Saturday, 16 August 2014

Huckleberry Hound — Bars and Stripes

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – John Boersma; Layout – Jim Carmichael; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Written By Tony Benedict; Story Director – John Freeman; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Huckleberry Hound, Guard – Daws Butler; Fats Dynamo –Vance Colvig.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First aired: 1961-62 season.
Production No: E-185. Plot: Warden Huck tries to get inmate Fats Dynamo to leave prison.

The stories of the later Huckleberry Hound cartoons were structured fairly similarly. A narrator would set up the situation, Huck would chat with him, then Huck would try and fail several times at accomplishing something, with a little tag line after each failure. The format doesn’t get repetitious because Huck is given a new setting and situation in each cartoon.

Tony Benedict comes up with a nice little twist in this story. Instead of an inmate trying to break out jail, Huck has to force him to leave. Perhaps Tony was inspired by the wail that “prisons have become country clubs” in some quarters. Nevertheless, this prison isn’t quite a country club—it’s better. That’s even though the opening goes like this, with Daws Butler’s narrator intoning in extreme mock seriousness:


Narrator: Alkatrash Prison. Perhaps the toughest prison in the world. For no man has ever escaped this maximum security institution. And this is the office of its tough, rugged, militant warden, Huckleberry Hound.
Huck: Howdy, narrator. Plannin’ to hang around long? (laughs) That’s just a little ol’ spoofin’ type joke we got in the business.
Narrator: Can you tell us, Warden Huckleberry, the reason for your fine record of no escapes?
Huck: Well, all seriousness aside, I got what I call “The honor system.”
Narrator: The honor system?
Huck: Yessir-ee. We got tennis courts, majong, your-jong, oujie boards and TV in every cell. We got swimmin’ pools, an’ movies, and baseball teams, and even our own Alkatrash-land, with fun rides and cotton candy and wool fudge, and this kinda keeps all the prisoners happy. Nobody wants to escape.

If you have a chance to watch the cartoon, look at what credited animator John Boersma does with Huck’s hands. They’re in motion to emphasize the dialogue. One example—when Huck talks about a Ouija board. He puts his index fingers together like he’s moving something on a board. It’s a little extra that other animators might not have bothered with.

The phone rings (as some “Top Cat” music plays in the background). It’s an emergency. Prisoner 054678 won’t leave his cell. The cartoon now features a string of gags as Huck fails to get Fats Dynamo (as opposed to Fats Domino) to go. Dynamo is played by Vance Colvig, Jr., better known to the world as the voice of Chopper in the Yakky Doodle cartoons. It’s the only Huck cartoon he ever did; I suspect he was working on Yakky and Joe Barbera had him cut dialogue for this cartoon while he was there. The gags:

● Huck climbs and balances on a ladder reaching Fats’ barred window. Fats tips over the ladder.
● Huck uses a rope to lower himself to the cell window. Fats cuts the rope. Huck expected it and has a net to catch his fall. Instead, the net acts as a trampoline that boosts Huck back up to the window. Fats hands him a bowling ball. Huck crashes through the net. (“I just gotta keep after him,” Huck tells us. “It bein’ against the rules to be intimidated.”
● Huck chews on some bubble gum to make a balloon and float up. Fats punctures the bubble. Huck crashes below after a vain attempt to make another bubble. “That last piece must have been just regular gum,” he tells us.
● Suction cups on Huck’s hands and feet enable him to climb up to the window “just like a human fly.” Fats pulls out his “human fly swatter.” Down goes Huck again. The gag made an appearance two seasons earlier in “Nottingham and Yeggs,” written by Warren Foster.
● Finally, Huck yells that it’s time for chow. Despite having an ice box in his cell, Fats rushes to the Chow Hall where he’s stopped (off camera) by a guard.

The cartoon ends with the guard and Huck carrying Fats outside the prison, but Fats and the guard run back inside and close the iron doors, leaving Huck to bang on them from outside. “Open up I suggest or I’m gonna have the law on you,” cries our hero as the iris closes.

Besides a couple of pieces of “Top Cat” music, you’ll hear the “Wilma, I’m home” music from “The Flintstones” when Huck is describing your-jong (my favourite pun of the cartoon).

4 comments:

  1. Curious voice casting in this one, using Colvig in the tough-guy role instead of Messick who is very good at playing tough, deep-throated roles himself, often in Meece cartoons. Colvig does pretty well here, but it's impossible not to think of Chopper.

    Curiously Messick isn't used to provide his usual narrator or incidental roles in several Season 4 Huck episodes: this one, "Huck Of The Irish", "Huck De Paree". Butler provides ALL the voices in the latter two.

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  2. Someone, perhaps Tony (?), returned to this idea in 1966 for Ricochet Rabbit’s “Jail Break-In”.

    There, a fat outlaw refuses to leave Ricochet’s jail at the end of his sentence just because he likes getting his three square meals a day.

    After the expected string of failure gags, Ricochet successfully expels the bad guy – who returns to blow up the jail, because if he can’t live in it nobody can. His joy is short-lived, as Ricochet arrests him for destruction of Government Property. But there’s no jail to go back to, so the poor guy is sentenced to hard labor, building the new jail house.

    A pretty good ending for an H-B cartoon of that later vintage!

    Oh, and from the “Dead-Horse Department”… Why isn’t this Huck cartoon on DVD?

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  3. I agree with Joe...this cartoon needs to be released on DVD, along with the rest of the Huckleberry Hound series.

    There are some interesting ironies in the placement of Huck as a prison warden. His genial, happy-go-lucky personality is the antithesis of what a prison warden is generally expected to be. He is as usual a victim of his own goodness.

    But more than that, Huck is an ex-cop. He was originally introduced to the public in "Huckleberry Hound Meets Wee Willie" in which, of course, he plays the part of a policeman. So somehow along the way despite his earlier blunders he has made it all the way up the ladder to prison warden (not that this is necessarily a logical progression of jobs, but you get the idea).

    And not only is he an ex-cop, he is also an ex-con, having ended up as a jail inmate in a few of his adventures. In this light, it may be seen that the reason he wants his prisoners to have a good time while behind bars goes back to his own experiences of being (unintentionally, in his case) on the wrong side of the law. Naturally, he would be sympathetic to the plight of prisoners in any case, given his personality, but having served time himself would give him even more empathy for his charges.

    At any rate, it's hilarious that everybody wants to get into prison instead of out.

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  4. SC33, that's a cool lineage.
    I simply chalk it up to Huck being an easy-going guy. Why wouldn't he run an easy-going prison?

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