Saturday, August 28, 2010

Huckleberry Hound — Nottingham and Yeggs

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ed Love; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Joe Montell; Story – Warren Foster; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huck, Sheriff, Rabbit, Traveller – Daws Butler; Narrator, Tax Collector, Cat, Merry Men – Hal Smith.
First Aired: week of November 23, 1959 (rerun, week of June 13, 1960).
Plot: Robin Huck tries to regain his castle and fortune.


This is a fun cartoon and everyone pulls together to make it that way. Warren Foster came up with everything you’d want in a story. It has a plot, it has spot gags, it has visual gags, it has silly stuff and it even has a pop culture reference. I really like the character designs and long-shot backgrounds. And Daws Butler does his usual fine job. Don Messick isn’t in this one; for some reason, he was restricted to Yogi Bear and Pixie and Dixie in the early part of the 1959 season and other voice actors were brought in. So, we get one Harold Jay Smith, known to us all as Hal.

A couple of left-to-right pans open the cartoon, the first one with representational trees, a nicely-brushed sky and a simple castle in four different shades of brown, and the second one with an ogre-looking Sheriff of Nottingham, his dogs, and Robin of Locksley (Huck) “now playing jester in his own castle.”




You can tell by the bit-lip and two-tooth facial expressions that Ed Love animated this. He tries to get as much as he can out of limited animation in the opening, when Huck licks his lips as the Sheriff eats. Ed has Huck move his head up and down and turn to the side instead of remaining stationary and moving a mouth on his face, which is the way H-B cartoons soon devolved. There’s something slightly different in almost every frame, whether it’s an eyelid half closing (Love has four eyelid positions) or a teeth moving to form syllables.

As mentioned above, this is another cartoon where Huck is a person-dog and there are dog-dogs. But obviously Huck’s native instinct is at work when the Sheriff tosses the dogs a bone.

I’m a sucker for silly dialogue.


Narrator: For food, poor Robin would steal into the forest to set snares. But even the lowly animals would sneer at lowly Robin.
Rabbit: Sneer, sneer, sneer, sneeeer.

The next brief scene has Robin doing his taxes, reading ridiculous instructions on a form. He’s interrupted by the sound of squealing and we see Huck’s last pig being taken away by the tax collector. The scene cuts to Huck and a cat sleeping on a table.

Huck: Garsh. I won’t have me no meat to eat. Unless’n I thinks a-somethin’.

Huck then does a realisation take. Unfortunately, it’s thrown away. The stock music just keeps playing before, during and after, the take. And Huck turns his head then only holds it in position for five frames before turning it the other way. It would have been better if it had been held a longer to register or if Huck’s head snapped into position then out instead of turning it on ones.

Huck looks at the cat. The cat gets the idea. He suddenly stands up in a Jackie Gleason pose and delivers Gleason’s line “And away we go!” Exit cat.



Now Huck is “strolling through the forest.” Except there must have been a fire or something because the shot is of Huck walking along green grass with a ploughed field and a few trees in the background. There’s no forest. Anyway, Huck has an idea. What’s unique here is Ed shows the brainstorm by animating Huck’s jester’s cap. These are five drawings on ones, starting from Huck facing toward the right.



Huck: Why not, you know, take from the rich and give to the poor? Which includes me.

Oh, the forest is in the next shot. ‘Robin Huck’ is emulating Daffy Duck in Robin Hood Daffy (1958) as he swings on a vine “to swoop down on fat, loaded travellers.” He bangs into a tree the first time.

Traveller: We’ll have an early winter. The nuts are beginning to fall out of the trees.
Narrator: But, with hard practice, Robin Huck’s dreaded cry soon sent chills up the spines of wealthy tourists.
Huck (swinging): Ya-hoooooo!

Yowp side-note: Isn’t “Yahoo?” what Fred Flintstone was supposed to say until Alan Reed changed it to “Yabba-dabba-do?” And didn’t Foster write most of The Flintstones’ first season?

Here are some frames, on ones, of Huck’s thievery. The timing’s perfect here. I love the stunned look on the donkey. Did they simply reverse the cels with the brush strokes to show Huck coming back the other way?






Narrator: Soon, men of ideals flocked to the forest to become known as Robin Huck’s Merry Men.

The Merry Men all have sour looks on their faces. Huck tells them to “yuck it up a bit.” “Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk,” they say on cue. There are five of them, and Love has their laughing heads and upper bodies move in different, staggered cycles so it looks closer to full animation.



The merriment is interrupted by “a message—comin’ in by arrow.” You can read it for yourself. Huck wonders when he’s going to get a postman. As for the origin of the phrase ‘Tattletale Grey’, here’s a little soap chip jingle from the early ‘40s:


You’ll never be bothered
With Tattle Tale Gray
When you do your laundry
The Fels Naptha Way.


See the things you learn by coming here?

He leaves the Merry Men behind to take from the rich and give to the poor and heads to Nottingham to claim his inheritance. Foster gets to be silly again.


Narrator: Meanwhile, back at the castle, the Sheriff gloated over his good fortune.
Sheriff: Gloat, gloat, gloat.

It’s spot-gag time as Huck tries to get in the castle. No, he doesn’t do the “lower the drawbridge” gag from Knighty Night Bugs (1958)—which Foster also used three years earlier in Sahara Hare. But there’s an anvil gag, a pole vault/moat gag (“soft mud bottom”) and probably the most bizarre gag where Huck climbs the wall “like a human fly” but the Sheriff is ready with “a human fly swatter.” Huck makes appropriate buzzing noises (and has plus-signs for eyes like an old newspaper cartoon) as he lands in the moat.




A catapult doesn’t quite get him over the wall. Finally, he shoots himself into the castle with a bow and arrow. The Sheriff decides to “grab the loot and scoot” and runs past the same door only twice. Here’s the background.



The Sheriff lowers the drawbridge to make his escape. Huck reaches the switch, contemplates for a minute, then raises the drawbridge to end the escape and corral the bad guy.



The final scene ends with Huck on his donkey.


Huck: Hey, fellers! Merry Men! It’s me. Robin Huck. I got my inher-tence, castle, jewels ‘n’ stuff. I’m rich. Real rich.

Ah, but Huck’s forgotten he left the Merry Men behind to rob from the rich. And that’s what they do to him. They even take his donkey (who evidently isn’t surprised as his eyes are closed this time.



As usual, Huck isn’t bothered. “You know,” he says to the camera before the iris closes, “it’s right hard to hold on to money these days.”

Trivia note: the week before this cartoon aired, the Huck show was already into reruns from the first season. Tricky Trapper aired, along with Yogi’s Pie Pirates.

Rely on the Capitol Hi-Q library to provide appropriate Olde England mood music. The speciality cues are some fine Geordie Hormel pieces from reel X-9 Locale-Adventure. When the cartoon gets to the spot gags, Jack Shaindlin’s cues are used and the cutter edits them so there is one for each gag. I don’t have the name for the last one; it has a chorus that goes up and down five notes like a scale.


0:00 - Huck sub-main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:14 - ZR-126 ENGLISH MAIN TITLE (Hormel) – Sheriff eats, Huck talks to camera.
0:35 - ZR-127 PERIOD CHASE (Hormel) – Sheriff throws bone, Huck catches it.
0:45 - ZR-126 ENGLISH MAIN TITLE (Hormel) – Huck in forest, rabbit sneer, narrator.
1:03 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Spencer Moore) – Huck stares at taxes, cat zips off stage à la Gleason.
1:33 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose-Seely) – Huck decided to rob from the rich.
2:02 - ZR-127 PERIOD CHASE (Hormel) – Robin Huck on rope; robs rich guy.
2:40 - C-19 LIGHT ACTIVITY (Loose) – Huck with Merry Men; reads scroll.
3:50 - ZR-126 ENGLISH MAIN TITLE (Hormel) – Huck sets out for Nottingham.
3:57 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Jack Shaindlin) – Sheriff gloats, Huck hit with anvil.
4:24 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Pole vault gag.
4:41 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Jack Shaindlin) – Human fly gag.
5:04 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Catapult-wall gag.
5:27 - LICKETY SPLIT (Shaindlin) – Arrow sends Huck into castle, drawbridge scene.
6:25 - sporting ‘scale’ music (Shaindlin) – Huck is robbed.
6:58 - Huck sub end title theme (Curtin).

7 comments:

  1. Other terrific entry! I can see the direct influence of Jones' "Robin Hood Daffy" in this cartoon. And the animation quality became more natural through this Huckleberry's season.

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  2. Layed out by Walt Clinton, I think. It certainly shows.

    Some fine performances by Ed Love in here! He has some very nice expressions.

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  3. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth,

    The design on this Huckleberry Hound episode is very familiar to me. It was made by Walter Clinton (who worked with Tex Avery on the MGM years).

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  4. I too am also a sucker for silly dialog that was to be taken literally. " Snear...Snear...Snear ", " Gloat..Gloat..Gloat ". My all time favorite vocal gag is when the arrow lands right under the sheriff's nose continually hitting him as he says " It's Rob bin, bin,bin,bin..Huck..Huck..Huck...Huck!!" Huck's other period piece, " The Scarlett Pumpernickel " and the running bit about using credit cards instead of cash was also a favorite. I remember the first time I saw this short, I couldn't place the narrator. But, later I recognized him as Hal Smith. Great post!

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  5. Sorry, I'll correct myself. I believe Huck was the dreaded " Purple Pumpernickel " I got this masked hero mixed up with " Daffy " and his adventure.

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  6. The funniest Huckleberry Hound cartoon made.

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  7. The "human fly" gag was re-used in the Snooper & Blabber cartoon: "Zoom-Zoom Blabber" and in one of the later Huckleberry Hound shorts: "Bars and Stripes." It would have been funny if Huck made that buzzing noise again in that cartoon.

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