Saturday, August 16, 2014
Huckleberry Hound — Bars and Stripes
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:
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.”
● 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.
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).