Saturday, April 18, 2009

Huckleberry Hound — Little Red Riding Huck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Bick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Huck, Red, Wolf - Daws Butler; Grandma, College Geek, Cop - Don Messick.
Released: 19 February 1959.
Plot: Huck happens upon Red Riding Hood and decides to take care of the wolf at grandma’s house before she gets there. He’s taken to jail for his trouble.

Screwing around with the tale of Little Red Riding Hood is something as old as the sound cartoon itself. Van Beuren did it with a Minnie Mouse knockoff in 1931. Tex Avery and Bugs Bunny did it with far more √©lan. Red made an appearance or two in the Jay Ward’s Fractured Fairy Tales, among the funniest cartoons ever made. So it was only natural that Hanna-Barbera would try the same thing. Over and over, as it turned out.

Huck isn’t as wild as Bugs, and he’s not a fast-talker from the Jay Ward stable, but he can still provide an entertaining cartoon and this Red send-up is one of them.

One of my favourite parts is right off the bat. The cartoon opens with Huck strolling through a foresty setting which Art Lozzi decorated with large toadstools. Purple is an inspired colour choice for the biggest one. After a chat with Red about her destination (and confiding to us, as Yogi Bear might, she’s “One of the good ones”) he realises she’s in danger of becoming a wolf dinner and runs past the same purple toadstool seven times before taking the inevitable Short Cut to Grandma’s (which is what the sign says. Huck reads it as “Short cut to Grandma’s House.”)

Just as inevitably, Huck disguises himself as Red, and writer Charlie Shows borrows from Yosemite Sam as Huck tells us he’ll “surprise the varmint.” Daws Butler does a great job with the dialogue here. First, he uses his Ralph Kramden voice (heard in Sir Huckleberry Hound) as the wolf and barely changes it when the wolf pretends to be grandma. Then Huck does an even lamer attempt at trying to disguise his voice as Red’s.

The ears-nose-teeth routine follows, except Shows turns it around and the wolf is making the comments about ‘Red.’ The wolf suspects something’s up so he checks with the real grandma who confirms Huck is an imposter and then kicks Huck out. Our hero spends almost the rest of the cartoon trying to get back in.

Huck announces he’s going to bash the door down. Except the door is open. So the wolf closes it with that results in a nice little sight gag. Was this gag used by Avery at M.G.M? I’ve seen it somewhere, besides maybe in a Herman and Katnip cartoon.

After failing to bash the door down with a log while riding a bicycle (he rides into a hole beneath the welcome mat), Huck heckles the wolf through an open window. The wolf goes outside to set up yet another Charlie Shows Butt Joke (“Play that on your old bazooka,” the wolf suggests). Like in Avery’s Deputy Droopy, Huck leaves the scene of the attack to privately yowl in pain.

“Strawmberry!” Daws comically mangles another word as Huck pretends to be an ice-cream salesman. The wolf pulls a switch to lower the door like a draw bridge to take care of that. Note how the hills in the background change. And the foreground grass is gone. Que?



A great little bit follows when the plot is interrupted by a geek working his way through college. The wolf demonstrates what he thinks of door-to-door salesgeeks.



Finally, Huck does the old ‘pretending-I’m-leaving’ bit and hides in the mailbox. The wolf (asking “Whom do I know that can write?”) falls for it.

Huck carries the vanquished wolf into the house to assure grandma everything’s all right, but she starts yelling “Police! Murder!” Red comes running with a cop—surprisingly for an H-B cartoon, not an Irish one. Maybe Don Messick couldn’t pull off a good Irish accent. The fairy tale characters give their version of events, the cop starts listing the crimes (impersonation and house breaking) and hauls Huck away on a 6-0-12, telling him he could get ten years. The wolf then directs the other characters to take the story from the top, tossing in a King and I-inspired “et-cetera, et-cetera, et-cetera” as the camera irises out.



It’s mentioned on the web that you can tell Lew Marshall’s animation easily because he draws heads bobbing up and down when they’re talking. You can certainly see that in this one (it helps that he’s given Huck a collar with his bow tie). He also has the wolf talking out of the side of his mouth, which reminds me of something from an Avery M.G.M. cartoon, though I can’t place where. And some characters have huge overbites in this one.

The music is familiar, with Huck doing Clementine over top of a completely different song in the background.


0:00 – Huck/Clementine opening theme (trad.-Hoyt Curtin).
0:27 – CLEMENTINE (Trad.)
0:27 – LAF-21-3 RECESS (Jack Shaindlin) - Huck meets Red.
1:14 – TC 432 HOLLY DAY (Bill Loose-John Seely) - Huck-as-Red and Wolf-as-Grandma go through ancient bedside dialogue.
2:21 – L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) - Wolf consults grandma in closet; Huck's face on door; Huck goes down Welcome hole.
3:46 – ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Geordie Hormel) - Wolf smacks Huck’s butt; Huck ouch-ooches.
4:42 – L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) - Huck is ice-cream man; Wolf attacks college geek; “Special Delivery!”
5:58 – LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) - Huck arrested on a 6-0-12.
7:10 – Huck closing theme (Curtin).

4 comments:

  1. "Who do I know who can write?" is also siad by Bluto in a Popeye short, "Seein' Red White and Blue" [J.Lee's GAC signature since I don't know when.] You should have shown the wolf shrinking and done a click on annotation for that, oh, somethin' like, 'Fred Flinstone will do this later'.

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  2. Despite Charlie Show's "hit-and-miss" moments during his contributions for the first Huckleberry season, this is one of his better works. Plenty of fun gags to keep the pace up - the Nerdy College scene, anyone would think, would have come straight from the mind of Warren Foster if he'd been hired a few years earlier.

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  3. Bick's designs are great in this. The geek is funny. And the twisted ending concept was used by Foster in the Yogi-Red story the following year; mind you, it was kind of a Warners' staple.

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  4. Huck is my favorite cartoony-type character(as George Liquor would say), so seeing him get bashed around for the entire cartoon makes me want to cry. Seriously, do the writers really hate Huck and enjoy watching him suffer? All he was trying to do was help Red, but what does she do? She arrests him!

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