Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Hanna-Barbera Smackdown

Who’s better—the blue hound from North Carolina or “the high-falutin’-est...”? Well, you know the lyrics.

Personally, Quick Draw is my favourite. Maybe the goofiness of the series appeals to my sense of humour. There’s El Kabong with his out-of-tune guitar bashing. There’s Snuffles mmm-mmming about dog biscuits more than any dog has a right to do. There’s Baba Looey with his Desi Arnaz-invoking mangling of the language. There’s the punny, deliberately redundant and occasionally incongruous dialogue that Mike Maltese invents for all the characters. And I say this as one who has no interest in westerns.

However, not all viewers agree. Here’s a piece from the L.A. Times of April 18, 1960 with an opposing viewpoint. It’s another column proving the incredible popularity of the early Hanna-Barbera cartoons with adults. Remember, these were not made for Saturday morning cartoons; such a children’s programming concept hadn’t quite been invented yet. They originally ran in the early evening hours just before prime time.

I’ve held off reprinting this story because I can’t quite decipher all the words. I don’t have access to the Times via Google on-line. If someone out there does and can help me fill in some blanks, the readers here would appreciate it. Because of this, one line doesn’t quite make sense but you can probably get the flavour of it.

Huck Hound Has Everybody Treed

An erudite friend of mine who spends most of his time exploring the political and social cancers in our society and writing eloquent prose about them suddenly broke off the other Tuesday from a lecture he was giving on the mating habits of the soldiers of Attila the Hun and, to the astonishment of the bartender and others there gathered, made a wild dash for the door. “I forgot it was Tuesday,” he cried departing. “Must get home. Can’t miss Huckleberry Hound.”
A few days later, a 3-year-old of my acquaintance who excels in finger painting on surfaces like my living room walls dashed toward me, his eyes fastened delightedly on a glass I held with cartoon characters running around it and cried: “Hoooound! Yogi Bear! Meeece!”
Television, I have always felt, makes strange bedfellows—particularly during the Late, Late show—but Huckleberry, who cavorts on Channel 11 each Tuesday night at 7, produces the strangest pairs of all. He and his animated friends are the darlings of the eggheads. Equally, they are the delight of the small fry, which, I suppose, only goes to show the similarity between the intellectual and the child—the intellectual because he sees clearly through the muddy blankets wrapped around him by parents, schools, advertisements and the other complications of civilization, and the child whose vision is equally clear because he has not yet been cocooned.
Find Opportunities to Be Absurd.
I asked my intellectual friend the other day over a dash of schnapps why Huckleberry enthralls him. His answer: “What makes Huckleberry Hound and his stock company so merry is that they don’t labor their satire. Maybe they start for an agreed destination but in their half-hour progression they find so many opportunities to be absurd that they forget their main point and, like Aristophanes, lay about at everything. You can almost hate children for enjoying Huckleberry so much; he is too good for the brats.
This naturally called for a reply from my 3-year-old friend who threw back his blond head and, in the chilling tones of an Apache, cried: “Hoooound!” For me, Huckleberry has in it the magical qualities that make “Alice in Wonderland” worth re-reading every year or two—just to keep your sanity in a world full of Bourbon Street beats. And, like Huckleberry, “Alice” is the delight of the egghead and the child.”
I don’t mean to slight Huckleberry’s pal Quick Draw McGraw, which bounces on Channel 11 tonight and each Monday at 7. But Quick Draw’s satire is a bit more current, a little more pat—and less wonderful to me—than Huckleberry’s. Both programs, as you know, Hanna-Barbera Productions. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera first gained fame for their Tom and Jerry cartoons for MGM which won seven Academy Awards. The boys now have on their drawing boards a series called The Flintstones, an animated situation comedy aimed at adults which will occupy ABC next season on Fridays at the adult time of 8:30. It deals with family life in the caveman era and it rather distresses my friend at the bar.
“There go my Fridays,” he murmured.

Of course, as time eventually marched on (while actually marching back, in a way), it turned out the cavepeople jumped into the ring and, with the aid of foreign objects like bird record needles and Water Buffalo hats, won the popularity smackdown. Despite Gazoo.


  1. Having been raised in Kentucky, I was naturally drawn toward the Southern drawl of Mr. Hound (and Andy Griffith, too. How'd his kid end up sounding so Californian?). That being said, although the Western theme to Quick Draw wasn't as compelling, I LOVED the concept of El Kabong as did my friends. A neighborhood buddy of mine cracked a plastic Mickey Mouse guitar over his little brother's head, necessitating a trip to the ER for stitches and a rather severe grounding! All elements considered, I think Huck still ever so slightly edges out "Queeks Draw". But not by much.

  2. The variations on the available story lines gives Huck the edge for me -- not that Quick Draw wasn't a good character or Maltese's El Kabong concept wasn't a great parody of the Zorro craze, but because virtually all the episodes were set in similar locations, they tend to blend into my memory a little more than the Huck shorts did. But Quick Draw still is in my Top 3 of H-B short subject characters, along with the dog and the bear.

  3. As I've mentioned many times on this board, I love Huck because he is an easy going Mr. Everyman thrown in a different job and situation every ep. The folksy way he handled every challange had an endearing quality. Having been brought up in the tail end of the " Cisco Kid/ Lone Ranger " era, I also enjoyed Quick Draw. To me, he was almost a parody of a lot of television westerns and heroes at the time. We always had an afternoon western hero or some crime fighter with a secret identity. Quick Draw was both rolled into one. I remember that life would stop when our local afternoon kid's host would run these cartoons. " See ya later..I'm going in to watch Huck-Yogi-Quck Draw....."

  4. Good cartoons are like candy. You have a favorite, but you like them all. Huck, Yogi, and Quick Draw are H-B's best, and all of them are among my favorite cartoons in general. But I do like Huck the best.

    This article was amusing. It reminds of that story where Albert Einstein stopped a conference to watch "Time for Beany". (Did that actually happen?)

  5. Anon, the tale seems to come from a 1977 story about Stan Freberg in the L.A. Times where he mentions the CalTech conference stoppage. The story calls it "probably apocryphal" so it sounds like Stan didn't have first-hand knowledge.

    But I thought the same thing as you.