Saturday, 25 May 2019

The High Fallutin-est

My favourite Hanna-Barbera cartoon series turns 60 years old this September 28th. Quick Draw McGraw debuted on that date in 1959 on KTTV Los Angeles and other stations (though it aired on other days of the week elsewhere, depending on what time Kellogg’s could purchase).

“There’s a western craze, so we created a western cartoon in Quick Draw,” Joe Barbera told the Los Angeles Times at the time. There was more to Quick Draw than that, though. Writer Mike Maltese loved Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler epics from the silent era, so he added that to the mix and Quick Draw became El Kabong. Maltese found the concept of an amoral dog who went into ecstasy over dog biscuits funny, so he came up with Snuffles. And along the way he invented an orange mountain lion with a touch of Bert Lahr. So it was that the original Snagglepuss appeared on a few occasions on the Quick Draw show before eventually getting a make-over and his own segment with Yogi Bear.

The series aired a year after Huckleberry Hound’s debut. By this time, critics had become huge Hanna-Barbera fans, praising the Huck show for its gentle satire that was adult-friendly (and the fact they weren’t old theatrical cartoons). Some were a little bit TV snobbish, so they appreciated the fact that someone was taking shots at the industry’s clich├ęs (such as detective series and somewhat-incompetent father sitcoms).

Here’s a little summary from the Des Moines Register of November 22, 1959.

TV's '98th Western"
Kids the Other 97
(Exclusive Dispatch to The Iowa TV Magazine)
NEW YORK, N. Y.—Hanna and Barbera, the team that created "Huckleberry Hound" and "Ruff and Reddy," now have a third series on the home screens. It's titled "Quick Draw McGraw" and is a takeoff on westerns, whodunits and situation comedies. The humor appeals to adults. "Quick Draw" is the ninety-eighth western on television. Unlike its predecessors, it's guaranteed to be like all the others, except that it's not self-conscious.
To the despair of his sensible sidekick, Baba Looey, a Mexican burro with a Cuban accent. Quick Draw almost never gets his man.
Second part of the half-hour series features "Snooper and Blabber," a cat and a mouse who wear trench coats and gum soled shoes and run a detective agency.
Hero of the third part, a situation comedy, is Augie Doggie, a dear, cuddly little fellow who is always buttering up Doggie Daddy, an old vaudeville performer with a low boiling point.
Augie brings home such cute playmates as an old beat-up pony or a little Martian boy, and Daddy is so nice about it that Augie calls him "the Daddy of the year."
"Quick Draw" is now being seen on 150 stations. It's not network, and it's not syndication. It's what the sponsor calls "spot-work," and it involves a larger lineup of stations than most network shows.
(In the area served by the Iowa TV Magazine, "Quick Draw McGraw" is seen on eight stations. On Monday it is shown by WOC-TV and WOI-TV. Tuesdays: KMTV, KROC-TV, KVTV and WMT-TV. Wednesdays: KMMT and WGEM-TV. Times vary and are listed in the individual station logs elsewhere In the magazine.)
The Quick Draw McGraw Show came to Canada on January 4, 1960. CBC stations broadcast it at 5:30 p.m. on Mondays. Bob Blackburn of the Ottawa Citizen editorialised about the series on January 12th. He’s one of those guys who kind of approves of it, but wants “adult whimsy.” That sort of thing was tried on the Boing Boing Show on CBS that he lauds. The only problem is kids don’t want “adult whimsy.” They want to laugh.
Cartoons In The TV Age
TV has given the animated cartoon a new look, but it isn't new enough.
I give you as a sample, Quick Draw McGraw (CBOT, Mon. 5.30), who is a cousin of Huckleberry Hound (CBOT, Wed. 5.30).
McGraw just hit the air last week, and already, evidently, has staked a claim on local viewing habits.
McGraw is a horse, and his claim to fame, as I caught it on last night's show, is that he can draw a gun faster than anyone else in the west. Just give a pencil and paper and watch him go. Well, this is a gag that could wear thin after a while, but I'm sure they won't lean on it too long.
Thing is, the show is a hearty spoof of westerns, and it's a spoof that amuses even small kids, and I think this is a very healthy move. I was delighted that (a) the spoofing was going on, and (b) the kids were amused by it.
Better yet, this is not just a simple spoof of one type of show. It's a follow-up to Huckleberry Hound, which is still going, and it spoofs 'em all westerns, adventure, private eye, and the rest. It encourages the kids to develop a good sound derision for all the junk they see on TV.
The fact that Quick Draw McGraw is a simultaneous sequel to Huckleberry Hound indicates that this expensive technique is feasible for TV. Before these series, the animated stuff we had on TV was nothing but the aged movie-house fare that would no longer even serve to divert the youngsters at a holiday Saturday morning cartoon show. They used the hopelessly outdated Felix The Cat things, and only on a Disney-controlled show would you see more recent efforts.
There's a temptation here is reminisce about the movies a few years back, when people who are now grandparents would judge the merits of a movie-house bill considering whether it included a "Silly Symphony" or a "Mickey Mouse" (almost any cartoon was a "Mickey Mouse") before settling on the evening's schedule.
A New And Mobile Peanuts?
More interesting, I think, to note that there's a new era developing in the animated cartoon field, and the above-mentioned programs are the pioneers.
At first look, they're not too encouraging. They're picking up where the movies put childish things behind them and launched adult whimsy of the Gerald McBoing-boing, Mr. Magoo, and that there apartment-house janitor type. They start just below the Tom And Jerry level. The technique is the most modern . . . they produce cheaply but without eyestrain ... but the content regresses a little.
That's okay. They've learned to make the least animation look like the most. Instead of inventing story lines, they satirize the standard TV series, which beg for it. They don't create characters, but father imitations. Augie Doggie's pop sounds like Durante. McGraw's buddy is a natural for Desi Arnaz. Blabber Mouse (I think ... I'm getting all these mixed up) is George Gobel. Yogi Bear is . . . well, listen spot 'em for yourself.
All these are money-saving shortcuts that make original cartoons for TV possible, and they serve very well for the juvenile market that's aimed at right now.
But now that it's been proven feasible to present this type of art on TV, it shouldn't be too long until they start tailoring cartoons for adults (ideed [sic], Quick Draw McGraw and friends come out with some pretty sophisticated lines). Cartoons are the comic strips of TV, and any day now I hope that a Shulz [sic] or a Feiffer or a Kelly is going to emerge in this field, as they did in the comic-strip field and help us see the humor in our daily antics. The way has been paved.
My one regret about Quick Draw is the series never got a DVD release. A few cartoons from the show ended up on Hanna-Barbera compilation discs. The late Earl Kress was working on the project and found not only were some of the connecting materials on the half hours either missing or in poor shape, the music rights had reverted to the composers or their estates and clearance for some of the cues would have been cost-prohibitive. He also mentioned the Huckleberry Hound Show DVD didn’t sell as well as Warner Bros. hoped and that discouraged the company. I’m not holding out any hope we will see a release (though there are enough cartoons without music rights issues to fill a DVD with individual cartoons) but unexpected things can sometimes happen in the corporate headquarters of Show Biz Land.


  1. What a way for one DeWitt Clinton "Clint" Clobber to start his holiday weekend--Relegated to a dismissive, vague occupational description (...that there apartment-house janitor type) by the Fourth Estate. At least fellow Terrytoon stars Gaston LeCrayon, with his controversial appropriation art, and John Doormat, subject of a lengthy investigation involving his wife's "disappearance", are name-dropped once in a while.

  2. love this info ! i had NO idea the quick draw show came before yogi's show. and that all these newspaper articles from the time existed. i'll be 63 come august-but i didn't realize baba looey was a desi arnaz nod until my early teens. it's just so wonderful to finally FINALLY find people who appreciate the early HB stuff.

    1. Yogi gets confusing in that he was part of the Huck show when it first aired in September 1958. He didn't star in his own series until January 1961.

  3. I take exception to Bob Blackburn referring to the silent Felixs as "Hopelessly outdated things". To take just two examples, "Sure-Locked Homes" and "Felix Woos Whoopee", are both great, spooky cartoons. Felix was an empathetic creature in the 1920s, he had the Chaplin pathos. My favorite cartoons from the 1950s TV era were the Aesop Fables, silent Felixs (with beautiful piano scores)and the silent Koko the clown Out of the Inkwells. You haven't seen Felix unless you've seen the comical whimsical Otto Messmer Felix cartoons. It's sad that so many people only know the Oriolo TV Felix cartoons, if they know him at all. Perhaps some day the Felix DVDs will come out, are ya listening Steve S.? By the way, Blackburn wasn't the only TV critic who made snide remarks about the silent cartoons shown on TV. Those critics never asked us cartoon fans what WE liked. I liked Queeks Straw very much too.

    1. There was a lot of bashing of theatrical cartoons by TV critics in the 1950s, not just the silents. Kids, of course, loved them. Some critics seemed to think they were old hat, that they had been run into the ground. Others sniffed that they were too low-brow. A few didn't like the "violence" of Popeye.
      Felix was a great character and some of the background artwork in the Felix cartoons toward the end of the 1920s was beautiful.

    2. Of course, that resulted in THE BUGS BUNNY SHOW having nonviolent bits in between (thank GOd only one or two of the Daffy vs Bugs one sided wars.)

      Felix of course was starting his oft-debated TV series, though I just now see the reference by Mark Kausler (hey, any with the magic bag is taking full use of animation, though, of course, the original WW1-1920s is where it began and I HAVE seen those Messmer oens and throughly enjoyed then.) Of course, not just cartoons but rock, even bebop was under attack..

    3. The pean in the story to the "adult whimsy of the Gerald McBoing-boing, Mr. Magoo, and that there apartment-house janitor type" did miss out on the reality that in the world of syndicated and Saturday morning television, whimsy only went so far if it lacked the creativity to entertain kids (and adults) in multiple viewings.

      The critics of the 50s loved the stylistic advances of the UPA efforts, but a lot of them, especially after about 1952, don't stand up all that well to repeat viewings. That's also what made the early Hanna-Barbara efforts more enjoyable than the later fare, in that things had become so streamlined there was nothing in the pure comedy efforts to latch onto for multiple viewings.

  4. I can never understand why the first "HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW" set did not sell. I'd read somewhere that the cover art of the set "misled" consumers into believing that the cartoons were "tampered with" and that this was not representative of the actual show. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, when cartoons were repeated on certain half hours, you actually do see the cartoon again, but why would that bother the obsessive completist? "THE HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SHOW", VOL. 1 remains my all-time favorite of all the Hanna-Barbera collections, and I still hope that all the red tape can be compromised for the continuation, because there are some leftover HUCK and YOGI cartoons that I've always enjoyed before the scores reverted to those more familiar TV fare...and yes, I do hope that they do continue to find better quality sources for "QUICK DRAW MCGRAW" materials and work out those bits of legal red tape as well. I'd hate to see the materials that remain in good shape from those earliest cartoons just rot away further instead of seeing some sort of release, even if only in some sort of Hanna-Barbera overview beyond the CARTOON CRACK-UPS disk released many years ago.

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