Saturday 22 August 2015

Cue the Cue

Music was the driving force in the early sound cartoons; think of the Silly Symphonies, the original Merrie Melodies and Mickey Mouse bashing out tunes on a variety of animals-turned-instruments. And music is behind one of the questions asked by animation fans on occasion: “What is that music in the background?”

In some cases, the answer is easy if someone has knowledge of classical music. My father had a large collection of classical music and listened to a classical radio station, so I’m not one of those people who say “I learned about classical music/opera watching cartoons.” But cartoons exposed me, and several generations, to popular songs of another era. How else would anyone born in the 1950s or 1980s know “Blues in the Night” unless they heard it in the soundtrack of a Warner Bros. cartoon? Or “Shuffle Off to Buffalo”? (Performed by a Jewish baby, in one short).

The definitive answer to “what is that music” is found in something that, regrettably for cartoon fans, is not available on the internet. It’s found on a cue sheet. Cue sheets have been around since before sound films, but they originally served a different purpose. Music publishers would send out cue sheets to theatres in the hope the music cues on it would be played—cues that, oddly enough, were exclusive to the publisher supplying the sheet. In the sound era, cue sheets were logs containing names of songs, publishers and other pertinent information, and sent to music licensing organisations to ensure composers got paid for their work. A cue sheet is still required for every production, film or television.

Below you see a sheet from the first Huckleberry Hound Show, though this sheet was revised in June 1960 for some reason.

Jerry Beck, as you might expect, has a random collection on his Cartoon Research web site.

My favourite cartoons were made by Warner Bros. In his doctoral dissertation at UCLA in 2001, Daniel Goldmark, perhaps the foremost expert on music in theatrical animated cartoons, transcribed portions of the cue sheets for almost every Warners short, beginning with the first Looney Tune, Sinkin’ in the Bathtub (1930). Here’s the list of cues for one of Friz Freleng’s funniest cartoons, Bugs Bunny Rides Again (1948).

The cue sheet reveals the melody behind Bugs and then Yosemite Sam dancing is a Carl Stalling original.

Dr. Goldmark’s dissertation expounds on Stalling’s use of popular and classical music, so most of his cue transcriptions are missing just about anything Stalling (and his successors and predecessors) composed for each cartoon. Also missing is a list of cues I’ve been trying to find out about for several decades—what the internet has dubbed “The Seely Six.”

Six cartoons released by Warners in 1958 bear a music credit for John Seely. Seely was a musician and composer, but he didn’t compose the scores for the six shorts. At the time, Seely was in charge of Capitol’s film music library. In 1956, Capitol created a library of several hundred records (or film reels) of music that could be licensed for films or television shows. It proved to be very popular; it provided background music for Hanna-Barbera cartoons, Gumby stop-motion shorts, industrial films from numerous companies (including Jerry Fairbanks Productions) and theme songs for several TV shows. Cues from the Capitol library were cherry-picked, quite possibly by Treg Brown at Warners, and edited together to form a score. Seely got the screen credit on the cartoons solely because he was the boss at Capitol.

Dr. Goldmark speculated in his dissertation that a possible reason behind using the stock music was an experiment to save money; Carl Stalling retired from the studio just before the Capitol library found its way into Warners cartoons. But the theory has also been floated, and I can’t remember where I first read it, was that the canned music was necessitated by a musicians strike.

The American Federation of Musicians launched a strike against the major Hollywood studios on February 20, 1958. Things didn’t quite go according to plan for the union and its leader, Caesar Petrillo. An unhappy group of members splintered off and formed their own union. Petrillo suddenly retired. On July 14th, the National Labor Relations Board certified the splinter union as the sole bargaining agent for musicians at the studios and the strike ended later that month, with “tooters” (as Variety insisted on calling them) returning to work starting July 21st. A contract was ratified on September 3rd.

Feature film production was only mildly inconvenienced by the strike; studios elected to have their composer’s scores recorded in foreign countries, mainly Mexico. From what I’ve been able to find so far, only one feature film released by a major studio required stock music to be used due to the walkout, Fox’s The Fiend Who Walked the West (cues were supplied by Leon Klatzkin, who supervised the Mutel library). As for the Warners cartoons, the Goldmark dissertation reveals the last in-house cue sheet filed before the Seely Six was on May 6th for Knighty Knight Bugs (released August 23, 1958). Cue sheets for the six Seely cartoons follow, four of them dated October 22nd, one on October 31st and the last on December 8th, the same day sheets were submitted for Milt Franklyn’s scores for Cat Feud and Baton Bunny (both released in 1959). Four of the Seely sheets are dated after the release of the cartoon. The music was added to each cartoon after the artwork was completed and shot. The dates could indicate the strike wasn’t the catalyst for using Capitol’s library.

Of the six, the Seely score I’ve been most curious about is for Hook, Line and Stinker, released October 11, 1958. It may be the most Hanna-Barbera sounding of the sextet, mainly due to the presence of a Capitol cue called “TC-303 Zany Comedy,” composed by Seely with Bill Loose, and heard frequently in the earliest Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and Pixie & Dixie cartoons. But the short is also distinguished by what some people insist is the theme to the Dennis the Menace TV series, which was also composed by Loose and Seely. The melody is the same in some spots but is not note-for-note and is missing the musical “twitch” that Loose felt made it a likeable theme. Dr. Goldmark didn’t list any of the “Seely” cues in his dissertation, but I’ve been blessed by the kindness of on-line friends who have graciously supplied me with the cartoon’s cue sheet. And it reveals a surprise.

The “Dennis” cue, which precedes the Menace sitcom by a year, was actually written for Gumby, and is called “Gumby Chase.” The cue is still licensed under that name by ASCAP and published by Sam Fox Music; Loose and Seely wrote for that company before their Capitol days and some Sam Fox cues found their way into the Hi-Q library, though I cannot find a record of “Gumby Chase” being one of them.

The sheet reveals some other interesting things. Simple arithmetic bewilders me on occasion but the times of the cues on the sheet add up to 7:01. Yet the cartoon in circulation is 5:55. Was footage cut out? Or are the times on the sheet wrong? And are they in order? For example, the “Gumby Chase” that opens the cartoon is at least 45 seconds, not 15. “EM-126E” in the Hi-Q library only runs 12 seconds, not 1:08, and doesn’t sound like anything in this score. “ZR-50” can be heard for seven seconds, not 35, after about 30 seconds of “Gumby Chase” (which runs from when Wile E. Coyote fires the slingshot to when the cannonball goes through the funnel). It would appear “TC-303 Zany Comedy” is the same cue as “Western Breeze.” The former is still under license from BMI, the latter from ASCAP. And someone devised their own code for a number of the Phil Green cues as EM-CT- is not used in either Hi-Q or the EMI Photoplay library which originally released the Green music.

Among the cues in the cartoon (Photoplay names) are “GR-453 The Artful Dodger” (Wile E. with dynamite under the tub until he tip-toes off camera); “GR-255 Puppetry Comedy” (the stick clubs Wile E.); “GR-459 Dawn in Birdland” (shot of birdseed, Wile E. opens can); “GR-97 By Jiminy! It’s Jumbo Short Bridge No 1” (Wile E. high-steps to the tracks, gets run over) and “GR-256 Toyland Burglar” (balloon, shot of roadrunner; shot of grey clouds, Wile E. drops).

The cartoon isn’t strong to begin with (a gag is Wile E. gets a beard of dust) and the stock music doesn’t add anything, as much as I’m a fan of the library.

That’s enough about this particular cartoon, one of about a thousand scored at Warner Bros. It’s a shame cue sheets for all the studios aren’t more accessible to the public. Fans would be able to learn more about the scores stitched together by cartoon studio musical directors, music that, in some cases, would otherwise go forgotten.


  1. So basically, the "Gumby chase" cue used in "Hook, Line and Stinker" was a sort of prototype for the Dennis theme.
    And i notice the music in the "Seely 6" wasn't exclusively from Hi-Q. I presume George Hormel was heir to the Spam fortune?
    What's the story behind the current rights to the Hi-Q cues?

    I can only guess that the disgruntled AFM members forming the splinter union felt that Petrillo's actions were costing them jobs - for instance, when in 1950 he coerced the broadcast networks to make payments to the AFM trust fund in addition to the musicians' salaries, which led to many radio and TV shows dropping their orchestras in favor of small combos, a single organist, or library music. After Petrillo's retirement, the trust fund demands were dropped.

    1. Rnigma, yes, Loose reworked it into the Dennis theme. Geordie Hormel's family were meat-packers behind Spam.
      The way the Hi-Q rights were explained to me, when the Huck and Yogi DVDs came out, Capitol still controlled the recordings. Now they have reverted to the heirs of the composers. Warners and Bill Loose's widow couldn't agree on a price for their use, nether could Warners and the owners of the Langlois (Jack Shaindlin) cues.

    2. Doesn't Associated Production Music own the Shaindlin cues (in their Cinemusic package)?

      So George Hormel and Geordie Hormel are one and the same. I heard that he owned a recording studio in L.A., and offered free use of it to any member of Monty Python, because he loved their "Spam" sketch.

    3. So Capitol owned the music that long,then,into 2005 (when the Huck DVD came out)l.

      On TC-303, Yowp mentions Loose and Seely wrote it but I thought that (as mentioned in the December 2009 "Cartoon Music for Huck and Yogi" entry on this blog) that TC-303 was ACTUALLY written by David Rose but contractually waived in terms of credit and ownership to Seely and Loose (same for many other Rose compositions and other cvomposers, applying also to composers working with Jack Shaindlin-see April 2010's "The Compleate Cartoon Shaindlin").

    4. rnigma:
      'Doesn't Associated Production Music own the SHaindlin cues in their Cinemusic Package?"


      Unfortunately, not all..

    5. APM is a distributor. The cues are owned by EMI Blackwood Music.

    6. Thanks, Yowp and Steve, for the clarifications.

  2. Coincidentally enough, it was recently announced that the 1950's Gumby series is coming out on DVD apparently with the Capitol cues intact. Which begs the question (repeated ad infinitum on the Yowp blogs) of why we can't expect a release of the Huckleberry/Quick Draw series long held hostage by Warner Video seemingly because of said cues, when a small label like the one has no qualms in ponying up the dough for the royalties.


    1. Because the rights holders, from what I was told, asked for far more from Warners than it did for the small company involved in the Gumby release.

  3. Chandler-Williams is Bluestone-Cadkin. (Which Yowp mentioned in 2009's "The Augie Music of Cadkin-Bluestone"

    I noticed William Loose's C-5 is used, which IS true for another of the "Seely Six", "Gopher Broke"(November 15,1958) but I don't recognize it here. I wonder what the cue (used in "Dennis" when Dennis makes a cute funny comment and scurries off, and in the early Gumby short from 1956 "Too Loo", which ALSO used the original "Gumby Chase" that became the Dennis theme (these Dennis Connections!) as in the Coyote's jaw dropping as a reaction to the Roadrunner's initial; zipping off in the open scene right as the credits (in "Too Loo" it's the first tune used when the title talking sentient music note-children appear, and jump out of a record into Gumby's mouth!) Sounds similiar to the middle eight of the Seely-Loose piece TC-205 used in Huuckleberry, Gumby, and Quick Draw..SC

    1. PS I think that the one I'm referring to is "Gumby Bridge" (Seely-Loose). One isn't mentioned, but Yowp posted it over a few years ago when he had some Spencer Moore cues:
      L-92 is used in both the Road Runners-
      "Hook Line and Stinker"-starting the Rube Goldberg gag that closes the cartoon (with "Gumby Chase", George Hormel's ZR-50, another of "Gumby Bridge" and then finally "Gumby Tag')

      "Hip Hip Hurry",itself a real oddity with composer Henry Russell's cues being the usual ones, L-92 in this case being used for the "Wile E. rolling bolder off a cliff" bit (and then it falls off.)

      I'd love to know what the one used in "Pre-Hysterical Hare" when we first see Bugs Bunny's prehistoric cousin emerge (it's also used in Gumby, all throughout "Gopher Trouble/Fantastic Farmer" and has a drolly creeepy tuba and oboe and a bouncy melody. Sounds either like a Spencer Moore or Phil Green tune. I doubt Jack Shaindlin or Raoul Kraushaar's cues ever were used in those six shorts..)

      On one of the file sharing sites, I got a couple of tense/dramaticf Seely-Loose cues, and a few used in "Pre-Hysterical hare" are used, the two consecutive ones when Bugs Bunny sets up his projector and watches the "moving pucture films"-"Tension", then "Agitato"(used in the "Hideous Sun Demon" ad narrtaed by Paul Frees..on YOuTube.. and the Gumby short "The Glob" when the "Glob" emerges from the book he, Gumby and Pokey were in!!!)SC

  4. PS The scene I mentioned in my last comment was right AFTER Wile E. got that beard of dust that Yowp mentioned.

    Musician and fellow researcher Piet Schrueders of Beau Hunks fame, in 1998 ("Cartoon music in 1958," rec.arts.animation-warner-bros (forgot exact name of newsgroup)) mentioned a cue sheet for "Gopher Broke", dated October 11,1958, though the cartoon itself was released on November 15,1958:
    Among those: the one usually used on Quick Draw
    Original EM-CT-3 (Philip Green)
    Sublime Ghost (note--this is the TC-22 Hi-Q cue used on Yogi Bear like in the early scenes in, I believe, "Space Bear" (along with a rare suspenseful Green cue) and in Huckleberry Hound a lot, like in the open to "Astro Nut Huck" or whatveer that's called in when the potato starts transforming before the other cue by R.Kraushaar(?) is used in "Spud Dud"
    Steve C