Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation and Layout – Mike Lah, Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Dialogue – Charlie Shows; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Sick Lion – Don Messick; Huck, Lion – Daws Butler.
First aired: week of March 10, 1959 (rerun, week of Sept. 8, 1959).
Music: Lou De Francesco, David Buttolph, Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose-John Seely, Spencer Moore, Geordie Hormel.
Plot: Huck demonstrates how to tame a lion.
Mike Lah’s name isn’t found in very many cartoons on the Huck show, understandable considering he was working for Quartet Films during his stay at Hanna-Barbera. The two times he received an animation credit, he also handled the layouts—in this cartoon and in Pie-Pirates, apparently the first Yogi Bear short in production. It’s unclear when Lah worked on this one. His uncredited animation is found in first few cartoons to be aired, but this cartoon was the 24th of the 26 first-season Huck half-hours to be seen.
There’s no animation at all at the start of the cartoon. It’s all camera work and still drawings, held together by Don Messick’s narration. It opens with a shot of the cover of an instructional manual on taming lions. Then we switch to the inside of a lion cage where various taming tools simply appear in the middle of the screen—“A whip. A pistol. A chair. And a fool-hardy, uh, fearless individual.” Huck pops into the picture. “That’s me, folks!” he cheerly exclaims. It sounds like the sound effects accompanying each item were made by hitting different sized glass bottles.
The camera pans to the right and “a ferocious lion” pops in. “That’s me, folks,” says the lion, with Daws using his Ralph Cramden voice. One of my favourite parts of the cartoon is next. “Some beginners prefer to start with a more puny type lion.” The scrawny lion is told to get lost by the big one, so he gets up and walks out of the cartoon. I love his design.
So now Huck teaches us how to be a lion tamer. He shows no fear. From the waist up, anyway.
The lion sharpens his claw on a grindstone and his tooth with a file.
Narrator: Remember, that lion may be just as frightened as you are.
(Lion makes loud roar)
Narrator: Although we sincerely doubt it.
Lah has some nice poses and expressions throughout the cartoon, like when the lion’s hands tremble while in pain after Huck ignores the narration to only lightly whip the animal on the nose. It’s a two-drawing cycle on twos. Here is is slowed down.
He uses three drawings on Huck reacting to the pain he’s inflicted on the lion, then two more as Huck looks at us in reaction.
Huck ignores the narrator’s advice to avoid using a whip and chair on a lion (“king of beast-ses,” as Huck dubs him) while the animal is eating. The lion’s annoyed then just plain pissed off about the whole thing. He smashes the chair on Huck and chases after him. Huck’s angular run reminds me of something you’d see Spike do in one of the flat-style MGM cartoons of the ‘50s, especially the way Huck’s mouth is drawn small, open and downward.
The lion’s annoyed again. “Listen, youuu. Are you going to get tamed?” asks Huck. You can see the answer.
Huck pulls out a pistol and starts firing into the air. Time for one of Charlie Shows’ rhyming words. “Don’t shoot that gun, son!” Ah, but the “li-ron” (as Huck consistently calls lions in various cartoons) is only faking. He grabs the gun, assumes a western drawl and gives him “until sundown to get out of town. Okay, lion-tamer. Start a-runnin’. I’m a-gunnin’.” Huck escapes to a separate cage. “I knowed all the time he was shootin’ blanks,” he confides in us. The old ‘leaking body’ gag follows that we saw in Yogi’s Tally Ho Ho Ho. When was this first used in a cartoon? And why is the water blue?
“Training a lion to overcome his natural fear of fire,” intones the narrator, “is a neat feat. And sometimes a lion tamer, to instil confidence in the animal, has to set an example by leaping through a burning ring of fire.” This sets up the old ‘charred body’ gag Huck brags about his accomplishment when we can see his tail on fire. This being 1958, he doesn’t utter do a Jolson-esque “Mammy!” Notice Lah draws the lion’s eyes together. He also puts together a five-drawing cycle of the fire burning, on twos.
In a couple of places in the dialogue, Charlie Shows has the narrator use the same word or phrase used by a character in the previous scene. That happens in the final bit when Messick starts out: “Most experts agree that teaching a li-ron, uh, lion, to walk a tightrope is the most difficult stunt of them all.” Huck cracks his whip for no reason other than lion tamers are supposed to. The li-ron, uh, lion, borrows a John L.C. Sivoney catchphrase, exclaiming to Huck “you make me so ner-vous.” More nice expressions from Lah. He has both Huck and the lion bite their lower lip when elongating an “f” or a “v.”
The lion gets one of his dizzy spells. Huck can’t run away from the falling lion in time. More poses.
The cartoon ends with a lame bit of dialogue. “It’s just as well,” laughs the lion, “This kid wasn’t going to make it anyhow.” The lion’s been commenting on Huck lack of lion-taming ability throughout the cartoon, and not really all that cleverly. It’s the last gag so Shows should have written a topper. Instead, the line isn’t any stronger than what he said before. This shows you why Warren Foster and Mike Maltese were such better writers. Their dialogue was much punchier and they brought with them from Warners a sense of verbal oddities and ridiculousness when they replaced Shows.
And so we wave goodbye to Mike Lah, as he left Hanna-Barbera to carry on with his career in award-winning commercial and industrial animation, eventually taking over as company president. And here’s a note about the company from Boxoffice magazine, dated July 21, 1956.
Quartet Films Is Formed By Storyboard Toppers
With the shuttering of Storyboard’s west coast offices, a new TV unit, Quartet Films, headed by top personnel formerly associated with Storyboard, has been organized and will launch operations. It is headed by Arthur Babbitt as president and also comprises Arnold Gillespie, Stan L. Walsh and Les Goldman.
Two cues dominate the soundtrack, both originally from the Sam Fox library. One is a trombone march called ‘The Cockeyed Colonel’ written by David Buttolph. It was rarely used after Ruff and Reddy. At the time of this cartoon, Buttolph was employed by Warners Bros. television, for whom he composed the theme for Maverick and provided underscores for The Virginian and Wagon Train. By an odd coincidence, he also wrote the score to the movie My Darling Clementine (1946). Huck hums the song of the same name from the 1:27 to 1:33 mark when he's checking out his fingernails. ‘The Cockeyed Colonel’ was copyrighted on May 23, 1935.
The other main cue is heard twice. SF-10 is either ‘Ski Galop’ or ‘Skiing Galop’ and was written by Louis De Francesco, at one time in the ‘30s the general musical director of Sam Fox. He, too, had a long career in film, both features and shorts. Among many accomplishments, he worked until 1940 on the March of Time, which later employed Jack Shaindlin as its musical director. A number of De Francesco cues in the Sam Fox library could easily be mistaken for Shaindlin judging by the arrangements. De Francesco’s connection with cartoon music goes back long before this. Starting in 1913, Sam Fox provided sheet music for silent film accompaniment. On April 9, 1931, the company copyrighted “incidental music; for news reels, cartoons, pictorial reviews, etc., by Edward Kilenyi, L.E. De Francesco and others.” Eventually, this morphed into a recorded music library and among the Sam Fox composers were Bill Loose and John Seely.
Speaking of Shaindlin, the two standard cues of his used in running scenes, ‘On the Run’ and ‘Toboggan Run,’ are found here. And the sound cutter has used the laughing trombones of Spencer Moore’s ‘L-78’ as a kind of musical effect.
0:00 - Huckleberry Hound sub-main title theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:25 - medium circus march (Shaindlin) – Narrator sets up cartoon, Huck appears, lion appears.
1:03 - SF-14 THE COCKEYED COLONEL (Buttolph) – Scrawny lion appears, Huck shows no fear.
1:41 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) – Lion’s claws come out, whipped on nose.
2:33 - SF-10 SKI(ING) GALOP (DeFrancesco) – Lion turns and runs after Huck; skids to a stop.
2:48 - TC-301 ZANY WALTZ (Loose-Seely) – “Doggone amateurs!” Lion eats; grabs chair.
3:32 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Lion hits Huck with chair.
3:44 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Lion chases Huck, Huck closes door.
3:48 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck lets lion back into own cage; fires into the air, Lion grabs gun and threatens Huck.
5:01 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Lion twirls gun. Huck runs into cage and closes door.
5:08 - SF-14 THE COCKEYED COLONEL (Buttolph) – Huck leaks.
5:47 - SF-10 SKI(ING) GALOP (DeFrancesco) – “You cowardly type lion!” Huck leaps, catches on fire, tightrope scene.
7:08 - Huckleberry Hound sub-end title theme (Curtin).