Saturday, April 4, 2009

Huckleberry Hound — Tricky Trapper

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Dialogue and Story Sketches – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Narrator, Mountie, Rover – Don Messick; Huck, Powerful Pierre – Daws Butler.
Released: week of Monday, October 13, 1958.
Plot: World-renowned Mountie Huck and his faithful dog are unwillingly put on the trail of Quebecois bad guy Powerful Pierre, who is captured with un grand boule de neige.

This really isn’t a remarkable cartoon, but it’s likeable. There are a few firsts here but there are a bunch of concepts used time after time in the early H-B cartoons. I think the little sled dog is the first H-B character to have little solid eyes, though he doesn’t in the title card. And this is the cartoon when Huck debuts his rendition of Clementine. On some of the early cartoons like this one, the sound cutter left the stock music in the background while Huck’s singing. Evidently, someone eventually picked up on the dissonance because in later cartoons, Hoyt Curtin or someone recorded a Clementine calliope accompaniment for Huck.



The opening is atypical. We get Don Messick narrating over an establishing shot that pans right. The shadows on the mountains and rolling foothills are a nice touch. Walt Clinton, who animated on most of Tex Avery’s greatest cartoons and even drew model sheets for his unit, laid out the backgrounds and Bob Gentle’s brush put them together (poor Bob; ending up being saddled with dreck like The Super Globetrotters and various incarnations of Scooby-Doo).

Oh, here’s yet another H-B character with a droopy white moustache. Judging by the insignia stripes on his sleeves (which should be on his upper arm; they’re not seen in the shot below left), he’s a corporal. And we get a variation on the old gag about asking for volunteers to step forward, and all but one step back. This being an H-B cartoon, all but one simply turn into a blur of lines that zip off stage to a familiar whisking vocal effect.



So Huck is on the trail of Pierre, muttering and reversing the words to “The Mountie motto: We get our man” (memo to Charlie Shows—it’s supposed to be “We always get our man”). Now we get some cute gags over narration about the buddy relationship between a dog (Huck) and his dog (Rover). Huh?? Anyway, they share their bed and their food. And they even sing Clementine together, though the sled dog avoids having to listen to the off-key rendition by putting on ear-muffs, in a gag that got mileage in a number of H-B cartoons.



They happen upon Pierre, wearing one of those H-B chequered jackets where the squares stay in place (how did they do that?). Pierre is H-B’s version of Warner’s Blacque Jacques Shellacque, though Daws doesn’t have to do any yelling au dessus de ses poumons like Mel Blanc did in the McKimson cartoons.

After a brief retreat into a hollow tree (the dog makes it; Huck doesn’t), the chase is on, though a chopped tree gets in the way (the dog makes it; Huck doesn’t), and the “cliff bit” results in a temporary setback as Huck flies into the sky and gets stuck on a nearby rock face. Incidentally, why is the narrator calling him “Sergeant Huck” when our hero has a constable’s insignia?



Snowballs come into play for the rest of the short. Pierre’s hiding behind a rock, as Huck hurls a snowball into his face. Then they play a game of tennis with a rock-concealed snowball, the two remarking to the audience all the while (we even gets a Charlie Shows rhyme: “Pierre does not scare. So there!”).



Pierre then tries to escape on skis down a mountain, but the resourceful Huck uses a tiny snowball which, as in a Buster Keaton comedy, grows into a large one as it gathers momentum and captures Pierre with a sputtering-lips vocal effect. And, no, those aren’t real sentences the Quebecois Pierre is speaking that I can tell, though there’s some real French in there.

The finale features Huck wailing Clementine, with the empathetic little sled dog taking sympathy on Pierre’s ears. Check the light brown clouds Gentle uses to add to some colour.

Pierre proved popular enough to return in “Ski Champ Chump” later in the season, with design modification and uncertainty over his name.

The Hi-Q library is put to good use again. This being a snow-filled cartoon, it’s appropriate Jack Shaindlin’s Toboggan Run makes an appearance, though a toboggan doesn’t. We get Geordie Hormel’s “Merrie Olde England frolicking music”, maybe because Canada was an English colony at one time. It seems like a bit of an odd choice. I don't know its name of the name of Shaindlin’s LAF-25-3.


0:00 – Huck snare drum theme open (Hoyt Curtin).
0:26 – EM-147 DOCUMENTARY MAIN TITLE (Green) - establishing shot of snowy Canada.
0:51 – ZR-103 PERIOD MAIN TITLE (Geordie Hormel) - Huck “volunteers.”
1:21 – L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Spencer Moore) - Huck reminded “We get our man.”
1:29 – TC 204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Bill Loose-John Seely) - Huck and sled dog buddy gags.
2:24 – CLEMENTINE (trad.) over TC 204A - Huck and sled dog sing Clementine.
2:54 – TC 300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) - Pierre scares dog into tree and skis away.
3:49 – TC 221A HEAVY AGITATO (Loose-Seely) - Chopped tree falls on Huck.
4:13 – L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) - Not the cliff bit!
5:36 – LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) - Tennis match with rock in snowball.
6:13 – LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) - Huck gets Pierre with giant snowball.
6:45 – CLEMENTINE acapella (trad.) - Sled dog puts ear muffs on Pierre.
7:12 – Huck theme close (Curtin).

4 comments:

  1. Yowp, the brass open, as I note [a..ah-em! :)] under the MORE PHIL GREEN MUSIC is I think, in fact NOW I am SURE, is that Green Period Fanfares.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nope. Not even close. 'Period Fanfare' is a collection of three brief fanfares. The music at the start of this is actually about a 24 second music bed with a tympani at the start. And it has flutes. Nothing in 'Period Fanfare' has a flute line.

    However, I've written in a post.. though I think it's one of the ones I've archived for later posting .. that it's probably a Green piece. Loose and Green both wrote beds with fanfare opens but this one was used on a TV show and Green was given credit for it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm pretty sure Hoyt Curtin did the calliope her,e as similar stuff turns up in the Flintstones (another piece memorably was used as romantioc music near the end of a Season 4 Flintstone, "Flintstone and the Lion", one of the episodes with publically obscure character actor/DJ Elliott Field (discussed elsewhere in th blog), in this case as Mr.Mortar, the head zookeeper, who in the scene discussed cages a now united and happy lion couple (the old lure the wild beast in thing..) I've never heard that one but Curtin had a lot of those calliope pieces which I'm prtty sure the Clementine one used so often in Huck cartoons is.Steve C..

    ReplyDelete