Monday, November 17, 2008

The Hanna-Barbera wolves

I'm giving spotlight to three wolves of Hanna-Barbera. The first wolf in this trio is the French originated Loopy de Loop. This character appeared in theatrical short-subject cartoons and it's noted as being Hanna-Barbera's only theatrically produced cartoon series. The episodes were produced during 1959-1965 and featured the voice of Daws Butler in the title role. The episodes started out in small doses and increased as the years went on that by 1962/1963 there were usually 10 or 11 episodes produced a year.

Loopy is a good wolf...the concept of the series was finding Loopy minding his business at the start of each story and through a series of events he often finds himself wanting to help people in trouble because of his good nature...but, here's the thing...Loopy is a wolf...and the character of the wolf is villainous and greedy in the eyes and minds of the public. This causes people to run for their lives and run off whenever Loopy shows up because they think he's there to cause harm. In spite of his catch-phrase "I am Loopy de Loop, the good wolf", people, usually women, hit him over the head with whatever they can find or they scream "help!!!" at the site of him. Loopy spoke in a French-American accent that Daws Butler would sometimes use for other characters, including the recurring villain Pierre on the Huckleberry Hound series. Loopy was distributed to theatres by Columbia Pictures. In addition to Daws Butler, other voices included Don Messick, John Stephenson, Doug Young, Arnold Stang, Mel Blanc, Jean Vanderpyl, and others from the Hanna-Barbera voice unit.

Another wolf happens to be a character known as Hokey Wolf. This character was a con-artist, playing into the "wolf is a sneak" characterization. This character was also voiced by Daws Butler and the voice he used is patterned after the Sgt Bilko character on The Phil Silvers Show. The fast-talking con-artist voice Butler had often given to various characters in the past was now the official voice for Hokey Wolf. I wonder if Loopy de Loop appreciated Hokey's schemes? Afterall, Hokey was continuing to give wolves a bad name...

Hokey was paired with a side-kick, a fox whose often smarter than Hokey but on the surface comes off as the dummy. Ding-a-Ling was the side-kick's name, called simply "Ding" by Hokey. In most of the adventures Hokey hatches some sort of get rich quick scheme...sometimes, though, Hokey is simply out to out-wit anyone and con his way into getting something for nothing. Phil Silvers' character of Sgt Bilko, when excited, would speak in a "big grin, cheerful" cadence...and pieces of that sound were adopted by Daws Butler and served as the inspiration for the con-man voice Butler used for Hokey. Doug Young supplied the voice of Ding-a-Ling, giving it a Buddy Hackett vocalization. Young was also the voice of the Jimmy Durante sound-a-like character, Doggie Daddy, in early '60s cartoons. Hokey cartoons ran for two seasons, 1960-1961, 1961-1962.

Lastly, we come to Mildew Wolf. This character originated from a series known as It's the Wolf which appeared as a segment on The Cattanooga Cats series. Paul Lynde gave voice to Mildew, the wolf always plotting schemes to catch a character known as Lambsy Divey, voiced by Daws Butler. Lambsy's "guardian" or protector was a character named Bristle Hound, voiced by Allan Melvin. The plots of the series contained a similar pattern in each episode so a lot of it's charm/appeal lay within it's voice talent and the elaborate schemes of Mildew in his quest to have Lambsy for dinner. The formula was used in the Yakky Doodle series which featured a helpless yellow duck being chased after by hunters or by Fibber Fox. Yakky's protector was the bulldog, Chopper. It's the Wolf is a series often noted for the catch-phrase "it's the wolf" said by Lambsy on each episode. The phrase being pronounced: "it's the wool-ufff! it's the wool-ufff!". Lambsy had a voice similar to Beany, Augie Doggy and Elroy Jetson...those voices often nick-named as Butler's "little boy voices". The Lambsy Divey name comes from a pop song featuring that word in it's lyrics. "Mairzy Doats", the pop song, is translated to Mares Eat Oats but the song is sung with words thrown together for comic effect. Lambsy Divey translates to Lambs Eat Ivy. It's the Wolf ran as a separate series during 1970-1971 but it originated during the 1969-1970 Cattanooga Cats series. Mildew later made a return to animation in 1977 as co-host of Scooby's Laff-a-Lympics along side Snagglepuss. Mildew and Snagglepuss wore their yellow suits, patterned after the ABC-TV sportscasters, and gave interviews and chatted with the "athletes" prior to each stunt. The play-by-play was handled by narrator Don Messick. Paul Lynde was not the voice of Mildew this time around. Instead, John Stephenson did his Paul Lynde impression for the series.

During the original run of Mildew Wolf's adventures, 1969-1971, Paul Lynde was giving voice to another Hanna-Barbera character: The Hooded Claw, a villain on the series The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. Paul was not credited on that series or on the other series he lent his voice to. This was did at the request of Lynde himself who I suppose felt doing cartoon work wasn't something he wanted everyone to know? At the time he was the star of the game show Hollywood Squares and appeared in a wide variety of other projects as far away from animated cartoons as you can get.

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