Saturday 30 March 2019

Bear Knuckles Fight

Back in the 1960s, there was one toy that, for me, was a little uncomfortable. Parents bought their kids inflatable punching bags with whatever character the manufacturer was able to license. To the right, you see a newspaper clipping from 1989 with a later version of a Yogi Bear punching bag.

My question is—who would punch Yogi Bear?

Yogi was nice. He was a funny character. He was essentially good. He wasn’t violent or anti-social. Why would anyone want to punch him? Even Ranger Smith never did.

(As an aside, my brother had a Popeye punching bag. Popeye, at least, engaged in fisticuffs. But he was a good guy, too, and liable to whop the crap out of you like he did to Bluto. Who’d want to get into a fight with him?)

There was one Yogi Bear cartoon in the early years that involved punching. Prize Fight Fright wasn’t motivated by violence or revenge. The world’s boxing champ was, for unknown reasons, training in Jellystone Park and piqued Yogi’s interest with a sign offering free meals for sparring partners.

The cartoon was animated by Ken Muse, a real workhorse for Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera starting when he arrived at MGM following the strike at the Walt Disney studio. He did some beautiful work on Tom in some of Hanna and Barbera’s musical cartoons (The Cat Concerto, Texas Tom, Solid Serenade) but, to be honest, when it comes to the Hanna-Barbera studio, I like the animation by Carlo Vinci and Mike Lah (and, later, George Nicholas) a lot more.

As far as I know, the animators at Hanna-Barbera in the 1950s did their own effects animation. Muse had a particular way of drawing impacts. He started with kind of a jagged halo, sometimes solid, which developed a hole in the centre in the next drawing and became a lumpy line in the third.

Here’s another example, with a Yogi head-jerk drawing added.

And another.

Yogi’s an eater, not a fighter, in this cartoon. He doesn’t throw a single punch. However, the plot turns and Yogi is named champion (from a media-staged sparring demonstration?) because the champ bops Yogi’s right glove and centrifugal force does its work.

Here is why Muse was the footage king at Hanna-Barbera. In this part of the scene, there is one drawing of Yogi and two of the champ. The only thing on separate cels are a couple of arms and some effects animation, includings some dry brush.

Every once in a while, Muse comes up with drawings I really like. One is in this cartoon, where Boo Boo accidentally punches Yogi.

No, when I think of Yogi Bear, I don’t think of a fighter. He’s someone who shows up in Cincinnati to show support for kids who are having to deal with diabetes (see top clipping to the right from 2006). He’s someone who shows up at fairs and other events (including store openings) with his pals to entertain his fans (see bottom clipping from 1961).

He’s someone who was given his own cartoon spinoff series, and continued to star on the small screen in various programmes (the less said about some, the better), the Hanna-Barbera studio’s first feature film and, years after being created, a quasi live-action movie. Okay, maybe the last one was really misguided, but isn’t it the human creators of it to blame?

I say again—who would punch Yogi Bear?

Friday 29 March 2019

Rudy Cataldi

He wasn’t at the Hanna-Barbera studio in the earliest days, but he worked on the original Flintstones series.

The Crescent Valley Weekly is just reporting that Rudy Cataldi died on January 4th at the age of 91.

Cataldi had the misfortune to direct on the Sinbad Jr. cartoons created by Sam Singer in the early ‘60s. Cataldi recollected in an interview on the Animation Guild website that Singer demanded only three drawings be used in every foot of film. A foot is 16 frames, meaning a drawing was supposed to be held for at least five frames. Hanna-Barbera’s limited animation varied; sometimes characters were held for a while but the action was never as static as in a Singer cartoon. (That’s Cataldi with Singer to the right).

Cataldi began his career at Walt Disney and worked under George Nicholas, who moved to Hanna-Barbera to animate in 1959. Cataldi co-owned an animation firm for a brief time which produced the not-well-remembered Q.T. Hush series that aired in syndication.

We wrote about Mr. Cataldi on our other web site in this post. I won’t go through all his credits—other websites exist for that—but he animated on “Christmas Flintstone” (1964, credits to the left), along with some less charming episodes, including the one where, somehow, Darren and Samantha Stephens end up as cartoons in the Stone Age (The only possible explanation is a spell by Aunt Clara went amiss). He also worked on the Atom Ant series with former business partner Lou Kachivas and some great people like Carlo Vinci and Irv Spence. Unfortunately, the studio’s animation was looking lacklustre and their talent was wasted.

He was employed by Bill and Joe for 23 years and had the great fortune to meet his future wife when working at the studio. Our condolences to the Cataldi family on the passing of this fine gent of the animation industry.

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Greater Than Elvis

Isn’t this a great tribute drawing to Hanna-Barbera’s greatest voice actor, Daws Butler?

I’ll bet this was drawn by H-B writer and sketch artist Tony Benedict. It has many of the same poses of the characters that were in a later drawing.

This one accompanied a fine article on Daws in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin of August 6, 1962. Ignoring the spelling mistakes and a couple of factual errors (Huck debuted in 1958, A Time for Beany in 1949, June Foray and Hy Averback were also in “St. George and the Dragonet”), it’s a nice summary of his career. At this point, his favourite character was Mr. Jinks, which I’ve read in other articles around this time.

My appreciation goes to Kerry Cisneroz for passing along this picture.

Rarely Seen Daws Butler Talks Way to Stardom

Although Daws Butler is rarely seen on either a television or motion picture screen, he is a “star” with probably a greater following than the hip-swinging Elvis.
He doesn't look much like a star—he's not tall, dark and handsome but stands about five-feet-six with features resembling a Michelangelo cherub.
Daws Butler is a voice. In fact, he's 17 voices in 17 different characters. He's Huckleberry Hound or that loquacious cat, Snagglepuss.
Children of all ages laugh with glee when Daws, impersonating the picnic lunch-stealing Yogi Bear, announces “I'm better than the a-a-a-v-e-e-r-a-g-e bear,” or when Mr. Jinx [sic], the feline with mice trouble, growls “I hate those miserable m-e-e-c-e-e-s to p-i-e-e-c-e-s.”
Daws just spent a month here vacationing with his wife, Myrtis, and his four sons, and doing some promotional work for his new television series, “The Jetsons.”
It is a series about the family of the future—sort of the antithesis of “The Flintstones,” said Daws.
George Jetson is a factory worker his job is pressing a button. And when George goes home at night to his wife and kids man, he's bushed. He plops onto the livingroom couch, jerks off his shoes and lies back with a 1-o-o-o-n-g sigh.
“Did you have a hard day at the button dear,” chirps George's little wife, Jane.
“Yeh,” mumbles George, “But these three-hour days are killing me.”
Daws plays two parts in the series. He is the 8-year-old boy of the family named Elroy.
“They shoot him off in the morning to school in a capsule,” said Daws. “He goes to school all over the world one class may be in Switzerland and he may have lunch on Oahu.”
Daws said his other character is Henry, the old superintendent of the building the Jetsons live in.
“Henry is the link with the past—he remembers things that happened today. He's a contemporary child in a period of automation.
“When Henry talks about jet planes, everyone thinks he's old fashioned.”
Daws said the family also has a maid—a mechanized one.
“She sort of mechanized Hazel,” he said.
With Daws in the show is George O'Hanlan [sic], who used to do the motion picture series, “Behind the Eight Ball.” O'Hanlan plays the father.
Penny Singleton, of “Blondie” fame, plays Mrs. Jetson while Janet Waldo, who was Corless [sic] in the "Corless Archer" series, plays the 15-year-old Jetson daughter, Judy.
The show will be in color, beginning in October on the ABC network.
This will be Daws's' fourth show—he already has “Huckleberry Hound,” “Quick Draw McGraw” and “Yogi Bear.”
Asked how he got into this business, Daws laughed and said “ironically, I first wanted to be a cartoonist.”
But after he graduated from high school in Oak Park, Illinois, he and two friends formed a variety act and called themselves, “The Three Short Waves.”
They did radio and TV impersonations of dramatic actors or comedians like Charles Butterworth, Jack Oakie and Charles Laughton. The act lasted three years, playing also in night clubs and theatres throughout the East and Midwest.
He went to New York in 1938 “and tried to peddle a couple of radio show ideas which came to very little.
“I spent two years making the rounds and writing shows drama and everything.
“I gained a lot of valuable experience,” he said.
After serving in Naval Intelligence in the second World War, when he met and married his wife, Daws and his family came to Los Angeles.
“Then I hit the radio field I'd never done anything before but guest appearances but I broke into the ‘Doctor Christian’ show with Jean Hersholt as a character actor.”
He said it was nearly impossible to break into comedy in those days because the producers and directors were satisfied with the talent they had and “didn't want to take a chance with someone new.”
However, he said he received many calls “because I was versatile and could do many voice changes and, therefore, play many parts.”
He worked on such shows as “The Whistler,” “Suspense” and a few soap operas.
In 1947 [sic] Daws got together with Stan Freeberg [sic] and they did a puppet show called “Show Time For Beany” [sic] on television.
“This was the early days of TV. Stan and I did the actual puppeteering as well as the voices. It was on five days a week, 15 minutes a night.
“At the same time I was doing ‘Tom and Jerry’ and ‘Spike and Tike’ cartoons for M.G.M.,” he said. “There I met Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera and that started me off.”
Hanna and Babera [sic] were the bosses of the cartoon shows and have expanded to the point that now they create all of Butler's shows—including “The Flintstones.”
“Huckleberry Hound” started in 1957 [sic]. Daws said Hanna and Barbara wanted to do this show but wanted a live MC.
“Huck was develped [sic] when they gave up the idea of a live MC,” said Daws. “Huck is sort of an easy going guy like the Tennessee Ernie Ford for kids and wears well with the public.
“If anyone gets hurt, it's him,” he said. “He's been with us ever since.”
Daws said the character he likes best is "Mr. Jinx,” the cat.
“He's sort of a takeoff on the New York theatre-type actor with torn shirt and all.
“You know, like Paul Newman, Marlon Brando or Peter Falk.
“He's a very easy character to adlib with—like an unintelligent verbosity.
“He has no modesty . . . if he uses the wrong word or says something wrong, he's the last guy in the world to know it.
“He's very glib.”
Daws has also been on “The Bullwinkle show,” “Fractured Fairy Tales” and did Waldo in the “Mr. McGoo” [sic] series.
He and Stan Freeberg made the record, “St. George and the Dragonet,” which sold 1 1/2 million copies. It came out at the height of Jack Webb's “Dragnet” series.
“We wrote it ourselves—Stan did the Webb character and I did all the others,” he said.
Daws said he has two records coming out—both done with Don Messick. One is titled “Huckleberry Hound and the Ghost Ship,” and the other is “Quick-Draw McGraw and the Treasure of Sarah's Mattress.”
He said they will be out in October and are on the Halloween idea “and have a lot of spook stuff.”
Daws pointed out that one-thing people don't know about the cartoons is that the voices are all done first.
“They draw up a series of characters and we choose one. Then we modify the drawing to fit the voice and the voice to fit the drawing.
“It's sort of a wedding of the picture and the voice,” he said.
Each character gets a fully developed personality, “but the ones that give me the most trouble are those with two lines—at the beginning and at the end of the show.”

And now, a bonus.

For reasons quite unknown to me, the name “Daws Butler” is not included on the record label you see to your right. Daws’ voice, however, is unmistakeable and you’ll hear him on this two-sided 78 rpm record. He plays Inky Dinky, a bear cub who learns about saving money. The tune on the other side is “Inky Dinky Learns to Save.”

Larry Morey’s name might be familiar. He was not only a lyricist for Walt Disney (Snow White, Bambi), he was in the animation business in the 1940s with John Sutherland, an ex-Disney writer who, arguably, had the finest industrial cartoon studio on the West Coast after Morey broke the partnership and went back to Disney. You may also recognise the name “Norma Zimmer.” You should if you’re a fan of Mr. Wunnerful, Wunnerful. She was Lawrence Welk’s Champagne Lady for years.

We’ve cued past the kid fiddling around with the record so you don’t have to.

Saturday 23 March 2019

A Few Things About Judo Jack

As a cartoon dog, I don’t claim to know very much about judo. But I do know it doesn’t involve grabbing someone by the tail and doing an airplane spin before letting them fly. However, that’s what we see in the Pixie and Dixie cartoon Judo Jack.

Cycle animation is involved in this scene. There are four drawings, each shot twice. Actually, there are two drawings of Mr. Jinks. They’re flipped over and painted on the other side.

And, now, the cycle. This is about the same speed it is in the actual cartoon.

This was the second Pixie and Dixie cartoon put into production. In the first few cartoons made for the Huckleberry Hound Show, the animation is jerky. Hanna and Barbera said over the years that they found that the Tom and Jerry pose reels at MGM, which were devoid of a lot of in-betweens, were pretty funny. That was the philosophy at their own studio to begin with (probably because of budget and time restraints). That means some of the first Yogi Bears and Pixie and Dixies will pop from pose to pose.

Here’s a good example from close to the beginning of this cartoon. The first drawing is on six frames, the next two are both on fours and the last drawing is on fives. There is dialogue but Pixie’s mouth doesn’t move for 19 frames.

The bulk of the animation in this cartoon is by Ken Muse, who animated the first Pixie and Dixie cartoon at Hanna-Barbera (Pistol Packin’ Pirate). He does a Tex Avery-like jaw drop and has a nice crumpled pose of Jinks, but my favourite drawings are by Mike Lah. You can see some of them in this post. On model? Lah doesn’t worry about that sort of thing. I presume Lah did his own effects animation, too, as there are several repeated swirl drawings.

In an earlier post, we mentioned Judo Jack Terry, who was a pro wrestler when this cartoon was made. One of his finishing holds was the sleeper. Judo Jack in this cartoon gives Jinks a sleeper, simply by lightly conking him on the noggin. Here’s Lah’s drawing when Jinks wakes up at Jack’s command. Lah liked open mouths that look like melted geometric shapes.

Judo Jack would never get made today. There are people who have adopted the case-closed attitude that all ethnic stereotypes are racist; a blanket opinion takes no effort. But let’s look deeper. Jack is the hero of the cartoon, something pretty daring considering the Allies had been at war with Japan less than 15 years before this cartoon was made.

During the war, stereotypes were hyper-exaggerated in cartoons (which exaggerate to begin with) to ridicule, belittle, and laugh at the enemy. That’s not the case here; they’re used as a nationalistic identifier, the same way Pixie and Dixie’s Cousin Tex is shown to be a Texan through stereotypes—cowboy hat, branding iron, vocal drawl and so on. The only character who ridicules Judo Jack is Mr. Jinks, and he is ultimately and rightly punished. There’s simply no other way to set up the nature of Jack’s character in a 6½-minute comedy—certainly not in 1958—than to rely on what are some pretty tired clich├ęs that, I hope, have been tossed away for good.

Frank Tipper was responsible for the backgrounds on this cartoon, the earlier Pixie and Dixie pirate cartoon, the later Kit Kat Kit and the first cartoon produced for the Huck show, Pie-Pirates, starring Yogi Bear (at least he’s not credited on others). When he arrived at the studio and why he left is unclear. He very well could have been working freelance; he arrived at Le Ora Thompson's studio in 1957 after two years overseas with Halas and Batchelor and Anigraph Films. Tipper was an Englishman (Manx) who arrived in the U.S. in 1921. Devon Baxter has crafted a nice biography of Tipper at the Cartoon Research blog.

This isn’t among my favourite Pixie and Dixie cartoons—it’s kind of in the also-ran category—but there are enough good elements in it to make it enjoyable TV fare.

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Flintstones Weekend Comics, March 1970

Don’t you like it when current pop culture references are mixed in with old ones as if they belong together?

Fred Flintstone has a hippie friend (in the Stone Age world of 1970). But the hippie talks like a beatnik from the late 1950s.

Mind you, I think it’s cool that Fred isn’t judgmental. The hippie’s a friend and it’s an accepted fact. No jokes about clothes or hair or baths or anything like that.

The unnamed peace medallion guy shows up in the Flintstones newspaper comics in March 49 years ago. Someone who doesn’t show up for the second month in a row are Betty and Barney Rubble. Pops is in the March 15th comic and I love the Spring and Winter characterisations in the March 22nd comic, which showcases Pebbles. You can click on any of them to make them bigger.

March 1, 1970.

March 8, 1970.

March 15, 1970.

March 22, 1970.

March 29, 1970.

Saturday 16 March 2019

The Two Handed Artist

Quick! Name the Hanna-Barbera artist who won $327,094 in the lottery!

You can cheat. The answer is in the story to the right from the Signal of Santa Clarita, California published June 22, 1988.

Alex Lovy had been in animation for more than 25 years when he jumped over to the Hanna-Barbera studio in 1959. He started as a story director; he’d draw the finished, nine-panel storyboards with dialogue, camera instructions, scene numbers and so on marked on each story sheet. He moved upward for there.

He and Joe Barbera went back to the 1930s when they were both working for New York City’s B-list cartoon studio that wasn’t named Terrytoons. A man by the name of Paul Maher interviewed Lovy in 1988. The interview is on this page if you want to see it. I won’t transcribe the whole thing, but let me glean some facts from it.

Lovy was born in Passaic, New Jersey on September 2, 1913 to Igor and Charlotte Mohr Lovy. Where his father disappeared to, I don’t know, but his mother raised him herself. He got into animation quite by accident. After graduating from high school, he wanted to be a flyer. He enrolled in the Curtis-Wright Institute where he met a chap by the name of Bill Littlejohn. Lovy had a problem like many others in the Depression—no money. So someone got him and Littlejohn a job at the Van Beuren cartoon studio. That was in 1933.

Van Beuren was releasing its cartoons through RKO, which had a stake in the studio. Van Beuren died in 1936 when RKO decided to release cartoons made by Walt Disney instead. Lovy and Littlejohn, coincidentally, moved west to work at Disney before Lovy got a job at the Walter Lantz studio. Lovy’s first directorial credit was the final cartoon in the Oswald series, Feed the Kitty (1938). Lantz’ most successful character came along in 1940 in the Andy Panda cartoon Knock Knock. It really starred Woody Woodpecker and Lovy came up with Woody’s original stubby-legged, long-billed design.

Alex left the Lantz studio in November 1942 to serve in the Navy. He also had time for two marriages to fall apart, one to Monte Maxine Harwood in 1938 and another to Florence Dotzler Burslem in 1940; her sister married Lantz animator Frank Tipper.

He left the Navy by December 1945. It’s unclear when he arrived at the Columbia Screen Gems cartoon studio, but he directed five cartoons there before it shut down; the first was the Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd knock-off Wacky Quacky.

It seems Lovy bounced around. A syndicated column in the Cincinnati Enquirer of July 1, 1948 talks of Lovy “heading a new outfit with a revolutionary pastel color process.” Another syndicated column, this one in the Battle Creek Enquirer of January 17, 1949, reveals Lovy was the artist for columnist and writer Leo Guild. The article says “He did some great war drawings and is considered by Disney and Metro to be an outstanding talent,” though I’ve seen no proof he ever worked for Fred Quimby at the MGM cartoon studio. Considering the arbitrary nature of cartoon screen credits and the short stops some people made at various studios, it is quite possible.

Lantz finally brought him back; he directed before and after Tex Avery’s brief time at the studio in 1953-54 before bolting to Hanna-Barbera in March 1959. The studio was working on The Huckleberry Hound Show and would soon have Quick Draw McGraw on the air. What was the transition from full animation (such as it was at Lantz) to the limited variety of television like?
“Oddly enough, I sort of had a warm feeling for it. It was very natural for me to go into their type of animation, which was trying to minimize moment as much as possible. We relied on dialogue rather than motion to make it funny.”
Did Daws Butler influence any of the writing because of the way his voiced the characters?
“Daws would come up with certain expressions which would lend itself idea for writing something so we could utilise that particular attitude or particular expression. He was very helpful to us.”
What of Huck?
“Huckleberry Hound was a creation of Bill and Joe. The other characters developed from Mike Maltese, myself, Bill, Joe, and a few other fellows whose names I can’t think of right now. But the end result of refining of the characters was always Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna. They had the knack of really putting a personality into a character.”
Lovy had his own company, Alex Lovy Productions, on the side while he worked at Hanna-Barbera. He left in 1966 (or perhaps early 1967) to direct theatrical cartoons for Warner Bros., including the less-than-immortal Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse. By 1968, he was back at Hanna-Barbera.

What about a certain Great Dane? Lovy was the co-producer on the original series in 1968. Why was it so popular?
“I guess you’ll have to ask the kids. I don’t know...whereas my heart belongs to Yogi Bear.”
A wise answer, Mr. Lovy.

Lovy oversaw voice sessions during part of his career. Who was the most fun to work with? Sally Struthers as the teenaged Pebbles, was his surprise answer. What about Jack Mercer in the weak Popeye series that Hanna-Barbera inflicted on kids? What about Joe Besser?
“He was all right, but he took on a character, then when we stopped recording he was back to being Joe Besser, whereas Sally was constantly who she was. [Mercer] was very professional. I just let him do it because he knew the character better than I, as a matter of fact. All I did was listen for diction.”
One thing that has been mentioned by a number of people is that Lovy could draw with both hands. And both layout artist Jerry Eisenberg and writer Tony Benedict say that Lovy was an excellent storyboard man; Jerry says his boards could be funnier than the actual cartoons but the artists had to stick to the model sheets. (That’s Lovy and Jerry at Hanna-Barbera to the right from a grainy home movie. I wonder who owned the Buick in the background).

Lovy produced the revival of the Yogi Bear Show in 1988, and then came back to Hanna-Barbera in 1990 as a storyboard artist on the Jetsons movie and on some episodes of a series called The Adventures of Don Coyote. In the meantime, Lovy married and divorced Vivian Jean twice. He died on Valentine’s Day 1992 at the age of 78.

Alex Lovy wasn’t one of the originals at Hanna-Barbera, but he arrived at the studio in its first expansion in 1959 to get Quick Draw McGraw on the air. He seems to have been well-liked and respected, and contributed in his own way to some very enjoyable cartoons.