Monday, 20 August 2018

Fred Flintstone, Age 111

Alan Reed landed a TV role in fall 1960. It went nowhere. He was picked to play an agent in the sitcom Peter Loves Mary which, by the way, included a maid played by Bea Benaderet. Fortunately for Reed, he got another role on a different show that season. You know what it is.

As hard as it is to believe, Reed was not the first or second choice to provide the voice for Fred Flintstone. Reed was perfect for the role. He gave it humour and gave it warmth. Reed’s Fred was a three dimensional character, quite a feat for a cartoon character.

For the fans who don’t know, Daws Butler used his grumpy Jackie Gleason-style voice in a short reel put together when the series was still known as The Flagstones in development in early 1960, but Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera felt he was being overused by the studio. Bill Thompson came out of cartoon retirement (he was working for Union Oil at the time), recorded five soundtracks as Fred, but had troubles with the low end of his voice, so he was let go (returning to the studio later as Touché Turtle). Reed was next and the part was his until his death at age 69.

Like pretty much all cartoon voice actors (including the main cast of The Flintstones), Reed came from radio. He was a star back in 1930 on a CBS show called Henry and George. Above you see him from Big Sister when he was using his original name. He adopted Alan Reed (the first two names of his youngest son) to get more dramatic roles and in 1939 decided just to stick with the one name.

Reed would be 111 if he were with us in person today. Here is a newspaper interview with him from when The Flintstones was still in production. This is from the Chicago Tribune syndicate, February 12, 1961. As a side note, the “Finnegan” role spoken of was originated by Charlie Cantor, who used it on Fred Allen’s radio show. If you’ve heard Sid Raymond as Baby Huey, that’s the voice. The “Falstaff” voice was the voice Reed used in the Flintstones episode where he becomes the snooty “Frederick.” And “Daddy” on the Snooks show sounded very Flintstone-ish.

The Real Fred Flintstone
By Larry Walters

IN A FEW short months the Flintstones have become the “first family” of television. After all they’re cavemen right out of the stone age. And the head of the house is Fred Flintstone, a sort of early Fibber McGee with some overtones of a latter day Jackie Gleason.
He’s sort of a lovable jerk as he goes about his problems via animated cartoons [at 7:30 p.m. Friday on channel 7] and for several weeks we couldn’t figure out who was doing his gooney voice.
Finally, we pegged it. The possessor of this voice is none other than Alan Reed, who used to play the classic lovable jerk Finnegan in the old Duffy’s Tavern series, and Clancy the Cop, another jerk from the same show.
But perhaps his best remembered role of the radio heyday was that of Falstaff Openshaw, the poet of Fred Allen’s Alley. He did that more than 10 years. He also was the voice of David Rubinoff, Eddie Cantor’s violinist. There were many laughs in Rubinoff’s mangling of the Queen’s English [it was the King’s English then] but Dave got the credit instead of Reed. Alan also played the original Daddy to Fanny Brice’s Baby Snooks.
After the Allen years Reed went to Hollywood where he worked in the TV versions of Duffy’s Tavern and Life with Luigi. Meanwhile, he had joined Fox studios under a long term contract. He made around 50 feature pictures, among them “Viva Zapata,” “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” and “Desperate Hours.”
A few years ago he decided to get into some business that would protect him in his old age. He heads Alan Reed Enterprises, a firm that distributes specialty and executive gifts. Going great, too, says Reed.
Reed recalls his days with Fred Allen as his best. This wry wit was a constant joy to be with and to work with, he recalls. Allen, who was one of the easiest touches on Broadway, gave away a lot of money. When NBC moved him from an east side studio to one on the west [Allen lived on Manhattan’s west side] Reed once asked how he liked the new place.
“It’s all right,” said Allen, “and it’s three less ‘touches’ walking here than it was to the other place.”
But Reed is having a fine time today. He’s got his money making business going well, and he enjoys “living” with his TV wife in Bedrock and riding around in his own convertible which has Stone wheels. He has a fine piano, naturally a Stoneway. He’s a joiner; one of his favorite associations is the Y.C.M.A., the Young Cave Men’s association. Occasionally he goes out on the town. His favorite night spot: the Rockadero Hilton.
But the nicest thing about his new TV career, is the hours.
“It used to take us three or four days to make a show,” he recalled. “But now we do a Flintstone show in three hours. And we do them in the evening, so it doesn’t even interfere with my business career.”
What a life!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Walk With Jinks

There was a time when Hanna-Barbera cartoons didn’t have walk cycles consisting of six drawings of a character in profile. There was a time in the early days when animators could bat out something interesting. Animators like Carlo Vinci.

Here’s a neat cycle from Cousin Tex. Carlo comes up with a cycle of eight drawings, animated on twos. I wish I could isolate the drawings from the background art, but I’m not that technically adept. You can see how Jinks almost waddles. Carlo has Jinks’ feet turning outward, knees bent and butt bouncing.

Here’s the cycle, slowed down a bit from what you’d see in the cartoon. You’ll have to try to ignore the jerking background and concentrate on Jinks’ lower half.

I don’t believe this cycle was duplicated in any other cartoon.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, July/August 1970

For a number of years, we posted 50th anniversary Yogi Bear and Flintstones weekend comics, and several readers have wondered why we stopped. It’s pretty simple. We ran out of comics. Several newspapers where I was able to find them stopped running them, or poorly photocopied them so they weren’t readable. Richard Holliss in England, who generously sent me scans of his large collection, was missing a few years. And, as I have been saying, I am going to end further posts on this blog but somehow continue to find limited time to put up things. (I have a post from Denise Kress I wish to complete).

Since there seems to be some interest in these comics, I’ve scrapped the “50 years ago” idea and am just posting a bunch from Richard’s fine archive. These are all from 1970. The drawing style has noticeably changed in two years, but there are still lots of good layouts and fun expressions.

These are tabloid editions, meaning one thin panel in the top row of the comic has been deleted so the comic can fit four rows.

July 19, 1970. Apparently, people have houses inside a national park. You can’t really blame Yogi in the final panel, can you?

July 26, 1970. You’ve got to love the bears who act like bears, then there’s Yogi who acts human.

August 9, 1970. Isn’t that a great cow in the final panel?

August 16, 1970. Nice perspective in the opening panel. Note Yogi’s teeth in the last two panels. The four Ranger Smith heads over a white background is a great idea.

August 23, 1970. I guess Yogi plans on selling the golf balls. I don’t know why else he’d think living up a golf hole is great.

August 30, 1970. If Countess Van Snoot didn’t have a point on her nose, I’d say it was Fred Flintstone in bad drag. The writer fits in a Yogi rhyme. I really like the dog design but... a bear with a pet dog?!? Note the two-headed Smith; it’s about the best animation effect you can do without any animation.

You can click on any of these comics to make them larger. My thanks again to Richard Holliss for supplying them.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Jinks Sees a Ghost

Some of my favourite drawings of Mr. Jinks came from the pencil of Mike Lah, who spelled off the regular animator in a number of cartoons in the early episodes of The Huckleberry Hound Show. You want fear or pain takes? Lah’s the guy you want.

I like his work in “Jinks’ Mice Device,” but he comes up with some funny poses in “The Ghost With the Most.” Lah takes over from Ken Muse after the iris fades out at the 2:30 and animates about the next two minutes and 15 seconds of footage. Pixie and Dixie try to convince Jinks there’s a ghost in their house. Pixie rolls up a window shade. Jinks is terrified. Lah alternates three drawings in a shake take.

Here’s the extended arm run that Lah liked using. Note that Jinks’ tail vanishes.

Lah was able to save Hanna-Barbera some money in many of his scenes by holding a character in position and changing the mouth shapes on the face. But in this scene, he actually re-draws Jinksie completely when the cat looks at the camera. Granted, there aren’t a flurry of drawings, but there’s more than one of Jinks’ body. Here are two of them.

This is an example of the body being held on a cel and a number of mouth shapes used (and re-used) in dialogue.

Did kids notice the lack of full animation? Likely not. There’s enough movement on the screen to match the dialogue. (On the other hand, I always noticed when characters ran past the same thing).

As a contrast, you see a version of Jinks, likely the work of Dick Bickenbach, who put together the model sheets for the characters that were designed by Ed Benedict.

Bick’s work is always very attractive but Lah’s takes are an awful lot funnier (Bick was certainly a capable animator, as he showed in his work at Warner Bros. before leaving for MGM in the mid-‘40s).

At the risk of repeating myself, it seems the studio abandoned fun poses like this fairly quickly as the workload increased. You’d never seen Wally Gator or the Hillbilly Bears drawn this way.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Inks and Jinks

There’s never enough praise for the ink and paint department at the major animation studios. While the animators, their assistants and in-betweeners draw great action on paper, someone must have a lot of talent to take those drawings and accurately reproduce them on cels.

The inker’s work is a little more noticeable when there are animation effects. Hanna-Barbera always seemed to have characters zipping out of a scene with some dry brush strokes left behind; the theatrical studios used dry-brush as well. I imagine the effect was indicated on the story panels that went to the layout artist and thence indicated on a drawing to ink and paint.

Here’s some interesting dry brush in the Pixie and Dixie cartoon “The Ghost With the Most” (1958). Jinksie is turning his head and plopping the “unconscious” Dixie in a flower pot before rushing off camera. What’s a little different here is there are extra eyes and noses indicated as Jinks turns his head. The animator of this cartoon was Ken Muse and I can’t think of when his artwork had additional eyes like this. (Carlo Vinci had nose smears in a few of his earliest cartoons).

The head of the ink and paint department at Hanna-Barbera was Roberta Greutert (Bill Hanna misspells her name in his autobiography). She arrived at MGM in 1938 and was eventually the assistant head of the department under Art Goble. The two went to Hanna-Barbera after MGM closed in 1957; Goble was put in charge of titles. Greutert’s husband was Henry Greutert, Jr., a sculptor who worked in art direction for live action films at Metro (I have been unable to ascertain her maiden name). Back Stage magazine reported in its September 24, 1971 edition upon her retirement that she trained 4,000 painters over 33 years. She died in 2007 at the age of 93, going by the name Roberta Marshall (as in Lew Marshall).

From what I understand, ink and paint was housed in a separate building when H-B Enterprises set up shop in the old Chaplin studio on La Brea. There was no room for ink and paint in the little cinder block bunker at 3501 Cahuenga, where H-B moved in 1960; some inkers and painters worked from home. Finally, when the brand new building was built down the street at 3400 in 1963, all the departments (initially) were under one roof.

We’ll have more on this cartoon in a post on Saturday morning.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Hokey Wolf — Tricks and Treats

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Don Patterson; Layout – Paul Sommer; Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre; Written by Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Hokey Wolf, Farmer Smith, Humphrey – Daws Butler; Ding-a-Ling, Humane Society Woman – Doug Young.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Production No E-145.
First aired: week of March 13, 1961.
Plot: Hokey cons a farmer into giving him free grub by feigning a leg injury.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.

The most interesting animation in the first Hokey Wolf cartoon is when our hero places his finger in the rifle of Farmer Smith, daring him to shoot. He does. Here are the individual drawings. The third drawing is shot on twos, the rest on ones. (P.S.: nice going on the DVNR on the DVD, Warner Home Video).

Hokey Wolf really doesn’t interest me and I’ve been working through my head about why that is. In this particular cartoon, Warren Foster has written a solid story, Daws Butler’s voices are tops as always and Monty has some interesting colour choices in his backgrounds, but I just can’t get into it. Maybe it’s because Hanna-Barbera wasn’t just borrowing from sitcoms—The Honeymooners or, in this case, Phil Silvers—it was now borrowing from itself. Tall schemer, short conscience? Sorry, I’d rather watch Yogi Bear and Boo Boo do the same thing (the praise Ding-a-Ling heaps on Hokey must be inspired by the 1954 Warners cartoon “Dr. Jerkyl’s Hide” written by Foster). And how many more times did H-B use that formula?

Don Patterson, a veteran of “Fantasia,” “Dumbo” and some crazy takes in “A Fine Feathered Frenzy” at the cost-conscious Walter Lantz studio, is pretty much reduced to walk cycles and characters standing around talking. He gives it a good try every once in a while. Here’s Hokey faking having his leg in a trap and howling in “pain.” The only thing that moves here is the head.

A good effect is a flash camera effect, where the screen turns white when a “photo” is taken. You can see the same thing in the Yogi Bear cartoon, Space Bear, which was also animated by Patterson.

Whether it came from Foster’s storyboard or Paul Sommer’s layouts, I don’t know, but there’s silhouette animation of Farmer Smith.

Sommer would have designed the incidental characters. I like Humphrey, the photographer.

I mentioned above that the backgrounds were painted by Fernando Montealegre, if the credits are correct (I’m not fully convinced they are). As you can see by the interior above, he abandoned the great, stylised flat designs which I really like in those 1958 Huck and Yogi cartoons. Here is his farmhouse. Note the pink clouds and the shades of green in the trees.

Foster gives Hokey some nice dialogue here: “Neat. Well-kept. You’ll notice around that wheat field a little border of dichondra. It makes it dressy. Gives every evidence of being stocked with good, whoooolesome food.”

Hokey, a la Phil Silvers’, keeps up a steady stream of disorienting patter. “Well, it’s lucky for you,” he says to the rifle-toting farmer,” I am a no-good, thieving, low-down, good-for-nothing wolf, or I’d sue you for slander. Ding-boy, snap this picture (click). Good boy. Now a close-up of the cruel trap. (click) And another one like this (Hokey pulls rifle up to his face). For protection, you know. It’s my best side (click). Now get one of the defendant. Smile. That’s it (click).” When the farmer asks what it’s all about, Hokey explains he needs evidence for court. “Cruelty?” says the farmer. Hokey moves his trapped leg. “This isn’t exactly a charm bracelet on my leg, you know.”

The farmer doesn’t have time to think that he never laid a trap. “You didn’t know (it was Be Kind to Animals Week)! But the whole world will know. I can see the headlines now: “Jury Convicts Farmer...” uh, come, come, the name. This must be spontaneous.” It’s the kind of finger-snapping line Silvers’ Bilko (or, later, Top Cat) might blurt out. Anyway, the farmer is conned into taking him into the home to feed him back to health, similar to the plot of the 1958 Yogi Bear cartoon Tally Ho Ho Ho (“Here it is, wolf,” says the farmer. “Some nice, hot barley water. Just the thing for your shocked condition.”). Like Yogi, Hokey isn’t satisfied and raids the fridge. And like the Yogi cartoon, the farmer discovers the fakery, in this case when he catches Hokey dancing.

Hokey, however, has hedged his bets. He calls the Humane Society to give it a scoop—Farmer Smith has befriended a crippled wolf and is nursing him back to health. And it works. The Humane Society people arrive just as the now-clued-in farmer is about to clobber Hokey. They take pictures of the fake-smiling farmer as he feeds the wolf. “That Hokey,” says Ding-a-Ling to the audience, “He’s the greatest wolf ever” as the cartoon ends. Ding, evidently, has never seen a Tex Avery cartoon.

Doug Young plays not only Ding-a-Ling, but lends his voice to the matronly Humane Society woman. I can’t think of another time he did a falsetto voice in a cartoon, but it’s as funny as Don Messick would have done.

Hoyt Curtin’s tracking library opens with his version of “Strolling Through the Park One Day.” The other cues will be familiar to you from Snagglepuss and Lippy the Lion cartoons.

Hokey (originally named “Wacko Wolf” until, perhaps, it was realised Larry Harmon had a cartoon character with that name) was supposed to replace Yogi Bear on the Huck show when Yogi got his own show at the end of January 1961. But the Hokey cartoons weren’t ready. Yogi reruns were featured on the Huck half-hour until the first Hokey short was ready in March; a rerun of Huck’s great Spud Dud accompanied it that week.

No, this is not going to be the first of a bunch of Hokey reviews. As I say, I’m not a big fan of the series and I frankly don’t have the time to blog, let alone attempt to mask TV cable network bugs on frame grabs for a series I’m not interested in. I will say it’s a shame that this series and the remainder of the Huckleberry Hound and Pixie and Dixie cartoons that don’t have music issues aren’t out on DVD.