Saturday 29 October 2016

Run, Jinks, Run

One of the fun things about watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons 50 or so years ago was to see how many times characters ran past the same background. Repeating backgrounds were nothing new in animation; you can spot them in some of the great Warner Bros. cartoons and even in the far-more-primitive efforts of the Van Beuren shorts of the early ’30s. The difference is Hanna-Barbera used them often. Very often.

Chase cartoons almost required them, and the series that specialised in chases in the early days was Pixie and Dixie. Here’s an endless chase loop of Mr. Jinks from “Bird Brained Cat” (first aired on the week of November 23, 1959). The animation is by Don Patterson. It’s a pretty simple cycle. He uses four drawings, and the cycle repeats itself four times (16 drawings, or one foot of animation) before Jinksie runs past the same door.

Patterson uses foot multiples on the second and fourth drawings below to quicken the run.

Here’s the run in an endless loop. The timing is close to what it is in the cartoon. The background is by Bob Gentle. Sorry for the digital fuzziness; this is a dub from a TV broadcast. It’s not like we’ll ever see this cartoon on home video.

Patterson, by the way, imbues Mr. Jinks with some really funny expressions in this cartoon.

We know how Mr. Jinks got his voice and delivery. Daws Butler borrowed it from his writing partner Stan Freberg. Freberg used it in his Capitol record send-up of “Sh-boom,” saying it was supposed to a satire on Marlon Brando’s mush-mouth method acting delivery. I’ve never noticed the similarity, but I’m not going to argue with the man who created it.

Mr. Jinks’ name is more of a mystery. Some animation fans have decided to play connect-the-dots and invent their own facts based on the conclusion. They note that:

a) Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera originally called Jerry Mouse “Jinx.”
b) Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera socked away ideas for re-use, therefore
c) Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera reused their name for Jerry Mouse for a cat character 18 years later.

There’s absolutely no proof of this fanboy “fact.” For one thing, “Jinx” is not “Mr. Jinks.” Neither Hanna or Barbera ever said how they gave the cat his name. In fact, an early drawing is emblazoned with the name “Snooper” and Variety refers to a Hanna-Barbera “Snooper” series well before Snooper and Blabber were ever created.

The name, however, was used generically in newspaper humour columns in the early part of the 20th Century. At least, they may have been humorous back then. They’re dumbfoundingly unfunny today. A few examples from some newspapers I’ve browsed through.

Ed—“Mr. Jinks wants some repairs. Says the house has been settling.”
Ned—“Can’t have ‘em. He hasn’t.” (1907)

Mr. Links—“Now, Mr. Jinks, would you recognize the existence of a higher, or unwritten law?”
Mr. Jinks—“No, sir. I’d try a millionaire just the same as I would a common laborer.”
Mr. Links—“Talesman excused.” (1907)

Mr. Jinks—I’m so awfully glad, don’t y’ know, to be able to offer you an umbrella to protect you from this deuced wet, don’t y’ know.
Mrs. Winks—It’s so very kind of you, Mr. Jinks, don’t y’ know. I shall be very glad to return it to my husband. It is the one he left at the club last night, don’t y’ know. (1909)

Mrs. Jinks—I notice you always speak to policemen, letter-carriers and motormen and conductors. Why?
Mr. Jinks—I may go into politics one of these days. (1911)

“I think Mr. Jinks is the cutest man,” gushed Miss Sweete. “Don’t you think that his humor is delicate?”
“Yes,” replied the jealous Mr. Binks. “It is. He ought to take a tonic for it.” (1920)

Mr. Jinks—Huh! You were no spring chicken when I married you!
Mrs. Jinks—No. I was a little goose. (1923).
I’ll pause to allow you to finish laughing.

Here’s a comic from the St. Louis-Post Dispatch, June 1, 1910.

Regardless of how he was named, Mr. Jinks is one of my favourite characters. You can read the review of “Bird Brained Cat” in this old post.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

We Hear From Fans Around the World

Hanna-Barbera cartoons are loved the world over, and the proof is in a little list of the countries where our readers come from. At the time this post was written, the bulk of the people who stopped by to view this blog are in the United States. But the list shows readers in Denmark, Spain, Thailand, Luxembourg, Japan, Russia, Egypt and Ghana, among many other nations.

Readers are nice enough to send notes; I’m sorry I don’t have time to answer most of them as I don’t really have time to maintain this blog. Here’s one I received quite some time ago, with the photos I’ve posted below. The following note was attached:

Hi, I'm Alexander live in Brazil and I am a lover of Hanna Barbera. I have some things that I keep with great affection. This poster of original film and a Yogi Bear's Guide was released in Brazil in 1970 as well as comics launched in Brazil.

Reader Rick Greene is a little closer to 3400 Cahuenga Blvd. He’s in the Los Angeles area and was a close friend of the ultimate Hanna-Barbera historian, the late Earl Kress. Some time ago, we posted about Yogi Bear being used as a public service figure. Rick passed along this from his collection. Sorry, he just sent the cover. It’s from 1984. Artist unknown. Bob Singer maybe?

We also had a post about the 1961 Yogi’s Birthday Party TV special. Mike Rossi (not in Italy, despite his name) sent these pictures showing how Kellogg’s got involved in its cereal boxes:

Steve Faul, one of a number of our readers in Ohio, e-mailed us these shots of a Whitman puzzle from 1963. He found it during an antiquing expedition. Evidently there was no room for Yogi Bear. Or maybe he was busy promoting cereal.

And Dan Browne asked about the cel below. I cringe looking at the staples up top. The characters weren’t in the original drawing; you can see how the waves around the fishing line have been drawn in later. They may have been from one of the Huck show cartoons-between-the-cartoons. The background’s familiar, though. It’s from the Quick Draw McGraw cartoon Cattle Battled Rattled, co-starring Snuffles. The background is by Joe Montell.

Here’s a frame grab from the cartoon. Dick Lundy animation from Ed Benedict layouts. I love the cows.

My thanks to readers who have had time to send interesting items along with comments, additions and corrections. By the way, this is Yowp post number 1,001.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Snagglepuss – Remember Your Lions

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Gil Turner, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Manager – Daws Butler; Major Minor, Mr Leonard, Farnsworth Paradiddle – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-42.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss performs on stage while trying to avoid being shot by the Major.

Here’s another great showcase for Snagglepuss’ theatricality, as Mike Maltese’s story takes him from the legitimate stage to small-time vaudeville, along with that fine foil, Major Minor. At one point, Snagglepuss leaves the Major baffled by turning into a late 19th century melodrama villain (complete with cape and top hat) and the cartoon ends with Snagglepuss and the Major arguing over who gets top billing (“That’s show business,” the theatre manager philosophically says to us viewers).

Daws Butler adds to the fun by giving the manager an Ed Sullivan-style voice, while the actor whose feelings are hurt has a design based on the hawk nose of the stage great John Barrymore (designed by Tony Rivera).

Dialogue? Where should we start? Snagglepuss opens the cartoon with a lament (“O, the stings and arrows of sharp fate!”) that he’s been reduced to the part of a trained lion whose owner sticks his head in his mouth. He’s interrupted by actor Farnsworth Paradiddle, who is no longer in the mood to thesp because his dressing room has not been sprayed with eau de cologne.

Paradiddle: I can not go on.
Manager: But the show must go on.
Paradiddle: Oh? Why?
Manager: Because I don’t want to give the audience their money back, what else?

Snagglepuss throws us a switch on a hoary old joke:

Snagglepuss: I, sir, shall replace Farnsworth Paradiddle.
Manager: You? Read Shakespeare?
Snag: Read Shakespeare?! I know Shakespeare backwards. Lis-ten. Eraepsekahs. Eraaaaepsekahs!
Manager (to viewers): Say! That is Shakespeare backwards.

Cut to Major Minor reading the Snagglepuss poster outside the theatre. He zips off scene and immediately returns in his hunting garb. Cut to the next scene with Snagglepuss on stage:

Snagglepuss: A hamlet by any other name is still a ham. He who steals my purse steals cash. About a buck and a half.
Major (raises rifle): By Gadfrey, Shakespeare would thank me for this.
(fires shots)
Manager: Pardon me, sir, but do you have a silencer for that gun?
Major: No, by thunder.
Manager: Then I’m afraid you’ll have to leave, sir.

We’ve had a Hamlet reference. Snagglepuss and the major now turn their attention to a Shakespeare balcony scene. Guess who is Juliette?

Snagglepuss: Major! It’s you!
Major: Yes. Didn’t I shoot you in the Veldt?
Snag: I beg to differentiate. It was below the veldt. I couldn’t sit down for a week.

The sequence ends oddly with the Major shooting and the cartoon fading out. There’s no real punch-line.

Next, a fade-in to the Major and Snagglepuss doing an old double, vaudeville style.

Snagglepuss: A funny thing happened to me on the way to the theatre.
Major: You don’t say. What happened to you on the way to the theatre?
Snag: A panhandler asked me for $10 for a cup of coffee.
Major: $10? Isn’t that a lot of money for a cup of coffee?
Snag: Well, he said he was a heavy tipper. Heh heh heh hehh. Get it?
Major: By Gadfrey, I get it. And now, by Joe Miller, you’re going to get it.

Snagglepuss tells the audience not to be worried explaining, much in the manner of Daffy Duck in a Chuck Jones cartoon of the later ‘50s, by the time the Major is set to fire his gun again, he’ll be miles away. The spiel takes so long the Major has time to blast Snagglepuss in the head.

In the next sequence, Snagglepuss delves into the old Warner Bros. bag of tricks by pretending to be an old melodrama villain, demanding a mortgage payment from a “poor but honest farmer” (the Major). Unlike the pre-1950 Daffy Duck in a similar disguise, Snagglepuss still gets shot.

Maltese doesn’t need to think of any more chasing gags. The manager stops the action on stage and decides to sign the two for his show. Snagglepuss and the Major argue over the billing until a rifle in the pink cat’s face ends the discussion.

“Shakespeare would have wanted it that way,” he reluctantly says to us, and the cartoon ends.

Gil Turner was the animator of this cartoon. We talked about him, and his work on this cartoon, in this post from 2013. Turner bounced from studio to studio, working at Warner Bros. (Freleng unit), UPA and Walter Lantz among a number of stops. He also drew comic books. Turner retired to Arizona in 1963 and died in 1967.

Monte was the background artist. Here are the first two establishing shots.

I like Monte’s background below. It shows what a run-down theatre Snagglepuss is appearing in, complete with an old brick building up against the window.

Greg Watson or Joe Ruby or whoever the sound cutter was on this cartoon took advantage of Hoyt Curtin’s tracking library. The cartoon opens with his horns and light piano show-biz intro music, followed by the woodblock soft-shoe theme when Snagglepuss bemoans his fate in the entertainment world and Paradiddle quits. When the Major changes into his hunting outfit, we hear Curtin’s “A Hunting We Will Go”-inspired cue. The cartoon ends with Curtin’s ‘20s Charleston music.

Thursday 20 October 2016

Flintstones Weekend Comics, October 1966

What? How can people in the Stone Age celebrate Hallowe’en? It’s an outrage!!

There! Now that I’ve gotten that out of your system, let’s carry on and look at what newspapers published, Flintstones comic-wise, 50 years ago this month. Besides Hallowe’en, we get sports—baseball and golf.

The whole gang appears in the October 16th comic (the adults, two kids and Dino). I love Fred’s pose in the bottom left-hand comic and the nice from-above layout in the final comic. The gags are set up pretty well in all of them.

Richard Holliss supplied the colour comics from his personal collection.

October 2, 1966

Octover 9, 1966.

October 16, 1966.

October 23, 1966.

October 30, 1966.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Meet The Flintstones (A Lot of Them)

Some people love the Hanna-Barbera characters so much, they amass collections. Some small, some big.

Reader Evan Borisinkoff has been collecting Flintstones items for the last 15 years. He’s managed to get his collection organised enough to post pictures of it on the web.

If you want to see more, you can go to this site.

Saturday 15 October 2016

The Jetsons – Elroy’s Mob

The “Elroy’s Mob” episode of The Jetsons may be best known for one scene—when Kenny Countdown is watching “the billionth rerun of the Flintstones.” It’s a throwaway gag but it’s probably the most subtle commentary on TV cartoon programming.

When this cartoon first aired in 1963, there weren’t a billion reruns of The Flintstones. Not even hundreds. Episodes had been repeated during the season they aired exactly once to fill up the summer prime time schedule. But other cartoons, Bugs Bunny, Popeye, and many of the other old theatricals, had been repeated endlessly on morning and afternoon kids shows. That’s where the money was. Hanna-Barbera knew that; the company built itself on syndicating Huckleberry Hound in 1958. So it was The Flintstones ended up in syndication in 1966. Today, in the Jetsons’ 21st Century, it seems like there have been a billion reruns of Fred, Barney, Dino and the rest. When this cartoon was made, that was nowhere near the case.

The cartoon may be set in the future but there are still ‘60s reference-puns that those of us around then got. The crooks in this one are pretending to be a crew shooting “The Unspaceables” (“The Untouchables”). And the TV news reporter who just happens to be in the Jetsons’ neighbourhood to interview them is “Chet Sprinkley” (NBC’s anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley). No disrespect meant to writer Barry Blitzer, but these are weak. The Flintstones was ever worse for this; trying to make a comedic name by adding “stone” or “rock” or something like that. That doesn’t take any creativity, any more than adding arbitrarily adding “space” or “moon” to a name on The Jetsons.

It seems as if Blitzer had the Flintstones on his mind when he wrote this cartoon. When Jane tells George to have fun with Astro, he responds: “Fun? I could have more fun with a sabre-tooth tiger.” A what? Doesn’t that joke belong on the other series?

The plot of “Elroy’s Mob” includes a really quaint concept—parents feeling shame because of something their child has done and (probably more importantly) how will it reflect on them. “What will I tell the PTA?” Jane wails as she’s told her son is now considered a mobster. It also includes a bit of a scary concept. You may have noticed police officers infest The Jetsons series. They’re here in this episode, too. Elroy and Astro are told by patrol cops to get home because “it’s after curfew.” Is the future so ridden with crime that police are everywhere and a curfew is necessary?

A quick plot summary: Elroy brings home Kenny’s weekly magna-proofed (unerasable) report tape from school after Kenny switches them (four Ds, an F and an H) but his parents won’t believe it’s a mistake. When Kenny confesses via visiphone, George and Jane go to apologise but found Elroy and Astro have run away. The boy and dog get conned into helping Muggsy Megaton rob a jewelry store. Muggsy and his gang hide out at the Jetsons’. Astro gnaws through the rope tying him up and fetches the police who make the arrest. Astro histrionically explains to a TV interviewer how he helped catch the criminals. I like how Astro’s the hero here. Hmm. Cumbersome heroic dog that pronounces every word starting with an “r.” It appears that idea got filed away at Hanna-Barbera for future use.

Fernando Montealegre, Rene Garcia and Fernando Arce painted the backgrounds.

Sorry Elroy’s in the way, but you can still see the architecture in the background.

Elroy’s bedroom.

The animators of this cartoon are Carlo Vinci and Hugh Fraser. I can’t pick out all of Carlo’s work here, but it’s safe to say the side-to-side wagging heads and the walk cycles with the swinging butts are his (he animated the Flintstones scene in this one). Fraser is always tough for me, but the drawing below is definitely his. He drew a weird take where the eyes would stretch up. He doesn’t go as overboard here as he did in some of the TV Popeyes he animated in 1960.

And here’s a neat vibrating bash take.

This rubbery-nosed head shake ends with George’s little eyes.

A shock take. It reminds me a bit of those fuzzy-hair takes that Jim Tyer drew at Terrytoons.

Some exits.

Camera error! Look at the kids’ eyes. This was part of a cycle so it shows up at least twice in the cartoon.

Laughs? Well, I still like the gag where Astro describes the criminal to a sketch artist, who ultimately draws a picture of the desk sergeant. Old, obvious? Yeah. But I laughed anyway.

Shep Menken guest stars as the voice of Muggsy Megaton. He’s one of those H-B bad guys with his hand in his pocket. Menken also plays the court sketch artist and Chet Sprinkly. Don Messick also guests as Astro, the giggling gorilla and various other characters. Janet Waldo gets to do an extra voice and appears as Miss Brainmocker, the robot teacher.

Hoyt Curtin’s score includes “Rise and Shine,” the original Flintstones theme, when Kenny is watching Fred land on Barney in the swimming pool.

Other credits:
Animation Director – Charles Nichols.
Layout – Irv Spector, Willie Ito, Jacques Rupp.
Camera – Frank Paiker, Norm Stainback, Roy Wade, Chuck Flekal.
Film Editor – Greg Watson, Joe Ruby.
Story Supervision – Arthur Pierson.
Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.

Willie Ito and Joe Ruby are still with us.