Wednesday 30 August 2017

Three Mixed-Up Mooses

You know the creative process works. An idea gets batted around until it seems to work. It may be rejected later and kicked around some more in different directions.

I imagine that happens in cartoons all the time. Hanna-Barbera fans know the tale of how the Flintstones were tried in different time periods until the Stone Age as hit upon. Scooby Doo started off without Scooby Doo (the show was originally about teenaged detectives). And as you can see to the right, Dan Gordon and Joe Barbera are looking over a concept called “Harebrained Hare” in 1960 which morphed into Touché Turtle.

Another idea for a series that made some twists and turns was for “The Three Mixed-Up Mooses.” The only reference I’ve spotted about this is in a Variety article. But reader Mike Rossi sent along a picture of what looks to be end title art. H-B fans can readily see that the Mooses were changed into dogs and became the Goofy Guards on the Peter Potamus Show.

The Mooses were supposed to be a second theatrical series released by Columbia Pictures, which had been putting Loopy De Loop on screens for undiscerning children since 1959. Here’s the full story from Daily Variety of April 25, 1963. The Mooses are incidental; the story is really a rundown of all the things Hanna-Barbera was up to.

At the time, the studio was housed in a cinder-block-looking building on Cahuenga, where it had moved from the Kling Studios in 1960. The studio had no windows and apparently only one telephone in the hallway for staff. It was too small to fit everyone so people worked from home (that’s how Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera could brag in interviews that the studio “has no time clocks”).

You’ll notice the mention of Wally Burr, who died earlier this month. Arthur Pierson’s name can be seen on later episodes of The Flintstones. He had been a vice president of Roland Reed Productions and, before that, Transfilm and Jerry Fairbanks Productions, after an acting career (he was on the Board of the Lambs Club in New York). Bobe Cannon had worked on the “Eep Opp” sequence of The Jetsons with Jerry Eisenberg but, before that, had started as an assistant animator at Warners Bros. and eventually won Oscars at UPA. He died in 1964.

“Father Was A Robot” was a story by Al Ruddy, Bernard Fein and Mann Rubin. Ruddy, Michael Fenton and Brian Hutton were developing it as a pilot in July 1962. As you can see, Hanna-Barbera got involved a year later, and assigned Sloan Nibley to write the screenplay. Oddly, in April 1964, Variety reported H-B had just purchased the story. In October that year, Joe Barbera was touting it as a live action feature about a “funny, swinging robot” (and $75,000 had been spent building it). That’s the last anyone heard of it. “Hillbilly Hawk”? Hanna and Barbera elected to go with Hillbilly Bears instead. Earl Kress’ has session records that show a theme, with vocals for “Hillbilly Hawk” was laid down on tape.

Record $9 Million Budget Earmarked For Hanna-BarberaProd'ns For Next Year
A record $9,000,000 in production has been budgeted by Hanna-Barbera Productions for the coming year, as it embarks on an expansion program marked by a diversification of the company's activities. Six-year-old animation company moves on May 1 to its new $1,300,000 building on a strip of land on the inbound San Fernando Valley-Hollywood freeway.
Prexy Joe Barbera and his partner, Bill Hanna, who founded the company in 1957, yesterday stressed the production figure is for firm commitments and a minimum, inasmuch as other deals are currently in negotiation.
26 'Flinstones'
On H-B's production agenda for the ensuing years are 26 "The Flintstones" cartoon epiaodes (on ABC-TV), overall budget $1,600,000; 156 5-min. syndicated shorts, $1,500,000; a "Yogi Bear" feature film, $1,800,000; two half-hour industrial films, $450,000; 28 theatrical film shorts for Columbia release, $700,000; a live-action feature, "Father Was A Robot," $1,500,000.
H-B's new hq, which has 40,000 square feet of space, will house all of its activities, such as animation, recording, music, dubbing, commercials, etc. It was designed by Arthur Froelich, and its basement is also a bomb shelter. Company's half-hour industrial films are being done for Mutual Fund of America and Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical. Its theatrical film shorts for Col consist of "Loopy de Loop," "Hillbilly Hawk" and "The Three Mixed Up Mooses" briefies.
Pierson Blurbery Chief
Arthur Pierson has joined the company as associate producer on entertainment product, and head of its industrial films division. Walter Burr, a producer-director with Leo Burnett & Co., joins H-B June 1 as head of its live action commercials division. Robert Cannon, formerly with Walt Disney and UPA, heads the company's animated commercial division, and Hal Styles has been named chief of the firm's new syndicated commercial branch, which plans 250 teleblurbs. In addition to production coin, H-B rakes in about $200,000 for production design for licensees merchandising various H-B cartoon characters Also, "Flintstones" and "Yogi" comic strips are carried in 220 newspapers by the McNaught Syndicate, and H-B do this production work. H-B's "Flintstones," "Yogi" and "Huckleberry Hound" cartoona are shown in 41 foreign countries.
Barbera explained the company is diversifying into many other fields because "we're going into markets that have never been touched." He said H-B has received a much as $76,000 for a half-hour teleshow, and pointed out few sponsors can afford this kind of coin. Consequently, H-B policy is to prepare shows with "tailor-made" budgets depending on what a sponsor can afford.
Two years ago the animation trend in tv fell flat on its face, Barbera recalled, but that doesn't mean the interest is not still there, he added. He said he finds agency and sponsor reps in N.Y. very receptive to good ideas for animation series, and some such deals are now in negotiation.

Saturday 26 August 2017

A Long Little Doggie

Like the Huck and Yogi half-hours, the Quick Draw McGraw Show had those little cartoons between the cartoons. Here are some frames, in what looks like an Eastmancolor print that’s really gone red.

Quick Draw’s waiting for Augie and Doggie Daddy to go with him to a masquerade party. Augie reveals he’s going as “the longest dachshund in the world.” Where’s Doggie Daddy? “It’s da livin’ end,” he says from the end of the tube as the cartoon fades.

The animation is by Lew Marshall with Monte supplying some simple backgrounds.

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Those Cockamamie Characters

Yes, kids, you could have Yowp tattooed onto your arm. Fortunately, parents, it’s not permanent.

Back when I was young, you could buy a sheet of inked drawings that you could put on your body and wash them off. A company called Dynamic Toys in New York licensed some of the Hanna-Barbera and Disney characters and sold Cockamamies in 1961.

They’re not terribly sophisticated, but I’m sure they pleased the young cartoon fan that wanted to wear Baby Puss. I’m not really sure what the attraction was; the early ‘60s was not a period of tatted-up hipsters setting an example for kids.

Anyway, as you can see below, Yowp is on the Huck/Yogi set. I assume Hokey and the Major are labelled because they were new characters in 1961. It doesn’t appear there was a Quick Draw McGraw set.

I’m sure we posted one of these before, but reader Rick Greene sent copies of the full set. Thanks to Rick for another of his contributions.

Saturday 19 August 2017

Yakky Doodle in Foxy Duck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Art Davis, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig; Fibber Fox, Hen – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-7 (third Yakky cartoon produced).
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Fibber Fox pretends to be Yakky’s mother to try to eat him.

There’s nothing like the incongruity of a fox talking to an elephant in a circus from a phone conveniently on a pole in someone’s yard. That’s why I like this cartoon even though there are some stale puns and Yakky’s motivation doesn’t make sense in one part of the cartoon.

This cartoon introduced Fibber Fox. Fibber is, far and away, my favourite character in the Yakky cartoons. Mike Maltese tried to write some buddy-buddy cartoons where stuff would happen to Chopper the dog. They just don’t work for me. Still worse, Chopper never really has a verbal comeback like Doggie Daddy when things used to happen to him. The cartoons really needed a wisecracking antagonist who talks to the audience/himself and Fibber fits the bill with varying rates of success.

Daws Butler insisted Fibber’s voice had its basis in Shelly Berman’s. I don’t hear it; the pitch and inflections are different but who am I to argue with the guy who created the voice? One thing that Fibber has in common with Berman is both did routines with an unheard voice on the other end of the phone. Fibber does that here
Fibber: Hello, Whitney? Fibber. How are things at the zoo? About the same, huh. Have much of a crowd Sunday? No, huh. Well, you know, things are tough all over, yeah. People don’t go for the zoo bit any more. They stay home and look at each other, hah. It’s different with you, Whitney. You’re an elephant. You work for peanuts.
The first half of the cartoon has a nice little routine where Fibber covers Chopper’s ears with a pair of muffs to the dog can’t hear him stealing chickens. Yakky comes along and thinks he’s listening to a radio through headphones.
Yakky: Hello, Chopper! What’s you listening to? Is it a radio show? Is it shortwave? Do you use transistors? May I listen too, please? (Yakky takes earmuffs and wears them). That’s funny. I don’t hear anything. Maybe there’s a loose connection or something.
(Fibber sees Yakky with the ear muffs)
Fibber: Oh, for heaven’s sake, no!
Yakky: Hey, I think I hear something. Somebody just said “Oh, for heaven’s sake, no!”
(Chopper dashes into the scene and threatens Fibber, who is resigned to his fate).
Yakky: What did you say? (noise and camera shakes) Wait a minute! I think I’ve got something at last. Yeah! It’s the fights. Wow-wee! Boy, oh, boy, what a battle. What a battle!
Chopper: You can take those things off now, sonny.
Yakky: Wait a minute. I want to hear who won the fight.

The camera cuts to a beat up Fibber who proclaims Chopper the winner and then passes out.

Part two of the cartoon starts off oddly. Chopper tells Yakky “You can call me Chopper.” But he did during the whole first half of the cartoon. We’ll skip the sentimental dialogue between the two and jump to where Fibber shows up in a duck costume (top half only) claiming to be Yakky’s mother.

Yakky: Are you my mama?
Fibber: Of course I’m your mama. Who’d you think I was, Yogi Bear?
Yakky: Well, I don’t know.
Now anyone familiar with Yakky and the cartoon ducks that preceded him at Hanna-Barbera and the Hanna-Barbera unit at MGM before that know they all cried in self-pity that they didn’t have a mama. Well, now that Yakky has one, he refuses to obey “her.” It would make sense if the story indicated the duck knew it was Fibber in disguise, but it doesn’t. In fact, he appears completely convinced. So why is he refusing to do what his mother asks? “I won’t! I won’t! I absolutely refuse” he yells. “I’m going to stand on my head and let all the blood rush right to my brain and [something] it.” He flips over and then angrily addresses the viewers at home. “Good bye, everybody!”

Oh, here comes the snivelling. Chopper lies that he isn’t Yakky’s friend so the duck will go with his mother. He cries. Yakky cries.

Fibber: What! Are you two bucking for the Academy Award this year?
The fake mama cons Chopper into giving him chickens to “save” Yakky from Fibber. Suddenly, the phone rings. Yakky answers. It’s Whitney for Fibber. “I’ll take that call, boy,” says the fox still dressed as a duck. Uh, oh. Fibber’s had a momentary lapse. It kind of comes out of nowhere.

Anyway, Fibber thought he was getting a chicken dinner. Instead, he’s getting dessert. “Well, you might call it that. My just desserts.” Fibber gets clobbered. There’s another weak “peanuts” pun at the end which so amuses the protagonists that they laugh to end the cartoon.

I wish I could say there was interesting artwork or movement in this cartoon, but there isn’t. We get a ghost drawing from Art Davis when Fibber rushes off screen. There are a few Flintstones cues on the soundtrack, including the trombone piece that was used every time Fred or someone had a sob story.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, August 1967

Betty Rubble really was the Trixie Norton of the Flintstones. On The Honeymooners, all the action centred around Ralph and Alice or Ralph and Norton. What was there for Trixie to do? She was Alice’s sounding board and, um, uh, well, not much else.

Betty at least got a little more screen time than Trixie because there was an I Lovy Lucy-esque dynamic on the cartoon show on occasion with Wilma and Betty plotting stuff together.

In the weekend newspaper comics, though, stories were built around Fred and Wilma or Pebbles. Betty disappeared for weeks and weeks. Finally, she resurfaces (with a stylish sun hat) after a prolonged absence in the comics in the August 6, 1967 edition. Then she disappears for the rest of the month.

Looking elsewhere in August 50 years ago, the writers were now incorporating Fred’s dad “Pops” into stories, and he turns up on the 27th (and an Emergency Phone! How Stone Age). There’s another Pebbles-takes-things-literally storyline on August 13th. The following week is devoted to a toll bridge gag, with a couple of dinosaurs looking on approvingly in the opening panel.

Note Dino peering in the opening panel in the first comic. It’s the only time we see him this month.

Thanks to Richard Holliss for the colour comics from his collection.

August 6, 1967.

August 13, 1967.

August 20, 1967.

August 27, 1967.

Saturday 12 August 2017

Snagglepuss in Lions Share Sheriff

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – George Nicholas, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Panicked Man, Purple Hat Cowboy, Bartender – Daws Butler; Raindance Kid, Old Sheriff, White Hat Cowboy – Doug Young.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-6 (fourth Snagglepuss cartoon).
Copyright 1960 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: New sheriff Snagglepuss tangles with the Raindance Kid, who vows to shoot a sheriff to celebrate his birthday.

Just for fun, when I pulled out this cartoon to watch it, I decided to start at a random frame. This was it.

And, even though I’m lousy at identifying animators, I knew exactly who did this cartoon. George Nicholas loved those stunned little beady-eyed looks. And he loved little horseshoe-shaped mouths in dialogue.

Nicholas was into big, floppy tongues, too, but we don’t get any in this cartoon. We get some nice ghosting multiples when characters zip off scene. The outlines either follow the character or dissolve on screen. You’ll notice how some of drawings are of the character turning.

I love the world-weary look he gives Snagglepuss. He did the same thing with the orange Snagglepuss in the Quick Draw McGraw cartoons. Snagglepuss’ eyes are half-closed with his head tilted.

Once again, Mike Maltese comes up with a funny premise and the odd turns of phrase you expect from him when he’s at his best. The cartoon opens with a new sheriff addresses his throng (all three of them) promising to run the town like it’s never been run before. A shot-up citizen runs into the plot exclaiming (to the background music of “Pop Goes the Weasel”) that the Raindance Kid plans to shoot a sheriff for his 35th birthday. The sheriff promised to run and he does—right out of the cartoon.

Enter Snagglepuss. “Ah! The west at last. With its spaces. Wide open, even. Its weeds that tumble. Its get-along-little-dogie. How picturesque. How calendar-artie!” The shot-up citizen runs past Snagglepuss, instantly donning him with sheriff’s apparel. Naturally, the mountain lion takes to his authority right away. In a nice little sequence, the smug Snagglepuss fires a bullet into the air. In an amazing display of competence, it ricochets off a horseshoe above a blacksmith shop’s door, the horseshoe lands on a horse, who kicks an anvil into the air that drops on the Raindance Kid. “Twas a mere nothin’,” he tells the cheering throng of three. “A paltry piddlin’ pittance of pistol practise, even.”

The next sequence is set in a typical Western saloon. “Bartender! Tender of bars!” shouts Snagglepuss. The revenge-seeking Kid takes the place of the bartender. “What’s your pleasure, sheriff?” “A rousin’ game of tiddlywinks, with loaded tiddles, even. But, instead, I’ll have a triple sasperilla chocolate flip(?) malt, topped with a maraschino olive, if you please.”

The Kid spikes it with tabasco sauce, red pepper, gun powder, liquid nitro glycerine and a dash of TNT. Nicholas animates Snagglepuss with alternating smooth and wavy lines during dialogue before the pink cat shoots into the air.

But the Kid’s plans fowl up. Snagglepuss crashes on top of his head. The throng cheers again in reused animation. “’Twas a mere bag-of-peanuts,” says Snagglepuss, punning on a “mere bagatelle” (who else but Maltese would do that?). “That thing might be loaded,” says to the gun-pointing kid. “What are you tryin’ to do, start a range war or somethin’? Remember, I’m one of the good guys. I’m a rootin’-tootin’, yippee-ki-yo and ki-yea, even. Tumbleweeds and chuckwagon stew, and all that Western jazz.”

The Kid keeps firing until the shot-up citizen tells him to cease because the Kid’s birthday is over. But it turns out the Kid got his days mixed up. Today is really his birthday. “Heavens to Murgatroyd, how many times were you born?” asks Snagglepuss, who makes his getaway via a horse-drawn carriage, resulting in a play on his own catchphrase, “Exit, stage coach,” to end the cartoon.

The soundtrack includes Hoyt Curtin’s version of the William Tell Overture at the end (to which is added the old “Shave-and-a-Haircut” jingle). The rest of the music was used in the underscore of The Flintstones in the first season, where Nicholas spent his time animating instead on the short cartoons. This was the only cartoon in the Snagglepuss series he worked on.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

What is "The Flintstone Syndrome" Anyway?

It may be the most unusual newspaper article about The Flintstones.

It was the cover story in the “TV Week” section of the Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1962.

A chap named Robert Anderson humorously talks about the series, but I really don’t get his point. Let’s set aside he’s enumerating all these gadgets on the show as if they’re brand new, when the series had been on the air for two seasons (it reads like something out of a Screen Gems press release instead of someone who has critiqued the show). He’s conjured up something called “The Flintstone Syndrome” but can’t seem to make up his mind what it is.

The headline calls it one thing, but then doesn’t refer to the example at all in the body of the story. Then it’s described as something else at the top of the story, and something else again at the bottom. The “how can this happen” version at the end makes the most sense and the story could have been pretty funny based on it. Like how do those signals get into Fred’s television set? And how do the cars keep moving for endless blocks (endless thanks to those repeating backgrounds by Monte and Art Lozzi we all love). And what is a “rock pickin’ minute”? Who picks rocks for a minute?

Oh, well. I’m sure Joe and Bill appreciated the free, almost three pages of publicity in a major newspaper.

You’re Watching TV? But the set’s off? You’re probably a victim of ...

A FRIEND of mine has a recurring dream [that's a rerun without a switch in sponsor] in which he is an archaeologist. He is following a native guide into the depths of a cave in the French Alps. It takes days, because he must dust each pebble along the way with a small paint brush. He grows weak with hunger; his guide goes mad and tries to eat an indigestible Brand X frozen dinner. Then—Eureka! He sees what is unmistakably a prehistoric scrawl on a square stone. He dusts it painstakingly with his stub of a paint brush until the legend appears: Welcome to Bedrock, pop. 2,500.
The dream ends there and the poor devil spends the rest of the night pacing the floor, wondering what would have happened next if he had not awakened. This is what psychologists might label The Flintstone syndrome. It comes from watching a certain cartoon series on channel 7 at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. It is rare, however, because millions follow the show and get nothing more serious than a case of hiccups from laughing.
Yet it’s easy to see how The Flintstones, created by cartoonists Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, might slink in and sort of set up housekeeping in one’s subconscious. Of all the highly successful Hanna and Barbera cartoons [Tom and Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, etc., etc., etc., etc.], the Flintstones, which will start its third year on TV next fall, goes farthest toward creating a little world of its own.
ITS chief characters, Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble, live in the Stone Age suburb of Bedrock. Fred is a likeable loudmouth, very like Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners; Barney might pass for a neolithic Art Carney.
The enchanting twist is that they have Stone Age versions of all the modern conveniences.
The pickup for the hi-fi is a bird with a needle-sharp beak. The lawnmower is a grass-gobbling lizard in a harness. There are stone slab newspapers, stone TV sets, stone pianos, and “electric” shavers of clamshell with a buzzing bee inside.
They have movies [made in Hollyrock, where the big stars are Cary Granite and Rock Pile], Stonehenge drive-in restaurants and pterodactyl air liners. Flintstone plots parody modern fads and fancies in good humor. One time Fred wants to be an astronaut [blasting off from a catapult], another he’s a rock ‘n’ roll singer.
In one memorable episode, Wilma was “discovered” by Hollyrock and was going to become a big movie star. Fred, with typical bluster, insisted on being her manager. He quit his job after telling his boss off and began promoting. As usual, he ruined her chances and wound up eating a mammoth portion of humble pie. SUCH goings on have made the show so popular with adults and youngsters alike and it may last until the next ice age.
It’s great fun so long as you don’t start taking it seriously, so long as you don’t begin worrying about what makes those steam-roller automobiles run, or start trying to build a peddle-powered wooden helicopter like Fred’s. Once you do, you’ve developed the Flintstone syndrome—and you could wind up with rocks in the head.