Tuesday, November 05, 2019


The Warner Archive is now, eventually, getting around to releasing some of the most obscure of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon shows owned by Warner/Turner, and this gem from H-B’s early 60’s golden age is well worth owning, now that all 52 of the five-minute cartoons from the 1962-63 syndicated run are collected in their own attractively priced 2-DVD set.

These play a lot like comedy shorts, with a duo of outcasts with quirky personalities rambling around, basically going from place to place like hobos, and finding some sort of problem getting in their way, enough to kill the five minutes of the cartoon. Had Lippy and Hardy been humans, they might have had their own shorts at Educational in the 30’s or Columbia in the 40’s, but they are animated animals, so their natural home is at Hanna-Barbera. However, the interplay between the two here is really A LOT like a comedy short, which is of course high praise here at BTC.

Lippy is a kind of blowhard with a twist of WC Fields to his delivery (voiced by Daws Butler). Animation reference websites (whose knowledge is more encyclopedic than mine) state that Butler based the voice on comedian Joe E. Brown and that the voice is pretty much the same of Peter Potamus (who ran at H-B from 1964-66, so Lippy was first----the Warner Archives put out Peter’s collected works on DVD in 2016). He’s very much a nice guy….lion….and has the same kind of caring one sees between Laurel and Hardy. In fact, if you imagine Lippy as Oliver Hardy and Hardy Har Har as Stan Laurel, you may get a general idea of what’s going on here.

Hardy is a worry-wart, who finds the worst interpretation of everything that happens, is paralyzed by fear, and never wants to try anything new or different. He’s voiced by the great Mel Blanc (you’ll also hear Blanc doing other minor characters in these shorts), who is perfect for the hemming and hawing and cynical mumbling the character does non-stop. The irony here is that hyenas are supposed to be laughing all the time—but this is an over-worrying, depressed hyena! Thankfully, Lippy is able to keep him going and encourage him.

I’ve been watching these 52 shorts randomly, but to focus on the first three here, you can see the basic format. In the first one, they are adrift at sea and run into a pirate. In the second one, they are riding the rails on a train and get thrown off by the railroad security heavy (nowhere near as brutal, though, as Ernest Borgnine as Shack in the classic EMPEROR OF THE NORTH, this being a kid’s cartoon) while dreaming of eating some watermelon (Lippy tells Hardy to be happy by thinking of something fun to eat, and mentions watermelon), which they do eventually get. In the third one, they are rambling around the countryside and encounter a mad scientist (the music at one points references the theme song of the Alfred Hitchcock TV show!).

Five minutes is the perfect length for these. A four-year-old could keep attention that long, and for those of us who are older but four-year-olds at heart, the shorts are fast-moving, no scene is played out very long, and there isn’t the kind of “second act” you find in longer cartoons or in two-reel comedy shorts. You can pop this into your player, watch any two of the boatload of cartoons contained here, put a smile on your face, and go on to whatever else you need to do, and you’ve only spent TEN minutes.

Cartoons, like comedy shorts, often provide me with the kind of absurdist “head cleaner” (to use the language of cassette or VHS tapes) I need during a long day or a stressful period. It’s like pushing my own personal re-set button. Hanna-Barbera were at the height of their powers in the early 60’s. Virtually every set of animal cartoon characters they created during this period is now considered a classic which has held up very well over the decades, and one certainly can’t say that about later periods of H-B animation (though they always continued to have at least some worthwhile projects in any era). If you have a taste for this sort of thing, you should definitely score a copy of this fine 2-DVD set, with all 52 (!!!) of the pair’s comedy adventures.


Anonymous said...

Hardy Har = (((Roth)))

Lippy = Stig

Gary Field said...

Now if only they would release 'The King And Odie'.