Saturday, 10 June 2017

Snagglepuss in Cloak and Stagger

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation - Hicks Lokey, Layout - Dan Noonan, Backgrounds - Neenah Maxwell, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director - Art Davis, Titles - Art Goble, Production Supervision - Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Pathos, Porthole, Guard - Daws Butler; King, Queen, Ye Mailman, Aromas - Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-48 (19th of 24 Snagglepuss cartoons in 1961)
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss joins the Three Musketeers, who play a trick on him.

Snagglepuss was a good, flexible character, one who could be appropriately dropped into a variety of situations. He appeared in several cartoons as a gallant protector of women (Lila). He and Major Minor made cartoons around hunting scenarios. There was one cartoon where he was deposited into the Wild West. And anything related to theatrics worked for Snagglepuss. You could plunk him into any plot that, conceivably, could be enacted on stage, especially if it could over-acted. So it is that Mike Maltese used the Three Musketeers in this cartoon as a starting point and then piled on the ridiculousness.

Any resemblance between this cartoon and Dumas’ novel is purely non-existent. Maltese gives the musketeers the names “Pathos,” “Aromas” (as in “aroma”) and “Porthole.” And Snagglepuss wishes to join the bored trio after passing a musketeer correspondence course. Snagglepuss isn’t an altogether inept musketeer, though he misses two attempts to grab a chandelier to swing on (“Odds bodkins. It worked for every other hero,” he says after crashing to the ground). When the musketeers tell Snagglepuss the king is really a spy, the mountain lion does a pretty good job of dispatching him, jabbing him with a sword, tossing him in a lake, bouncing him on the carpet and crashing on top of him when His Majesty is on the throne. (Pun: “Next time, I'll make mince-spy out of ya.”)

When Snagglepuss realises he’s been had, he exits (“with egg on my face, stage left”), with inappropriate sounds of rifles heard as cannon balls are fired at him, but returns in the final sequence to rejoin the surprised musketeers by hiding in a barrel. It’s all a matter of money. “After all, those musketeer lessons cost a buck and a half,” he tells us, ensuring his gets something for what he’s paid for.

Incidentally, Don Messick plays both the king and queen. He gives the king his Professor Gizmo voice (based on Bill Thompson’s Wallace Wimple) and the queen his falsetto heard in a number of first season cartoons on the Huckleberry Hound Show (1958-59).

Yes, Maltese puts “Heavens to Murgatroyd” onto the dialogue sheet. And we get other typical Snagglepuss lines and catchphrases:

● Hark! The mailman hath cometh! Oh, hearts of joy!
● (reading the correspondence course manual) “B. A musketeer is devil-may-care.” (to himself) I’m devil-may-care. Ha, ha! Ho, ho! ‘Tis I, Snagglepuss. Hot buttered sasparilla for everybody!
● (again reading the correspondence course manual) “Did you pass your final exam?” (to audience) With flyin’ colours. An ‘A’ student, even.
● Say, listen. That’s what a musketeer is for. Five, even.
● Yoicks! And yikes, even! It’s the spy!
● Exit, swashbucklin’ all the way. Or is it buckswashlin’? Oh, well.
● Exit, to get decorated, stage right.

And this bit of Maltese-esque dialogue:

Guard: Halt. Who goes there?
Snag: A jolly musketeer. To see the king, even. Ha ha ha. Ho ho!
Guard: Enter jolly musketeer. And wipe your feet.

Veteran Hicks Lokey is the animator. I can’t think of anything remarkable he did in this short, although I’m a little amused by mismatched shots. Here are consecutive frames. The king is only in the window in the close-up.

Ex Disney artist Dan Noonah handled the layouts. Either he or Maltese might have been responsible for this interesting framing of Snagglepuss.

Backgrounds are by Neenah Maxwell. This one with the purple trees (actually, we’re only showing a portion of the background) got a lot of work. Snagglepuss passed by the trees four times in medium-long shot, then the coach passed by four times in a close shot, then Snagglepuss passed by again another four times in a close shot.

Two similar backgrounds but in reverse.

Other background art:

The sound cutter didn’t pick anything out of the ordinary for music, despite the 18th century setting (the mailman is “ye mailman”). The cues are all fairly familiar.

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