Saturday, 21 October 2017

The Jetsons – The Little Man

“Rook at the rimp! Rook at the rimp!” That’s about all anyone recalls from the Jetsons episode “The Little Man.”

One of the things I like about the series is the futuristic inventions, all based on something grounded in the present (egs., a visual telephone, robots, a machine that dispenses food pills). There really isn’t much of that in this episode. There’s one machine that shrinks everyone. Other than that, this episode consists of a bunch of short jokes and short puns. Oh, and there’s the standard, Hanna-Barbera I-don’t-believe-what-I-see traffic cop. I wish I could get more excited about the plot, but I can’t.

The first few minutes of the cartoon are spent in another Spacely vs Cogswell battle. It sets up the plot but, boy, talk about two unlikeable characters. And the laugh track. “Quite, Spacely! Can’t you see I’m putting?” says Cogswell. The laugh track thinks that’s funny. I don’t get the joke. I feel bad for the studio because, if this was a situation like The Flintstones, ABC imposed the laugh track on them. Cogswell smacks Spacely with a golf club that smashes through the Visiphone and Spacely bops him with a bowling ball.

Next sequence: George Jetson shows he’s more than just a button-pusher. He’s an engineer who can fix mechanised hardware and accurately diagnose its problems. With that kind of talent, he should be a company vice-president! (Actually, this is one cartoon that avoids the “Vice President Jetson) bit). Anyway, Jetson is correct when he says the Mini-Van, a reducing machine, can’t un-reduce anything. Jetson is shrunk to about six inches tall. Let the puns begin! Spacely: “Are you trying make me look small in front of Cogswell.” It turns out the machine doesn’t work because it has a worn-out (on a new machine?) Cogswell cog and needs to be replaced. Apparently, no other cog will do and they cannot be bought retail. “Oh brother, I had a feeling I would end up on the short end,” says George.

The laugh track chuckles away when the next scene starts, showing Jetson’s car flying on its own. There’s a scene where Jetson stares straight at the camera. There are a bunch of them in this cartoon, including the policeman in this sequence. My guess is Hugh Fraser is the animator for a good portion of the cartoon up to now. Later, I spotted a Carlo Vinci rubbery head-shake take like in one of the early Yogi Bear cartoons. I don’t know who else animated on this. Oh, yes, the ubiquitous traffic cop. His cruiser smashes into the back of George’s car which stops suddenly. “Rassin, drassin, rassin,” grumbles the officer who evidently is a fan of Muttley cartoons (Don Messick, who voiced Muttley, also does the cop). “Pull yourself together, O’Ranium,” he says to himself after seeing the small Jetson. “You’ve been working too hard. When I start seein’ little guys flyin’ around, it’s time to retire to that chicken ranch I have up on that asteroid.

Next sequence: George at home. Jane doesn’t catch on right away that George has shrunk. And then... the take is a two-drawing cycle, animated on twos.

Pun: Jane: “You look like an insect.” George: “Do you have to bug me, too?”

Now a bunch of too-small jokes that would work with any character that has been shrunk in size. George can’t control a turkey leg and falls off the dining table. He is covered in salt. He can’t control a milk glass and lets the glass fall on top of him. He finally drinks the milk out of a baby bottle. He’s swallowed by the powerfully-snoring Astro. He showers in the sink. He sips coffee from a cup through a straw. He’s licked by Astro and sails into the coffee cup.

The next sequence is fairly straight-forward. At Cogswell’s head office/factory, George gets past two guards (with ‘C’ for ‘Cogswell’ on their belts) due to his height but is caught by Cogswell, who taunts him with the necessary cog. George is crafty, though (at least in this cartoon). He kicks Cogswell, Cogswell drops the cog, and George escapes with it. That’s despite Cogswell’s attempt to use a fly swatter on him; Jetson goes right through it (“After a century of brilliant scientific progress, you’d think someone would invent a decent flyswatter”) then a golf club; it wraps around Cogswell’s neck after missing him (“I knew I should have used a five iron”); finally, he gets out from under a glass by sticking a pin (where did THAT come from) in Cogswell’s hand.

Back at Spacely Sprockets, George fixes the machine and become regular size again. Meanwhile, Spacely shows up in overalls and, with an Austrian accent, pretends to be a repairman to fix Mini-Van. Spacely looks at Cogswell’s butt. “I’d recognise that sneaky Cogswell anywhere.” George activates the machine, the two jerk tycoons become shrunk, the Mini-Van malfunctions and can’t be fixed for a week when a new fuse arrives. Spacely and Cogswell spend the rest of the scene bashing each other over the head with playing cards.

Back at the Jetson home. What’s for dinner? Shrimp! “Rook at the rimp! Rook at the rimp!” adds Astro as a variation on the Jetsons’ B-theme plays to end the cartoon.

No surprises on the soundtrack when it comes to music; you’ll recognise all the music. Besides the regular voice cast (O’Hanlon, Singleton, Butler and Waldo) and recurring characters (Blanc as Spacely, Butler as Cogswell), Messick does some incidental characters. The secretary with two lines at the start of the cartoon is a conundrum. It really sounds like Gerry Johnson, but this cartoon aired January 13, 1963 and Johnson didn’t arrive at the studio until that March, if a contemporary story in Variety is accurate. It’s not Janet Waldo. The only other person it could be is Penny Singleton. Waldo always said Singleton only did one voice on the show but that’s not true; she did a couple of small incidentals. So my educated guess is Singleton is the secretary.

Go to this post and see some storyboard drawings and the opening background.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Flintstones Weekend Comics, October 1967

It’s the far-out, groovin’ 60s, man, and that means sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Okay, no drugs. And not really any sex, either, in the Flintstones weekend newspaper comics 50 years ago this month. Though it seems like that Annie’s a swingin’ chick. She’s got two boy-friends! Ya dig?

Man, that Fred’s uptight about long hair. “Make a man out of him?!” Hey, chill, man. Look at Wilma rolling her eyes at her old man in the October 1st comic. Right on! Peace out! What? They got their hair tangled up? Bummer.

You know, I grew up in the ‘60s and I swear people actually did talk like that. And when I was in Grade 6, one of the guys in the Grade 7 class got sent home from school because his hair was over his ears.

We get Pops for two weeks in a row, starting October 8th. Nice golf togs, Barney. Arnold Palmstone?! That’s not even a pun. How about Chi Chi Rockriguez?

The multiples of Fred in the middle panel, last row, are pretty nice. So is that final panel. It’s a shame the scan of the October 15th comic is so poor. I like how there are different perspectives on Fred and Wilma in the car. The name “Tom Gaukel” is a puzzler. It’s not the usual “rock”/”stone” addition to a regular name. I wonder if he was a friend of whomever wrote this comic.

Earlier this month, Annie was Wilma’s niece. In the October 22nd comic, she’s Fred’s niece. Make up your mind, writers. Anyway, she’s got a different boyfriend now with a tortoise shell as hood and engine compartment of a car. Nice of the one cop in the final row to basically call Fred a pervert.

Fred, Wilma, Betty and Barney get to be in the same panel twice on October 29th. Again, sorry for the poor scan.

You can click on any of the comics to make them bigger. Richard Holliss supplied the colour ones again this month.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Snagglepuss in Lion Tracks

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Hicks Lokey, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Mike Maltese, Story Director – Art Davis, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Snagglepuss, Worker wearing vest, Chutney – Daws Butler; Major Minor, Worker with red kerchief, Jack, Railroad President – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Major Minor tries to push the railway through Snagglepuss’ cave.

There’s a funny little scene in Lion Tracks that reminds me of Bugs Bunny pulling a con job on Yosemite Sam by mixing him up. Major Minor has been hired by the railway to get Snagglepuss out of his mountain cave so tracks can be laid through it. Says the Major: “The trains must go through, and all that pioneer jazz. So, pack and go.” Snagglepuss replies: “You mean like wagon trains?” He then pretends to be a horse and rider, slapping his butt and yelling at himself to giddyup. “No, by Gadfrey! I mean trains, like ‘Chugga chugga chugga. Choo choo choo!’”

The major is now completely distracted from his goal of removing Snagglepuss. The two chant “Chugga chugga chugga” and move toward Snagglepuss’ door. When the Major’s out, the mountain lion yells “Last stop, even!” and slams the door shut. The Major realises he’s had and burns. Well, burns as much as you can in limited animation.

There’s actually another bit that’s even closer to a Warners cartoon. Snagglepuss induces the Major to be his basket trick assistant and continues shoving swords into the basket (cut to a shot of the Major in the basket surrounded by swords) until one finally stabs him and sends him yelling into the sky. It’s a switch on a sword-trunk gag in Racketeer Rabbit (released in 1946) where Bugs shoves swords into a trunk where Rocky is hiding. That cartoon was written by Mike Maltese who wrote all the Snagglepuss cartoons.

Maltese has a compact little story here. As mentioned, the Choo Choo Railroad Co. is laying its tracks when work stops. A mountain’s in the way. Aha! There’s a cave, a ready-made tunnel through the mountain. The cave (with a door) turns out to be Snagglepuss’ home. He keeps trying to explain through the cartoon there are two reasons why a railroad can’t go through the cave, but he only gets the first one out (“a lion’s home is his cast-le”) before being continually interrupted and unable to give the second reason.

Snagglepuss fends off the construction crew, so a call is placed to the president of the railroad who, in turn, calls his “old school chum, Major Minor, the lion hunter” at the Adventurers Club, who agrees to “rout the recalcitrant beast immediately.”

Cut to the Major and his rifle at Snagglepuss’ door (as “Meet the Flintstones” in march time plays in the background) who uses the trusty Wamoozie Jungle Lion Call of “Racka, Wacka, Woo-ooo, Woo-woo!” to lure him out. That brings about the usual tete-a-tete between the two.

Major: I thought I belted you with a basher in the Bongo.
Snagglepuss: Au contraire, Major. You bashed me with a bongo below the Veldt. But I recovered.
After being frustrated during the initial “chugga chugga” routine, the Major weakly disguises himself with a black moustache and pretends to be a talent scout for the Dingaling Brothers Jolly Circus (“I’ll work on his love of show business”) to make Snagglepuss a phoney offer to leave immediately on a world tour. Snagglepuss insists it’s preposterous to give him a job without an audition, so he enthusiastically shows the “scout” his act. If this were a Bugs Bunny cartoon, the rabbit would be aware of the disguise, but Snagglepuss doesn’t seem to realise it’s the Major. No matter. His juggling act ends with bowling balls crashing on the Major’s head (“I must be a little rusty. Stale, even.”). Next comes the basket trick mentioned earlier.

The Major’s had enough. He engineers the train straight through the cave (who needs tracks?) and crashes through the other side of the mountain and into mid-air. Ah, that’s the second reason the railroad can’t go through. No place for the tracks. The train and the major drop off screen and the camera shakes.

The cartoon ends with Snagglepuss answering a call for the Major. “No. He left in a choo-choo train. Where? He was headin’ south. Deep south, that is.” Snagglepuss hangs up the phone, gives out another “chugga chugga chugga” as a short playoff cue fills the sound track to end the action.

There’s nothing in Hicks Lokey’s animation to point out. Here are some more of Bob Gentle’s backgrounds—the desert with the plateaux in the distance, the interior of Snagglepuss’ cave, a close-up of the cave entrance (the front part of the mountain is on an overlay so Snagglepuss can emerge through the door, and an angular viewpoint of the mountain without any sign of Snag’s door.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Fighting Cartoon Rigor Mortis

It was a great story, maybe a better story than in any of their cartoons. Two guys unceremoniously shunted out of the door, overcoming rejection after rejection to become a huge success, making history in winning an Emmy and, now, coming up with a brand-new gimmick—a prime-time cartoon series that wasn’t for kids.

No wonder linotype machines across the U.S. clattered away with the story of Hanna-Barbera in 1960.

Here’s one from the New York Post, July 5, 1960. It’s not only plugging the coming debut of The Flintstones, but it’s nibbled at the bait of the riches-to-almost rags-to-riches story of the studio.

This story mentions a few Flintstoney things that must have been part of a publicity handout, things I keep going “hunh?” about. There’s a reference to the Young Cave Men’s Association. I don’t recall it ever showing up in the series. The story also talks about an “adobe hut.” I always thought the houses in Bedrock were made of, well, bedrock, with a slab roof. And this is yet another story that refers to Fred’s car having fins. Did it ever? I can picture Ed Benedict designing cars with them.

Poor Bea Benaderet’s name gets misspelled once more. Maxie Rosenbloom appeared in the prowler episode. For years, I thought it was Alan Reed, who used to do a Maxie Rosenbloom type voice. Rosenbloom auditioned for Top Cat but lost to Arnold Stang.

On the Air

When Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera got their walking papers from MGM three years ago, they had every reason to believe they were "all washed up."
Rigor mortis had set in on the animated cartoon industry.
"For 20 years," said Barbera, "we'd been doing the 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons for MGM. We never missed a year for 18 years being nominated for an Oscar. We actually won seven Oscars.
"But MGM said there was no longer any market in motion pictures for cartoons.
"We went around to the TV industry and they said there was no place in TV for cartoons—new ones, at least.
"We couldn't believe it. They were still playing back stuff from the movies which was at least 20 years old. Fortunately we were able to come up with some new characters which made the old stuff look even older."
● ● ●
In Hollywood Hanna and Barbera were running the biggest animated cartoon studio in the world.
"Huckleberry Hound," the most successful TV character, had an Emmy award as the season's "Best Children's Show."
"Quick Draw McGraw" and "Ruff and Reddy" were also prospering.
In addition, Hanna and Barbera were hard at work on the first animated cartoon series aimed at an adult audience, "The Flintstones," which will run in an 8:30 p.m. Friday time slot on ABC next fall.
"We owe it all to 'Huckleberry,'" said Barberra [sic]. "'Huck' somehow picked up an adult audience as well as the children. The Yale Alumni magazine chose it as a favorite show. The Navy named a Pacific Island after it. Somebody suggested an adult cartoon. That's how 'The Flintstones' came into being.'"
● ● ●
Tentative fall schedules of the three networks promise nothing strikingly "new" in TV fare. "The Flintstones," at least, looms as something remarkably "different."
"The Flintstones" are a Stone Age family that runs into the same social pressures as those confronting contemporary split-level society.
"It's something of a satire on our modern society," said Barbera.
They wear "skins," of course. The ladies' skins are "beaded."
"At first, we had them in modern dress," said Barbera, "but they looked too much like TV commercials."
A TV antenna juts up from the roof of the family's adobe hut. Fred carries a flip-top lighter which, when it opens, consists of two crossed twigs. He belongs to the YCMA (Young Cavemen's Assn.). He works for the "Rockbed and Quarry Cave Construction Co." as the operator of a "dinosaur" (which works like a construction crane).
Fred's car has rock wheels and "fins." The family also has a convertible (with thatched roof). The family breakfasts on "dodo eggs." They share a "swimming pool" with their neighbors, "The Rubbles." In the first episode, Fred holds a "cook out" in the backyard.
"We're getting a wonderful opportunity in this for satire," said Barbera. "Up to now, we've always done animals. We never considered the great possibilities of portraying humans. "There'll be a little bit of everybody in it."
The "voices" are being recorded by such veterans as Bea Benadaret (of the George and Gracie series), Mel Blanc, Maxie Rosenbloom.
● ● ●
It would seem that Hanna and Barbera took those MGM walking papers and walked off with the TV cartoon market.
"Since we sold The Flintstones,'" said Barbera, "about 30 pilot projects for animated cartoons have been put on the market. The imitators are growing every week.
"We don't, of course, know where they're going to get the necessary artistic help. We've already employed practically all the top talent in town, including the staff we worked with at MGM."

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Yakky Doodle in All’s Well That Eats Well

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Carlo Vinci, Layout – Lance Nolley, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle, Written by Tony Benedict, Story Director – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Alfie Gator – Daws Butler; Yakky Doodle – Jimmy Weldon.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Copyright 1961 by Hanna-Barbera Productions.
Plot: Alfie Gator tries to eat Yakky Doodle.

Tony Benedict was a big fan of the TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents, so he decided to parody it in the Yakky Doodle cartoons by creating Alfie Gator, who speaks somewhat in a Hitchcock manner and employs some of the devices used on the noted director’s anthology show—walking into an outline of his body, lighting turning him into a silhouette, using formalised language to go into and out of commercial breaks. It’s all pretty amusing in cartoon form; as a child, I had either seen enough promos or bits of the Hitchcock programme to get all the references.

One thing about Alfie must have really pleased budget-conscious Bill Hanna; it was the same thing that annoyed Frank Tashlin at Warner’s about Porky Pig—it took forever for Alfie to talk. He was slow and breathy (as was Hitchcock). On top of that, Jimmy Weldon enunciated slowly for Yakky so people could understand him (not like that Darn Old Duck at Disney). So the two characters stood there and yapped. It didn’t make for interesting visuals, but it saved money on animation.

Basically, the Alfie Gator cartoons are spot-gag cartoons. Alfie tells the audience what he’s going to. He fails. He comments to the audience on his failure. Fade out to next gag.

Four cartoons were made with Alfie. This was the first one. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s the only Yakky cartoon that opens with a narrator.

Narrator: Once upon a time, there was a little duck named Yakky Doodle who had a terrible eating problem.
Yakky (to audience): That’s right. Everybody wants to eat me.
Narrator (happily): Yes, everyone wanted to eat poor Yakky. Well, strangely enough, not far away, was someone else with an eating problem.
The scene fades to Alfie, holding his gourmet’s guide. Hoyt Curtin’s cue based on the Hitchcock theme “Funeral March of a Marionette” is heard in the background. Alfie turns to the camera and wishes us “Good afternoon.” He informs us that roast duck is on his menu, but he hasn’t got “the prime ingredient.” Yakky strolls into the scene. “Woe is me! Woe is me! Why was I born a duck instead of a hippopotamus? Woe is me! Woooooe is me!” Alfie continues: “I hope you will excuse me (breathes), but for those of you who weren’t paying attention (breathes), that was a duck, today’s specialty of the house.”

One of the things I like about Yakky in this cartoon is he sticks up for himself. He’s not na├»ve (let alone ignorant) or needs protection like he does when Chopper is around. Yakky uses a sling shot to shoot a rock into Alfie’s mouth. “Hmmm (breathes). One of my favourite desserts. (breaths) Rock candy,” puns the gator.

The next scene fades in. “Hello, again,” Alfie says to us, and explains (to “advance the plot”) his trip wire/rock contraption. But Yakky’s smart enough to spot the trap and fly over it. Alfie can’t stop in time. Crash goes the rock.

Fade to next scene. Alfie is in a tree, holding a rope with a loop on the ground. Yakky again sees the trap, grabs the rope and pulls the gator who smashes on the ground. Now comes the most predictable line of the cartoon: “See ya later, alligator,” shouts Yakky, as he rushes out of the picture. Time for a Hitchcock-like break. “I shall return after a brief fade out,” says the accurate alligator, as the scene fades out and fades in again. “Welcome back,” we’re greeted with. Alfie is now wearing a backpack with a rotor over his head to enable him to fly and catch the duck in mid-air. “I shall only pursue you,” he says to Yakky, “until you tire.” “Or,” adds the smarter-than-the-average duck, “if you run out gas.” “A point I overlooked,” Alfie remarks as he again crashes to the ground.

The hunt is over. The alligator concedes defeat. “Relax, little friend, I’m not going to eat you. It’s much too dangerous a task...My gourmet guide suggests I watch the Late, Late Show and enjoy a frozen TV dinner. (breathes) People have been known to live on them for years.

Cut to the partial outline of the gator, a la Hitchcock. Curtin’s “March” cue returns. “So, if you will kindly excuse me,” Alfie says as he walks into the outline. “I should like to wish you a fervent (breathes) good night.” With that, the cartoon ends.

Carlo Vinci animates this cartoon, and some of his trademarks are here. The diving exits for one.

Carlo also used the same leg angle when he did run cycles or, in this case, a skid/run cycle.

And there’s a position he animated on exits as well; I’ve seen it in Yogi Bear and Jetsons cartoons and a few Terrytoons. One arm is out, the back of the head is stretched, and the wrist on the other arm is at an angle.

Bob Gentle’s backgrounds are reminiscent of Florida, featuring tall grass and moss hanging from tree branches.

We’ve talked about Curtin’s cues. Other than when Yakky is “woeing” when the music’s a little too happy/tinkly, the music pretty much suits the cartoon.