Wednesday 30 December 2015

They Loved Us In Buffalo

Public appearances aren’t really difficult if you’re a cartoon character. You just get into a costume and meet the people.

In the early 60s, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw showed up at stores and shopping centres. They appeared at fairs. A small show was developed with Eddie Alberian as emcee; Eddie had been part of Howdy Doody’s Roadshow Pals, which was making the rounds in 1960.

Buffalo seems to have been a favourite stop for Huck. Below are some clippings from the Courier-Express about several shows (there are other clippings that aren’t very readable). The Hanna-Barbera characters sometimes appeared as part of some larger for charity.

August 22, 1961

August 27, 1961

December 25, 1961 (note the misspelling of “Barbera”).

January 1, 1962

January 26, 1962

April 26, 1962

June 21, 1962 (top of layout modified)

June 13, 1963

Huck equals Luck in Buffalo. WGR-TV ran the Huckleberry Hound Show starting on Thursday, October 3, 1958. Kids in Buffalo could also watch Huck on Fridays at 6 p.m. on WTEN in Albany and pick up the show on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. from CBLT in Toronto. WGR-TV plugged Huck in box ads on occasion. The one you see above is from September 15, 1960.

Friday 25 December 2015

It's Curtins

Have you been good little girls and boys this year? You have! Then Santa Yowp has something for you for Christmas. And not just the beautiful Dick Bickenbach drawing from 1958 you see above (courtesy of the Bill Wray collection).

It seems to have become a tradition around here to post Hanna-Barbera underscore music on the 25th of December. Unfortunately, Krampus Yowp has been at work on this one. I ran out of Capitol Hi-Q stock music from the cartoons a long time ago; whatever I can find is on posts for the individual cartoons, though there are some missing cues. About the best I can do is post this old picture of the Capitol Records building where Bill Loose and John Seely had their offices.

The next best thing to the Capitol headquarters on the picture above is near the light pole. You’ll notice that right behind it is the ugliest car ever made, the 1951 Nash. Neighbours of ours had a dark green one. As Astro would say, “Blecchh!” (The ad on the right is from the late ‘60s after Loose and Seely left and electronic music was added to the library).

Another year has gone without being able to identify about a dozen of the Jack Shaindlin stock cues in the cartoons that came from the Langlois Filmusic library. I must confess that I have copies of several of them given to me by Earl Kress, who asked me not to put them on the blog. Earl’s gone but I’m respecting his wishes. Earl said he should have acquired cue sheets for all the cartoons when he had the chance, but didn’t think he needed to because he saw the same cues over and over on the sheets he did acquire. He didn’t realise how many others there were (ones that are now unidentified). So, in lieu of no Shaindlin cues, let’s post a couple of pictures of the fine composer and conductor from old trade magazines.

However, the blog does have some music for you from the best composer to work in TV cartoons, Hoyt Curtin. These cues are actually a gift from reader J.J. Pidgeon. You should recognise most of them from Top Cat or The Flintstones. My favourites, though, are the ones that underscored commercials for Kellogg. T-98 is terrific. It’s a reworking of the Snagglepuss Main Title theme incorporating the Kellogg’s “Best To You Each Morning” jingle. I’m pretty sure Q-6 was from a Cocoa Krispies spot. Click on the title to play.





















You can check out some old Christmas posts by clicking on the links for 2014 and 2013.

I’ll leave you wish a non-seasonal drawing that came up recently on one of the internet auction sites. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen the finished drawing somewhere. All the Hanna-Barbera TV stars have gathered to help promote the studio’s newest show—Top Cat. This may be our final Yuletide post so I’d like to thank you for reading over the years. There’s one more post to go before the end of the year.

Thursday 24 December 2015

O Christmas Tree of H and B

Al Knudsen of Paducah, Kentucky is celebrating the holiday season with this Christmas tree decorated with Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. cartoon characters. Sorry it’s so small, but you can click on it and see if that will enlarge it any.

He says Frankenstein, Jr. is a piggy bank he returned into a tree topper. Almost all your favourite early Hanna-Barbera characters are here—Bamm Bamm is to the right of Frankie’s feet and Wilma Flintstone is just below. There are a couple of different Yogis and Boo Boos, Mr. Jinks, Rosey, Huckleberry Hound, Space Ghost, Quick Draw McGraw, the Jetsons in their car, Snagglepuss, the Flintstones in their car (with Pebbles on top), Top Cat (bottom left of tree) and some Great Dane. At the bottom right is Tom in his outfit from the MGM short The Two Musketeers. Fans of Doggie Daddy, Ruff and Reddy and a yellow duck are out of luck.

This is such a neat idea for a Christmas tree, I thought I’d pass it on.

Cats are known to attack Christmas tree ornaments. Whether Al’s will be spared from that fate remains to be seen, but it seems that kitties do love Hanna-Barbera figures. Especially soap dishes. The proof is in the photo below. (At least I think it’s a soap dish).

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Bill Hanna's Christmas Mouse

You’re familiar with the animation career of Bill Hanna, I’m sure. You can see him in the centre of this photo of the management and some of the staff at the Harman-Ising studio published in the Motion Picture Herald on July 27, 1935; Rudy Ising is on the left and Hugh Harman on the right (photo courtesy of Devon Baxter). Hanna bolted from Harman-Ising for MGM in 1937 (for reasons he didn’t wish to discuss with animation historian Mike Barrier) and then opened his own studio with Joe Barbera and backing from director George Sidney and Columbia Pictures’ Screen Gems division 20 years later.

While Barbera had at least one side project while at MGM—he and Harvey Eisenberg worked on comic books in the late ‘40s—Hanna did something outside the studio as well. He worked on a Christmas film-strip for a religious company.

Cathedral Films was set up in Los Angeles in 1938 by the Rev. James K. Friedrich, creating religious films of varying lengths. It was also in the film-strip business, with drawings on individual frames rolled through a projector. The company sold Christian-based stories on strips accompanied by a record with narration and other sounds. Stan Freberg even supplied animal voices for a series of Cathedral film-strips in 1955. These films and film-strips were designed for use by churches and Sunday schools, though the company sold its library of around 40 films to television in 1952.

Hanna was employed on only one of the strips that I can discover, a Christmas story called “Christopher Mouse.” Assisting him with the drawings was MGM layout artist Gene Hazelton, who later was in charge of the Yogi Bear and Flintstones comic strips which Hanna-Barbera had syndicated in newspapers. The Hollywood Reporter of Oct. 20, 1949 mentioned “Bud Stefan, the soda jerk on the Fibber McGee show, narrated a 35 mm. color film strip for children called ‘Christopher Mouse’; William Hanna wrote it. All profits will go to St. Michael of the Angels Episcopal Church in Studio City.”

The strip with 75 frames by Hazelton was apparently copyrighted in 1950 but several newspapers from 1949 reported churches showing it. The soundtrack, such as it was, ran 14 minutes and was available on two 78s or one 33 1/3 album. The film was printed on Eastman stock so it would likely have turned beet red over time. One catalogue on the internet sums up Hanna’s storyline:

CHRISTOPHER MOUSE is the story of a little mouse who goes with his grandfather to a nearby town where a Carnival was being held. He enjoys everything in the Carnival a ride on a merry-go-round, on the train, etc. In fact, he and his grandfather enjoy themselves so much they forget it is getting late and when they start to look for a place to sleep they can find none. Eventually the grandfather remembers Farmer Brown's barn and they trudge out to the barn and get ready to go to sleep in the hay loft. Christopher doesn't like the rough straw as it irritates him when he lies on it. His grandfather, seeing his plight, begins to tell him the story of a little mouse many, many years ago who used to live in the hay loft of a barn and had a wonderful straw bed. One night some strangers came to the barn, a little baby was born, and there was no clean straw on the ground. The mouse's mother gathered all the straw she could to keep the ground dry and in order to get enough the little mouse had to give his own bed of straw. Then a little baby was born who was the Christ Child. The Wise Men came from the East to see the babe and after the telling of the story to Christopher, he went sound to sleep without another murmur.
How Hanna hooked up with Cathedral is a little mystery. It could have been through his reputation winning Oscars with Tom and Jerry. There was a tenuous connection with MGM; in 1940, Cathedral Films moved into the old Metro building at 6260 Romaine Street.

In the mid-1980s, Hanna-Barbera jumped into the religious film business with a series of home videos of stories based on Biblical events. One of the cartoons was entitled “The Nativity.” Joe Barbera was particularly enthusiastic about the series. But it was Bill Hanna who, almost 40 years earlier, explored the subject through charming little characters using technology that’s pretty quaint today.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Snagglepuss – Having a Bowl

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Art Davis, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voices: Snagglepuss, Butler (Hives) – Daws Butler; Baby (Clyde) – Jean Vander Pyl; Rabbit, Radio Newscaster, Major – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-30, Yogi Bear Show No. 14.

Don’t expect to find Christmas cartoons among the shorts in the half-hour shows Hanna-Barbera produced in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The attitude in Television Land back then was Christmas shows were to be avoided because they couldn’t be re-run in syndication during any time but Christmas, therefore it was best to produce shows that could be shown at any time. If we stretch things, the closest we get is Snagglepuss in “Having a Bowl” where he dresses up as Jolly Old St. Nick.

Of course, this is just a disguise Snagglepuss uses to put one over on Major Minor. The cartoon isn’t set during Christmas, or even winter. In brain-dead, auto-word-association fashion, the major sees Santa come out of the chimney, therefore it must be Christmas. That makes it funnier than if it were the Yuletide season. It’s a gag used in a few old theatrical cartoons which usually ends with a character checking out a calendar and realising he’s been fooled. In this case, the major gets his hand snapped by a mouse trap in Santa Snag’s bag.

Come to think of it, writer Mike Maltese gives us a few other gags familiar from theatricals. One is when the baby Clyde points out Snagglepuss’ hiding spots, a la Buccaneer Bunny (1948), co-written by Maltese at Warner Bros. (a pirate’s parrot gets blown up for his snitching). And Major Minor running outside to yell in pain is a favourite of Tex Avery and his writers; Deputy Droopy (1955) and Rock-a-Bye Bear (1952) come to mind, as well as Maltese borrowing it for the Chilly Willy cartoon The Legend of Rock-a-Bye Point (1955).

Art Davis is the animator in this cartoon and Walt Clinton handled the layouts (and designed incidental characters and props). At Hanna-Barbera, Artie drew characters with mouths going way up toward the snout with teeth showing. Clinton was known for having ears around a character’s collar. You can see that here. Also, Clinton’s Major Minor dyed his hair in this cartoon. It’s dark.

Hanna-Barbera’s animation got really tame in the early ‘60s; it was like the big eye-takes and jagged bodies in shock had become clich├ęs to be avoided. But Artie comes through in this cartoon. I love his effect when the baby bites Snagglepuss’ snout, and the take when the Major Minor reaches into the bag and gets his hand caught in a mouse trap. The timing on the latter is excellent. The major is still into his dialogue and the take comes a half second (12 frames) after he reaches into the bag.

The baby changes size through the cartoon depending on the plot. Jean Vander Pyl lends the infant her standard-issue Pebbles voice with standard-issue Pebbles baby-talk.

This may be the only cartoon that anyone appreciates Snagglepuss’ theatrical performances. The baby loves them. The cartoon ends with Snagglepuss, rather reluctantly, performing for the child to keep him laughing lest he be shot by Major Minor. Snagglepuss is positively poetic to open the cartoon:

Oh! What a joyful day to frolic and play. But first I’ll see what the mailman bringeth. Or is it “brungeth”? Mayhap a note or two. Perhaps a billet doux.
And then cometh the phoney Shakespeare.
● Romans, countrymen and babies! Lend me your ears. Lend me your ears. I’ll give ‘em back to you next Saturday. February 29th, even.
● Baby-o, baby-o. Wherefore art thou, baby-o? Thou art here. So exit, for the big reward, stage right.
● Romans, countrymen and baby-criers! All the world’s a stage. With matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays. He who steals my purse steals cash. About a buck-25. What light through yonder window breaks! Who threw that stove? Who threw that stove?? (to audience) This might very well be the longest readin’ of Shakespeare in history. So, good night! (turns to baby) Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow. (turns to audience) Looks like I’ll be ad-libbin’ until tomorrow.
In case you’re wondering, “cash” is a pun on the line from Othello Act 3, scene 3: “He who steals my purse steals trash.” Maltese has lost me on the “stove” reference. If it were “stone,” it would make sense, as a stone would break a window. But the word, as enunciated by Daws Butler, definitely is “stove.”

And then there’s this odd retort thrown at the major, who has his gun at the ready:

Pause a moment. Pause a moment. Let’s considerate this thing. You’re over 21. You’re old enough to vote. Shave, even. So whaddya tryin’ ta do, throw the old ball game in favour of this diaper desperado just because he wants to go lion huntin’? The question is—do you want to go huntin’? (looks at camera) Heaves to Nimrod! That was a silly question.
● Heavens to Murgatroyd! I’m a mail order parent! (After pulling baby from mailbox)
● Heavens to mint sauce! He’s famished. Hungry, even. (After being bitten on the nose)
● Exit, empty pocketed, stage right. (After the major pulls a rifle on him)
● Exit, beard, jolly belly and all, stage left. (After the major pulls a rifle on him again)
And we get a standard Snagglepuss-Major exchange:
Major: By thunder! Didn’t I shoot you in the mouth of the Zambezi? Or was it at the foot of Mount Shasta?
Snag: Neether, neither, major. You grazed me where the ripplin’ Susquehanna bends.
A couple of Dick Thomas interiors. The stylised window reflection against the wall works well in the close-up scenes.

And now for today’s endless run cycle. The cartoon starts with the baby crawling down a rabbit’s hole. The rabbit runs in mid-air and then zooms off. The run is on five drawings, one per frame. The scene has absolutely nothing to with the plot. Either Maltese was amused by it or he was padding for time.

Finally, you might be wondering what the title Having a Bowl has to do with this cartoon. I haven’t the foggiest idea. Pea-soup foggiest from London, even. There’s no bowl in it. No one is bowling. However, I’ve learned over the years here that you readers are smarter than I am and may have caught something obvious that I’ve missed. Leave a comment if you can solve this one.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Flintstones Weekend Comics, December 1965

It’s that time of year again. Time for the War on Stone Age Christmas. Time when literalists grumble on the internet that the Flintstones are celebrating Christmas before Christmas was invented. They don’t have a problem with television signals being transmitted before there was television or cavemen (and animal appliances) speaking American English before America was invented, but they have a problem with Christmas.

Evidently the idea the series is about the early 1960s being transposed into prehistoric times is a bit much to comprehend. Or they just like complaining.

A number of the Flintstones daily newspaper comics 50 years ago this month dealt with Christmas—Fred chiselling away at a large stone Christmas card, Pebbles complaining Dino got better presents, and so on. Unfortunately, I can’t find decent versions of the strips to post, so you’re stuck with the weekend versions only. The final two deal with the holiday season.

As usual, they’re very well laid out. It’s a shame Baby Puss didn’t make an appearance. You’ll note Santa Claus ringing with his kettle in the December 19th comic and the frozen volcano smoke in the final panel of December 26th. And check out Dino’s great expression in the opening panel of the December 26th comic. I’ll spare you any further observations and hope you enjoy them.

December 5, 1965.

December 12, 1965.

December 19, 1965.

December 26, 1965.

Monday 14 December 2015

Ruff and Reddy Are 58

Die-hard Hanna-Barbera fans who are today celebrating the 58th anniversary of the debut of the studio’s first cartoon series are probably sad to learn the arrival of Ruff and Reddy on the small tube was, more or less, ignored. Columnists didn’t have anything against the animated cat and dog, per se. The show aired on Saturday mornings. In those days, that was a dumping ground for used theatrical cartoons, used filmed half-hour westerns, puppets with live-action hosts, and test patterns. It was mostly low-cost, throw-away kid time, and what newspaperman was going to write about that?

It turns out some did. We’ve posted a Steven H. Scheuer column from May 10, 1958. It’s the earliest one we’ve discovered about Ruff and Reddy in the popular press. Today, let’s mark the TV birth of the dog and cat duo with another column from June 21-22, 1958. We’ve found this in at least three newspapers in three different states so it may be safe to presume the columnist was syndicated and seems to have been based out of New York City.

There’s no “fired-by-MGM” tale of underdogged adversity and determination in this column (nor in the Scheuer one) that soon became a standard line in any interview about the rise of the Hanna-Barbera studio. But, once again, Joe Barbera tries to sell readers that the quality of his made-for-TV cartoons is no worse than the fluid and expert theatricals he and Bill Hanna put on the big screen for MGM. And the last line was published just days before UPI and Weekly Variety both reported that Kellogg’s (through its agency, Leo Burnett) had signed a contract to sponsor The Huckleberry Hound Show to possibly air on ABC.

Ruff and Reddy and The Laws of Nature

At one time, it was considered impossible to make good cartoons for television. Too costly and time-consuming, agreed the experts.
That was before Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna embarked on a project for Screen Gems of New York City, called “Ruff and Reddy.” Now, “Ruff and Reddy” is a Saturday morning staple on NBC-TV. Its cartoon stars, a scrubby cat (Ruff) and a large, lazy hound (Reddy), get almost as much fan mail from the small fry as some flesh-and-blood favorites.
In case the names Hanna and Barbera have a familiar ring, here's why. The cartooning team was responsible for turning “Tom and Jerry” into a national institution, garnering a slew of Academy Awards along the way.
When they decided to take a stab at television, Hanna and Barbera were warned that they were laying their reputations on the line. The first task was to create characters for the proposed show.
“Originally we conceived Ruff, the cat, and Reddy, the dog, as a pair of friendly enemies like ‘Tom and Jerry,’ explained Barbera.
But while chases and squabbles were fine for a single cartoon, it seemed that constant scrapping would become tiresome on a series.
“So we violated the laws of nature and cartooning which say that cats hate dogs and vice-versa,” continued Barbera. “Ruff and Reddy came to television as staunch pals.”
Next task was to dream up some villains for the new-found friends to tangle with.
This was the most fun, admitted Barbera.
Included in the collection of cartoon cut-throats were such deep-dyed villains as Harry Safari, a conniving wild game hunter; the Terrible Twins from Texas; a pair of rustlers (also from Texas, a state teeming with villains); and a grinning, Peter Lorre-ish skin-diver known as Salt Water Daffy, presumably from California.
Thus far, Ruff and Reddy have appeared in four serials—thirteen chapters in each. Their travels have taken them to outer space, to deepest Africa, out west, and under the tropic seas.
At last report, 52 cartoons in all had been produced. This is a lot of cartooning, especially since Hanna and Barbera used to limit themselves to eight “Tom and Jerry” stanzas a year.
“Despite the larger output and a lower budget,” insisted Barbera, “we haven't sacrificed quality. We've learned to stream line our operation for TV.”
“A cartoon,” he explained, “is a series of individual pictures pieced together to tell a story. We've learned how to get the most out of each drawing. Where we once used ten pictures, we now use one. But thanks to camera work and a certain amount of planning on our part, the result is the same.
A departure for Hanna and Barbera was the use of dialogue in their “Ruff and Reddy” cartoons. “Tom and Jerry,” you “kids” will recall, never spoke a line.
“We discovered that kids love clever phrases and cute little rhymes,” said Barbera. “Ruff and Reddy are pretty gabby representatives of the animal kingdom.”
The voices on Ruff and Reddy are supplied by actors Daws Butlers [sic] and Don Messick. Don claims, wearily picking up a peanut with his trunk, that his toughest chore was simulating the dulcet tones of a “mother elephant.”
Both Hanna and Barbera have strong ideas on children's entertainment.
“A kids’ program is a tremendous responsibility,” said Barbera. “To show anything which might frighten or repel an impressionable youngster is just plain bad taste.”
With zooming ratings and a lively new of mail from their moppet viewers, Hanna and Barbera have proven the experts wrong. There is an important place for original cartoons on TV. Proof of the pudding is that Hanna and Barbera are now huddling over the possibility of adding another animated adventure show to the network roster next season.

Now a few birthday presents. Here are model sheets dated three months after the show debuted.

And here’s a terrific drawing, perhaps by Dick Bickenbach, of Ruff, Reddy and Professor Gizmo. I believe this came from the collection of William Wray.

The great Daws Butler, the voice of Reddy, defended the series after criticism of Saturday morning cartoons in general in the Los Angeles Times in 1977. His letter published on October 9th read, in part:

Charlie Shows wrote all of the episodes, funny concepts with comedy rhythms which today seem to be supplanted by a humorless quest of “continuity” and the dry pithiness of a mundane “story-line.”
I’m afraid Ruff and Reddy falls short for me, despite the fine voice work, character design and Capitol Hi-Q ‘D’ series library, but the series turned out to be—although columnists didn’t recognise it in 1957—an historical milestone in television animation.

Saturday 12 December 2015

The Jetsons – A Visit From Grandpa

The Jetsons’ version of the future mainly focused on technology—flying cars, robots, push-button food dispensers, that sort of thing—ideas that could be found in science publications around the time the show first aired (1962). It didn’t look at an aspect of futurism that is still the subject of research and news reports today: developments in the medical field that lengthen our life span.

Evidently such things never came to pass in the minds of the Jetsons’ writers. Witness the appearance in “A Visit From Grandpa” of 110-year-old Montague Jetson. He isn’t treated as the average senior citizen of the future. Walter Black’s story makes him to be some kind of freak of nature. The whole first half of the cartoon is a series of gags emphasizing that he’s not bound by grandson George’s stereotype of the old man in a rocking chair, but out-energises everyone in the family. In the end, Montague hints he’s going to slow down, but in the final scene, he’s joy-riding in his compact space mobile, just as he was at the outset of the show.

The second half of the cartoon is the old sitcom staple, a misunderstanding based on people jumping to conclusions which is happily straightened out in the end. The cartoon employs a favourite narrative device of the Flintstones, where Fred tells Wilma “Here’s the whole story,” the scene fades out and fades back in with Fred saying “and that’s what happened.” In fact, this cartoon even uses the same Hoyt Curtin bridge music as when Fred gets set to go into an off-camera confession.

There’s not a lot of slapstick in this cartoon and there are no big punch-lines. It’s an atmospheric piece (pun not intended) with pleasant people in pleasant surroundings and not a lot of depth.

Ken Muse is the only animator I can pick out in this cartoon. There’s plenty of typical Muse teeth and tongue in dialogue scenes.

I suspect Dick Bickenbach laid out at least part of the cartoon. Here are the incidental characters. Celeste Skylar (played by Janet Waldo) seems to be a futuristic relation to Betty Rubble.

Emily Scopes (Janet Waldo) and nameless baby.

My guess is Fernando Montealegre was the background artist, though Hanna-Barbera was now employing background people who didn’t work on the 1950s cartoons so I can’t identify them. Here’s the Skypad Apartments.

Montague zooms past the same set of buildings over and over. There’s a cel under the animation repeated every once in a while of, well, some kind of control tower.

I love the roulette-wheel bowling alley. What is it with bowling and Hanna-Barbera characters, anyway?

I can only imagine what George’s phone bill is like. He has two phones, one where you only hear the person (who sounds like John Stephenson) and where you can see and hear them.

Other inventions: a talking watch (voiced by Penny Singleton anticipating Siri) and a self-milking baby carriage. Three stars on the bottle is your sign of quality.

Women of the early ’60s loved their hats, so we get futuristic hat gags. “Moonscape,” “The Cosmo-nautrus,” “Venus Off the Face” and “The Nuclear Look.” The little satellites on the latter whirr in a cycle of three drawings, each on two frames.

More exteriors. Sorry Montague is the way of the background in the first drawing. And you’ll note there’s modern art outside apartment rooms, too.

Two more shots. I like how bubbles float out of the soft drink billboard. And note the sparkles that accompany Elroy after he zips off screen.

Howard Morris supplies the voice of Montague Jetson. I don’t know if Howie ever did a bad voice at Hanna-Barbera. Don Messick’s the other guest voice as Astro and the frustrated motorcycle cop. I don’t think they brought in Jean Vander Pyl to do the baby so I’m not going to venture a guess of who’s providing the voice.