Saturday, 4 March 2017

Yakky Doodle in Out of Luck Duck

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
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.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig, Jr.; Cat – Daws Butler; Ducks – Daws Butler, Jimmy Weldon.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-2 (first Yakky cartoon).
Copyright 1960 by Hanna-Barbera Productions
Plot: Chopper the dog protects Yakky Doodle the duck from an unnamed cat.

There were at least two cartoons that showed how Yakky Doodle and Chopper met. There was no “story bible” or “canon” full of trivia back in the earliest days of TV cartoons. This was the first “origin” cartoon. It’s the only cartoon where Chopper hints at how get got his name (he tells the trespassing duck “I’ll chomp you with my choppers”). You can tell it’s a very early cartoon because it is full of Hoyt Curtin piano and organ music I don’t recall hearing in any other cartoon. And this is the only Yakky cartoon copyrighted in 1960.

Most of the music is fairly up tempo. There may be a reason for that. As you may know, Yakky Doodle is descended from a little duck character that first appeared in the Tom and Jerry cartoon Little Quacker (1950). Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera apparently loved the duckling and put him in more MGM cartoons, then brought him along to Hanna-Barbera where he annoyed Yogi Bear and a number of other characters. The character was almost always full of self pity, whining how he didn’t have a mother and no one loved him.

Let’s face it. Who wants that in a starring character? So when Yakky got his own series, there seems to have been a deliberate attempt to try to make him less pathetic. When you’ve got tinkly upbeat piano music, instead of sad violins, in the background, it lends a more positive tone to the story.

Mike Maltese tries to help with the dialogue. “I’m not afraid,” says the sad duck, “Even though I may be pounced on by a hundred cats. I’m fearless. So what if a thousand lions [unintelligible] and eat me up just a little bit. We all have to go some time. So, goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.” Maltese was known for ridiculous, overstated dialogue, which is what Yakky needs to try to seem like he has a sense of humour. But it still boils down to the fact that Yakky is a user. He’s trying to make Chopper feel bad and sorry for him with the phoney “goodbye” act. And it works. The cartoon ends with the two in a plastic wading pool, laughing away (uncontrollable laughter ended an awful lot of Hanna-Barbera cartoons).

The story opens with the duck unable to keep up with other ducks flying south for the winter because he’s too tired. He drops from the sky into Chopper’s water dish, splashing the dog in the process. The duck introduces himself to the dog. “Bow wow. Bow wow wow!” is the response. “Oh, you’re a dog, aren’t you?” says the astute duck. Chopper flicks him out of the scene, telling him to beat it. Yakky then pulls the pity act. “All right for you. You’ll be sorry. I’ll get lost and everything, and nobody will find me. And then you’ll be sorry. All right for you,” moans the duck as the happy Wurlitzer plays in the background.

(I don’t understand why Yakky is so pathological about playing head games. After all, he was flying south for the winter. Why doesn’t he just pick up after resting and carry on with his journey?)

The plot now takes a turn as a cat decides to have Yakky for a snack and Chopper feels the need to defend the defenseless duck. Hanna-Barbera cartoons reused old concepts (such as Yakky) all the time. The cat had appeared in other forms, but with the same intent, in other H-B shorts, such as Hum Sweet Hum with Augie Doggie and Humboldt the bird. After this cartoon, Maltese eventually turned him into Fibber Fox.

Lew Marshall is the animator in this cartoon. Here are the drawings as he flips the cat at a 180 degree angle and has him zip out of the scene to capture the duck. Marshall has a few good expressions here.

Chopper beats up Fibber the cat twice in the cartoon, admonishing Yakky to close his “big brown eyes” (“itsy bitsy” was left for future Chopper advisories) and, naturally, all we see is a shot of Yakky on top of a background drawing as the camera shakes and Warner Leighton’s sound effects fill the air (all of which are repeated in both “fights”). An actual fight scene or even swirl cycle drawings cost money. After the second fight, the cat runs past the same door and table lamp seven times.

And there are some other old friends. The cat plants a phoney kiss on Yakky just like Sylvester used to do on Tweety when Granny gave him what-for. Yakky is rolled up in the cat’s tongue, which strikes me as being a Tweety thing, too. And Chopper uses a balloon with a hook attached to lift a latch and get into a locked house. I can’t remember what cartoon that’s from, but I know I’ve seen it somewhere.

Dick Thomas’ backgrounds are functional. Some are just coloured cards. I like the brown fence with the orange outlines.

We mentioned Curtin’s music before. The “English Country Garden” piano cue found in a variety of cartoons makes an appearance in this one. So does “Over the Waves” when Yakky is swimming in the dish. There’s another when Yakky is sulking off, bleating about how he’s going to starve, that almost seems to sample both “Clementine” and “Red River Valley.” And there’s a suspense cue heard when the cat is eating a “duck lollypop” that was used in The Flintstones and several other H-B cartoons. It doesn’t quite fit the scene.

I’ve always enjoyed Daws Butler’s Fibber Fox voice and though I’m not a fan of the Yakky character, Jimmy Weldon provides him with a fairly expressive delivery, far more so than Red Coffey, who did the MGM and early H-B pitiable ducks, let alone Clarence Nash at Disney, who is a chore to comprehend.


  1. :39 AM

    Ah! I've always rememebred the train and Easter Yakky's with the Fibber like Cat But I forgot about this, and the Fibber voice showing up in this cat here, too (though I remember the cat being a bit hypochrondriac about being bopped in the nose!)...I remember part of this..;the balloon, hook and lifting lock is from "Feline Frame Up," , a 1954 JOnes WB cartoon. It's when Marc Anthony the bulldog in the final attempt to avenge Claude the Yellow cat finally DOES break in.Steve

  2. Why does the cat look so similar to Mr. Jinks? I find that odd. Am I the only one who thinks this?

  3. I don't think there's any other 'lead' character in a cartoon who's more dependent on the supporting characters to make the cartoon work than Yakky.

  4. YOWP, your articles have always been the highlight of my day. I wish there was an animation HB club in Bulgaria. Or at the very least an animation club.

  5. To me, Yakky is like the Hanna-Barbera version of Tweety Bird.

  6. 'So what if a thousand lions jump on me and beat me up, just a little bit' is what Yakky says.

    This way also be the only cartoon where Chopper changes his tie. It's lilac in this one and red in all his others.