Saturday 30 January 2016

A Word From Our Sponsor

Hanna-Barbera’s cartoon work around 1960 wasn’t limited to those great half-hours shows we used to see at home in the late afternoon or early evening. There was the lacklustre Loopy De Loop theatrical series. And there were commercials. Not just ones related to Kellogg, Winston or whoever was sponsoring the various cartoons it seems.

Here are some story panels for a series of spots for Oscar Mayer Weiners. The first one is almost complete, the other two are even less so; they were on an auction site which only posted these as examples of what was up for grabs. Opening of the “Bandits” 60-second commercial might remind you of the opening of a certain cartoon show. Did anyone see any of these? Did Dick Beals play the kid or was it Daws Butler? And I wonder if these aired on Bewitched, which had animated opening titles by you-know-who.

A partial one by the same artist. Could it be Dan Gordon’s work?

I presume this one was from a preliminary storyboard. I wonder if the dialogue included “Whoa, camel, whoa!”?

This one’s really fun. More fun than the series, to be honest. I love the drawings. And it features Arnold Stang and Marvin Kaplan. There’s something wrong with anyone who dislikes those two guys. You’ll hear them when you read along. The dialogue has the feel of the other Kellogg’s spots that aired during the cartoon shows in that period.

These faded panels, I suspect are, for the Kellogg’s ad that’s the second one you’ll see in the video below, which also includes the closing Top Cat animation (without credits) by Ken Muse.

Friday 29 January 2016

Sorry, D.C., I'm Not Interested

You’re friends with your next door neighbour. He’s a nice guy, someone who invites you over to watch the game on TV and have a beer. You go out and have some laughs together. What would you think if the guy completely changed and became sullen and angry and anti-social? Someone who wasn’t the guy you knew and liked?

You’d be pretty much turned off and likely want to avoid him if humanly possible.

That’s how I feel about re-boots of cartoons.

You may have heard read that D.C. Comics wants to reboot some of the great Hanna-Barbera characters of the 1960s. The Flintstones, Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, Scooby-Doo and others. D.C. Entertainment co-publisher Dan Didio is quoted on
“...these characters resonate with so much of our fanbase. It was so fun to go out and look at them, but not just bring back versions that existed 40, 50 years ago, and really look at it the way of saying, if these characters were created and interpreted today, how would they exist?”
Here’s my question.


Why if the “characters much,” why must they be changed to something that aren’t the same characters that resonated? And why would they be any different if they “were created and interpreted today”?

Scooby Doo was about some fairly ordinary teenagers, with a comic-relief dog, getting to the bottom of mysteries. It wasn’t about tatted-up hipsters with “futuristic weapons,” so why should it be now? Granted, I’m not a big Scooby fan, but why not hue to the story structure of the original show that attracted millions of fans? And why does anyone think the way it was structured is neither entertaining nor relevant to today’s audience?

And I’m sorry, the “classic look” of Fred Flintstone isn’t like some steroid monkey who gave up on the gym and decided to grow a gut by overeating. He’s supposed to look like Ralph Kramden. Or even Alan Reed.

I realise there are fans who dote on anything if you slap the Hanna-Barbera name on it, no matter how misguided or inane. If they’re entertained by something, that’s their prerogative. I’m sure they’ll comment here and tell me I’m full of something or the old stand-by justifications “Give it a chance” or “You haven’t seen it yet.” But I just don’t see the need to take characters who are loved and then reinvent them so they’re not what anyone loved.

Your next door neighbours don’t change drastically in real life. Why should they in comic books?

Wednesday 27 January 2016

If I Knew You Were Comin'...

Anyone familiar with the hit parade in 1950 would be able to complete the song lyric in the title of this post.

You may have noticed there’s one Yogi Bear cartoon we have yet to review here—the half-hour birthday party episode. We’re not reviewing it today but this post is somewhat related.

Some time ago, a friend on Facebook had a birthday and someone posted a great picture of a Tom and Jerry birthday cake. It got me to wondering if anyone had made a Yogi Bear cake. Well, the answer is “yes” and because it falls under the category of food, the internet is awash with pictures of these ursine confectionery creations. And they’re pretty creative. Hurray to the artists who created these, because cake decorating really is an art. Some of the photos are small so they don’t blow up all that well.

Nuts and berries?!? This Yogi has a hitherto unknown craving for bananas.

I’m not quite sure what those things are with Yogi and Boo Boo. Snails? Slugs?

When Yogi first appeared on The Huckleberry Hound Show in 1958, he was watched by not only kids, but by young adults. So it’s perhaps fitting someone got a Yogi Bear wedding cake.

These delectable culinary desserts show that Yogi and Boo Boo are just as popular today as they ever were. And they sure look better on the cakes than in that movie a few years ago, don’t they?

Saturday 23 January 2016

Snagglepuss – Major Operation

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voices: Snagglepuss, Adventurer’s Club M.C., Australian, Wildebeest Capturer – Daws Butler; Major Minor, Mongoose Capturer, Floorwalker – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-1 (first Snagglepuss cartoon).
Copyright 1960 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: The Major makes a deal with Snagglepuss to try to capture him to avoid being kicked out the Adventurers Club.

Mike Maltese wrote the Quick Draw McGraw, Augie Doggie, Snooper and Blabber and Snagglepuss cartoons and many Yakky Doodles. One of the things the series have in common is none of them had a regular antagonist. Fibber Fox appeared in only some of the Yakky cartoons, giving Maltese some freedom in developing stories. The same was true with Snagglepuss. Major Minor didn’t show up in every cartoon. But, by Gadfrey!, Snagglepuss was loaded with catchphrases and standard routines and one of them involved the major.

Witness this exchange from “Major Operation,” as the major walks through a zoo.

Snagglepuss: Major! As I live to breathe, it is truly you.
Major: By Gadfrey, it’s Snagglepuss. What are you doing in that cage?
Snagglepuss: I was captured in Cambodia while cavortin’ with a Cambodian.
Major: But didn’t I shoot you in the Mato Grosso?
Snagglepuss: Negative. I believe you got me below the equator. Or was it in the left clavicle?
Snagglepuss also likes disguises to fool his victim. In the course of this cartoon he rises up under a garbage can lid to make it look like a sugegasa, and turns himself into a Japanese stereotype. He even fits in the word “prease” as one of Hoyt Curtin’s Far East-sounding cues used on the ju jitsu/prowler episode of The Flintstones plays in the background. Oh, well. The war was still fresh on people’s minds, I guess.

Better still is when Snagglepuss pretends to be a cop (with a London bobby hat, no less). “Stop,” he yells, “in the limb of the law. As Snooper would say.”

Major: What’s the meaning of this, officer?
Snagglepuss: I think I’ll book ya on a charge of grand lozenges and intent to commit mayhap.
Major: You wouldn’t dare.
Snagglepuss: Have you ever been booked?
Major: I’ve been paged but never booked.
Indeed, Snooper did say “Stop in the limb of the law” in “Big Cat Caper,” featuring the orange version of Snagglepuss, the white moustached version of Major Minor and the two sitting down to tea—which they do in this cartoon as well. Snagglepuss engages in tea-time conversation. Maltese pens an amazing mix of the songs “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” and “Dear Old Donegal” and adds his own special rhymes and puns.
Snagglepuss: How are things in Glocca Morra, Kilkenny and Kildare? How is Duffy, McGuffy, McCarthy, Malone? McCullough, McGillen, and lots of malarky? How’s your sister Kate down by the garden gate? Is she still swingin’? And your brother Paul behind the prison wall?
This part of the cartoon ends with the major shooting at Snagglepuss but hitting some small plates instead, sending them skyward. “Major, look out for them flyin’ sausahs!” yells Snagglepuss. They crash (off camera) on top of the major. “By Jupiter,” he exclaims. “We’ve been invaded.”

“Sausahs”? Yes, Daws gives Snagglepuss an unusual delivery in this one. The “r” sound comes out as “aw” or “ah” as in “Shall we stawt?” (instead of “start”) and “Pawdon me flowwalkah” (instead of “floorwalker”). Maybe he was going for the broad “a” as heard in the thea-tah but it sounds odd.

And we get “Exit, stage left (or right)” and “Heavens to Murgatroyd,” though this is an early Snagglepuss so the lines aren’t as elaborate as they got later.

Dick Thomas is the background artist and Paul Sommer came up with the incidental characters. Thomas’ interiors are the least stylised of any of Hanna-Barbera’s background people of the time.

And a complete street-scape from one end to the other (sorry Major Minor is in the way).

Lew Marshall’s the animator. Here’s one of his Snagglepuss exits, stage left.

The cartoon ends with another deal. Snagglepuss agrees to be captured by the major, who keeps his Adventurers Club membership as a result, and have his head mounted on the wall, provided he gets every other Thursday off “to go to the Opry.” We presume Snagglepuss means the Metropolitan as opposed to the Grand Old.

Hoyt Curtin’s stock library works pretty well in this cartoon. The sound cutter puts the Snagglepuss main title theme (edited) behind the final sequence in the Adventurers Club, which provides for a nice bridge to the end title theme.

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Flintstones Weekend Comics, January 1966

Winter plays a role in all five Flintstones comics that appeared in newspapers on weekends 50 years ago this month. Pebbles is in four of them, presumably she didn’t appear in the fifth one because it was past her bedtime. They all feature the usual fine artwork from Gene Hazelton and his crew.

January 2nd. Looks like Dino’s dreaming of Sassie in the first panel (she has a new wig, it appears). And Fred must still puffing on Winstons as there’s an ashtray next to his living room chair. Mr. Stone is his boss, not Mr. Slate. And apparently modern railways existed in the Stone Age, judging by the last panel. The night-time shadows are nice. I’d like to see how it was handled in colour. Wait! Aren’t the Flintstones in the suburbs? Where are all the other houses?

January 9th. Betty appears. Bamm Bamm’s playing with cute wooden dinosaurs (left panel, bottom row). A relative of Barney’s in the picture on the wall has a turn-of-the-20th-century moustache. The end gag is a repeat of one in the dailies the previous month when a huge stone Christmas card falls on Barney. And there are hungry incidental bird characters in the first panel.

January 16th. Dino has the best expressions in this one. He’s clobbered with a pillow (top row), gives Fred’s loud buddy a dirty look (middle row) and laughs his butt off (final row).

January 23rd. A frozen steam spout from a volcano again this month (middle row). I like how there’s only dialogue in the final panel. You know that snowman isn’t going to last, Fred.

January 30th. Another “what’ll they think of next” gag, found every once in a while in the daily Flintstones strips. The opening panel’s got some neat things, including snow-capped lettering, a lizardsaurus with a goofy smile watching things while the mastodon plow seems to have its eye on the lizardsaurus. I like the silhouette in the right column, first row. And there’s sure a lot of detail in the first panel of the middle row. Very nice.

Click on any of the comics to make them bigger.

Saturday 16 January 2016

Jetsons – The Good Little Scouts

The Flintstones had a cub scout episode. Yogi Bear had a cub scout episode. And the Jetsons had one, too. Whether it had to do with the fact that Bill Hanna was a lifelong supporter of the Boy Scouts, I don’t know, but the Jetsons’ effort is pretty weak.

Larry Markes’ story is here and there. It opens with a superfluous act about folding clothes, has Mr. Spacely’s son Arthur as a whiny jerk, then suddenly being friendly for the rest of the cartoon, and ends with Spacely concluding George Jetson is brilliant (as a child psychologist), which strikes me as a little out of character for the abusive boss.

The stars of this cartoon are the layout and background artists, unfortunately unidentified as the Jetsons cartoons now in circulation are ‘80s prints with all but writer credits removed. They created wonderful buildings and settings in this episode. Also unfortunately, my Jetsons DVD set has a huge gouge in the first disc so it won’t play and I’ve had to get a fuzzy, compressed version of “The Good Little Scouts” off the internet. The frame grab quality isn’t that great.

There are at least two animators on this cartoon. Ken Muse is easy to spot in the second half. The first one is Don Patterson, judging by the eye blinks and bit lips. His Yogi Bear cartoons feature the same kind of drawing.

Patterson is also animating dialogue with stretched necks jutting up.

I’m not an expert in identifying animators so I can’t tell you if someone else worked on this cartoon. It looks like there’s someone different in mid-cartoon after Jetson and the scouts land on the moon.

Dick Beals plays Arthur Spacely and two Martian cub scouts, all with different voices. Jean Vander Pyl gets in a pyl of voices, including her Ma Rugg and snooty matron voices for two of the mothers and a sultry Lana Luna, the Siri-esque voice of the Galaxy Spacelines stewardess, who is “a transcribed announcement.” Evidently people in the future know what a transcription is. Mel Blanc and Don Messick also get “Other Voices” credits, while Penny Singleton doubles as cub scout Orbit’s mother. Among Messick’s voices is RUDI (Referential Universal Digital Indexer), the computer that beats Jetson at cards. It’s that wavering voice Don M. uses for aliens in other cartoons (Yogi Bear, Augie Doggie, eg.). Since this is the 1960s version of the computing future, RUDI runs on tapes and is half the size of a room.

Markes comes up with a cub scout song around the melody of that futuristic hit The Caissons Go Rolling Along. I can’t make out all the lyrics (this is a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, after all), but the first two verses are:

We are strong, we are brave,
In ten years, we’ll even shave.
We’re the space cubs of Troop 54!

Through the storm, through the sleet
Draggin’ grandmas through the street.
We’re the space cubs of Troop 54!

Inventions: the talking clothes folder/repairer, the visi-phone and some kind of litter vacuum that is used on the lunar surface.

The premise of the cartoon is George is forced, somehow, by Spacely to take a troop of cub scouts on a field trip to the moon. Here are some of the great exteriors. I’ve snipped together some backgrounds that are panned. The first drawing is of Grand Central Space-tion; I can’t put together the whole thing because there’s an overlay (you see part of it to the left).

You can click on the backgrounds above to make them bigger. I sure wish I knew who designed them.

The moon is a blue-ish, stalagmitish place, as you can see below (the kids and Martians get in the way of one of the frames below). I love the see-through tents the cub scouts use.

And here’s the version of the Spacely Sprockets exterior shot. While it may appear the same painting was used in all the cartoons, there are subtle differences. This one has cars in a parking lot (and artificial green turf, it would seem).

Whoever the background artist was this time added some modern art on the wall and plants outside the apartment window.

That’s it for this post. If you can decipher verse three of the “Troop 54” song, leave the lyrics in the comment section.
Late note: Someone has. We have the best readers here.