Saturday, 31 August 2013

Huckleberry Hound — Knight School

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Lew Marshall; Layout – Paul Sommer; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound, Instructor, Herald (off-screen), Blond Knight, Moustached Knight, Grey-Haired Knight – Daws Butler; Narrator, King Arthur, Dragon, Bearded Knight, Brown-Haired Knight, One-Card Knight – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Geordie Hormel, Bill Loose/John Seely, Spencer Moore.
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show No. K-043
First Aired: week of April 24, 1961.
Plot: Huck earns his membership in the Knights of the Round Table.

Huckleberry Hound is a pleasant guy so his cartoons are pleasant, even when there’s nothing uproariously funny going on. There are a few good moments in “Knight School,” but it’s not a laugh-out-loud fest. Still, the cartoon’s hard to dislike because Huck’s personable enough to carry it off.

“Knight School” consists of an introduction and three vignettes. The last one is a reworking of the Huck vs Dragon idea in the first season cartoon “Dragon-Slayer Huck,” which, frankly, was more enjoyable than this little film. It involved a contest between Huck and a funny fire-breathing dragon that sold dragon souvenirs. Here, the dialogue-less dragon burns Huck a couple of times before his flame gets put out (an almost predictable conclusion) and he runs away. The humour in this scene is fairly typical of Huck—it depends mainly on Warren Foster giving him funny lines for his commentary to the audience about what’s happening in the cartoon. “He’d make a ginger-peachy cigarette lighter,” Huck tells us and “You don’t frighten me, Mr. Dragon with all your smart-alecky flamin’ and roarin’.” But there’s also talk for the sake of talk. “I think I’d better get out of here,” Huck says. As he has turned around and is running away, we can already see he’s “getting out of here.” It’s dialogue for dialogue’s sake.



The first vignette comes after a nice establishing shot of a Dick Thomas background (with transparent clouds) and a narrator telling us young men from far and wide desired to be knights of the Round Table. Huck corrects the narrator. He doesn’t want to become one. “I was drafted,” he says. I didn’t realise there was a draft at the time the cartoon was made that would be the subject of humour.

Huck goes to the Knight School that’s the title of the cartoon. “Hmm. Knight school in the daytime. It’s gettin’ confusin’ already,” he inevitably puns to us. “Private” Huck gets crushed a couple of times and comments to the camera. Foster pulls out the old “Just call me Shorty” line. The instructor has Daws Butler’s Phil Silvers voice except he adds kind of an English tinge to it at times. The vignette ends with a scene a fight we don’t see (it’s off-stage) that’s indicated by sounds and a shaking camera. But there is animation; Lew Marshall has the English sergeant turn to the camera and give us a goofy look. Huck wins the fight. Turns out a fat guy fell on him and by the time he got up, the rest had of the would-be knights beat each other up.



So the King knights Huck and leaves him with a bump on the head. “You ever think about usin’ an aluminum sword, sir?” Huck asks.

The second vignette is the best. The knights cut cards and the high-card holder must slay the fire-breathing dragon of Shropshire. “Thanks, your majesty,” says the nervous Huck, “But I never play cards.” Huck draws a three. But it turns out to be the high card. Three knights draw twos. One draws a one. Not an ace. A one. The card has a one on it.



The third vignette has the dragon non-fight and then the wind-up scene has another card-cutting for the honour of doing battle with an ogre in Chettingham. Huck is ready this time. “You know, you cain’t have a card lower than a zero,” he tells us as he pulls out a card with a zero on it. Ah, but this time, the low number goes. “Shucks. No wonder they use a round table. Nothin’s on the square around here,” laments Huck. And, with that, the cartoon ends.



The artwork is serviceable. Lew Marshall’s nose-bobs, though not as pronounced as in Huck’s first season, are still there. He avoids anything resembling a medium-sized take. When the sergeant is shocked to see Huck has survived the fight amongst the would-be knights, the guard’s eyes don’t grow big. Marshall merely has the guard lift his head up two positions with a blank expression (two frames per drawing), close his eyes for three frames then drop his head back down to where to was before. Marshall saves drawing, too. When the dragon shoots flames out of his nostrils at Huck, the drawings of the the dragon are merely flipped over and inked on the other side. Sommer’s layouts are never daring; his character designs and props work fine (though he has an Englishman wearing American sergeant stripes in the Middle Ages). I like his chairs and red drapes in the chamber of the round table. Dick Thomas takes the time to put a varnish shine on the various background drawings of the table.



I suspect the knights are not marked individually in the script. Two of the knights change voices in mid-scene; one talks like Daws Butler then Don Messick later in the scene and the other vice versa.

The sound cutter edits the stock music, when necessary, so it fits in a scene. Hanna-Barbera used three of the cues from the X-9 reel that contained Olde England-invoking cues and they’re all in this cartoon.


0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title Theme (Curtin).
0:22 - ZR-126 ENGLISH MAIN TITLE (Hormel) – Opening narration scene.
1:00 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No. 2 (Shaindlin) – Huck reads sign, shield scene, helmet scene.
2:23 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig zag strings (Shaindlin) – graduate fight scene.
3:01 - ZR-103 PERIOD MAIN TITLE (Hormel) – Huck knighted.
3:23 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Knights at table, card cutting scene.
4:44 - C-19 LIGHT ACTIVITY (Loose) – Huck on horse.
5:11 - ZR-127 PERIOD CHASE (Hormel) – Dragon appears, attacks Huck, Huck jumps in lake.
6:00 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Dragon puts head in lake, Huck: “And what do they do?”
6:23 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Dragon runs away.
6:31 - LAF-25-3 bassoon and zig zag strings (Shaindlin) – Huck at round table.
7:00 - HUCKLEBERRY HOUND SUB END TITLE THEME (Curtin).

6 comments:

  1. “Nothing uproariously funny?!” I’ve been laughing at the “card-cutting” / “I drew a ONE!” gag for decades! And, also award a serious runner-up honor for the “I’ve been drafted!” line.

    It was verbal and dialogue humor like this that separated H-B cartoons of this prime period from their competition – save Jay Ward, of course.

    And, as long as I’m handing out kudos to Foster… One more for knowing that, unlike Bugs Bunny in Chuck Jones’ “Knight-mare Hare”, Huck would not extinguish a dragon’s fire with a heretofore unseen and pulled-from-behind-the-back seltzer bottle.

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    1. I had an H-B Big Golden Book of a series of Huck, Yogi and Pixie/Dixie/Jinx stories based on selected cartoon episodes, including this one. The '1' card gag was funny even on the printed page to me as a 5-year-old, and it's still funny today.

      (Though to be fair on the "Knight-Mare Hare" thing, Chuck and Tedd Pierce did have Bugs duck down into his rabbit hole to pull out the seltzer bottle. The flame-on-the-thumb gag was more of a something-out-of-nothing bit, but the ensuing horse costume gag made it worthwhile.)

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    2. Yeah, I'm sure Bugs DID pull the seltzer bottle from his rabbit hole, now that I think about it. I’m just so used to his “spontaneous materialization from behind the back trick” that I thought he did it here, too.

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  2. Gumby ujsed a modern day firehose in "Mysterious Fires",1957..;
    Joe,this and the Bugs/Huck differences in extinguishing dragon' fire are worth noting..:)Steve

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  4. I enjoy both the lowest card gags-that "1" and the wi nd-up one with the "0".I've seen pretty much all the Huck cartoons many times..This, the earlier dragon one ("Dragonslayer Huck") from the first season and the locked damsel one ("Sir Huckleberry") complete the series of cartoons with Huck as a Knightr.

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