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.


  1. I always thought that Butler modeled the Jinks voice specifically on Brando's portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire." Butler used the same voice in a 1957 "Suspense" radio episode that starred DeForest Kelley (and also featured Dick Beals and Howard McNear).

  2. There is a cat named Jinx in the Freddy the Pig books by Walter R. Brooks. I always thought as a kid that Mr. Jinks was a derivation of Brook's Jinx.

    While there is no doubt that Daws Butler provided the definitive voice of Jinks, Paul Frees also did justice to the character when he voiced Mr. Jinks as narrator of the "Cinderella" album for HBR.

  3. Mr. Jinx was also my favorite. To me, Jinx was a mixture of beatnik and Freberg's " Pete Puma " with a little less mush mouth and without Frank Fontaine's "Crazy Guggenheim "laugh.

    1. I agree,as wle...I a lot of times laugh like Jinks, was there bad blood between H-B and Butler, Freberg for Freberg not to appear?