Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, November 1967

Ever wonder who invented the pizza? Easy. It was Tony Rockolino. Well, according to whoever wrote a Flintstones newspaper comic 50 years ago this month.

And who would have thought that Fred was a real letch when Wilma’s not around? We discover that in this month’s comics as well, brought to you in colour from the archive of Richard Holliss.

Actually, we’re fortunate Richard was able to supply the November 5th comic as you would get the full effect of that great final panel in black and white. The nighttime blue and black in the background highlights the predicament Fred and Barney are in in the foreground. A great use of colour. This is the only time Betty and Barney appear this month.

Oh, that Fred. Uptight over that ‘60s music. Okay, 1,001,960s B.C. music. And music lyrics included “Ooblee, Ahblee.” I guess that’s a Othnielosaurus-era “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” And who would have guessed ABBA was around back then, except their name was spelled a little bit differently. The November 12th comic doesn’t specify what toppings were on the first pizza. Paleolithic Pineapple, I suspect.

Fred displays a keen interest in young women with seven-inch waists in the November 19th comic.

Women drivers! Chuckle, chuckle! The November 26th comic has cameos by Dino, Pebbles and niece Annie in the top row. Note the erupting volcanos in the background of some of the panels. Can you hear this music as Wilma is driving?

Click on any of the comics for enlargement. We’ll see if Santa Claus shows up in the Stone Age again next month.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Snagglepuss in Be My Ghost

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – C.L. Hartman, Layout – Walt Clinton, Backgrounds – Neenah Maxwell, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Harum – Daws Butler; English Passenger, Scarum – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Snagglepuss is heckled by two ghosts in an old castle.

One of the little bits of business I liked when I first watched Hanna-Barbera cartoons 55-plus years ago were the little ghosts that rolled up like window shades and disappeared. Mike Maltese came up with Harum and Scarum (or is it “Harem” and “Scarem”?) for an early Snooper and Blabber cartoon (Real Gone Ghosts, 1959). He’s brought them back to tangle with Snagglepuss and about the only difference in Scarum is played now by Don Messick instead of Elliot Field.

This cartoon reminds me a bit of a short Maltese wrote at Warner Bros., The Wearin’ of the Grin (released in 1952) where clueless Porky Pig looks for emergency shelter and meets up with two heckling leprechauns. That one was a bit darker, thanks to its “Red Shoes”-like subplot.

Here’s one of the ghost roll-ups. C.L. Hartman is the animator. I like what he does with Snagglepuss’ fingers.

Snagglepuss tries it himself. “Exit, Olde English style, stage left.” He fails. “I guess I’m not olde English stylish enough to do it.”

The ghost aspect enables Maltese to add impossible bits of business and some corn. He digs out the old “walk this way” gag with the ghosts upside down and in the air. “Walk that way?!” he tells us. “If I do, I’d break a clavicle or sump’in.” One of the ghosts invites Snagglepuss to dinner and asks him to carve the chutney venison on his plate. Our hero launches into a version of “A rib or two will do” (to the theme of “A Hunting We Will Go”)—by the way, there’s a really bad music edit when the scene changes—and it turns out he’s carving the other ghost, who pops into visibility to complain then pops out again. (“Heavens to mint sauce!” exclaims Snagglepuss). Then the ghost offers Snagglepuss a hot buttered cider which is invisible. We hear a crash sound. Snagglepuss’ eyes turn to us. “I distinctively heard the tin-kle of breakin’ glass. (looks at his hand) And yet I saw no glass. (looks at audience) But I heard the tin-kle.” Snagglepuss still hasn’t figured out the castle is haunted.

Now the ghosts play some more head games. Scarum comes bounding in, saying “the king approach-eth” and looking for his enemy Sir Guy of Goon. Harum pretends to be the king. Scarum points to Snagglepuss, claiming he is Sir Guy of Goon. The king brings down his axe but Snagglepuss zooms out of the scene before he can be split in half. But he returns. “Say! What are you tryin’ to do? Part my hair down the middle all the way? Ruin the tourist trade? Cause an international inciden-n-n-n-nt? How about it if I went to 10 Downing Street and lodged a complaint? 11 Upping Street, even.” Snagglepuss returns wearing a helmet and carrying an axe, ready to fight. “Marquis of Queensbury Bridge rules, of course...Then let’s have at it. Odds fish, zounds, and all that King Arthur jazzarooni!” The “king” bashes Snagglepuss on the head.

The “n-n-n-n-nt” Daws uses, by the way, is borrowed from vaudeville comedian Benny Rubin. I’m sure others did it as well.

Snagglepuss rushes outside to safety. But, no, Harum and Scarum pop into the scene. “Heaves to Houdini!” How could they do that, enquires our hero. They explain they’re ghosts. Snagglepuss shows that he has spent some time watching Casper cartoons as he exclaims “G-g-g-ghosts?” Snagglepuss runs off, but not before some mismatched shots. These are consecutive frames. There isn’t even a wooden door in the second frame, let alone Snagglepuss’ hands against it.

“Exit, screamin’ in terror, stage right!” Snagglepuss jumps in the ocean he emerged from at the start of the cartoon and starts swimming as the iris closes.

We mentioned before about mismatched shots. There are other examples. Here is one. This is a pair of consecutive frames.

Neenah Maxwell is the background artist. We’ve posted her work from the cartoon before on the blog, but here are some of the frames.

Daws Butler has fun with “Worcestershire” as Snagglepuss, while he gives Harum a kind of Ed Wynn voice he used for Wally Gator. Don Messick’s laugh for Scarum evokes a certain cartoon great dane of later years.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The House Built By a Hound

Quick quiz: who were the first three employees of H-B Enterprises on July 7, 1957?

We know there are three because an article in the Christian Science Monitor of October 22, 1963 says so. And we know who they are because a photo of the ribbon-cutting on the company’s office on opening day appears in Mike Barrier’s book Hollywood Cartoons. Frankly, I would have guessed one was Mike Lah, Bill Hanna’s brother-in-law who was asked to invest in the company but didn’t, and maybe Ed Benedict, who designed the studio’s first characters and could both lay out and animate a cartoon (he was Paul Fennell’s art director for a while in the 50s). No, the correct answer is writer Charlie Shows (from Disney), layout artist Dick Bickenbach and production man Howard Hanson (both from MGM).

By the time this article was written, H-B Enterprises had changed its corporate name and moved out of the Kling Studios on La Brea and were ensconced in a custom-built studio familiar to all fans (1963 photo of studio and what looks like a 1957 Plymouth to the far left courtesy of Jerry Eisenberg and Tony Benedict). It talks about the start of the studio, a familiar tale, and then how cartoons are made. Even though the animation is limited, the process is still elaborate and not really much different than a theatrical cartoon.

Success Story of a Cartoon
Hound Helps Build a Business

By Everett M. Smith
Hollywood, Calif.
Several of the top stars of movies and television are carrying out their active careers here today in a modern “dog house”—a house built by a hound.
Residents of this movie capital and its Greater Los Angeles environs long have become accustomed to the outward, and even the inner appearances of conventional movie studios—their streets of false-fronted buildings and their huge indoor sound stages.
Most residents, too, along with visitors, have glimpsed many of the stars of movie and TV off stage, and all are familiar with the star-studded sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard.
Yet it is doubtful if one person in ten thousand, passing the new three-story, two-acre home of Hanna-Barbera Productions in the historic Cahuenga Pass would ever associate the office-like building with either movies or TV. Even the stars, themselves, never are seen outside the building.
But, inside—third location since they teamed up in 1957—William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are carrying out a fresh new concept for producing audio-animation for TV and movies.
Here, in a brief six years, these two former cartoonists for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have grown steadily from a staff of three—(a writer, an animator, and a cameraman)—to a fast-growing firm now numbering nearly 300 artists, animators, writers, and directors.
This is actually a modern cartoon factory, and their TV shows include Huckleberry Hound (whose antics made the new building possible), The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, Quick-Draw McGraw, Touché Turtle, and Top Cat—shows seen by more than 300 million viewers weekly throughout the world.
The shows are currently syndicated in more than 42 countries, and right now the first is working on its first full-length feature starring Yogi Bear, a 90-minute movie for release next spring.
In addition, H-B is engaged in the production of industrial films as well as commercials, both animated and live action, for many of the country’s leading firms.
It all began in the spring of 1957 when a phone rang and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who had just racked up their twentieth year and seventh Academy Award making “Tom and Jerry” cartoons for MGM, were told to discontinue production and to lay off their entire staff. It was quite a blow.
“But, it turned out to be the greatest break in our lives,” says Bill Hanna today. Out of necessity, he and Joe pooled their resources and began thinking in terms of cartoon shows and “planned animation” for television. They offered their new projects to MGM, as well as to several other TV companies, but were politely turned down. Finally, they brought their drawings to Screen Gems, a TV subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, in July, 1957. Hanna-Barbera Productions was started.
The firm’s first TV effort was “Ruff and Reddy,” featuring the antics of a quick-thinking cat and his pal, Reddy, a dim-witted, lovable dog. This TV show, which enjoyed a three-year run, was followed by Huckleberry Hound, the first half-hour series in TV to consist entirely of original animation. Huckleberry, a noble-hearted canine with the look of a bloodhound, was an instant success. In 1960, the Huckleberry Hound show was awarded an Emmy for the “outstanding achievement in the first of children’s programming.”
That fall, the company unveiled “The Flintstones,” which quickly became one of the highest-rated TV shows, and is now in its fourth season. Meanwhile, Yogi Bear, a non-conformist woodland creature, who had been featured on the Huckleberry Hound show, had become so popular that it was decided to up him to stardom, giving Yogi his own show, which debuted in January, 1961. Additionally, Hanna-Barbera had produced two other half-hour shows, Top Cat, and The Jetsons, the latter dealing with a family of the future.
What is it like inside this modern cartoon factory? Well, in the first place, there are no time clocks or memos. The hours kept by both Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, and their methods for getting jobs done, are considered quite unorthodox, even by Hollywood standards.
If an animator or artist feels he does his best work by coming in at night and working until dawn, that’s fine with Bill and Joe. Their only important consideration is that the best job be done.
The film story comes first. It is then revised, edited, and re-edited, and trial sequences are sketched as it is tape recorded. Tiny offices and cubicles, each with a worker or two, line the long corridors of the building. Here, employees write, sketch, paint, and work on their respective bits of the finished product.
Each tiny movement of a cartoon character must be sketched and redrawn many times, and the finished pictures must be in correct synchronization with the sound track.
Next comes the inking and the color work on celluloid, some 200 different shades of color being used; and from one to six sheets of celluloid for each cartoon frame. Cameras and sound equipment make up the last step before the final cutting and editing of the finished film.
Reels upon reels of sound effects are stored in one office. They cover every conceivable noise—from snores and squeaks to whooshes, pops, and bangs. It takes some four months to produce a half-hour show.
“If there is one underlying philosophy to our cartoons,” says Bill Hanna, “it is to project warmth and good feeling. We spoof lots of things, but we don’t see anything funny in violence. Even our villains are nice fellows.”
His sentiments are echoed by Joe Barbera. “We’ve never tried to educate children,” he says. “We’ve never tried to preach to them. We’ve just tried to entertain them. Children are much more perceptive than adults.”

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Yakky Doodle in Foxy Friends

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Bob Carr, Layouts – Dan Noonan, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Art David, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hansen.
Voice Cast: Bigelow – Doug Young; Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon; Fibber Fox, Big Brother – Daws Butler.
Music: Hoyt Curtin
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions
Plot: Bigelow the mouse tries to stop Fibber Fox from eating Yakky Doodle for lunch.

“Oh, no! A hero mouse! What’s the world coming to?” exclaims Fibber Fox.

Yes, it’s Bigelow, the mouse with the Jimmy Cagney voice and tough-guy persona and...and...well, nothing else.

Mike Maltese continued to drop Bigelow into the cartoon series he wrote—Augie Doggie, Snagglepuss—perhaps thinking there was something amusing about a miniature tough guy. I’m really at a loss to think of a lot of funny things Bigelow ever said or did. And there are certainly none in this cartoon.

He pushes a garbage can along a street as Fibber Fox falls toward it. “Happy landing, you big bully,” he says. When Fibber crashes into it, “Glad your dropped in, chum.” Then he shoves the can rolling into a construction pit. “Goodbye, knucklehead,” is his parting comment.

Fibber, who could be witty, just isn’t in this cartoon. “Well, gosh! If you can’t take a little joke, well, gee whiz!” is the best Fibber can muster after Bigelow lights his paper airplane on fire. The best pun he has is when he drops the garbage can over Bigelow then adds “And no cover charge, either,” before slamming the lid on. But there are times that he is sailing through the air or plummeting to the ground where he really doesn’t react at all. I’m sure Bill Hanna appreciated the cost saving of sliding a cel of a drawing over a background.

Yeah, Maltese had to churn out a story a week for Hanna-Barbera, so they all couldn’t be gems.

There’s one scene that evokes memories of his days at Warner Bros. Bigelow points to a cannon in a park and shouts to Fibber “The mouse is in there! The mouse is in there!” Fibber falls for it just as Yosemite Sam or Elmer Fudd would do. Naturally, because this is a cartoon, the cannon is live, even though it is a monument from 1891, and Fibber is fired into a police telephone on a pole. “Well, for heaven’s sake! How long do I have to wait? All I want is a doctor,” he says into the mouthpiece.

Then there’s a scene where Yakky and Bigelow start blowing up balloons to lift themselves into the air. There’s no preparatory dialogue; they just go ahead and do it. And the running gag to set up the ending doesn’t come until halfway through the cartoon. Just about every tired old impression of Cagney included the phrase “You dirty rat!” and something to do with “my brother.” Maltese brings Bigelow’s brother into the plot, as the mouse threatens the fox with him, and then the brother shows up toward the end, scaring Fibber out of the cartoon. (Daws Butler gives the brother a dopey kind of English accent). Yakky observes “Boy, Bigelow, your brother is big.” The mouse responds with “That’s right. My brother’s big, all right. But he ain’t tough. Like me, see?” Then the two laugh to end the cartoon with one of Hoyt Curtin’s familiar playoff cues in the background.

The cartoon does give you a chance to count how many times Yakky, Fibber, Bigelow or any combination thereof run past the same box shrubbery in the background. Bob Gentle is the background artist in this cartoon. He also painted courthouse/city hall clock tower. As soon as I saw the way the bricks and some of the roof boards had a thick outline, I thought “Oh, it looks likes Bob Gentle.”

There’s nothing distinctive about Bob Carr’s animation in this cartoon and all the Curtin cues are short and familiar.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, November 1967

Though his vocabulary at the office around deadline time may not have suggested it, Bill Hanna was a Boy Scout and had been a big supporter of the organisation through to the end of his life. Perhaps that’s the reason Scouts show up somewhat frequently in the Yogi Bear newspaper comics.

This month 50 years ago, two of the four weekend comics involved Scouts, another highlights groovy teenagers and their far-out music, and the other has construction workers attempting to eat lunch. “Attempting” is the operative word here.

Before anything else, let me thank Richard Holliss for the colour tabloid version of the comics from his collection.

Boo Boo is kind of a substitute kid when it comes to plots, so it figures Boo Boo is only in the comic this month that doesn’t include kids. I always like how the artist in these comics has animals on or around the “Yogi Bear” lettering in the opening panel. These artists not only had to draw funny animals, humans and forest settings, sometimes they were called upon to sketch fairly realistic machinery, cars, trucks and such. In the November 5th comic, it’s a construction crane. This comic marks Ranger Smith’s only appearance of the month.

Hey, Kevin, this is why the other kids won’t play with you. Don’t tie a boat motor in a Boy Scout knot. At least, I presume he’s responsible. The November 12th comic also features a nice, little goony-eyed expression from our favourite Jellystone bear.

Winter? Hibernation? Fah! Not for Yogi Bear. He just puts on a scarf and away he goes. In the November 19th comic, he’s entrusted to lead a bunch of hyperactive Scouts. The panel compositions are very attractive here, with a good use of foreground and background. The characters always seem to read well in a Yogi comic no matter where they are. I especially like the long panels in the second and last rows.

Transistor radios are in! Okay, they were 50 years ago when we’d sneak them into class and listen to the World Series. Now people get score updates sent their handhelds. It’s about as much fun as reading a teletype. Oh, I’m getting off track a bit.

The November 26th has the Now Generation tuning in to the latest boss tunes. Little Kevin reappears. He’s kind of a luckless kid, isn’t he? I wonder if whoever wrote this knew there was a Radio Shack, supplying inexpensive stuff that kept some of those boss rock stations on the air. Here is their 1967 catalogue.

The writer uses the names of some real bands with an odd exception. The guy listening to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band parody kind of looks like Jerry Eisenberg. If this comic had been written two years earlier, the bands might have included The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Positively Thirteen O’Clock and The Guilloteens, all of whom, not uncoincidentally, were released on the Hanna-Barbera label. Read more about it right here from the Mighty Musical Mite of Mount Mackie, Kliph Nesteroff.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

You'd Rather Have the Real Thing, Fellas?

Three different expressions from Huckleberry Hound at the start of one of those little cartoons-between-the-cartoons on his show. You can’t tell from the stills but in this scene, Huck moves his head and body a fair bit, certainly more than in the actual cartoons.

Pixie and Dixie have some good expressions. Here’s one after the kick from firing the rifle knocks Dixie to the ground.

The meeces win a Mr. Jinks doll. They aren’t happy.

Jinks pops up. “Uh, you’d rather have the real thing fellas?” Look at the eyes in the second frame.

The meeces scram. Jinks laughs. I counted 16 different head positions on Jinksie after the meeces leave to the fade out a few seconds later.

It must be time for a Pixie and Dixie cartoon.