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.