Animation Trails
October 21, 2020 posted by Charles Gardner

Reign of the Supertoons (Part 3)

Into the late 1950’s and early ‘60’s. Many of the major theatrical studios are winding down production, or in their waning days. But Warner Brothers and its proteges continue to contribute a healthy sampling of super-powered product, while the refugees from MGM at Hanna-Barbera take the concept to the small screen.

Michael Maltese really throws us a curve ball in Past Perfumance (Warner, Pepe Le Pew, 5/21/55 – Charles M. (Chuck) Jones, dir,). In a typical Pepe Le Pew outing, this time set in a 1913 Parisian silent motion-picture studio, Maltese throws in, among French parallels to silent screen star Clara Bow and the Mack Sennett bathing beaties, a walk on for a muscular man in super-hero tights, bearing the name on his chest, “Super Homme.” No matter that the real Superman wouldn’t be created until 25 years after the stated year of the cartoon!

In Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z (Warner, Road Runner, 5/5/56 – Charles M. (Chuck) Jones, dir.), Wile E. Coyote orders from the Acme catalog one Bat Man’s Outfit (Regular Size – good thing he didn’t need a portly). The bright green outfit with ribbed wings, as mentioned last week, bears a strong resemblance to Tom the cat’s corset contraption in The Flying Cat, and its use would appear to mark animation’s first direct reference to the caped crusader. Wile E. tests out his wingspan, then hurls himself off the highest cliff in the area. Despite having his arms wide open, his initial progress is straight down. He begins to flap in panic. Mere feet before encountering a floor of jagged rocks below, the costume finally catches a breeze, and Wile E. soars upwards gracefully and majestically, learning his abilities with high-speed swoops and a perspective approach nearly into the camera lens.

He sets himself into a gliding mode, adding minimal-effort arm flaps every few seconds to maintain velocity, then flashes the audience a confident smile in the same manner as Tom’s overconfidence upon mastering his skills. Just as with Tom, overconfidence breeds carelessness, and instead of a mere mailbox, Wile E. smashes himself flat into a canyon wall. Gravity forces his body to peel off the rock face, except one thing remains stuck to the side of the canyon – the fabric of the costume’s wings. Left with nothing but the metal ribs, Wile E. flutters helplessly like a first-time fledgling, ultimately generatimg his usual cloud of dust as he crashes into the desert sands below. (The entire sequence would receive reuse as a clip in the TV pilot-turned-featurette, The Adventures of the Road Runner (6/2/62), with the addition of a television narrator’s voice, using the clip as a commercial for the suit, with the line, “The only bat-man’s outfit worm by bats.”


Stupor Duck (Warner, Daffy Duck, 7/7/56 – Robert McKimson, dir) – History attempts to repeat itself – unsuccessfully, and Bob McKimson attempts to cash in on the recent newfound fame of the man of steel in a television series by producing a Daffy Duck equivalent of what Bugs Bunny had already pulled off in 1943’s Super-Rabbit – even going so far as to use Tedd Pierce as writer again. This choice of writers, however, begins as a negative asset, as Pierce merely repeats himself verbatim for the standard series opening – the same popgun for the “speeding bullet”, and the same broken-down “locomotive’ to be more powerful than. Only the leap over the tallest building changes its payoff – with Daffy catching his cape on the flagpole at the top of the building and left hanging out to dry, rather than falling over the other side as Bugs did. As the actual story-line begins, we find that Daffy has no Professor Kanafraz, but, true to the DC original, putters at a day job as mild mannered reporter Cluck Trent. He maintains his workaday disposition by taking one of “Dr. Pierce’s (Tedd, of course) Mild Pills for mild mannered people”. From behind the closed door of the editor’s office, he hears the ranting and raving of what appears to be a lunatic (one Aardvaark Ratnik), threatening the editor that he will not be stopped, and will wage a war of destruction by blowing up bridges, towns, everything. Cluck Trent listens to this conversation so intently, he forgets to turn off the water from the water cooler to wash down his pill, and floods the office. Had the duck just used his x-ray vision, he would have discovered that the editor is actually alone in his office, watching a corny TV show. Taking the threat as real, Cluck sees a job for Stupor Duck, and heads for the broom closet for a cstume change. Pierce repeats himself again from the Bugs Bunny epic, with Daffy reappearing in the wrong costume (this time dressed as a witch on a broom, instead of as Little Bo Peep). He barges in proper attire into the editor’s office, and finding no villain, waits for no explanation, and assumes the culprit escaped through the window. As he heroically leaps into flight, the window falls shut, with Daffy crashing through it – and headfirst into the wall of the skyscraper next door. “Sakes! Wouldn’t ya think they could find some other place to put a building?”

The rest of the film becomes a repetitive joke of Daffy scouring the city for signs of Ratnik, but finding no actual crime. (Oddly, this same theme would be remembered years later in Steven Speilberg’s Freakazoid series, with a recurring drop-in segment called “The Huntsman” – a superhero armed with Green Arrow-style weaponry, ready with a minute-and-a-half long heroic theme song, and anxious to battle the forces of evil – but who constantly finds the city entirely devoid of crime.) Daffy spots a tall building collapsing, tilting in the same manner as the Daily Planet building in Fleischer’s Superman #1, and, as did the man of steel, pushes the building back to upright position. As he descends to the ground to take his bows, Daffy fails to note a sign on a construction-yard fence surrounding the building, announcing that the structure was to be demolished for a new city hall. All Daffy receives for a reception is a sock in the kisser from the construction boss, as a dazed Daffy quotes the title from a 1940’s song hit of Vaughn Monroe: “When the lights go on again all over the world….” A “sinking ship” turns out to be a navy submarine, which fires its deck gun and torpedo at him. A railroad trestle about to be blown up is a movie special effect (with “Warner Brothers Studios” boldly visible on the camera equipment), leaving the feathers blasted off Daffy at the receiving end of the detonator wires, And a missile launching from a desert base is a rocket which carries Daffy to the moon for the final iris out. The end result is regrettably predictable and disappointingly dull – proving that even re-hiring of original talent doesn’t guarantee that lightning will strike twice in the same place.

Here’s a short clip:


Trick or Tweet (Warner, Tweety and Sylvester, 3/21/59 – Friz Freleng, dir.) – Borrowing a concept from his predecessor director Robert Clampett (who had used a similar setup in 1945 for A Gruesome Twosome), this film demonstrates the consequences when two “putty tats” set their sights on Tweety at the same time. (The concept had also been worked one preceding time by Freleng in Putty Tat Troubles (1951).) Sylvester’s rival in this one was more memorable than the anonymous cat in Freleng’s previous attempt, and introduces the character of Sam – an orange tabby with the same basic voice (Stan Freberg) and personality as Pete Puma – based on the trademark voice of comedian Frank Fontaine. Sam would be seen with Sylvester again, and carry the two cats to an Oscar nomination, in 1961’s Mouse and Garden.

Throughout the cartoon, Sylvester and Sam either demonstrate their abilities to act at cross-purposes to one another, or to think alike. The relevant highlight for this article is when Sylvester dons a pre-packaged “Bat Man Outfit”, appearing to have come from the same manufacturer’s catalog that Wile E. Coyote shopped from in Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z. Sylvester takes off from atop a tall building towatd the telephone pole where Tweety’s nest is located. As with Wile E., the costume allows him to soar quite gracefully. But there is a different and unexpected payoff for his flight. Without warning, he collides headfirst in mid-air with Sam – who has ordered the identical bat suit. The two wounded eagles sputter and flap as they plummet downwards, landing with a crash into a trash dump below.


For once, I’m going to defer to the “Yowp” website on early Hanna-Barbera cartoons for descriptive of the Augie Doggie episode, Fan Clubbed (10/16/60), from the Quick Draw McGraw show. Why? For one reason, the only copy on the web is in Spanish, so I have to take Yowp’s word for all the dialogue gags. For another thing, it almost seems superfluous to review it here, as its plot is basically a digest of a longer plot to be for the Jetsons, “Elroy’s Pal”, to be discussed below. The only primary differences are a few extra action sequences in the Augie original. Doggie Daddy, impersonating a TV superhero so his son won’t be disappointed at not getting a visit from “Captain Zoom Zoom” at his birthday party (does this not sound like a plot steal from I Love Lucy’s “Lucy Meets Superman”?), attempts to fake a smashing-a-wall-down power, but performs it anyway when he steps on his son’s roller skate in mid-run, with some fancy acrobatics off a hammock and through the roof for good measure. He also nearly captures an escaped gorilla by pure accident – but the gorilla winds up with his costume, and as the newest fanboy watching Zoom Zoom with Augie on the TV set. Such cartoons inspired a generation of couch potatoes.

Here’s a clip:


Batty Bear (Hanna-Barbera, Yogi Bear, 12/2/61) – Yogi’s taken a new interest in televison. No, he hasn’t installed an aerual in the cave – he just barges in on TV sets in tourists’ trailers when they aren’t looking. He introduces Boo Boo to his favorite show, “Bat Guy, the masked avenger from the sky”. During the commercial break, Bat Guy reminds the kids of the big promotion of their unnamed sponsor – send in 10,000 box tops and get a real Bat Guy suit. (He strongly encourages the kiddies to keep those box tops coming in, reminding them that it’l help “Uncle Batty”, since, as he wears a mask, he coud be easily replaced on the show.) Boo Boo comments that it would take a long time to save up 10,000 box tops. “It took me three weeks”, announces Yogi, who’s been scrounging them up from the tourist trash cans. He suggests they check the post office, as his suit is already due in the mail.

As usual, Yogi has more culinary interests than mere hero worship at heart. He intends to use the bat suit to swoop down upon the picnic tables and the goodies thererat. The suit is a perfect fit, and Yogi gives it a test run (though Boo Boo comments that with the mask, he looks like a fat raccoon). Yogi gets off the ground on his first try – except his steering needs some work, as he sails right back into his cave, crashing within its interior. The solution presents itself at Lover’s Leap – the highest point in the park, where, despite Boo Boo’s protests, Yogi is determined that the answer to his problem is to attain greater altitude. He leaps from the cliff, flaps his wings desperately, and falls straight down. Boo Boo cringes, waiting for the crash. But it never comes, and all is quiet. Then Yogi comes sailing upward past Boo Boo into the skies, explaining, “Strong updraft”. A crime wave hits the picnic tables, as basket after basket is grabbed up by Yogi’s bite on the basket handles as he zooms by. Ranger Smith begins receiving strange calls, which he attribues to the annual crank callers with a new one every year. “But sir, we don’t have any flying bears.

A few flying squirrels…With your own eyes, a flying bear? Gonna stick with it, eh?” Of course, Smith won’t believe such nonsense – until a familiar fat silhouette passes overhead in the sky. “Yogi!” Smith runs outside, but loses sight of the daredevil bear. However, on another pass. Yogi has to sneeze, and drops one of the baskets – landing a berry pie right on the Ranger’s face below. Deciding he’ll be safer off the ground, Smith hops into the park helicopter. From above, he spots Yogi again. Positioning the copter directly above the winged wonder, Smith positions the helicopter’s landing gear to encircle and trap Yogi, forcing him down. On the ground, the incriminating evidence of nine filched picnic baskets is everywhere. Smith vows Yogi is through in this park, and will be banished to a zoo. As usual, Yogi has an angle. “But sir, that will mean filling out a report. And on the report, a flying bear? Will the Superintendent swallow that, sir?” Smith realizes Yogi’s got him over a barrel. Yogi offers to turn in the bat suit, return the picnic baskets, then “melt into the forest”. “You win. Start melting”, says Smith – but first asks how Yogi accomplished his flight powers. Yogi tells him of the strong updraft at Lover’s Leap. The next thing we known, the Ranger is wearing the Bat Suit, declaring, “If a dumb animal can fly…” He gracefully sails off the cliff – and majestically plunges into the canyon below. Face first in the dirt, Smith curses, “Oooh, that Yogi! Someday……!!” Back in the forest, Yogi recalls that he neglected to tell the ranger one little thing – that the updraft dies down in the late afternoon.


Largely unavailable for viewing these days are the Bozo the Clown cartoons of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. (Aw c’mon, Larry Harmon heirs and assigns – either loosen up. or put out a definitive complete collection of the cartoons only.) Among the circle of friends added to the series circa 1961/62 was a mild-mannered, dour-dispositioned mumbly dog, more than superficially resembling Droopy, known as Sniffer. He may perhaps qualify as a career superhero, but seemed sush an unlikely one that he merits an honorable mention. When the going got tough, he would reach in his pocket for a “secret weapon”- a patented super-bone, with the not-so-secret ingredient “XYZ-3″, the name of which would appear In flashing letters on the side of the bone. (It is never disclosed where he got these. Was he himself a chemist? Or was there a behind-the-scenes Professor Kanafraz?) He would swallow the bone whole, then with the sound effect of a clanging bell, a large circular “S” insignia would bulge from his chest three times. This was the signal he had been transformed into “Super Sniffer” – whose nose had the power to suck objects to him with the force of a hundred vacuum cleaners. This power could prove helpful in, for example, disarming a villain. However, it could also backfire, as in Razzle Dazzle Castle Hassle (circa 1962), where Sniffer aims his nose at a cannon lit by Slippery Bly, International Spy. Instead of merely sucking away the weapon, Sniffer finds himself sucked into the open barrel of the artillery piece, and fired out a turret window. Fortunately, a well-placed flagpole outside acts as a springboard to launch him back inside to apprehend the villain. In another variant (in an episode I’ve yet to identify), Sniffer accidentally loses his grip on the XYZ bone. It lands, of all places, in Bozo’s mouth. Bozo’s chest suddenly pulses with the typical bell clangs, as a round insignia, this time marked with a “B”, bulges from his chest. A superpowered Bozo remarks. “Wowee! Look whhat XYZ-3 did for me!”


Super-Cecil (Bob Clampett Productions, Beany and Cecil, 1/13/62). The look of this film is made interestingly attractive by the unusual use of an absence of detail – night backgrounds in nearly total blackness, while the characters remain sharp and snappy in bright colors. Cecil enters, happily announcing to Beany aboard the good ship “Leakin’ Lena” receipt of his correspondence school diploma, certifying him as a Super Serpent, complete with traditional Superman-style outfit. On the docks in the vicinity, Dishonest John observes through a spyglass, and informs us that if there’s anything a do-badder can’t stand, it’s a do-gooder. Since Cecil wants to play”Trick or Treat”, DJ vows to treat him to a dirty trick. Darting into a steamer trunk conveniently kept nearby as a wardrobe closet, DJ emerges in super-villain disguise – a purple winged insect suit, transforming him into “The Billious Beetle”. DJ lifts a dialogue line all the way back from Clampett’s Looney Tunes production of “Eatin’ on the Cuff” – “Confidentially, I sting!” To complete his master plan of harassment, DJ produces a hand puppet, in the exact image of Beany. Dropping down on the Leakin’ Lena behind our heroes, DJ pushes the real Beany down below the ship’s railing, then appears in front of Cecil carrying the puppet. “Help, Cecil, Help”, the fake Beany calls in DJ’s best impersonation of the real Beany’s voice. Living up to his theme song’s line, “loveable, gullible”, Cecil falls completely for the ruse, and vows to come to the rescue – even when the real Beany appears on deck, and asks where he’s going! Although we are fully aware that the real Beany is safe, DJ (and the writers) pull some dirty tricks that really make it look like Beany is undergoing excruciating pain – including stretching of the rubber face of the puppet into outrageous proportions and geometric shapes. “That’s stretching things a little too far”, hollers Cecil. As DJ wrings the body of the puppet like yeserday’s wash, Cecil attempts to reach him atop a tall building, by firing himself upwards out of a cannon. He unfortunately fails to note the architecture of the building, and lauches himself headfirst into an overhanging ledge above. “Anyone got a aspirin?”, he asks, as a cutaway view of his brain mimics the ad campaigns for Anacin of the day, showing lottle hammers pounding in his brain. DJ moves to another tall building, and sets up a guillotine to decapitate the hand puppet. “Ain’t I a little cut up?”, he boasts.

To match DJ’s flying suit power, Cecil acquires a set of fake metal wings and two gasoline generators, to propel him up to the tower. The invention wotks fine – if only the straps were a bit more secure. DJ is able to remove the contraption from the serpent’s back as he passes DJ on the way up – and what goes up must come down. Cecil saves himself from a dooming fall by biting onto the upper roof ledge of a building and clinging by his teeth. DJ appears with a saw, and cuts away at the piece of ledge Cecil is chomping on – leading to the old dependable sight gag of the entire building falling away under DJ, leaving only Cecil and the ledge piece suspended in air. Finally, they ledge gives way, too, depositing Cecil on some wires between telephone poles. “Mind if I cut in?”, says a recovered DJ, cutting the wires with a huge scissor to drop Cecil to the ground, then using the wires to tie him to the telephone pole. Plucking like a guitar string his costume’s stinger (in the same manner as Disney’s Spike the Bee was prone to do), DJ places a small target on Cecil’s chest, then positions himself for a backeards dive straight at Cecil’s heart. But Cecil still has a trick up his costume – a secret chest compartment, from which pops a small penknife to cut away the phone wires, then a hammer which, when DJ misses his intended target and winds up with his stinger planted through the telephone pole, Cecil uses to bend the stinger at a right angle to prevent its extraction. “To beetle or not to beetle?”, Cecil ponders, deciding in the affirmative, as he produces one more item from his do-gooder bag of tricks – a bottle marked “real billious beetles”. Popping the cork, Cecil lets loose a swarm of smaller duplicates of DJ, who call to him, “Daddy!” DJ rips loose the remainder of his stingerless suit and hits the road fast, as the insects chime in chorus, “Father, oh father, come home to us now. We love your big nose, and your low evil brow.” Cecil is reunited with the real Beany, who declares, “Gee, Cecil, you’re Super!”


George Jetson may not seem much of a superhero. But he did acquire superpowers of sorts in three of his original adventures. The Flying Suit (11/4/62) finds arch-rival Cogswell of Cogswell Cogs needling Mr. Spacely about entering into a merger, before an alleged “breakthrough” from Cogswell’s research department renders the space sprocket as obsolete as jet engines. Spacely insists Cogswell is bluffing, saying he’ll merge on the first Sunday that falls in the midd;e of a week – but nervously wonders after he leaves what Cogswell is up to. In fact, Cogswell does have a secret project – the X-1500 flying suit, controlled by brain wave, and put through its paces for an impressive first flight by test pilot Harlan. Cogswell sees the immediate obsolescence of the space car – and an end to his rival’s operations. Harlan is told to get the suit cleaned and pressed for presentation to the board of directors. Wouldn’t you know that George owns an identical looking suit, which he is due to pick up from the cleaners. The inevitable mix-up occurs, and George takes the X-1500 home, while Harlan winds up with George’s duds.

At home, Elroy is splitting atoms with his junior chemistry set, working on the same idea as Cogswell – the power of flight, but by means of flight pills instead of a suit. George arrives home, and changes into his clean suit when an explosion from Elroy’s lab singes his usual outfit. Elroy emerges with a small batch of pills, and asks dad to try one, then fly once around the room. Anything to humor the boy – until George realizes he just actually accomplished the feat. Believing the pills were the cause rather than his wardrobe change, George tries out his new powers with loops around the building, dizzying climbs, and power dives with precision braking. George sees the end of his exhausting three hour work days, and the likelihood of a vice-presidency, as he decides to offer the pills to Spacely for mass marketing. Spacely is indeed blown over by George’s one-man demonstration, and decides Elroy should have a vice-presidency too. George is sent home to have Elroy produce a second batch of pillds, for presentation to the board of directors in the morning.

Meanwhile, the board at Cogswell Cogs is already dragged away from a high-level executive cocktail party for the big unveiling of the flight suit project. Harlan takes his place on the launching platform, and leaps off the ledge – falling like a stone headfirst into the pavement below. Cogswell covers to the board that its just a little joke, and makes Harlan try again. Harlan makes it as far as the ledge of the building Cogswell is watching from – and clings to the ledge for dear life. Despite his pleading, Cogswell pries Harlan’s fingers loose, and Harlan only saves himself by placing his inverted crash helmet under his rear end for a soft place to land. “And they say never remove your crash helmet”, he observes. His final attempt has Cogswell physically throwing him off the launch pad, but Harlan clings to Coswell (“Are you defying me, Harlan?), and takes Cogswell down with him for the final dive. Cogswell finally admits that the suit “bombed out”.

Harlan brings the suit back to the cleaners after the debacle for a final cleaning. The cleaner realizes upon closer inspection that it’s the Jetson suit. Before George leaves for his meeting with Spacely and the board, armed with a fresh bag of Elroy’s pills, the cleaning man arrives and explains the suit mixup. George gladly changes out of his outfit, and into his own suit, never knowing what he is giving away to the cleaning man. He then launches himself out the window – and has to be dragged back in by the family as he clings helplessly to the side of the building. The pills have no effect, and Elroy, knowing he mixed the ingredients the same as before. tells Dad it must have been a scientific freak of nature the first time, that might not be duplicated again for a million years. At the board meeting, George tries to break the news to Mr. Spacely – but Spacely is so busy sales-pitching the directors, that he attempts to conduct the demonstration himself, first with one pill, and then the whole bag – only to crash into the floor, the wall, and fall out the window, rescued only by George’s space car. Conceding defeat, he calls Cogswell to consent to the merger. But Cogswell thinks Spacely has called to gloat, letting slip that his own project bombed – and hangs up on Spacely to take time out to throw darts at Spacely’s picture. Harlan returns with the real X-1500, which an angry Cogswell tells him to throw out the window. It lands on the Earth’s surface far below, where a traveling tramp marvels at new suits from heaven. The hobo quickly discovers the suit’s hidden powers, and decides to fly South for the winter. Returning home in his space car, George vows no more get rick quick schemes, and if he never sees a man fly again, it’ll be too soon. Zooming past him soars the happy hobo, while George can only comment at feeling sick, sick, sick.

Clip:


In Elroy’s Pal (12/23/62), Elroy is addicted to the adventures of television cosmic superhero Nimbus the Great, and his “spa-a-a-a-a-ace magic!” George, on the other hand, is getting plenty tired of finding Elroy glued to the 3-D TV viewer, never out of his space helmet and Nimbus uniform, and of getting chased around the room by a flying toy Nimbus “Zoombot”. A call comes in from another boy in duplicate attire, who fakes-out Mr. Jetson into believing the subject of the call is homework. In reality, he alerts Elroy to a contest in which, for 10 box tops and a written entry on ‘Why I like Moonies cereal”, the winner receives a home visit from Nimbus in person, Isn’t this a direct role reversal of the Judy Jetson plot of “A Date With Jet Screamer”? You bet it is – right down to Elroy getting his prize-winning slogan from hidden assistance of an elder (through feeding a bowl of Moonies to building maintenance man Henry). George is again nonplused at having the phoney come over to visit. But this time, there’s a twist – which is also derivative. A letter on the morning of Nimbus’s expected visit announces he is unable to appear, and offers a consolation prize of 200 boxes of Moonies. Jane reads the letter before Elroy can see it, and breaks the news to George at work. George thinks it’s the best news he’s heard all week, but Jane reminds him that Elroy will be heartbroken. George’s fatherly instincts are aroused, and he sets off for the TV station to give Nimbus a piece of his mind. (Now we’re copying from Augie Doggie’s “Fan Clubbed”, as referenced above.)

At the station, George meets Nimbus – a little guy, soaking his feet in a tub of hot water, with a terrific cold in his nose. In a running gag, George asks him, “You look bigger on TV”. “Everybody does”, responds Nimbus. Nimbus explains his cold, and insists he can’t show up like this. He makes the suggestion that George could go in his place, he having a wardrobe of extra Nimbus suits, and pointing out that being Nimbus is “all in the suit” – considering that he’s the fifth Nimbus to appear on the show in two years. (Up to this point, it sounds like we’re also doing a remake of Fred Flintstone’s impersonation in “The Twitch”.) George scoffs at the idea, and leaves to try to find the sponsor to complain to. The threat to tell the sponsor sets Nimbus in motion, and, cold or no cold, he decides he’d better visit the troublemaker’s kid anyway. Meanwhile, George hasn’t located the sponsor, and a shoulder-angel version of George reminds him that Elroy will be sorely disappointed. George is talked out of placing his own ego and pride over his son’s happiness, and returns to the now empty studio, to borrow one of Nimbus’s suits.

That afternoon, to Jane’s delight and Elroy’s surprise, Nimbus appears – the real Nimbus – flustering his way through his entrance and his lines, punctuated with helmet-lifting sneezes. Both Jane and Elroy pick up the running gag about him looking taller on TV. It’s easy to tell Elroy isn’t nearly as impressed as he expected to be, and listens to Nimbus’s tale of his exploits rather half-heartedly. When Nimbus prepares to exit, reciting with Elroy the official TV exit passwords, he can’t even finish the lines, as his last sneeze blasts him right out the door. Jane decides to give credit where due, and lets Elroy in on the secret that his father was responsible somehow for Nimbus appearing after sending the cancellation letter. “Dad did that for me?”, Elroy exclaims. Before there is further time to reflect on this revelation, the doorbell rings again. Having no idea what’s up, Jane tells the unexpected visitor to come in. Soaring through the door in a Nimbus suit comes George, yelling “Spa-a-a-a-ce Magic!” (Now there’s inconsistent writing for you. If the suit can fly, did the hobo from the preceding episode patent it? And why aren’t Spacely Sprockets and Cogswell Cogs obsolete?) Not used to the flying suit’s navigation system (despite his previous flying experience), George crashes into the opposite wall.

“That’s Dad”, observes Elroy. “What’s he trying to do?” “Beats me”, replies Jane. George goes through the whole Nimbus routine as best he can ad-lib, and Jane and Elroy share winks to not let on that the real Nimbus was already there. When George gets to the part where he’s supposed to tell Elroy about one of his adventures, Elroy feeds him all the details, and ultimately winds up telling the story to George. Elroy even gets in a giggling remark about “Nimbus” being much taller than he looks on television. George finally makes a more-complete exit than the real Nimbus, though not necessarily any more graceful – crashing through the front door before it can open. Ditching the space suit, the real George appears at the door to find out how things went. Elroy says Nimbus was there, and that things went great. Slightly choked up at realizing that his son will continue to hero-worship someone else, George remarks that “He must be a great guy – the greatest guy in the whole world.” “No he isn’t”, says Elroy to George’s surprise, “You are, Dad – the greatest guy in the whole galaxy.” Borrowing a catch phrase from Doggie Daddy (though one surprisingly not used in the [redecessor episode discussed above), George tells the audience, “That’s my boy who said that.” Then, picking up Elroy on his shoulders, he carries him to the TV room, just in time to catch the latest episode of more “Spa-a-a-a-ace Magic!”

A twice-used script deserves repeating, and we will encounter yet another revisit to this scenario in a subsequent article.


In Test Pilot (12/30/62), George begins the day as usual – dodging requests from his family for extra spending money, complaining about Jane burning the toast in the multi-coutse breakdast pill Jane dialed up from the Fooderacacycle, and arriving late to work, getting his hand caught in the time clock as he tries to push the clock hands backwards, with his digits stamped “11:00″. “Time on your hands, Jetson?”, remarks Spacely, catching him in the act. Spacely orders George to take his annual company physical, and promises to deal with the late business later, as he is busy checking on the results of new product development’s latest experiments. Amidst an explosion from the lab, research scientist Professor Lunar emerges with a bright orange jacket, which he claims is an indestructible suit – guaranteed to withstand anything and protect its owner for a lifetime. Spacely looks out the window at the Cogswell Cogs factory across the way, declaring that this suit will corner the market, and that Cogswell is through. At that moment, he observes a seemingly identical explosion in one of Cogswell’s offices, and through binoculars, Spacely sees one of Cogswell’s research staff presenting him with an identical-looking suit. Spacely realizes he’s in a race, and the trick is to get the suit tested first to earn the Good Spacekeeping seal of approval. Spacely needs a test pilot – “A man who’s brave and fearless. One who can look death right in the eye with a laugh.” In other words, “a regular nut.”

On another floor, George reports for his physical. The doctor is placing into a display, of alll things, an ancient Mummy he is studying for research. George thinks the poor thing must be an extreme accident case with all those bandages. The Doc asks George if he’s ever taken one of their Peek-a-Boo Prober Capsules -a mechanical device the size of a pill, which verbally communicates and sends television signals back from George’s interior. George receives the capsule from shot of a miniature pistol into the mouth. The capsule (voiced by Mel Bland in his “Marvin Martian” voice), quips wisecracks as it reports via televiewer. In the stomach, the screen shows a pill in the digestive juices just lying there unscarred. “That’s my wife’s idea of breakfast”, says George. In the lungs, the capsule coughs in what looks like a smogbank, and comments, “You ever been in Pittsburgh, Doc?” But a probe of the brain proves the most troubling. At first, no picture appears, the capsule claiming that it can’t find anything. The doctor tells it to try for better lighting on the other side of the head. The capsule ping-pongs inside George’s skull, and misnavigates its way out George’s ear (hopefully not puncturing the eardrum). It lands inside the bandaged ear of the museum mummy, then reports back, “Though I overshot a little, but its okay.” The televiewer depicts a door opening, then a chamber covered in cobwebs. “Wow, this is the first time I’ve ever been in a haunted head!” “How do things look to you?” asks the doctor. “May I speak freely?”, asks the capsule. Then, a panel opens in the capsule’s side, from which appears a miniature bugle, on which the capsule plays Taps. George is told it’s a matter of time – then, “Poof”. “You mean I should be in bed?” asks George. “You should be in a bottle”, says the Doc. The doctor advises if George has anything to do, do it quickly. George can think of one thing – and heads for Spacely’s office.

Spacely has learned that there are no nuts – er, volunteers – to test the suit. Jetson appears, and decides to finally stand up to the man who’s ordered him around for years. He grabs a cigarette out of Spacely’s cigarette holder, and blows a smoke ring on Spacely’s nose. He douses Spacely with a pitcher of cold water. And he is about to sock the little tyrant, when the Professor suggests to Spacely that Jetson might be the man they’ve been looking for. Instead of being fired, Jetson is offered a raise. Bur before the terms can be finalized, Spacely discovers Cogswell eaves-dropping outside the office door – in the same fix as Spacely for lack of a test pilot. A bidding war commences for Jetson’s services. As Spacely tosses a wad of $5,000 onto the desk from his safe, Cogswell insists that Spacely will never actually spend it – “That money hasn’t seen the light of day in years.” It’s true, as the picture of George Washington on the bills squints, and has to put on sunglasses. But the combined offer of preferred stock, a key to the executive washroom, and partnership in “Jetson and Spacely” finally convinces George to stay. Cogswell is shown an exit tube in the floor, remarking, “I wonder when he had this one installed?”

Watch the edited Super 8mm version of this episode BELOW.

George sends the family off to a dude ranch vacation, with stacks of cash from nowhere to spend as they please, and won’t answer any questions as to why or where the money’s coming from. The tests begin before excited crowds and TV coverage. First, a hydro-test strapped to an underwater propeller at high G-forces. George squirts water out his ears, but calmly asks if anyone has a towel. The force factor test place George under a boulder on his chest, with a 200 ton weight about to drop on him. The boulder is cracked into prbbles – but the jacket remains unscratched, along with Jetson. “Tbis is the first time I’ve had a jacket pressed while I was wearing it.” A horizontal and vertical stress test puts George in a room where the walls close in in alternating directions. The suit remains undamaged – although George, now shorter than Spacely, says he thinks he’s getting the short end of the deal. A giant buzz saw merely causes George to playfully draw with a pencil across his suit, instructing, “cut along dotted line”. All that remains damaged is the saw teeth, stripped clean except for one which George removes with a flick of a finger. The final test sets up George to be lifted to a height of three miles, while two guided missiles zero in on him simultaneously. Just before lift-off, a familiar face appears in the crowd – the doctor, with news that the tests were in error, and that George has another good 110 years of life to go. But the airship lifting George takes off right on schedule, with George’s last words to the crowd being, “HELP!!” Aloft, George dodges the first passes of the missiles by hiding inside his descent parachute. He then grabs the parachute silk, and uses it as a bullfighter cape to continue to cause the missiles to pass. “Ole! Ole! Oy Vey!”, shouts George. As he writes his last will and sends it down by mini-parachute, he finally runs out of evasive maneivers, and the sxplosion occurs. Nothing but a few smudges to the suit! Jetson attempts to immediately resign upon landing, but is informed the tests are over – and he’s still here. He returns to the family home to announce a banquet that night where he will be officially made partner. Spacely arrives to escort his hero to the event. One tiny little problem. Conscientious Jane felt the life jacket could stand a cleaning, and put it in the wash. The only test they forgot to try! “Dry Clean Only” tags should have been included, as the jacket is now a tattered mess. Spacely announces he’s ruined, kaput. Hearing this, George heads for the door, intent on visiting Cogswell to see if a position is still available. “You’d go crawling to him for a few measly dollars a week?’, asks Spacely. “Uh huh!” says George, and departs. “Wait for me, Jetson. I’ll go with you”, shouts Spacely, as they both exit stage left.

For fun (and out of necessity), we are embedding the silent, black and white excerpt of “Test Pilot” that was made available for sale in Super 8mm (the box for which is above):

This would not be the end of George’s superpowered career, which would receive yet another installment in the syndicated revival of the series. But that remains for discussion another day. Tune in again for more superpowered toons next week. Same bat time. Same bat channel.

13 Comments

  • I’ve always liked the ‘McKimson Associates’ in-joke in Stupor Duck. Are you going to discuss Plucky Duck as the Toxic Revenger in Tiny Toons Adventures?

  • I don’t know if this counts, but ten years prior to “Gee Whiz-z-z-z-z-z-z” there was a reference to Batman in “The Great Piggy Bank Robbery”. When Duck Twacy is surrounded by a rogue’s gallery of Gouldian villains, one of them is identified as “Bat Man”. He’s a baseball bat with a leering face. Granted, he doesn’t wear a cape, and he isn’t a crusader, much less a hero. But… he’s Bat Man!

    Another Jetsons episode with a superhero theme is “Elroy’s TV Show”, in which Elroy and Astro are cast as “Space Boy Zoom and his dog Astro!” Space Boy Zoom wears a costume with a cape and the letter S on his chest, and he can fly. When the director has had enough of Astro biting him on the posterior, he recasts the role with Mr. Spacely’s son Arthur. It’s a pretty good satire of the state of commercial TV in the early sixties, especially the debate over educational programming vs. mindless violence.

    Funny how the climax of the 2010 Yogi Bear movie seems to mimic “Batty Bear”, in that Yogi saves the day by swooping down and nabbing a pic-a-nic basket, not with the aid of a bat suit, but by bungee jumping from a pedal-powered flying machine — a perfectly functional device, if, dare I say, contraptive. During the water skiing sequence earlier in the film, Yogi wears a cape (seemingly made from a gingham tablecloth), which catches fire and sets off a fireworks display, thereby ruining the Jellystone Park centennial festival.

    “Hunt! Hunt! Hunt! He’s the Huntsman! ‘Into action!’ is his cry! Through the forest to the city, he will run there in a jiffy, to sock evil in the eye!” Man, did I laugh myself silly the first time I saw that.

  • Rather disappointed (but slightly surprised) with the review for “Stupor Duck”. I thought this was one of the better shorts by McKimson in the mid-50’s.

  • Sad to see the bad review of Stupor Duck.
    It’s one of my favorites and I find it much funnier than Super Rabbit.
    Oh well, different strokes for different folks.

  • I love STUPOR DUCK. Daws Butler is Sam. Both he and Stan Frebeerg worked at Hanna-Barbera, doing voices like that.

  • Yeah, another vote for Stupor Duck.

    I’m always quick to criticize mid-50s toons from McKimson or Freleng, but Stupor delivers a surprising number of laffs!

  • In answer to Andrew’s comment on Plucky Duck above = Yes. And Batduck too.

  • RobGems68 Wrote:
    ” Cogswell Cogs! It will soon be Cogswell’s Cobwebs!” I always loved that line in “The Test Pilot” since watchin “The Jetsons” first on Channel 2(WXYZ-VHF)TV in the early 1970’s in Detroit and later Southfield-based UHF station Channel 20 (WXON) during the late 70’s-late 1980’s. Unfortunately, during the 1980’s viewings, Hanna-Barbera edited out about 1 minute of dialouge and gags to make room for more darn commercials, thus omitting the “Cut Along The Dotted Line/Don’t Say That!” lines. Thankfully, Cartoon Network re-stored the dialouge along with the original closing credits (though not always correct, and without a closing Screen Gems Dancing Sticks or “S From Hell” logo, due to Warner Brothers now owning the Jetson’s rights.) As for what was the best “Superman” parody over at Loony Tunes/Merrie Melodies Departments, I prefer both “Super Rabbit” and “Stuporduck” equally. I feel Bob McKimson is unfairly underrated compared to Chuck Jones in the respected director category. I still think movie critics like Leonard Maltin never gave him much respect, and think McKimson was just as good as Jones, Freling, Clampett, Tashlin, etc.

  • Rob, I am in total agreement with you about Robert McKimson, and in some respects I think he was superior to his colleagues (nobody was better at animating hand gestures and body language, for example). But isn’t Channel 2 WJBK, and isn’t WXYZ Channel 7? I haven’t lived in Detroit for a very long time, but I watched an awful lot of TV when I was growing up there.

  • RobGems68 Wrote:
    Sorry, you are correct about my error, Paul. Channel 2 is WJBK-TV back then when it was a CBS affiliate, and still is today as a FOX Network channel. CBS Once showed Jetsons reruns in the late 60’s and early 70’s, and NBC had it on it’s Saturday Morning lineup once in 1964, and again in 1979-1982. My bad. I couldn’t help once in my childhood if channel 9 in Windsor, Ontario, then known as CKLW, now known as CBET had reruns of The Jetsons on it’s roster of not. What I DO remember was around 1971 or so, seeing the Screen Gems “S From Hell” logo at the very end of the CBS/Channel 2 airings. I’ve never seen it again since then. I forgot to mention Art Davis among the Warner Brothers directors, probably because his reign as director was so brief. He made some excellent cartoons as well. I just feel that McKimson is so underrated as a director, he really needs more adulation in my opinion. True, not all of his cartoons were gems, but he did more than enough to receive recognition.

  • By coincidence, Art Davis also directed a great Daffy Duck cartoon with the word “stupor” in its title: “The Stupor Salesman” (1948). When the bank robber fires a machine gun at Daffy, the bullets just bounce off his chest, as though he were Superman! But it turns out he’s just demonstrating the efficacy of the bulletproof vests that his company makes.

  • 60 years ago, my brother and I used to get into fights about what we would watch on TV after school (4+ years age difference). Around 1962, I (6 years old) would want to watch Beany and Cecil; he (11 years old) wanted to watch Robert Shaw in The Buccaneers.
    Having just watched ‘Super Cecil’ for the first time in six decades, I’m shocked to discover that my brother was right. 🙁

  • Robert McKimson’s STUPOR DUCK is a fine cartoon generally, but the ending just kind of falls flat – to me, anyway. If I had to compare this to Chuck Jones’ SUPER RABBIT, Jones’ earlier SUPERMAN parody would win, hands down!

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