Saturday 26 November 2022

Quick Draw McGraw, the Psychological Release

The first Hanna-Barbera cartoon series were not only hits with viewers, but with critics and even watchdog groups.

A Catholic publication in March 1960 was complimentary about the H-B shows then on the air and quoted Joe Barbera about why he thought the cartoons were appealing.

A non-denominational publication akin to Reader’s Digest republished portions of the story. Here’s what the July 1960 issue of The Family Digest wrote. Note the original name of The Flintstones and the writer’s lack of knowledge of Jay Ward Productions.

Quick on the Draw
Condensed from The Catholic Preview of Entertainment

SOMETIME THIS year, a family known as The Flagstones will make their national television debut, tentatively set for the ABC-TV Network during the prime evening hours. Who are The Flagstones? They are a family of cartoon characters starring in the first full length half-hour animated series designed for adult viewing.
This newest television “first” marks a milestone in the long and successful partnership of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. For more than 20 years these two men have worked together to provide simple, honest and carefree humor for motion picture and television fans through the creation of such cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Auggie Doggie and Quick Draw McGraw.
For Hanna and Barbera, The Flagstones complete the progression to more adult, satirical cartoons which began, almost accidentally, with Huckleberry Hound. Huck, as his many fans call him, was created primarily to keep the small fry amused, following in the footsteps of Ruff and Reddy and adventurous dog and cat team, the first H-B TV series for Screen Gems.
But Huck Hound’s hang-dog willingness to accept any herculean task and still come up smiling appealed to adults, who found his attitude admirable in a pass-the-buck age. College students across the nation began showering awards and honors on Huck, and many of them held special Huckleberry Hound Days on campus.
Sensing the value of this adult interest, the show’s sponsor, the Kellogg Company, ordered continuation of the series, which was the first half-hour television series consisting entirely of original cartoons. Hanna and Barbera quickly followed up with Quick Draw McGraw, a three-part series which spoofs television westerns, mysteries and situation comedies. Of course, the antics of McGraw, a gun-toting horse; Snooper and Blabber, cat and mouse detectives; and Auggie Doggie, the mischievous pup, keep the series alive with action the children love. But the adults see and enjoy the satire behind it all.
Now, with The Flagstones, Hanna and Barbera feel they have developed a new form of television entertainment. The series satirizes our way of life by dealing with the problems of a family living in the stone age, problems which could happen today. Mr. Flagstone drives a tractor, only it’s a dinosaur; the family car is made of stone.
“We think the popularity of our shows lies in providing a psychological release for human beings of all ages,” explains Barbera. “No one ever gets hurt despite clobberings and binding situations. We have tried to give the audience characters they can identify with themselves, then follow up with wild antics impossible to duplicate in real life. The adults have all taken to the satire while the children watch the programs for the face value of the action-packed story.”
Hanna and Barbera began working together over 20 years ago amid Hollywood’s famed atmosphere of jealousy, quarrelling and success at any price. They have found the success but have avoided the quarrelling. H-B Productions operates out of the world’s largest cartoon studio (a studio built by Charlie Chaplin) and is the only company turning out new and original cartoons especially for television consumption.
As Barbera puts it, “Everyone in the business predicted we would fall flat on our faces trying to do a half-hour cartoon show each week. Actually, careful planning makes it possible. For example, when the action calls for a character to change his facial expression, we save the body and simply draw another head. This way we use 80 percent fewer drawings to animate the story.”
Teamwork is also evident in the success of H-B Productions. The two men put in about 16 hours each, per day. They employ 150 artists and technicians in a 24-hour, round-the-clock operation.
Coordination, which can be difficult with so large a staff, is actually a simple matter; there are no vague memos, no closed doors, no time clock. Every worker knows his job and does it.
To the uninitiated, the job of “throwing together” a cartoon might seem like child’s play. Actually, the complicated and highly skilled technique boils down to this:
First the story is written, then a story board is made, composed of a number of rough drawings with the dialogue written underneath each square. Next, through the process of trial and error, the voice men develop the sounds for the cartoon characters.
The men begin working under a stop watch, until finally their voices are properly times and recorded. The recording and the story board go to the animators where action is matched to the sound. Scenic backgrounds are drawn, the penciled lines are “inked” in, a painter provides four color over-lays and then the finished drawings in color travel to the photographers. Altogether, 10,000 of these individual drawings are needed for a half-hour program.
The success of H-B Productions indicates that good wholesome laughter is marketable on television. At a time when charges of corruption, excess violence and lack of originality are being hurled at the entertainment industry, William Hanna and Joseph Barbara can be especially proud of their contributions to show business.