Saturday, 18 September 2021

Promoting Top Cat With Arnold Stang

Top Cat had a top cast.

Marvin Kaplan (Meet Millie) and John Stephenson (The People’s Choice, Bold Venture) had both worked on television series. Leo DeLyon appeared in nightclubs. And since Top Cat was meant to invoke memories of Phil Silvers’ quick-talking Sgt. Bilko, who better to cast as the main sidekick than Maurice Gosfield, who performed the same function on Bilko as Pvt. Doberman.

Casting T.C. himself was a bit of a challenge. Film actor Michael O’Shea was tried out but couldn’t handle the dialogue. You can read more in this post. Daws Butler was tried out but he was already doing a Silvers-like voice as Hokey Wolf. Finally, Arnold Stang won the part.

By 1961, when Top Cat first aired, Stang had distinguished himself on radio, television and film (live action and cartoon). And like many stars, he was pushed out onto a publicity tour for his show. During a stop in his hometown of New York City, the Daily News talked to him about the series, his career, the Hanna-Barbera studio, and cats. It was published November 12, 1961.

Arnold Stang Likes Doing Voice of ‘Top Cat’ on TV

Appearances are deceptive. There's Arnold Stang, for example. For years you've laughed at him; you've thought of him as such a funny, helpless, lovable dope, a pint-sized schlemiel. But you've been wrong. He's really a very smart fellow.
Arnold proved that emphatically, when as a pupil in our town's Townsend Harris High School he won a gold medal for the highest state-wide scholastic average. He also gave evidence of his capabilities through successful appearances on radio shows, among them those of Joe Penner, Henry Morgan and Orson Welles, plus many hilarious TV stints with Ed Sullivan, Perry Como and other stars.
The distraught, squeaky voiced, rabbit-like youth with horn-rimmed glasses seen on television bore no resemblance to the serious, sedate man who sat beside me in the Beverly Hills Trader Vic restaurant. There, amidst the Polynesian surroundings, he told me why after many years of appearing as Arnold Stang, he had consented to become a mere voice, that of the title role in the new cartoon series. "Top Cat" (ABC-TV, Wednesdays, 8:30 to 9 P.M.).
Accepts Challenge
Speaking in low, well-modulated tones, he said simply: "It's a challenge and I've accepted it."
"But aren't you doing what most actors hate to do—eliminating your personal identification?" I asked.
Arnold, a mere five-foot-three and weighing only 103 pounds, squinted his brown eyes and answered: "Although I've been starred and featured, I've never tried to have a show of my own. Doing a series before the TV cameras is the surest way of eliminating yourself.
"Just look at the list of comedians who used to be on the air week after week, years ago—Wally Cox, George Gobel, Henry Morgan and others. They were consumed by television. Jack Benny and Red Skelton are about the only survivors.
Real Characters
"As for 'Top Cat,' in my opinion, it's not only a highly amusing animated feature but it presents characters who are just as real as a show in which people appear before the cameras."
"But the fact is that the audience only hears your voice." I said. "They don't see Arnold Stang." "That's where the challenge comes in," he answered. "Just through my words I have to create a three-dimensional cat out of a one-dimensional picture.
Good Radio Actors
"And believe me, you've got to be a good actor to do that. But come to think of it, that's what performers and sound men had to do all the time in radio. Nothing on the air was ever as funny as some of those sound effects on the old Jack Benny and Fibber McGee and Molly shows."
"How does a fellow act the role of a cat in one of these cartoons ?" I wanted to know.
"It's quite a job." Arnold explained. "But the firm of Hanna and Barbera, who created ‘Top Cat,’ are geniuses when it comes to producing animated cartoons. You know what they did with ‘The Flintstones’ and ‘Huckleberry Hound.’ So they've worked out a good system for their live actors.
‘Story Board’
“First of all, there's a 'story board.’ It's a sheet of paper containing about 30 frames of pictures. These represent the key incidents of the action. While looking at this, we actors have a script of the dialogue; in this way we can visualize the scenes in which our lines are spoken.
"This takes place in a recording studio. We read the script and our words are taped. We convey character through our tones. For example, as Top Cat, I have a low, throaty voice, one that suggests a lovable con man."
"Now that you play a feline, are you fond of cats?" I asked.
"Oh, I like 'em; but I can take ‘em or leave ‘em," Arnold told me. "I've always owned dogs; but some of my best friends have cats."
Cats Aren't Villains
"Why is it that cats are so often portrayed as villains?"
"I don't think they are anymore," he said. "Today, most persons regard cats as very intelligent animals, strong-minded, determined and independent. Why, even such a virile fellow as the late Ernest Hemingway was fond of them.
"Incidentally, this is not the first time I've been associated with an animal. In one show I was the voice of a gorilla, and some years ago, I appeared in an NBC color special, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’ in which, believe it or not, I portrayed the giant. And that production had an animal ballet. And guess who played the hind half of a cow? None other than Jason Robards Jr!"
Audience Laughed
The son of an attorney, and the nephew of a man who at one time headed a New York City school district, Arnold was born in Chelsea, Mass. Sept. 28, 1923. Many years ago, he sent from there a postcard to the famous Children's Hour radio show asking for an audition. Getting an affirmative response, he appeared garbed in knickers and wearing glasses, to give a serious reading of Poe's poem, “The Raven.” But his voice was changing at the time. "No sooner had I read the opening line than the audience roared. From that time on, although a serious youngster, I was tabbed as a comedian," Arnold recalled.
Soon he was on radio as a regular with Bob Hope, Eddie Cantor, Fred Allen and Milton Berle. He created what is now known as the "Stang type" of characterization in "Duffy's Tavern" and the "Easy Aces" series. When TV came, Arnold made a hit as Francis, the stagehand, in the Berle shows.
A 'Serious' Actor
Arnold also appeared in many Broadway plays including "Sailor, Beware," and not long ago scored as a serious actor with his moving portrayal of Sparrow in the movie, "The Man With the Golden Arm." His success in that role was one of the highlights of Arnold's life. For despite the laughs he evokes, like most comedians, he has always wanted to be a "serious" actor.
"As a matter of fact, I'm a serious guy," he said. And always a student, he might have added. That's why, after his family had moved to New York, he was able to win that scholastic honor at Townsend Harris High.
Lives on Coast
Following years of shuttling between New York and Hollywood, Arnold, his wife, Jo Anne, and their two children, David, 10, and Deborah, 9, have finally moved to the Coast. There they bought a house in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles which, unfortunately, was destroyed by fire last week.
Stang, unlike some stars, has a special fondness for the press. He said: "My wife once worked for the Sunday section of The News and I met her the first time when she came to interview me for the now-gone Brooklyn Eagle."

Stang was one of a number of actors who fudged about their age, likely to get younger roles in radio in the ‘30s and ‘40s. He was five years older than he let on.

Screen Gems tried a different kind of publicity tour involving Stang before Top Cat aired. Here’s a description from Variety, Sept. 27, 1961.

A Screen Gems Primer On How to Promote A Cartoon ('Top Cat')
ABC-TV is preeming "Top Cat" tonight (Wed.), but there was a problem originally of how to promote the cartoon series via one of tv's traditional pre-preem road tours to warm up local audiences.
Screen Gems, the outfit that sold "Cat" to the web, solved the touring problem. SG flack chief Gene Plotknik, giving his show the edge over the three other cartoon series preeming this fall, got producer Hanna-Barabera [sic] to have Arnold Stang and Maurice Gosfield, the show's main voices, prerecord five-minutes of banter with local tv emcees. Gosfield and Stang ask the questions and spaces are left on the disk for answers, which any local performer can answer.
That accounts for the voice part of promo. As for "bodies," Plotnik got Eaves to turn out costume replicas of the cartoon characters involved, Top Cat and his pal Benny the Ball, which are being bicycled around to ABC affils in special containers. Costumes have been worn by office boys and flack gals at the local station level, who have gestured, mimed and danced to the words of Stang and Gosfield.
The "Cat" has played nine major markets since Aug. 15.
Main trouble? Plotnik says that there were no press interviews as on other promo tours. "With the press these days," he says, "you can't get down the answers in advance."

Despite the fine cast, which also included veteran Warner Bros. character actor Allen Jenkins, and an effective music library by Hoyt Curtin, the show didn’t survive. Daily Variety reported less than two months after Top Cat debuted that ABC was negotiating for a revival of The Rebel to replace the cartoon series in mid-season. That didn’t happen, but ABC announced reruns would appear on Saturday mornings the following year (Variety, March 14, 1962).

Fans will argue the show was just as popular as H-B’s other prime time animated half hours, and they might have a point. Reruns showed up on small screens season after season, first on regular TV then cable; a flash-animated movie was released in 2011; an “origin story” computer-animated film came out to major yawns several years later; and he’s one of the characters in the Jellystone! streaming series.

Arnold Stang is no longer with us (Leo De Lyon is apparently the only cast member who is) but you can always pull out home video with the 30 episodes and enjoy him one more time.

Saturday, 21 August 2021

Before Chopper

Voices! We need voices!

That was the cry at the newly-founded H-B Enterprises in 1957. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera went out and found two men who could create just about any voice that was needed in their cartoons—Daws Butler and Don Messick. Eventually, the studio had a number of actors who could fill all kinds of roles; Hal Smith, Mel Blanc, Paul Frees and John Stephenson come to mind.

It’s odd, then, that the studio would hire a man who really only did one voice. We don’t mean Jimmy Weldon, as his Yakky Doodle was a specialty voice. We mean the man who played Yakky’s cohort, Vance Colvig, Jr.

With rare exception, the son of Pinto Colvig voiced the growly Chopper. Odder still was that Vance Colvig was capable of doing all kinds of voices. I don’t know why Joe Barbera didn’t bring him in more often. Perhaps he was just too busy. By 1961, when Yakky first appeared on TV, Vance was on KTLA daily as Bozo the Clown.

He worked on one cartoon at Hanna-Barbera before the Yakky series got underway. The Quick Draw McGraw Show was coming on the air in 1959 and Barbera was on the hunt for new voices. Colvig played Tombstone Jones and narrated “Bad Guys Disguise,” the second Quick Draw cartoon that aired.

Here’s a profile (and photo via ABC) of him from the May 18, 1947 issue of Radio Life, a truly wonderful publication which published feature stories on all kinds of people working in radio in Los Angeles. It gives you an idea of the talent he had, and Hanna-Barbera could have used.

What Makes a Gag Man
By Betty Hammer
THE first time we met Vance Colvig, he blew into a restaurant where we were lunching, grabbed a waitress, waltzed the her down narrow aisle between the tables, barked like a dog, told her he was burning with mad desire for her, sat down and ordered a cup of coffee. A friend introduced us. Vance leered like Dracula, grabbed our arm, twisted it around his neck and shouted, "Leave me alone, I tell you," and, turning to the other diners, "She's crazy about me—won't leave me alone!"
By the time his coffee arrived and the waitress had nimbly eluded his clutches, we learned that, naturally, Vance was a gag man and radio actor, that his father was Pinto Colvig, gag man and radio actor; and that he always entered restaurants that way. Then, taking a spoon, he dipped it in and out of his coffee, holding the handle with both hands in the manner of a man rowing a boat and bassoed, "Ai yoock neeyem, Ai yoock neeyem," in a pretty good rendition of the "Volga Boatman." He borrowed a cigarette from us with the words, "No, thank you—never touch 'em," pretended to pound it into his forehead, pulled it out of his ear, stuck it under his lower lip, struck a match and made as if to light his nose. "Been smoking all my life and they never hurt me a bit," he exclaimed as he banged his knee reflex, rose in the air about two feet and emitted a cloud of smoke and a wheeze that sounded like a ship tearing away from its moorings. We learned that he always relaxed with coffee and a cigarette that way.
Calmed Down?
Since that first meeting, we've gotten to know Vance rather well and he no longer goes through quite such an elaborate routine. Now he merely bites us on the neck, tells us we have "dan-n-n-ncing eyes" and begs us to fly with him to San Luis Obispo.
Is Vance Colvig like this because he is a gag writer—or is he a gag writer because he's like this? We're inclined to think the latter. Many a gag man is a pretty Gloomy Gus who saves his humor for a paying job. Vance throws away many a hilarious routine on a group of strangers waiting at a bus stop, merely because he feels like entertaining anyone and everyone—occasionally even when they don't want to be entertained, but that's one of the hazards of the profession.
Or maybe it's inherited. His pop, Pinto, is a well-known cartoonist, gag man and the voice behind many a weird radio and cartoon effect. When producers call Colvig senior for a part he is unable to take because of a previous commitment, he usually refers them to Colvig junior and keeps the work in the family. Recently, the two worked together on the Frank Morgan show as the voice of "Baldy" the sheep dog (Pinto) and 'Filbert" the gopher (Vance)—and in the Capitol record album, "Bozo and His Rocket Ship."
Vance has done the gags for Tom Breneman's "Breakfast in Hollywood" program for the past four years and has contributed laugh lines to the Jack Kirkwood show, Mel Blanc program, Kay Kyser's "College," and "Bride and Groom," in addition to his free-lance work. He has barked for Asta, the dog in the "Thin Man" pictures, done voices for George Pal Puppetoons, played a pig on "Gildersleeve," a dog on the Dinah Shore show, a rooster on the Sinatra show and Japanese villains on "Pacific Story," among many other strange roles.
"I got my first part when I was six months old," he told us when we asked about his career. "It was a movie for Herbert Hoover's relief mission to Belgium during the last war and it showed a poor little starving Belgian baby as contrasted with a laughing, fat, healthy American baby. I was the laughing, fat, healthy American baby." Kid roles in movies followed and Vance supplied juvenile laughs in "Mickey McGuire" and "Buster Brown" comedies.
Can't Tell How Come
How do you get to be a gag man? "I only wish I knew," is Vance's answer. Every time Breneman mentions Vance's name on the air, he receives letters from people who want to become gag men too. It makes him unhappy, because he'd like to be able to say the magic words that lead to radio, but he just doesn't know what they are.
If you who are reading this are incipient gag men, you'll say, "All right then, how did he get started?" And the not-very-glamorous answer is—working in the parking lot at NBC. He started button-holing passing comedians and selling them gags as the poor fellows rushed to rehearsals. It was Kay Kyser who finally decided that the little guy who kept the boys in the parking lot and the big time comedians laughing with his gags and antics might do the same for a nationwide audience. That's how one gag man latched on to radio and that's the only way Vance knows about.
Of course Los Angeles City College helped. Our hero took radio and dramatics courses and graced the casts of "Merry Wives of Windsor," "Romeo and Juliet" and Gilbert and Sullivan's "Gondoliers" ("I played the title role—along with eleven other guys"). He also appeared in a collegiate musical, "Zis Boom Bah!" which was so professional it was booked into the Orpheum Theater and did a bit of touring. Movie star Jeanne Crain was an obscure cast member. Glamorous threesome on the campus in those days was Vance, Donna Reed and Alexis Smith! Vance further informed us that prior to his college days, radio prof Jerry Blunt had turned out such radio talent as writer True Boardman, Elliott Lewis, and Mary Shipp, who is more widely known on the air as "Lady Esther"!
Gives Parties
Vance lives in a fascinating little house perched dangerously high up in the Hollywood hills. His front room contains shelves of books and records and a collection of original ceramics made by a prominent local artist. From the hillside he has gathered bamboo stalks and fashioned them into shades for his windows and porch. He enjoys doing his own cooking and he'll make you a wonderful cup of coffee by grinding the beans in an old- fashioned coffee grinder. He holds an almost permanent open house and is always happy to welcome a friend (or ten) to sit and trade gags for an evening. He has a party almost every Saturday night and the phone rings constantly with calls which usually say, "Vance, I'm coming up tonight but I'm with five other people, and ..." "Swell! Bring 'em up," is the usual answer. Ill-assorted or congenial, he sets them all to playing "Indications," a particularly noisy game with intellectual overtones. Everyone becomes loud and friendly. Once Vance found Fred Beck in one of his Saturday night groups, but can't remember how he got there.
He likes screwball comedy the best and particularly enjoys writing for comedians of that type. His love of music and literature encompasses all types of the two expressions. He is a superb pantomimist and enjoys that particular talent in others. He has boundless enthusiasm and is tremendously encouraging to any expression of talent. His constant companion is a slightly insane red cocker spaniel called O'Malley in honor of the fairy godfather in the "Barnaby" comic strip. O'Malley, according to Vance, loves to chase and retrieve sticks, though he plays on a hillside abounding in rabbits. "If I throw a stick into the bush, O'Malley goes after it, out jumps a rabbit, and O'Malley happily reappears with his stick. Should I try throwing rabbits?" queries Colvig.

Colvig moved on after Hanna-Barbera to appear on camera in movies and TV shows. He played a number of characters at Knott’s Berry Farm in southern California. He died March 4, 1991, losing a battle with cancer (as did too many other cartoon actors). He rated a six-paragraph obituary on the Associated Press wire. It mentioned his father’s most famous cartoon character. It didn’t mention his.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

A Few Frames of Huck and the Gang

One of the fun parts about the Hanna-Barbera shows for Kellogg’s was the little cartoons in between the cartoons. Various characters got to interact and promote the next cartoon. It was special back in the ‘60s; today there endless cross-overs, mash-ups and artificial “universes.”

Originally, it was cut-and-dried. The various shows had certain characters, though it appears The Yogi Bear Show was rushed into production and not all cartoons were ready when it debuted on January 30, 1961 (the same held true for Yogi’s replacement, Hokey Wolf, on The Huckleberry Hound Show; he finally appeared on the week of March 13, 1961, according to TV listings of the day).

Things started changing in the 1966-67 TV season. Mattel purchased licensing rights to the Huck show from Screen Gems and worked out a rather convoluted co-op ad agreement with Kellogg’s that meant Mattel ads on the Kellogg’s-sponsored Yogi Bear and Woody Woodpecker shows. It would appear, based on a story in Television Age of April 24, 1967, the individual cartoons were made available to stations as well.

But the half-hour Huck show carried on in one form or another into the 1970s and ‘80s. Reader Austin Kelly points out a 16mm reel of the show is being sold on eBay. The unusual thing is it does not contain a Huck cartoon. It has reruns of shorts starring Yogi Bear, Hokey Wolf and Yakky Doodle.

This mean the opening/closing animation had to change. The original from 1958 featured an assortment of Kellogg’s cereal mascots, eg. Tony the Tiger. It was reanimated to include Yakky and Hokey. It would appear the lettering card was re-used from the original closing.

Instead of Tony Junior getting his head bashed leaving the circus tent, Yakky gets the honour. Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle.

There’s not a lot I can remember about these re-worked Huck mini-cartoons. The Kellogg’s rooster still appeared, even if Huck’s door is not in a circus tent any more.

Unfortunately, these frame-grabs from the mini-cartoons are a little ho-hum. Hanna-Barbera and/or Screen Gems didn’t seem to care that Pixie and Dixie weren’t in this cartoon; I couldn’t tell you if they were in the re-worked series.

Oh, the character on the Hokey Wolf title card below isn’t Yowp. It’s 1961 and Hanna-Barbera is already borrowing from itself. In the actual cartoon, some of the dog’s poses look like they came from Snuffles. While the hunter is English like Yowp’s owner, Daws Butler gave him a little faster delivery.

How many of these mini-cartoons are in the Hanna-Barbera archives is, I imagine, anyone’s guess. And I still hold out no hope we’ll ever see future volumes of Huckleberry Hound Show DVDs, including the ones featuring Hokey Wolf and the frames you see above.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Why Reinvent?

Below is Yogi Bear.

Below is Mr. Jinks.

Below is Huckleberry Hound.

At least that’s who they are on this blog, and for those of you who watched the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons starting in 1958. Granted, in the earliest days, each artist drew the characters a little differently, but you knew who they were.

That isn’t what they’ll look like in a new series coming to American streaming service HBO Max.

Some readers seem to want my opinion of the new cartoons coming this week. I’m not sure why. My opinion doesn’t mean a whole lot.

I don’t have a television or subscribe to any streaming services, so I won’t be watching them.

From what I’ve seen, the character designs are not appealing to me, any more than similar design styles that are apparently popular these days. If you like them, fine. If you want to tune in these cartoons, it’s your money.

But here’s the thing I never understand when people try to bring back old characters.

I think in every instance, I hear about the love these newcomers have for the original cartoons. And in the same breath, they decide these characters they love so much have to be, as one web article put it, reinvented for a modern audience.

Why? Why do they need to be reinvented?

Why turn them into something else? Why not stick with what was appealing in the first place?

Is the “modern” viewing audience of young people really that much different today?

Huck was an “everyman,” getting into all kinds of situations. There was no end to potential plots. Now he’s married to a sitcom format where he’s a mayor and other H-B characters are given specific roles. It limits them.

No, my childhood will not be “ruined” by these streaming shorts, any more than they were by the misbegotten Yo Yogi! series. My childhood ended an awful long time ago. You can’t ruin something that doesn’t exist any more.

I’ve never bought the logic that “Oh, if young people see these cartoons, they’ll want to look at the old ones.” Why? They don’t even look like the old Ed Benedict designs. I can’t speak for specific stories and dialogue.

I am happy, though, that artists and writers found work through this new series and hope they enjoyed it. Voice actors will be waiting for those residual cheques. Good for them all. I like to see people employed.

And it could be worse, I suppose. Snagglepuss could be Tennessee Williams.

As for me, I am still quite content to watch the several hundred cartoons made in the ‘50s. They never talked down to me. Some missed the mark but there are enough good ones that I still get a smile after 60 years.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

Flintstones Weekend Comics, January 1965

You don’t think of dramatic artwork when you think of the Flintstones comic strips. But occasionally it shines through, such as in the colour comic that appeared in newspapers on January 3, 1965 (a day earlier in Canada).

The five comics below are, unfortunately, black and white scans, but look at the composition in the long panel in the second row below. It outshines the final panel, which is a lovely piece of work, too.

Late note: Reader Keith Semmel correctly points out the last line is a play on the Tareyton cigarette commercials of the day, with the grammatically incorrect slogan "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch" and pictures of people with one black eye.

The long panel in the second row of the January 10th comic is a nice bit of drawing as well, with a bit of perspective as the animal cases curl around on the left.

Betty appears for the second time in three weekends on January 17th; a bit of a rarity. The ending is a pun. I wonder how this would work in foreign languages.

For some reason, Fred says “That’s an incinerator!” when it’s clearly marked as such. There’s really no need to label it if he’s going to say it. I’m not sure why the eggs equate to a small fortune as it’s not set up in the comic. This is from January 24th. Is that Don Messick I hear squawking?

The month concludes on January 31st with no appearance of Dino. All five comics revolve around Fred, none around Pebbles As we’ve mentioned before, Mr. Slate was mainly a TV character. Fred had different bosses in the newspaper comics.

Click on any of the comics to make them larger.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Don Jurwich

It’s sad to receive word about Hanna-Barbera veterans passing away, and we’ve heard from reader John Semper, Jr. that layout artist Don Jurwich died yesterday (July 13th) in Westlake Village at age 87.

Jurwich attended George Washington High School in South Los Angeles in the early ‘50s, drawing cartoons for the student newspaper. He wasn’t one of the H-B originals in 1957 but he was around then. In an interview with the Animation Guild, he revealed he began his career in the mid-‘50s at Graphic Films, a small commercial studio in Los Angeles run by ex-Disney artist Les Novros. His co-workers included Ted Parmelee and Paul Julian, who had both recently been at UPA. (He had called Disney about work and he was told he wouldn’t make enough to support a family). Jurwich was painting backgrounds on films for the U.S. Air Force and one on smog being made by Julian.

He bounced around freelancing at other industrial studios in the city—Ray Patin, Film Fair, Quartet Films—mainly doing layouts and backgrounds on commercials, but also found employment with Jay Ward on the Rocky and His Friends series under George Singer. Unfortunately, the drinking water in Mexico City didn’t quite agree with him and he had to return to the U.S.

Don decided he wanted a regular job and heard Hanna-Barbera was hiring, so that’s where he ended up for a time. Among The Flintstones episodes he laid out were “Adobe Dick” (1964) and “Fred’s Flying Lesson” (1965). His experience at the time was “wonderful in some ways. It [the studio on Cahuenga] was a big bull-pen with just partitioned cubicles, and you could hear everybody. And so everyone was joking and carrying on and talking and yelling across.”

Iwao Takamoto was in charge of the layout/background department then. Don said “He was another brilliant guy...never disciplined the department ever. He would correct your work but he just let everyone run crazy. It was great fun.”

Don did some more bouncing: over to Format Films to write a couple of Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons released by Warner Bros.; back to Jay Ward for George of the Jungle (he said the artists were disappointed it lasted only one season and felt ABC was out to cancel the show); and finally back at Hanna-Barbera, where he enjoyed his work on Tom and Jerry Kids and Droopy: Master Detective. (Note: This is not a post about lists of cartoons; you can read and post lists on other sites).

Jurwich revealed he was surprised to find out his duties as a producer at Hanna-Barbera involved voice directing. “I came to the office one day and they said ‘Hey, you’ve got to do a Captain Caveman today’,” and found he had to direct Mel Blanc. Don decided to ask him during a break about working with Warner Bros. and Jack Benny. Surprisingly, Mel began ranting “They never gave me a nickel! They never gave me any credit!” Jurwich cut the conversation short and didn’t ask about Benny.

In later years, Jurwich corrected storyboards and worked closely with Joe Barbera. When it came to cartoon story, “It was his life. That’s what he loved to do,” Don remembered. “For all the limited animation that we did, I think a lot of it was character-driven, and I think that worked a lot. And Joe was good at that. He could develop characters.”

The studio was pretty busy, and once the cartoon was in the pipeline, it buzzed through. “There just wasn’t the time [to make big adjustments along the way],” Jurwich recalled. “Once you got a script that was okay, you put in the storyboarding,’d punch up the storyboards a bit; you had some time there. Then it went into layout and animation.

To give you an idea about the workload, “When I was there one season on The Smurfs, I did 13 ninety-minute shows. And a Christmas special,” he revealed. “I would have to read a lot of scripts on the weekends, but I did it usually at home because I was a single parent at that time. And the Scoobys, we used to do not just 13 half-hours, we used to do 24 half-hours. And later when we were doing the Tom and Jerry Kids show and Droopys [in the early ‘90s], I think over four years we did over 200, seven-minute cartoons. That was another grind.”

And all this was after Jurwich had recovered from a heart attack caused, he believed, by stress dealing with network people, promising them one thing then finding Bill Hanna had countermanded him without telling him.

He stayed through the sale of the company and the move from the famous building on Cahuenga Drive to Sherman Oaks and developed some cartoons with Jerry Eisenberg. One was “Stinky Stegosaurus” and another was “Yoink! of the Yukon.”

Donald Lee Jurwich was born on New Year’s Day 1934. We send our condolences to his family. You can hear the complete interview referred to above at this site.

Sunday, 23 May 2021

Flintstones Weekend Comics, December 1964

Well, here it is December in Bedrock, and there’s no snow. In fact, there’s rain in one of the Sunday Flintstones comics in December 1964.

We get summer-time activities, too, including badminton and fishing. Plus Fred’s favourite sport, bowling.

The composition, as usual, is just great on these and the final panels are always a treat. They’re never crowded.

December 6th. Fine angles on Fred here. Betty makes an appearance. The opening panel's good, too, with Barney being rolled in mid-air by Bamm-Bamm, whose club is nearby on the ground.

December 13th. Again, the extra characters and props are a treat. I'm a sucker for volcanos. The "Game Reserve" panel has a silhouette car and dinosaurs in the background. Dig the angry creature at the end.

December 20th. A rocket-shaped Fred goes aloft when the pterodactyl grabs his fishing line. Love the fish.

December 27th. Gurp! And a swearing bird. And a sheepish Fred. All in the last panel. Admirable angle on the car in the opening panel. I think this may be Cathy's only appearance. I guess Fred's being cheap (as opposed to "cheep"), hence the egg-bowling ball.

Click on any of the comics to make them bigger.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Doggie Daddy, Art Lover

Who would have guessed Doggie Daddy was a connoisseur of art? Well, he is in some cartoons.

Background artists whiled away the time by putting inside gags or other bits of inspiration in the paintings that appeared in cartoons. Judging by layouts for Tex Avery’s shorts at MGM, the background artists didn’t have total freedom. Objects would be crossed out on the layout drawing to allow the action to read better.

There are a few examples of modern art on the walls of the D. Daddy residence (one fun thing about the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons is the homes didn’t look the same from cartoon to cartoon. Even the Flintstones’ home varied in design).

These two are from Foxhound Hounded Fox. Background by Bob Gentle, layouts by Bob Givens. What's that first painting supposed to be? Crazy, man, crazy!

It's a shame the whole painting was never in the frame. This is from Snagglepuss, with the orange antagonist version before he got pink and theatrical and was given his own show. Background by Bob Gentle, layouts by Walt Clinton.

Skunk You Very Much, backgrounds by Fernando Montealegre, layouts by Dick Bickenbach. To be honest, I don't recall where I got the credits. This may be my favourite of the works. Dig the ‘60s bucket chair.

Big Top Pop, backgrounds by Joe Montell, layouts by Bob Givens. Incidentally, Givens wasn't a snob about these TV cartoons. He remarked he liked working on the Augie Doggie cartoons. I watched a few of them again recently, and I still like them.

Unfortunately, most of the background art is pretty prosaic. There are some scenes where nothing is in the picture frame. Here are some others from the first season.

Gone to the Ducks, backgrounds by Dick Thomas, layouts by Dick Bickenbach. Note the photo of Doggie Daddy in the picture frame? Or is it Doggie Daddy's daddy?

In Mars Little Precious, Doggie Daddy has hung some artwork near the ceiling of the living room. Backgrounds by Fernando Montealegre, layouts by Dick Bickenbach. I like Monty's exteriors in this one. This is the cartoon where the sound cutter uses Hecky Krasnow's "Swinging Ghosts" several times.

A Doggie family portrait is hanging by the phone in Hum Sweet Hum. Augie's room gets a boring tree. I'm not sure what that is behind Doggie Daddy in the living room, but he has the latest in pole lamps. We had one of these in the '60s, too. I don't know who did the backgrounds here; it may have been Bob Gentle. Ed Benedict is the layout artist.

It appears the pole lamp made it into the next season of cartoons.

Here's one of Art Lozzi's backgrounds. It's from Yuk-Yuk Duck, with layouts by Paul Sommer. I think it's a cupcake on a stand with a centipede on top. Well, you can come up with your own explanation.

We’ve mentioned here on the Yowp blog that the Augie Doggie cartoons were the last of the ones to be put in production on The Quick Draw McGraw Show. The father-and-son stars were partly based on the Spike and Tyke cartoons made by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera at MGM, with a little Sylvester, Jr. tossed in (the “science geek” part of Augie would be reused in Elroy Jetson). But the production team at H-B Enterprises were stymied on names for the two.

They were originally Pete and Repete (Variety, Jan. 8, 1959), but I suspect that was changed because the names were used for a pair of cartoon bears at Glacier National Park. Next, they were Arf and Arf (Variety, Jan. 28, 1959), about an impractical naming (“Oh, Arf!” “Yes, Arf?” Yeah, that’ll work in dialogue) as possible. When they got the final names, I don’t know.

You may not know that Augie Doggie was named for a relative of Mike Maltese, who wrote all the Augie cartoons. Margaret Wong has mentioned on Facebook that that Augie was the name of her mother’s brother, and that Mike was an uncle as well. H-B writer Tony Benedict recalls:

There is a lot of Mike in those characters. He often would say things in casual conversation that later came out of Augie's mouth on the show.
We don't know what kind of art Mike and Florrie Maltese had hanging in their home. We hope it included some of the characters he wrote for at Warners and Hanna-Barbera.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Flintstones Weekend Comics, November 1964

Betty Rubble got the short shrift in the Flintstones newspaper comic strips, even more so than the beloved Baby Puss. The cat wasn't a regular character on TV, though (ending animation notwithstanding). Betty was. She makes a quick one-panel appearance on the November 8th comic, one of five that month in 1964.

That's a lovely collection of animals in the final panel of the first comic below. We get the cliche of the cheapskate husband as well. November 8th we get the cliche of the bad woman driver. Fred's an ingenious cheapskate on November 15th. A fine perspective drawing concludes the November 22nd (with a little Dino way below) and continues his ingenuity (which doesn't make him a fortune) on the 29th.

Click on any of the comics to make them bigger.

November 1st.

November 8th.

November 15th.

November 22nd.

November 29th.