Saturday, 12 June 2010

Huckleberry Hound — Barbecue Hound

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Story Sketches and Dialogue – Charlie Shows and Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Cast: Narrator, Dog – Don Messick; Huck, cop – Daws Butler.
First Aired: January 26, 1959.
Plot: Huck tries to stop a dog from stealing his barbequed steak

Suburbia was rife with possibilities for 1950s animated satire or even lampooning, so it’s a shame Hanna and Barbera didn’t grab the opportunity to do that with this cartoon. Putting Huck in the middle of a narrated spot-gag piece on barbequing could have been pretty funny, and it’s the kind of cartoon that Charlie Shows had written for Yogi Bear.

Instead, we get Huck taking on what would be a stock Hanna-Barbera character for years—the snickering dog. Well, not at the beginning of the cartoon. It starts out like a little spot gag opus, but it’s actually a case of Joe Barbera once again going back and borrowing from the M.G.M. days—in this case, a gag from Barbecue Brawl (1956), a truly disjointed cartoon with no story credit.

The short opens with a pan across a lazy suburban weekend afternoon. Thin trails of smoke rise above Art Lozzi’s elm trees, and the happy voice of Don Messick and the pleasant domestic music of Bill Loose and John Seely fill the air. “One of America’s favourite outdoor sports is the backyard barbeque,” exclaims the cheerful voice, and then the shot dissolves to Huckleberry Hound rolling his frying rig onto the back lawn. We get a good look at it. For seven whole seconds, nothing is on the screen except the shot of the barbeque as the narration carries the cartoon.

Messick sets up the opening gag by understating the actions of Huck on the screen as he adds wood and coal to his barbeque and lights a match. We can anticipate the result. This, more or less, is the opening of Barbecue Brawl, in a scene by Ken Muse (you can see the “Muse teeth” on Spike, below right) who also animated this cartoon. To add to the similarity, Daws Butler voices both Huck and Spike, the latter getting a Jimmy Durante voice like the one H-B later transplanted into Doggie Daddy.

With that out of the way, the cartoon gets into the real plot which is borrowed from the last part of Barbecue Hound when Spike is trying to protect his barbequed steak from the clutches of ants, which was actually a reworking of the ending of Pup on a Picnic (1955), the first cartoon where an H-B character used the word “pic-a-nic” (Spike, not the yet-to-be-invented Yogi Bear). But I digress.

The narrator and camera shot both announce the arrival of the steak which grabs the immediate attention of the dog next door. Here’s the odd case of the same species where one acts doggish and another that acts human (Huck), but Huck’s character is so clearly defined, no one really thinks about it.

“It won’t be long now. Yummy, yummy!” says the narrator as Huck watches the sizzling steak. The dog helpfully barks indicating to Huck to add salt and turn it over. “Next thing you know,” remarks Huck, “he’ll be telling me when the steak’s done.” And he does in a variation of the old ‘watch dog’ joke. Oh, and he takes off with the steak. “You know sumpin’? They sure do make dogs smarter ‘n’ they used to,” ironically observes the hound.

“But a true blue barbequer never gives up,” states the narrator. And neither does the dog. First, Huck plays ‘Fetch the Ball’ with the dog, who manages to grab the second steak after turning around and tossing the ball for Huck to fetch. Next, he somehow gets the barbeque up a tree (“Dogs can’t climb trees,” advises the narrator) but the dog chops it down and runs off with the meat, though we never see the tree fall or the resultant damage; the camera stays on the dog with the axe and the next shot is reused running-away animation.

Because there’s so much padding, we’re already at the second-last joke. The dog starts to use magnetism to attract the metallic barbeque away from the rifle-clad Huck but he stops it, turns it around, and jumps on it. Down the street goes Huck, riding the barbeque past the same house ten times with the off-camera dog racing after him. “Too smart for you, eh doggie?” he shouts at the pooch when, as you might guess, the sound of a police siren is heard. It’s a traffic cop pulling him over for having “no nothin’” after the somewhat ironic question “Where’s the fire, Speedy?” (after all, Huck is on a barbeque).

The ending is reminiscent Dragon-Slayer Huck, where friend and foe get together indoors to eat broiled food. “Although barbequing is best outdoors,” the narrator informs us, “there are times when you can’t be outdoors.” This is one of them as Huck has landed in jail. So he’s barbequing indoors. But his happiness is interrupted by the sound of barking. The dog is shoved in the cell with him for having no license or leash. Huck decides “like a good barbequer” that he’s licked but, as usual, isn’t bothered about it in the slightest. So he asks the dog how he’d like his steak. The dog finally bark-speaks “Well done!” turns to the camera and snickers in the way we’ll come to see time and time again from different Hanna-Barbera characters for several decades to come. You can read more about it at THIS post.

Nothing really surprising about the music in this cartoon; all the main first-season Huck composers are represented. Huck hums ‘Clementine’ under the opening Loose-Seely music as he brings out the barbeque.

0:00 – Huck-Clementine sub main title theme (Curtin).
0:26 - TC-436 SHINING DAY (Loose-Seely) – Huck blows himself up with barbeque flame.
1:32 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Huck brings out steak, dog grabs steak.
2:54 - LAF-5-20 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Dog runs away, Huck talks to camera.
3:06 - ZR-52 LIGHT QUIET (Hormel) – Huck and dog play ball.
4:26 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Huck in tree, dog chops it down.
5:24 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck on guard with rifle, dog brings out magnet.
5:40 - SF-10 SKI(ING?) GALOP (Lou De Francesco) – Barbeque attracted by magnet, Huck rides barbeque; pulled over by cop.
6:17 - TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Cop writes ticket, Huck in jail, cell door opens.
6:47 - bassoon and zig-zag strings (Shaindlin) – Dog shoved into cell, snickers to audience.
7:10 - Huck sub end title theme (Curtin).


  1. Hi Yowp,

    Any significance to the graffiti on the wall of Huck's cell? (The name "Tony '37" and the date 8/7/32?)

  2. Dogs can't climb trees, unless it is Huckleberry..:)

  3. Dan, I wondered that, too (in Cellbound, there's something on the cell wall signed by Art Goble and Vera Ohman) but can't think of anything. Art Lozzi did backgrounds in this but he was born in 1929. So I can only guess it's random.

  4. Was Tony Benedict working at Hanna-Barbera by the end of 1958? I don't think so, but he's the only one I can think of who'd be young enough so that the "Tony '37" reference would make sense.

  5. No, he was still at Disney. He went to UPA in '59 then to HB.

  6. Maybe it was a reference to layout artist Tony Rivera. Just a thought. I have no idea myself. I really don't know too much about him.

  7. No, Rob’to, he wasn’t there until the second season, so it can’t be him. My guess is it was an arbitrary thing.

  8. I never knew Tony Benedict worked at Disney. It couldn't have been very long. It seemed that by the mid-50s Milt Schaffer, Bill Berg and Dave Detiege were the primary writers there- at least in the short subject division.

    Before Benedict became a fixture at H-B in 1961, there are only two credits I've seen for him: one TV Magoo short (co-credited with Bob Ogle) and one KFS Popeye short from the Kinney unit.