Saturday, November 10, 2012

Huckleberry Hound — Science Friction

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ed Love, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Story – Warren Foster, Story Direction – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound, Dr. Frankly Stein, Inspector Plumbottom, ‘arry – Daws Butler; Monster Schnitzel, Short Townsman – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Jack Shaindlin, Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore, Raoul Kraushaar?, Lou De Francesco.
First Aired: Week of April 2, 1961.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-042.
Plot: Inspector Huckleberry is asked to bring in a monster, but mistakes the monster wiener schnitzel for a doctor.

A crazed, huge, wiener schnitzel monster has its creator pinned against a wall. It’s wielding an axe, ready to bring it down on the lab-coated scientist when Huckleberry Hound says: “Pardon me, doc, I kinda hates to interrupt you during surgery and all…”

Normally, I’d find it annoying that Huck would be so stupid, he can’t tell a monster wiener schnitzel from a doctor. But the premise of this cartoon is so ridiculous, and the idea that Huck would think an axing would be surgery, well, you can’t help but like it.

There are two stars here. One is Don Messick, who came up with goofy-but-insane laughter for the wiener schnitzel, and the other is Warren Foster, who provides moments of great dialogue, like during the opening narration (by Messick in his ultra-serious voice):


Around the turn of the century, it seemed that every village in Merrie Olde England had an old, abandoned castle in the neighbourhood. Cold, damp and forbidding, they would seem to be poor rental properties.

Foster spent part of the 1960-61 season reworking ideas from cartoons he wrote in the previous season. This is one of them. You’ll notice the similarity with “Picadilly Dilly”—Huck is once again an Inspector of Scotland Back Yard (with his Albemarle, North Carolina accent intact in 19th century England) called on to speak with an experiment-obsessed doctor, and mistaking a monstrous creation for the doctor. Both cartoons even have Englishmen commenting on the situation before Huck gets involved in the plot. In this case, the premise isn’t taken from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but the horror classic of another British author—Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. However, as the bystanding villagers note that Dr. Frankly Stein has created four noisy monsters in one week—one’s okay, but four!—and they’ve had it. The situation is so disconcerting, it causes the characters to switch voices in mid-scene (oops).

Dick Thomas drew the backgrounds in this cartoon, working from Tony Rivera’s layouts. Thomas strikes me as the least daring of the background artists at the studio; compare his castle to the stylised fussiness of Bob Gentle’s in the opening of “Sir Huckleberry Hound” a couple of seasons earlier. This one’s fairly simple. The light of the moon gives off shadows from the homes and even on the bare branches (note the highlights). And below it the next animation-saving pan of the interior of the castle. The most interesting thing about it is there are pillars (you can see a teeny bit of one at the far left) on a foreground overlay moving at a different pan rate to add some depth to the shot. Hanna-Barbera didn’t go in for that very much, presumably because of the extra time (and, therefore, cost). It’s a pleasant surprise.




Ed Love is unmistakeably the animator on this cartoon. As usual, he has heads jerking up and down during dialogue and his two-teeth mouths he liked drawing during this stage of his career.



And Love animates a cute little slide-high step by Huck. Our English-via-North Carolina hero reads a “Beware of Monster” sign and “like in the music halls,” dances off camera and into the next scene, accompanied by a drum solo (presumably) by whoever was in Hoyt Curtin’s group (the same percussion effect was used in a Yogi Bear cartoon). Something’s more unusual. Huck is in silhouette the whole time until the castle door opens and the light from inside shines on him. Whether this was in Foster’s storyboard or Alex Lovy added it, I don’t know, but it’s a nice change from the usual stand-there-and-talk animation.



Anyway, back to the start of our story. Messick gravely intones about abandoned castles in Victorian England: “But they were all leased by a certain type of tenant. Yes, these castles were very big with mad scientists, who could work undisturbed on their weird experiments.” And then we’re introduced to a mad-but-calm scientist with one of Daws Butler’s German accents. He presses “the monster-makin’ button” and a giant wiener schnitzel strapped to a chair is turned into a monster. Of course, a transformation scene would blow Bill Hanna’s budget. Instead we get camera shakes, a bit of cycle animation on the machinery, and the camera man opening and closing the aperture so we get different amounts of light on the footage. The scientist remarks about his creation “He is one of good ones!”, a line Foster occasionally tossed in other cartoons.

A couple of townsmen hear the monster’s nutty laughter and call Scotland Back Yard. Inspector Plumbottom has virtually the same voice as the hunter that owned famous cartoon dog Yowp. He’s a typical reserved Englishman. “Complaint just received, Inspector,” he says to the nodding Huck. “Fourth monster up Shropshire way this week. Mad doctor. Old castle. Irate townspeople, all that sort of rot.” Those ex Warner Bros. writers sure loved Shropshire, didn’t they?

So Huck’s on the case. He divides his time commenting to the audience on the situation and talking to the monster who he, for what can only be comedic reasons, mistakes for the doctor. His plan to pretend he needs to see a doctor for a physical check-up backfires as the monster treats him like a basketball, stomps on him and throws him against a wall. Huck confronts him about a monster being in the castle. The monster gives off with the goony laugh. Great reaction dialogue from Huck to the audience: “I never could understand doctor-talk. All that Latin stuff.” (When this cartoon was made, doctors filled out prescriptions in Latin. Anyone learning pharmacy had to take a course in Latin). Huck chases after the monster but somehow loses him in a big, empty room. “Must be a secret door around here som’eres.” The monster comes out of a revolving stone door in the wall (Love animates all the action on ones). “Well, it’s no secret now,” Huck observes.



Huck won’t move until he takes the monster with him. He says this as he stands over a trap door that the monster opens by pulling a lever. “The doctor oughta fix that loose floor,” Huck tells us as he plummets into the floor. “A feller could take hisself a nasty fall.”



Cut to the scientist who has decided his next experiment is to turn the monster back into a wiener schnitzel. The monster doesn’t particularly like the prospect and chases the doctor with an axe. Huck runs to the rescue and handcuffs the scientist, thinking he’s the monster. Now the crazed former wiener schnitzel chases them both (though we only see the monster). Cut to a running cycle over an exterior background of Huck with the scientist being pulled in mid-air behind him. “Let’s get movin’!” Huck says to end the cartoon. “Them off-beat doctors are right sensitive about losin’ their monsters.” Poor Huck. He did better with a crazed monster potato in his third season than a crazed monster wiener.



The music selection’s pretty good here. One of Geordie Hormel’s Capitol Hi-Q “X” Series specialty cues gets the cartoon off to an appropriate start. We get the creepy muted wah-wah trumpet cue that may be from Raoul Kraushaar and a couple of other eerie pieces. Some of Jack Shaindlin’s faster cues and Lou De Francesco’s “Ski(ing) Galop” are used for running sequences. And we get a couple of bars of “My Darling Clementine” accompanied by the usual electric organ.


0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main-Title theme. (Curtin)
0:13 - ZR-126 ENGLISH MAIN TITLE (Hormel) – Narration, opening pan of village.
0:29 - TC-22 SUBLIME GHOST (Loose-Seely) – Camera trucks in on tower, flashing light from window, pan of castle interior, shot of room.
0:49 - creepy muted trumpet cue (Kraushaar?) – Scientist walks into room, turns weiner into monster.
1:28 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) – Townsmen scene.
1:56 - TC-202 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Scene in inspector’s office.
2:38 - Clementine (Trad.) – Huck sings.
2:47 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Huck on sidewalk, reads sign.
3:15 - drum kit effect – “This must be the place!”, Huck shuffles to the castle door.
3:22 - creepy muted trumpet cue (Kraushaar?) – Huck at castle door, goes inside, grabbed by monster and jerked off camera.
3:52 - SF-10 SKIING GALOP (De Francesco) – Huck as basketball.
4:01 - TC-300 ECCENTRIC COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck against wall, talks to monster, pounded into floor.
4:46 - SF-10 SKIING GALOP (De Francesco) – Monster runs, Huck runs after him, gets caught in swirling door.
5:07 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Huck stares at wall, crashes into floor, doctor angers monster.
6:10 - rising scale music (Shaindlin) – “Halp!”, monster chases doctor, Huck slides into room.
6:30 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – “Pardon me…”, Huck handcuffs doctor, monster zips out of frame.
6:44 - rising scale music (Shaindlin) – Monster runs with axe, Hucks runs with doctor.
6:47 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

6 comments:

  1. I love the voltage sounds and the schnitzel's depraved laugh!

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  2. The story is a bit of a reworking of the cartoons at Wanrers that Foster wrote there:"Hydy and Hare',
    55,with Bugs BUnny, "Dr.Jerkyl's Hyde", '54 with Spike and CHester the "Tree for Two" dogs, and "Hyde and Go Tweet", "60, with Tweety and Sylvester (which, btw, had the neat "department illustations" of the credits beofre the story)."That's a MONSTER SCHN ITZEL"..SC

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  3. Where does the phrase "This Must Be The Place" come from. Have heard it many times in films, in TV, on radio and have wondered where did it originate first. Was hopping that this blog would explain it, but it didn't so here is a request; Where does the phrase "This must be the place" come from Vaudeville?

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Yowp-Yowp" Dodsworth and HB-fanatics from the whole world,

    If this Huckleberry Hound episode had the Hoyt Curtin's music score, probably Hoyt Curtin would include a Charleston tune on the Huck's dance scene, isn't it?

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  5. Hi Anonymous,
    I think that "This Must Be The Place" was originated on the Baron Munchausen radio show of the 1930s with Jack Pearl. The catch phrase most people remember from the Baron was "Vas you Dere, Sharlie?" "Dis Muz Bee Der Blace" was how the catch phrase sounded in Baron-ese, and that's how it sounds in a lot of the cartoons where it pops up. At least that's the way I heard it!
    Mark Kausler

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  6. Ed Love (animation) and Tony Rivera (design) would be involved in another Hucklberry Hound episode from the 3rd season of The Huckleberry Hound Show (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia Pictures, 1958-62): Nuts Over Mutts (involving that full-tricked dog [who gave many work to Huck] and an Irish cop [typically New Yorker]).
    Alias, at this same season, Ed Love also would be involved in the animation from The Flintstones (Hanna-Barbera/Columbia Pictures, 1960-66).

    ReplyDelete