Saturday 30 September 2017

From the Mouths of Bears

Here’s one of those scenes you have to watch animated to appreciate the subtlety of the movement. Yogi’s mouth forms all kinds of shapes when he speaks. His head tilts ever-so-slightly at times. Sometimes Yogi moves a bit, sometimes Huck moves a bit.

The shapes and movement sure remind me of Ed Love’s animation. Love didn’t animate any cartoons at Hanna-Barbera during the first season of the Huck show when this was done; his first cartoons were in 1959. And I wonder if Mike Lah did the layouts.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Mr Jinks' Bungled Birthday

Here’s another Dell Comic adventure with Mr. Jinks and those miserable meeces. The cover date is September 1961 but would have hit stands some time earlier.

Kay Wright is apparently responsible for the artwork here. There was an animated cartoon called “Party Peeper Jinks” (aired November 1960) with an entirely different plot. In that one, Jinks refused to invite Pixie and Dixie to his birthday party, so they get even with him. In this one, the meeces throw a party for Jinks (how did they get the birthday cake out of their mouse hole?) but the cat mistakes their motives. And how does a cat buy a civil war cannon at an auction?

And here’s a one-pager, again by Kay Wright.

The pages can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Saturday 23 September 2017

Quick Draw and Quack Drawn

The Hanna-Barbera rule book states on the third half of page 13: “All duck hunting in the aforementioned studio’s cartoons will fail.” Nobody should know better than your felicitous friend Yowp after an unsuccessful bid at bagging Biddy Buddy. (Apparently, this line was written by Charlie Shows).

This unbreakable law does not just apply to Biddy Buddy and his later incarnation of Yakky Doodle. Witness this mini-cartoon between the cartoons from the Quick Draw McGraw Show, brought to you in Eastmancolor film that has degraded to a magnificent magenta.

Quick Draw asks Augie what Doggie Daddy is up to. Daddy explains he’ll attract ducks if puts on a duck suit. Off he goes quacking. All he attracts is hunters. You know what happens.

Doggie Daddy then points out to us that the suit also attracts duck hunters. Quick Draw then informs the next attraction is an Augie Doggie cartoon.

There isn’t a lot of animation in this. Judging by the shapes of the mouths and the fact they’re sliding around the face, I would say this little cartoon was animated by Mike Lah. I don’t know when he left the Hanna-Barbera studio; he isn’t credited after the first season of the Huckleberry Hound Show (1958-59). It could he was working on commercials for the studio or he could have animated this on a freelance basis (Lah for many years was at Quartet Films, eventually running the company).

Too bad for Doggie Daddy that this bumper wasn’t made about ten years later. Networks don’t seem to have let any cartoon character fire a gun then. Bad for the kiddies, you know.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, September 1967

That nasty word “strike” wasn’t heard about Hanna-Barbera until August 1979 when there was a ten-day walkout by IATSE members (against the wishes of the union president) protesting runaway production. But Fred Flintstone was calling for one in the comics 50 years ago this month. Fred’s militancy weakens in the face of Wilma’s concern about money (and a mother-in-law joke is tossed in as well).

Alas, Richard Holliss did not have a colour version of the September 3rd comic in his collection. This shaky-scanned black and white version will have to do. Pterodactyl Airlines is apparently out of business; perhaps it violated safety laws. It’s too bad the first panel in the second row isn’t more readable. Note the silhouette ptero in the hanger in the background. And Fred suffers from Instant Watch Syndrome, where a character wears a watch only as needed in the plot and then it disappears again. As Pebbles might say: “Mekle zaba da!”

A visual pun ends the September 10th comic. Tsk. And no child car seat. How did kids in unmotor vehicles survive in the Stone Age? I like the dinosaur that seemingly likes to squat on roads.

Someone should tell Wilma that one of the ideas behind a strike is to get better pay. Regardless, Fred (who is wearing blue this month) is insistent until he hears about linoleum in the bathroom (Linoleum? In the Stone Age?) and having to entertain Wilma’s mother. The September 17th comic features the only appearance of Barney Rubble this month. Pebbles gets the week off. Too bad the union local isn’t 839.

This story is my favourite of the money. The expressions are really good, especially the Fred yell and the “I can’t win” one at the end. Note the scurrying Pebbles. Any more dialogue would have hurt the comic. This is from September 24th.

Click on any of the comics to make them larger.

Monday 18 September 2017

Portraying Wacky Old Ladies

Today would have, well, should have, been June Foray’s 100th birthday. Posts in celebration were banked for this blog and Tralfaz some months ago. It was not to be. June died last July. However, we’ll put up the posts nonetheless to remember her wonderful voice work, most of which you were likely never exposed to.

June recorded countless commercials over her career; trade magazines claimed she was the busiest voiceover actress in Hollywood. She recorded for at least three different banks, as well as Sears, Ford and, well, a list would be pointless. She looped dialogue in films. And, of course, she was heard in who-knows-how-many cartoons, the first of which was The Unbearable Bear at Warners, recorded in 1942, for which, studio records show, she was paid $25 (Keith Scott’s tireless research found that).

Her first job at Hanna-Barbera was with a more bearable bear—Yogi—in Bear on a Picnic (early 1959). Evidently Bill Hanna and/or Joe Barbera didn’t want Don Messick playing a woman’s role in falsetto as had been done a number of times at the studio. Foray had recorded voice tracks at MGM when Hanna and Barbera were directing there in the mid-‘50s. She went on to a number of other parts and series at H-B we won’t try to mention.

This story has nothing to do with Hanna-Barbera. It’s the earliest article I can find on June’s career. It’s in the July 1, 1945 edition of Radio Life, a Los Angeles based radio magazine. She was very busy even back then.

She Never Says “No!”
June Foray’s Policy Is Never to Say No to Producer’s Wanting Strange or Unusual Voices; She Can Do ‘em All

WHEN tiny, 4' 11 ", 100 lb. June Foray steps to the microphone (quite often she uses "Little Beaver's" on "Red Ryder") an audience smiles approvingly. "Isn't she cute?" they whisper.
Suddenly they may be shocked into stunned silence. For from this dainty little figure might come the sound of a hoarse kiss (which is pretty ghastly) or on the more subdued side, hiccups, sniffles or screams.
Whenever a producer wants the impossible performed on his radio show, he sends for June. "Can you do such and such ?" he asks. "Yes," answers June.
"But how do you know you can do it ?" we asked the little actress while having tea with her.
"I don't," she confessed. "But I never say no or I never experiment. I just do it."
Sound effects aren't June's only talent. She is just as well-known for her wacky old ladies, dialects and very-moving dramatic performances. She recently did a "straight" part on Norman Corwin's Special V-E Day show.
Did School Program
In 1936 she made her debut on radio by reading poetry. Then followed three years as "Lady Make Believe," a program which was piped directly into Los Angeles City schools. June wrote the program herself.
Today she has nine regular shows including "Sherlock Holmes," "Holly wood Mystery Time," "Red Ryder,” "Which Is Which," "That's A Good Idea," "Romance of' the Ranchos,” and "This Is My Story."
Married to an Army officer, who is in Texas at present, June occupies an apartment in Hollywood. She possesses an unlimited amount of energy and divides her time between what she calls "politics" (she's an active member of the Hollywood Democratic Committee) and her duties as a member of the AFRA board. That isn't all. Since June of 1942 she has regularly been making camp show appearances.
Being such an active person, she admits that although she doesn't follow a schedule, she writes notes to herself. They all start "Dear June" and end with "Love, June." She follows them religiously.
She likes keeping house. Her family lives nearby and so she has little time to be lonely. At home she wears shorts—or nothing at all. She drives a 1937 Chevvy. She likes portraying wacky old ladies and thinks the most unusual thing she does is the little boy on the Gallen-Kamp commercial.
In Movies
Because of her unlimited knowledge of sound effects and dialects, she is in demand for a lot of work for motion pictures. She was the baby cry in Paramount's "Dr. Wassell." In the forthcoming "Kitty" she hiccoughs for Paulette Goddard.
Once she was to do whooping coughs for a screen child. Having no idea what the coughs sounded like she received special permission to visit a hospital ward and listen to them. “They were the most wracking sounds I'd ever heard,” she recalled, “and I nearly wrecked my throat perfecting them.”
Once they had been perfected and "dubbed" into the sound track, the producer and director found them so unpleasant to the ear that they cut them out and gave the child diphtheria instead. "All in a day's work," June observed.

Saturday 16 September 2017

Jetson’s Night Out

Everyone, I think, has cartoon memories. Here’s one of mine. On the Jetsons, there was an episode where a button was pressed and a whole apartment building rose out of a rainstorm into the clear sky. I remember watching this and wondering “When does the building go back down again? What if someone didn’t want the building to go up?”

55 years later, I still don’t know the answers. But the building going up was the best part of the show.

Maybe if the Jetsons didn’t rely on tired old sitcom premises it might have stayed on the air. You’ve seen this one before. Jane makes plans that interfere with George’s plans. So he engages in trickery to get out of it but gets caught. Even the Flintstones pulled that one in its premiere. So let’s skip past the plot and look at the futuristic and anachronistic things in Jetson’s Night Out, the fifth episode to air, on October 21, 1962.

First, the Skypad Apartments rise, courtesy of a button pressed by Henry the janitor (the nasty clouds are on a cel overlay).

Elroy feels like a banana with his spray-on raincoat.

Newspapers? Who needs them? All you need is an internet connection to read the headlines or see news video. You couldn’t in 1962. But today? The only thing different is a “newspaper” comes in a little square disc. Maybe that unencrypts something on-line to get around a newspaper firewall.

Siri, what time is it? Yes, the Jetsons have that, too. Except Siri sounds like Senor WeƱces.

Ruh, roh! Some very un 21st Century humour coming up:

Judy: Aren’t you going to finish your coffee, dad?
George: Nope. Came out too strong this morning. But don’t throw it out. Some pygmies from Africa may show up and want to dip their spears in it. Ha, ha, ha!

George, don’t you know that’s racist in the future? Follow Stan Freberg’s advice. Do jokes about the Swiss. No one gets offended.

Dish disposal is easy. The dishes are crunched into pieces and swept away. Perhaps they’re reformed into plates and cups by some machine in the kitchen.

Someone tell all those people pumping money into electric car research not to bother. We learn from the Jetsons that cars run on fuel pellets. And cheap! George gasses up for $2. When was the last time you could do that, 1962? George pays using his card and facial recognition technology to thwart identity theft.

These days, corporations make employees wear cards where they swipe in and out when come and go, with the information stored in a computer at headquarters. You can’t make a gag out of that, so Harvey Bullock and Ray Allen (and with Tony Benedict’s help, I suspect) used a time-clock gag, with a flying security camera capturing late workers on a .gif file and zooming it to the boss. Jetson to Spacely: “I don’t photograph too well, do I, sir?” Spacely to Jetson: “You don’t work very well, either.”

Robotic secretaries still use reel-to-reel tape.

The Visiphone. Now you don’t see it. Now you do.

Back to the plot. George wants to watch the football game on TV. Jane has committed them to go to a PTA meeting. Cosmo Spacely wants to go to the football game. Mrs. Spacely has committed them to a Phil Sputnik (Phil Spitalny) concert. So Spacely concocts a scheme where he tells his wife he has to be by Jetson’s bedside because of a terminal illness (nuclear dyanomitis); that way he and George can go to the game. The two of them race to the Jetsons’ bedroom. George still hasn’t got a clue what Spacely’s plot is, though when Mrs. Spacely arrives to comfort him, their miscommunication leaves her thinking he’s just about dead.

Mrs. S.: Now, don’t you worry. You will be here for a long time.
George: Aw, no. I’ll be leavin’ any minute.
Mrs. S.: Oh, don’t even think of that!
George: Aw, but it’s true. Kick off is at 8:30.
Mrs. S.: Kick off? You mean... but how do you know the time?
George: Well, it says so on the ticket.
Mrs. S.: Ticket?
George: Aw, you’ve got to have a reservation?
Mrs. S.: Reservation!? Oh, dear!
George: Aw, I wouldn’t go without the boss’s okay.
Mrs. S.: And they say dogs are loyal!

George bribes Elroy with 40 cents (that won’t go very far, will it?) to keep quiet about seeing him, then he and Spacely take off for the game. End of Part 1.

Part 2 starts with the Jetsons almost inventing the domed stadium; the Astrodome was under construction at the same time the series aired, though it obviously wasn’t a bubble dome floating in space. There’s even a scanner to ensure all tickets are genuine.

A good portion of the next few minutes is taken up with robotic football player gags. As technology stories today talk about robot care givers and robot comfort-pet and robot, robot football players, I suppose, are not out of the realm of possibility. Naturally, there’s a collision gag leaving one all busted to bolts (“He should be as good as new by half-time, so don’t worry, mother,” says the game announcer, emulating Dennis James on the wrestling matches on the DuMont network years earlier). We get a “Statue of Liberty” play gag and one about a veteran coming in to save the game (“he’s one of the old, manually-operated players”; the robot has to be wound up).

Yes, vinyl-heads, you’re favourite format for music still exists in the Jetsons’ time. George has hooked up a record of him to play when the Visiphone rings, telling Jane (he just knew she was going to call) he’s working overtime. A tacky cardphone picture is set up for the Visiphone to see. Unfortunately, the big drawback of vinyl hasn’t been fixed. The record skips. Jane realises she’s been BS’d by her husband. And Mrs. Spacely has arrived so the two are able to piece together what happened, especially after seeing the two men on the huge screen TV in the Jetsons’ apartment. Yes, something else you saw first in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Oh, here comes the other un-PC part. George is the stadium’s 1,000,000th fan so he wins a prize—a mink coat. To placate the angry wives, George takes a pair of scissors and cuts it into a mink jacket and a mink stole—a gift for each wife. Both of them ADORE their minks. Imagine if a cartoon did this today. PETA would throw a fit. Animal lovers would clack away on social media about it. There’d be calls to cancel The Jetsons over it. Newspapers, web sites, TV stations would all pick up on the chatter and endlessly editorialise about it. Then there’d be a counter-protest on-line demanding no censorship on old animation, that we mustn’t bury the attitudes of the past (add a “such things were wrong then and wrong now” disclaimer, they’d cry). The world would be gripped with Holier-than-thou-itis. Until the next thing came along a few days later.

Anyway, the women decide they need to spend, spend, spend on new accessories to match their furs—including a new car. Spacely is outraged and fires Jetson yet again to end the cartoon.

The four regulars plus Mel Blanc, Don Messick and Jean Vander Pyl provide voices. I think Walt Clinton laid out at least part of the cartoon and George Nicholas may have animated some of it, though there aren’t many of his real fun expressions. The inventions are the most enjoyable thing and I can’t help but wonder if this cartoon brought about the invention a couple of years later of Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots by a company known to sponsor Hanna-Barbera cartoon shows, Marx.