Saturday, 13 October 2018

Huck and the Critics

Critics not only liked Huck because of what was on it, but what was not on it. Nanny groups hated westerns and all those guns (they even complained about white-hatted Roy Rogers), and Popeye cartoons with all those fists. And don’t get them started on the Three Stooges! The Huckleberry Hound Show had little of that, and Hanna-Barbera soon won praise because of it (ten years later, the studio was under attack by these same kinds of groups for “violent Saturday morning cartoons”).

Here’s a syndicated column from June 21, 1960 when the Huck show was into its second season and after it won an Emmy. Besides the good words for the early Hanna-Barbera series about half-way through, the point is raised early that the people all aghast about “violence” grew up on radio shows disapproved by some of an older generation. The columnist rightly notes that a little bit of Popeye pounding on Bluto to the strains of John Philip Sousa isn’t going to turn kids into violent psychopaths.

Parents Should Guide Children's TV

Educators, psychiatrists and do-gooders have been shouting louder than usual for the past year about bow the younger generation is being breast fed by TV rather than books. The optimists among us, however, are aware that the learned gentlemen assembling all these frightening statistics received their own primary education over the radio perils of Buck Rogers, Tom Mix, Flash Gordon, Omar the Mystic and well-informed criticism from another generation of analysts.
The simple truth is that TV, properly used by a parent, can offer child some delightful entertainment. If the set's prime function, however, is to get the youngster out of the way, the parents never should have had children in the first place. A preschool child would never be sent out on a busy city street alone, and there is no reason why they should be expected to function in the channel-jungle without guidance.
Thanks to an easy-going, heavy-set young man named Bob Keeshan, the young mother's first experience with television is generally quite encouraging. Mr. Keeshan. along with his friends Mr. Green Jeans, and Mr. Moose, conducts the "Captain Kangaroo" show via CBS six mornings a week. At one time the network gave up on "Captain Kangaroo," but a storm of protest, plus the fact that the show was outdrawing Garry Moore's expensive morning variety show, bought Keeshan a new lease on life. Today the Captain is SRO with sponsors and mother knows she has at least 45 minutes every morning when the little one is in good hands.
Bob Keeshan is not a great educator or a child psychologist, but he understands his audience. He appreciates their short attention span and never keeps any. game, song or cartoon running too long, At no time does the Captain talk down to his tittle viewers or does he patronize them. He stimulates their imagination without frighten ing them, and good taste guides his every move. He closes each show by reminding the kids that it's another be-good-to-mother day," and nobody is "gooder" to mom than Captain Kangaroo.
Once the Captain closes up his weekday Treasure House, the television industry chooses to ignore children until around five o'clock. This is a sad mistake, because mother needs more than 45 minutes to finish her chores. In some cases poor, innocent, unsuspecting little ones in the 2-5 age group are left to the mercy of reruns of "The People's Choice," "My Gun" and "The Millionare."
In some communities sandwiched in between the reruns, a channel shows "Ding Dong School" or "The Romper Room." Both of these are a form of nursery school and the former, conducted by Dr. Frances Horvich, is easily the better one. New York City's educational TV service has a kindergarten called "Fun At One," which is so amazingly good that it virtually defies description. This particular show is not presently available for syndication around the country, but any P-T-A anxious to further the cause of children's programing should contact WPIX, New York, for information, and, if possible, exert pressure to obtain tapes of "Fun At One" for your local station.
From 5 to 7:30 in the evening and on Saturday mornings TV caters to kids. Some of the successful shows are little more than old movies shorts which were condemned as harmful to children a generation ago. Among these are "Our Gang," "The Three Stooges," and "Popeye." Actually they are as harmful as they ever were, but kids adore this type of comic violence and, provided they're not permitted to watch it as a steady diet, it's a good bet they'll survive.
But TV has developed its own cartoon empire and can point to the product with pride. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who created "Tom and Jerry," have come up with three of the most delightful and entertaining cartoon shows imaginable. They are such superb shows that the parents can laugh hysterically at the antics of the characters while the little ones are spellbound by the adventure.
Many a big city office is deserted early so pop can run home and enjoy "Ruff and Reddy," "Huckleberry Hound," and "Quick Draw McGraw" with his kids. In fact, very little prime evening adult programing matches the Hanna-Barbera shows as entertainment. (Fortunately for all of Hanna-Barbera have agreed to do an adult cartoon show in prime evening time for ABC next season.)
Perhaps "Huckleberry Hound" and his associates are the answer to many of TV's critics. Because they are fun the parents are able to share them with the kids, and the shows are mature and intelligent, thus easing parental con sciences. If pop will learn to turn off the set after "Huck" and spend the balance of the evening being an old-fashioned father, TV will have served a very useful purpose.
Much of the TV fare offered for children is mediocre, but who can say anything better for the evening programs? The fact that mediocrity dominates the scene does not necessarily mean that TV should be forbidden to children and all sets sold to the junk man. Captain Kangaroo," "Ding Dong School" and the Hanna-Barbera snows more than justify TV as an entertainment medium for children. If a parent is selective, there are often special snows and documentaries which may seem a bit advanced for a child, but with a parent to guide him it can be a stimulating and provocative experience: for example, Leonard Bernstein's Young People's concerts.
This has been primarily a comment on TV for children in the 2-7 age group. A youngster in the third grade or higher may want to stay up late and watch many of the so-called adult westerns and detective shows. Of course, this is a problem parents must handle themselves, but with the exception of a superb program like "Leave It to Beaver," or an occasional "Walt Disney Presents," there’s little to recommend.
Try to remember that in moderation TV can help both you and your children. If, however, you're looking for a full time all-purpose electronic baby-sitter, any child of yours if going to have a rough time in this world, with or without television.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Yogi Bear Weekend Comics, October 1970

Huckleberry Hound and the rest of his gang made references on screen that they were in a cartoon show, at least during the portions between the main cartoons. It would appear at least one character in the Yogi Bear newspaper comics knew he was in a comic.

It happened 48 years ago this month. We’ll post all the comics for the month below, but we’ll start with one from 50 years ago this month. The colour comics come from Richard Holliss’ collection. It seems the newspaper in England that he read eventually cheaped out and the only colour it used was red.

The comic below from October 20, 1968 is in full colour. The silhouettes in the column on the left side, third row are very nice. I thought national parks were in the middle of nowhere. How much would it cost to get a cab there?

Now to 1970. Boo Boo takes the month off but we get two appearances by the park “general.” I like the designs of the aliens in the October 25th comic as well as the opening panel with the huge stone in the middle. Because this version of October 25th comic is in four rows, it’s missing one small panel where the general says “The park buffoon has gone completely loon.” Yogi’s rhyming disease is infectious. Ranger Smith is “Bill” again in the October 18th comic.

October 4, 1970.

October 11, 1970.

October 18, 1970.

October 25, 1970. Sorry for the out-of-register colour.

Click on any of the comics to enlarge them.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Aloha Huck

Here’s today’s early Hanna-Barbera quiz—in which state was Huckleberry Hound the most popular? Perhaps it’s impossible to answer that question, but you probably couldn’t go wrong if you guessed Hawaii. It was the scene of a huge mob of fans not long as it became the 50th state.

The Huckleberry Hound Show made its first appearance in Hawaii’s territorial days on Thursday, October 2, 1958 on KULA-TV. The show, as we all know, appealed to adults as well as kids, and by 1959, the Isle Huckleberry Hound club numbering about 100 would gather in M’s Cheerio Room (a cocktail bar) every week to tune in the show. Someone at Hanna-Barbera took notice. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported on January 24, 1960 that Howard Pecquet, the club president, accepted a painting and ceramic statues of the show’s characters from someone representing Hanna-Barbera.

Pandemonium struck later that year. Screen Gems had a promotional department led by Ed Justin that not only came up with the idea of having people dress up as Huck, Yogi Bear, etc. for plugging purposes, he decided to launch a mock Huck-for-President campaign. One of the campaign stops—Honolulu. A bunch of tie-ins were worked out for Huck and his coterie—with Bill Hanna tagging along—to make a few days of appearances at the GEM store. An ad in the Star-Bulletin told kids that 800 free Huck T-Shirts would be given away at the Honolulu Airport a half-hour before a meet-and-greet with the newly-arrived gang.


Guess how many people showed up?

The Star-Advertiser’s reporter made a guess after getting caught in the crowd. Here’s the paper’s story of July 23, 1960.

10,000 at Airport See Huckleberry Hound, Pals

Honest, Huck, I was there. It's just that you didn't see me in the mob.
Some folks say there were 10,000 people at Honolulu Airport when your Pan American "Huckle-jet" landed yesterday afternoon. It would seem so, for the traffic was backed up bumper to bumper about two miles from the airport parking lot just before you landed. Parking attendants said they handled about 1,000 cars while you were there and that doesn't count the hundreds parked outside the lot.
Huck, that's more people than President Eisenhower had at the airport to greet him last month. Airport police told me you also attracted more people than the Shah of Iran, the President of Indonesia, the Kings and Queens of Thailand and Nepal and the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan. Or even Jack Benny.
Did you see all the kids holding "Huck for President" signs? And the "Huckelberry [sic] Hound for President" badges on the coats of greeters like Lieutenant Governor James Kealoha and Mayor Neal S. Blaisdell?
Was that really Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw following you down the plane's ramp? I laughed when the wind nearly blew McGraw's big head off. It looked almost like it was made of paper mache and cloth. I thought about all those rumors that local people had gone aboard the plane and donned costumes. But I knew better.
While you were busy with that big troupe of little hula and knife dancers, I chatted with one of your creators, William Hanna. He told me he had dreamed you up about three years ago and first put you in television cartoons last year. "I had no conception it would ever be this big," he said. "I'm delighted, of course. Now they have Huck watches and tee-shirts and . . . everything."
Say, Huck, how come Joseph Barbera, Hanna's partner didn't make the trip? Did those two really once draw the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons? And are you really going to Alaska next?
You know, Huck, some of those kids who met you did not use much sense. They crawled all over everything. And some of them even ran way out across those busy runways. Airport manager Gilbert Livingston said he had to send a radio car to clear them so planes could land.
But I hope you enjoyed the reception, Huck. It's just about the biggest in airport history. And I'll be looking forward to your three days of personal appearances at GEM.
By the way, Huck, I'm sorry traffic was so heavy that you and the Mayor and the Lieutenant Governor could not leave the airport for so long. Honest, Huck the terminal building had wall-to-wall children.
Actually, it was advertised that Joe Barbera was going to be there. Either the reporter didn’t spot him, or maybe Joe was busy checking out the hula dancers.

Justin told Broadcasting magazine that a throng of 25,000 swarmed on GEM to meet Huck and the department store was forced to lock its doors.

Huck got a chance to appear on the big screen during his trip. GEM sponsored a screening of Huckleberry Hound cartoons—in colour—at the Waialae Drive-In Theatre three days after the arrival, with the costumed Huck making another public appearance.

There’s a post-script to Huck’s appearance. A reference was made to it in the Star-Bulletin of March 26, 1961:

More than 3,000 screaming fans gave Elvis Presley a tumultuous welcome yesterday as the guitar-strumming singer stepped off a Pan American Airways plane at Honolulu Airport at 12:15 p.m. But the welcome did not equal in size or chaos the hullabaloo caused by the arrival here last year of Huckleberry Hound.
Huck never broadcast a concert by satellite from Hawaii, but one of his cartoons in the second season was set there. “Wiki Waki Huck” would have aired on channel 4 in Honolulu on February 18, 1960. We wonder if the Cheerio Room was overflowing that night.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A Chuckle For Huckle

How fortunate were some Canadian fans of Huckleberry Hound! Not only could they watch the Huckleberry Hound Show on a local station, if they lived close enough to the U.S. border, they could see it on an American channel as well. Thus it was in early 1959, kids in Vancouver and Victoria could see Huck, Jinks, Yogi (and Yowp) via the CBC on Wednesdays, AND they could tune in to a station in Seattle the next afternoon and watch the cartoons all over again. In Toronto, viewers could watch Huck on those same Wednesdays via the Mother Corp (the show also aired on the Peterborough station that day) and Thursdays from Buffalo.

(Vancouver kids were especially lucky, for they could also eventually watch Huck on the Bellingham station. That, combined with the Quick Draw McGraw Show broadcast from Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle and the Yogi Bear Show from Seattle, made for a Hanna-Barbera overdose).

One might think in the Land which Begat the National Film Board and its eclectic mix of animation, a place where the arts community seems chock-full of people with very English last names as first names, the simple adventures of the limited-movement Huck cartoons would be pooh-poohed. Ah, but you’d be wrong.

Huck and his coterie were praised by no less a figure as novelist Mordecai Richler, who must be considered one of Canada’s esteemed writers of the 20th century. He wrote about them in the August 26, 1961 edition of Maclean’s, a national magazine which occasionally commented on things outside of Toronto. His monikering of television’s blue hound as “Huckle” is more annoying than wistful to me, but I’m not exactly in Mordecai Richler’s league when it comes to prose.

His reference to Joel Aldred may be a little confusing. Aldred was a commercial announcer based in Toronto. I don’t recall him on Kellogg’s commercials but I do remember hearing his smooth voice for many years on national ads for Household Finance Corporation and Rothman’s cigarettes. Funny the stuff that sticks in your head after five decades.

THE CASE FOR Huckleberry Hound as Mordecai Richler sees it
Television, the largest of borrowers, has cribbed from, and diminished in the process, the theatre, the novel, and the cinema. Only in making the inevitable trip to the comic strip has it actually enlarged and improved on another medium. Naturally, I speak here of Huckleberry Hound. Huckle, the incomparable. He is, to my mind, one of the most full rounded, outspoken, and lovable characters on television. Huckle, it’s true, is only an animated character, but there is more flesh and blood in him than there is to, say, Ed Sullivan.
I also think that Huckleberry is a first-rate salesman. He couldn’t, for instance, make the switch from Mercury to Kodak as easily as Ed Sullivan. He believes in Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. I think he may feel even more deeply about it that Joel Aldred ever did, and that’s going some. Speaking viewer-wise I can dig Perry Mason with identifying with Kleenex, but as long as Huckle sticks with Kellogg’s there will be no competing brands in our house.
Huckleberry and his sophisticated community of friends, including those crazy, mixed-up meeces, Trixie and Dixie [sic]; Mr. Jinks, the beat cat; and Yogi Bear, of Jellystone Park, are true inventions. They make the comic-strip characters of my own day—Goofy, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse—seem paper-thin. As James Joyce extended the uses of the novel, so the creators of Huckleberry & Co. have added a new dimension of the animated cartoon.
The first of the “intelligent” strips was, I think, Barnaby, in the now defunct PM. There is also Pogo and Mr. Magoo. But, in my opinion, all these forebears of Huckleberry were (or still are) self-consciously bright. Huckleberry is an effortless rebel and intellectual. Even Yogi Bear is sometimes alarmingly up-to-date in his asides. He recently remarked to the guard at Jellystone Park that, if so much money was being spent on nuclear weapons, soon obsolete, why not more and better food for the bears at Jellystone? Altogether subversive, this, I doubt, if it could get by on our own GM Presents.
In fact, in passing, one is including to think that Huckleberry ‘s sponsor, unlike some I could name, is completely enlightened.
And Huckle himself, as I said earlier, is incomparable. I know, because every Wednesday afternoon at five-thirty I gather with my children round the TV set, they with their Huckleberry cutouts, Kellogg’s box tops, and Yogi Bear punching bags, me with my gin and tonic, to watch. Intrepid, witty, and humble, Huckleberry is superb, whether satirizing the unrehearsed TV interview (he reads shamelessly from the teleprompter), the Western myth, Ed Sullivan, or the lion hunt.
Perry Mason will never lose a case, dammit, and nobody this side of Forest Hill will ever outgun Lorne Greene, but Huckleberry is entirely human. Like you and me, he has his frailties. And television being what it is, this is something to celebrate.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018


Huckleberry Hound may have been the star of The Huckleberry Hound Show but it didn’t take too long before he was no longer the star at the Hanna-Barbera studio.

In the early ‘60s when Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera decided to make a feature film, it starred Yogi Bear, not Huck. When they decided to put comics in the Sunday papers, Yogi Bear, not Huck, got the ink. The fact there are no Huckleberry Hound campgrounds, cartoons were never made called “Huck’s Ark Lark” and “Huck’s Space Race,” and Huck never appeared as a lame CGI character in a (insert your own adjective) 2010 movie shows you how Yogi took over the Hanna-Barbera animal cartoon kingdom. He was brasher than the low key Huck, and the ones who make the most noise always get noticed.

Yogi Bear started life in his own cartoons that appeared on The Huckleberry Hound Show. The series began on this day 60 years ago (a Thursday) in some cities (including New York, Washington, Fort Worth, Seattle, Columbus, Cheyenne and Windsor, Ontario), though it actually debuted three days earlier elsewhere, depending on what airtime was available for purchase. In 1960 when Kellogg’s wanted to syndicate another half-hour it worked out a deal to sponsor a show starring Mr. Magoo, but pulled out because of demands by UPA’s owner. It quickly inked a contract in October with Hanna-Barbera to air a half-hour starring Yogi and some new characters in January 1961, with Hokey Wolf taking over his spot on the Huck show once some cartoons were ready. Yogi therefore appeared with Huck to start the 1960-61 season and finished it on his own series.

Yogi’s first season cartoons were a little different than what came later. The bear was rarely after pic-a-nic baskets, didn’t always live in Jellystone Park, Boo Boo wasn’t with him all the time and Ranger Smith didn’t exist. Some of the stories were in a spot gag format. It was only in Huck’s second season that Warren Foster arrived to write the cartoons and chained Yogi to a locale and format. Here are some of Yogi’s more enjoyable adventures when he was on the Huck show.

Pie-Pirates (October 13, 1958).
This is a sentimental favourite because it was the first Yogi cartoon made (though it was the third that aired). Mike Lah laid out and animated the short, and he saved money by cutting back on in-betweens like a number of the cartoons did at the start of production. Lah’s animation at Hanna-Barbera was always distinctive. Yogi misreads a “Beware of Dog” sign, and though he and Boo Boo vanquish the bulldog, they still don’t get their huckleberry pie. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Be My Guest Pest (January 12, 1959).
Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera borrow from themselves again. They’ve taken the design and voice of Professor Gizmo from their Ruff and Reddy cartoons (which were still being aired) and made him a hen-pecked hunter. He appeared in two shorts, but this one is the best because it features Don Messick as the hunter’s screaming, bullying wife who is hauled away by the cops who think she’s nuts. Unicorn in the Garden ending, anyone? Boo Boo is unnecessary and, therefore, absent. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

The Stout Trout (December 15, 1958).
This may be the best of the spot-gag cartoons, where a narrator (Don Messick) describes Yogi attempting some kind of task. Here, the bear is up against Wily Willie, the trout, who silently heckles him as he attempts to catch him. Joe Barbera’s love for butt-injury jokes shows up several times in this one (the bear eventually has band-aids on his rear). The blackboard-adding gag is, perhaps, expected, but likeable. Yogi ends the cartoon by riding an outboard motor down a road, chased by a cop past the same trees and house over and over. Mike Lah animates some of the gags. No Boo Boo here. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Duck in Luck (January 26, 1959).
What’s funnier than a dog that can only say the word “Yowp”? Okay, a lot of things, but I’ve been amused by it for 55 or so years. Two cartoons were made in 1958 featuring Yowp and I give this one an edge solely because of the shell game sequence. This cartoon also features the self-pitying duck that appeared in a bunch of Hanna and Barbera’s MGM shorts and eventually was turned into Yakky Doodle. Again, this is another non-Boo Boo, non-Ranger cartoon. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Robin Hood Yogi (March 2, 1959).
Yogi wants to rob food from the rich and give to the poor—namely, him and Boo Boo. Since that bears (chuckle, chuckle) a resemblance to Robin Hood, Yogi puts a feather in his hat and decides to play Robin. There’s a running gag about Boo Boo/Little John, Yogi gets attacked by a woman’s frying pan twice, and he cons Ranger Joe into being Friar Tuck. Art Lozzi paints a wonderful Jellystone forest in this short, where Yogi doesn’t really win but loses a good part of the time. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Show Biz Bear (October 12, 1959).
“Looks like a sycamore to me.” A cartoon plot that was eventually trotted out again and again and again at Hanna-Barbera—the star substitutes for an actor in a film shoot and gets beaten up for his trouble. (Director: “You know there’s no business like show business.” Yogi: “I know. And I think I’m gettin’ the business.”). A non-Smith ranger shows up and ends up taking over Yogi’s part and, judging by the sound effects, injuries. Story by Warren Foster.

Lullabye-Bye Bear (September 21, 1959).
George Nicholas has some terrific expressions in this cartoon; his work in his first few Hanna-Barbera cartoons was very funny. Yogi looks downright insane at times. The early version of Ranger Smith was good, too. He was more ho-hum and had a tired resignation about him than the later finger-wagging, annoyed version. I’ll take the former, though the latter makes for easier story conflict. Story by Warren Foster.

Hoodwinked Bear (November 21, 1959).
Put Yogi Bear in a fairy tale and you have a great cartoon. Yeah, Hanna-Barbera eventually beat this idea into the ground, but it’s still funny here. This may be my favourite of the three Yogi fairy tales. Boo Boo is Red Riding Hood, Yogi is the granny, the wolf is Phil Silvers. It all starts with Yogi deciding to hit up tourists for food, and guess who’s carrying a basket? The wolf comments on the story (to Boo Boo as Red: “You memorised your lines right, anyhow. Very badly read, but well memorised.”). More fine poses by George Nicholas. No Ranger Smith again in this one. Story by Warren Foster.

Oinks and Boinks (September 26, 1960).
This fairy tale travesty was the Yogi cartoon that opened the third season of the Huck show. It’s reminiscent of “The Windblown Hare,” a 1949 Bugs Bunny cartoon where the Three Pigs trick our hero into taking over their homes, knowing they’ll be blown down. The wolf once again has Daws Butler’s Phil Silvers voice and was apparently the inspiration to create Hokey Wolf. The wolf gets frustrated because he’s following “the book” but no one else is. The pigs get chased away at the end. Ranger Smith is absent as he is unnecessary. Story by Warren Foster.

A Bear Pair (late 1960).
A political/diplomatic satire where Boo Boo wins a trip to France, he and Yogi are mistaken for ambassadors but are finally kicked out the country when Yogi causes an international incident by wanting ketchup on his fillet mignonnies (that’s how he pronounces it). There’d be a bit more social satire when Yogi got his own show. The cartoon ends with the anger-management-challenged Ranger Smith chasing Yogi past the same tree 23 times. Story by Warren Foster.

Earlier in this post, we mentioned that Yogi and Boo Boo, along with Huck, Pixie and Dixie, Mr. Jinks debuted in Canada on this date 60 years ago. What did Canadians think of the show at the time? One Canadian author weighed in, and we’ll see what he had to say in a future post.

Monday, 1 October 2018


This day 60 years ago was a Wednesday, and that’s when Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks were first seen on television—in Chicago, that is. Oh, and Fresno. They all appeared the night before on TV sets in Los Angeles and the night before that on glowing living-room boxes in Indianapolis. As we’ve mentioned earlier on the blog, in 1958 Kellogg’s bought four half-hours a week on TV stations across the U.S. and Canada; one was a slot for The Huckleberry Hound Show. It was scheduled on whatever night that, presumably, Kellogg’s thought it would play best. In Windy City, that was at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays on WGN-TV.

Pixie and Dixie were almost zeroes. The real star of their cartoons was Mr. Jinks. Larry Wolters of the Chicago Tribune wrote “Jinksie sounds like a guy who trained at the Actors studio. His readings are some time a little reminiscent of Marlon Brando.” The Jinks voice of Daws Butler is pretty much one that Stan Freberg employed in his record “Sh-Boom” where he made fun of Method Acting. Daws and Freberg, as you know, worked on radio and records in the ‘50s.

To mark their 60th birthday, I’ve been trying to think of some of the P & D cartoons I really like and it’s been a little tough. In the first season, there are cartoons with solid takes (mainly by Mike Lah and Carlo Vinci) but the story drags. Once Warren Foster arrived to write the last three seasons, the cartoons become dialogue heavy but Jinks doesn’t always have funny lines; the humour comes from Daws’ delivery. There are good moments but the Pixie and Dixie cartoons aren’t as solid as Huckleberry Hound or Yogi Bear.

These ones come to mind as enjoyable cartoons. Your selection would probably be different. And, yes, the cartoon with Cousin Batty missed the list.

Jiggers .. It’s Jinks (November 17, 1958)
Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera weren’t above stealing from their Tom and Jerry cartoons at MGM for cartoons at their own studio. The idea of firing the cat and replacing him with a fast robot version comes right from “Old Rockin’ Chair Tom” (1948). Here, Pixie and Dixie team with Jinks to get him his job back. A great sloping walk cycle, bluish backgrounds from Bob Gentle and a bizarre observation gag (“I’m air conditioned,” Jinks declares when a cannon ball goes through him and leaves a hole) are highlights. Jinks turns on the meeces and literally falls flat. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Jinks’ Mice Device (October 20, 1958)
“So, that’s the scoop-a-rooney, eh?” declares Jinksie when Pixie and Dixie let on that Jinks didn’t kill them, he just made them invisible, thus being responsible for a wave of terror-in-the-house against him. Mike Lah is handed a sequence in this short and gives Jinks a few nice cracking-up expressions. The opening shot of Fernando Montealegre’s flat, ‘50s-art-style house is a bonus. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Mark of the Mouse (January 19, 1959)
A cartoon within a cartoon, Carlo Vinci pain takes, a wonderful electric shock take, the phoney Jinks overacting and the Mark of the Mouse theme song make this a favourite. The “end” really is the end. One of our expert readers insists Howard McNear was brought in for one cartoon to play the Zorro-like mouse and I’m sure he’s right. This was the last H-B cartoon Sam Clayberger worked on; Clayburger was the last of the original Huck show artists to pass away as he died earlier this year. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Hypnotize Surprise (February 9, 1959).
The H-B braintrust didn’t really come up with an ending for this one. At the seven-minute mark, the cartoon simply stops. This is another one where a Tom and Jerry short (“Nit-Wit Kitty” from 1951) forms the basis of the plot. Both cartoons even have the hypnotised cat, thinking it’s a mouse, eating swiss cheese. Lew Marshall, the weakest of the four H-B animators at the time, comes up with a weird walk cycle for Jinks that I like. Best exchange—Dixie: “You are a dog.” Jinks (sceptically): “Uh, sure I am.” The cat then starts barking to prove it. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

A Good Good Fairy (December 28, 1959)
Another cartoon where seemingly unexplainable things happen to Mr. Jinks. It’s a bizarre cartoon where Pixie and Dixie turn into bulldogs, alligators and, finally, fruit, thanks to the power of their fairy godmother’s wand. The old mouse gets in a few nice cracks, and complains that nobody believes in her any more “Everybody’s a wise guy. To them, I’m just an old lady with a star on a stick.” This was one of Jean Vander Pyl’s early Hanna-Barbera jobs. Story by Warren Foster.

Lend-Lease Meece (December 21, 1959).
George Nicholas’ poses of Jinks in this cartoon are tops. Jinks has some beautiful dialogue as he switches from anger at his meeces leaving him to disbelief as Pixie and Dixie pretend not to remember him. Jinks tries to hint at new neighbour Charlie to give back Pixie and Dixie (Jinks: “Mice day today, huh? It looks like it’ll be mice tomorrow, too.” Charlie: “Thanks for the weather report.”). I love the pathetic white mouse (played by Don Messick) who goes on and on about nobody wanting him and never having a home. Story by Warren Foster.

Heavens to Jinksie (January 18, 1960).
Another cartoon that owes a little something to a Tom and Jerry short (1949’s “Heavenly Puss”) and a Sylvester cartoon (1954’s “Satan’s Waitin’). Jinks gets knocked out and heads upward where a disembodied voice tells him to be nice to the mice. I like the outline drawings of Jinks when he’s Up There. Pixie and Dixie aren’t as horribly sadistic as MGM’s Jerry but they degrade him a bit. Some good dialogue again (Dixie: “He acts if he’s sort of, kind of, uh...” Pixie: “Nuts.” Dixie: “Yeah, that’s it.”). A “book-keeping error” means Jinks has plenty of lives left so he goes back to terrorising the meeces with his trusty broom. Story by Warren Foster.

Bird-Brained Cat (November 23, 1959).
In his second season, Jinks obsessed over goldfish and a bird. Both have some solid poses (Dick Lundy in the first cartoon, Don Patterson in the second), but I’m picking this one over the other. Jinks wails about his fate if he gives in to his temptation. He’ll be thrown out into the cold. “What a terrible thing to happen to a spoiled house cat and quite loveable house pet!” Pixie and Dixie help cure him of his canary-itis so he resumes chasing the meeces to end the cartoon. Story by Warren Foster.

Pushy Cat (February 15, 1960).
I admit I only like this cartoon because of the freeloading Arnold who shows up like an old friend on Jinks’ doorstep. Jinks has no idea who he is. There’s no indication at all in the cartoon whether Arnold is merely a fraud or if he really had a kinship with Jinks many years earlier. One way or the other isn’t really germane to the plot. Jinks accidentally gets rid of the meece-covetous Arnold by throwing a stick of dynamite which, as we all knows, casually lies around in any cartoon home. Story by Warren Foster.

Meece Missiles (1961-1962 season).
The paucity of third and fourth season Pixie and Dixie cartoons on the list shows you how little I think of them (there were 22 in all). I’ve picked this one because there’s some actual satire in it. Jinks tricks the meeces into going in a hot air balloon that he hopes will send them endlessly floating. Instead, it’s mistaken for a UFO by the U.S. military. But, naturally, the American government line is there are no such things, so after being brought back to Earth, Pixie and Dixie appear on TV in an interview reeking with phoney American patriotism. (Pixie: “We made the flight as our contribution to our nation’s space effort.” Newsman: “We could all learn from those heroes.”). Story by Warren Foster.

You might pick “Judo Jack” because of the pretzel poses, or “Cousin Tex” because of the branding animation (both by Mike Lah) or “Dinky Jinks” with its small-cat silliness. You might even pick one of the mini-cartoons where the Pixie/Dixie/Jinks war is limited to one gag (and not having to fill another 6½ minutes). Regardless, for a cartoon that was, to many, the weakest of the three on the Huck series, Mr. Jinks tried his best to make it shine and I think that’s why fans still like him today.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Yabba-Dabba Birthday

If nothing else, The Flintstones sure got hyped before the show debuted on this date 58 years ago.

A look at a number of newspapers in 1960 shows not only a line or two in the “TV Hilites” columns but articles on the impending series with publicity photos on the side. ADULT! SATIRIC! Those were the two words being pushed by ABC, Screen Gems and Hanna-Barbera. In other words, dear readers, this isn’t kiddie programme. It turned out not to be the best publicity strategy. People tuning in for the first time saw a plot that could have come from an old radio sitcom, a drawing style that wasn’t as sophisticated as the average animated commercial and “satire” that was little more than punny transformations of modern suburbia into pre-historic clichés. Still, once people got past that and accepted what was on the screen, they liked what they were viewing. I still give a great deal of credit to Alan Reed’s performances. The show was centred around Fred Flintstone and Reed put so much into him, you accepted him as a real character.

We’ve marked the Flintstone debut a number of times on the blog (go to back to 2010 for a bunch of 50th anniversary posts), so we’ll only do so briefly today. First is a United Press International column that about appeared about a month before the show did.

TV Cavemen Set to Rock Detective-Cowboy Rating

HOLLYWOOD, Aug. 28 (UPI) — Television's detectives and cowboys get some competition from cavemen this season when a gang of prehistoric suburbanites come plodding onto the screen.
APPROPRIATELY titled "The Flintstones," the peek at one of history's first families is an animated cartoon show, brainchild of Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna. The cavemen debut Sept 30 (on ABC).
Barbera and Hanna, Emmy award winners who produced "Huckleberry Hound" and "Quick Draw McGraw," will have their cavemen facing problems of the everyday family, like baby sitters.
"We'll have Fred and Wilma Flintstone with their pals Betty and Barney Rubble," Barbera said. "They'll live in the town of Bedrock, 250 feet below sea level. "Fred Flintstone works for a construction company whose slogan is 'feel secure, own your own cave.' And, like many families, Fred has a convertible, only it's got stone wheels."
FLINTSTONE, IN some ways an early day Fibber McGee, is a typical joiner holding membership in "The Young Cavemen's Association" and for a night out, he heads for the Rocadero Tilton."
Barbera realizes the problems he faces, with his series and says, "there has been no luck with humans in animated cartoons.
"We looked at many characters and they all resembled commercials," he explained. "But, the minute we put caveman costumes on them, the characters looked very humorous. They're a spoof on human beings.
"For instance, Fred doesn't put a cat out at night, his pet is a sabertoothed tiger. And the fire engine is a dinosaur with ladders on his side."
HANNA AND Barbera decided to go into a situation comedy series after ratings indicated that the big percentage of audience who watch "Huck," "Quick Draw" and their "Yogi Bear" were adults.
Response to the wispy characters have been such that the cartoonists are faced with a personal appearance problem.
It's easy to haul a Marilyn Monroe or a Clark Gable around the country for the fans to see, but try that with a bear.
"People all over the nation want to see our characters," Barbera said. "So, we've beep taking them out on the road. You'd be surprised at the crowds wanting their autographs."
"Huck," "Quick Draw" and "Yogi" are mobbed by fans wherever they go and the producers have figured out a way to humanize their characters.
"It's arranged for three fellows to be at the airport when we arrive at a city," Barbera said. "They come aboard the plane and dress up like the characters."
Jack Gould of the New York Times infamously called the show “an inked disaster.” I suppose in terms of what he was expecting, it was. Here’s a bit of a different take from Jack Cluett of Women’s Day magazine in its October 1960 edition. A number of articles mentioned Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw, treating them as the gold standard of television cartoons. It’s a bit hard for us to understand here in the future how popular those shows were with everyone in the late ‘50s.

Cluett lifts wording right off an ABC/Screen Gems news release; I don’t know how many times I’ve read that “butcher, baker, pizza-pie maker” line.

New animated cartoon is set in stone age suburbia.
On Friday, September 30th, at 8:30 P.M. (EDT) over ABC-TV, you can see television’s first attempt to replace the comedy antics of live comedians with an animated cartoon series. The new program, created by the producers of Quick Draw McGraw, Ruff ‘N Reddy and Huckleberry Hound, is called The Flintstones.
Basically, the story is about Fred and Wilma Flintstone, an average couple with one big difference—they live in the Stone Age. Their neighbors are Barney and Betty Rubble. Fred and Wilma enjoy all the advantages of modern-day existence. They live in a split-level cave. They drive a convertible with log fins, stone wheels and a thatched-roof top. Their town is called Bedrock and it has its butcher, baker and pizza-pie maker along with a gasoline station, drive-in theater and a daily paper chiseled on stone slabs.
The prehistoric telephone is a ram’s horn with a dial system. Fred trims his hedge by manipulating the legs of a bird, scissors fashion, with the sharp beat acting as steel cutting blades. Fred works as a steam shovel operator for the Rock Head and Quarry Construction Company, his machine is a dinosaur with levers. Betty Rubble and Wilma Flintstone face the many decisions that plague the suburban housewife of today, including what to cook for supper: Brontosaurus cutlets, soft-boiled dodo eggs or lizard gizzards. They even take soiled skins to the local rock-O-mat for laundering.
Bearing in mind that producers Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera have recently seen their Huckleberry Hound receive an Emmy for the best in children’s programming, it is understandable why they are tossing The Flintstones into the adult comedy sweepstakes. But, in my opinion, it was a mistake to tag this series as “television’s first adult animated cartoon.” Actually it’s no more adult than Donald Duck even though it may contain a few more sophisticated touches. There’s no question but what the grownups will get a chuckle out of the gadgetry with a stone age flair, but these gags alone can’t hope to sustain laughs week after week.
The high point of The Flintstones, to my way of thinking, is the voices of the characters. Wilma sounds just like Audrey Meadows and is done by Jean Vander Pyl. Alan Reed does the voice of Fred, the inimitable Mel Blanc speaks for Barney Rubble and Bea Benaderet voices Betty Rubble. They are all extremely good. Indeed, the voices I heard at the preview were much better than the situations. A fast pace is an absolute must in animation even when your setting is a stone age swimming pool.
If the Mssrs. Hanna and Barbera find, after a couple of weeks of The Flintstones, that their “children’s” Huckleberry Hound has a higher rating than their “adult” newcomer, maybe they’ll forget all about the age of the viewers and concentrate on producing a funny cartoon series. If they do this, I’ll guarantee that everyone in my house from 8 to 60 will be right there watching.
As Cluett suggested, The Flintstones evolved. You can only do talking animal gadget jokes for so long. Hanna and Barbera had to find new gimmicks every year. Thus we got a baby girl, then a baby boy, then a hopperoo, then an alien with Ray Walston antennae. The show had run out of steam so much by season five that it took a schedule change to keep it on the air for another year and keep Flintstones merchandise in stores.

The Flintstones sparked a huge copycat trend of prime-time animated shows in 1961, which died in 1962 when none of the new shows garnered an audience (until, in some cases, they were moved to Saturday mornings, the dumping group of used cartoons at the time).

The series is not my favourite amongst Hanna-Barbera half-hours, but there are still enough pleasant and even funny episodes (“Dino Goes Hollyrock” is still tops for me) the make the show worth watching after all these years. In many ways, it still stands up.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Biggest Show in Town is 60

60 years ago today, at 6 p.m., viewers of WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan—also serving Battle Creek, home of Kellogg cereals—could tune up their TV set and watch a brand-new show. You could see it for the first time at the same time on WATE-TV in Knoxville and WCHS in Charleston, West Virginia, or a half hour later on WLW-I in Indianapolis. Viewers of WTAE in Pittsburgh could pull it in at 7:30 p.m.

They would have been watching the debut of The Huckleberry Hound Show.

Huck’s importance in television history shouldn’t be downplayed. The show proved that a full half-hour of animation could be done on a TV budget, it could be both entertaining and critically acclaimed, and it could be extremely lucrative. Huck, as far as I’m concerned, sparked the TV animation industry. The show was not only the first cartoon to win an Emmy (in 1960), it was also the first syndicated series to do it.

For young viewers like me, the show was fun. It had a theme song you could sing along to (whether you got all the lyrics right was immaterial), the story situations were amusing, the characters had funny voices and interacted well in little cartoons before the cartoons, and catch-phrases added a feeling of familiarity. Oh, and you could count the number of times the same background whizzed past.

Kellogg’s originally sponsored the show around dinner-time, which had been kid time on network radio a few years earlier. Curious parents watched to see what their youngsters were viewing. They could laugh or smile at the cartoons, too; the show was mature enough so it wasn’t strictly for children. Pretty soon word got out to critics. Charles Witbeck may have been the first syndicated columnist to notice H. Hound and friends, but here’s part of Harold A. Nichols’ column in the Rochester Democrat of January 11, 1959 that shows you the word-of-mouth Huck was getting. (No, Ruff and Reddy were never on the Huck show. I suspect the writer mis-read a Screen Gems news release).

THE WORD is in from Menlo Place, where Children's Book Reviewer Frank Dostal's family and some other pleasant people live: Keep an eye on Huckleberry Hound, one of the cutest shows on TV.
Huck Hound, as he's listed for purposes of brevity in our logs, shows up once a week, 6 p.m. Friday on Channel 10. It's not the most convenient time of the week, what with weekend grocery buying and dashing to the bank to beat the closing of the vaults.
But for televiewers who can spare a half hour it’s a Friday fillip. The show, they tell us, reminds of Burr Tillstrom and Kukla and Ollie (Oliver J. Dragon, that is) at their best.
Huckleberry Hound's delightful company of characters includes Yogi Bear, Ruff, Reddy, Jinks, Pixie and Dixie. Occasionally some featured players will come along, Dinky Dalton, Judo Jack and the Fat Knight, who holds the Fair Damsel in Hassle Castle.
All these are developed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who produced and directed Tom and Jerry, the Oscar winners. Their readings remind of such screen stalwarts as Charles Laughton, Marlon Brando, Jack Webb and Andy Griffith.
Huckleberry Hound is produced by Screen Gems, a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures. H.H. is a favorite with the children. Grownups enjoy the characters and the satire in the sketches.
This post was going to look at why critics and parents groups liked the Huck show, but we’ll save that for another time. Let’s make this more of a celebration instead. I’ve mentioned before I really dislike lists and really dislike declarations of “best” cartoons. But I’m breaking my own rule. These aren’t the “best” or even “favourite” Huckleberry Hound cartoons, but ten that come to my mind that I like.

Dragon Slayer Huck (December 15, 1958).
Huck is sent by a little king to slay a purple dragon. We get a guy selling a map to the dragon’s home, and even the dragon himself hawking souvenir toy replicas of himself (and pennants). The two end up friends at the end because the dragon can’t bear to see Huck marry the king’s ugly daughter. Daws Butler plays both Huck and the dragon, who has a Jackie Gleason-type voice. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Lion-Hearted Huck (October 6, 1958).
A lion who laughs wheezily at his own humour gets his comeuppance at the end, as one of his practical jokes on Huck backfires. As usual, nothing bothers Huck, as he calmly comments to us after each time he’s abused. He lets out with a bad pun that you can’t help but like; when LeRoy disguises his footprints with hen tracks, our hero says “Maybe this lion is chicken.” Points for some nice jungle backgrounds by Fernando Montealegre. Daws Butler plays both Huck and the lion, whose voice owes a bit to comic Frank Fontaine’s John L.C. Sivoney character. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Little Red Riding Huck (March 16, 1959).
Huck lands in the tale of Little Red Riding Hood which ends with a cop coming to arrest him because he’s butted into the story. “Okay, let’s take it from the top and do the whole bit over again,” the wolf tells grandma and Red. There are funny scenes as Huck uses disguises to try to get into grandma’s house, and when a college geek selling magazines gets thwopped with the wolf’s broom. The wolf has Daws’ Jackie Gleason voice. Art Lozzi provides some attractive huge-toadstools-in-the-woodland backgrounds. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

The Tough Little Termite (March 23, 1959).
This is tough. The choices, not the termite. I could pick several other cartoons from the first season that are really enjoyable, but I’m going with this one because I love the termite. He’s designed by Ed Benedict. He has that jaunty little buzza-buzza tune he sings through the cartoon. And he eats everything in sight, including—gasp!!!—Huck’s television set cabinet. After the audience sees the damage, Bill Hanna cuts to Huck saying “Oh, well. It wasn’t working anyhow.” Don Messick is the termite. Dialogue by Charlie Shows.

Nottingham and Yeggs (November 23, 1959).
There are some great lines in this second season cartoon (Narrator: “For food, poor Robin would steal into the forest to set snares. But even the lowly animals would sneer at lowly Robin.” Rabbit: “Sneer, sneer, sneer, sneeeer.”), a cat doing a Jackie Gleason impression, a pop culture reference to a soap and Merrie Men who go “Yuk, yuk, yuk, yuk,” when told to yuk it up. Huck preys on the rich, so when he becomes rich, someone preys on him the same way. Story by Warren Foster.

Spud Dud (September 26, 1960).
A megalomaniacal potato wants to rule the world! The only one who can stop him is science genius Huckleberry Hound (who also makes a great chocolate sody). King Spud goes on a rampage after urging his fellow tubers to join him in revolution but instead they sit there like a sack of potatoes. Huck has a good chat with Mr. Narrator through the cartoon. The ending is a classic: the evil potato turns into potato chips raining from the sky when the rocket he’s in blows up. Don Messick is the narrator and the potato. This cartoon opened the third season of the Huck show. Warren Foster wrote the story.

The Unmasked Avenger (January 21, 1961).
This Scarlet Pimpernel-inspired cartoon comments about 1960s consumerism (despite being set vaguely in the Middle Ages). The townsfolk are told by the evil Lord their taxes are going to go up but what really gets them angry is when they cannot pay by credit card. When Huck, as the Perpil Pumpernickle (he’s a bad speller), vanquishes the Lord and gives the citizens bags of cash, they’re confused. They only get excited when he tells them they’re like credit cards. Huck promises them new roads, free schools and old age pensions but when he declares it means more taxes, they turn angry. The erstwhile hero is run off by the masked Blue Bouncer, who shouts “Down with everything!” Story by Warren Foster.

Science Friction (April 2, 1961).
Horror!! A scientist has turned a giant stuffed wiener schnitzel into a crazed monster. Just that premise makes this a fun cartoon, along with some dry, understated dialogue one expects from Englishmen which makes up for some not-so-strong gags. Don Messick must have had a good time screeching the monster schnitzel’s out-of-control laughter. Dick Thomas sets the mood nicely with excellent background art. Warren Foster wrote the story.

Cluck and Dagger (March 27, 1961).
This one drops Huck into the role of a U.S. government agent and clichés are piled on clichés. “They call you the man with a thousand faces,” the narrator says to Huck. It’s a spy cartoon, so naturally we think he’s talking about a disguise. Instead, Huck demonstrates a goofy face. The best line may be delivered by narrator Don Messick when Huck tells him information about his agency is classified and then pulls out a classified phone book (“Ain’t that a knee-slapper?” asks Huck. The narrator rather wearily replies: “I get it.”). The cartoon ends with a pack of spies, all wearing identical trench coats and sunglasses, failing to steal Huck’s briefcase on the Rutabaga Express. Story by Warren Foster.

The Scrubby Brush Man (1961-62 season).
The Fuller Brush people get a gentle nudging in this parody written by Tony Benedict in Huck’s final season (Warren Foster was busy with The Flintstones). Huck fails in every attempt to make a sale to a guy with anger management problems. During one attempt, Huck is ironically smashed with a brush (“That’s what we call in the trade ‘the brush off’,” he chuckles to the audience). The one personal downside: the Capitol Hi-Q and Langlois Filmusic libraries used in the first three seasons was replaced with Hoyt Curtin’s tunes heard in almost all H-B shorts in the 1961-62 season.

Yes, I know it’s Yogi Bear’s, Mr Jinks’ and Pixie and Dixie’s birthdays and we’re pretty much ignoring them, but you don’t want to keep reading, do you? Wouldn’t you rather watch Huck tackle a snickering, steak-stealing dog or run from a not-so-fair damsel locked in a castle? We’ll leave you to pull out some Huckleberry Hound Show cartoons, or find them on line, and enjoy this historic day in Hanna-Barbera, and TV cartoon, history.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Flintstones Weekend Comics, October 1970

Fred Flintstone, mighty hunter and golfer. Those are two of the subjects of the Flintstones’ weekend comics this month in 1970.

Pops makes appearances in the first two comics. No Betty. No Dino. The second comic has a lovely frustrated creature mounted on the wall in the last panel. And the last comic has a real Stone Age concept where you dial a phone for the correct time.

The colour versions are courtesy of Richard Holliss and his collection.

September 6, 1970.

September 13, 1970.

September 20, 1970.

September 27, 1970.