Saturday 27 April 2019

Ski Master Huck

“Watch ski master Huck try his luck,” Huckleberry Hound tells us at home watching a little-cartoon-before-the-cartoon. Note the pursed lips and the half-moon eyes.

Huck sees something. Now comes a head shake. What’s interesting is Huck is not animated in a two-drawing or three-drawing cycle like you’d find in a regular, seven-minute cartoon. As far as I can see, each of these are separate drawings, animated one per frame.

Huck’s elongated eye-stare reminds of an expression in a Mighty Mouse cartoon.

Huck crashes through a cabin without a scratch and relaxes as he gets set to enjoy a Huckleberry Hound cartoon.

The dialogue is unmistakably by Charlie Shows, the animation has some of the earmarks of Carlo Vinci.

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Play With Yowp

Want to make money from cartoon characters? You don’t do it with cartoons. You do it with merchandising. Walt Disney knew it. Walter Lantz knew it. Even Charlie Mintz knew it. And so did Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.

In 1958, the Huckleberry Hound Show became a TV fad. Huck, Yogi Bear, even Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks were bankable characters with loads of licensing potential. But after that? Well....

The marketing people at H-B Enterprises and Screen Gems (and maybe Leo Burnett, the sponsor’s agency) needed more. About all they could was pick out secondary characters that may have had enough popularity (and screen time) to be marketable. Boo Boo was an obvious choice as he appeared in some, but not all, Yogi Bear cartoons that season. After that, it was down to wishes and hopes. Iggy and Ziggy, the crows that harassed Huck, were in two cartoons so they got a push. So was Li’l Tom Tom, the Indian boy; girls love child dolls. And then there was that little duck that came over from MGM and showed up in a pair of Yogi Bear cartoons. If Bill Hanna loved him, the rest of the world could, too. Even Cousin Tex appeared on merchandise, though his time on the screen was limited to one cartoon.

Naturally, I’m saving the best to last.

There were two cartoons in the 1958-59 season (and one in 1959-60) featuring a dog that went “yowp.” That was good enough for appearances in bits of merchandise—a gin rummy game, birthday table cloths and napkins, a Huckleberry Hound/Quick Draw McGraw lampshade, a Huck giant playbook by Whitman, a rubber stamp set, even wash-off tattoos. Not bad for a dog that can only say one word, eh?

Whether Keith Semmel reads this blog, I don’t know, but he found another way kids can play with Yowp at home. A company called Tower Press in Britain came out with a card set to play a variation of Old Maid. Huckleberry Hound “Booby” featured 18 pairs of cards plus two Booby cards (only one was used in the game so it wouldn’t match). Keith points out a fine individual has posted scans of the cards on line. The game was created in 1962 but it still has some minor characters that faded away (except for the annoying duck) as the studio created more and more stars.

Here’s Yogi ironing a shirt he doesn’t wear. There’s also one of the Booby cards.

Pixie and Dixie are playing cricket; ask your English friends what an over is. Huck is a London bobby (not booby) as he was in Piccadilly Dilly. Yakky Doodle was named Iddy Biddy Buddy in the first season of the Huck show before getting his own cartoons in 1961.

Some nice personas for Huck in this set. Wasn’t he a magician in one of those little cartoons between the cartoons?

The kangaroo is Kapow, who bested Jinksie in one solitary cartoon. Iggy is the crow with the straw hat, Ziggy is the other.

Cousin Tex, Li’l Tom-Tom, Jinks in formal wear and a red-eyed Yowp.

Times have changed. I’m not really certain what kids play today. I doubt it’s a two-or-more-person card game. For one thing, young people seem to spend a lot of time alone punching letters on a handheld. And cards are low-tech and, in an era where Donkey Kong is quaint and nostalgic, really old fashioned. But I’d like to think those of us approaching senior citizenship had good times with simple board games and cards, and that’s the main thing. I suspect Hanna, Barbera and Screen Gems were happy about it, too.

Saturday 20 April 2019

Giddyup Chair

Not all the cartoons-between-the-cartoons on the Huckleberry Hound Show involved a circus. Here’s one set on a patio, with the background art by Fernando Montealegre.

Lounging Pixie and Dixie are apprised by Huck that a Pixie and Dixie cartoon is coming up. The meece quickly escape from Mr. Jinks.

Jinks slides into the scene and decides to rest in the patio chair. It closes on him. There are some good, simple expressions on Jinks.

Jinks won’t miss the cartoon, though. “Giddyup, chair!” he cries as the chair gallops in a little cycle with a clacking sound in the background.

I have no idea who animated this. It wasn’t one of the regular animators from the 1958-59 season so I’m presuming H-B Enterprises farmed it out. The characters are drawn with wide, open mouths, but not quite the way Carlo Vinci animated them.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Flintstones Weekend Comics, April 1970

The writers at Hanna-Barbera tossed all kinds of cartoon characters into the mix with fairy tales, so why not the Flintstones? Thus Gramps sees the Three Little Pigs in the April newspaper comics 49 years ago.

My thanks to Richard Holliss for the colour version of the April 13th comic.

Click on any of them to see them better.

April 5, 1970.

April 12, 1970.

April 19, 1970.

April 26, 1970.

Saturday 13 April 2019

Somersault Huck

Perhaps the best-looking Huckleberry Hound cartoons are the little cartoons-between-the-cartoons made for the series’ first season in 1958. Huck and the rest of his friends are fully animated, with nice stretchy mouths and fluid body movement.

Mike Kazaleh says they were animated by Phil Duncan. I’m presuming Duncan did them on a freelance basis.

The little cartoons are set in a circus, which fits the theme of the opening and closing animation. In one of them, Huck is on a trapeze. He’s very attractively drawn.

Duncan comes up with a cycle of ten drawings as Huck spins in mid-air. They’re animated one drawing per frame. Compare it to those later Hanna-Barbera cartoons where a character stands rigid with an arm moving on a separate cel. The spotlight follows Huck.

Huck tells us not to miss the next cartoon as he misses the trapeze. Bill Hanna’s timing of Huck hanging in mid-air before falling is perfect. I like how Huck sprouts extra arms as he drops. Those drawings are on twos.

These little connecting cartoons were one of the things that made the Kellogg’s half-hour shows so enjoyable to watch. The mini-cartoons may not be hilarious, but they make you smile. At least, they make me smile. And they make you wonder what the H-B cartoons would have been like if the studio had the time and budget to fully animate the characters. Full animation opens up the possibility of more visual gags (and better-looking ones). On the other hand, there are plenty of fully animated colour cartoons that leave you cold. The early Hanna-Barbera cartoons, at their best, used clever stories, top voice work and nice settings to help make the cartoons funny. Limited animation didn’t hurt them.

Wednesday 10 April 2019

Satirical Canape

A satirical canapé?

Someone in Arnie Carr’s PR department at Hanna-Barbera came up with that one and tossed it into news releases about the studio’s newest cartoon series, The Flintstones. I’ve found it twice in blurbs that appeared in newspapers prior to the show’s debut.

First we peer into the Courier-Post of Camden, New Jersey. Here’s what was published on August 27, 1960. The story is almost prophetic. It refers to I Love Lucy, and this is long before Bill and Joe ripped off the pregnancy angle from Lucy.

TV Cartoons Scheduled for Adult Viewers
How does TV plan to stimulate the adult intellect this fall?
Why, with cartoon people, of course. Cartoon people in life-like situations devised for adult viewing and thinking.
"It's generally agreed that real people have made a pretty good mess of things. We're trying cartoon people this time," said an aide at the Hanna Barbera cartoonery.
Offer 'The Flintstones'
So Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, the developers of "Huckleberry Hound" and "Quick Draw McGraw," are offering "The Flintstones."
The show will debut Sept. 30 on ABC-TV in one of the primest half hours in television; 8.30-9.00 p. m.
It's the first cartoon series devised for grownups, aired in a grownup time slot.
Can it click?
Most of the new shows in television will prance out of high-powered, high-domed, ultra-posh sound stages where glamour is the A-Line staple.
Blue Chip Prospect
The Flintstones were born in a maze of tiny rooms in an old movie studio behind a Hollywood supermarket.
But there'll be just as many millions riding on the pen and ink wizardry of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera as on the platinum-plated jobs.
And in the eternal grab for rating riches, Madison ave., believes The Flintstones look like a blue chip prospect.
The series is a situation comedy. It has the heart of "The Honeymooners" and the burlesque genius of "I Love Lucy."
But more than either, it's a satirical canape of the human comedy using cartoon situations, cartoon locales and, wittily, cartoon humans
The Daily News of Dayton, Ohio served up canapés on August 30, 1960.
BILL HANNA and Joe Barbara, who have been eminently successful in efforts to entertain the kiddies with Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw, will try to do the same for adults this season with a series called 'The Flintstones' . . .
The series is described as "a satirical canape of the human comedy", employing cartoon situations and cartoon locales as well as cartoon humans . . . Warren Foster, who has written a dozen of the stories, opines:
"Cartoons are another strata of entertainment. We expect the kids to watch the show, but it's the adults who will really enjoy it . . . "It's the first new idea in television in 10 years".
The series hadn’t debuted when this column appeared in the Orlando Sun of September 18, 1960. There are several interesting things about it. Dino’s spelling of “Deeno” was not unusual in the early months of the series. This is another article which states there was no pilot film for the show. That “pilot” found in the studios archives and later broadcast on cable TV and put on the Flintstones DVD was apparently not shown to a network or potential sponsors; “pilots” don’t have film markings like that short piece of film does. And like other stories of the period, indications are sponsors loved the show and signed on the dotted line right away. Years later, Barbera gave a tale of woe of trying to find a sponsor for “eight straight weeks”; Joe always seemed to have a story of underdog hardship about his cartoons in later years.

Oddly, studio publicity art didn’t accompany the story, the drawing by Al Kilgore to the right did.

Stone-Age Suburbia
A new cartoon twist for a setting as old as time adds up to a bold gamble

"What's new on television for this new season?"
Well, there's sure to be a few more Westerns, a police drama or two, maybe another adventure series here and there.
One upcoming series that seems truly worthy of the designation "new" is ABC-TV's soon-to-be-seen "Flintstones" series, which premieres on Sept. 30.
What's so different about "Flintstones?" To begin with, it's an adult cartoon series, first ever tried by a network in a prime evening time slot.
"FLINTSTONES" paints a bright, satirical picture of family life as it might have been in prehistoric suburbia. The language and behavior of the characters are strictly 20th Century, but the settings, costumes and props are out of the Stone Age.
The pleasures and pressures of suburban living, from crab grass to commuting, will be shown in prehistoric perspective.
As the first situation-comedy series to be produced in animation, "Flintstones" promises fun for youngsters as well as wit and social satire for adults. Viewers will see a refreshing difference in the animated technique. Unlike children's cartoons which lean heavily on slapstick, "Flintstones" utilizes subtlety and satire in illustration and dialogue.
THE STARS are Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their irrepressible neighbors, Betty and Barney Rubble.
The supporting cast includes such interesting personalities as "Deeno the Dino" and other colorful inhabitants of the community known as "Bedrock."
Putting a radically new type of program into a top spot on a network's valuable evening schedule is almost unheard-of in television. Such a decision involves a great many people and organizations, including not only the network but the sponsors and their advertising agencies for whom such a move means a "gamble" of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It is all the more surprising therefore to find that "Flintstones" was sold without even a "pilot" or sample program to demonstrate its unusual format.
Standard procedure is to produce a "pilot" for a projected series in order to "sell" prospective sponsors. These pilots cost anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000 to produce.
IN THIS CASE, one of the co-creators of "Flintstones," Joe Barbera, came to New York armed only with a pile of sketches and an amazing ability to act out each role of the series before any audience he could reach.
Advertising agency TV executives, who are usually calloused and bleary-eyed from having watched dozens if not hundreds of pilot films each spring, were completely enthralled by Barbera and his act.
The story of how "Flintstones" was sold has become a Madison Avenue legend.
Barbera and his partner, Bill Hanna have turned out several other cartoon shows that have proved to be TV successes, but none was designed for adults until "Flintstones."
The voices of Fred Flintstone, his wife and the others seen in the series, are the "secret ingredients" that bring the cartoon characters to life. Handling the tasks are "old pros" of the radio-TV field. Alan Reed, who delineates Fred Flintstone in uproarious fashion, is well-known to listeners and viewers.
He was "Falstaff Openshaw" on the Fred Allen radio show, has worked on "Life of Riley" and many, many other television series.
And one more to exhaust our Flintstones clipping file. It’s from the Montgomery Advertiser of November 4, 1960. It refers to “Junior” who was jettisoned months earlier when the show was still in development as The Flagstones. The art accompanied the article. There’s no byline, making it seem this could have been one of Carr’s releases simply plunked into type.
‘The Flintstones’
Stone Age Cartoon Series Strikes Fancy Of Adults
The first situation-comedy series to be produced in animation, "The Flintstones," now being presented Thursdays on Channel 20, is providing fun for children and social satire for adults. According to reviewers the new "adult" cartoon is a decided hit.
From the drawing boards of Hanna-Barbera Productions, "The Flintstones" paints a bright, satirical picture of family life in suburbia as it might have been in prehistoric times. The language and behavior of the characters are those of the modern family, but the settings, costumes and props are out of the Stone Age. The pleasures and pressures of suburbia, from crab grass to commuting, are shown in prehistoric dwellings instead of split-level houses. The rigors of office procedures are depicted with chisels and stone tablets instead of typewriters and triplicate forms.
The "stars" are Fred and Wilma Flintstone; their son. Junior; a pet dinosaur called "Dee-no" and Dino [sic]; and their irrepressible neighbors, Betty and Barney Rubble.
There has never been a program even similar to it in television. Unlike Children's cartoons which lean heavily on slapstick with characters chasing around the screen, "The Flintstones" spotlight subtlety and satire in illustration and dialogue.
Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera have already gained their fame with youngsters as creators of Ruff & Reddy, Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw.
For 20 years at MGM, Hanna and Barbera produced "Tom and Jerry" theatrical cartoons which won seven Academy Awards.
One day, after turning out more than 125 "Tom and Jerry" strips, the frisky characters stopped moving on the artist's board and the ink dried: The upper echelon declared a burial. It didn't make economic sense, they argued; good animation is too expensive and limited animation is too shoddy. That was in 1957.
"The planned animation" was developed by the two men—a technique involving a rare commodity: experience. As Barbera puts it: "You have to know when to cut and when not to cut, it's that simple. Some people think they can save money and still come up with something good by taking cut-outs and moving them around a fixed background. Limited animation like that is a mistake."
The new technique caught on quickly. They set up their own studio and, with Screen Gems acting as distributor, they brought "Ruff & Reddy" into view. It was the story of a frisky cat and a dimwitted dog. Huckleberry Hound, the saga of a canine Don Quixote, followed in 1958 and an obtuse horse came along in 1959 to star in "Quick Draw McGraw."
This year Hanna-Barbera Productions can be considered the leading producer of new cartoons for television an occupation once considered irresponsible and worthless a few years ago by hard-headed businessmen. In fact, the firm has begun an expansion program which is expected to make it the largest animation studio in the country.