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.


  1. The first and, in my opinion, one of the best. Always did love the very genteel way Snag' and the Major battled each other and how Snag's only upset that the Major would call him 'inconsiderate bounder!' Too bad there weren't a few more of these ones. By the way the title is 'Major Operation'.

    As for the 'saucahs' line, I never noticed that - I just assumed it was the way Snag's voice is so airy. Doesn't sound so odd to me. What does sound odd - or rather, reads odd, is for some reason, the DVD subtitles interpret the Major's first line 'By Gadfrey, sir' as 'Not yet, Tracy'

  2. I agree that this is one of, if not the best, of the Snagglepuss cartoons. Everything works. The dialogue is crisp and snappy, the characters are on-model for the most part, and the story moves at a pace that is just right. The Major and Snagglepuss' relationship is clearly delineated by means of their friendly-enemy repartee that percolates throughout the short. It's hilarious that these mortal enemies talk like old friends while trying to outwit each other.

    Daws Butler and Don Messick pull out all the stops in their delivery of these hysterically funny lines.

    Of the trio of cartoons featured on "The Yogi Bear Show," it was the Snagglepuss cartoons that consistently delivered the most inventive plots and the funniest dialogue. No disparagement, however, is intended to the Yogi and Yakky cartoons, which contain their own unique delights.

  3. Good thing the Major happened to be strolling through the zoo, or this cartoon never would've happened.

  4. I've always remembered and e joyed this cartoon, especially for the paged/booked bit.SC

  5. And I also noticed the title disceprancy..the Title at the top of the blog "Major OPERATOR" versus the actual, on-screen title "Major OPERATION".

  6. I'm surprised the scene where Snagglepuss pretends to be a Japanese stereotype wasn't cut from T.V. Snagglepuss and Major Minor are like the Hanna-Barbera versions of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd/and or Yosemite Sam.

    1. It could just as easily be Chinese, what with the trash can lid representing a coolie hat. I realise that they apply to both countries, but China is the one I usually associate with that hat.