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Stuff about early Hanna-Barbera cartoons

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  • 03/08/17--06:57: Daws Speaks
  • It’s been pretty close to 29 years that Daws Butler has been gone. In a way, he’s not gone, because there are plenty of old cartoons to view where you can hear his wonderful work. And though he’s obviously not recording anything new, some discoveries from the past occasionally pop up.

    Reader Adel Khan sent me a note about this TV news magazine feature story about Daws. I don’t know anything about it, including whoever posted it originally. Any fan of Daws will enjoy this but what I find fascinating is the portion where he’s giving voice acting lessons and how he suggests extremely subtle changes to make a performance better; it’s stuff I never would have thought of. That’s why Daws was a true master of voice over work.

    Thanks to Adel for letting us all know about this.

    Note: Keith Scott says this story was from a special week-long piece on Kids TV and aired in early 1978. June Foray had a profile the next day. He didn’t explain what "Kids TV" is/was.


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  • 03/11/17--07:06: Snagglepuss in Twice Shy
  • Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
    Credits: Animation - Phil Duncan, Layout - Jack Huber, Backgrounds - Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director - Paul Sommer, Titles - Art Goble, Production Supervision - Howard Hanson.
    Voice Cast: Major, Sir Clyde, Charlie's Buddy, Dog Owner, Singinging Adventurer - Don Messick; Snagglepuss, Adventurer, Charlie, Dog, Singing Adventurer - Daws Butler.
    Music: Hoyt Curtin.
    Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
    Plot: Snagglepuss is freed by the Major's identical twin brother but keeps getting recaptured by the Major.

    Confusion over identical twins was nothing unusual in a Snagglepuss cartoon. Mike Maltese used the plot device in One Two Many, when Lila couldn't figure out there was both a Snagglepuss and his scheming twin Snaggletooth. This time, Snagglepuss is on the receiving end, as Major Minor has an identical twin, one who abhors his brother's big-game hunting ways. Snagglepuss naturally mixes up the two of them until they both appear at the end of the cartoon (Lila never had such luck).

    "Major! Celebration over already?" asks Snagglepuss when he sees the twin brother. Naturally, all Sir Clyde had to do was say "I'm not the Major," which would seem to be a logical response. But then we wouldn't have a cartoon, would we?

    Maltese always tosses in punny dialogue between Snagglepuss and the Major and this one is no exception.


    Major (to fellow adventurers): And, as he tried to escape, I raised my gun, and shot him where the Ubangi bends. Or was it where the jungle meets the sea?
    Snagglepuss: Neether neither. Or eether either, Major. It was where the thigh bone ends, and where the shinbone meets the knee.

    Incidentally, the Ubangi River does have a wide bend.

    The plot is pretty straight forward, but my favourite moment in the cartoon has nothing to do with it. Major Minor has finally caught Snagglepuss and exhibits him in a cage at the Adventurers' Club (note the colour changes in the light effect in the centre of the frame). The adventurers throw a celebratory bash for him ("with dinner, a sing-along, and all that happy-type jazz"). Meanwhile, Sir Clyde lands in his yacht, and is determined to reform his brother of hunting. "I believe all animals should be freed and unfettered," he declares to an inquistive newspaper reporter. Just then he sees a dog on a leash. Clyde snips the leash with a pair of scissors. "You're free, doggie! Run, run, run!""Whatever for?" snaps the annoyed dog, who jumps into his owner's arms. "I have a good thing going for me right here."



    The rest of the cartoon is more amusing than funny. Sir Clyde keeps freeing Snagglepuss, who crashes the Major's party (on one occasion, enjoying his favourite dessert—kumquats jubilee), and the Major keeps caging him. Finally, Snagglepuss tries to run away from both and eventually realises there are two of them. ("Heavens to Murgatroyd! I've been playing with a pair of jokers!"). Clyde tells the Major grandpapa will cut him off ("without a crumpet") if he hunts any more wild game, so the Major reluctantly frees Snagglepuss. But Clyde agrees to stroke the Major's ego by taking a picture of the mighty hunter standing atop his prey (with the only animation being eye blinks) for about 36 frames. "This kind of shootin' I go for. Enjoy, even," Snagglepuss tells the TV audience at home as the iris closes to end the cartoon.



    We get all of Snagglepuss’ catchphrases, including "Exit, droolin’ all the way, stage left" as he zips off camera to enjoy the banquet festivities.

    Phil Duncan animated this cartoon. I presume he was hired on a freelance basis as he was employed at Playhouse Pictures around this time. Mike Kazaleh has mentioned Duncan animated the famous Winston spot on The Flintstones and was responsible for some of the first Huckleberry Hound cartoons-between-the-cartoons in the 1958-59 season (they’re rubbery with stretched mouth movements, and in full animation). The drawings aren’t as distinctive in this cartoon. Jack Huber handled layouts. An interesting one—unless it was on Maltese’s storyboard—was a shot of Snagglepuss with the adventurers in the foreground in silhouette. Silhouettes weren’t common in H-B cartoons. John Edward Huber was born in Chicago on May 6, 1914 and was employed at Disney by 1940. He died in Costa Mesa, California on May 12, 1998.



    Bob Gentle’s backgrounds aren’t really showcased in this cartoon. His interiors for the Adventurers Club have plenty of Ionic pillars. There’s one establishing shot of the exterior of the Club used a couple of times.



    Hoyt Curtin’s stock cues work well in this cartoon. None of them really stand out, and they’ll be familiar to Hanna-Barbera fans.

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    Attention people who obsess over the Flintstones celebrating Christmas: they celebrate Easter, too! You know, death of Jesus, long after the Stone Age, that sort of thing? Hurry! Complain all over the internet about it!

    The Easter cartoon is in the Flintstones weekend newspaper comic of March 26, 1967. The anonymous writer makes an Easter Bunny/Playboy bunny reference as his end gag. As you can see below, Fred is wearing a secret agent hat while “Pops” looks like a leprechaun with beard.

    You can the rest of the month’s half-pagers below. One story features a tramp (Mel Blanc voice, perhaps?) and another with a door-to-door salesmen (I hear Howie Morris). The March 5th comic has Gene Hazelton experimenting with no backgrounds, similar in a way to coloured cards in medium shots of Hanna-Barbera characters in the early animated cartoons.

    My thanks again to Richard Holliss for supplying these from his archive.

    March 5, 1967.

    March 12, 1967.

    March 19, 1967.

    March 26, 1967.

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  • 03/18/17--07:02: G.I. Jetson
  • Attention! Look at the picture on the right. It’s Fred Flintstone!

    Actually, it’s not. It’s an incidental character in The Jetsons episode “G.I. Jetson.” But Hanna-Barbera was borrowing an awful lot from itself by the time this cartoon was made in 1962 (it aired early the following year). There’s a character who sounds like Huckleberry Hound. We get the gag where George Jetson presses the wrong button and dresses as Jane to the amusement of the laugh track. And writer Barry Blitzer re-uses much of his own plot from the earlier Uniblab cartoon.

    Uniblab, if you’ve forgotten, was a humanoid computer brain hired by Cosmo Spacely (over Jetson) to be the manager his office. In this cartoon, Spacely hires him (over Jetson) to be the Sergeant of the Space Guard Reserve which he and Jetson are in. Once again, Uniblab conducts some shady, illegal gambling (marked playing cards of the future give off a hi-fi signal). George again mouths off to him about Spacely as Uniblab captures it on a microphone (the difference is there’s a camera broadcasting it to Spacely). Again, Henry comes to the rescue by screwing with Uniblab’s innards (a wrong battery this time instead of high-alcohol oil). And, one more time, Uniblab’s out of control when Spacely has the robot/computer show off for the higher-ups. The original Uniblab cartoon is pretty funny. This is just a stale carbon copy—or whatever they have in the future instead of carbon copies.



    Just to back up a bit, Blitzer’s story opens with George having a nightmare about Spacely being Satan. After being woken up, the Western Universe boy comes flying to the Jetsons’ apartment with a Tele-Tape (in a 1960s reel of tape). George thinks it may be something telling him he won the Venus Sweepstakes. Nope. It’s a World War Two-like “Greetings” announcement that he has to report for two weeks of training (“Your number came up, but it isn’t the sweepstakes,” observes Elroy). The Visi-phone rings and it turns out to be Spacely in uniform on the other end, telling him he’ll be Jetson’s commanding officer in the reserve. About half-way through the cartoon, Spacely introduces Uniblab and the plot carries on.

    You might be wondering why Spacely would bring in the robot, considering how that caused a disaster in the climax of the previous cartoon, and why Jetson would be so loose-lipped about Spacely around Uniblab, as the mechanical man snitched on him to his boss last time. Wonder all you like. I can’t answer those questions, any more than why Hades is “up there” instead of down below.



    The people making this episode would have been pretty familiar with radio comedies on the air during World War Two that burst forth with military gags, comments about K.P., dense commanding officers, lousy food, ill-fitting uniforms and so on. We get a sequence of them here, with future-age sight gags added. A guy who can’t read the chart for the Eye Test is declared rejected by a computer voice (Mel Blanc), ejected into a rocket and sent away. A dope who can’t pass the I.Q. test—he pounds a round peg into a square hole—is deemed officer material. The “uniform” gag is on Henry; the clothing machine doesn’t dress him properly (none of them ever seem to work on The Jetsons). Add an army hair-cut gag, popularised after Elvis Presley’s induction into the U.S. military in 1958.



    As for the K.P. gags, basically they’re a switch on some standard Jetsons futuristic routines. Robots or machines do everything; all humans do is press a button and complain about how it’s too much work. And potatoes aren’t peeled. They’re pills, so they’re smashed.



    The reserve training takes place at Camp Nebula. Naturally, it’s not on the ground; it floats in the atmosphere. Here’s the background drawing cobbled together from various frames.


    I have no idea who the background artist or the layout man were in this cartoon, thanks to credits that were removed 30 years ago for syndication. Here are an interior and the design of the Space Guard transport ship. Red is an unusual colour for the show (note the mobile hanging), though it’s quite appropriate in George’s Hell/dream sequence. Some affiliates broadcast the series in colour.



    The regular voice cast is augmented by Don Messick as Astro, Uniblab and Colonel Countdown, and Mel Blanc as Spacely and a bunch of other voices. Blanc may have the best line in the cartoon as General McMissile complains that Uniblab “cost the government millions, enough for two officers clubs.” Blanc shows why he was the best in the business. He plays Spacely and the general. Both are authoritative characters who yell a lot, but he found two different voices for them (the general has a slight accent as well). Janet Waldo gets to play a Visi-phone operator and I detect Howard Morris in two lines as the Visi-phone voice in the kitchen patrol building.

    Besides a play on Western Union, there’s one other pop culture reference in this cartoon. George screams for help from Elliot Nesteroid, a spoof on the main character on The Untouchables which, coincidentally, was airing on Tuesday nights on ABC at the time The Jetsons were in prime-time on the same network.

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    Today’s letter comes from Mrs. S.K., who writes:

    I felt rather guilty about enjoying Huckleberry Hound so much until I read your article in TeleVue. My husband and I liked the explanation given by the professor as to the reason so many adults enjoy the program. We would like to know how we can become members of the Huckleberry Hound fan club.
    Well, actually, the letter didn’t arrive today. It arrived at the office of the Washington Evening Star and was published August 21, 1960. Mrs. S.K. wrote in response to a cover story in the paper’s “TeleVue” section of July 31, 1960.

    Huck made history that year by winning an Emmy, the first animated programme and the first syndicated show to do so. (The show was nominated next year but lost). It gave the Star’s TV writer, a Huck fan, a chance to do an article about Huck, his friends and Hanna-Barbera in general, no doubt assisted by a publicity handout from Arnie Carr at H-B.

    The writer looks at Huck’s appeal, and part of it goes back to the character Huck is descended from—the casual, “Jubilo”-whistling, southern wolf voiced by Daws Butler and created by Tex Avery for MGM in the early 1950s. Avery once remarked something to the extent that all kinds of violent things would happen to the wolf, but he’d respond with something the audience least expected—a casual remark. (Avery remembered even MGM producer Fred Quimby thought the wolf was funny, a rare compliment). But unlike the wolf, Huck was a protagonist, not an antagonist. He was friendly and likeable, undeserving of bad things; people pulled for him.

    Oddly, the article refers to Time For Beany as a cartoon. As you likely know, it was a puppet show. Incidentally, there was another connection between Huck and Beany. Writer Charlie Shows supplied material for both characters. The story refers to Hanna-Barbera’s new studio. It’s not the one at 3400 Cahuenga that everyone associates with the company. It was the little windowless concrete block that was a little further up the boulevard that H-B used after the Kling Studio on La Brea which, incidentally, turned 100 this year (construction began at the behest of owner Charlie Chaplin in November 1917).

    Maybe the most interesting thing, especially to those of us who have watched the over-produced Emmy shows as of late, is the reaction when Huck won.

    I’ve included a sidebar, along with poor photocopies of microfilmed images, that went with the story.

    ‘Disrespect for Reality’
    By BERNIE HARRISON

    Star TV Critic
    When the Emmy for the best children’s show was awarded to Huckleberry Hound, two men trotting out blithely to accept it and a hush seemed to fall over the distinguished audience.
    Now it may have been that the stars in attendance in Hollywood, being adults, were momentarily struck dumb by the title of a show they had never watched. As a paid-up, grown-up member of the Huckleberry Hound fan club, however, I prefer to think that the silence was due to the fact that the audience confidently expected Huck to gallop on stage, say a few scintillating words (which were needed) and gallop off, the Emmy between his ever-lovin’ fangs.
    This is not a children’s show—not really. They love it, but so do their parents.
    You’d have to go back, almost, to Time for Beany, a cartoon show that was popular on TV in the early ‘50s, to find a series which combined in the drawings, an appeal to the little folk, and in the story and fresh dialogue, a lure for their elders.
    During one of those monthly collection drives in suburbia for charity, one woman said happily, as she stopped by one home—
    “I haven’t missed but a few minutes of Huckleberry Hound. Every house I’ve visited on the block had the show turned on!”
    (WTTG—5, which runs the show on Thursday at 7 p.m., is hereby given permission to quote the above.)
    Who are the men who accepted the Emmy for Huck?
    You ought to know them—for if you’ve been to the movies in the last 20 years, you’ve applauded their cartoon efforts. Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna, Huckleberry’s creators, are the men responsible for those amusing Tom and Jerry shorts.
    And when the bottom fell out of the movie business, they moved over to TV.
    Actually Joe and Bill have a hard time convincing anyone that they could complete successfully in the electronic medium with the champ Emmy collector, Walt Disney.
    Especially since full animation was prohibitively costly.
    What Joe and Bill pitched, in fact, was planned animation as opposed to full animation, a technique which relies strongly on story and dialogue and utilizes only about 10,000 drawings per half hour as opposed to the 40,000 which would be needed for a fully animated subject.
    In three years, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., zoomed from nowhere to an Emmy. They now employ 175 people, will open new studios in Hollywood next month, and will be represented by their fourth show, The Flintstones, on ABC-TV this fall.
    “Each character,” Barbera explains, “must have a unique personality—like Huckleberry. He’s slow-moving, but nothing fazes him. He takes on bank-robbers, dragons and amorous cocker spaniels with the same steady determination.”
    In one cartoon, he fell head first from the top of a skyscraper.
    “That,” he drawled, as he hit the ground with a mighty thud, “was a purty big building.”
    Seriously, Barbera feels that is this “disrespect for reality” that lends an animated cartoon its charm.
    Huckleberry’s pals, if you’ve never watched, include Yogi Bear, who continually tries to find peace and quiet in a landscaped bedlam called Jellystone National Park, and Mr. Jinks, a tomcat whose vocal inflections give evidence of his training at a “modern” acting school.
    Daws Butler, a graduate of Time for Beany and a former colleague of Stan Freberg’s, is the voice of Huckleberry, Yogi, Mr. Jinks, the little mouse, “Dixie,” and other characters.
    Why is Huck so popular? A university professor attempted to explain:
    “Huck is put upon, embarrassed, taken advantage of and thrust into horrendous situations—but he never seems to mind. Perhaps Huck represents something that appeals to the basic needs of most people. He’s like a good tonic in a time when one is sorely needed.”



    Oft-Honored Hound
    The Emmy award to Huckleberry Hound wasn’t the first award or honour achieved by this cartoon series. The list includes:
    Huck Hound Day at the University of Washington. Eleven thousand students joined his fan club.
    Initiation into the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at UCLA. His portrait hangs over the fireplace.
    A poker parlor in Gardenia, Calif., broke up a pot-limit game so the employes could watch Huck on TV.
    Employes of an aircraft plan adopted him as a mascot.
    A SAC bomber is adorned with his visage.
    A bill was introduced in a Western State legislature to rename a 50-acre woodland tract into Huckleberry Hound State Park.


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    Huckleberry Hound is going to be the first hound to blast off to the moon, he tells us, in this little cartoon-between-the-cartoons on The Huckleberry Hound Show.

    You can see some of Huck’s mouth positions when he says “hound.” In the bumpers, he always raised his head as Daws Butler made a baying-like sound.



    Some nice poses on Yogi as he scoots into the frame. Is Ed Love the animator here? His work is much more fluid than it was in the cartoons.



    Huck didn’t quite make it to his destination. (Well, he only said he was going to “blast off” to the moon. He didn’t promise to get there.) But he wouldn’t miss the next Yogi Bear cartoon for the moon.



    From the moon to the White House. This is a 1960 TV ad that was tied into Huck’s presidential (aka publicity) campaign that year.



    We’ll have another Huck bumper next month.

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  • 03/29/17--07:19: A Cry For Something New
  • Was Jonny Quest a success?

    I’d say so, even though it didn’t become the prime-time juggernaut that Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera hoped it would. In fact, when it looked certain that the show wouldn’ t rack up huge numbers, let alone win its time-slot, it was switched on the schedule with The Flintstones to give the Modern Stone Age Family (and the huge amount of accompanying merchandise, vitamins and so on) a fighting chance at another season (The plan worked).

    But Jonny Quest was a success not only because it lived on in Saturday morning cartoon rerun land, but it eventually spawned new sequel cartoons a few decades later and even recently was reborn with an unfortunate team-up with a decidedly unrealistic cat and mouse.

    Joe Barbera was not only a top sketch artist and clever gag writer, he became someone who was tops at pitching and selling cartoon series to skittish and bandwagon-jumping network people. And he was pretty good at selling the sold series to columnists always looking for a way to fill space.

    Here’s Joe chatting with the Gettysburg Times in a story published on October 24, 1964; Quest had debuted five weeks earlier. Joe shrewdly pushed Hanna-Barbera when he plugged the company’s cartoons to reporters; a constant positive image in the media could be helpful when he had to go back to the networks with more animated product for them to buy. And the writer is correct in her assessment at the end of the story. Whether people like limited animation or not, the studio kept a lot of people employed who would have been out of work when the Golden Age of cartoons petered out.


    “Johnny Quest,” [sic] Which Bowed In Color In September Is Pronounced A Sure Success; Barbera Production
    By RUTH E. THOMPSON

    “In ‘Jonny Quest’ we have to design planes that are possible, but slightly ahead of what’s really because equipment evolves so fast. And you can’t tell children that last year’s yet is next year’s. They won’t believe it.” They also won’t buy it . . . and it was the licensing and franchising of “Jonny Quest” that had brought the soft-spoken, Brooklyn-born Joseph Barbera back East for a quickie New York visit
    BOWED IN COLOR
    And you don’t need more proof than that that “Jonny” which bowed in color in September on ABC (Fridays, 7:30 p.m.) is a sure success. But as Barbera spread a circle of prints from “Jonny Quest” around him you felt that mattered so much, he kept talking, thinking in terms of series’ values and audience acceptance. “We’re really using a whole new technique in ‘Quest.’ It’s illustration, and cartooning. We brought some of the best illustrators from around the country for this one.
    “Of course the others are doing fine, too. Oh, you like ‘The Flintstones’? So do I.”
    “But the story in ‘Quest’ did seem to cry for something new. We have a leading scientist much sought after for consultation and sought out, naturally, by enemies. That’s why the government assigns Race (isn’t he handsome) as a permanent bodyguard. There there’s the doctor’s son, 13-year-old Jonny and his adopted son, Haji [sic], who’s from India. We went one-third over our expected budget research enough to make sure our backgrounds are authentic. Now we can travel around the world as no live company could possibly afford to do . . . and with the good art work you should feel you’re there.”
    20 NICE YEARS
    Barbera is one-half of the seven-year corporate miracle that is Hanna-Barbera Productions.
    In 1937 [sic] Bill Hanna chucked the engineering and journalism he’d studied for to do something more creative, like being idea man and director for animated cartoons. Joe Barbera chucked the banking and accounting for which he’d studied to draw magazine cartoons. MGM saw him as a animator-writer, team him with Hanna and together they created “Tom and Jerry,” turned off some 125 episodes and won seven Oscars by 1937 [sic] when, after two decades in the same shop and with growing families, they got their pink slips. MGM was getting out of the animated field.
    THE BIG IDEA
    On went the Bill and our thinking caps. What came out as a goal was television. Back to MGM they went with “the big idea.” Wouldn’t MGM like to consider the new medium? MGM would not.
    “So we decided to go into business for ourselves.” The Screen Gems TV subsidiary of Columbia Pictures sensed a hot idea and went along with financing and distribution phase.
    The work space was nil, the staff numbered three, but the enthusiasm was boundless, and in a short time out came a 15-minute [sic] show “Ruff and Reddy,” still seen in many parts of the world.
    SOMETHING NEW
    “Well, you see, there was really a need for something new, fresh animations, especially for television. Reruns of old — usually very old — theater cartoons was pretty much it when we got in,” Barbera explains.
    “And the more we got into it, the more we found innovations to simply production and add interest.”
    Barbera reached for another photo.
    “This is the new building. Isn’t it a honey?
    “We turn off as much production here in a week as we did at MGM in a year . . . and with no time clocks, no memos and a minimum of supervision. Our units work out the details themselves.
    “Do I draw any more?” He smiled. Well, only to the extent that I’ll show an artist what I might have in mind, rather than try to tell him . . . but otherwise it’s up to a unit to do its own work.”
    MODERN INVENTION
    “Unit,” that seems to be the Hanna-Barbera modern invention to outstrip anything that’s being designed in “Quest.” “You see we feel it’s up to creative people to determine their own working hours. Each unit determines its own deadlines, by what time one phase of a job has to be finished so another can proceed. Everybody works hard, but at times of personal choosing, and it proves to be the times when they produce fastest and best.”
    And the “fastest and best” dossier now totals — with this season’s “Jonny Quest” — 13 series in seven years! (“The Flintstones,” “Huckleberry Hound,” “Yogi Bear,” “Quick Draw McGraw,” “Touche Turtle,” among others).
    WORSE ON TRIP
    And as for Barbera, “Well I never sleep anyway, but it’s worse right now on a trip.” There’s one irony, though. Barbera who turned his back on looking for the creative life has to pay more and more attention to finance. By now some 500 manufacturers produce some 2,500 consumer products with likeness off H-B characters which have grossed something like 120 million dollars. And the Hanna-Barbera share of the take requires an informed eye!
    Still he’s taking it all in stride. “Remember it’s the stores that count” . . . and if MGM hadn’t handed out those pink slips to two guys seven years ago, well who knows where 300 other guys might, or might not, be working today.

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    Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
    Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Tony Benedict, Story Director – Art Davis, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
    Voice Cast: Chopper – Vance Colvig, Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon, Fibber Fox, Mouse – Daws Butler.
    Music: Hoyt Curtin.
    Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
    Plot: Fibber Fox mixes a formula to shrink Chopper.

    This may be the most self-referential cartoon in Hanna-Barbera history.

    After failing twice to capture Yakky Doodle for “the kind of between meal snack that I like,” Fibber Fox concocts a chemical potion that shrinks things. Says Fibber to Yakky: “What did I do to your pal Chopper? Well, this is a little something I picked up watching the Yogi Bear Show.”

    It seems to me that Fibber’s referring to the cartoon the two of them are in as he speaks. I don’t recall any other cartoon on the Yogi Bear Show that involves shrinking anyone. You can’t get much more self-referential than that.

    Mind you, if Fibber had actually seen it on the show, he should have known he would get it in the end. Because I’ve seen enough cartoons over the years that I knew how it was going to end. Fibber’s the bad guy, so he must fail. And as he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword, thus he must fail using the same method he tried to use to succeed. In other words, he accidentally drinks the formula and shrinks. And because it’s a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, the good guys laugh uproariously after a wise-crack to end it all.



    Tony Benedict was assigned the story for this one, spelling off Mike Maltese on the Yakky series. We’ll quickly run through it:

    ● Yakky says “I feel like that fox is around.” Fibber repeats the line after snatching Yakky and making a dash for it. He runs into Chopper. “What duck?” he asks. “This duck, that’s who,” interrupts Yakky, behind his back (the scene cries for a visual gag but, you know, that costs money). “Well, I’m gonna do to you what you’re gonna do to him,” Chopper promises. Quick-thinking Fibber kisses Yakky. Chopper kisses Fibber... with his fist.



    ● Chopper gives Fibber some judo throws/crashes. Fibber decides to be more foxy.
    ● After a trip to the store, Fibber mixes vanishing cream, shrinking powder and reducing pills to come up with X352798 squared, a formula that shrinks Chopper when it’s poured on the dog. As no one vanishes in the cartoon, I’m not sure what purpose the vanishing cream serves. Anyway, Chopper and Yakky hightail it into a nearby mouse hole. The resident pulls one of those “disbelief” lines when he sees a dog in his home. “I’d better quit eatin’ that cheap cheese,” says the mouse. Or is he a meece? He has an awfully familiar looking design.



    ● Fibber throws a tear gas grenade into the mouse hole. Yakky and Chopper run out and hide under a pail (the mouse apparently has a gas mask as we don’t see him again in the cartoon). Fibber gets ready to clobber the reduced dog. “First, I’m going to give you my right. Then my left. Then follow with my right foot, then...” “The formula wore off,” interrupts Yakky. “The formula wore off,” repeated Fibber. Then he realises what he just said and that Chopper is now full-sized.
    ● Off runs Fibber. “Hey, come on back and fight like a man,” cries Chopper. Fibber provides an obvious response: “But I’m a chicken fox, remember.” Unfortunately Fibber is in such a hurry to escape into his cave he knocks over the table with the formula on it. Fibber becomes teeny. Best pun of the cartoon: “Well, well. Small world, ain’t it.” This results in a wisecrack and laughter to end the cartoon.

    Carlo Vinci animated this cartoon, and you can see him use his three-drawing head tilt throughout it. Here are drawings showing the angle where he starts and finishes the head.



    A couple of exit-from-scene drawings. Again, note the angles, and how Carlo turns the head to profile during the exit. You’ll see this in other Hanna-Barbera cartoons he worked on, such as the one where Huckleberry Hound takes on a barnyard fox.



    And an anticipation drawing before a diving exit from the scene, something Carlo did with many characters. Butt way up, hind legs up and churning in mid-air.



    Dick Thomas handled the backgrounds. Like a lot of his Hanna-Barbera work, there’s nothing fancy or stylised. His scratchy grass is evident.



    As for the music, most of it fits. Some cues last only a few seconds so a lot of work was put into the score. The sound cutter put Hoyt Curtin’s “Row Row Row Your Boat” theme when Yakky is swimming in Chopper’s dish, and Curtin’s take on the “Lone Ranger” theme is on the track when Fibber runs from the re-grown Chopper. And the cutter puts some Curtin library music underneath Yakky singing “Yankee Doodle,” which really doesn’t work.

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    Dear Cartoon Fans,

    No, The Simpsons did not invent the “writing sentences over and over on the blackboard” gag. For those of you who need proof, we direct your attention to the Yogi Bear comics that appeared in Sunday newspapers 50 years ago this month. (Teachers never forced misbehaving kids to scrawl when I was in school when the comic in question was made. A lawsuit would probably result if a teacher tried it today).

    Before we get to the comics, you see a nicely crafted ad to your right. I think I’ve posted it before but I found it in another paper the other day so I’ve put it up nonetheless. There was a similar well-laid-out Flintstones promotional drawing.

    Boo Boo only makes it into one of the comics this month. Ranger Smith is in a pair and we have kids in a couple of them. And instead of Boy Scouts, we have the distaff variety (distaff being one of those ‘60s words I doubt anyone uses now).

    These full-page, four-row versions of the Yogi comics come from Richard Holliss’ fine archive. It’s not complete so you’ll have to deal with some not-so-well scanned black-and-white ones. The four-row comics are missing a thin panel you’ll find in the three-row version (many pages simply used a half-size comic, eliminating the first row.

    The April 2nd comic has a wonderful perspective opening panel with angry tourists in the distance around the letters of Yogi’s name. The “ranger general” (with one star) is featured as well. Note the eye on the suspicious tourist in the final panel. The missing third panel is in black-and-white to your right.



    Yes, he’s smarter than the average bear. I’m referring to whoever wrote the April 9th comic. This is quite an ingenious food-stealing idea that Yogi’s come up with. Kids love yucky things, after all.


    Do flies bite? Apparently they do, even though they don’t have teeth. With that bit of scientific knowledge (see how educational this blog is?), we turn our attention to the April 16th column. You can see the missing third panel to your right (the mouth is somewhat reminiscent of Charlie Brown). I like the multiples of Yogi as he tries to deal with the fly. Finally, our bear comes up with a smarter-than-the-average idea, though we know that in a TV cartoon, that wouldn’t stop the fly (similar to how Huck Hound lost against a mosquito in Skeeter Trouble.

    It seems to me there weren’t a lot of weekend comics with only two characters in them, and the fly really isn’t much of a character.



    The colour change from day to night may be nicest thing about the April 23rd comic. The missing panel is a close-up of Yogi and Boo Boo, with a ? in a word balloon pointing at each of them. See how Ranger Smith expresses his anger in the opening panel. Ranger Smith is named for Bill Hanna again. I don’t think Hanna-Barbera had any Abes in 1967 (where was Abe Levitow then?).


    Space.com tells us that Mars is 33.9 million miles from Earth at its closest point. But it is 225 million at its farthest, so Yogi is technically correct in his response to the little girl in the April 30th comic. Evidently, her parents put great confidence over a woodland creature as opposed to Ranger Smith to give their daughter the correct answer. I presume the father must be a hitherto unknown ranger. Why else would they be living in a national park. Do I detect Lucille Bliss as the Girl Scout?

    You can click on each comic to make it bigger.

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    Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
    Credits: Animation – La Verne Harding, Layout – Jack Huber, Backgrounds – Neenah Maxwell, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Paul Sommer, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
    Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Zoo Guard – Daws Butler; Bigelow – Doug Young.
    Music: Hoyt Curtin.
    Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
    Plot: Bigelow the mouse keeps freeing Snagglepuss, who wants to stay caged so he can go to the St. Louis Zoo.

    There’s a little subset of characters that Mike Maltese used in a variety of Hanna-Barbera series. Snagglepuss was one before eventually getting his own show. And so was the far lesser-known Bigelow, the mouse that sounded like Jimmy Cagney. He appeared with Loopy De Loop, Augie Doggie and on two Snagglepuss cartoons.



    Mike Maltese’s story is good one. Snagglepuss is reading the Aesop Fable of “The Lion and the Mouse.” He’s interrupted by the sound of Bigelow in a mouse trap. He frees Bigelow, who promises to help him in time of need. Just then, Snagglepuss is captured—and when told he’ll be sent to the St. Louis Zoo, he dreams of a life of laziness and show biz. But on the express train to St. Louis, Bigelow keeps rescuing him from out of his cage as a “favour.” So Snagglepuss is back where he started, where things happen all over again. Snagglepuss rescues Bigelow from a mouse trap again and, then, improbably rockets to the moon to escape from the mouse. But guess who’s there?

    So about all this leaves us is Snagglepuss’ dialogue to enliven the proceedings. First, a look at the opening pan shot.



    Heavens to Murgatroyd! What phoney fol-der-ol! What unmitigated nonsense! Imagine, a miniscule mouse savin’ a lion. It is to laugh! Ha, ha. Snicker, even.
    Off-screen, Bigelow cries for help. I like his threat. “Get me outta here, or I’m gonna get sore at somebody.” Sore? You can’t even lift a mouse trap to escape (yet later in the cartoon, he can lasso a whole cage). “If his body was as big as his ego,” observes Snagglepuss, “he’d be king sized.”

    Skip ahead to a railway baggage car, where the caged mountain lion contemplates of life in the zoo, where he’ll be “waited on paw and foot.”

    Now why would I want to escape the soft life at the zoo? Security, even. Preposterous! Let me see. Two shows a day. Maybe three on Sunday. A little Shakespeare. “Tourists, Romans, Countrymen! Lend me a buck and a half.” Or a little soft-shoe, even. (Snagglepuss taps his feet). Or render a little song or two? (sings) Though we met in the roundhouse, Nellie, I’ll always treat you square.
    But no one believes Snagglepuss wants to go to the zoo (maybe they watched too many Wally Gator cartoons). The armed guard calls him “you treacherous wild beast you” and keeps chasing him with a rifle after the mouse keeps forcing him out of the cage. And Bigelow thinks “they’ve got him scared right out of his wits.”



    The final lines of dialogue after Snagglepuss realises that, somehow, Bigelow has followed him to the moon, reminding him “Bigelow never forgets.”

    Heavens to planetoid. Bigelow never forgets. The little feller should have been an elephant.
    Not the strongest end line but Maltese did have a huge workload at the studio.



    I like how Snagglepuss and Bigelow are over the same moonscape background, but the mouse is on an overlay. In between, the shot cuts to a close-up of Snagglepuss, so you don’t notice. And Snagglepuss must have shrunk to get to the moon. He’s next to the mouse trap with huge leaves in the background. There’s nothing like reusing background art.

    The dialogue is full of “evens” and “heavens to” sentences, but only one “Exit, stage left.”

    When a Hanna-Barbera cartoon starts to drag, you can occupy yourself by seeing how often characters run past the same thing. In this cartoon, the zoo guard races six times past a railway car door in the background.

    Hoyt Curtin’s cues include “Rockabye Baby” and one that includes a snippet of Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2.” Snagglepuss soft-shoes to the end of a short cue based on “Meet the Flintstones.”

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  • 04/12/17--07:05: The Flintstones Risk
  • There’s nothing like corporate hyperbole.

    Witness this line from the head of ABC-TV in 1960: “It’s...the biggest thing in TV programming the free world has ever seen.”

    I don’t even think fans of The Flintstones would describe the show that way. But Ollie Treyz did. It’s part of an interesting analysis of the soon-to-be-on-the-air series published in Television Mail on August 10, 1960. It was a British trade publication.

    The paper’s focus was on the large risk ABC was taking it putting The Flintstones on the air, since there had never been a half-hour animated show in prime-time, as least in terms of one cartoon being a complete half hour. But in some ways, it wasn’t a risk at all. Old theatrical cartoons airing at other times had been a platinum mine for syndicators and advertisers. Animated commercials had proven throughout the 1950s that cartoons could sell products. So why not an animated sitcom?

    The story talks about how movie studios were not exploring the realm of animation longer than seven minutes and under feature length. There was a simple reason. No one was making anything for theatres of that length, animated or otherwise. Columbia was the last studio to make two-reel comedies, and it ended new entries in the Three Stooges series in 1959.

    You’ll have to forgive the article below thinking Disney had anything to do with Felix the Cat (other than ripping him off for its own series in the silent days). R.J. Reynolds made Camels but decided to advertise Winstons on The Flintstones.

    A similar photo of Associate Producer Alan Dinehart and writer Warren Foster accompanied the story; more than one must have been taken at the publicity shoot. But the version we’ve posted is a little clearer.

    A few notes about other cartoons mentioned below: the Rube Goldberg series didn’t go ahead, despite ads in the trades (Joe Flynn and Dave Willock were to star in it), neither did Fearless Fosdick. This is the first I’ve heard about ZIV being behind Mel-O-Toons; they were made in Art Scott’s studio. ABC’s “two more shows” were Matty’s Funday Funnies, featuring Harveytoons characters, and The Bugs Bunny Show.


    ANIMATION FINDS CASH SPONSORS
    “A sensational development...it’ll start a landslide...the biggest thing in TV programming that the free world has ever seen...”
    These are the words of burly, hard-bitten Oliver Treyz, president of the American Broadcasting Company. In London this week for business talks, Treyz also found time to discuss a multi-million dollar gamble into which the ABC network has plunged.
    He believes the hot subject this year will be animation. The American network is preparing three new animated shows for the 1960-61 season, and this in itself would be noteworthy. But the important fact is television’s first, full-length cartoon series, designed for adults. “The Flintstones” is a 30-minute show, due to be sprung in the middle of peak-time, and created to win the favour of the buying public.
    ABC’s faith in the idea is reinforced by sponsors. “Flintstones” has been signed by Miles laboratories and the Reynolds tobacco company; two concerns who fight a hard-sell battle in a very, very adult world.
    The situation of the half-hour shows is modern man and his problems, set against a caveman background. “A Cadillac built out of stone, with square wheels.” (Nearest comparison in Britain: the “Daily Sketch” cartoon strip “B.C.”).
    “It’s an adult, family-situation-comedy,” explains Treyz. “And funny...gosh, it’s funny.” Adding, uneasily, “the only thing we’ve got to worry about is whether we get too egg-head. Some of those jokes get a bit, ah, esoteric...”
    Far-out or not, there’s nothing unworldly about the hard cash behind the project. Each 30-minute programme is costing ABC about $650,000; by season’s end the joint sponsors will have added several million dollars in buying airtime, to expose “Flintstones” across the nation at 8:30 p.m., on Fridays.
    The show is being put onto celluloid by a Screen Gems affiliate, Hanna-Barbera Productions. This is the group which has produced two other, shorter, national animated programmes: “Huckleberry Hound” and “Quick Draw McGraw.” Both of these were sold to Kelloggs; “Hound,” (a 1960 Emmy winner) is now renewed for its third season, and “McGraw” is entering its second year.
    Though built specially for television, these two series are much closer in spirit to conventional cinema-animation. In their animal characters and slapstick humour—and the brevity of each episode—they are lineal descendants of Disney’s original “Felix.” [sic]
    ABC now is trying to make a major breakthrough in several areas simultaneously. Television has never tried to carry animation for a full half-hour; even the cinema has not commercially explored the limbo which lies between the ultra-short “cartoon” and the 90-minute feature.
    One of the difficulties may be sustaining the stories. Says Treyz: “Half-hour animation tells as much as a two-hour movie.” Writers and ideas-men have a harder job in fleshing-out their plots, because the material is burned-up so much faster.
    At the same time, the stories will have to be genuine value-for-money. In a live show, script and situation weaknesses can be glossed over by camera padding and director’s “business”; the bald patch can’t be slicked over by animators. Each move, each word, has to add positively to the dramatic action. Can it be done, for half an hour every week?
    Even if successful, this is still no guarantee that viewers will tune to pencil-drawings in preference to flesh-and-blood. What odds Mr Magoo stacked against Cheyenne?
    No precedent exists, and no way of assessing viewer-reaction can be got until “Flintstones” actually hits the air. Oliver Treyz cheerfully proclaims that he’s as much in the dark as anyone: “it could easily be the biggest flop of all time.” And on top of all these uncertainties; even if animation can win the viewers—will it sell the goods? Can the fantasy-world of cartooning do a good job in carrying a hard-sell for Camels? [sic]
    Sponsors are at least willing to take a risk. “I wouldn’t say they’re wildly happy, but they are going along with the idea...” And so are a lot of other people, because ABC is well in the lead, behind the network is an enormous new outburst of animation activity.
    Up until now, virtually all animated features in American syndication were produced for cinemas and later released for television.
    This year it looks like a turn-about. At least half a dozen syndicators will bring forward new shows made primarily for the small screen.
    Paramount are making new Popeye cartoons for TV. Trans-Lux is sweeping ahead on the success of Felix the Cat, by bringing out Rube Goldberg. Animated version of Dick Tracy is on the way; CBS network and Terry toons have started selling Deputy Dawg, and are ready with a second series, Fearless Fosdick. ZIV-UA, one of the biggest cinema producers, has now started on its first animated television series, Mell-O-Tunes.
    The ABC network itself has two more animated shows on the way; one of which will also come in on Fridays, only an hour ahead of “Flintstones.”
    Financially, animation could prove an extremely attractive proposition. Animated re-runs hold up better than live shows, and many repeats are possible without incurring a large drop in ratings. Animated features costing around $75,000 may eventually earn much more than an action-adventure programme costing $32,000.
    Cartoon-type shows also have a broader sales appeal overseas, and can be readily dubbed. But for ABC, their main appeal is freshness. Something new which appeals to young-adult viewers; this is the cornerstone around which Treyz has built what is virtually a new network.
    In terms of audience-per-minute, ABC now is the leading American broadcaster; a situation which might have seemed unattainable in 1956.
    This position has been achieved by ruthless scrapping of every programme which didn’t deliver the largest possible audience. Treyz junked all of the network’s serious drama and prestige material. “These shows got critical acclaim, but didn’t reach the masses. We figure that no-one’s as smart as the public.”
    Most of ABC’s material is now film-series. Result it that though agencies and advertisers—and legislators—may deplore the content, they have to admit that the network delivers the goods in terms of audience. In bringing ABC to this fiscal success, Treyz himself has earned a reputation for ruthless and even unscrupulous negotiation. (Commented one leading American agency recently: “If you’re talking to Treyz, take a lawyer along with you.”)
    It is in light of these facts that ABC’s animation gamble has to be assessed. Is Treyz (who’s answerable to shareholders) the sort of man to plunge on a long-shot? It seems improbable.

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    “Gosh, mom, robots can like other robots. Can’t they?”

    Oh, such an innocent question, young Elroy, in those sunny days of 1960s Futurism, when the world looked forward to a happy, carefree time of machines doing everything, leaving humans with a leisurely life of relaxation.

    How grim The Future looks to us today, with people dreading a time when robots are programmed to be so intelligent, they take over and enslave the universe. Or robots treated “like one of the family,” as Jane refers to Rosey, resulting in them being considered essentially human, with lawsuits and special interest groups to protect them. Even today, aren’t dateless scientists trying to develop fake women for sexual purposes?

    We humans have certainly screwed up the future, haven’t we?

    Oh, yes, we were discussing a cartoon.

    The story in brief: Judy Jetson’s in love (again). And it turns out Rosey the robotic maid and caretaker Henry’s mechanical caretaker Mac (made from an old metal filing cabinet) fall in love. Judy can’t concentrate on space walking or even a conversation because she’s lovesick. Mac can’t concentrate on his job. Henry turns him off. Rosey is heartbroken. Elroy turns him back on, figuring out what’s going on. Everyone’s happy. Oh, and Judy gets another new boyfriend.

    I must admit as an almost six-year-old when Rosey’s Boyfriend first aired in 1962, I didn’t care much about Judy Jetson and her silly crush on a boy, nor Rosey, who is lovelorn after the robot equivalent of euthanasia of her “man.” I can’t get worked up about it today. There are some nice little sequences, not really incidental to the plot, such as George and Henry playing charades as George is trapped in his bubble-topped car. Or the running gag with Mac the robot not quite certain about the concept of doors. And there’s one scene with a pan across the robotologist’s office of mechanical helpers in various states of disrepair.



    One wonders if writer Walter Black was taking a shot at the medical profession. Basically, the doctor settles for some cursory treatment for the ill Rosey and is sceptical that his by-the-numbers diagnosis could be wrong. (“Sad? A robot?” he asks in disbelief. “Ah, no, the factories don’t install emotion tapes...She’ll be fine. Pay on your way out.”)

    Rosey was only featured in two of the series’ 24 episodes. Somewhere on the blog, there’s a news clipping about how that didn’t please Marx toys, which had created a Rosey doll before the Jetsons even began airing. It’s been speculated that placating Marx was one of the reasons she was included in the closing animation over the credits.

    Speaking of the creepy future, what’s this Police State the Jetsons are living in anyway? Judy being forced to wear a “license” that can tell an officer if the wearer has ever been guilty of a crime?? I’m not sure I’m crazy about that aspect of the future.



    And what of George asking his daughter about Booster (who, as the audience has seen, is her boyfriend). “What is it, a new kind of happy pill?” Is it normal in the future for suburban teenagers to do uppers with the knowledge of their parents? Mind you, pill mania kind of reached a high (pun not intended) in the dear old ’60s, didn’t it?

    Inventions of the future: an automatic chair that comes right to you when you press a button, a sky lawn (presumably on the roof), an automatic knitting machine and, of course, the Visi-phone.



    Here’s the cartoon’s establishing shot. Background artist unknown.



    Judy and Booster blast past the same apartments in the background three times.



    A robot doctor would have a long poster of the innards of a robot on his wall, wouldn’t he? Exactly.



    Ken Muse animated part of the cartoon but I can’t pick out the others. There’s nothing really interesting about the animation in this cartoon. Here are a couple of zoom frames.



    A Top Cat cue slips into the soundtrack (during the Judy/Rosey dancing scenes) but most of it is familiar from other Jetsons episodes, though there are stretches with no music at all.

    This cartoon involves the Jetsons’ home life, so there’s no Spacely in this one. Astro takes the week off. Howie Morris supplies some voices here, including Booster and a robot that needs rewiring. Jean Vander Pyl supplies her Shirley-Booth-as-Hazel voice for Rosey and one of the other Sky Pad Apartment tenants. And Don Messick gives Mac his robot voice he used for Uniblab.

    Booster may be the most “ut,” but I’m afraid this cartoon isn’t.

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    The Flintstones started out in life as a sitcom dealing with the suburban lives of Fred and Wilma Flintstone, and Barney and Betty Rubble next door. Well, the show evolved and so did the newspaper comic featuring the characters.

    By April 1967, the cartoon show was into reruns. In the comics that month, the Rubbles rated only a mention and someone name “Pops” showed up casually, treated like a regular character. He still reminds me of a leprechaun without an upside-down clay pipe.

    As well, Gene Hazelton or whoever was responsible for layouts of the comics seemed to be getting bored with backgrounds. There are an awful lot of panels that are just a solid colour, and not just the small thin panels.

    There were five Sundays this particular month. April 2nd features Suzie, the swinging niece who says “Boss!” I keep waiting for her to sing the lyrics to the Pebbles and Bamm Bamm Show theme.

    April 9th features Pebbles. In the second panel, the artist missed the chance to have the letters “H” and “B” on Pebbles’ block.

    You’d think Fred, of all people, would want to spend more on food. April 16th proves otherwise. Note the sunrise in the distance of the first panel, middle row.

    My favourite panel of the month is on April 23rd. Look at the last one. Pops is flicking his cigar ashes on Dino’s tail, while the dinosaur’s teeth are being brushed by Pebbles (Dino is holding the toothpaste tube).

    April 30th is a switch on the old “meek husband” gag with a typical ending.

    My thanks again to Richard Holliss for supplying the full-colour comics you see below.

    April 2, 1967

    April 9, 1967

    April 16, 1967

    April 23, 1967

    April 30, 1967.

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    Huckleberry Hound tosses a Huckleberry Hopper to Dixie in one of the little cartoons-between-the-cartoons on their show. Huck rubs the ball with his hand and in his glove in some cycle animation. Dixie hits a comebacker to the mound.



    It only hurts when Huck laughs, which he’ll be doing when he watches the Pixie and Dixie cartoon immediately following.



    And this is an ad in one of the Washington DC newspapers from 1960. A 10-year-old won the colouring contest. I don’t believe any stations were broadcasting Huck or Quick Draw in colour yet.



    We’ll try to post another Huck bumper next month.

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    How many kids took advice from cartoon characters? It’s hard to say, but grown-ups definitely thought they did. Hence Fred Flintstone stopped selling Winstons and Yogi Bear told kids to stop smoking.

    Hanna-Barbera characters were enlisted in the public service. Maybe one of the most charming examples is in a collection of drawings courtesy of that fine animator and character designer, Mark Christiansen. (You can go to his site here and find out about his fun book “Animal Riddles”). The studio created some safety material for elementary schools in 1965 featuring pretty much all of its comedy stars at the time, including the Flintstones, Jetsons and even Touché Turtle. The artwork is by Jerry Eisenberg and Iwao Takamoto. Here are some of them. Click on them to enlarge.



    The colour choices may be a little odd on a few of them but the artwork is enjoyable. My thanks to Mark for sharing these elsewhere on-line.

    And remember—keep golf tees out of your mouth!

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    Here are the remaining safety posters from Hanna-Barbera from 1965 that we didn’t post yesterday. Parents should be teaching this kind of stuff today. I see adults disobeying some of these traffic ones on an almost daily basis.

    These attractive drawings are by Jerry Eisenberg and Iwao Takamoto.

    Thanks again to Mark Christiansen for providing these.



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  • 04/29/17--07:30: Gerry Johnson
  • Dumping the wonderful Janet Waldo in favour of singer Tiffany in The Jetsons Movie has to rank at the top of the boneheaded voice casting decisions at Hanna-Barbera. But there’s another that isn’t far behind.

    Bea Benaderet was replaced as Betty Rubble by Gerry Johnson.

    (Note in the comments that H-B doesn’t appear to have had much of a choice in Ms. Waldo’s case).

    Mrs. Johnson may have been a very nice person but her voice was too squeally for me as Betty. On top of that, Bea had a long career dating back to the ‘20s and was a top supporting actress on radio and then television. She brought a pleasant, humorous quality to Betty’s voice.

    Not a lot has been written about Gerry Johnson because about the only thing she’s known for is being the second Mrs. Rubble. When the series ended in 1966, her career ended. She didn’t return to the role when the Pebbles and Bamm Bamm Show (stop blowing that whistle!) debuted five years later. But she had been acting for more than two decades, as an amateur and a professional, and was a pioneer in post-war television.

    It was front page news in the Grand Prairie Daily News of Grand Prairie, Texas when word spread that Gerry Johnson was coming to town. It’s hard to decipher the story through OCR errors, but here’s what I can make out from the March 1, 1953 edition:

    TV Star to Comment March 9 On Fashions and Models
    Gerry Johnson, pretty, vivacious star of KRLD-TV's "Variety Fair" in Dallas, will be the style commentator of the fifth annual Grand Prairie Teen fashion show on stage at the new high school auditorium Monday night, March 9. Mrs. Johnson consented to handle the show for The Texan after a number of other prospective commentators were studied, and The Texan feels it is fortunate in obtaining the services of so popular an artist.
    She majored in speech and drama at the Leland Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., where she was also a student of the ballet.
    Plans call for a dress rehearsal next Saturday evening. It is set for about 5:45 p.m., as soon as Mrs. Johnson can come out from her TV Variety Fair. Mrs. Johnson was especially enthusiastic for the fashion show, and will bring more popular comments than even the Von Sheridan show in 1952. Mrs. Johnson plans to interview each model to bring a personal touch to the show.
    In addition to this inimitable rising star on the TV horizon, The Texan will have two or three entertainers also and possible a trio of vocalists in an intermission about midway of the show.
    Adding a patriotic flavor to the show will be Lt. Anne Bean, Grand Prairie woman marine, who will exhibit the newest uniforms for women marines. About three uniforms will he shown, probably in one of the intermission acts.
    Mrs. Johnson was the subject of a swell write-up in the March issue of Radio-TV Mirror. Her background is natural for her present show which exploits the famous guests interviewed daily on her Variety Fair. Guests are interviewed to their advantage instead of the conductor of a show, who usually "hogs" the conversation. Almost every "name" in the entertainment world who comes to Dallas winds up on Mrs. Johnson's show, and her friendliness and poise brings out the best in her guest star for the day.
    However, she came by her talents naturally. A drama student since the age of six, she began her study at Madame Gordon's School for Girls in Los Angeles, where she won every drama contest. In Beverly Hills High, she won every competition in stage work and went on to win the California Shakespearean [missing words]. Martin Flavin, playwright, chose her also for his play, "Blue Jeans." She has appeared at the Biltmore, Belasco and other famous theatres in California, and was the Russian ballerina in "Bachelor Women," and portrayed the tense dramatic role of Olivia in "Might Must Fall."
    Wife of Warren Johnson, public relations director for Taylor Publishing, Gerry is green-eyed and has dark brown hair. "I'm not the type to live for a career," she told The Texan. "When my husband decided to come to Dallas, I started packing."
    Parents of two children, Larry and Sherry, the Johnsons live in Preston Hills, at 6222 Rex. KRLD discovered her, she said, about two years ago "and hence Variety Fair."


    Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any story about her in the Radio-TV Mirror at any time in the first six monthly issues of 1953. But the piece above gave me enough clues to go through some other publications and records and piece things together.

    Geraldine Adelaide Schreiber was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on April 4, 1918 to Oscar Randolph and Geraldine (Crummy) Schreiber. Her father was the general manager for a publishing company. By 1930, the family was in Los Angeles and young Gerry was occasionally appearing in the social columns. The Los Angeles Times noted her performance in “Blue Jeans” in its edition of Feb. 22, 1938. She married Warren Martin Johnson on June 21, 1941 in Los Angeles. Her appearance in “Bachelor Women” (under the name Geraldine Johnson) was reviewed in October 1946 in several publications.

    KRLD TV in Dallas signed on in December 1949. By the following October, Gerry was hosting the station’s “Vanity Fair.” She also involved with a puppet show for kids. After five years, Johnson was given her notice her show was going off the air and she headed to New York to hunt for acting work. She returned to Texas and appeared in several plays, then landed a role in My Dog, Buddy (1960), a low-budget film produced by radio mogul Gordon McLendon. By March 1961, she headed home to Los Angeles where she was hired to do interviews on KNXT’s “Panorama Pacific” show.

    Johnson toured with Mickey Rooney in summer of ‘63 in Tunnel of Love, then was signed in the fall for roles in A Day in Court and a pilot for ABC called The Not Very News Reel starring Louis Nye.

    Variety reported on March 27, 1963 that Johnson had left KNXT to do voice work at Hanna-Barbera, but I couldn’t tell you what she actually did for the studio for the first year. The trade paper announced on March 5, 1964: “‘Petticoat Junction’ chores forced Bea Benaderet to depart as ‘Betty Rubble’ in the ‘Flintstones’ — Gerry Johnson takes over the vocal role in the new segs.”

    But that isn’t quite what happened. People who were around Hanna-Barbera at the time say that Bea stopped being called in for voice sessions and when she wondered why, she was told that Johnson had her job. Mel Blanc, in particular, was reportedly angry about the change as he and Bea had worked together for over 20 years, especially on the Jack Benny radio show. Why was the change made? I’m afraid we’ll never really know. But Bea Benaderet was well respected in the industry and no doubt the “Petticoat Junction” story was circulated to save some ill feelings.

    Johnson performed some stage work after The Flintstones went off the air, but her name vanishes from newspapers after that. She died in Los Angeles on January 24, 1990.

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    Either Ranger Smith is a bigamist, or his wife likes changing her hair colour, or Gene Hazelton and his comic strip artists really didn’t care too much about incidental character design. Whatever the reason, 50 years ago this month Mr. Ranger had a dark-haired wife one week and a blonde one the next.

    The weekend newspaper comics of May 1967 also showed the Hanna-Barbera obsession with comic horror characters which began with the J. Evil Scientist clan in 1959 (what irony that The Munsters almost knocked The Flintstones off the air in 1965). In this case, little Rory McDread is a werewolf.

    Boo Boo appears in only two of the four comics and really isn’t vital to the story (and he engages in some Yogi-like rhymes in the May 14th comic). Ranger Smith is being a particular jerk in the May 28th comic, concocting an elaborate scheme merely so he can give Yogi a ticket. And what’s a bear supposed to do with a ticket anyway? At least, I think that’s the joke in the story.

    The non-color comic of May 21st has some nice angles in the middle row.

    The coloured versions were supplied, as usual, from the Richard Holliss collection.


    May 7, 1967


    May 14, 1967

    May 21, 1967


    May 28, 1967.

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    Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
    Credits: Animation – Bob Bentley, Layout – Dan Noonan, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Art Davis, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
    Voice Cast: Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Chopper – Vance Colvig; Clarence – Don Messick; Muggs(y), stray mutt – Doug Young.
    Music: Hoyt Curtin.
    Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
    Plot: Chopper feels obligated to give a home to Yakky’s new friend, a flea, but picks the wrong flea.

    “What are they laughin’ at on television, Yakky?” asks Chopper. “They’re watching the Yogi Bear Show,” replies the duck.

    Here’s a set-up for a cute punch-line. Personally, I’d pick Chopper saying “I hope it isn’t one of those cartoons with that annoying duck. I hate him.” Of course, Hanna-Barbera would never go for that, but any kind of reference to a Yakky cartoon or maybe even a play on Yogi’s “smarter-than-the-average” would have been good. Instead, Mike Maltese settles for Chopper’s “Now, ain’t that cute,” and laughter to end the cartoon.

    There aren’t really any punch-lines or top-flight gags in this one. It simply starts with the old premise that dogs have fleas and Maltese fills 6½ minutes from there. Let’s see. Old theatrical cartoons had a flea building a campfire on a dog’s back, or a flea chopping down a strand of fur like an oak tree, so Maltese tosses those in to the story. And there’s a sword fight between the good flea and the bad flea. Maltese pulled off a flea vs. flea fight scene much better in “Fleas Be Careful,” one of three Snooper and Blabber cartoons featuring Toot Sweet, the French flea. Then again, Snooper and Blabber were ridiculous and punny characters. Yakky and Chopper are just, well, tame.

    Oh, and there’s also the familiar crying/guilt trip scene with Yakky, making Chopper feel bad enough so he’ll let the duck’s flea-buddy stay on his back. Say, what kind of friend is Yakky? Who would want a dog to be flea-ridden?



    The capsulized story: a stray dog scratches a flea named Clarence off him. Yakky, singing “Strolling Through the Park” (and not in time to Hoyt Curtin’s music in the background), comes across Clarence. (“You’re a flea, aren’t you?” enquires the brilliantly observant duck).
    Yakky offers Clarence a home on Chopper who, quite understandably, objects. Insert the pity party scene mentioned above. Cut to the aforementioned stray dog, scratching again (nothing like reused animation to save money). This time, it’s Muggs, who changes his name to Muggsy later in the cartoon. Chopper thinks he’s Clarence and lets him stay—until he meets up with Yakky and the real Clarence. Yakky paddles Chopper with a board to get Muggs(y) off. The fleas sword-fight. The good guy wins. The stray dog animation gets reused again. Clarence’s family is scratched off but is welcomed on Chopper’s back. They’re watching Yogi Bear. Ain’t that cute? The end.

    Here’s the take by Bob Bentley when the mutt realises he has a flea on him. These are consecutive drawings.



    I like the dog’s design. The fleas are pretty good, too. It’s possible Dan Noonan, the layout man, came up with these.



    Bob Gentle gives us zig-zag tree branches and heavy outlines around trees (see frames with mutt above). I quite like them, too. Nothing elaborate, but they fit the scenes.

    Joe Barbera employed four voice actors on this cartoon, which didn’t happen very often in Hanna-Barbera’s short TV films then. Doug Young gets a couple of roles.

    The “Who keeps cool when things are hot” Yogi Bear music is heard when the fleas are watching the Yogi show (which we don’t see). There’s some Flintstones music during the fight scene; the rest of the score should be familiar if you watched a lot of H-B stuff circa 1961.

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    If you want a good time capsule of attitudes about the Hanna-Barbera studio and its cartoons just as The Flintstones was about to air, you can find it in this story by Cecil Smith in the Los Angeles Times of September 4, 1960.

    The Huckleberry Hound Show seems pretty gentle to viewers today, but it became a cult favourite among non-children not long after debuting in 1958. The Quick Draw McGraw Show followed a year later, with spoofs on some of the main genres of TV programming of the day (westerns, detective shows, family sitcoms). And then came The Flintstones a year later.

    Two things are interesting to me in this story. This is the earliest mentions I’ve found of Yogi getting his own show (Kellogg’s bought it a month later) and the Yogi feature film. And if the writer got his facts correct, Yakky Doodle was not intended to be the third segment of the Yogi show—Perry Gunite was. A Perry Gunite series could have been fun, especially with some of those Carlo Vinci poses, but the studio was already doing a private eye parody with Snooper and Blabber. And Gunite, to be honest, wouldn’t have been a good fit with funny animals in the other segments. Instead, he ended up in the “Love Letters on the Rocks” episode of The Flintstones.

    By the way, there are two versions of the drawing you see below. Some deliberately erase the word “Stoneway,” presumably for newspaper editors who were squeamish about “advertising” slipping in.


    Cartoon Capers Win Adult Friends
    When TV bombed out its Sunday afternoon “intellectual ghetto” a couple of years ago, it all but lost the egghead audience. The fact that it found it again is not surprising—but in a most unlikely place.
    The shows that have been the darlings of the eggheads this past season were designed ostensibly for children, the cartoon creations of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera—namely, Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw. Saloons are empty, coffee houses deserted, faculty lounges silent on Monday and Tuesday nights at 7 when (via Channel 11) Messrs. McGraw and Hound with their marvelously adept stock companies take to the air. (So adept have these stock actors become that one of them, Yogi Bear, is soon to be elevated to stardom with his own separate show.)
    Neither Hanna nor Barbera nor the 140 members of their enormously productive organization are exactly sure why the wry satire of their cartoons delight adults as well as children—but they point to the mail. Six atomic scientists at the White Sands Proving Ground protest to the Kellogg cereal company the hour the shows are on the air, begging that they be later because “they’re the only relaxation we get from TV.” A group of professors from Yale University making a similar plea.
    Age Is No Barrier to All the Fun
    Adult mail outnumbers children 10 to 1. An indignant letter from a woman in Long Beach protests surveys indicating the shows are watched by people from 6 to 60—she watches them, she says, and she’s 83.
    It was inevitable, then, that Hanna-Barbera Productions would begin work on a purely adult show. Their work is now complete, the show takes the air Sept. 30 at 8:30 each Friday night on the ABC network; it is so adult it is sponsored by a cigarette company; it is entitled The Flintstones, and I am blessing among TV watchers—I have seen it.

    The Flintstones has little in common with Huckleberry and Quick-Draw—save for the visit Hanna-Barbera wit and imagination. Its stories concern a simple, ordinary, caveman couple, Fred and Wilma Flintstone, and their simple, ordinary, caveman neighbors, Barney and Betty Rubble. They engage in simple, ordinary caveman pursuits—such as the dinosaur race or playing the family piano (a Stoneway).
    Fred works as a dino operator for the Rock Head & Quarry Cave Co. (“Feel Secure—Own Your Own Cave”).
    The families live in the simple, ordinary, caveman city of Bedrock and get into simple, ordinary caveman troubles—just like you or me or Father Knows Best, circa 3000 BC.
    Made It Work
    Inasmuch as Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna three years ago were pounding the Hollywood streets trying to peddle their cartoon ideas and “revolutionary methods” of animation, the success of their organization has been little short of astounding.
    The pair had achieved success at MGM (particularly with the series, Tom and Jerry). But they met the constant refusal: “Cartoons won’t work in television—too expensive.” Joe and Bill made it work. Their method:
    “Planned animation,” says Joe. “Take the Disney method—the old movie method. It tried to mirror life. We don’t. We spoof reality but we don’t mirror it. Our characters don’t walk from a scene, they whiz. Movements that took 24 drawings under the old movie system take us four. We just keep the story moving.”
    Despite his avowal that his characters do not mirror life, Joe is inclined to talk of them as real. For instance, he said he and Bill “interviewed” hundreds of characters before deciding on the Flintstones. “Interviewed” in this case meant drawing them, looking at them, fitting situations to them, discarding them. And there’s a lot of reality in Fred Flintstone (he reminds some of Jackie Gleason; he reminds me of Edgar Kennedy in the old two-reelers). And, of course, Yogi Bear is as real as your next door editor.
    Full-Length Feature
    Yogi not is only taking off from Huckleberry Hound for his own show but it also soon to star in a full-length movie feature set, naturally, in Jellystone Park. In his new show, he will grab some of the minor characters from Quick-Draw (notably, Snagglepuss, the theatrical tiger) and will introduce one new actor, a crime-solving lawyer, Perry Gunite.
    However, he will not leave Huckleberry for awhile—thank heaven. And Huckleberry, Quick-Draw, Jinx [sic] and the Meece, Augie and Daddy Dog, Snoop and Blab and all the rest will continue to be around despite the added presence of the Flintstones. And what will the Flintstones do to television?
    Well, as an erudite friend of mine remarked: “There go my Fridays.”

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