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DVD REVIEW: “Hanna-Barbera’s Loopy DeLoop”

DVD REVIEW: "Hanna-Barbera’s Loopy DeLoop"

Hanna Barbera’s Loopy DeLoop series is
one of the most fascinating aspects of the studio’s history, as well as
animation itself. It was the only theatrical series for Hanna-Barbera as a
company and the second for Hanna and Barbera as a team. Perhaps, as a nod to each
series, they intended for the brisk Loopy DeLoop theme to sound so similar to
the Tom and Jerry intro music.

Hanna-Barbera’s star was on
the rise in 1959, when Columbia began releasing Loopy DeLoop. The Huckleberry Hound Show had already
won an Emmy. Huck and Yogi Bear were household names. There was no telling how
far H-B could go with their ever-increasing stable of characters and low-cost
cartoons that seemed to click with audiences.

Loopy nipped at the heels of
the UPA studio. As Hanna-Barbera was gaining Columbia’s favor, UPA’s once bold,
cutting edge films were becoming more like their H-B counterparts. According to
Jerry Beck and Darrell Van Citters, UPA’s new management was embracing TV’s
basement budgets and breakneck production turnarounds. UPA released its last two
theatrical cartoons independently, then added them to the TV package. (It’s
interesting to note that there is some UPA-like minimalism in the first few
Loopy shorts.)

H-B surely had plans to
create more theatrical shorts with new characters, but Loopy didn’t catch fire
and the theatrical short market was gasping for breath. Nevertheless, they made
FORTY-EIGHT(!) Loopy cartoons from 1959 to 1965, spanning nearly the entire Hanna-Barbera
“golden age”—while they were making The
Quick Draw McGraw Show
, The
Flintstones
, Jonny Quest and
their first feature, Hey There, It’s Yogi
Bear!.
The Loopy shorts never changed much in production value (which was
identical to Hanna-Barbera’s TV product), though Loopy cartoons offered the
visual treat of seeing H-B’s TV look blown up on a movie screen).

Loopy DeLoop cartoons did
not evolve on the surface, but they did from a casting standpoint. Daws Butler
voiced Loopy for the span of the series with Don Messick and Hal Smith providing
supporting characters. But as you watch the cartoons, you’ll notice Janet Waldo
entering the series near the time she was doing The Jetsons, alternating with Jean Vander Pyl and Julie Bennett
(and a dash of Nancy Wible). Paul Frees and Doug Young do the bulk of their
work in the early cartoons, with Howard Morris mostly in later installments.
Arnold Stang pops in at the center of the series run around the same time he
played Top Cat. Red Coffey also does a couple of turns as the little duck he
voiced in Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Loopy’s character, such as
it was, evolved too, but the sporadic appearances of the shorts made it nearly
impossible to follow. At the beginning, the elegant Pepe LePew-like fellow does
little more than seek acceptance as a “good wolf,” bouncing back from one
disastrous attempt after another. He’s constantly rejected (unless a plot
device such as a masquerade party allows him temporary acceptance), but he
enjoys life’s simple pleasures and never gives up.

After a while, the series
introduces a few recurring characters. He has Bon-Bon, his nephew to whom he
offers guidance (with one of Butler’s most ingenious voices—Jerry Lewis with a
French accent). Many fairy tales are spoofed, including The Three Bears, which introduces
John and Marsha Bear (one of many characters inspired by Stan Freberg’s hit
comedy record). They have a son named Junior who speaks in “nonnie-nonnie” baby
talk. Loopy even meets special H-B guest star Bigelow Mouse in a short called
“Elephantastic.”

As Loopy ends the run of his
series, his experience with rejection comes in handy when he encounters
creatures in need of assistance. He even leads a help group called “Anything
Anonymous.” For an H-B cartoon series, that’s a bit of an arc.

The Loopy cartoons have a
tinge of sophistication. “Habit Rabbit” begins with a couple separating—in front
of their distraught child—because the father cannot deal with his addiction:
carrots. In the very cynical “Common Scents,” Loopy encourages a skunk to give
up thoughts of suicide, only to be scorned as a nuisance by the skunk and his
girlfriend. A character goes insane in “Crow’s Fete”—a common occurrence in
Warner theatricals, but not very common with Hanna-Barbera. These story points
all done comically, of course.

A side benefit of Loopy
DeLoop cartoons is the Hoyt Curtin’s music, which seems customized to the first
episode and eventually becomes regular stock in subsequent episodes. This music
was repurposed a lot in H-B cartoons produced at the same time and for a while
thereafter. For those who know Hanna-Barbera but not Loopy DeLoop, hearing this
music in its original source is a nice little revelation.

This Warner Archives release
of Loopy DeLoop: The Complete Series is somewhat of an event, as it is one of the few early classic H-B DVD sets
in recent years. If it does well, there’s a good chance it will open the gates
to more of the classic H-B library on DVD, which would be magnifique.

CARTOON LISTING

1959

Wolf Hounded

Little Go Bopped

 

1960

Tale of a Wolf

Life with Loopy

Creepy Time Pal

Snoopy Loopy

The Do Good Wolf

Here,
Kiddie, Kiddie

No Biz Like Shoe Biz

 

1961

Count-Down Clown

Happy Go Loopy

Two Faced Wolf

This is My Ducky Day

Fee Fie Foes

Zoo is Company

Child
Sock-ology

Catch Meow

Kooky Loopy

Loopy’s
Hare Do

 

1962

Bungle Uncle

Beef For and After

Swash Buckled

Common Scents

Bearly Able

Slippery Slippers

Chicken Fraca-See

Rancid Ransom

Bunnies Abundant

 

1963

Just a Wolf at Heart

Chicken Hearted Wolf

What’cha Watchin’?

A Fallible Fable

Sheep Stealers Anonymous

Wolf in Sheep Dog’s Clothing

Not in Nottingham

Drum-Sticked

Bear Up!

Crook Who Cried Wolf

Habit Rabbit

 

1964

Raggedy Rug

Elephantastic

Bear Hug

Trouble Bruin

Bear Knuckles

 

1965

Horse Shoo

Pork Chop Phooey

Crow’s Fete

Big Mouse-Take    

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