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Stuff about early Hanna-Barbera cartoons

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  • 05/11/16--07:12: Eternal Run From Kit Kit Kit
  • We all love how Pixie and Dixie or Mr. Jinks run past the same light socket or lamp or whatever over and over again.

    Well, here’s everyone’s favourite meece hater being chased by a robot cat in Kit Kat Kit in an endless Hanna-Barbera loop.

    There are only two drawings in this chase cycle. Note the difference in the position of the smeared Jinks feet. Jinks stretches out in one drawing. Meanwhile, the robot goes up in one of the drawings. The animation is by Ken Muse.



    It takes 24 drawings (one second of film) for Jinks to reach the same house behind him in the background. Here’s the cycle that ends the cartoon. It’s a little slower than what’s in the cartoon. For all we know, Jinks is still being chased.



    The background is by Frank Tipper, the ex Walter Lantz animator who had been working at one of the commercial studios, with the layout by Ed Benedict.

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  • 05/14/16--07:08: The Jetsons – Uniblab
  • “Spacely’s a stupe!”
    “Jupiter Gin! Planet Poker! Five Card Satellite!”

    Who doesn’t love those quotes?

    “Uniblab” is probably my favourite Jetsons episode, though a few others come awfully close. I’ve already written about Barry Blitzer’s corporate backstabbing robot in this post with some frame grabs of animation by Carlo Vinci and Hugh Fraser. I didn’t really plan on writing about it again, but there were some random things I didn’t touch on last year, so let’s do a part two post.

    One of the appealing things about The Jetsons is the creative gadgets of the future that had a kernel of reality to them (well, 1960s reality). Perhaps something similar had been portrayed in a magazine like Popular Science. How bright and sunny we all were in the 1950s and ‘60s, looking forward to an improved life in the future, thanks to technology. Today, the future is portrayed in popular culture as a dark and gritty place where people have no control over their own lives. And movie and TV viewers can’t get enough of the nightmarish negativity. But that’s an essay for another time.

    Who would have thought of CD-Roms or zip drives in 1962? Barry Blitzer did, apparently. Judy has an encyclopaedia (a microbook) on a little square disc.



    George Jetson’s bedroom has a flat-screen TV that comes down from the ceiling. Instead of George doing morning exercises in person, he does it on a video recording by proxy. “Ah, boy, I can feel that flab meltin’.”



    The special “Emergency First Aid” (with a Red Cross below the speaker-phone) screen includes a ’60s pop culture pun. The doctor’s name is “Ken Racy” instead of “Ben Casey.” Yeah, it’s a bit of a stretch. Later, we get “Sing Along With Henry,” as Blitzer takes a poke at “Sing Along With Mitch.”



    The hammy Elroy claims he’s suffering from “Venus Virus” (in an attempt to get out of school). Methinks he’s suffering from a case of Malformed Hand. Check out the difference in his hands in the pose to the right. There are some similar odd shapes in part of the first act of the cartoon.

    There’s always a gadget on the show that doesn’t seem to work. In this cartoon, it’s a machine that dresses you according to the buttons you press (patent pending). George selects a “white button-down radiation shirt, grey flannel space suit, and black solar moccasins.” That isn’t what he gets.



    In the next part of the cartoon, set in Spacely Sprockets, Miss Gamma presses a button to send George through a trap door in the ceiling to Mr. Spacely’s office above (a system that has a few bugs in it). The ink and paint department got out the dry brush again. Note the hair style Miss Gamma has.



    If you’re a Jetsons fan, you’re familiar with the rest of plot. Spacely announces he’s spent $5,000,000,000 on Uniblab, who’ll be the new office supervisor, while George Jetson gets rewarded for his years of service with being the robot’s assistant. Uniblab turns out to be a sociopath, breaking all the rules when Spacely isn’t looking but is a model of butt-kissing efficiency when Spacely’s watching. He’s a shady gambler, too. Uniblab’s secret tape recording (tape!) gets Jetson fired. Jetson gets some unexpected help from Henry, his building superintendent, who puts “spring tonic” in Uniblab’s oil, causing the drunken robotic computer to embarrass Spacely in front of his company’s board of directors. With Uniblab gone, George gets his job back. Well, Uniblab isn’t really gone. The Jetsons learn (you can see it coming a mile away) Henry has hired Uniblab as his holiday replacement. (Uniblab now takes on the persona of a jerk landlord, chirping “Raise the rent! No pets!”).

    The last time we chatted about this cartoon, we mentioned the work of Hugh Fraser, one of a number of ex-Disney artists at Hanna-Barbera at the time. Howard Fein is the Jetsons/Flintstones animation expert around here so I’ll spare myself some embarrassment by misidentifying the animators. However, this frame to the left gives you a bit of an idea of Fraser’s work on the series. He seemed to like pinhole pupils in eyes and lots of little curved shapes for the mouth. George gets stretched around, especially in the in-between drawings, in some of Fraser’s scenes in this cartoon. As an aside, I wish I knew who did the layouts and background art in this cartoon. The ovular shape of the Jetsons’ apartment and other buildings in the series result in a lot of curved walls or wall dividers. It certainly gives the show a futuristic look.

    Here are a couple of ghost exits frames. First, Judy, then Buddy Blastoff’s car. Chicken in the oven!!



    Carlo Vinci lends his expertise to portions of this half-hour as well. Carlo had certain ways of drawing things, especially when it came to angles of body parts, that appeared in various series over the first few years of the studio’s life. One example is when Uniblab drops Jetson in front of the Unilube supply room. Here’s an interesting Vinci effect. Instead of an eye-take for emphasis in one scene, he simply enlarges Henry’s head.



    And there’s a head-shake that’s unmistakeably Carlo’s. He did a lot of three-drawing shake cycles. This one is four. His shakes always have some parts of the face (generally the nose or eyes) pointing in a different direction than others. The shake is very rubbery.



    And because we’re dealing with a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, let’s give you one of those endless, run-past-the-same-stuff-in-the-background loops. Here’s an eight-drawing run cycle of George and Uniblab. It takes 24 drawings to go past the same chair in the little alcove or whatever it’s supposed to be. Hugh Fraser again.



    The establishing shot of the Spacely Sprockets building is the same one used in “The Flying Suit.”



    Besides the regular voice cast, Mel Blanc and Don Messick appear, Don M. giving us a great characterisation of Uniblab. Blanc, of course, is Cosmo Spacely. Both play members of the board of directors. Hoyt Curtin’s cues are excellent as always, with a fine piece of electronic music to open the cartoon that must have been cutting edge in 1962, a nice off-key muted trumpet cue when Uniblab weaves around drunk, and a big band build up to end the cartoon.

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    The idea of baby Pebbles Flintstone talking to herself isn’t something I’m all that crazy about, but I understand why that concept was used in the Flintstones newspaper strips (the TV series might have tried the same thing if it went a few more seasons because it was becoming bereft of ideas). So 50 years ago this month, Pebbles chats away in thought balloons in one of the weekend comics.

    Whoever the artist was, he liked a straight-on view, head tilted up, of a character crying. Fred does it in the May 9th comic and Pebbles does it a week later.

    Barney and Betty appear only once in the month of May 1966 (May 1) while incidental Dino appears twice (May 8, 15). As you know, the comics didn’t, for whatever reason, use Mr. Slate as the boss, so we get some snooty-looking chap in the May 22 comic (with a Don Messick voice, I imagine).

    Sorry for the lousy scan of the May 29 comic; it’s all I can find. You miss the effect of the silhouette panel in the top row because the picture’s so dark.

    Click on each comic to enlarge it.


    May 1, 1966


    May 8, 1966


    May 15, 1966
    May 22, 1966


    May 29, 1966

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    Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
    Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
    Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Ranger – Daws Butler; Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon.
    Music: Hoyt Curtin.
    Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbara Productions.
    Plot: Snagglepuss forsakes eating Yakky Doodle and instead teaches him how to avoid hunters.

    Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera loved inflicting their favourite little duck on unsuspecting cartoon viewers whenever possible for reasons they took to their graves.

    For those of you who just tuned in, Yakky Doodle originated with a little duck character Hanna and Barbera put into a number of their MGM cartoons in the 1950s. When MGM kicked them out in 1957, they formed their own studio and dug up a whole pile of concepts they had used at Metro(and others by fellow director Tex Avery) for their TV cartoons. Thus the little duck found his way into Yogi Bear cartoons, Augie Doggie cartoons and this one starring Snagglepuss before getting his own series.

    As a comedy character, Yakky didn’t have a lot going for him. He wallowed in self-pity about his orphan status and how nobody wanted him. Not exactly the basis for loads o’ laffs, is it? Writer Mike Maltese finally had the common sense to remove the negatives and what remained was a naïve, cheerful duckling (well-voiced by children’s TV show host Jimmy Weldon). That isn’t the basis for more of the aforementioned loads as well, so Maltese added comic villains to provide the humour.

    In this cartoon, there are no actual villains, and none are necessary as Snagglepuss is a comic enough character to carry a cartoon.

    Nothing really stands out in this cartoon. Snagglepuss gets in his catchphrases and nice turns of phrase, and Maltese drags out the old misread-the-sign gag which goes back to Mr. Magoo and dumb Warner Bros. characters and who knows where else. A park ranger designed by Tony Rivera (overbite, parallel jaw lines) puts up a hunting sign. Is this a park? Then why is hunting allowed? Shouldn’t the ranger be protecting poor woodland creatures? Oh, well. If it is a park, you can tell it is an Art Lozzi park as the tree whereupon the sign is nailed is blue.

    Anyway, Yakky reads the “Duck Hunting Season Opens Today” sign as “No Smoking Allowed in the Forest.” Suddenly, there’s gunfire. “Hey! Don’t shoot! I’m not smoking!” yells the bullet-fleeing Yakky as the scene fades. Maltese uses the “no smoking” bit as a running gag.

    Snagglepuss discovers Yakky in his mailbox and decides to have him for breakfast, roasting him right in the mailbox over a stove, including some added ingredients “An onion. A carrot. Some collard greens. Some greens without collards, even.” There’s a pepper/sneeze bit, too. But the polite and poor spelling duck (“C-a-t, ‘dog.’ M-a-t, ‘Massachusetts’”) wins Snagglepuss’ sympathy. At least the duck didn’t go for the “will-you-me-my-mama” routine like he pulled in other cartoons. Snagglepuss tries tossing him out of his cave (“I beg to differ. I’m a differ begger”) but when the gunfire returns, he grabs Yakky and hauls him back inside.

    Snagglepuss decides to teach Yakky the concept of duck hunting. The first sequence is a set-up to a punch-line about sitting on a tack. The second sequence may have the best line of Yakky’s career.


    Snag: If a hunter’s to the right, you simply exit stage left. And if a hunter’s to the left, you simply exit visa-versy.
    Yakky: Gee, you’re such a swell fella wasting your time like this when I don’t even know what the heck you’re talking about.



    Yakky tries an “exit, stage left” and crashes into Snagglepuss’ furniture, somehow landing inside a sugar bowl. “I like sugar,” is about Maltese can muster for the duck’s scene end-line.



    The cartoon ends with reused cycle animation of the ranger hammering, reused animation of guns in the bushes, and Snagglepuss using two fans to fly south along with Yakky Doodle.

    On second thought, maybe casting Major Minor as a hunter might have added some pep to this one.

    Lew Marshall’s animation is serviceable but uninteresting. As for the music, the opening cue is an unusual cue as Yakky is strolling when it’s playing. I’m used to it being used during running sequences. The rest of Curtin’s background library works fine.

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  • 05/25/16--07:16: A Yogi Mini-Cartoon
  • Dick Bickenbach, if I had to guess, is the man responsible for the sheet below of Yogi Bear. It’s very clean and attractive. And, if I had to guess some more, it was used might for the little cartoon-between-the-cartoons featured on the Huckleberry Hound Show.

    I always liked the interaction between the stars of the various cartoons on the show. Of course, someone at H-B thought bigger was better, so they came up with specials and series that mashed a whole pile of the studio’s characters together. And now that isn’t big enough, so there’s talk about a “universe” like superhero comic book companies invented when they ran out of ideas for their characters and started mixing and matching anyone and anything. I’ll pass, thanks, and instead take the simple little special combinations that happened exclusively in the Huck, Yogi and Quick Draw bumpers. (No, I have no desire to see the Herculoids with the Banana Splits and that pig sergeant from the Laverne and Shirley monstrosity).



    Another sheet. Origin unknown.



    While we’re at it, here are some Snagglepuss drawings, presumably from the period when he got his own series. I wonder if they were for a comic book.



    The Huckleberry Hound DVD which came out ages ago featured only some of the bumpers used on the Huck show. Whether the studio kept masters of them, I don’t know, but there was clearly some difficulty in assembling them for the disc set as some look like they were from faded 16mm reels and others that had been dubbed onto VHS. I don’t recall the little cartoon from the story panels below being on the set and I don’t remember it well enough to know if there was a second sheet featuring Yogi talking in medium-close shot to the camera at the end. But it’s still lots of fun. Another guess would be the drawings are by Dan Gordon, but I’ll stand corrected. Notice the muzzle dots of the early Yogi and the semi-circular closed eye in the eighth panel, very much in the Ed Benedict vein.



    Whoever saved these sheets should be owed a great deal of thanks because they give us a look at these great characters we otherwise wouldn’t see.

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  • 05/28/16--07:04: Doggie Daddy Décor
  • The early Hanna-Barbera cartoons had a basic premise and that was about it. No one cared a lot if the Flintstones’ house looked different from episode to episode, or that Yogi Bear wasn’t always living in Jellystone Park in every show during the first season. It was no different than theatrical cartoons—Bugs Bunny lived anywhere and everywhere. So it was up to layout and background artists to come up with a setting for a particular cartoon; they weren’t beholden to anything done earlier.

    I posted a while ago about the various cars Snooper and Blabber had in their cartoons because I still have a fascination for that era of car design (late ‘50s). I wanted to do a similar post pointing out all the different suburban houses Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy lived in (you see an interior from Foxhounded Hounded Fox to the right). But Emmy-winning director/storyboard artist Sherm Cohen came up with a better idea—the various living room chairs Doggie Daddy sat in, usually while reading a newspaper. So I’ve leafed through my old posts to give you some Doggie Daddy décor. The differences add to the series, in my estimation. The same chair, lamp, table and living room in each cartoon might get stale after a while.

    While the layout artist in the early H-B cartoons generally came up with props, the background artists were usually free to do what they desired. So I’ll list both the layout and background people. Not all cartoons in circulation today have credits and some are incorrect. Four of the 45 Augie Doggie cartoons are on DVD, all from the final season when only six shorts were made, so most of the frames you see here are from old, low-resolution TV captures.

    In looking at this post, you might think Doggie Daddy worked in a furniture factory. Or maybe a pole lamp store (pole lamps were big in the ‘60s; we had one in our living room when I was a kid. He, like Ozzie Nelson on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, never seemed to work, though one later cartoon reveals he spent some time in vaudeville.

    Monty’s bucket chair in Skunk You Very Much is my favourite.

    1959-60 SEASON



    HIGH AND FLIGHTY
    Layout – Bick Bickenbach, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre



    NAG-NAG-NAG
    Layout – Ed Benedict, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle



    BIG TOP POP
    Layout – Bob Givens, Backgrounds – Joe Montell



    MILLION DOLLAR ROBBERY
    Layout – Ed Benedict, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre



    GOOD MOUSEKEEPING (no credits)



    WHATEVER GOES PUP
    Layout – Ed Benedict, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas



    RO-BUTLER
    Backgrounds – Bob Gentle?



    MARS LITTLE PRECIOUS
    Layout – Bick Bickenbach, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre



    SNAGGLEPUSS
    Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle



    HUM SWEET HUM
    (uncertain) Layout – Ed Benedict, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle



    PECK O’ TROUBLE
    Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi



    FUSS N’ FEATHERS (no credits)



    SKUNK YOU VERY MUCH
    Layout – Bick Bickenbach, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre

    1960-61 SEASON



    YUK YUK DUCK
    Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi



    IT’S A MICE DAY
    Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre



    BUD BROTHERS
    Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi



    IT’S A WORM DAY
    Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle



    PATIENT POP
    Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle



    LET’S DUCK OUT
    Layout – Paul Sommer, Background – Dick Thomas



    HORSE FATHERS
    Layout – Hi Mankin, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi



    PLAYMATE PUP
    Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi



    LITTLE WONDER
    Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre

    1961-62 SEASON



    VACATION TRIPPED
    Layout – Noel Tucker, Backgrounds – Art Lozzi



    PARTY POOPER POP
    Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Fernando Montealegre



    GROWING, GROWING, GONE
    Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas



    DOUGH-NUTTY
    Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas



    FROM APE TO Z
    Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas


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  • 06/01/16--07:14: Yogi Takes a Vacation
  • It’s time for another Yogi Bear kids book.

    Yogi Takes a Vacation was published by Whitman in 1965 as part of its “Big Tell-a-Tale” series. The artwork in it is by Art Seiden, who did commercial illustration and began working in the children’s realm in the early ‘50s. His last book was in 1999. You can read a biography of him at this blog.

    I must admit his style in this book doesn’t do much for me. I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the open mouths and odd angles. The drawings just seem a little stiff, certainly more so than the Yogi comics you’d see in the newspapers drawn by people like Harvey Eisenberg, who had wonderful, thoughtful poses (from Gene Hazelton’s layouts, I imagine). The crouching Ranger Smith with the galoshes is, well, odd. Boo Boo’s arm looks broken in one drawing.

    The story here is designed for little children as well. Don’t expect Warren Foster-style narration or irony.

    Still, it’s worth a glance. You can click on any of the pages to make them larger.


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    Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
    Credits: Animation – Allen Wilzbach; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Written by Mike Maltese; Story Director – Paul Sommer; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hansen.
    Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig; Fibber Fox – Daws Butler.
    Music: Hoyt Curtin.
    Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
    Plot: Fibber Fox pretends to be ghost to scare away Chopper so he can eat Yakky.

    I really don’t want to dislike Yakky Doodle cartoons. Especially if Fibber Fox is in them. But, boy, this one is boring.

    After a while, if you’ve seen enough cartoons, you know what’s going to happen. In this cartoon, Fibber Fox hides in a ceiling light fixture. Do I need to tell you what happens? No, you’ve seen it before, too.

    And Mike Maltese has a huge hole in the story just for the sake of the plot. Fibber Fox douses himself with flour to look like a ghost. Fine. He’s ghostly-white in a bunch of scenes. Suddenly, he’s his old self, wearing his turtleneck sweatshirt. How did that happen? When? Why? Well, the why’s easy to answer. Maltese needed to have Chopper discover the “ghost” is Fibber, so he wrote the story where Chopper would see Fibber shaking flour on himself. But the flour had to disappear for that to happen. Even the great Maltese phones it in once in a while, especially in some of these Yakky cartoons.

    In the earliest Hanna-Barbera cartoons, you’d see some good takes from Carlo Vinci, George Nicholas or Don Patterson. Even Lew Marshall mangled Mr. Jinks pretty well in the Huck show’s first season in 1958. But in 1961, things were bland, bland, bland. I can understand that maybe the Tex Avery outrageousness of the ‘40s was passé in the post-UPA era but it’s almost like there was a studio directive not to get very over-the-top. This drawing is a fear take of Chopper.



    Even worse, the same animation of Fibber jumping, Chopper posing and Chopper running out of scene is used at least three times in the cartoon. It’s like something out of Filmation. I can picture Lou Scheimer watching this and saying “Lower the bar, Joe and Bill! Lower the bar for us!”

    Matching shots? Eh, who needs them? These are consecutive frames.



    So are these.



    Size matters? Not in this cartoon. You can see above that Yakky changes size in relation to Chopper’s head. A couple of examples.



    Al Wilzbach’s the animator in this cartoon. Here are a couple of his exit drawings with multiple eyes.



    Walt Clinton handles the layouts in this cartoon. I’m not sure how these things were handled, but I guess he was in charge of colours for the characters. I like how Fibber is outlined in red when he’s a ghost. The smash drawing to the right by Wilzbach may be my favourite in the cartoon.

    Dick Thomas gets the background credit. I would have guessed Bob Gentle was responsible as he always seemed to get the assignment whenever an old house had to be drawn. Thomas does a very nice job, especially with the establishing shot. I’m sorry I can’t snip together the interior because the characters get in the way.


    Same with a couple of the exteriors below. The colours are very effective.



    Fibber calls himself a “friendly ghost” (Chopper even blurts out the standard “G-g-g-g-ghosts!” stutter you hear in countless Casper cartoons). I can’t help but think if the writers at the Jay Ward studio did this cartoon, they’d make a self-aware crack about another friendly ghost and being in the wrong cartoon.

    Hoyt Curtin’s music is fairly standard issue. You’ve heard the cues on Wally Gator and other short cartoons about this time. It works well enough.

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    You should be able to name all of these cartoon characters.


    Being cartoons, you can’t talk to them, but if you’re in the Los Angeles area tonight, you have the next best thing. You can hear from three of the men who worked on the early Hanna-Barbera shows, dating back to when Huckleberry Hound was in first-run syndication.


    I’ve never had the opportunity of speaking to Willie Ito, but I can vouch that Tony Benedict and Jerry Eisenberg are very nice people with some funny stories about their time at the Hanna-Barbera studio. I won’t be attending the event (the Hollywood Heritage Museum is not dog friendly, according to their web site), but it starts at 7:30 p.m. There may be some tickets at the door. Sorry, mentioning “Yowp” will not get you a discount. It will get you quizzical looks instead.

    The “Three Tooners” were a hit at the recent Toronto Animation Arts Festival International and I’m sure they’ll be equally appreciated by audiences tonight in Hollywood.

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    Someone had an eye for the young ladies as they appear in two of the Yogi Sunday newspaper comics from this month 50 years ago. Mrs. Ranger Smith makes an appearance as well. There are story holes here and there but nothing too distracting.


    The June 5th comic ends with a reveal gag. Boo Boo is clearly annoyed in this one; he rarely showed that in the TV cartoons. Yogi has some neat poses. I don’t think the one on the far right panel in the middle row can be physically duplicated, can it?


    Very nice angles highlight the June 12th comic. We look up and down at the action, and there’s a good silhouette panel in the first row. I don’t know why Yogi didn’t warn Ranger Smith of the cliff, but we wouldn’t have an end gag if he had.


    The June 19th comic has one of my favourite bits of lettering. The name of the strip is spelled out in flowers (as in leis) in the opening panel. Very creative and attractive. Why is Yogi Bear going to Hawaii anyway? And where did he get all that money? (Maybe he set up another wishing well like on TV). Plenty of ladies with four-inch waists on Hawaii, it appears.


    The go-go boss sounds of 1966 filled the air in Jellystone Park—a little bit too much—50 years ago this month. Gene Hazelton and his unidentified artist pull off some great poses in the comic of June 26th, complete with an excited tongue. Even the little birdies are groovin’ in the opening panel. And dig that mod mini-skirt and those fab boots! (Yes, people really did talk like that in the ‘60s, at least that I remember).

    Click on any of the comics to see it a little bigger and better.

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    Someone, no doubt, has a list of how many of the Jetsons prime-time cartoons featured the phrase “Jetson, you’re fired!” The number is probably smaller than people think, but because the cartoons have been run over and over and over for 50-plus years, it seems like a lot.

    This cartoon features that particular phrase, along with what’s now a tired old plot point of dangling a company vice-presidency as a reward, something which strikes me as something peculiar to the 1950s and ‘60s as desirable.

    “Astro’s Top Secret” has its moments; a ‘60s Jetsons episode featuring Astro always has something worth watching. I like the eager Harlan, Cogswell’s assistant, who enthusiastically throws himself into the role of corporate spy by incorporating secret agent cliché dialogue into his spiel because, well, that’s how spies talk. That great comic actor, Howard Morris, provides Harlan’s voice, as well as that of the mock-serious narrator who appears in the first part of the cartoon. There’s a neat bit of timing when Cogswell grills Astro in a dark room under a spotlight. Astro quickly whips out a pair of sunglasses. “No cheating!” says Harlan, who grabs them away. And there’s a vaudevillian bit of corn when Cogswell tells Astro to start talking. So he does. In rowrs, bow-wows and woofs. Cogswell has his assistant Moonstone read back the transcript. “Bow wow, wow wow wow. Wow wow wow, wow...” says Moonstone. You can probably see the gag coming a mile away but it’s funny. Don Messick plays both Astro and Moonstone, but the two characters sound completely different. Astro always sounds exuberant. Moonstone is clinical and earnest as he reads back the indecipherable dog talk. Messick’s a real master.



    The story revolves around the old misunderstanding routine. Spacely threatens, yet again, to put Cogswell out of business. Meanwhile, Astro swallows Elroy’s toy space car. Cogswell’s spy, Harlan, sees Astro flying around (powered by the car in his stomach), thinks George Jetson has developed an anti-gravity device, dognaps Astro, who escapes. Cogswell, Spacely and Astro all end up back at the Jetson’s home where the car pops out of the dog. Misunderstanding ended. The ending has Astro swallowing a mini-computer. Yet another misunderstanding at the fade out.

    George Nicholas is one of the animators in this cartoon. I can’t pick out the others. The characters on this show aren’t designed to have big mouths and floppy tongues, like when Nicholas animates Fred Flintstone or Yogi Bear, but they do have beady eyes and wavy mouths that Nicholas liked to draw.



    The cartoon is really inconsistent when it comes to takes. Below are two extremes. They’re a real take because the animator starts with a regular drawing of Astro, then expands his eyes for a number of frames so you get the effect.



    To the right is a drawing from when Astro swallows the toy car. There’s nothing wrong with the drawing. The problem is that the other drawings accompanying it look similar so there’s no real take. Even worse is a little later in the cartoon when George realises that Astro is “flying” past him. There’s no take at all. Jetson’s expression doesn’t change. There’s simply a short “sproing” on the soundtrack. That’s one way of handling it, but I’d rather see the animator at work.

    Time for some examples of dry brushwork on characters quickly leaving the frame. The characters become outlines or partial outlines to make the exit appear quicker. I’ve always liked the effect. The first two are consecutive frames of Harlan. The final two features the old “Follow that car” gag with the car taking off before the person gets inside. This time, it’s “Follow that dog!” It still works.



    Here are some exteriors. I haven’t had time to check to see which other cartoons used the establishing shots of the Skypad Apartments and Spacely Sprockets buildings. The background artist is unknown.



    Inventions? Well, there are plenty of visiphones in this cartoon. There’s the golf course that consists of floating platforms of grass (Spacely has a putter that converts to a number 3 driver by pressing a button; balls that drop off the platforms sprout parachutes). Most of all, I really like the sandwich maker in Spacely’s office. Oh, and did that home computer—with a tape! It must be future retro.



    Odds and sods...
    ● Judy does not appear in this cartoon. However, Janet Waldo makes an appearance as Marilyn, the sexy temptress dog. She talks just like Astro, pronouncing all words with “r” at the start.
    ● George makes $1,000 a week.
    ● Spacely and Cogswell drive past the same set of golf greens ten times before the scene changes.
    ● Music in Hanna-Barbera cartoons was strictly for mood, it wasn’t scored with the drawings in mind like in theatrical cartoons. But there’s one scene where a golf ball hits Spacely on the head and bounces into the hole. Each bounce is accompanied by a declining music stab, so the music matches the animation.
    ● Several scenes have characters walking behind overlays. It’s nice when Hanna-Barbera cartoons go to the trouble of doing that.



    The story is by Tony Benedict, who had an affinity for Astro. This isn’t as strong as some of the others featuring Astro, but it’s a pleasant enough half hour to watch.

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  • 06/13/16--04:36: Janet Waldo
  • Janet Waldo was America’s Perennial Teenager.

    Janet played teenager Corliss Archer on radio in the ‘40s and ‘50s. She played teenager Judy Jetson in the ‘60s. And if you heard her in interviews 50 years after that, she sounded exactly the same as both of them.

    She wasn’t a teenager during any of that time. Miss Waldo was born in April 1919 (according to the 1920 US Census) in the small Northern Pacific Railway stop of Grandview, Washington and was plucked for stardom off the campus of the University of Washington by none other than Spokane’s Bing Crosby in 1937. It turned out Paramount (Crosby’s studio) had all the ingénues it needed and Janet found work in radio, and then in network TV when it came along.

    Historian and interviewer Stu Shostak has passed along word from her family that Janet Waldo died yesterday morning.

    As Yogi Bear used to say, she was “one of the good ones.” Every interview I’ve heard her do, she was upbeat. Never negative. That’s even though she was unexpectedly dumped from a Jetsons feature film and replaced by some singer who was hot at the time (and not since). I have yet to see anything bad written about her. She was always kind and friendly to anyone I’ve spoken with.

    There isn’t much about her cartoon career that we haven’t posted already. So allow me to pass on a portion of a story from the Los Angeles Times of April 28, 1989.

    The recording room is small, and it is stuffy as the six actors gather to do pickup lines for "Jetsons: The Movie." The actors exchange jokes and funny sounds as they settle on their stools, scripts resting on music stands, microphones a whisper away.
    They are such a happy group, it's like watching a bunch of Smurfs. Janet Waldo, looking more like an elf in green mini-skirt and matching shoes and stockings than the voice of Judy Jetson, sits on one side of the room with Penny Singleton, who plays Jane Jetson.
    On the other side are the "boys"—Frank Welker, the voice of Little Grungee; Rob Paulsen, who plays Judy's boyfriend, Apollo Blue; Ronnie Schell, playing robot Rudy 2, and Patric Zimmerman, the new voice of Elroy, Judy's brother.
    Paulsen tries out his imitation of Robert Duvall laughing, while Schell tries to match that with the sound of Cary Grant sneezing.
    Then as quickly as someone clearing his throat, they are in character and down to business, watching through a large window for a sign from director Gordon Hunt, who is manning the controls in a small sound booth. It seems tense, maybe because this is a movie and not just a half-hour cartoon. Everyone quickly makes room in the booth for animation guru Joe Barbera as he quietly sneaks in.
    Cartoon actors are as different as the voices they portray. San Fernando Valley residents Waldo, Welker and John Stephenson are three who can crowd a room. When Waldo answers her telephone, she sounds just like a teen-ager. Although long past that stage, it's easy to picture the bubbly, blonde Waldo as Judy Jetson, the giddy, Space Age daughter of George and Jane in the still-popular 27-year-old cartoon series.
    "Judy Jetson is one of the easiest voices for me to do because it's closest to my natural voice. It's just me being excited," Waldo said.
    When the futuristic cartoon series made its debut in 1962, Hanna-Barbera made only 24 episodes. "Little did we dream this would become a cult," Waldo said. The series proved so popular 20 years later that 51 more episodes were made, followed by two TV movies and "Jetsons: The Movie," which is scheduled for Christmas release.
    "There was a sense of family on the show, of being together so long," said the slightly built Waldo, dressed in red slacks, red sweater and red boots. "Doing the Jetsons again was like coming home."
    Waldo, who won't even hint at her age, grew up in Seattle and "never wanted to be anything but an actress" since age 3. Bing Crosby discovered her at a talent search when she was 13, and she did a few movie spots before getting into radio. She was one of three actresses to star as teen-ager Corliss Archer in the popular radio program, which first aired in 1943. She was also teen-ager Emmy Lou on radio and TV's "The Ozzie and Harriet Show," and Tony Franciosa's secretary, Libby, on the 1964-65 TV comedy "Valentine's Day."
    Radio was good to her in another way—it's where she met her husband, playwright Robert E. Lee. He was writing for "Favorite Story"; she was providing the voice for Corliss Archer.
    Doing cartoons is "much like doing radio, just with more punch. In cartoons, you have to be a little bit bigger than life," she said. To get a character's voice, sometimes she needs to see a picture or a cartoon. "Then you create the image in your head so you can sound like her."
    Breaking into a high, sweet and slightly Southern voice, she talks about Granny Sweet on the cartoon "Precious Pup," then drops it through her nose to demonstrate another favorite character, Hogatha, the incredibly ugly yet amazingly vain witch on "The Smurfs."
    "The Perils of Penelope Pitstop" was fun because race car driver Penelope was a woman before her time, a female super-hero in 1969, long before She-Ra flexed her cartoon muscles. And she loved doing the deep, strong voice of Fred Flintstone's battle-ax of a mother-in-law because "it was a real switch from Judy. It's fun to hide behind a large character."
    Her children were thrilled with her job on "The Jetsons.""They'd drop my name all the time to their friends. They have great awe and respect for my husband, but I got the squeals," she said.
    The walls of the book-filled family room in her Encino home are covered with framed posters of plays written by her husband and his partner Jerry Lawrence—"First Monday in October,""Auntie Mame,""Inherit the Wind,""The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail,""The Gang's All Here."
    In Waldo's small office are cartoon cels (drawings on celluloid that are used to make cartoons) of some of her characters—Grandma and the ghoulishly glamorous Morticia from the cartoon version of "The Addams Family," lead singer Josie from "Josie and the Pussycats," Alice from a Hanna-Barbera version of "Alice in Wonderland" and, of course, Judy Jetson.
    Waldo said she thinks that an acting background is what makes a cartoon actor more than just "a voice technician."
    "An actor can play a role from the heart, not just from the neck up. An actor immerses himself in the character. You can tell the difference. I feel truly, deeply concerned when Judy has a problem," she said.
    Commenting on how cartoons have changed, she said, "It used to be that cartoons were interesting to adults, as well as children." Now, Waldo complained, they are a bit boring and often too violent and too much like "one big commercial for toys."
    "The Jetsons" was "a genuine story about a real family who happens to live in outer space. It stimulated the imagination of the audience and triggered a new vista of ideas and imagination," she said.
    Waldo also dubs voices for American and foreign films, imitating everyone from Susan Anton and Sally Field to Aretha Franklin and the late Natalie Wood. If a movie line cannot be clearly heard, or naughty words are taken out for a TV run, voice actors are sometimes used instead of bringing back the star to do these "pickup lines."
    With cartoon voices, Waldo plays three types: a typical teen-ager, a typical young mother and a typical secretary. "Eventually," she said with a laugh, "I'll have to be a typical grandmother."
    She didn’t quite play “a typical grandmother.” She played Granny Sweet, the Little-Old-Lady-From-Pasadena-like owner of Precious Pupp, off riding her motorcycle while the dog vanquished bad guys and snickered all the time. A hepped-up suburban granny of the ‘60s and a squealing teenager of the future are just some of the roles we think about as we remember Janet Waldo today.

    Listen to this interview with Janet about her radio days conducted by John Dunning in 1982.









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    What?! Someone who grew up not liking cartoons!? Could there be such a person?

    Well, there was. She was a columnist for the Milwaukee Sentinel. But the errors of her youth were pointed out to her by the youth of today, 1961 version. Here’s a cute column from May 28th of that year when Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw were still appearing in brand-new cartoons on TV. It proves that kids are sometimes smarter than adults.

    Janet Kern’s Column
    Critic Caught Off Base
    REMEMBER THE DAYS when adults used to catch the kids goofing off from their duties? Now it’s the other way around, for me at least.
    A few weeks back, I was a dinner guest of a family with three children ranging in age from 6 to 13. Before my arrival, my stock was high with those youngsters who had somehow gotten the mistaken impression that I am by trade, a TV scout rather than a TV columnist. The moment that illusion was blasted the female member of the young trio gave up on me. The boys stuck, briefly.
    “What is the best children’s show?” the older boy asked.
    “Whu, uh, I really don’t know,” I stammered.
    “Don’t you watch television?” the youngster probed.
    “Well, yes, but not children’s shows,” I replied.
    “Why not? Don’t children count?” came the pressing query.
    I took refuge behind my favorite, and heretofore effective alibi.
    “Being a grownup, I figure that I can’t really judge a children’s show. If it entertains me it’s no good for the children. If the children enjoy it, I probably wouldn’t like it.”
    “Well, my favorite show is the Untouchables; lots of growups watch that, do you?”
    “No,” I confessed, “I don’t watch it because I don’t like it or approve of it. I think it’s a dreadful show.”
    That was the end of me so far as those kids were concerned!

    MORE RECENTLY, a young lady of 4 . . . a trim, starched little doll named Holly Becker, who hadn’t seen me since she was 2 years old . . . came to call at my house. She arrived dragging a doll and clutching a long-eared rabbit.
    Without so much as an “hello, how are you?” or what-have-you, Holly greeted me with:
    “Pardon me, where may I put Bugs Bunny?”
    Having found a suitable chair for Bugs Bunny, we got down to serious conversation.
    “Do you know Bugs Bunny?” Holly inquired.
    “Oh, yes,” I replied confidently.
    “Do you know my grandmother?” she continued, and I had to confess I hadn’t had the pleasure.
    “Well, then, do you know Pixie and Dixie?”
    “Who?” I countered and her neat little eyebrows shot up in horror.
    Pixie and Dixie, I learned later, are the “mice” on Huckleberry Hound.
    “May I have a glass of milk, please?” Holly asked meekly and then, alone in the kitchen, over a glass of milk, she explained to me that her baby sister can’t talk “because babies have such tiny little ears.” For this education she wanted to be repaid in kind.
    “Why did they stuff Yogi Bear?”
    That one threw me. Calling for help from her mother, I learned that Holly had recently visited a museum where she had seen a stuffed bear. This distressed her because, to her, all bears are Yogi Bear and she objected to her friend having been killed so he could be stuffed.
    Later, Holly gazed up at me affectionately and murmured in fond-sounding tones.
    “I hate you to pieces.
    “That’s Huckleberry Hound, too,” her father hastened to console me.
    “I hate Daddy to pieces, too,” Holly whispered. “Do you know Hokey?”
    Gradually, I learned that Holly never misses Huckleberry Hound nor Bugs Bunny.

    ANOTHER YOUNG FRIEND, this one all of 11 years old, and named Tommy, turned out to be a Huckleberry Hound follower too . . . also a religious nightly viewer of Bugs Bunny.
    Tommy also dotes on Dobie Gillis and Ozzie and Harriet and Hennessey. Most of all, though, he loves The Untouchables. “When he can get away with it, he watches it.” Tommy, apparently, has some trouble getting away with the Untouchables, because his big sister is my assistant and she’s been brain-washed anent The Untouchables!
    Obviously, the professional viewer is out of touch with the main-stream of youth what with Bugs Bunny mainly from her own youth and not really knowing Huckleberry Hound and not approving of The Untouchables. Of course, I was an abnormal child. I didn’t even like cartoons.
    That this was, and is, an abnormality, I know. For, the other evening, driving past a movie theatre, an extremely grown-up friend observed elatedly: “Oh, look. 101 Dalmatians is playing here!”
    And, some time later, sitting at dinner at a largely adult-crowded restaurant, I heard the four extremely grown-up folk behind me conversing about the major affairs of the day.
    They discussed most of the material in that day’s newspapers. Then one observed with equal solemnity:
    “We went to see 101 Dalmatians last night; you really must see it.”
    “I really don’t care for movies,” a woman at the table replied.
    “Oh, but you’ll really enjoy this one; no one should miss it,” the first gentleman insisted gently.
    And, I was tempted to butt in, no one should miss Bugs Bunny or Huckleberry Hound, either! Take it from a girl who’s getting more and more socially outcast because she usually does miss both shows!

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    Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
    Credits: Animation – Art Davis, Layout – Paul Sommer, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
    Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, J. Evil Scientist, Cat – Daws Butler; Mrs. J. Evil Scientist – Jean Vander Pyl; Junior, Mouse – Don Messick.
    Music: Hoyt Curtin.
    Copyright 1960 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
    Plot: J. Evil Scientist hires Snagglepuss to catch a mouse, which has been unknowingly enlarged in an experiment.

    Hanna-Barbera seemed to use the Snagglepuss cartoons to showcase recurring secondary characters it may have wanted to turn into series leads. Thus Snagglepuss met up with Yakky Doodle, Bigelow the Mouse, Snuffles and, in this cartoon, Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist.

    As much as the Scientist clan is reminiscent of TV’s Addams Family, it should be noted that the John Astin-Carolyn Jones series debuted a few years after this cartoon, though books of the single-panel Addams cartoons in The New Yorker were published as early as 1954.

    As well, the scary-is-delightful, ugly-is-beautiful turnabout humour of J. Evil and family draws a bit on the “sick” humour that came into vogue in the late ‘50s. The “sick” school of punchlines came in for a lot of criticism by bluenoses for being “tasteless.” No one could accuse Mike Maltese of that with the J. Evil Scientists; the dialogue was too silly to be offensive, just as how Bob and Ray’s newscaster Peter Gorey growled out stories like “A poor shopkeeper was killed accidentally while attempting suicide.” This cartoon includes a loud screech of fear from Mrs. Scientist, to which J. Evil responds “How thoughtful! She’s singing our song.” And when Mrs. Scientist informs her husband that “guillotine stew” is for dinner, he remarks: “It sounds delicious! Why don’t you put in a head—(pause)—of cabbage?” After a while, Hanna-Barbera beat the idea to death but it’s funny in small doses in this cartoon.

    Poor Snagglepuss doesn’t even appear in the first 2½ minutes. He finally shows up at the door of the Scientists’ standard-issue creepy house (excellently painted by Dick Thomas in the opening shot). Before that can happen, Maltese sets up the plot. Junior Scientist is playing with daddy’s experiment equipment in the basement and uses a ray to enlarge a mouse. The great Art Davis is the animator here. As Greg Watson (or whoever) fills the soundtrack with Hoyt Curtin’s minor key organ music, thunder sound effects and electronic buzzing, Davis comes up with some neat flashing animation effects.



    Just as H-B cartoons can have a dog that can only say “Yowp,” they can have an enlarged mouse with a vocabulary restricted to “Snarf!” The big rodent scares Mrs. Scientist, who actually exhibits no fear (other than standing on a chair) and continues to calmly flick cigarette ashes on the mouse as she requests help, maintaining the same relaxed, throaty voice as she does in the rest of the cartoon (Jean Vander Pyl as Tallulah Bankhead). The family cat bolts when asked to get the mouse; J. Evil develops multiple eyes to watch the cat’s streaking exit.



    The set-up complete, Snagglepuss arrives. The ensuing dialogue:

    J. Evil (opening door) – It’s a mouldy-looking mountain lion, my dear.
    Snagglepuss– Mouldy-lookin’! If it were not, I were to the manor born, I’d reciprocate in kind. Whaddya think of that? Whaddya think of that?
    J. Evil– I still think you’re mouldy. What do you think of THAT?
    The dialogue continues...
    Snagglepuss– I seek not but food, ere I continue me weary travels. Whaddya say to that? Whaddya say to that?
    J. Evil– I’d say “scram or I’ll sic a dragon on you.”
    Snagglepuss begs for food, promising work in return. “Anything you need, name it, name it. Chop wood, beat a rug, jelly eels, fix a fig maybe.” Only Maltese would throw in “jelly eels.”

    Naturally, Snagglepuss fails at his task, overcome by Junior and technology. There’s a nice bit of running dialogue when Snagglepuss employs a tea strainer to catch the mouse. “It’s tea time, little rodent,” he exclaims. Then when he realises the mouse is huge, he looks at the camera and says “Heavens to Murgatroyd. A verita-b-b-b-ble Frankenmouse monster, even. Which isn’t my cup of tea. So, exit, stage left!” This is the only time in the cartoon where we hear Snagglepuss’ catchphrases.

    Another neat bit of dialogue (or, rather, monologue) ensues, featuring Maltese’s use of mounting ridiculous phrases:

    Snagglepuss (to Junior) – Say! Why aren’t you in school? Better yet, why aren’t you in jail?
    Mouse – Snarf! Snarf, snarf, snarf!
    Snagglepuss (to mouse) – Say! Are you followin’ me? Don’t yazz realise that you’re breakin’ a city ordinance? Malpractice. Pedestrum follow-ita. With an ipso factory. And an accessory after the carbohydrate. So watch it. Watch it.
    The mouse grabs Snagglepuss. A couple of nice drawings.



    The cartoon ends with Junior and the mouse shrinking Snagglepuss, who runs to the comfort of the mouse’s hole and finds a piece of cheese. So Snagglepuss succeeds in getting something to eat after all. Note the brush strokes and multiples in the exit drawings.



    Daws Butler gives J. Evil a Peter Lorre-esque voice, though it’s less nasally than you think Lorre sounds like. If you’re familiar with how Lorre emphasized certain words, you’ll notice when Davis stretches J. Evil’s mouth when emphasizing.



    The sound cutter makes good use of Hoyt Curtin’s music tracking library. I like the bass fiddle music during one scene where the large mouse is walking. And a variation on “Meet the Flintstones” is heard when Snagglepuss is at the door.

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    Pebbles took an awful lot of the spotlight in the Flintstones newspaper comics, but the Sunday colour ones from 50 years ago this month revolve around Fred (with one exception). Frankly, that’s the way I prefer it. The cartoon series originally revolved around the grouchy, occasionally-scheming Fred barking at his wife and his best friend and I wouldn’t have minded if it had stayed that way.


    Fred reading a girly magazine? That’s what it appears in the opening panel of the June 5th comic (Cave Boy instead of Playboy). He’s also maintained his subscription to Golf magazine, I see. There are jagged expression lines around the annoyed Betty in the first panel of the middle column. The final panel has not only a run-down Christmas tree, but birds nesting in it. Fred has a nice weary expression.


    The idea of Dino and Pebbles “talking” in the newspaper comics isn’t something I’m taken with, but it opened more story possibilities, such as the one in the June 12th comic. And a dinosaur that shaves? (third panel, top row). The last panel is my favourite with the full moon, the dark clouds, Dino in silhouette and the volcanoes in the background.


    It’s a shame the scan of the June 19th comic isn’t a little better because it’s difficult to see Fred’s expression in the last panel. The drawings of Fred are really good, and I like the composition of the opening panel, with a good use of foreground and background space to avoid making it look cluttered.


    Fred’s swearing in the opening panel of the June 26th comic is creatively lettered. Same goes for the SLAM! in the rare round panel in the middle row. The foreman not only smokes a cigar, but has a watch chain, like someone out of the 1900s.

    Click on any of the comics to enlarge them.

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  • 06/25/16--07:28: Dan Gordon's Sketches
  • Dan Gordon was one of the originals at Hanna-Barbera, providing story sketches for the Ruff and Reddy series in 1957. Gordon was originally an architectural draughtsman (he was employed as one according the U.S. Censuses in 1920 and 1930). Whether he went into animation before his younger brother George is unclear, but the two of them both worked for the Van Beuren and Terrytoons studios in New York (with Joe Barbera) before he moved on to employment after the war on comic books, then with the John Sutherland and Transfilm industrial studios in the ‘50s.

    Gordon seems to have worked on all of Hanna-Barbera’s series (possibly excluding Top Cat) until 1965 when he vanished from the studio. Heritage Auctions recently accepted bids on a number of items to which Gordon’s name was attached. Whether he drew them all is open for discussion.

    First some great sketches that appear to have been made in preparation for The Jetsons (1962). There are some nice concepts here.



    Next are some panels of either the Flintstones or Flagstones (the series’ original name). These drawings are definitely by Gordon, though the dialogue appears to have been scribbled in by Joe Barbera. They’re from “The Swimming Pool,” the first episode put into production, though the dialogue isn’t verbatim what’s in the finished cartoon.



    Finally, some great sketches of Yogi Bear for a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes commercial. I don’t know whether these are Gordon’s. Yogi’s very attractively drawn and I like the crowing rooster on the package.



    Gordon left the studio around the start of 1961 to work for Quartet, the commercial studio eventually run by Hanna-Barbera alumnus Mike Lah (he was Bill Hanna’s brother-in-law) but returned by the time Magilla Gorilla was in production then seems to have left again around the time Secret Squirrel and Atom Ant were being made in 1965. Gordon died five or six years later (I have not found a definitive source on when or where). He was one of a number of fine cartoon artists who put their stamp on the early (and best) Hanna-Barbera comedy series.

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    The man to your right may look like an irritable boss and, in fact, he played one on TV. You wouldn’t have seen him though. That’s because John Stephenson supplied the voice for Mr. Slate on The Flintstones.

    He portrayed a bunch of other characters on the show, too, including private eye Perry Gunite. In fact, for a number of years, it seems he found his way into most of Hanna-Barbera’s productions in secondary and/or nemesis roles. His voice is the one that comes to mind when you think of a villain foiled by “those meddling kids and that dog” on the original incarnation of Scooby Doo.

    We’ve talked about the late Mr. Stephenson’s career here before—on radio, in live-action television, in animation. But you’ll be able to hear about it from a different perspective. John’s son Roger will be the guest of Stu Shotak on the Stu’s Show podcast next Wednesday at 4 p.m. West Coast time. Roger grew up while his father was at the peak of his long career and will likely have plenty of insights into his dad that cartoon fans don’t know. So tune in. Click here.

    Earlier this month, we clipped a piece from the Los Angeles Times of April 28, 1989 where Janet Waldo was interviewed during her recording for her ill-fated part in the Jetsons movie. Stephenson was interviewed, too. Here’s his portion:

    Stephenson is the old guard—a stage and radio actor who takes his voices seriously, even when voicing Tom and Jerry in the popular cat-and-mouse cartoon.
    In his cartoon work, there were times he was “literally talking to myself.” In one half-hour “Flintstone” caper, he had nine voices and had to mark his script in different colors to keep them straight.
    Stephenson may seem a perennial second banana, playing Mr. Slate to Fred Flintstone, Mr. Dingwall to Yogi Bear. He doesn’t see it that way.
    “These are the guys the other guys kick around. They provoke the action,” Stephenson said in a stately voice that could easily reach the far rows of any theater.
    Mr. Slate, for example, was always making Fred and Barney miserable, but in the end, they always bested the boss. Since Slate provoked the action, Stephenson said, “I never thought of his as a second banana.”
    The characters, including Doggie Daddy in the “Augie Doggie” cartoon, Fancy from “Top Cat,” Mr Arable in “Charlotte’s Web,” Finkerton in “Inch High Private Eye,” and the Sheriff in “Robin Hoodnik” are “the fun parts” of his work.
    With his courtly manners and resonant voice, Stephenson seems almost too dignified to play cartoon characters. But he said he never feels silly because he doesn’t view his characters as one-dimensional.
    “It’s their different facets that are intriguing. You can stretch as far as you want. It’s exaggerated, but it still reflects life.”
    Although his two children always got a kick from dad’s gigs, Stephenson always saw voice acting as just a job. Stephenson, who wouldn’t give his age, said he doesn’t do his shtick at parties, and he doesn’t entertain for adults. “Some people can turn it on and off. Away from the mike, I don’t like to do this,” he said.
    Stephenson has had a varied career—from stage plays to product pitchman; from television appearances on “Dragnet” and “People’s Choice” (where he played Jackie Cooper’s neighbor, Roger Crutcher, another second banana) to Armed Forces training films and the voice for some Mattel toys. He hosted the travel show “Bold Journey” from 1956-57 and appeared in the 1965 NBC soap “Morning Star.”
    Even as a boy in Kenosha, Wis., Stephenson wanted to act. But acting was a risky profession, so he tried studying law. He interrupted his education to serve as a radio operator-gunner flying B-24s out of Kunming, China, during World War II, and when he returned to school, it was as a theater arts major at Northwestern.
    Trained for the stage, Stephenson “fell into radio by accident.” When I moved to Los Angeles in1949, I found you had two choices—radio or movies.
    He found plenty of work playing lead and featured parts in hundreds of network radio shows, including the title role in “The Count of Monte Christo” and the lead in the CBS comedy series “It’s Always Sunday,” but he knew by the 1950s that “radio was doomed. When radio died, you found yourself blending into television.”
    Although radio work was low profile, it was satisfying “because you could wear many hats, you didn’t have to be locked into your own skin. It’s like putting a lamp shade on your voice. Age and image were not barriers.” There were those who referred to radio people as “throat actors,” a term Stephenson sees as derogatory. “They thought that was all they were getting. You had to be an actor from the top of your toes to the top of your head.”
    The early cartoons like “The Flintstones” have held up so well, he said, because the writing was so good and the human condition is the same.
    “The beautiful thing about cartoons is that there is no time barrier.” But, he added, with a rueful chuckle, “If we knew they would last so long, we would have asked for more money.”
    In case you’re wondering, Stephenson’s son didn’t go into voice acting or show business. Instead, Roger spent many years serving the community in law enforcement.

    Those of you who love the early Hanna-Barbera animated series (and you must, otherwise you wouldn’t be here) may not know that Stu has interviewed a number of people over the years about those fun cartoons: Janet Waldo, Jerry Eisenberg, Tony Benedict and the late Earl Kress, who probably knew more about the cartoons than anyone else. Those interviews are available for purchase for under $1. They’re bargains.

    If Earl were still with us, he might have had an answer to this question. To the right, you see a makeover of Mr. Slate for the Flintstones episode “Moonlight Maintenance.” Why does he look different, Stu enquired of me, because the character had already been established by the time this cartoon appeared on TV. I can’t, and won’t, pass myself off as an expert on very much to do with the studio. The credits for this particular episode say the layout artists were Dick Bickenbach and Ed Benedict. The layout guys generally designed the incidental characters. My only guess is Benedict wanted to try something different if he was the man behind it (I don’t see Bick being responsible). This was a fifth season cartoon (1964-65) and, to be honest, the series was more miss than hit that year. It was also dealing with the real possibility of cancellation as it was being killed in the ratings by TV newcomer Herman and the rest of The Munsters on CBS. And H-B was starting to be stretched pretty thin, with Jonny Quest, Magilla Gorilla and Peter Potamus in production, with Secret Squirrel and Atom Ant being developed. But all that production meant more voice work for John Stephenson, and I’m sure he didn’t mind.

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    Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
    Credits: Animation – Bill Keil, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
    Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig; Cat, English Hunter, Baggage Checker, Joe, Old Lady, Conductor – Daws Butler.
    Music: Hoyt Curtin.
    Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
    Plot: A cat on board a train tries to catch Yakky Doodle.

    Don’t let the cringe-worthy opening of this cartoon fool you. Yakky Doodle imitates a steam choo-choo train, and then Chopper imitates Yakky, opining to the audience: “Now, ain’t that cute!” No, it’s not. But the cartoon picks up from there, and turns into a funny little adventure thanks to the quick pace of the dialogue and action, and gags that seem familiar from old Warner Bros. cartoons (even if they aren’t). Daws Butler gives the cat the voice he’d later put in Fibber Fox. And at the end, we learn why writer Mike Maltese put in the train-imitation at the start.



    (One might wonder if the “chugga-chugga” that Yakky and Chopper engage in resulted in the creation the character of “Chugga-Chugga” the dachshund in the Magilla Gorilla cartoons, since he makes the same noise. Could be. Hanna-Barbera was borrowing from itself before Magilla appeared).

    Bill Keil is the animator in this cartoon. Let’s post some of his drawings, accompanied by some top-notch brushwork from Hanna Barbera’s ink and paint department. You’ll notice in the case of the cat (third and fourth frames below), Keil didn’t use the same exit drawings in two difference scenes; he created entirely new animation.



    Walt Clinton handled the layouts. As Mr. J. Kricfalusi, formerly of Ottawa, has informed us, Clinton designed a lot of his incidental characters with an ear at collar height. The conductor is an exception. Note his angular design.



    There’s an inspired sequence where the cat keeps bashing Chopper on the head with a frying pan to knock him unconscious and Yakky continually tosses water from a bucket on him to wake him up again. The dialogue is quick (some of it below has been snipped).

    Chopper: Hey! What’s going on?
    (frying pan crashes on head, Chopper sleeps)
    Cat: Go to sleep, pal. (giggles).
    Yakky: Wake up, Chopper. Wake up. Don’t go to sleep now.
    (splash; Chopper wakes up)
    Chopper: Hrruhn? Is it time to get up?
    Cat: No, it isn’t.
    (frying pan crashes on head, Chopper sleeps)
    Cat: I’ll call you when it’s time to get up, pal.
    Chopper (while sleeping): Thanks, pal.
    Yakky: It’s time, Chopper. Get up! Get up!
    (splash; Chopper wakes up)
    Chopper: Hey! How can I guy get any sleep around here?
    Cat: Easy. When you hear the tone, it’ll be exactly beddy-bye time again.
    (Yakky puts the bucket on Chopper’s head. The frying pan clobber has no effect).
    Chopper: Hey, what did you hit me with, cat?
    Cat: This.
    (frying pan crashes on head, Chopper sleeps)
    The chase moves into a passenger car, where Yakky disguises himself as a decoration in an old lady’s hat. Tweety did the same thing in at least a couple of Warners’ cartoons, including Bird in a Bonnet (1958). And, like Granny in the Sylvester/Tweety cartoons, the gag ends with the woman clobbering the cat with a handy umbrella. The fight is interrupted by the train conductor, who demands to see Chopper and the cat’s tickets. The two rush away and fool the conductor by pretending they are newspaper-reading passengers (wasn’t this used in a theatrical cartoon somewhere?) before resuming the chase.



    The next gag is a variation of one from the Yowp cartoon Bare Face Bear (with Yogi Bear) and, before that, Tex Avery’s Ventriloquist Cat. The cat thinks it’s safely locked in his cat-cage and taunts Chopper, not realising the dog has lifted up the top of the cage and can easily grab him. The cat’s taunts slow down and then step as he realises his predicament. (A punch in the face ends the scene). There’s also another bit where Chopper rings the cat’s neck and Yakky rolls out on his tongue. Can you name a cartoon where you’ve seen that?



    The cartoon ends with another well-worn gag; you can a similar one in the Sylvester/Tweety short All A Bir-r-r-d (1950). The characters are on top of the train but are knocked off it by a signal arm (usually, the gag involves a tunnel). How do they get to New York now? Simple. They imitate the sound of a train, just like Yakky and Chopper did at the outset of the cartoon. Chopper remarks to us again: “Now, ain’t that cute!” No, it’s not. But it provides a good head and tail to Maltese’s story, and that’s all that matters. It also gave Keil a chance to re-use some of his animation from earlier in the cartoon. To Bill Hanna, that mattered, too.



    Some of Bob Gentle’s background work.



    By the way, in this cartoon, Yakky is a “priceless Tasmanian duck” as opposed to a “rare Tralfazian duck” in the Snooper and Blabber cartoon De-Duck-Tives (1959) which featured the pre-Yakky version of the duck and was also written by Mike Maltese. The latter would have been funnier. And to the right, you see my favourite drawing of the cartoon. Ah, well. Maybe next time, cat.

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    Quick Draw McGraw rides into Yogi Bear’s life in the weekend comics of 50 years ago this month. Yes, he’s a horse that rides a horse. Don’t ask. Actually, Quick Draw rides in only one of the five comics. He’s a patriotic American in the other.

    Our usual source for comics has double-exposed photos of pages, rendering them useless. We’ve hunted through six sources and this is the best we can come up with, so you’re stuck dealing with crappy quality.


    Yogi is spending the Fourth of July engaged in non-stop rhymes or quasi-rhymes (the comic actually came out on July 3rd in the U.S.). The natives that populate Jellystone Park (or a reserve attached nearby) make another appearance. Note the patriotic rabbit in the top panel.



    It’s a shame this tabloid version of the July 10th is in black and white because I would have liked to have seen the purple and gold that Quick Draw talks about. The cacti “Yogi Bear” in the opening panel is an appropriate touch. The opener also features a couple of rabbits watching the saddlesore action. The four-column comics are always missing a small top row panel; this one is missing Yogi and the grinning horse in silhouette, with a cactus in the background, and Yogi remarking “I shouldn’t oughtter rode this trotter.”


    Another rabbit in the top panel on July 17th, as well as frogs and butterflies. As usual, the composition is really well thought out with action at various depths. Flowers evidently excite Yogi judging by the way he’s rubbing his rump in the air in the third panel. Hey, Ranger Smith, why didn’t you just write “flower”?



    An anonymous guy who knows Yogi takes the place of Ranger Smith as the irate patsy in the July 24th comic. This version is missing a small silhouette panel of Yogi walking stage left and a tall fir tree in the left of the panel.


    Yogi doesn’t have a lot of luck with greenhouses. The previous October in the Sunday comics, he destroyed one by tripping and accidentally firing apples through its windows. You can see what happens in the July 31st comic. Blame the general store owner and his faulty bag, Yogi! Hey, the rabbit and birdies are back. Boo Boo plays with a yo-yo just to make a couple of panels more interesting.

    As usual, you can click on any of these to try to get a better look.

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    59 years ago today, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera took their MGM partnership, along with some money from film director George Sidney, and officially formed Hanna-Barbera Enterprises. Variety reported “Firm has plans for eventual theatrical cartoon features, but will do teleblurb and industrial animation work at present.” From that modest idea grew a TV empire.

    Hanna-Barbera cartoons were soon seen, and loved, all over the world. As proof, here’s a story from the 1961 edition of Picture Show Annual, a British publication. It focuses mainly on Hanna and Barbera’s theatrical work although, oddly, there’s no mention of Loopy De Loop, even though the article contains two publicity drawings of the loup de Français. I really like the one with Loopy and Red Riding Hood. The outlined background and stylised Red reminds me of something from a Jay Ward cartoon; I wonder if it’s an early concept drawing by Ed Benedict.

    I don’t think I’ve heard of the origin of Tom and Jerry that Hanna outlines in the story, and the relationship between Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore on their WW2-era radio show isn’t mentioned as an influence on Spike and Tyke (and, later, Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy).


    The Men Behind Tom and Jerry

    WILLIAM Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the creators of the world-famous cat and mouse, Tom and Jerry, are veterans in the field of animated cartoons.
    Three years ago they branched out on their own under the banner of Hanna and Barbera Productions — they were formerly with M.-G.-M. for 20 years — located at the old Charlie Chaplin studio in Hollywood.
    Oddly enough, neither William Hanna nor Joseph Barbera started his career in life as artist or cartoonist.
    Hanna, born in Melrose, New Mexico, studied engineering and journalism at the University of California. His first job as a structural engineer was for the building of the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. After falling off a girder he decided to try his luck at another profession.
    At a friend’s suggestion he went to art school where he studied for several months before getting his first “ art ” job with the Harman-Ising cartoon firm. His duties were “to clean cartoon frames, sweep up the place, run errands and inspire bosses with story ideas.”
    Joseph Barbera, born in New York City, went to work as an accountant for the New York’s Trust Company. He was a dreamer and a doodler, a habit which was to launch him in a new career. After many tries of submitting cartoons to magazines he managed to sell one to Collier's. Soon he became a regular contributor to such leading magazines as The New Yorker and Punch as well as Collier's.
    In 1937, Bill Hanna was hired by M.-G.-M. studios as a director and story man and Joe Barbera became an animator and writer at the same studio.
    As their first assignment the two men were told to create a fresh, new cartoon series for motion pictures. The result: Tom and Jerry.
    William Hanna, a modest and unassuming gentleman, told me: “My partner and I got along together so well all these years that by now we seem to be like identical twins, knowing each other’s thoughts and blending our ideas together.”
    “Are Tom and Jerry modelled on any particular cat and mouse?” I asked.
    “On the M.-G.-M. backlot there was a whole colony of cats to keep down the population of rats. Although the studio supplied them with food, water and even milk, those cats were vicious and like wild animals. From them we got the idea of adding Butch, the alley cat. Butch’s counterpart was on the backlot, and this also is true of Tom.
    “Jerry, the mouse, was a little creature that turned up at our office from nowhere — I guess he was after scraps. We encouraged him to have the run of the office by putting titbits of cheese and other tasty morsels for him to nibble. We used to watch him for weeks in all his movements and antics. “When kittens were born to the alley cats the girls in the inking department mothered them and made pets of them. Here we added models for the behaviour of Tom and Jerry.
    “The bulldog idea was actually created from a little pup we called Tike. In our department we had an animator, the father of a small boy, who continually bragged about his son’s smartness. Day in and day out we had to listen to this devoted father and son relationship. My partner and I thought it a good idea to use the same formula with dogs and so Spike came into being.”
    During the 20 years’ tenure at M.-G.-M. the team turned out 125 adventures of the mischievous rodent and bungling feline, which won seven Academy Awards for the studio. It was expensive to produce these cartoons which cost about £13,000 for a seven-minute run.
    In 1957, with the motion picture business at an all-time low, M.-G.-M. decided to discontinue cartoon production for motion pictures and Hanna and Barbera were given release from their contracts.
    This proved to be the biggest break of their lives. Together they had perfected several techniques and ideas for producing cartoons for television which they submitted to various advertising agencies and film production companies.
    Everywhere they went they were met with the same answer: “It can’t be done. Good animation is too expensive; limited animation is too shoddy.”
    On 7th July 1957 the two men formed the Hanna and Barbera Productions and Screen Gems took over as distributors. Their first production was Ruff ’n’ Reddy, a story about a frisky cat and a dimwitted dog, and went on an American network in 1957, followed by Huckleberry Hound, the saga of a canine Don Quixote, which is one of their most popular cartoons.
    It is estimated that it takes over 90 separate drawings to create a laugh movement or a total of 10,000 individual drawing frames to make up a half-hour cartoon enjoyment.
    Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera say: “We think the popularity of our cartoons lies in providing psychological release for all human beings of all ages. No one gets hurt despite clobbering and binding situations.
    “We have tried to give the audience characters which they can identify with themselves — then follow up with wild antics impossible to duplicate in real life. “The adults have taken to the satire while the children watch the programmes for the face value action packed story.”
    William Hanna is married and resides in North Hollywood with his wife and their two children, Bonnie, 18, and David, 21.
    Joseph Barbera and his wife live in West Los Angeles. They have three children, Lynn, 21, Jayne, 18, and Neal, 15.

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