Saturday, 8 June 2013

Huckleberry Hound — Hillbilly Huck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Hicks Lokey; Layout – Paul Sommer; Backgrounds – Vera Hanson; Written By Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound, Zeke Doodleberry, Jurors – Daws Butler; Narrator, Lafe Doodleberry, Clem Doodleberry, Jurors – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose-John Seely, Jack Shaindlin, George Hormel, Spencer Moore.
First Aired: week of February 13, 1961 (rerun, week of July 10, 1961).
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-051.
Plot: Huck gets involved in a mountain feud between his ancestors and the Doodleberrys.

The most convoluted Huckleberry Hound logic of all time is in this cartoon. Huck justifies being shot at, and almost killed, by a hillbilly feuding with his family.

Huck: These mountain folk are a bit edgy about strangers, and I don’t blame ‘em. First thing you know, your still is shot full of holes and the corn-squeezin’ is pouring down the creek. Makes the fish belligerent. They climb out of the creek and snap at the children’s legs. That feller’s just makin’ sure the fish don’t get all riled up.

Pure Warren Foster, isn’t it?

I suppose it was inevitable to plunk Huck in an ersatz version of the Hatfield/McCoy feud. Huck’s accent is slow and rural, and about the only thing more slow and rural than that are hayseeds in the hills. Most of the usual clichés are here—long beards, shootin’ irons (well, it is a feud), extreme poverty, everyone being related—though we’re missing a passel of farm animals because, well, you’d have to animate them and that costs money. Still it all works pretty well.

Foster has set this cartoon is the non-existent Pennsyltucky Mountains, which are apparently standing in for the Ozarks. Nice rolling hills and, I guess, cottonwood trees. The backgrounds in this short are by the former Vera Ohman of the MGM cartoon studio, now married to Hanna-Barbera Production Supervisor Howard Hanson. Vera appears to have freelanced on this cartoon; in 1961, she worked on a Yogi, a Snagglepuss which aired when Yogi got his own show and a couple of Loopy De Loops. I wish I could snip the full background together without the tint changing.



Here are Vera’s drawings of the cabins of the warring factions with lettering by Art Goble.




And here are her interiors of the Huckleberry family mountain home.



Huck: “Split-level floor, air conditioned roof. It’s just like I pictured. They shore know how to live down here. Everything is so functional. None of your modern gimmicks.”



Huck: “When they hit the hay at night, they hit the honest-to-doo-dad hay.”

John Kricfalusi says when Vera retired from animation, she opened a cuckoo clock store in Solvang, California. Vera Ohman Hanson died in 1993, two days shy of the New Year, at age 69.

There’s a huge plot hole in the cartoon. Don Messick’s earnest narrator voice tells us the old feud between the Huckleberrys and the next-mountain-over Doodleberrys is over “because there is only one left of either family.” But that’s not true. There are seven Doodleberrys in this cartoon, three named and four on a jury, and all of them point their rifles at Huck at the end of the cartoon. Well, the “one” the narrator is referring to is Lafayette “Lafe” Doodleberry, who has that ornery country voice that Messick recycled a bunch of times, infamously for that skunk-hatted guy in that Yogi Christmas special. Anyway, Lafe tells us the feud’s still on.

We cut to Huck walking along, singing “Clementine,” and paying his first visit to the “friendly” hills. Huck keeps emphasizing how friendly folks there are when, even after Lafe calls him a “lily-liver, dog-faced city dude.” “Now, you notice the quaint way they express theirselves down here. It’s just a pose, you know, to mask their big-heartedness.” Of course, the gunfire begins once Lafe learns who Huckleberry is. He even gets shot inside his home while strumming a banjo and singing off key (“That’s what started the feud in the first place,” complains Lafe). “I cain’t believe you’re carryin’ a grudge for som’pin what happened way back when great-great-great-great grandpappy’s time.” Blam! “Course, some people have right-good memories.”



Huck goes to complain to the sheriff—Lafe’s look-alike cousin Zeke. Poor Zeke has “the miseries” so he assigns his deputy to bring in Lafe—naming Huck his deputy. We get old cartoon gags. Huck acts like a carnival target going back and forth every time Lafe hits him with a bullet (“Homesteader Droopy” has the gag, among other cartoons) and then when Huck claims he’s got the “po-liceman’s grip” on him, the two emerge from the Doodleberry cabin with Lafe carrying Huck.

So Huck, Lafe and Zeke all mosey on down to the courthouse, where look-alike cousin Clem calls Huck a “varmint” and tells him shooting Huckleberrys isn’t a crime, it’s a sport. The look-alike cousins on the jury agree. Huck’s surrounded by rifles. “Even Perry Mason’d get beat here,” he says before beating a retreat out the door. “If anybody watchin’ is plannin’ on a trip to these friendly Pennsyltucky hills,” he advises as he runs away from bullets, “I suggest you change your name to Doodleberry. It’ll make for more togetherness.”



Maybe the rural music in the Hi-Q library was too Western for the sound-cutter to use. Instead, he sticks with familiar cues, some of which don’t quite fit the scene, like Jack Shaindlin’s “Grotesque No. 2” during the struggle scene inside the Doodleberry cabin. Huck’s banjo can’t be from a library; it sounds like someone went onto the sound stage and strummed some notes, the same way the studio created sound effects.


0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title Theme (Curtin).
0:17 - ZR-50 UNDERWATER SCENIC (Hormel) – Narration, shot of Lafe.
0:37 - LAF-4-6 PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Narrator talks to Lafe.
1:07 - Clementine (Trad.) – Huck sings.
1:14 - TC-436 SHINING DAY (Loose-Seely) – Huck talks to audience, knocks on door.
1:41 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Lafe opens door, “One of your people.”
2:00 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No. 2 (Shaindlin) – Lafe invites Huck inside, “I’m a Huckleberry.”
2:18 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Lafe outraged, fires gun at Huck.
2:25 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Huck in bush, walks.
2:46 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose) – Huck outside cabin, inside cabin shots.
3:08 - banjo strumming – Shot of Huckleberry cabin, Lafe gripes, shoots at Huck.
3:42 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Huck with shot banjo, says he’ll see sheriff.
4:29 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig zag strings (Shaindlin) – Huck talks to Zeke, appointed deputy, knocks at door.
5:17 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Huck runs for door, punch, carnival target gag.
5:52 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No. 2 (Shaindlin) – Out of ammunition, judge scene.
6:42 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Perry Mason reference, Huck runs.
6:57 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin).

7 comments:

  1. The ending gag is kind of a weak modified version of the end gag from "Porky in Wackyland', which was just just about the time Foster was joining Warners. It's weaker because we can accept that Porky doesn't know there's more than one Dodo left; here you'd expect the narrator to know better, so the ending feels more manipulative.

    Vera's long-shot backgrounds definitely have an MGM CinemaScope era feel to them.

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  2. The main anomaly with the cartoon is that Huck's last name is HOUND not HUCKLEBERRY.

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  3. I’ve always liked that Huck mentions “Perry Mason” by name – and not some parody version of the great TV lawyer’s name!

    Nice observation by Greg. But, maybe the “Huckleberrys” and the “Hounds” merged families a long time ago, at some point in the history of the feud! And, Huck was named to tribute both family lines! …Yeah, we all watch too many cartoons, an’ take ‘em too seriously! What of it?!

    Switching gears, is anyone else as disappointed over the new “Best of Warner Bros.” Hanna-Barbera collection, as I am? WOULD YOU BELIEVE NO HUCK AND YOGI?! Anyone who wishes, can read my review at http://tiahblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/dvd-review-best-of-warner-bros-hanna.html. You’ll find some great comments by our friend and Yowp-commenter Scarecrow33, and others.

    Apologies in advance for the self-promotion, but I’m really riled-up over this, and wish to share some spleen-venting with some dedicated H-B fans – and there’s no better place to find them than here!

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    1. Joe, I agree. I love the " Perry Mason " mention. By 1961, there probably wasn't a man, woman, or child..well a great deal of children.. who wouldn't have gotten the joke.

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  4. Actually the gag of a jury full of biased lookalikes who clearly support the defendant is a throwback to the first WB cartoon directed by Robert McKimson, DAFFY DOODLES. A jury of Jerry Colonnas find Daffy not guilty of drawing mustaches on signs, posters and people. Not so coincidentally, this cartoon was written by Warren Foster.

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  5. YOWP, Is Mike Road, the voice of Race Bannon in Jonny Quest, alive today?

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    Replies
    1. As far as I know. He is 95 years old, and retired.

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