Wednesday 31 January 2018

Too Good For the Brats

It is a little hard for us, sitting here almost 60 years after the fact, to comprehend how easy-going, calm Huckleberry Hound was a huge fad at one time. He was pleasant. He was droll. He was involved in familiar situations (rescuing a cat from a tree, fending off a barbecue from a dog, trying to get rid of pesky mosquitos, crows or termites), in gentle satires (as a western good guy out to bring in the bad guy) or genial silliness (trying to capture a Frank Fontaine-ish lion). No wonder he won an Emmy in 1960, the first given to a syndicated programme and the first given to a cartoon (and up against parent-group favourites Mr. Wizard and Captain Kangaroo, not to mention Quick Draw McGraw).

As Huck’s popularity increased, the press took notice (thanks partly to plants from Arnie Carr’s PR department). Even Newsweek magazine wrote about the blue dog. I don’t have the Newsweek, but the Philadelphia Inquirer of July 18, 1960 wrote about it in its “TV Digest” column.

Huck probably peaked about the time this article was written. Soon, Hanna-Barbera’s PR push centred on its new gimmick—a prime-time cartoon that wasn’t for children. And gentle Huck was overshadowed by a louder, brasher character on his own show—Yogi Bear. Within months, Hanna-Barbera would announce its first feature film based on one of its characters. And it wasn’t Huck.

Island Named ‘Huckleberry Hound’
HERE's what one of the Nation's magazines is saying this week about television:
NEWSWEEK: Tucked away in the Antarctic's Bellingshausen Sea sits a fleabite-size island that bears the euphonious, if somewhat curious appellation, "Huckleberry Hound."
It was so named by the crew of the Coast Guard icebreaker U.S. Glacier, in a gesture of fealty that may mystify future naval historians but will puzzle not at all the salaaming devotees of one of TV's most popular characters—a cartoon dog.
Huckleberry, a noblehearted canine with the look of a bloodhound recently roused from an esthesia and a voice not unlike that of drawling comic Andy Griffith, is currently wowing the customers on a half-hour show in 180 U. S. cities plus such remote spots as New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
Designed for the post-Pablum set, Huck, together with his animated sidekicks — Mr. Jinks, a Method-acting cat, and Yogi Bear, a porkpie-hatted bumble head who bears a startling resemblance to comic Art Carney's sewer-working "Ed Norton"—now captures 13,000,000 viewers a week, almost as many of them adults as tots.
* * *
AS PROOF of this, the show can list such recent distinctions as: A proposal from the student body of the University of Washington that Huck be given an honorary degree; the renaming of the traditional Jazz and Cycling Society of Hull, England, to the Yogi Bear Club; a petition submitted by seven Ph.D.'s from Los Alamos asking if Huck could be shifted to a later time so they wouldn't miss it.
The enterprise which whelped all this puppy love is Hanna-Barbera Prods., a three-year-old Hollywood cartoon factory that now ranks as the world's largest. Run by square-faced William Hanna, a former construction engineer, and dark-haired, effusive Joseph Barbera, an ex-accountant, the firm was formed after the pair were fired from M-G-M, where both had worked on the cat and-mouse "Tom and Jerry" series — Hanna as idea man, Barbera as a cartoonist.
"We've tried to get back to the primary objective of cartooning — to caricature and satirize," explained the enthusiastic Barbera.
"What makes the show so merry is that they don't labor the satire" is the way one egghead fan put it. "You can almost hate children for liking Huckleberry so much—he's too good for the brats."

Sunday 28 January 2018

Farewell to Doggie Daddy

There are fewer and fewer people left who were associated with the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons before the Flintstones came along in 1960.

We’ve lost another one. Doug Young has passed away at the age of 98, according to cartoon producer Mark Evanier. You can click here to read his obituary in the Seattle Times.

Doug was a native of Helena, Arkansas. His mother re-married and he and his family were living in San Antonio in 1930. It’s unclear when he arrived in California, but he was a radio announcer/actor before and after getting out of the service (he enlisted two days before Pearl Harbor; his draft card says he was unemployed). During the war, he was stationed at Fort Knox, where he got married. Mr. Young was good at voice impersonations; he was fired from one station for doing an impression of the station manager. The 1950 census reveals he was the assistant manager of a laundry. As the 1950s rolled on, he found himself, like so many others, with less radio work because television was taking over. To pay the bills, he drove a truck while making the rounds looking for on-air employment. Another of the many people knocking on doors was Daws Butler. Doug explained to interviewer Stu Shostak that he ran into Daws in a book store one day.

He said “What are you doing?” I told him. He says “Forget it.” Come to my place. We’re going to make a tape, take you out to H-B and that’s it ... he went out and we did an audition and Joe Barbera liked it.
The studio was launching the Quick Draw McGraw Show in 1959 and Barbera told the press he was looking for new voices. He hired several. Hal Smith and Jean Vander Pyl were called in to do incidental characters. Elliot Field got the job voicing Blabber, but bowed out after only a handful of cartoons because he ended up in hospital. And someone was needed to do a Jimmy Durante voice for Doggie Daddy. Barbera wasn’t just borrowing from the Durante-Moore radio show, he was borrowing from himself, as he had Daws Butler pull off a Durante impression as Spike in the Spike and Tyke cartoons at MGM.

Young recalled that he and Peter Leeds were auditioned for Doggie Daddy. Leeds had worked with Daws on various projects for Stan Freberg. Daws had apparently recommended Mr. Young for the role because he didn’t want to take it on the role due to the strain it would put on his voice. Doug said he tried to get Durante’s warmth and openness into the Doggie Daddy character, and I think anyone who has seen the cartoons will believe he succeeded. It’s one thing to belt out a line like “Everybody wants ta get inta de act!” but it’s quite another to use the same voice over 6½ minutes and create a character like Young had to do.

I won’t go into a full list of series Doug Young worked on; you can find it on line. His work was always first-rate. Suffice it to say he ran into personal problems in the mid-‘60s and felt the solution was to leave Hollywood. He moved to Oregon and thence to Washington State where he remarried in 1969, and was involved with a group that re-created old radio shows and brought old radio stars up to meet with fans.

From what I understand, he was still living in his home (at least he was until recently).

It may not be much, but my condolences to his family on their loss. I’m sure others here agree.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Fast Gun Yogi

“The fastest draw since Quick Draw McGraw,” is how Yogi Bear labels himself in one of those little cartoons between the cartoons of his own show. He turns his head and his body during dialogue. There’s more animation in most of these bumpers than you find in the actual cartoons.

He displays some fancy shootin’, closing his eyes and gritting his teeth during the gunfire. We get squash and stretch, too.

Yogi looks up. There’s no real reason, other than it makes the scene less static.

A little curly tongue during dialogue.

“That’s a mighty fast draw, but I’ve got to work on my aim,” says Yogi, who apparently ran out of rhymes.

Wednesday 24 January 2018

The Non-TV World of Hanna-Barbera

Which 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon starred Jim Backus?

Give up? The answer is Mr. Leaf.

You don’t recall Mr. Leaf? That wouldn’t be surprising. That’s because it never appeared on TV (to the best of my knowledge). It was one of the films made by Hanna-Barbera’s newly-organised industrial unit.

You may remember when the company was first formed in July 1957, it announced plans to animate commercials and industrial films; no sense in limiting yourself when you’re looking for that first contract. But it doesn’t appear the studio really got into industrials until it was ready to move into its studio at 3400 Cahuenga. Variety reported on April 23, 1963 that Arthur Pierson had “joined the company as associate producer of its entertainment product, and head of its industrial films division.”

Hanna-Barbera had grown to a position of not only being able to make animated industrials but live action ones; you may have read stories on the blog from this time period about how the studio wanted to move into live action. It ran into a bit of bad luck right away. Variety reported on May 17, 1963: “Construction begins Monday on sets for Hanna - Barbera industrial documentary ‘The Story Of Dr. Lister’ and for ‘Death Valley Days’ teleseries at the studio.” The studio in question happened to be the Producers Studio on Melrose near Van Ness. The day before the story, the Polar Palace ice arena next to the studio burned to the ground. Four sound stages were partly damaged and had to be constructed. Then Army Archerd reported in his column of November 14th that “Hanna-Barbera's initial live action lensing in their new building started with a bang — an electrical explosion sending one gaffer to the hospital. The film, ‘Here Comes A Star’ features both Hanna and Barbera as ‘live’ actors. The film was a half-hour commercial for the coming Magilla Gorilla show.

Those were mere hiccoughs. The show went on. Here’s a short blurb from Business Screen Magazine of April 30, 1964.

Notable Business Films Are Produced by Hanna-Barbera
Known throughout the world for its animated cartoon features and TV characters, (Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound and The Jetsons), Hanna-Barbera Productions of Hollywood entered the field of industrial film production less than a year ago, creating both animation and live-action subjects for leading American companies.
A biographical, all live-action film for Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical, The Story of Dr. Lister, is a noteworthy example. Made in association with Film Counselors and directed by Arthur Pierson, the film had a distinguished cast which included Richard Ney, Wanda Hendrix, John Hoyt, Sean McGlory, John Archer and Lloyd Bochner.
The studio followed with Of Mutual Interest, covering the subject of mutual funds, with a cast headed by Donald Woods. An all-animation featurette for the National Association of Tobacco Distributors told the story of that industry in Mr. Leaf. With Jim Backus doing the voice of "Mr. Leaf," the film was premiered in Miami on April 4.
One of the company's TV sponsors, Ideal Toy Company, also sponsored a combination live-action half hour film to introduce the character of Magilla Gorilla to television audiences. George Fenneman acted as the host of this film.
The National Association of Tobacco Distributors appears to have liked Bill and Joe. It came back to them again, this time for a live-action film. From Back Stage, July 30, 1965:
Hanna-Barbera Inks Paige For Tobacco Film
Robert Paige has been signed by Hanna-Barbera to the lead in “Mind Your Own Business,” a live-action film being produced by J-B industrial film division for the National Association of Tobacco Distributors.
Also named for cast are Herbert Anderson, Alice Backes, Robert Karnes, Ellen McCown, Hal Smith, Jerry Hausner, William Leslie, Anne Bellamy, Gregg Morris, John Goddard and Rance Howard.
Arthur Pierson acts as producer-director, Lothrop Worth is cameraman, and Raoul Pagel is production manager on the color film.
I realise some readers dote on lists and filmographies, but I’ll only point out it made sense to cast H-B voice artist Smith in its live-action films considering all the live action work he did.

By the start of 1965, Ross Sutherland, brother of industrial film studio head John Sutherland, was brought in to beat the bushes for business. Hired to oversee the animation on these industrials was Carl Urbano, who had worked with Bill and Joe at MGM in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. Besides his solid animation credentials, Urbano spent perhaps 15 years at John Sutherland Productions as one of the two staff directors.

An ad in Business Screen in 1965 includes two other industrials, Of Mutual Interest for the Investment Company Institute, and Your Voice Is Showing for General Telephone & Electronics. Films made circa the 1966-68 period include Another Language (AT&T), Wings of Tomorrow (Boeing), Time for Decision (American Cancer Society), The Incredible Voyage of Mark O’Gulliver (U.S. Chamber of Commerce), Advertising 1967 (Anheuser Busch), More Than Ever Before (American Heart Assn.) and Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone (American Cancer Society).

Time For Decision was animated and an Oscar nominee in 1967; Business Screen reveals it was premiered in Jacksonville, Florida on January 5th. Syndicated columnist Bob Considine reported two weeks later: “The wealthy Shwayder family of Denver, luggage manufacturers, contributed $52,000 to the A.C.S. after seeing a preview of the film, to provide 1,300 prints to be shown at cancer drive rallies later in the year.” Another report stated the 16-minute short cost $92,000 to make. Photos from its production may be in this post. It may seem odd that Hanna-Barbera made films for the tobacco industry and anti-smoking films for the Cancer Society. Not at all. Business is business.

Unfortunately, many industrial films are not available for viewing on-line. I’d love to see Backus’ Mr Leaf. However, Business Screen comes to the rescue when it comes to the O’Gulliver film. This anti-big government propaganda short is something Sutherland would have done in the ‘50s. The article was published in March 1967.

A Humorous Parable on the Problem of BIG Government
U. S. Chamber of Commerce Pictures a Congressman's Visit to "Animalia"

THE Government of the United States is the biggest entity in the country today. It is the biggest employer. Biggest borrower. Biggest lender. It is the biggest landowner, the biggest tenant. It is the greatest single customer of this country's industrial production. It is the biggest in almost everything — and it is getting bigger all the time.
Starting with these ominous facts, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, in association with Hanna-Barbera Studios, has produced an immensely amusing, but highly-significant film. The film's story takes the form of a humorous parable, in which a mythical U. S. Congressman, Mark O'Gulliver, becomes shopwrecked on a remote Pacific isle — among a community of hilarious animals whose society, unfortunately, is all too similar to our own. For in trying to find his way back to civilization, Mark O'Gulliver encounters all the frustrations, the obstacles, indeed, the paralysis which results from stuffy bureaucracy.
Serious Note Beneath a Light Approach
The 25-minute color film, an animated cartoon titled The Incredible Voyage of Mark O’Gulliver, is most entertaining. The animation is superb and the animal-characters are delightful. But, for all its humor and wit, the film poses some ominous questions about Big Government.
As originally conceived, our society was to embrace a range of interests so vast that no one interest or branch of government could become the dominant power. This concept was embodied in our system of checks and balances, as everyone knows.
But times have changed, and the composition of government has changed also. The administrative tasks of government have become so immense that a gigantic bureaucracy has grown up within the past fifty years.
Now, a bureaucracy possesses certain features which automatically make it a hazard. First of all, a bureaucracy is hierarchy — a pyramid of authority, with power transferred from the pinnacle down toward the broader base. Second, all activities are governed by fixed, written rules. And finally people are hired to perform certain specialized functions which are impersonal and supposed to lie outside the political realm. All of this leads to inflexibility.
The hazards of this kind of organization are vividly portrayed in the film. We see, for instance, how government by the true legislative process has become eroded with government by bureaucratic fiat. And the film illustrates other pitfalls inherent in big government: decision-making reduced to thoughtless routine; the self-perpetuation of bureaucratic inertia.
Where to Obtain a Print of This Film
The film may be used by local chambers of commerce, business groups, trade associations, schools, unions, church and civic groups interested in public affairs. It has been cleared for television showings.
Prints and full information may be had from the Audio-Visual Department of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, 1615 H St.. N. W.. Washington. D. C. 20006. Film rental charges are $10 for three days, or the film may be purchased for $150.

Thanks to the internet, the best-known Hanna-Barbera industrial is likely Advertising 1967, made for staff at Anheuser-Busch to inform them of the coming year’s sales campaign. Jean Vander Pyl was evidently unavailable so someone else voiced Wilma, while Gerry Mohr, who later played Reed Richards in the H-B version of The Fantastic Four, is the narrator. It promotes the idea that drinking a beer is like being stroked on the head by a woman’s hand. I’m pretty sure Carlo Vinci was one of the animators; someone mentioned to me once about Jerry Hathcock working on it but I really don’t know.

Now if only Mr. Leaf turns up some day.

Saturday 20 January 2018

Judo Jinks

In the early days at Hanna-Barbera, one animator would be responsible for an entire cartoon, but there were exceptions. For whatever reason, Mike Lah would be brought in to handle a couple of minutes of footage.

One of them was Judo Jack, which was the Pixie and Dixie cartoon that Joe Barbera remembered screening for Kellogg’s to try to get it to sponsor its nascent Huckleberry Hound Show.

Lah liked weird little mouth shapes in dialogue. He moved the shapes across a character’s face, requiring no other animation. Here’s an example from one of my favourite drawings of Mr. Jinks, when Judo Jack turns him into a pretzel using “a pretzel hold.”

Lah must have driven Ed Benedict nuts. Benedict once complained the Hanna-Barbera artists never stuck to the model sheets. Lah sure didn’t. Here’s Jinks again, being pulled under a door by the tail by Judo Jack. These are funny drawings.

Lah had been animating on a freelance basis after MGM shut down its cartoon studio in early-ish 1957. He was supposed to be part of the original Hanna-Barbera partnership—his wife was the twin sister of Bill Hanna’s wife—but something happened to prevent it; possibly Lah didn’t have money to invest. His H-B career seems to have lasted into 1959. He bought into the ownership of Quartet in 1960 and eventually ran the company. Why he left H-B may be in hidden away in an unpublished interview, especially at a time when the studio was adding staff to make the Quick Draw McGraw Show, but it’s a shame he didn’t stay. A Lah Jetsons could have been pretty funny.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Flintstones Weekend Comics, January 1968

The forecast for Bedrock—rain or snow. At least, that’s the variety we get in the Flintstones weekend comics 50 years ago this month.

Richard Holliss supplied the colour versions; apparently there were some comics in the paper he clipped that were in a red tone only.

Fred wore a hat in the comics on occasion; I don’t recall him wearing one very often on the TV show. Here in the January 4th comic we see that golf is omnipresent in Fred’s mind, even when he doesn’t speak.

Aw. Fred’s being a good daddy in the January 11th comic. Apparently the reader has seen enough of these that they’re supposed to recognise who Pops is, though he never appeared in the TV series.

This is the best version I can find of the January 21st comic; my sources have dried up again (in other words, papers kept dropping the two Hanna-Barbera strips as the ‘60s wore on). You can’t see the mastodon bookends very well. The story is good, definitely not directed at kids.

The temperature has been warming up in Bedrock. It went from snow to rain and now it’s warm enough to make ice unstable in the January 28th. The old know-it-all Fred is in this comic. I like the opening panel. Pops shows up at the end. Sploot!

Poor Dino isn’t around this month. They didn’t showcase him very much in the comics. Too bad. Maybe next month.

Saturday 13 January 2018

Snagglepuss in Charge That Lion

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Art Davis, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Vera Hanson, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss – Daws Butler; Hunter, Joe, Sergeant – Doug Young; General, Men in Jeep – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Episode: Production R-17 (seventh cartoon in production).
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss, disguised as a soldier to escape a hunter, is mistaken for real one by the Army.

Art Davis was looking forward to being in charge of a unit to direct commercials at Warner Bros. He had been promised it. He had begun to get staff together. But then he discovered someone else was brought in to do it. So he got out when the studio resumed operations in September 1960 after the usual two-week summer break. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do.

Then he talked to Warren Foster, who was writing at Hanna-Barbera. The two had worked together in Friz Freleng’s unit at Warners. And Foster helped him get in to Warner Bros. as an animator, though he shouldn’t have needed much help. Davis had been in the cartoon business since the silent era so everyone must have known him.

Davis arrived at a fortuitous time. In October, Kellogg’s signed a contract to sponsor a brand-new half-hour series to be part of its syndication distribution, The Yogi Bear Show. Hanna-Barbera needed new cartoons, pronto; the series had to be ready in about three months. Davis recalled he was in animation for about three weeks and then became a story director. Writer Tony Benedict, who was at the studio at the time, tells me the story director drew up the production board from the writers, then numbered the scenes, panels and backgrounds and timed out scenes for dialogue and action. This all followed the voice audio tracks. The production board then went to a layout artist.

Artie had a peculiar way of animating dialogue in some H-B characters in side or almost three-quarters view, you can see it in his Yogi Bear and Yakky Doodle cartoons in addition to this cartoon. He had mouth lines curve way up into the face, with teeth represented by a few vertical lines (no uppers and lowers). I wish I could describe it better. See the drawing to the right. I don’t recall him animating anything like that in theatrical cartoons.

There are plenty of mix-ups in this cartoon which ends with Snagglepuss being mischievous. It starts out with our hero being indignant at a poster announcing a $15 for his capture for attempted sheep stealing (which he never did in any of the cartoons in his own series) and adding he’s not too bright. “Why, I was so bright, my mother called me ‘Sunny’,” is Snagglepuss’ response. He decides to draw a huge handlebar moustache on his picture so no one will recognise him. Besides, it makes him look “Dis-ting-gay. Handsome, even!”

Enter a hunter. I thought layout man Tony Rivera re-used him from another cartoon (he and Davis teamed up on Yakky Doodle’s Whistle-Stop and Go) but the other red-suited hunters I’ve spotted aren’t quite the same. Snagglepuss points to the poster and asks the hunter if he looks like that. The hunter draws a moustache on Snagglepuss. Time for an exit, stage left. Davis animates a mouth movement on the hunter, evidently forming two words, but there’s no voice on the soundtrack.

We cut from Snagglepuss running to a soldier who is swimming in a lake. Snagglepuss reaches out from behind bushes on a cel overlay and decides to disguise himself and make a getaway in the back of an Army jeep. Incognito, even. The two soldiers in the jeep, for reasons of the plot, simply leave their friend in the lake and drive away from him.

Some Tony Rivera designs. He really liked those jaw lines and overbites.

The jeep roles into Fort Nitt but Snagglepuss somehow thinks he’s in a Boy Scout camp (“How healthy! How outdoorsy!”), that the noisy drill sergeant is a scoutmaster and the assembly of Rivera-designed soldiers are “just little kids.” “Temper, temper! T-sk, t-sk, t-sk!” he chides the sergeant (Daws Butler turns the word “tsk” into two syllables). Sarge assesses the situation as being a nightmare, caused by eating pickled cream puffs. Snagglepuss adeptly wraps him up in a rope while demonstrating “a few keen scout knots” namely the “double hitch quadruple grandma knot.”

“Hiya, general. I see you’ve been eating pickled cream puffs, too.” Yes, the general enters the cartoon. Snagglepuss hears the word “army” and realises the situation he’s in, though the military people all think he’s a soldier. There’s a lot of running back and forth between the base and the hunter outside as Snagglepuss tries to escape bullets. “Caught between second and third,” he anxiously exclaims. Sarge stops the firing. “I’m going to recommend you for a medal, rampant with peanut clusters, even!” says Snagglepuss, who is then put on guard duty but refuses to let the general enter. The general puts Snagglpuss on K.P. “What’s K.P.?!” he demands. Cut to Snagglepuss peeling potatoes. “No wonder they don’t spell it out. Nobody would do it.” Sarge tells Snag the general likes his potatoes scalloped. “Who’s the general? Sittin’ Bull? Scalped indeed!”

There’s more gunfire when Snagglepuss reveals himself to be a lion, as the Flintstones’ cue “Chase” (aka “Cue 3-1”) plays in the background. He shrugs philosophically as he runs away from the bullets.

The final scenes take us to the lake. The general is now swimming. Snagglepuss grabs his clothes from behind the bushes. “I hope you enjoyed your swim, general, sir,” says the sergeant. “Immense-itively, sergeant. Immense-itively,” says Snagglepuss, now wearing the general’s uniform. And I hope I enjoy my scalped potatoes, even.” Cartoon ends.

More on the music. The opening cue was originally written for the Loopy De Loop cartoons, but you’ll recognise some Flintstones music as well. For example, the piece when the sergeant has the soldiers marching is “Cue 6-14,” informally known as “A Putter to Drive With.” When Snagglepuss is thanking the sarge, the music is “Cue 8-11,” also called “Bouncy Fred,” and when he’s peeling the potatoes, it’s “Cue 8-6C,” aka “Sad Fred Dirge Pt. 3.”

And some brushwork as Snagglepuss exits.

Vera Hanson, the background artist, was married to Howard Hanson, the production supervisor. This is the only Snagglepuss cartoon she worked on.

The blog has now reviewed all of the cartoons in the Snagglepuss series.