Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were great borrowers. You’ve no doubt heard all kinds of debates about Flintstones/Honeymooners. Suffice it to say, Bill and Joe took basic concepts from wherever they could and built from there. So “The Flintstones” really isn’t “The Honeymooners” if you compare them to any great depth, but there’s no doubt the two have some basic elements in common. (I’ve run into one review of “The Honeymooners” when it first aired, claiming the show owed a lot to “The Bickersons” on radio. Before that, there was an argumentative husband-wife act the made the rounds in major vaudeville circuits in the late ‘20s. Is there really a lot that’s 100% original?).
One of the greatest cartoon directors of all time was Tex Avery, who spent a number of years working in the same movie studio as Hanna and Barbera. Avery had many accomplishments in animation, and one was picking up the overall tempo of the theatrical cartoon. It’s been acknowledged that once Avery did it, Hanna and Barbera did it in their Tom and Jerry cartoons to their benefit.
Hanna and Barbera weren’t above borrowing from Avery in other ways. Avery brought a voice actor into the MGM fold by the name of Daws Butler and, eventually, had him voicing a low-key Southern wolf in cartoons such as “Billy Boy.” Low key? Southern? Daws Butler? Sound familiar?
While animation fans like to make leaps of logic and invent lineages of cartoon influence, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that Barbera used this version of Avery’s wolf as the basis for Huckleberry Hound.
The nameless wolf whistled “Jubilo” as a kind of a theme song while Huck preferred singing “My Darling Clementine” to himself (Avery used “Clementine” in a couple of pre-Huck, MGM cartoons: “The Flea Circus” and the great “Magical Maestro”).
There’s another obscure Avery connection with Hanna-Barbera cartoons that lasted a long time, though it may be purely coincidental. Avery and writer Rich Hogan came up with a bulldog who wheezily laughed at someone else’s misfortune in “Bad Luck Blackie,” released in 1949. Wheezy laugh? You mean like Muttley? Well, there are similarities. It should be pointed out the laugh only happened in the first few minutes of the cartoon and “Blackie” was a one-shot cartoon and was only elevated to some kind of pinnacle of cartoondom after animation historians got a hold of it years later. It very well might not have been in Barbera’s consciousness when he and Charlie Shows wrote “Fireman Huck” (aired December 1958) and decided to give Huck an adversarial dog with a snicker that was used as a running gag.
This lengthy introduction brings us to the purpose of the post. Here’s Huck trying to escape from a snickering dog in “Barbecue Hound” (aired January 1959). He’s riding a barbecue in an endless loop (in the cartoon, he’s pulled over by a cop and tossed in jail with the snickering dog). It takes sixteen drawings (one foot of film) for the background to repeat. The animation is by Ken Muse and the background by Art Lozzi.
Poor Huck eventually became overshadowed by Yogi Bear. But those 1958-62 Huckleberry Hound cartoons still stand up and there aren’t too many duds. Thanks, Joe and Bill. Thanks, Charlie Shows, Warren Foster and Tony Benedict. Thanks, Daws. And thanks, Tex.