Saturday, 9 September 2017

Snagglepuss in Cagey Lion

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – La Verne Harding, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Man With Cane, 1st Gambler, Card Gambler – Daws Butler; Captain, Cagey Cravat, 2nd Gambler – Doug Young; Belle – Jean Vander Pyl.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-12 (6th of 24 Snagglepuss cartoons in 1961)
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss disguises himself as a riverboat gambler so he won’t shipped to the St. Louis Zoo.

Mike Maltese wrote a funny cartoon at Warner Bros. called Mississippi Hare, where a disguised Bugs Bunny matched wits with riverboat gambler Colonel Shuffle. This time, he puts a disguised Snagglepuss on a riverboat. It’s not as strong a cartoon, and he wrote stronger ones for Snagglepuss, but it’s pleasant enough.

There are a couple of times where Snagglepuss engages of his habit of running off a word-associated list to an opponent. For example, when the riverboat captain tries to shoot Snagglepuss and his gun just clicks, the mountain lion exclaims:
Snagglepuss: Where’s your bravado now? Why don’t you fight me fair and square? Marquis of Queensborough Bridge rules. Or mayhap a little judo? Care to Indian wrestle? How’s about a little tug of war, even?
Maltese then pulls off a variation of the “one bullet left” gag he used in Bugs Bunny’s Rabbit Fire. The captain’s gun fires. “What do you know? It was only stuck,” he says. “Don’t tell me your troubles,” responds the somewhat singed Snagglepuss, who exits stage left.

Later in the cartoon, when he meets up with Cagey Cravat, the riverboat pirate, he pulls out some cards.

Snagglepuss: How’s about a little game of poker? Damp Jacks wild. Gin rummy? Chemin de fer? Whist? Old Maid? Young Maid, tiddlywinks, Potsy maybe? (whips out tennis racket) Tennis anyone? Or isn’t tennis your racket? Ya get it? Ya get it?
Blam goes Cagey’s gun. Snagglepuss got it. “Exit, like anything, stage left.”

Potsy? It’s a kids’ jumping game that doesn’t involve cards at all. If the internet is to be believed, it was big in New York. Guess where Maltese grew up?

We get a couple of catchphrases, too. When Snagglepuss tries to bust out of his cage (stage left), he (not surprisingly) smashes into its bars. “As a friend of mine, Quick Draw McGraw says, ‘Oooo. That smarts!’” Later, when Snagglepuss reveals himself to be a mountain lion, Cravat, with his French accent, exclaims “’Eavens to Monsieur Murgatroyd. He is a lion. Exit, stage overboard.” And the bad guy jumps into the river (heard off camera).

Yes, what ties the story together is “a ferocious mountain lion” has been captured to be taken on the St. Louis Lou to the St. Louis Zoo. “Ferocious indeed,” remarks the caged Snagglepuss. “I’m as gentle as a flea. After 30 lashings with a bullwhip.” Anyway, Snagglepuss hacksaws his way out of the cage and after an encounter with an overly polite little old Southern Belle (who screams, then goes to her stateroom “and throw a little old faint”), he gets shot by the captain. That’s about the first half of the cartoon.

Now Snagglepuss has disguised himself as Memphis Mortimer, the riverboat gambler, to avoid detection. He asks the captain to direct him to the gambling salon. Where Snagglepuss comes up with the money, I don’t know, but much like Bugs in Mississippi Hare, he starts winning all the chips. He has “Five aces. And a full house. King’s high, suh.”

Hmm. Maybe there isn’t any money. I don’t see any on the table, suh. Regardless, Cagey Cravat appears on the scene. “You try my patience.” “No,” replies Snagglepuss incongruously, “You try mine.” Much of the rest of the cartoon involves gunfire and dialogue, with Cravat swimming away for Gay Paree to get away from the “ferocious” mountain lion. The captain rewards Snagglepuss for getting rid of the pirate by promising “a free home with free meals for life.” It turns out that’s at the St. Louis Zoo (“Egads! My hood’s been winked). Snagglepuss leaps with his cage into the water and paddles after Cravat, happily singing “Alouette,” to end the cartoon.

La Verne Harding is the animator. I noticed two things in this cartoon. One is in the scenes with the red moustached gambler, the characters are still except for a cigar moving up and down in a few positions, thus saving some drawing (later, only his moustache moves). The other is she has Snagglepuss gesturing in one scene by turning his wrist around. She probably could have got away without doing it, and saved Bill Hanna money on animation, as Hanna-Barbera cartoons would in future. The collar-height ear on the characters should tell you Walt Clinton was the layout artist in this cartoon (and designed the incidental characters).

Dick Thomas, who churned out backgrounds for seemingly every cartoon in this series, is at work again. Here is his establishing shot. The smoke and steam from the boat is animated.

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