Saturday 28 July 2018

The Jolly Pie Pirate (and the Dog)

Mike Lah was Yogi Bear’s first animator, and his style at Hanna-Barbera was deceptively simple. His Yogi doesn’t look quite like the Yogi you think of; it seems a little sketchier. But Lah was able to get solid expressions into his characters.

Here’s an example from Pie Pirates, Yogi’s first cartoon. These are good drawings of Yogi laughing, but you’d never see anyone else draw him like this.

Yogi realises something’s wrong (his barrel is about to fall apart). See what Lah does with his eyes. He really liked that small-mouthed stare you see in the first drawing, and he would draw eyes that were different sizes, with different sized pupils, for effect.

The earliest cartoons on the Huck show evidently had smaller budgets so Bill Hanna didn’t have time or money for such niceties as in-betweens if he could get away without them. These two drawings are consecutive. Yogi pops from one pose to the next (Lah liked the extended-arm run).

Yogi’s nemesis is a bulldog that is preventing him from grabbing a huckleberry pie cooling on a window sill. Lah drew him a fair amount of time with half an eye closed. Even with limited animation, Lah puts expressions into the angry dog. Does the bottom one remind you of Spike in a Tex Avery MGM cartoon that Lah would have worked on?

Lah pretty much eased out of his work at Hanna-Barbera by the first season of the Huckleberry Hound Show and carried on making commercials at Quartet Films, which he and his wife (Bill Hanna’s wife’s sister) eventually ran. He told Darryl Van Citters in 1977 he was supposed to be part of the ownership group of H-B Enterprises when it started in 1957 but it sounds like he couldn’t come up with investment cash. It’s a shame because I would have liked to have seen how Lah would have handled drawing the Flintstones and some of the later characters.

Thursday 26 July 2018

The Psychology of Snooper and Blabber

“Yowp, you’ve got to do more than just upload an animation cycle in this post about Snooper and Blabber,” I said to myself. But there isn’t an awful lot to say that hasn’t been said before on this blog. I’ve exhausted my sources of newspaper articles published about the Quick Draw McGraw Show in the first few years of its existence; Charles Witbeck devoted a whole column to Toot Sweet, the French flea friend in several Snooper cartoons. Model sheets have been posted; I can’t recall if the one to the right has been put up before.

I did stumble across two articles which are amusing when taken together. There has been no end of self-appointed experts looking way down upon the masses and telling parents what their children should watch. The articles are amusing because they give completely opposing views. Incidentally, these are the types satirised by the great Warren Foster in that Jetsons episode where all television of the future has been forced to become “educational”—and is completely boring.

The National Association for Better Radio and Television proclaimed in its 1965 booklet (available for $1 from its headquarters in Los Angeles):

QUICK DRAW McGRAW—CBS, Saturdays. Recommended for children. Three cartoons (Augie Doggie, the detective team of Snooper and Blabber and Quick Draw McGraw) in a show with consistent satiric wit and gentle humor. Action and story interest. Too many commercials.
On the other hand, there is an 11-page pontification in the November 1963 edition of Canada’s Chatelaine magazine by psychologist Douglas William Jones, partly quoting the head of something called Social Research Incorporated. It talks about “inner needs,” “deeper instincts” and other psycho-babble. Snooper and Blabber, in his estimation, are “harmful.” Oh, not just them. All cartoons are harmful, with the exception of the ones appear on that programme hosted by the benevolent, benign Walt Disney.

Almost all children’s shows were bad, too, though he liked the CBC’s Razzle Dazzle. Of hoary old Howdy Doody, he wrote:

It was found that the show appealed to the repressed hostilities of children, hostilities they cannot express openly. It did this by making fun of adults or depicting them in unattractive ways. The “bad” characters were all adults. They were represented as being extremely powerful or downright foolish.
Then he informs us:
In my own analysis of cartoons, a good example of thinly disguised, symbolic parent-child relationships could be found in the Quick Draw McGraw series. The bigger stronger figure is shown as a bumbling complacent nitwit. He dreams big dreams, and starts out on heroic missions. In the end the smaller younger characters do all the work and solve all the problems. It is worth noting that they sometimes appear to let the adult figure take the credit. In other cartoons, the childlike figures get away with outrageous behavior. Pixie and Dixie, with their traditional enemy Mr. Jinx [sic]; Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd—the list can be extended indefinitely.
All this is news to me. I never thought of Snooper as some kind of father substitute. He was a private eye that did and said funny things and sometimes even won a case. I probably have more “hostilities” for people who invent imaginary hostilities than I do for people or drawings in television comedy shows. I laughed at cartoons and then went on to other things as the day wore on. I suspect you did, too.

What else can I tell you about Snooper and Blabber? Well...

● All 45 Snooper and Blabber cartoons over three seasons were written by Mike Maltese. He once said could bang out a storyboard for one in less than a week.
● Blab was played in the first four cartoons by KFWB drive announcer Elliot Field.
● Daws Butler said the voice of Snooper was based on comic actor Tom D’Andrea, not Ed Gardner as Archie on the radio show “Duffy’s Tavern,” though Maltese borrowed from Archie’s vocabulary to craft dialogue.
● Jean Vander Pyl’s first role at Hanna-Barbera was in a Snooper and Blabber cartoon (Big Diaper Caper) where she played Mrs. J. Evil Scientist, using her Tallulah Bankhead voice.
● Moaning hyena Hardy Har-Har was a character in one Snooper and Blabber cartoon (Laughing Guess). Maltese banked the idea and revamped it several years later for another series. Something to do with a lion that was lippy.
● The orange version of Snagglepuss was Snooper and Blabber’s nemesis in two cartoons.
● “Tralfaz” makes an appearance, as our heroes spend one cartoon (De-Duck-Tives) coping with a rare, but annoying, Tralfazian duck (voiced by Red Coffey).

Perhaps my favourite routine in a Snooper and Blabber cartoon comes in A Prince of a Fella where Snow White speaks in a Katharine Hepburn voice and goes on about calla lilies. It seemed so silly to me as a kid. I had no idea at the time it was from dialogue in a Hepburn movie.

Here is the promised endless cycle, slowed down a bit from the cartoon it appeared in. It’s from the opening of Observant Servants. Ed Love provided the animation. The cityscape is by Bob Gentle. Both were MGM veterans. It takes 16 drawings to get from one end of the background painting to the other.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Stories From Hanna Barbera Veterans — Live!

No, a character from The Flintstones didn’t one day suddenly cross over into the world of Pixie and Dixie (though it would make more sense than some of the ridiculous “Hanna-Barbera” cross-overs of today). This monster has been conjured up by Mr. Jinks in Magician Jinks, one of the last cartoons with the meeces put into production on the Huckleberry Hound Show.

And who is responsible for this incidental character?

To the right, you see the credits for this particular cartoon. You will notice the name of one Jerry Eisenberg. Jerry was newly-landed at Hanna-Barbera, which was continuing to expand its operations. The studio had The Flintstones and Top Cat in prime time, was still producing cartoons for the Huck, Yogi and Quick Draw half-hour shows for Kellogg’s, churning out the disappointing Loopy De Loop series for Columbia Pictures and working on new concepts, such as Hairbrain Hare. Jerry had already rubbed elbows with some of the great Golden Age artists who didn’t work for Walt Disney. He came from Warner Bros. and had already worked for Joe Barbera as an assistant in-betweener at MGM before the company decided to shut down its cartoon studio. His father was Harvey Eisenberg, known perhaps more for his work in comic books than animation, which went back to the days of the Van Beuren studio in New York.

For a minute, it appears as if Alfie Gator will succeed in his quest for a culinary delight—a duck dinner (out of camera range, Fibber Fox swats the gator’s butt, forcing Yakky Doodle back out of his mouth. Alas). Alfie was a parody of Alfred Hitchcock, specifically the TV host version, where Hitch would appear in silhouette to “Funeral March of a Marionette” and introduce tonight’s stawwww-ry.

Alfie was one of the characters created by the writer whose name you see on the right. Tony Benedict arrived at Hanna-Barbera from UPA and was put to work drawing story sketches. He was soon working on stories for Huck Hound and Yakky Doodle in addition to The Flintstones, The Jetsons and so on. My favourite creation of Tony’s is the comic relief dog Astro. Tony stayed on at Hanna-Barbera until the rise of adventure cartoons and the studio’s sale by Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, and various Columbia pictures interests to Taft Broadcasting. Before his stop at UPA, he began his animation career at Walt Disney.

The credits you see to the right are not from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. The title card is from the Beany and Cecil show from Bob Clampett’s studio. Clampett had a bunch of plans for various animated series, including one starring Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, but things fell apart when prime time cartoons failed in 1961-62 and the networks, for the most part, stayed away from the idea. Willie Ito then moved on to Hanna-Barbera where he provided layouts for a number of series. Like Eisenberg, he had worked in the Chuck Jones unit at Warner Bros. and like Benedict, he got some early grounding at Walt Disney (where he eventually returned).

Getting the opportunity to hear first-hand experiences in animation from these veterans should never be missed. That opportunity is today. The three will be appearing on “Stu’s Show,” which has become far more elaborate and graduated to streaming video (you can still listen to the programme as well). Want tales about putting together The Flintstones? Want to learn what Joe Barbera ate for lunch? Want to hear what kind of practical jokes O.B. Barkley pulled? (O.B. was an assistant animator at MGM and Warners). If anyone knows, it’s these men.

Read more below to find out more about this afternoon’s show. Click here for the link to the broadcast at 4 p.m. Pacific.

Sunday 22 July 2018

Huck the Cartoonist

The artists in the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons all had loads of animation experience and were quite capable of giving their characters interesting and good expressions.

Here’s a neat one of Huck, promoting an “amusin’ cartoon” starring Pixie and Dixie.

This comes from one of the little cartoons before the main cartoon. In some of them, Huck's lips stuck way out when he said the “ooo” in “cartoon.” He does it in this bumper but not as exaggerated as elsewhere.

Here’s Bill Hanna’s budgetary fantasy. There’s no separate animating, inking and painting. It’s all done at once! Just use a paint brush and it wipes on all the necessary colours and ink lines.

Pixie and Dixie rush off the paper to see their own cartoon.

By the way, Don Messick wasn’t called in to record in this session. Daws Butler plays Pixie and Dixie.

Thursday 19 July 2018

The Laugh Days of Hanna-Barbera

To your right, you see a drawing of Fred Flintstone and a model sheet of Wilma Flinstone. Oh, and there's a young man, too.

The young man is Tony Benedict. When he arrived at Hanna-Barbera, the studio had a grand total of two writers—Mike Maltese and Warren Foster, two of the finest cartoon comedy writers of all time who helped bring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and other Warner Bros. characters to live. As Hanna-Barbera kept expanding, so did the staff. Young Tony came over from UPA and was soon getting story credits on Huckleberry Hound and Yakky Doodle cartoons.

Tony worked on The Flintstones and The Jetsons, supplying story ideas and sketches. He stuck around the studio until it turned toward superhero and fantasy series and was bought by Taft.

Some time ago, he put together a documentary video. Now, he's putting his Hanna-Barbera life in a book. As he puts it...

"THE LAUGH DAYS OF HANNA BARBERA 1960-1967" is not only a book but an online gallery of art and humor from those glamour days of yore.
Ten years of vintage 1960's drawings, caricatures, paintings, photos, and jokes from that period ONLY.
The book is a work in progress but many of it's images are now available at
They are prints for sale. Select an image you like, choose a frame and it will be shipped to you in a few days ready to hang on your wall. Easy and unique holiday gifts. You will need to sign up but that is FREE and you can enjoy more than 100 old time big time Hanna Barbera images....and more.
So... Please have a peek. Humor is the best medicine.

Tony is among a handful of people around today who has some first-hand experience at the studio when it moved into prime-time and sparked the growth of cartoons on Saturday morning TV. Some of the pics on his site he has posted before, but hunt around his site and re-live some memories from a man who was there.

Saturday 14 July 2018

Your Huckleberry Home

Were any cartoon characters merchandised more around 1960 than the creations of Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera and their veteran staff? There seems to have been an incredible variety of things on which Huck, Yogi and the others made their appearances.

Over the years, readers of this blog have passed along pictures of their merchandise discoveries. We have another roundup of them today. You can click on each picture to make it bigger. Our focus today is on Huckleberry Hound.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (which Huck played in one of his cartoons) to figure out this 1960s game is from Japan. Whether a North American version exists, I don’t know. Nor can I guess the object of the game, other than to get from the southwest corner to the northeast one. Some of the “Hanna-Barbera” characters look like something from the mid-‘60s. Apparently this was made by Nintendo. (Since putting up this post, I found more about the 珍犬ハックル ゲーム board game on this blog.)

Now you can make Huck look like Groucho or Robert Q. Lewis, thanks to the twist of a dial and a special pencil. This Multiple Products Co. toy was from the late ‘50s when Hanna-Barbera was still “H-B Enterprises.” Evidently no one told the company the proper spelling was “Jinks.”

Kids gloves. I’m not sure of the manufacturer.

This charm bracelet came out during the first season of the Huck show (1958-59). The studio only had a limited number of starring characters, so it would merchandise incidental characters, too, including a well-known cartoon dog (ahem). In this case, Li’l Tom Tom, who appeared in one Yogi Bear cartoon, is included. Perhaps the company didn’t find Yowp so “charm”-ing.

Fruit of the Loom is known for its underwear, but it also made bed sheets. Here is proof. Yakky Doodle shows up for some reason; he never appeared with Huck. Besides Pixie and Dixie, we get the dragon from “Dragon-Slayer Huck,” and the circus lion from “Lion Tamer Huck,” though the version in the cartoon was drawn much better (by Mike Lah).

What rhymes with Huck? How about “puck”? This was made by General Tire and Rubber Co., and I gather it was sold in Canada. Hanna-Barbera would have better puck luck with Peter Puck about 20 years later on those NHL telecasts.

Does this mean the character’s name is Puckleberry Hound? Okay, I’ll stop.

From Decoware comes this metal garbage can, 12¼ by 10¼ and 9 inches thick. The presence of Hokey Wolf puts it after 1960. Snagglepuss is orange instead of pink. Iggy and Ziggy, the crows who heckled Huck in two cartoons, fly around. And Li’l Tom Tom shows up yet again. Several different types of these H-B waste paper baskets were made.

Here’s a late addition to the post. Reader Mike Rossi sent me pictures of a German card game from 1967.

You’ve got to love those on-model drawings. Is Yakky wearing a dress?

A kid around 1960 didn’t have to “tune up your TV set for Huckleberry Hound.” He or she could have Huck all over the place in their very own home, thanks to licensed products.

Thursday 12 July 2018

Don Messick Holds Off the Competition

Here’s a Boo Boo take from Scooter Looter (first aired in 1959). Bill Hanna holds the second drawing for four frames. We’ve skipped a few frames. The animator is Carlo Vinci.

Boo Boo, as you likely know, was voiced by Don Messick, who was the number two voice man (out of two) at Hanna-Barbera at the time. Daws Butler got most of the starring roles at the studio pre-1960—Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Mr. Jinks, Quick Draw McGraw, Super Snooper. Messick contented himself with Ruff and one of the meeces; Boo Boo wasn’t a regular character in the first season (1958-59) of Yogi Bear cartoons (and Ranger Smith wasn’t invented until the 1959-60 season).

Yet Don M. had staying power. He provided major and incidental character voices through the 1960s, including on Hanna-Barbera’s non-comedy series, then won the role of a clumsy Great Dane who many exposit is the studio’s most popular creation of all time. In the 1980s, he co-starred on The Smurfs, perhaps H-B’s biggest Saturday morning success of the decade, before veering into Warner Bros.’ so-called “Silver Age,” voicing Hamton in Tiny Toons Adventures. Alas, by this time Daws had passed away.

Messick’s career paralleled Butler’s after World War Two. Both had series on radio. Both worked for Bob Clampett in the 1950s days of televised puppet shows. Both voiced MGM cartoon characters. And both were commercial voices.

By 1978, things had changed at Hanna-Barbera. The voice department wasn’t a two-man operation any more. Things had changed in commercial voice-over work, too. In the early days of TV, advertising was deemed beneath the dignity of most actors. But then they looked at the cash windfall commercials paid. Money wins over dignity every time.

Here’s Messick talking about in an article in Backstage by Robert Goldrich, dated September 8, 1978.

Nearly 130 voice actors are working for Hanna Barbera Productions this season. By contrast, 10 years ago the studio only hired about 20. “The networks want more characters in the cartoons,” explained Art Scott, VP and recording director of many H-B programs. “While years ago the average program had five characters who could be voice by two people, Hanna-Barbera is now producing shows like ‘Challenge of the Superfriends,’ which has a regular cast of 19, plus many incidental characters.”
Yet while the market for cartoon voices is on the rise, major star personalities are making gains in another long time vehicle for voice actors—namely commercials.
Business Week recently noted that the number of TV spots featuring celebrities has jumped from one in five to one in three in the past five years, and this trend has undoubtedly seeped into the voiceover industry. ...
Yet there are some firmly entrenched voice actors who remain unscathed by this inundation of well-known stars. One is Don Messick, cartoon voice of Boo Boo Bear, Scooby-Doo, Mumbly, Astro on the Jetsons, Bam Bam of the Flintstones, and an assortment of other characters too numerous to mention. Don’s recent spot credits include the voices of Lava Soap’s “Wise Old Towel,” Kelloggs Rice Crispies Crackle of “Snap, Crackle & Pop” fame, a cat for Purina’s Special Dinners, and an owl for Green Giant’s Nibblets Corn.
“I see major accounts out to get the best of both worlds,” Messick explained. “For instance Kelloggs is using Dick Cavett’s voice on some radio commercials but they are continuing the highly successful ‘Snap, Crackle & Pop.’ Animated commercials are as effective as ever and thus there is still a market for the voice characterizations artists like myself can provide. For me, the creative challenge is that it is more difficult to establish such a voice in a 30-second spot than it is in a series of cartoons.”
Pointing out another difference, Messick noted that cartoons put more of a strain on the voice than commercial work. For instance, Don has done as many as seven voices for one Laff Olympics cartoon. This is a common practice. It’s economical for the studio to have the actor do several voices. The cartoon pay scale is set up so that actors are paid a fixed rate for providing one to three voices. There is a higher rate for four to six voices, and so on. Thus even if the actor is doing three voices, he is paid the same rate as someone doing one voice.
Don M. expanded his career as time went on. Unlike Daws Butler, or even Mel Blanc for that matter, he appeared on camera in a weekly role in a sitcom. His career could have taken a different turn, but The Duck Factory didn’t jell and was cancelled. He was cast in re-enactments of old radio shows on a Los Angeles station. He narrated stage productions of “Peter and the Wolf.” And he even toured parts of the U.S. with animation exhibitions, demonstrating some of his famous voices and talking about his life in cartoons.

As you can see, he continued to accumulate all kinds of credits and was in great demand. His career ended only because of his health. He suddenly retired one day and then died of natural causes at the age of 71 in 1997. Hanna-Barbera took out a full-page ad in Variety in his honour, a drawing by Iwao Takamoto of Shaggy and Scooby-Doo bowing their heads. He brought to life almost innumerable characters for the studio, including a dog that only said “Yowp” and a small ursine friend who was run down by an out-of-control Jellystone Park scooter.