Saturday, January 27, 2007

Scraping the Edge of Infamy

For some unknown reason i am continually fascinated by the Hanna-Barbera characters who brush with near infamy. i have mentioned in the past that several toons from the decade of the super Saturday morning 70's, came close to becoming less a product of their era, and more a life long part of pop culture, never to be forgotton. i have talked about Jabberjaw and mentioned Captain Caveman. But one dog in particular has flirted with the notion of being forever ingrained in our memory, only, it seems he never quite rose to the occasion. i am refering to, of course, Muttley. you can see the pictures of Muttley throughout this article and no doubt feel as though you have seen him before, and you're right, you have. Only its what you have heard from him that is instantly recognizable. This dubious dog is the owner of that great weez-laden laugh with a hint of a whistle. Muttley would bust this laugh out whenever someone, be it his owner, friend or enemy, had something horrible happen to him. This dog, and his laugh, had a beginning not unlike his predesessors, but is storied and peculiar, just the same. I think of the lineage of these characters more as a related family of brothers and cousins rather than one character who went through inevitable evolutions. Think the Snoopy family...Spike and all the rest of snoopy's brothers are variations on ol' Snoop. that is how i view the Muttley clan.

This captivating K-9 started his illustrious career as Mugger, the pooch with a penchant for pouncing on his trainers arm in the 1964 movie, "Hey There, it's Yogi Bear." Mugger was owned by the traveling circus bad guys who were hauling Cindy Bear away. Mugger was basically what Muttley became, but his coat was periwinkle blue and snout a sea green. He had a bigger muzzle and an amazing set of choppers, much bigger and more vicious than Muttley ever showed. Unfortunately, i do not have a picture of Mugger; i could not find one on the internet if you can believe that.

Precious Pupp, the next "relative" in this family tree, was born for the Atom Ant portion of the "Atom Ant / Secret Squirrel Show", which brought many new character additions to H-B's stable in 1967. This dog, although not looking much like Muttley, acted like and sounded exactly like him. He did have that kind of mangy, flea-bitten, shifty eyed look, but was much taller and gangly, with a tuft of orange hair on top. you can see him in this picture below; the best picture i found came from a spanish site, hence the funky name. In 1968, the "Wacky Races" program began and of course, it needing a nefarious ne'er do-well, tapped what we currently know as Muttley and, also, they created Dick Dastardly as his master. by 1969 H-B knew these were the breakout characters of the show and spun them off into their own show "Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines." I should mention that the original D&M for this series look completely different than the stars from Wacky Races. Dastardly was this portly balding fellow while Muttley was more of a tall, short haired retriever of sorts. Not sure if they were going to be the revamped looks for the characters or what, but the concept art is clear that the "Flying Machines" show was going to have a very different set of can see the concept art below. At any rate, this spin-off solidified their place in H-B lore as the go-to villains for a lot of upcoming projects for years to come and merchandising was beginning to come out with these charactes. This show also squared up Muttley's character profile, giving him abilities and a more fleshed out manner that would become his signature stylings, such as the spinning tail that allowed him to fly.

Suddenly the 70's were upon us and Muttley had taken almost a 10 year break Only to return to our TV screens as Mumbly, a light blue dectective in an orange trenchcoat with the distinctive laugh. Undoubtedly supposed to emulate Columbo and his "mumbling" way of speaking, this dog, now a crime fighter who still seemed to have a shady snarky mean streak, was surly and reignited the Muttley legacy.

Mumbly's Dick Dastardly counterpart / update (you knew it had to happen) showed up in "Laff-A-Lympics" as Dread Baron, and both of them showed up in various other toons through the years most notably in "Yogi's Treasure Hunt."

Another more distant "relative", was Sludge. Really this character with his master Phantom Phink is only worth mentioning because for the first time in a long time, H-B decided not to use Dick and Mutt for their primary recurring villains in the "Yogi's Space Race" cartoon of 1978. this is really more of a footnote, so take it as you wish.

In the 90's when the Warner Bros. Studio Store was around, the classic and the most famous incarnation of Muttley with flight goggles and aeronautical scarf showed up in many forms; stuffed animal, embroidered shirts, keychains, Beanie toy. it seemed as though he finally made it into the big time with the pièce de résistance being a 2 foot statue that i believe was referred to as a "floor decoration." they made one of Scooby Doo too; those were the only two made, and at the time Scooby was really becoming immortalized for the new generation. Do you get what i am saying? the 2 characters made into these very rare and weird collectibles were Scooby Doo and...MUTTLEY?!?!?!? Not Huck Hound or Dino, or Yogi, or Fred Flintstone...MUTTLEY!!!

At any rate, Muttley Continues to be that fringe cult classic character that people have some sort of reccolection of and has skimmed the line between obscurity and infamy for many years and is still waiting for complete recognition. he is also waiting for someone to decide if he is green, or mustard colored.

Hey look, here he is as a costumed character!!! sure sign of infamy huh?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More Costumes

Here are some more awesome costumed finds...

Above is a little seen Magilla Gorilla cosutme that toured around "Hanna Barbera Land" in the now defunct Australia's Wonderland...a counterpart to the ever popular but now renamed Canada's Wonderland.

I have mentioned a couple of times how on the brink of huge popularity some of the 70's H-B characters were; here are 2 that were SO on the verge they got costumes made of them. Jabberjaw and Captain Caveman.

Never seen a Ranger Smith you go! i believe you have to go to a Yogi Bear campground for this guy.

Here is a rarely seen Snagglepuss...can anyone tell who or what character mioght be behind looks like he is red or pink and with a white shirt...maybe a cotton ball for a tail. is it Choo Choo from Top Cat or Fibber Fox

Finally a little Quick Draw McGraw for you to feast your eyes at. pretty cool huh?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Ultimate Hanna Barbera Cartoon Cavalcade

I don't really know how else to describe the joy i felt when the show " Scooby's All Star Laff-A-Lympics" debuted on TV. Sure, cartoon team-ups were old hat and expected; they were like peanut butter and jelly, double stuff and oreos or Dolly Parton and just expected one with the other. THIS, however, was like the best wet daydream, that lasted 22 minutes every saturday morning and involed every beloved cartoon character in the stable of the most successul television cartoon house the world had known at that point. This Olympics take off, which was known by about 3 different titled incarnations usually utilizing Scooby, H-B's most popular character at the time, was utterly and undeniably the one of the most ambitious, horribly animated, but unbelievably pleasing shows i have ever seen. In 1977, did i see Micky Mouse shot-putting against Jiminy Cricket, or Goofy in a 50 yard dash against Cruella daVille? How about Mighty Mouse curling against Heckle and Jeckle or Bullwinkle fencing Dudley Do Right? Hell no! But there i was, legs going numb as i sat Indian style in front of a 24 inch TV on Saturday morning, Fruit Loops fermenting in my belly, salivating at the site of my favorite characters interacting with each other while putting on their version of a network phenomenon; I suppose it would be called Battle of the Network Cartoon Stars. I was basically Nocturnally emitting during this morning eye candy that sent my mind into a frenzy. In one episode you could see Quick Draw Mcgaw, Mumbly and Captain Caveman in a unicycle race around the pyramids of Egypt, Super Snooper, Hong Kong Phooey and Dread Baron on a river raft race down the Mississippi and Cindy Bear, Taffy and Daisy Mayhem hang gliding over the Thames, all while the inimitable team of Snagglepuss and Mildew Wolf made like Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford, a-la the Wide World of Sports.

The combinations were endless and easily melded the 60's and 70's characters into 3 teams. the Yogi Yahooey's obviously headed by that smarter than average bear and consisting of just about every 60's animal character you can think of and 1 from the 70's...the Great Grape Ape. Omitted characters who would have been helpful: Squiddly Diddly, Secret Squirrel, Peter Potamus, Magilla Gorilla. The second team was called the Scooby Doobies. This was managed by Scooby Doo and Shaggy while housing most of the 70's human characters and thier anthropomorphic friends like the Teen Angels and Captain Caveman, Dynomutt and Blue Falcon, Hong Kong Phooey, Speed Buggy and Tinker and Babu from Jeannie and Scooby Dum. Omitted characters who would have been helpful: Goober, Jabberjaw (who made guest apearances) Woofer and Whimper, Penelope Pitstop, Undercover Elephant and either the Hair Bear Bunch or the CB Bears...surly this team was lacking some bears. Finally the Really Rottons was lead by none other than Mumbly. Mumbly was originally known as Mugger in the movie "Hey there its Yogi Bear", then was resurected for Wacky Races and teamed with Dick Dastardly in that and their own spin off show and known as Muttley, then recolored baby blue and outfitted into an orange trench coat in his own show and renamed Mumbly, all the while keeping his trademark snicker (that made its way onto the character Precious Pupp in the 60's for some unknown reason). This team had Dick Dastardly's cousin Dread Baron as Mumbly's cohort and many characters that were made specifically for this show like Daisy Mayhem, Sooey Pig and Orful Octopuss; this excludes the Dalton Boys who, in one form or another, were a part of many shows throughout H-B's show's of the 60's. Omitted characters who could have been helpful: Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist, Blast-Off Buzzard and Scat cat from the Skatebirds. As you can tell from the picture above, the cast was HUGE and that had to make animating a nightmare. As a matter of fact, i can only imagine that Joe and Bill accepted this pitch (unless it was his...does anyone know?) because he knew he wouldn't have to animate it. Needless to say i was smitten with the competition, the comraderie and the countless contests coupling copious commiserating cartoon characters, counted on to compete and captivate countless kids, kvetching on this confectionary, commercial-laden carnival. I think it is actually coming to video soon, as i have seen some possible artwork and info on the series. look for it and love it; its like loving the don't know why but having all of those heroes together on the screen (even the made up, politically correct ethnic ones) was pleasing to the eye. Buy this when it comes out so we can keep the H-B DVD train rolling right along.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

First Joe Barbera now Iwao Takamoto

i love a lot of what Iwao and Jerry Eisenberg did at Hanna Barbera. People can scoff all they want about how cheap the animation was and crappy the shows were, you CANNOT, however, dispute that the design of the characters were really beautiful. I mean come on...a bear with an afro? Stylistically, the shows worked and still hold cult status thanks to the unbelievable character design. the same can't be said for other studies' attempts to horn in on H-B's saturday morning territory, with Filmation coming close and Ruby-Spears a little closer in the 80's, as they actually studied and worked for Hanna Barbera previously. Fine; the stories in Speed Buggy were stupid, insipid even...hell they were knock-offs of old unused Scooby Doo scripts with the names changed, but the LOOK of the series is what is still appealing about the shows. i get excited when i see these characters and even more excited when i see current artists renditions of these classics. further more, i believe that with great stories and greater, maybe even CG animation, any one of those cartoons would be hits today. the pic i posted is of the Hair Bear Bunch, one of my all time favorites. This show has actually stood the test of time and trust me i would not say that about much of what HB did, as much as i love them. The experimentation on color, design, Voice talent, camera angles, and story was one of the last great originally dealt with cartoons. Sure the title made no sense, and...well..ok it sucked ,(Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch?!?!?!?) but it was masterfully designed and executed. BTW if you want to see amazing renditions of other peoples fantastic take on HB characters, go to and root around using Hanna Barbera as a key word. i have found some delicious HB treats of late.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Little Remembered Lippy Lion

I have a fondness for Lippy and Hardy too. oh, you don't recall those characters? most don't actually. at least not the people in my circle. Lippy the Lion and Hardy Har Har, a hungery lion and dour non-laughing hyena , respectivly, were a part of what was billed as the "The New Hanna Barbera Cartoon Series" At this time in 1962, H-B was enough of a known commodity that they could sell a show with their name on it so they did. the show consisted of the aformentioned anthropomorphic duo, plus Wally Gator and Touche Turtle and Dum Dum (is it "Dumm" with 2 "M's"??) in much of the pre publicity for the series, not only was Lippy seen differently than we know him now, (character designs of Lippy were leaked to some merchandisers before the official model was set, therefore you see the Lippy the Lion game with Lippy wearing a crown, a flintstone like tie and cuff links) but he was almost always sans Hardy. in the photo you see aboveon bottom, Hardy is nowhere to be seen. fine, for dear old Dum Dum, he was really only a second banana, But Hardy was billed on the title cards. no wonder he was never laughing, he was getting paid scale while Lippy was signing autographs and partying at the Sands in Las Vegas with the Rat Pack. from what i can tell, Hardy was also left out of merchandising. there is a Lippy Soaky, a shampoo bottle line popular in the 60's, and a lunch box with all the stars mentioned above but no Hardy. He did exact his revenge however, in the late 90's when the Warner Bros. Studio Store was selling Beanies of their characters. Hardy got a beanie and Lippy was left out. Very weird how these two have had seperate lives in merchandising over the years. Alas, they are finally together in a venture brought on by Funko, our friends who brought us bobble head toys of our favorite characters. as you can see above top, the titular twosome is together for the first time. good for them!