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 clichéd 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.


  1. I saw the original title card for this cartoon for sale in an animation art gallery over twenty years ago. It came with a hand-written production card listing the staff involved. I remember noting that the lettering, as well as Snag and the cannon, were on cels, and not painted directly on the card.

    What saddens me is that even now I still couldn't afford to buy it.

  2. I'm pedantic, but if that is indeed Africa then they'd be crocodiles nto alligators. But then again this is a cartoon with a pink talking mountain lion.

    The backgroundsa are lovely to look at and the hair tonic and library card jokes always got a chuckle from me. I never thought about them keeping the hatives offscreen. I wonder if that was done of purpose or just to save animation?

  3. “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”

    The premise of this cartoon may indeed have become Wally Gator, but this action-packed passage essentially morphed into the opening intro to Lippy the Lion and Hardy-Har-Har – with the hapless pair finally “yo-yo”-ed by an ape over a lake filled with snapping gators.

    Wally also went back to the Everglades, only to be over-matched by a Yankee-hating Confederate Gator.

    And, not to be outdone, Magilla Gorilla went “back to the jungle” courtesy of his fairy godmother.

    Chased by a pack of wild gorillas and heading toward a typically stuffy British hunting party, he declares: “A man with a gun… I’m SAVED!” BLAM! “I’m SHOT!”

    Oh, and I love the piece of Hoyt Curtin music that plays during Snag’s faltering encounter with the ape. It’s PERFECT for that particular bit! I can hear it now…

    1. I'm not sure if you've ever commented, Don, on the fact that the opening credits for WALLY GATOR completely misrepresent the premise for the series. He's never a "swingin' alligator in the swamp" at all. Obviously, the concept changed between the time Bill Hanna wrote the lyrics (which are typically great) and the storyboards for the first episode because there's no cartoon in which he's captured and put in the zoo. I wonder if the opening titles were used as the pilot to sell the program to might explain the discrepancy, since doing them after they'd committed to the zoo location makes no sense at all.

    2. Mike, I've said very little about Wally and the accompanying shows because I decided years ago to limit what I was going to post about to pre-1961. I've made exceptions for the prime-time network shows because I found material that I thought would interest readers.
      Your point is one I should have posed to Jerry Eisenberg to see if he knew what happened, as he was working in development at HB some time in the '60s. It seems odd that lyrics for a theme would be written before a series was finally developed, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. (Btw, didn't Screen Gems originally syndicate the show? I don't know if HB even made a pilot).
      The Lippy-Wally-Touché show had a lengthy gestation period and judging by trade news clippings of the time, it would appear Wally was developed last.
      Wally had the best theme (Hanna must have had a mental block when it came to Touché's).

    3. The Touche-Lippy-Wally show was marketed both as a fifteen-minute show to accompany local or network news (both of which were rarely longer), under any name they wanted (since there were no opening "show" credits, only the individual segment openings), either featuring all three in each episode or episodes composed of three of one character, and as three separate cartoons to be inserted into locally hosted kids shows (a la the many cartoons that entered syndicated in '59 through '61), since H-B liked to be on top of every available trend and format, even if they didn't invent them. As such, the show had no national sponsorship, and I assume that Screen Gems (who distributed all the sixties H-B series before and after, though I don't recall seeing any Screen Gems logo on the segments) would have had to sell it to local stations in some format that the stations could use to then sell its local ad spots with. A presentation using the openings would seem to have filled the bill nicely--you grasped the premise of each, saw the characters in action, and the cartoons were never animated better than they were in those titles.