Wednesday 12 December 2018

Scary Prairie Town

How’s this for work? There were 78 cartoons in the first season of the Quick Draw McGraw Show in 1959-60. That’s in addition to the (I think) 39 cartoons that had to be made the same year for the Huckleberry Hound Show. And Hanna-Barbera was still working on Ruff and Reddy for Saturday mornings, albeit only on the last two adventures.

The studio had three main background artists the year before—Bob Gentle, Fernando Montealegre and Art Lozzi. Gentle was the veteran; he had been with Harman-Ising before there was an MGM cartoon studio in 1937, having studied at the Otis Art Institute in the early '30s. Dick Thomas and Joe Montell joined the three in 1959 but even with five artists, Hanna-Barbera had plenty of work for all of them.

The studio generally didn’t re-use backgrounds in different cartoons (there’s one streetscape that appears in several early Snooper and Blabber cartoons) but it had to make shortcuts to meet deadlines. Here’s an example from the first Quick Draw McGraw cartoon put into production, Scary Prairie (J-1).

The cartoon opens with a not-so-scary prairie as narrator Elliot Field sets up the story.

Like probably all cartoon studios, Hanna-Barbera used cels as overlays on a background painting. In the shot above, the pinkish-white part of the desert is on an overlay. This allows something to be animated between it and the background painting. It also allows the background painting to be used elsewhere in the cartoon, not only saving work, but the artwork won’t look as repetitious.

Here’s a recreation of the second scene. You can see the same long background painting with the mountains is used, but there are overlays with buildings, a thirsty horse (whose tail is animated), and animated Westerners on the right (only the heads move). My guess is the layout artist was Dick Bickenbach, who would have created the characters.

To save work (ie. time and money), the streetscape background returns at the end of the cartoon as Quick Draw McGraw, in a gag that writer Mike Maltese borrowed from Drip-Along Daffy he wrote at Warner Bros., cleans up the one-horse town. You’ll note the thirsty horse overlay has been removed.

Credit title cards were shot (by Norm Stainback, I suspect) for the individual cartoons at the time they were made, but I don’t believe they were used until the cartoons went into syndication. Even then, many of the Quick Draws exist without credits, so it’s only my wild guess that Bob Gentle was the background artist in this cartoon. I’d have to study the backgrounds a little more.

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, or perhaps someone at Kellogg’s ad agency, Leo Burnett, didn’t feel this was a strong enough cartoon to kick off the series, though Maltese makes fun of almost every Western movie cliché. Instead, Lamb Chopped (J-11), the sixth or seventh Quick Draw in the production line, was the debut cartoon. It featured the bad-guy orange version of Snagglepuss and is a pretty funny cartoon.

Once again, I make my plaintive sigh that the Quick Draw series won’t be released on home video. The late Earl Kress said production elements (bumpers and such things) were missing or in poor condition when he went looking for them years ago and, then, a deal couldn’t be reached with the rights-holders of some of the background music, which had reverted from Capitol Records to the composers or their estates. I suppose I should never say “never,” but...

P.S.: When the blog started, I used other websites to supply the dates the early H-B cartoons first aired. A few years later, after doing my own research through newspapers, I discovered the other sites (which never gave sources) were not always correct. This blog had the wrong air date for this cartoon and has been fixed. Other early blog entries will have to be fixed when I find the time.


  1. The politically correct police will be after you for showing Quick Draw shooting himself! LOL

  2. And that closing gag in Drip-Along Daffy has inexplicably been removed from Cartoon Network / Boomerang airings. Go figure.

    I do love the irony of QD forced to clean up after his less-evolved fellow equines.

  3. So new Huckleberry Hound cartoons were in production the same time as new Ruff & Reddy cartoons? Does that mean Daws was jumping from his Huck voice to his Reddy voice during this period? (Of course, they're pretty much the same voice, but that's why I'm asking!)

    1. Yes. The studio made a limited series of Ruff and Reddys for the 1959-60 season, judging by copyright records.

    2. I doubt Dan Gordon/Charlie Shows were still there..So who wrote the R&R's by 1959-60??

    3. Gordon certainly was still there; he even got sketch credits on Quick Draw. Whether Shows wrote the final two adventures (‘Sky High Guys’ and ‘Misguided Missile’) before he left, I don't know. Otherwise, it would have been Foster or Maltese who wrote them, unless there was another writer there briefly who I don't know about.

  4. Hans Christian Brando12 December 2018 at 18:51

    You really can't overestimate the training and experience that went into this deceptively simple artwork.

  5. To this day I am still in awe of the drawings of Quick Draw and the other characters in these cartoons as well as the great backgrounds.

  6. When I saw Quick Draw with the broom, I immediately thought of Daffy getting ready to " Clean up this town " from " Drip-Along Daffy ".

  7. Not sure what Charlie Shows would have been employed to do beyond scripting the cartoons, but I was surprised, after realizing how important he was to the early H-B to see him credited on many of the HBR albums in 1965-66 for both story and songs. Did he leave and come back--or was he there all the time? I'd guess I'd have heard his name come up anecdotally in the interim if he had been. The limited IMDB has credits for him writing the BOZO cartoons and doing some POPEYEs, and even a WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR and a TINTIN adaptation, and even later he showed up on BANANA SPLITS, so he wasn't retired and, like most writers, was a free-lancer. I know that you, Don, weren't very impressed by Shows' dialogue, but it was what earned HUCKLEBERRY HOUND its only Emmy, and his cartoons are the ones that stick in my memory over later Foster episodes, so I'm a fan. (IMDB evidently feels that Shows did write the 1960 R&R episodes; certainly, the titles continue the famed Shows rhyming style all the way to the end. Whether there were actually still-existent credits to prove any of this is another question.)