Wednesday 30 March 2016

Quick Draw McGraw and Bronco Bart

A month ago, we posted a Huckleberry Hound story from the Hanna-Barbera Golden Book Treasury, a compilation of various Hanna-Barbera stories that were published in Golden Books for kids. I love Quick Draw McGraw so allow me to post another one contained in the Treasury.

The story is by Carl Memling. He’s no Mike Maltese. But then who is? Plus his audience for this book is aimed at young children, not a mass audience (including adults) like the Quick Draw cartoon show was. Memling was born Carl Cohen on January 18, 1918 (he legally changed his name in 1954) and died on October 18, 1969 in Queens, New York. He wrote a number of children’s books.

The art is by Hawley Pratt and Al White. Pratt should be known to cartoon fans as Friz Freleng’s longtime layout man. I don’t know what White did besides Golden Books; we have plenty of comic fans reading who probably have the answer.

You can click on each picture to make it bigger.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Mark of the Mouse Cycles

I really enjoy the way Carlo Vinci handled cycle animation in the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons. In a bunch of cartoons, he had different kinds of cycles with something interesting going on; it wasn’t just the same old six drawings showing a character running every time.

To give you an idea, here are a few cycles from Mark of the Mouse, a 1958 Pixie and Dixie cartoon. Dixie disguises himself as the TV character named in the title, a Zorro-like character, who is easily dispatched by Mr. Jinks until the real Mark shows up.

Dixie is given a four-drawing run cycle. Notice how Carlo rolls Dixie’s head. In other run cycles at H-B, on Jinks, Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone and even George Jetson, he would give characters a butt roll. The angle of the right leg/foot in the third drawing can be found in Carlo’s animation elsewhere at the studio.

Now the drawings in a cycle, slowed down somewhat from what is in the cartoon.

This is a four-drawing run cycle of Mr. Jinks. The head looks like it’s in the same position but you can see in the cycle, it’s not. Carlo has made four separate drawings of the cat running with the sword.

Again, this is slower than in the actual cartoon.

This is a four-drawing run cycle of Mr. Jinks, too. But Carlo doesn’t use the same one. In the cycle above, Jinks is angry. Below, he’s kind of hamming it up because he’s pretending he’s afraid of Dixie as the Mark of the Mouse.

Here it is in an endless, slower loop. I love the churning fists. The head is on a separate cel. Carlo used this cycle only once, in this cartoon, and never again. If this cartoon had been made at Filmation, the cycle would have been used in every single cartoon. Maybe three times.

Here’s a six-frame cycle of Jinks bouncing using three drawings. Note the low crotch in the second drawing. Again, the muzzle is on a separate cel. Drawing one is on one frame, drawing two is on two frames, drawing one is repeated, then drawing three is on two frames. That’s the cycle.

Now, the completed cycle.

There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned electric socket gag, is there? This cycle has two drawings of the electric lightning over top of two different drawings of Jinks, creating a four-frame cycle. The drawing of Jinks is held for two frames while one version of the lightning is used in the first frame, then the second version is used in the second frame. Then the wavy version of Jinks is held for two frames while the two lightning drawings are re-used.

And the finished cycle, slightly slower than on screen.

My favourite animation is a little later in the cartoon when Carlo draws a skeletal version of Jinks alternating with a silhouette version. I won’t post a cycle version, just a couple of the drawings. You’ll notice the same yellow electric lightning is used behind Jinks that’s in the previous cycle.

The animation in this cartoon isn’t as smooth at it became in Pixie and Dixie cartoons even a year later and Carlo doesn’t stick anywhere close to a model sheet, but that’s part of what makes these early cartoons so much fun.

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Prime Time Huckleberry Hound

Hanna-Barbera’s syndicated shows for Kellogg’s—Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Yogi Bear—appeared in the early evening hours, a perfect spot for them in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The time period was traditional for kid programming, dating from the radio days of Superman. News programming was still only 15 minutes, so stations needed to fill the time with something.

However, 5:30, 6 and 6:30 p.m. were good hours to attract parents, as the average suburban dad would be home by then. Thus the Hanna-Barbera shows attracted a large following of adults, and that prompted John Mitchell of Screen Gems to push Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera into making a cartoon more adult-focused that could run in prime time. Thus The Flintstones was born and became a huge success.

But what of Huck and Yogi? Since adults watched them, could they be prime-time stars, too?

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera apparently thought so.

To the right, you see an ad for a Huck and Yogi show in prime-time, apparently consisting of reruns of cartoons that had aired in the early evening slot for Kellogg’s. The Milwaukee Journal’s Donald H. Dooley wrote about the show in his “Studio Notes” column on September 23, 1962.

TV CARTOON shows did not fare very well last season with adult audiences. “Calvin and the Colonel,” which used the voices of Amos and Andy, expired at the end of the season, as did “Top Cat,” which sounded like the old “Sgt. Bilko” show.
“The Flintstones” survived and the jet age counterparts of these stone agers, “The Jetsons,” begins the new season today.
Some TV people, however, feel there might still be some life in cartoons aimed at adults, and this season Milwaukee is a test market for their belief. “The Best of Huck and Yogi,” the tester, started here Tuesday [September 18] on WISN-TV (channel 12, 9:30-10 p.m.). If the series catches on here, adults all over the country might see the show next season.
The weekly shows are excerpts from recent programs aimed at children, “Yogi Bear” and “Huckleberry Hound.” Yogi’s voice, Daws Butler, said:
“This is for adults only. In fact, I’ve always maintained that these shows were much too good to be wasted on kids.”
Interestingly, the Milwaukee station was a CBS affiliate, so it was bumping network programming in prime time to run Huck and Yogi. A week after its debut, it was moved to Monday night opposite a potpourri of shows on the NBC affiliate (including Don’t Call Me Charlie!”) and the second half of Ben Casey on the ABC station. On October 15th, for example, the cartoons were “Price For Mice,” “Sir Huckleberry Hound” and “Robin Hood Yogi.”

The experiment lasted until December 17th. The following Monday, the smarter-than-the-average bear, the meeces and oh-so-merry Huck were replaced with Stump the Stars. There’s no indication what the ratings were for the programme or if “Best of” ran in any other cities. It appears their regular sojourn into prime time had ended.

Saturday 19 March 2016

Snagglepuss – Footlight Fright

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Bob Bentley; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Written by Mike Maltese; Story Director – John Freeman; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervison – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Adventurers Club Head, Snagglepuss – Daws Butler; Major Minor – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Camera: Norm Stainback.
Filmed: January 5, 1962.
Episode: Production R-80 (seventh of eight Snagglepuss cartoons in 1961-62 season).
Copyright 1962 by Hanna-Barbera Productions
Plot: Major Minor pretends to run a travelling road show to capture ham actor Snagglepuss.

The best Snagglepuss cartoons were filled with plots taking ridiculous but logical turns and clever plays on words. The average ones had enough catchphrases and silly lines so they weren’t a total loss. Footlight Fright is one of the latter. There’s nothing uproariously funny, but if you like Snagglepuss, you’ll smile through this one.

It opens with the Adventurer’s Club (apparently there is only one adventurer) drumming out Major Minor for his continued failures to capture Snagglepuss. Maltese’s story is a parody of how soldiers were drummed out of the army with their epaulettes ripped off and so on. Maltese decides that the major should be divested of his wildebeest whistle. He never wore one in other cartoons, but Maltese seems to have decided “wildebeest” was a funny word, so into the dialogue it went. As John Kricfalusi has reminded Hanna-Barbera fans, you can tell Walt Clinton’s layout work in the early cartoons because the animator drew human characters with ears at collar length. You can see that in this cartoon. Bob Bentley is the animator, though there’s nothing distinguishing about his work here that I could spot. Bentley worked in the Tex Avery unit at MGM and for Frank Tashlin at Warners, among many places, so he got around. “Now, go!” says the Englishman leader of the Club, “And never dampen our teacups again!”

The next portion of the plot is where Maltese generally shines with Snagglepuss—when the pink cat fills the scene with a monologue. Snagglepuss is on the phone, leafing alphabetically through the Yellow Pages trying to get a job acting on stage, but getting hung up on during his increasingly desperate spiel. “As I was sayin’ sir, I know Shakespeare, Ibsen, Longfella. Shortfella, even.” Next call: “Hello, Acme Bookin’ Agency? Your actin’ worries are over. For I play to standin’ room only. Sittin’ room only? I’ll tell you what. I’ll sell popcorn in the lobby. I’ll pop it, peddle it and pay for it, even. Give me a chancst.” Finally, he calls Zylvester Z. Zyzyr (“If ZZZ won’t have me, I’m zunk”). I really like the background colours in Snagglepuss’ cave. When the cartoon first appeared on TV, kids would have been watching them on a black-and-white set so they wouldn’t have been able to appreciate Monte’s various shades of green. Here are some more of his backgrounds. The exteriors are stylised, the interiors have shading.

The plot carries on with Major Minor pretending to be a road show impresario (“lured by the fragrance of greasepaint, the sound of applause and all that show biz jazz”) to capture Snagglepuss. The cat falls for the bait and auditions on a mobile stage. Maltese evokes Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with Snagglepuss’ monologue: “Ere the mockin’bird is mockin’ and long before the dawn hath gone, I’ll be waitin’ ‘neath the balcony with knees a-knockin’. Just call me Snag ‘cause my name ain’t John. Ta ta! Curtain!” The stage turns out to be a cage. (“Heavens to Claustrophobia! I’ve been iron curtained,” he tells us when the metal bars clang down).

Snagglepuss tries to bluff his way out by pretending to be a motorcycle cop but the Major catches on (Major: “Acting? Is that what that was?” Snagglepuss: “Oh, that I should suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous critics.”). The Major is welcomed back into the Adventurers Club and is set to blast Snagglepuss with his rifle (“fortunes of the hunt and all that jolly rot”) but Snagglepuss cleverly makes a last request—a performance on stage in front of the Club members. Incidentally, Bentley isn’t big on matching shots from scene to scene. Here are consecutive frames.

The cartoon ends with Snagglepuss announcing 12 hours of sonnets, which quickly bore the adventurers. The shot is cut to an empty theatre. “Heavens to no taste,” Snagglepuss declares and exits (“actor at liberty”) stage left to end the cartoon.

I must admit I’m puzzled by Snagglepuss’ final performance. The lines go:

It isn’t that I love Caesar less, but that I love Rome more.
Alice Rome, that is.

Who is Alice Rome? Is this just an arbitrary gag or was there someone (or a movie/TV/book character) with that name when this cartoon was made?

Hoyt Curtin’s cues from Loopy de Loop work their way into the score, and the last sequence uses a nice medium-slow accordion version of the Snagglepuss theme.