Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Critics Cluck—“Huck Doesn’t Suck”

The Huckleberry Hound Show debuted during the week of September 29, 1958 (check your local listings) and those of you reading here already know it was revolutionary—a half-hour animated programme made specifically for television.

It appears a demo or complete reel (oh, if one only existed somewhere) may have been sent out for review before the show aired, as the Tribune in Chicago was one of the papers which gave it glowing reviews. In fact, in sifting through some columns over the course of a month after the start of the 1958 TV season, Huck was one of the few new shows getting any kind of favourable mention.

Here’s what the Trib had to say. I won’t post all the columns, just one from before the show aired, the second one after.

TV to Get Fine New Cartoon
[Tribune, Monday, 29 September 1958]
AN enchanting new cartoon series, called Huckleberry Hound, will arrive on channel 9 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Not since Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Pluto ventured into the movies a quarter of a century ago has such a delightful company of characters been created. Huckleberry’s play-mates include Yogi Bear and his patient little friend, Boo Boo Bear; a cantankerous cat, Mr. Jinks; and two mice, Dixie and Pixie. They were developed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who produced and directed Tom and Jerry, which won them seven Oscars.
On the basis of a preview, we predict Huck and his pals will prove a smash hit in television not only among children but adults as well. Reserve 7:30 p. m. Wednesday now for WGN-TV. You'll not regret it.
Grownups will cheer this show because, besides enjoying the characters, they will like the satire in the sketches.
The show will remind you of Burr Tillstrom and Kukla and Ollie at their best.
THE first instalment finds Huckleberry Hound in the role of a detective who sounds like Jack Webb. His boss sends him out to bring in a gorilla on the loose. Huck throws out the dragnet and grabs the fugitive, but then the gorilla steals the police car. Huck, who has a voice that resembles Andy Griffith’s, is foiled and frustrated as frequently as George Gobel.
Everyone who has ever fed or wanted to feed the bears in Yellowstone park is likely to get a bang out of Yogi Bear. Yogi, in the first instalment, tries various devices to escape from “Jellystone park” and all the hounds. He is foiled again and again.
Jinksie sounds like a guy who trained at the Actors studio. His readings are some times a little reminiscent of Marlon Brando.
Besides the half dozen continuing performers in the series, Hanna and Barbera have created many “feature players.” Among them will be Dinky Dalton, last of the Dalton gang; Judo Jack, whom Pixie and Dixie engage to protect them from Jinksie; the Fat Knight, who holds the Fair Damsel in Hassle Castle and an English hunter (who sounds like Charles Laughton) and his English bulldog.
The show is sponsored by that Battle Creek cereal company. The company also sponsors Superman at 6 p. m. Tuesdays, Wild Bill Hickok at 6 p. m. Wednesdays, and Woody Woodpecker 7:30 p. m. Thursdays, all on WGN-TV.
Huckleberry Hound is produced by Screen Gems, a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, and will be seen over many other independent stations thruout the nation.

[Tribune, Saturday, 25 October, 1958]
New Animated Satire Also Has Yogi Bear of Jellystone Park.
Huckleberry Hound is not merely the first show of cartoons made especially for TV, altho this is remarkable enough. But it is probably the cleverest package of animated satire to be delivered since the Gerald McBoing-Boing show was flung from the network delivery wagon last year.
Huckleberry (at 7:30 p. m. Wednesdays, channel 9) is only one of the many, many stars of the new series. Besides this persevering canine (who sounds like a real southern Andy Griffith) there is Yogi Bear, next to the trees the biggest thing in Jellystone National park. His manner may remind you of a certain sewer inspector named Ed Norton on channel 9’s Honeymooners (9 p.m. Sundays).
And there are a couple of mice named Pixie and Dixie, who cope constantly with a large, cantankerous cat named Mr. Jinks.
Producers Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera also promise a long succession of new featured players—Dinky Dalton, last of the notorious gang of the same name; Judo Jack, a pal of Pixie and Dixie; the Fat Knight, who holds the Fair Damsel captive in Hassle Castle; an English hunter (who sounds amazingly like Charles Laughton) and his English bulldog (who says nothing but “yep, yep”) [sic].
O, yes, Yogi Bear has a little friend, Boo Boo Bear. He’s from the midwest.

What’s interesting in these reviews is the mention of supporting characters. Hanna-Barbera not only marketed Huck, Yogi and the other major players, it pushed products with some of the ancillary characters, too, probably to round out sets of things. Yet only one of the “featured players” Joe and Bill were lauding here was ever marketed, at least that I can tell. I’ve seen no evidence of playing cards or kiddie birthday party plates emblazoned with Judo Jack, Dinky Dalton or the Fat Knight. You’ll find some with Iggy and Ziggy, the crows that plagued Huck for a couple of cartoons; Pixie’s (or is it Dixie’s?) Cousin Tex, and Biddy Buddy, who later became Yakky Doodle. The only one mentioned here who was included in marketing was that “English bulldog”, your faithful blogger Yowp. Not only is the revelation of a species somewhat of a surprise, so is the country of origin; it’s difficult to detect any accent in a solitary word. Sigh. And like some people on the internet today, the Trib couldn’t figure out what word was being yowped. Perhaps the English accent threw the writer. Nevertheless, you’ve got to give Mr. Fink some credit for a dry sense of humour, revealing for the first—and probably only—time, Boo Boo’s place of birth.


  1. Hi Yowp,

    I have to say, this is just my first time visting your blog but I love it. I love the early H-B shorts and I'm glad to see a blog dedicated to them. BTW, I though I was the only person on blogger with Jack Shaindlin listed under his favorite music. Nice!

  2. Kevin, the ideal early HB cartoon for me would be a combination of the 1st and 2nd years of the half-hour shows. If you took the Maltese and Foster scripts of the 2nd season and used the kinds of poses of the 1st season, you'd have some great little cartoons (though I'd love to have seen them tell Carlo Vinci to pull off some wilder takes).

    I'm a great fan of 50s production libraries and, though some of the music wasn't used well in the HB cartoons, the Capitol/Langlois beds are more enjoyable than Hoyt Curtin's stock cues. Shaindlin's marches and dramatic stuff leaves me a little cold, but his lighter stuff is really interesting musically. Several other production music composers of the late 40s have a similar sound. There are probably some cues of his which could have worked really well in the HB cartoons but were never picked for some reason; perhaps budgetary.