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 clichés 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. 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.

7 comments:

  1. You can say what you want about Judo Jack being the hero, but he's still quite a stereotype. It gets even worse with Mr. Hashimoto, Wilma and Betty's judo instructor in the 1960 Flintstones episode "The Prowler."

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  2. Judo Jack was not allowed to air on CN/Boomerang because the cartoon was flagged by S&P. Fans of Judo Jack would still call us (CN programming) requesting that we break the rules and air Judo Jack. However, "The Prowler" somehow slipped through the cracks and would air on occasion. There is also a buck-toothed chinese stereotype in the last scene of "All Wong in Hong Kong, a Josie and the Pussycats episode (1970). Anyone know if Iwao Takamoto or Willie Ito had an opinion about Judo Jack or Mr. Hashimoto?

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  3. Also, Professor Goo Fee from the Fearless Fly segments of the Milton the Monster Show.

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  4. Going back almost 60 years in terms of what was and wasn't allowed on television in the most politically active markets like New York, you did see a sort of 'situational differentiation' when it came to edits or a cartoon being completely removed from airing. Asian stereotypes other than the most aggressive of the World War II era propaganda cartoons made it through, while when it came to cartoons with black characters, things like the African-American stereotypes of "All This and Rabbit Stew" and others got the ban hammer, while the Inki efforts Chuck Jones did survived.

    The difference was a cartoon using negative stereotypes as humor versus a cartoon that just happened to have a character who was African or Asian (or Latino, as with the Speedy Gonzales efforts) -- in the former, the story asked you to laugh at the character's imperfections without sympathy, while in the latter, the audience was supposed to at least in some way side with the character. In "Judo Jack" the title character's relationship to Jinx is similar to the dynamic Hanna-Barbera used in "Jerry's Cousin" or how Friz used Sylvester in his Speedy cartoons. The audience is supposed to have sympathy for the cat getting the bejeezus knocked out of him, but the audience also is supposed to have support for the character causing the pain, because the cat created the situation that led to his own downfall in the first place (the plot here, as with most of the early Pixie, Dixie and Jinks efforts, could have easily been changed to a 1958 CinemaScope Tom & Jerry cartoon as an updated version of "Jerry's Cousin" if MGM hadn't shut the studio down).

    These days, trying to explain that type of dynamic in a land of social media outrage just isn't worth the effort -- better to just throw down the ban hammer to avoid any future problems entirely.

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  5. Let's not forget Joe Jitsu from the Dick Tracy cartoons.

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  6. Agreed....I like this cartoon, especially the ending..!

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  7. I'm getting Mario 64 vibes from the way Judo Jack is swinging Mr. Jinks.

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