Saturday, 8 April 2017

Snagglepuss in Express Trained Lion

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – La Verne Harding, Layout – Jack Huber, Backgrounds – Neenah Maxwell, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Zoo Guard – Daws Butler; Bigelow – Doug Young.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-54.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Bigelow the mouse keeps freeing Snagglepuss, who wants to stay caged so he can go to the St. Louis Zoo.

There’s a little subset of characters that Mike Maltese used in a variety of Hanna-Barbera series. Snagglepuss was one before eventually getting his own show. And so was the far lesser-known Bigelow, the mouse that sounded like Jimmy Cagney. He appeared with Loopy De Loop, Augie Doggie and on two Snagglepuss cartoons.

Mike Maltese’s story is good one. Snagglepuss is reading the Aesop Fable of “The Lion and the Mouse.” He’s interrupted by the sound of Bigelow in a mouse trap. He frees Bigelow, who promises to help him in time of need. Just then, Snagglepuss is captured—and when told he’ll be sent to the St. Louis Zoo, he dreams of a life of laziness and show biz. But on the express train to St. Louis, Bigelow keeps rescuing him from out of his cage as a “favour.” So Snagglepuss is back where he started, where things happen all over again. Snagglepuss rescues Bigelow from a mouse trap again and, then, improbably rockets to the moon to escape from the mouse. But guess who’s there?

So about all this leaves us is Snagglepuss’ dialogue to enliven the proceedings. First, a look at the opening pan shot.

Heavens to Murgatroyd! What phoney fol-der-ol! What unmitigated nonsense! Imagine, a miniscule mouse savin’ a lion. It is to laugh! Ha, ha. Snicker, even.
Off-screen, Bigelow cries for help. I like his threat. “Get me outta here, or I’m gonna get sore at somebody.” Sore? You can’t even lift a mouse trap to escape (yet later in the cartoon, he can lasso a whole cage). “If his body was as big as his ego,” observes Snagglepuss, “he’d be king sized.”

Skip ahead to a railway baggage car, where the caged mountain lion contemplates of life in the zoo, where he’ll be “waited on paw and foot.”

Now why would I want to escape the soft life at the zoo? Security, even. Preposterous! Let me see. Two shows a day. Maybe three on Sunday. A little Shakespeare. “Tourists, Romans, Countrymen! Lend me a buck and a half.” Or a little soft-shoe, even. (Snagglepuss taps his feet). Or render a little song or two? (sings) Though we met in the roundhouse, Nellie, I’ll always treat you square.
But no one believes Snagglepuss wants to go to the zoo (maybe they watched too many Wally Gator cartoons). The armed guard calls him “you treacherous wild beast you” and keeps chasing him with a rifle after the mouse keeps forcing him out of the cage. And Bigelow thinks “they’ve got him scared right out of his wits.”

The final lines of dialogue after Snagglepuss realises that, somehow, Bigelow has followed him to the moon, reminding him “Bigelow never forgets.”

Heavens to planetoid. Bigelow never forgets. The little feller should have been an elephant.
Not the strongest end line but Maltese did have a huge workload at the studio.

I like how Snagglepuss and Bigelow are over the same moonscape background, but the mouse is on an overlay. In between, the shot cuts to a close-up of Snagglepuss, so you don’t notice. And Snagglepuss must have shrunk to get to the moon. He’s next to the mouse trap with huge leaves in the background. There’s nothing like reusing background art.

The dialogue is full of “evens” and “heavens to” sentences, but only one “Exit, stage left.”

When a Hanna-Barbera cartoon starts to drag, you can occupy yourself by seeing how often characters run past the same thing. In this cartoon, the zoo guard races six times past a railway car door in the background.

Hoyt Curtin’s cues include “Rockabye Baby” and one that includes a snippet of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.” Snagglepuss soft-shoes to the end of a short cue based on “Meet the Flintstones.”


  1. Ah, the oft-mentioned St. Louis Zoo.

    I like to imagine they kept an empty cage on hand labeled "Reserved for Yogi".

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. That's a bit of an oopsie right at the end there with the rocket shot! Would've been almost OK if the mousetrap wasn't visible. Lets assume it's a plank from the crate fallen off the train.