Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The City of Snooper

Anyone who has ever seen a Hanna-Barbera cartoon should have noticed that characters walk, run or drive past the same things (a house, a grove of trees, an electrical socket, etc.) in the background over and over and over again.

Artists would paint long backgrounds that would be moved incrementally when shot behind the animation on camera so it looked like the characters were moving (left to right or right to left). The background was designed in such a way that the two ends of it would be painted with the same object. When the end of the background was reached, the cameraman would move it back to the other end so it looked continuous. Sometimes the two ends didn’t quite match up but it wasn’t very noticeable on the screen, if at all.

Here’s an example by (according to the credits) Fernando Montealegre from the Snooper and Blabber cartoon “Desperate Diamond Dimwits” (1959). Notice the identical pink building at both ends.

Hanna-Barbera rarely used the same backgrounds in different cartoons, but this is one of a pair of streetscapes seen in several Snooper and Blabber cartoons. Besides “Desperate Diamond Dimwits,” you’ll see it in “The Flea and Me, “Not So Dummy,” and “Fee-Fi-Fo Fumble.”

Not a lot was written about poor old Snooper and Blabber, since they were merely one component of the Quick Draw McGraw Show. TV columnists, though, were enthusiastic about the arrival of Quick Draw in 1959; by then, they had watched the Huckleberry Hound Show and enjoyed its gentle send-ups. Quick Draw was the ultimate send up. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera had decided to spoof the major types of programmes on TV at the time.

Here’s Kristine Dunn’s column in the Miami Herald of August 24, 1959.

Now Hear This, Huckleberry Fans
Good news—wonderful news, in fact for those who stampede to the TV every Thursday night at 7 p.m. to chortle at Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear.
The insurgent "adult cartoon" is about to make another attack on the era of the adult western.
Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who dreamed up Tom and Jerry for the movie screen and Huckleberry and Yogi for TV, are busy sketching a new trilogy.
Quick-Draw McGraw la the name of it.
Quick-Draw is a big, dumb dog. He couldn't outdraw the slowest hand-cuffed coward alive. Satirical? You bet!
The 10-minute Quick-Draw segment ridicules Westerns, in case you didn't guess.
Snooper and Blabber star in the second segment. Snooper and Blabber are a cat and a mouse. Private detection is their business.
The third segment hits the family situation. It's a dog's life. Quick-Draw and his friends, like Huckleberry, will appear on Channel 7. They'll take the place of Woody Woodpecker at 7 p.m. Tuesday nights.
Just what date Quick-Draw will launch his attack on the heroes of the Wild and Woolly West has yet to be announced.
A dog?!? Someone wasn’t doin’ some thinnin’ around there.

We should point out that Snooper and Blabber did star in their own show. In a way. In 1966, Screen Gems offered the 135 Quick Draw McGraw Show cartoons in full colour to any station that wanted to buy them, with or without the old connecting material (stripped of any reference to Kellogg’s). WNEW-TV in New York was one of the stations that picked them up, and starting in mid-September, launched a show on Thursdays at 5 p.m. and named it Snooper and Blabber. What other cartoons the station included in the half-hour, I don’t know.

A hunt of a few newspapers has revealed Snoop and Blab were also columnists. They were the pen names of someone at student papers at two high schools in the U.S., one in Sumner, Iowa, the other in Mapletown, Pennsylvania. The pair also got a few spotlights on disc. Hanna-Barbera Records came out with the LP “Monster Shindig” in 1965. Here’s their “theme.”

The two also “sang” on a Golden Record in 1961 backed by Jimmy Carroll’s Orchestra. It is evident Daws Butler was not employed to voice either character (he couldn’t contractually). Blab sounds more like a lame impression of Lou Costello. I admit I would have liked to have heard Snooper and Blabber do Gilbert and Sullivan as written by Mike Maltese.

Daws once said that his Snooper voice owed a lot to actor Tom D’Andrea and you can hear the similarities. But writer Maltese must have had Archie of the radio show “Duffy’s Tavern” in mind when crafting the dialogue. And Snoop mangles words just as well as Ed Gardner’s Archie ever did; in “Desperate Diamond Dimwits,” he calls the disguised jewel thief a “FACK-sim-mile” of a watchdog. (When our heroes discover there’s a crook in the pooch outfit, Snooper says “There’s skul-doggery afoot.”)

Radio disc jockey Elliot Field voices Blab in “Desperate Diamond Dimwits” and three other cartoons. Daws then took over the role; Elliot told me he needed to be hospitalised for an operation and didn’t get the part back when he came out. Elliot had done various characters on his show during his radio career and could have been a versatile player for the studio.

There appears to be fewer than ten backgrounds in this cartoon, the streetscape opened the cartoon and seems to have been used in more of a third of it. The final scene includes a pan shot but, to my eye, the background looks like it was by Bob Gentle. It’s unfortunate that these cartoons are not restored on home video; the versions uploaded on the internet are low resolution captures from a cable TV video feed and the picture gets very pixilated during a quick pan. It’d be nice to see a pristine version without all the digital fuzz.


  1. Even when I was a kid, my older sister and I noticed how the same backgrounds appeared over and over in H-B cartoons. A few years ago, I treated myself to the "Popeye, Vol. I" DVD and saw "For Better or Worser" (1935), wherein the Fleischers created a rotating 3D background for the antics of Popeye and Co. Seeing that dazzling "set" just made the H-B TV cartoons look that much more anemic.

  2. Ms. Dunn can take solace in the fact that even a for-really cartoon expert (as Augie would say) like Leonard Maltin has difficulty discerning amongst animated animals. In Of Mice and Magic he misconceived Smedley from the "Chilly Willy" cartoons as a bear, despite the presence of a long bushy tail and dog collar.

  3. The “Snooper and Blabber Show” on New York’s WNEW (now FOX-5) ran Thursdays at 5 PM.

    There were no other cartoons in the show, just THREE “Snooper and Blabbers”. There were also no true opening and closing title and credit segments. Instead chopped-up segments of the cartoon “Hop To It” (the one with a kangaroo) were run with a stock “jazzy theme” playing over them to serve as the show’s opening. Nothing actually marked the show’s ending. The next program merely started after the third cartoon and some commercials.

    Since the cartoon “Hop To It” was never seen on the “Snooper and Blabber Show”, I can’t help but wonder if WNEW may have actually cut up their print to create this mélange!

    There were similarly constructed “Quick Draw McGraw” and “Augie Doggie Shows”, each with the same “jazzy theme” and a cut-up, and therefore unseen, cartoon functioning as the show’s opening. The cut-up cartoons didn’t appear on the Quick Draw and Augie shows either!

    Quick Draw was on Mondays. Augie was (I believe) Wednesday. And Bugs Bunny, as I recall, filled the 5:00 – 5:30 slot on Tuesdays and Fridays. I can't be entirely sure about Bugs being twice a week. Though I think he was. He certainly was on Friday.

    I never missed these shows after a hard day at school! …And I can still hear – and hum – that “jazzy theme” after all these years! …Please make it stop!

    1. Yowp, thanks for an article on one of the HB, and Mike Maltgese's tru classics, and Joe, that was an extremely interesting article..!SC

    2. Thanks so much Joe for letting everyone know.

    3. Appreciate it! Just another of those childhood memories that are, for better or worse - in this case "better", forever seared into my brain!

      Cumulatively, it was like having "The Quick Draw McGraw Show" run THREE TIMES A WEEK (though without the theme and interstitials), so I couldn't help but love that!