Wednesday 28 September 2016

To the Moon, Huck!

Here’s a lovely Golden Book from 1960, as Huckleberry Hound leads a failed mission to the Moon, though he never knows it.

The artwork is great. Hawley Pratt, Friz Freleng’s long-time layout artist, did this work on the side from his career at Warner Bros. The story’s cute, too, one that young kids would enjoy. Mr. Jinks doesn’t chase the meece in this and actually turns out to be the smart one in the group.

Saturday 24 September 2016

El Ka-Ouch

We haven’t talked a lot lately about my favourite Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, Quick Draw McGraw, lately for a couple of reasons. One is all of his cartoons have been reviewed. The other is the series has never been, nor ever will be, released on home video. It means the copies of the cartoons I have are TV dubs with a low resolution and marred with bugs slapped on by cable channels. Removing the bugs is, frankly, too time consuming and not always very satisfactory.

But I want to do a short post involving El Kabong, Quick Draw’s possibly more inept alter ego inspired by writer Mike Maltese’s love of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. as Zorro. Maltese borrowed a few things from his old Warners days to round out El Kabong’s costume. Quick Draw changes into the wrong costume a few times; the same thing happened in Super Rabbit (1943, written by Tedd Pierce). And much like Robin Hood Daffy (1958, written by Maltese), El Kabong swings from a rope (attached to who knows what) only to bash into something instead of landing on his target.

Those cartoons were made back in the days of full animation. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, of course, engaged in what they liked to sell as “planned animation”, a silly term because no animation, by the late 1950s, was unplanned. There were at Hanna-Barbera times—and they increased as the years rolled on—where characters stood rigid as drawings of mouth positions moved across a face, or an arm lifted up and down in two or three positions. But there were other times when a character had to be drawn in full from frame-to-frame; in other words, full animation.

Here’s an example from El Kabong (1959). The animator is Lew Marshall, who was apparently Ray Patterson’s assistant at MGM in the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. The villainous Don Chilada engages El Kabong in a sword duel (after assuring the good guy gets a stubby sword). Chilada stabs El Kabong in the butt. The reaction is done in full animation.

There are ten drawings. The first drawing is held for four frames for establishment. Marshall (from story director Alex Lovy or possibly Joe Barbera himself) staggers the timing on the remaining frames. The drawings are held for 2, 3, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2 and 3 frames respectively, judging by the copy of the cartoon I have. That’s a little under two seconds. Here are the drawings.

This is close to the speed the action plays out on the screen.

The drawings work fine for the way the gag is presented, but I don’t know why Quick Draw doesn’t stop and have a funny take that’s held for a few frames before taking off into the air. Tex Avery was a master of wild takes. Chuck Jones was a master of subtle ones. Bill Hanna could milk a take at MGM, too (ah, those Irv Spence scenes!). Nothing like that is tried here. Even in the previous season, Huckleberry Hound or Mr. Jinks would react to something and you could see the reaction before the character zoomed off screen or there was a cut to the next scene. To me, it’s a bit of a wasted opportunity to make the cartoon even funnier, though there was never anything wrong with El Kabong to begin with.

We reviewed this cartoon way-back-when. You can read the post here. But let’s post a kabongggg! just for fun.

Wednesday 21 September 2016

Flintstones Weekend Comics, September 1966

Considering my favourite Flintstones episode is “Dino Goes Hollyrock,” where the hammy Dino gets a showcase, you can guess which comic I liked that appeared in newspapers 50 years ago this month. And considering my least-favourite Flintstones is that wretched one where Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are singing that annoying, sugary sunshine song, you can guess which comic I don’t like.

(That preposterous Bewitched cross-over is right up there, too, but let’s stick to the subject).

Actually, there is a Pebbles panel I like this month. It’s the opener in the September 18th comic where she’s waving to the little dinosaur being walked by its owner. Both the Yogi and Flintstones weekend comics, at least for the first number of years, have little bits of side action going on in some of the larger panels. It adds a lot. Another example is the traffic cop in background of the long panel in the middle row. (A “duplicate hat”-type gag is used in an October comic as a punch line).

Judging by the September 25th comic, Pebbles gets her appetite from her father’s side of the family.

Richard Holliss was kind enough to supply colour versions of the September 18th and 25th comics.

September 4, 1966

September 11, 1966

September 18, 1966

September 25, 1966

Saturday 17 September 2016

Snagglepuss – Paws For Applause

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Direction – Art Lozzi, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, P.J., Sampson, Hunter, Circus Master – Daws Butler; Mailman, Dimwitty, Tarzan, Circus Helper – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-23.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss is cast in a TV show from which he eventually exits, stage right.

Snagglepuss is pretty much in top form here, spewing mock theatrical prose, twisting phrases and dropping his catchphrases on the audience. If I quoted all the fun stuff, I’d be transcribing almost the entire cartoon.

The secondary characters get in on the fun, too. Here’s P.J. the TV studio boss and Dimwitty the director. Writer Mike Maltese gets a shot in at the insanely fast pace of TV production and the ubiquitousness of TV westerns in 1961.

P.J. – Why haven’t you finished those 22 pictures, Dimwitty? You’ve had three days.
Dim – I know, P.J. But I asked for one measly lion, and look what the casting department sent me.
(Cut to shot of elephants. One trumpets).
P.J. – Sorry, Dimwitty, but you’ve goofed up the schedule, and you know the penalty.
Dim – You mean go back to Westerns? No, no, P.J. Please! Have a heart. Anything but that.
P.J. – I am a lenient man, Dimwitty. I’ll give you (short pause) two minutes to produce a lion.
Dim – But, P.J. That would take a miracle. Even for TV.
(Sound of door knocking)
Dim – Who is it? And get out.
Snag (at the door) – What light on yonder doorway breaks? ‘Tis I, Hamlet A. Snagglepuss. The “A” stands for “applause.” Thunderous, even.

Snagglepuss gets to mangle Shakespeare earlier in the cartoon. The mailman brings him a book and (blog readers have assured me this happened in real life at one time) blows a whistle.
Snag – Hark! What whistle through yonder windward breaks? It is the east. And the mailman is the sun. With the mail, even.
He opens the book and then Daws Butler shows why he was one of Hollywood’s top voice actors. Snagglepuss reads Yogi Bear’s, Baba Louie’s and Quick Draw McGraw’s catchphrases in their voices—but sounding like Snagglepuss doing impersonations of them. It takes incredible talent for an actor to have one of his characters do an impression of another one of his characters and include the vocal qualities of both. It would have been easier just for Daws to do Yogi when Snagglepuss read the Yogi lines, but including the breathiness and pitch of Snagglepuss is a lot funnier.

Snagglepuss is hired by the TV production company. You’ve seen enough cartoons so you know how things are going to end up. Snagglepuss gets the worst of it. But first, one more exchange of dialogue as Snagglepuss storms across the stage to complain to the director.

Snag – What’s the idea? What’s the idea?
Dim – Why? What’s wrong?
Snag – There’s no star on ma dressin’ room door. Paragraph 32 of my contract clearly states that the party of the first whereas, in due abrogation of professional entities, does hereby exclude and nullify tangent reclamations as referred to in paragraph 20. 21, even. Do you know what that means, buster? Hmmm?
Dim – No.
Snag – That’s a relief. I was beginnin’ to think I was the only dimwit around here.

First up, Snagglepuss evidently hasn’t read the script. He doesn’t realise a large brute named Sampson is the film to throw him against a wall (after which he sees the stars for his dressing room door). Next, he chases a hunter through the jungle but is attacked by a Tarzan-ish character with Don Messick doing a Tarzanish yell. Finally, he plays an escaped circus lion who hides in a dark shack and lights a match (Dimwitty: “Get it?” Snagglepuss: “No. But I got a sneaky feelin’ I’m gonna”). Snagglepuss ends up in the wrong shack. It’s full of dynamite.

Director Dimwitty really is dimwitty. He laughs like a nutcase because they ran out of film and the whole thing will have to be shot all over again. “You’re a brave lion, aren’t you?” asks Dimwitty. Snagglepuss proclaims he’s chicken. “What light through yonder window breaks! It is the exit for all us chickens. So exit, cluckin’ all the way, stage left.” And Snagglepuss ends the cartoon running past the same tree 12 times, flapping his arms, clucking, and adding a rooster crow for good measure.

Art Lozzi provides the aforementioned same tree. Here’s the (reconstructed) repeating background in question from one end to the other.

More backgrounds. As usual the foreground layer of rock of the cave is on an overlay. Lozzi really goes for blue rocks and trees.

Don Patterson animates this cartoon. This is a pretty workmanlike job for him. His characters were more expressively drawn in The Flintstones. It would have been neat to have seen Patterson give Snagglepuss some of the kinds of takes he gave Woody Woodpecker in the early ‘50s but Hanna-Barbera wasn’t into that (and Maltese had come from years of working with Chuck Jones, whose idea of a take is to shift a pupil or raise an eyebrow). We get Patterson’s standard bit-lip “f” mouth animation. He also draws Snagglepuss in a couple scenes staring straight at the camera, wagging his head diagonally while talking.

Hoyt Curtin’s music fits the moods of the various scenes.

We haven’t posted an endless run cycle for a while, so here’s an actor playing a circus hand (“The ferocious lion has escaped. After him, Quick. I mean, ‘After him! Quick!’”). The run cycle is on eight drawings on ones. It takes two cycles for the background to repeat; that is, 16 frames or a second of film. (Unfortunately, there aren’t 16 frames with the character’s mouth closed).