put her in three cartoons. “Spring Hits a Snag” was the first. Lila was no Cindy Bear who induced hearts to float out of Yogi Bear. She was a sociopath. And while Snagglepuss didn’t have his eyes bug out of his body or overreact with wild abandon like a Tex Avery character upon seeing a female character (Snagglepuss was too gentlemanly for that, even if Hanna-Barbera favoured that kind of animation, which it didn’t), he obviously had an interest in her. Witness this dialogue, to wit, to woo:

Ah, ‘tis spring again. And the bird is on the wing. Or is it ‘the wing is on the bird?’ No matter. In the spring, a young man’s fancy (rushes away to pick and smell flower) lightly turns to this and that. And those even.
What is “this and that and those”? Well, at this point, Lila runs into the cartoon, avoiding bullets from hunters all the way, stage left.
Lila: Oh, won’t you please save me from the hunter, lest I perish, mortally wounded?
Snag: Fear not, O damsel in distress. For I, Snagglepuss, the chivalrous, shall save you. (looks at audience) It ain’t spring for nothin,’ you know.
Yes, in spring, a young man’s fancy turns to love and, in this case, Snagglepuss’ interest turns to Lila. Considering what happens in the cartoon, he would have been better off if his interest involved listening to Judy Garland show-tune soundtrack records with Lyle Lion instead. If Snagglepuss weren’t so refined, he might have emulated Joe Barbera’s story about Bert Lahr.

But he doesn’t. He puts up with Lila’s never-ending stream of verbal abuse once he invites her into his humble home. “Hmm. It is humble, isn’t it? Like early primitive,” remarks the unimpressed Lila, already not appreciating the fact Snagglepuss has given her sanctuary from hunters. She puts down his ratty furniture, then his poetry reading:

Snag: I shall smooth thy pretty brow of care with readin’s from the classics. (opens book) “Ah, ‘tis spring! And I can hear the soft chirpin’ of the crimson-tufted tattersill. To wit, to woo. To woo, to wit.”
Lila: Aw, knock it off.
Snag (surprised): What was that?! Sounded like an angry wildcat, wounded in the clavicle.
Lila: That was me. Shall I say it again with witnesses?
Yeah, you get the idea pretty fast what she’s really like. Even in limited animation, you can tell her opinion of Snagglepuss’ response to her demand for food by cooking an old gnu stew “and casserole, even...sprinkled liberally with chutney chives.”

She pushes him around the whole cartoon, sending him out to get wild berries (“Big deal,” she snarks, obviously not even wanting the berries), then complaining about the noise as he’s getting shot at while picking them off-camera. Later he gets “One berries, wild. Or terribly annoyed” but she gripes she wants new ones, not the ones he picked moments ago. Whenever Snagglepuss finally gets fed up enough to stand up to her, she cries and he slinks back into his polite meekness. Finally, the cartoon ends with Snag braving the hunter’s bullets than the shrewish witch he’s left behind in his cave. And, no, his fancy doesn’t turn to a male mountain lion. So let’s put any more rumours to rest.

The animation’s by Ken Southworth. There’s really jerky walk from the cave in long-ish shot at the start of the cartoon. These are consecutive frames. What’s happened to Snagglepuss’ collar?

Story editor John Freeman or Joe Barbera or someone found an ingenious way to save a bit of time. See how Lila is covering her face when she cries? No need to animate dialogue. Just a few drawings of Lila are used and re-used to have her body jerk around. The second time the same animation is used again, the cels are turned over and painted on the other side. And there’s another scene where Snag just stands there blinking for eight seconds with Jean Vander Pyl’s dialogue off camera.

Catchphrases: “Exit, berry-pickin’ all the way, stage right.” “Exit, ‘til after huntin’ season, stage right.” And, yes, we get a “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”

There aren’t too many Hanna-Barbera cartoons from this era featuring only two characters, but this one of them. Daws Butler and Vander Pyl work well together in this, with Jean digging up a low-class New Yorkish voice that’s different than the one she’d use later for Rosey on The Jetsons.

Cues from The Flintstones and Loopy De Loop find their way into the background and are well selected. The scene where Snagglepuss is henpecked into doing all those chores (with some mouth movements that don’t match the dialogue) is accompanied by music from Top Cat.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Flintstones Weekend Comics November 1965

These are from Sunday newspapers of November 7, 4, 21 and 28, 1965. As I’ve been saying for months, I don’t have time to blog any more, so I haven’t had time to hunt down and snip the daily strips.

“Kerrunch!” “Splat!” I think both were used on the Batman TV show which debuted the following January.

In this day and age, Pebbles’ observation “Give me two mommies any ol’ day” would certainly rile up some group willing to take it out of context.

Sunday 15 November 2015

The Jetsons: TV or Not TV

“I’ll get right to the point, lady,” growls the mysterious stranger, as ominous music plays in the background. “We traced the guy in this picture to this address...Well, ya see, we did a little shootin’ today...and this guy accidentally got into the picture...We wanna give him what’s comin’ to him. We’ve got ways of takin’ care of these things...The big boss wants me to take care of him, so I’ll be back. Get it?”

Six-year-old me heard those words on “The Jetsons” episode “TV or Not TV” and wondered “Why doesn’t he just tell Jane he wants George to sign something so he can be on TV?” Well, non-six-year-old me knows the answer. The cartoon would end right then and there with about 15 minutes to go. That wouldn’t work too well. So writer Tony Benedict had to use some contrived dialogue to keep the misunderstanding going for the appropriate length.

Misunderstandings have been a comedy staple for who knows how many centuries and, in this cartoon, George Jetson mistakes a TV shoot for an actual robbery and the above-mentioned TV production flunkey Nimbley (played wonderfully by guest voice Shep Menken) as a representative of the underworld. After a failed attempt to hiding in Cosmo Spacely’s old fishing cabin (would Mr. Spacely really give George a key to it?), George and Astro disguise themselves to return home, where they run into the flunkey, who sorts everything out while a newly-installed anti-burglar system pounds them (with lots of swirl animation).

One thing I like about “The Jetsons” is the variation in plots. “The Jetsons,” for the most part, revolved about the tribulations of George Jetson, similar to George O’Hanlon’s “Behind the Eight Ball” series of short films at Warner Bros. This one doesn’t include Spacely firing George or doing anything else to him. There’s no workplace element in this cartoon. It’s strictly the family and the “crooks” (and a couple of characters to service the plot). And Janet Waldo got to rest her voice through the whole first half as Judy doesn’t appear until late in the story.

The first few minutes of the cartoon have nothing to do with the plot. It’s an extended sequence solely designed to wring comedy out of Astro, who’s forced to have a bath, followed by Elroy. I love Astro. He reacts emotionally in different ways and he’s not too over-the-top. Don Messick always puts in a great performance as his voice.

Here’s the Dog Bath-a-Mat.

Let’s go through some of the other Conveniences of the Future™.

E-mail doesn’t exist in the future. There’ll be hand-written mail delivered by a stylised drone (left). Something similar to the picture on the right pretty much exists today, except without the paper (that Astro swallowed). A friend of mine has something in his SUV where he dictates text into a computer on his dashboard, it reads back the message and asks if he wants to send it.

Flat screen TVs, big and small (note the tanning beds in the scene to the right).

Two different Foodarackacycles. The one on the right dispenses one of my favourite puns in any Jetsons episode: Venus-schnitzel.

The Magno-Manicure (designed for three fingers and a thumb).

A visi-phone (it doesn’t have a name in this episode) to the left and part of the anti-burglar device on the right. Nimbley looks to be a not-too-distant relative of Cogswell.

Ken Muse animates a good portion of this cartoon. I always enjoy looking at dry brushwork and outline multiples. Here are a couple.

Bick Bickenbach is responsible for some of the layouts and Art Lozzi did at least some of the backgrounds (at least, those are educated guesses on my part judging by incidental character design and the blue hues and humps in the backgrounds). Here are some exteriors. Screen Gems distributed Hanna-Barbera cartoons to television; the company making the TV show in the plot of this cartoon is a pun.

And some interiors. I wish I had a full version of the last one from the Spacely cabin.

Jane spends a lot of time with her hands on her hips. And look! Married people sleeping in one bed!!

T.C.J. notes in the comments they’re not sharing a bed, just a headboard. Early 1960s public morals have been saved.

More of Tony Benedict’s puns: the armoured car company is “Blinks,” the heroic TV dog Jane and the kids are watching is “Rinky Tink Tink,” the TV producers are responsible for “The Naked Planet” (“The Naked City” was co-produced by Screen Gems). And best of all is the appearance at the end of Soapy Sam.

This may have been television’s first Soupy Sales parody. Like Soupy, Soapy has a huge bow tie and throws pies. Soupy, like The Jetsons, was on ABC, but walked out on the network in late 1962 because, according to Variety, it wouldn’t syndicate his reruns. Just imagine the ratings they could have brought if the network had moved them to Saturday mornings with The Jetsons the following year.

A yowp of thanks to Howard Fein for fixing the voice credits on this.