Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – George Nicholas; Layouts – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Spud, Housewife, Screaming People – Don Messick; Huckleberry Hound, Running Man. Screaming People, Radio Newscaster – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Spencer Moore, Jack Shaindlin, Phil Green.
First aired: week of September 26, 1960.
Production No. K-040.
Plot: Professor Huck takes on a potato that wants to rule the world.
A big Yowp to Errol C. who supplied a copy of this cartoon for me to review.
There’s something funny about a mad, rampaging potato that simply happens to be that way. It wasn’t turned into an evil beast by some crazed scientist like in another Huck cartoon, Science Friction. That’s just the way he is. I can imagine Warren Foster sitting in the story room thinking “Potatoes have eyes. What if they had real eyes? And a real mouth?” and then building and building until he got something ridiculous. And having a potato being crazed at the beginning eliminates the need for a set-up so the story can start faster.
This was the first cartoon aired in the third season of the Huckleberry Hound Show and one of the best of the year. George Nicholas’ animation isn’t as wacky as it could be, but there are some nice little touches, Daws Butler and Don Messick give fine readings and the ending’s appropriately goofy.
Foster started a bunch of his cartoons with Messick as a narrator intoning “This picture is dedicated to...” and that’s what he does here. We’re told Huckleberry Hound “saved this nation from a terrible fate” and the story is told in flashbacks. I like how Messick sounds startled when Huck answers back to him with a casual “Howdy, Mr. Narrator.” Before we get into a story, Foster fits in a gag that’s a pale version of the “chocolate malted” gag in Hot Cross Bunny (1948). He asks Huck if he’s working on a top secret experiment. “Shuckins, no” says Huck. It’s a “chocolate sody.” Daws gulps part of a line like he’s drinking something.
Bill Hanna now saves a pile of money by having 17 seconds of camera work over two backgrounds as Huck, in voice-over, explains how our story begins in Idaho, known for its potatoes. The rest of the cartoon cuts back and forth between the flashbacks and Huck in his lab talking to the unseen narrator. Huck explains that potatoes have eyes but one potato had a brain. “And he started using it.” Nicholas comes up with some circular brain waves coming from the potato with electronic beeping sounds coming out of Messick. The potatoes sprouts arms, legs and a mouth “then his brain started to scheme” to take over the world.
A silly little scene follows with the would-be King Spud talking to his potential subjects. “Potatoes, arise! No more will we stand for bein’ boiled, mashed and French-fried. We shall attack and win, win, win!” Of course, they’re just potatoes. They just lie there. So the evil spud decides to take on the world himself and grows into a huge, monster potato. How? Well, he just can. Huck’s pretty casual about it. “And you know, that potater grew so big, he started to, you know, attract attention to himself.” Like in any good ‘50s science fiction film, the citizenry runs in a panic. Being a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, that consists of four people in a cycle of three drawings on twos. Nicholas has the characters moving vertically in the cycle. I like the “what’s going on” look on the kid. The paint-rollered tree is pretty typical in Art Lozzi’s backgrounds.
Professor Huck gets a call from the White House. The one next to Snyder’s Bakery. Whoever lives in the white house asks Huck to capture the spud. So he does. And he provides us a running commentary as the potato knocks the crap out of him. “It’s only fair to warn you I have science on my side,” Huck warns. That doesn’t stop the potato from zinging him through the air. Huck avoids a chimney. “I didn’t miss that by much,” he remarks, looking back at it. Six frames later, he crashes into a taller chimney. “I didn’t miss that one at all,” he informs us. Huck hits the same chimney when he hides in a log but the potato picks it up and uses it as a blow dart gun. “I just gotta, you know, talk to the owner about this here chimney,” Huck tells us.
Nicholas cleverly uses Huck’s ears for effect. The potato grabs Huck around the head. Huck talks. We can’t see his mouth, so his ears flap in rhythm with Daws’ dialogue. Then, in a fear take, Huck’s ears go up and down, and his body stiffens.
Huck’s narration-to-the-narrator continues in the climax scene, where he tells us how he was in his scientific lab working out a plan to get rid of the potato. Fade to a short of Huck sleeping. The spud rips the observatory off its foundations. Huck wakes up. “I cain’t get a lick of work done under these conditions” and informs the potato, “You’re getting me all riled up. And when I riled, I start runnin’.” Off Huck runs into his experimental rocket. The potato follows him inside, Huck rushes out and slams the door to trap him. “Yer just small potaters now,” Huck chuckles. But suddenly the potato starts the rocket and it zooms into the stratosphere.
Cut back to the final scene in the present, with Huck and the narrator chatting away. Foster pulls off his biggest groaner when Huck explains “That spud is now a spud-nik.” And the rocket passes overhead, beeping just like the Sputnik 1 did in October 1957 (except the beeps for spud-nik were provided by Don Messick). Huck informs the narrator “there’s a powerful lot of explosives on that rocket.” Sure enough, there’s an off-camera explosion sound and a flash. I wonder if the effect was done by shining a light on the glass plate holding down the cel, though Nicholas draws a shadow whenever the strong light appears. Now comes the warped ending. Potato chips start raining down from the sky, with an appropriate shower sound effect. I suspect these are the first animated potato chips in history.
A couple of other oddities about the cartoon: it is the only Huck cartoon after the first season to be available on home video; it was released on an H-B compilation disc in 2001. And an internet site claims Scooby watched this cartoon in the A Pup Named Scooby-Doo episode ‘Wanted Cheddar Alive.’ As I’d rather be attacked by a giant, power-crazed Idaho potato than watch such a programme, I have no way of verifying the veracity of the statement.
The music’s pretty typical for Huck; we get both of Jack Shaindlin’s best-remembered cartoon chase cues.
0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title theme (with Clementine) (Curtin) – Opening titles.
0:26 - EM-147 DOCUMENTARY MAIN TITLE (Green) – Narrator dedication.
0:41 - MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (Trad.) – Huck mixes “sody.”
0:45 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck talks to narrator, pan over farm.
1:20 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Pan over farm, potato had a brain.
1:47 - TC-22 SUBLIME GHOST (Loose-Seely) – Potato brain beeps, decides to be King Spud I.
2:11 - creepy reverb music (Kraushaar?) – “Today the potato field...”, potato grows.
2:41 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Potato on street, radio, phone rings.
3:11 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck on phone, spud lifts and drops Huck’s car, throws Huck.
4:21 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Huck flies through air, hits chimney.
4:34 - TC-437 SHOPPING DAY (Loose-Seely) – Huck in helicopter.
5:01 - LAF 2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Huck runs from spud, hides in log.
5:13 - LAF 5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Huck blown into air, hits chimney.
5:28 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Observatory scene, rocket lifts off.
6:23 - L-1139 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Huck talks to narrator, explosion.
6:55 - LAF 72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Flash of light, potato chip shower.
7:11 - Huck sub-end title theme (Curtin) – Closing titles.