Wednesday 31 May 2017

Ruff and Reddy's Crocodile Dilemma

Ruff and Reddy didn’t achieve the acclaim of Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear—their TV show was aimed strictly at children, for one thing—but they joined their fellow Hanna-Barbera characters on the drawing boards of Dell Comics.

I don’t claim any knowledge (or interest, to be honest) of comics, so I can’t tell you how many issues they appeared in. Checking around on-line, it appears there was an issue number 12, so that would mean the comics lasted for a few years. I gather they were published four times a year.

The comics are different from the TV show in that there’s no narrator, they’re not serialised, and they’re devoid of those Charlie Shows’ rhymes that drive me nuts on occasion. They’re not uproariously funny, either, but the stories were no doubt pleasant enough for youngsters.

Here’s one from issue number 11, cover dated December 1961. It features talking crocodiles and a turtle in tartan shorts. I couldn’t tell you the artist. Click to enlarge.

Saturday 27 May 2017

Mousekeeping (Chuckle)

Maybe it’s my imagination or a faulty memory due to ancient brain cells, but it seems to me Mr. Jinks fared much better against Pixie and Dixie in those little cartoons-between-the-cartoons than in the actual cartoons.

In one 20-second routine, genial Huckleberry Hound asks the vacuum-carrying Jinks if he’s housekeeping. No, says the cat. After sucking up the meeces, he tells us he’s “mouse-keeping” and chuckles at the camera.

Jinks’ head looks odd in this shortie. I couldn’t tell you who did the layouts.

Yes, the pun is pretty weak, but you can imagine Jinksie would think it’s funny, so it fits nicely. Mr. Jinks is a great character with loads of possibilities for stories (even beyond being paired with the meeces).

I suspect the animation is by Ed Love and the flat backgrounds by Monte Montealegre.

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Playing With Yogi

Remember that cartoon “Scooter Looter” (March 1959), when Yogi Bear stole a Jellystone Park scooter then couldn’t figure out how to control it?

That apparently inspired Louis Marx and Co. (the makers of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots, you’ll recall) to manufacture a Yogi Bear friction scooter toy. Reader Gordon Robson in the U.K. owns one of them and sent some pictures for you to see it. Yogi looks more in shock than anything else. It appears judging by the cover of the box that it may have been available in more than one colour.

And, look, Boo Boo! No hands! (Insert you own Yogi Bear-type rhyme here).

Somehow, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy from the Quick Draw McGraw Show ended up on the box. It would appear Yogi’s run over one of the miserable meeces and is going for the other.

This came out in 1963. The previous year, Marx started making a Jellystone Park playset (conveniently, it was just in time for Christmas). I gather it had a flat cardboard surface, like a board game, with a river and other things drawn on it where you could place the characters. You’ll notice Yakky Doodle, Fibber Fox and Alfie Gator, along with Cindy Bear and Ranger Smith, plus a beaver and a pile of other animals. Suggested retail price: $5.29 (according to the Los Angeles Times, Nov. 22, 1962).

A few close-ups.

The great thing about a toy like this is you could be pretend to be Warren Foster and Daws Butler, and create your own little live-action Yogi Bear “cartoon.” I suppose people today have fan fiction that kind of serves the same purpose, but this seems like a lot more fun.

Saturday 20 May 2017

Changing Yogi Bear

The original Yogi Bear wasn’t quite the Yogi Bear we all know today.

After Warren Foster arrived at Hanna-Barbera in April 1959 and took over writing the Yogi cartoons, a decision was made to put Yogi in a consistent setting with a consistent cast. So the bear was given a home in Jellystone Park, Boo Boo was made a permanent sidekick and Ranger Smith was added to give Yogi someone to conflict with. This template made for stronger story potential and, evidently, resulted in the character becoming more popular, and certainly more memorable.

But I still really like the pre-Foster Yogi that appeared on the first season of the Huckleberry Hound Show, and mourn his passing. Yogi was sometimes in Jellystone, other times in what appears to have been some generic woods. Several different rangers appeared on occasion. Boo Boo wasn’t always there. (As a side note, there was an awful lot less dialogue, even though Charlie Shows had been hired specifically to write words. I suppose it was natural, considering Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna had worked with silent characters for 17 years).

The first-season Yogi also occasionally employed the spot-gag format, which I really liked. Many of the theatrical studios had tried it, both in live-action and animated shorts. A narrator gives a line of patter on a particular subject, setting up a sight-gag on the screen. Then it’s on to the next gag.

There’s one problem with sight-gag cartoons—you have to rely on the artwork, and TV animation budgets are such that dialogue gags are wayyyy cheaper. Still, the Hanna-Barbera cartoons in that 1958-59 season carried it off.

If I had to pick a favourite spot-gagger, at least right this moment, it would have to be The Stout Trout, where narrator Don Messick accompanied Yogi Bear’s continual failed attempts to catch a fish in a lake. Much of the cartoon is animated by Carlo Vinci. Below are some frames of Yogi swatting his arm into the lake, and then after the fish sprays his face with water. You can see Yogi’s expressions. They’re solidly drawn. Sure, they’re not over-the-top reactions like you’d see in a Tex Avery or Bob Clampett theatrical, but no one was animating like that by the late 1950s. Carlo had Yogi glance toward the TV viewers near the start of some pieces of the narration to include us, and to avoid the monotony of a long held drawing.

Carlo also finds interesting things to do with hands, er, paws.

And here’s something else Hanna-Barbera eventually avoided. Perspective animation.

I realise Foster’s Jellystone structure propelled Yogi into greater success that lasts even to today and resulted in some funny cartoons, but, and I guess I’m in the minority, I miss the spot-gag format and wish Hanna-Barbera would have carried on using it with its syndicated characters.

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, May 1967

Some good stories and nice layouts highlight the Flintstones comics from 50 years ago this month. The May 21st comic has good examples how to handle a lot of people without the panels being cluttered. We see on May 28th that Wilma used to be a cheerleader. Did she go to Geology High? Fred’s given up the Winstons for a pipe.

Richard Holliss supplied all these from his collection. Click on each to make it bigger.

May 7, 1967.

May 14, 1967. Barney is looking toward heaven.

May 21, 1967. What is that smiling guy holding (besides balloons) in the opening panel? Spop!

May 28, 1967. Wilma’s cheer doesn’t rhyme, but it accomplishes its task.

Saturday 13 May 2017

Snagglepuss in Jangled Jungle

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson, Layout – Jack Huber, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Prof. Cago – Daws Butler; Ringmaster, Gorilla, Baby Gorilla, Tarzan – Don Messick.
Episode: Production R-51.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss escapes from the circus to the jungle, where he realises that circus life wasn’t so bad.

Before we get to old Snagglepuss, let’s show off some of Monte’s backgrounds. First, some circus drawings, including the shot to open the cartoon.

Now, some jungle scenes.

The premise that became Wally Gator is what drives this cartoon. Snagglepuss is a circus performer. He’s unhappy. All he does is take clich├ęd orders from a lion tamer. (“Hmmm. Changed his hair tonic again,” observes the unhappy Snagglepuss after Professor Cago puts his head in his mouth). So he quits and heads by ship to the ancestral home of lions—the jungle. Yes, I know Snagglepuss is a mountain lion, thus not native to Africa, but why spoil the plot?

Anyway, you know what’s going to happen. After all, the Snagglepuss series can’t just move to Africa. He finds the jungle is a worse experience than the circus. First, natives throw arrows at him (we don’t see the natives, thus eliminating pontification by cartoon fans about racism). He escapes by climbing a tree, which turns out to be a giraffe that slings him into a lake with floating suitcases. Only they turn out to be alligators (“Exit, not unpackin’, stage left!”). He escapes again by running off camera and into a large gorilla.

Snag: I realise you don’t realise that with which to whom you are dealin’. To wit.
Gorilla: Rumpff?
Snag: I’ll give you a hint. Roooaaaar! Get it? King of the beasts. You may flee in sheer terror if you so desire.
Gorilla: Raaarrr.
Snag: Duke of the beasts. Count of the beasts? Beauty and the beasts, even.
Gorilla: RaaAAArr!
Snag: How’s about an ordinary, everyday type citizen? Can I take out my first citizenship papers?
Gorilla: RaaAAArrrr!
Snag: Would object to my getting’ a driver’s license? A library card, even.
The large gorilla picks up Snagglepuss to give to his baby (wearing a bonnet, even in the jungle) as a toy. First, Snagglepuss is involuntarily turned into a doll that squeaks “Mama” when you poke its stomach, then a wind-up toy.

The story takes a turn when a Tarzan (as identified on the storyboard) swings into the scene, announces he is the king of beasts, and Snagglepuss is an “oomba-oomba,” in other words, a lion-skin rug (“Heavens to floormat!”) which Tarz is about to skin. “Exit, beatin’ a rug to safety, stage right! cries Snagglepuss. Back he goes to the comparative safety of the circus, content to be shot out of a cannon, to end the cartoon.

Don Patterson animates this cartoon. He gives Snagglepuss expressions that aren’t wild, but effective such as the look of disgust when he’s forced to obey the lion tamer’s commands. His mid-air run cycle is used three times in the cartoon; Patterson has Snagglepuss facing one way while his arms are pointed in the other direction.

Don Messick voices all but one of the incidental characters because he can.

The opening circus scenes feature the Hoyt Curtin version of “Over the Waves” and during the Tarzan swinging scene, he uses that short Flintstones cue that samples two bars of Fucik’s “Entry of the Gladiators.” (Look it up. You’ll go “Oh, that’s what that’s called.”).

Maltese loads up on catch-phrases in this cartoon, though he eschews “Murgatroyd.” Cashews, even. How about almonds? Peanuts, popcorn, Cracker Jacks, even? Exit this post, nutty all the way, stage left.