Monday, 6 April 2015

Long Arm of the Teenager

Jeannie the babysitter can’t wait to gab on the phone in “Tot Watchers” (released August 1958). Her arm stretches in an Avery-like exaggeration and pulls her toward the phone. Look, folks! It’s a Cinemascope gag!



Tom gets a stretch job himself.



Below, Jeannie is in shock when she realises there’s no cord connecting the handset to the phone. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera are already learning how to cut corners as they anticipate TV animation, although even the cheap Yogi Bear cartoons had a phone cord when needed.



This sorry cartoon brought to an end the Tom and Jerrys made on the Metro lot in Culver City. Ken Muse, Lew Marshall and Jim Escalante get the animation credits. The old Hanna-Barbera unit had pretty much broken up. Ed Barge (Billboard, May 5, 1956) and Irv Spence (Variety, Aug. 30, 1956) had left for commercial house Animation, Inc. Muse and Marshall would follow Hanna and Barbera to their own studio, Escalante was an effects animator who apparently went into the ministry.

Happy Homer Brightman received the screen credit for the story. The cartoon would have been started before July 18, 1956 as that’s when Variety announced Walter Lantz had signed Brightman to an exclusive, five-year contract (Brightman had been freelancing the previous two years).

The voice actors on this cartoon are a little baffling, other than Bill Thompson pulls out his Irish accent to the play the sceptical cop (a staple stereotype in later Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons). No, Janet Waldo is not the voice of Jeannie. If I recall, voice historian Keith Scott said the babysitter was played by Louise Erickson, who (like Waldo) made a career playing squealing teenaged girls on network radio. The mother may be Perry Sheehan; Variety reported on April 13, 1956 that she and Dick Anderson had been signed by MGM to supply voices for the suburbanite couple in the Tom and Jerry cartoon “The Vanishing Duck.”

5 comments:

  1. I've seen this cartoon dozens of times over a span of almost four decades, and this is the first I've noticed Jeannie and the baby are outdoors. This is what you miss when CinemaScope films aren't shown widescreen.

    Strange thing - Cartoon Network/Boomerang airs the CScope T & Js with the opening and end credits in letterbox format, but not the actual cartoon!

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    1. Some of the first syndicated prints of this cartoon that went out in 1977 had the non-widescreen version of the final season's end title cards, which really hid the film's CinemaScope origins (though the extreme spareness of the backgrounds in the skyscraper scenes, the heavy ink lines and UPA policeman pretty much gave the game away that this was really late in the series).

      The fact that Brightman gets the story credit here, after no one had ever gotten a story credit on a Tom & Jerry cartoon before, makes you think that Joe was busy doing Ruff & Reddy sketches and other non-MGM work by this time, and just told Homer to figure out a way to rework the plot from "Busy Buddies" from the previous release season.

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    2. Some of the first syndicated prints of this cartoon that went out in 1977 had the non-widescreen version of the final season's end title cards, which really hid the film's CinemaScope origins (though the extreme spareness of the backgrounds in the skyscraper scenes, the heavy ink lines and UPA policeman pretty much gave the game away that this was really late in the series).

      I remember thinking how odd these ones were because the opening/end credits were shown in what I like to call "Distort-o-vision", mainly leaving them unSCOPEd so the entire title card could be seen, yet revert to "pan & scan" for the main section of the cartoon. Columbia did something similar to their UPA cartoons when they came out on home video as well, though some went so far and were left alone in the distorted look for the entire short.


      The fact that Brightman gets the story credit here, after no one had ever gotten a story credit on a Tom & Jerry cartoon before, makes you think that Joe was busy doing Ruff & Reddy sketches and other non-MGM work by this time, and just told Homer to figure out a way to rework the plot from "Busy Buddies" from the previous release season.

      Yeah it was a repeat.

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    3. I will give Homer credit -- even though the main part of the cartoon was borrowed from various other "chasing an unaware character on a construction site" cartoons, "Tot Watchers" is more interesting than "Busy Buddies" because of it -- If you're going to make Tom & Jerry work together, at least offer up some other object of comic menace. Joe's original story is probably the blandest T&J theatrical he and Bill Hanna ever made.

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  2. Louise Ericksen was listed in that old reference book (coauthored by the voice of the mighty Batfink, one of Dave Mackey's heroes!:), Frank Buxton), "The Big Broadcast", as "A Date with Judy"'s lead - the character that Janet Waldo's concurrent "Meet Corliss Archer" was conceived as a rival to, and could Judy Jetson have been named after Janet's Corliss's RIVAL character...(Janet, according toi Yowp before, said it was probably her fellow radio actress Barbara Eiler, who may be related to "Birdman"(Hanna-Barebera)'s actress Virgina Eiler), and the often flawed "Animated Film Encyclopedia"(Webb,2000) mentioned Norma Jean Nillson..as Jeannie.

    SC

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