Saturday, March 26, 2011

Huckleberry Hound — Ski Champ Chump

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Dialogue – Charlie Shows; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huck, Pierre – Daws Butler; Race Announcer – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Jack Shaindlin, Spencer Moore, Geordie Hormel.
First Aired: week of March 2, 1959 (rerun, week of August 31, 1959).
Plot: Huckleberry vs. bad guy Powerful Pierre in a skiing race.

Huck dealt with two kinds of antagonists in his first season—hecklers, like Chief Crazy Coyote and Iggy and Ziggy the crows, or out-and-out villains, like Dinky Dalton or Powerful Pierre. Few of them lasted more than two cartoons. There didn’t seem to be enough gags for the heckler type or personality traits for the villain type. This cartoon was Pierre’s second of the year and he made one appearance in each of the three remaining seasons when Warren Foster took over writing (and came up with a Ten Pin Alley, similar in some ways to this one).

Huck’s character traits varied a bit from cartoon to cartoon but this one has my favourite version of his personality. He lets nothing that happens to him bother him. He’s courteous, upbeat but a little indignant when greeted with bad behaviour. He hasn’t crossed the line from na├»vety into cluelessness like he did on occasion when Foster got hold of him. And he wins in this cartoon, with most of the violence happening to the bad guy.

There’s plenty that has a familiar feel in this cartoon. There are gags that recall bits from Warners or MGM cartoons. And the opening is much like what Charlie Shows came up with for Yogi Bear’s The Stout Trout earlier in the season, where two combatants are compared with Yogi coming out on the short end.


Announcer: Approaching the starting line is that incomparable athlete, top sportsman, and all-round good fellow—the champion, Powerhouse Pierre.
And, now, here’s the challenger—Huckleberry Hound. He’s small but he’s got, uh, well, actually, nothing.

You know right away that Pierre is not all that everyone thinks he is because immodestly agrees with the announcer’s assessment of him (as he tells the viewer), insults Huck (consistently calling him “Hucklesber-ree” throughout the cartoon), says he’ll win because he loves money, then caps it off by bashing Huck into the snow with his ski pole before the announcer can shout “go.” Lew Marshall does something I’ve seen in a couple of his cartoons that you’ll never notice unless you freeze-frame. It looks like Pierre’s bopped Huck on the head. But as you can see, the ski pole goes past him while Huck crumples. Marshall did this with cars, too; a car never collided with a character, it went past him for a bit then the character was down in the next frame.



Announcer: And there goes Powerful Pierre. What a sportsman! You notice he apologised when he clobbered his opponent.
Huck (to camera): You gotta ad-mit Pierre’s a great sportsman.

Let’s run down the gags. They’re at a pretty leisurely pace with a lot of dialogue padding the proceedings, much of it addressed directly at the audience.

Pierre sees Huck pass him and decides to strap himself to Huck’s skis. But the “low bridge” gag takes care of that, as Pierre twirls around a tree branch.


Pierre: Ho, ho! ‘E does not know I am hitchhike.
Huck: I do, too. But, shuckins, maybe he’s tired.

Pierre goes into a phone booth, calls Huck in another phone booth and pretends to be Fifi, then tells him to hold the phone. Unlike the Fifi phone-booth call in the yet-to-be-released Warners’ cartoon Bonanza Bunny (1959) there’s no dynamite or violence involved here. Pierre’s intent is simply to have Huck waste time and pass him. But Pierre is thwarted (“Sacro-iliac!”) when Huck puts the phone booth on his skis and zooms past.



Pierre emulates Wile E. Coyote or Ralph Wolf by shoving a rock from the top of a cliff onto Huck below. But the rock hits a branch, bounces back up and lands on Pierre’s head. Pierre cracks into pieces like Spike in a Tex Avery cartoon. Pierre’s facetious “Who have leaved this rock here” dialogue really isn’t necessary except to fill 15 seconds. Another eight seconds is used up as we watch the rock go up, Pierre watches the rock go up, we watch the rock come down, Pierre comments on it and gets clobbered. Avery would have had it happen quickly and unexpectedly then topped the cracking-up-into-pieces gag.



Pierre attaches a rocket to himself and immediately zips past Huck and crashes into the middle of a tree trunk. Charlie Shows follows with a string of his patented rhyming dialogue:


Pierre: What did Pierre do wrong?
Huck: You wasn’t playin’ fair and square there, Pierre.
(Pierre grabs Huck by throat)
Pierre: And you are going to fly through the air, Hucklesberr.



Pierre turns Huck’s skis into the rotor blades of a helicopter. Huck sails upward. Pierre skis ahead but right into a sawmill. We get another Avery gag as Pierre is emerges sawed in half and his two halves drop in opposite directions to the ground.

Another old Warners-style gag has Pierre sawing a circle in the ice of a lake. That’s where Huck stops. But the rest of the ice falls in the water instead, and Pierre along with it.



As Huck approaches the finish line, Pierre ties a rope to the metal pole holding up the loudspeakers. He then lassos Huck. The taut rope stops Huck, but the force brings the pole down and the huge loudspeaker lands right on top of Pierre just short of the finish line. Huck skis to an easy win.



Huck holds aloft a loving cup and tells a typical Dick Bickenbach-designed crowd “Like I said, it’s not the money, it’s winnin’ fair and square what counts. The camera cuts to Pierre, with a lump on his head, telling us “Maybe so. But Pierre, ho-ho-ho, still like the money. Yes, no. Ho-ho-ho-ho.” That’s the best Shows could come up with for a punchy ending? Sacroiliac!



Just about all the familiar Huck music pieces are here. The sound cutter adds a bit to Loose and Seely’s ‘Zany Comedy’ so it stretches to the end of a scene.


0:00 - Huck/Clementine theme (Curtin)
0:28 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Pierre and Huck introduced, Pierre loves money.
1:28 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – “It ain’t the money,” Huck swatted into snow, starting gun goes off.
1:53 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Pierre skis down hill, Huck passes, Pierre caught on tree branch.
2:55 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Phone booth scene.
4:16 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Rock scene, rocket scene, Pierre turns Huck into helicopter.
5:15 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck takes off into air, Pierre sliced in two in sawmill, Pierre drops into lake.
6:04 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Shaindlin) – Rope around Huck/loudspeaker falls on Pierre scene, Huck crosses finish line.
6:46 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – “Correction. The winner is...”, Huck talks to crowd, Pierre talks to audience.
7:09 - Huckleberry Hound sub-end title theme (Curtin).

3 comments:

  1. It's ironic that in a cartoon that has two of the more violent gags for any H-B television short, when it comes to really abusing a characters' body -- Pierre being cracked into pieces and being cut in half -- the iris-out gag would leave him only cashless and with a lump on his head. Flaccid endings like this is probably why Foster was doing Huck by the latter half of 1959 and Shows had taken his rhyming couplets over to Larry Harmon Productions for the Bozo cartoons.

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  2. That Lew Marshall ski-pole effect is created, most likley, by drawing the characters seperatley, instead of making Huck's beating part of the same drawings of Pierre beating him. It's part of the effort to conserve drawings.

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  3. That falsetto phone call (wish wishbone like clothespin bit) was done a little later by Trans-Lux/Joe Oriolo/Felix the Cat Productions's fan-maligned 1958-1962 TV version of Felix, with poindexter, Rockbottom, Professor, Master Cylinder, in an episode with Rockbottom. "Hello Ookles-Berry"!

    I like how Huckleberry just thinks it's a real French woman, not thinking that it's Pierre himself..!

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