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.

1 comment:

  1. I like that Snag gives himself a Bill Melendez 'stache (as they both worked for peanuts).