Saturday, 18 June 2011

Huckleberry Hound — Huck the Giant Killer

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Dick Lundy; Layout – Tony Rivera; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Warren Foster; Story Direction – Alex Lovy; Titles – Lawrence Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huck, Giant – Daws Butler; Narrator, Cuckoo – Don Messick.
Music: Geordie Hormel, Jack Shaindlin; Bill Loose; John Seely; Spencer Moore; Raoul Kraushaar?
First aired: week of November 30, 1959 (repeat week of June 20, 1960).
Plot: Huck is hired to dispose a mediaeval giant.

You’ve got to love Hanna-Barbera cartoon license. It enables Quick Draw McGraw to drive a jeep, even though his cartoons are supposed to be set in the Old West. And it enables Huckleberry Hound to have a 1920s telephone in mediaeval England. Oh, well. As Tex Avery approximately said “Anything’s possible in one of these here cartoon pictures.”

This cartoon has my favourite version of Huck. He’s an average guy, not the moron he was miscast in several other second season cartoons. He just plugs along, confiding in (and telling jokes to) the audience as he wanders deeper into the plot. Warren Foster’s sense of the absurd, a funny throwaway gag and an ending out of nowhere are highlights here.

The man who was arguably Walter Lantz’s best director (except maybe to Shamus Culhane fans) animates this cartoon and Dick Lundy didn’t have to pick up his pencil right away. For the first 22 seconds, all we see is camerawork over two background drawings. It sets up the plot that Huck Hound is a giant killer in Merrie Olde England. Huck’s talking to a potential customer on the aforementioned anachronistic aural communication device.

Huck: Giant over Shopshire [sic] way? Crushed the barn and made off with the cattle? Well, I mean, that’s the usual pattern. Their M.O. cards all read the same.

Fortunately, it’s a one-headed giant, not a two- or three-headed variety, therefore Huck easily can fit in the job. After singing part of a chorus of that mediaeval favourite ‘Clementine,’ Huck understatedly points out “Giants always leave some subtle indication that enables an experienced tracker” to find them. In this case, it’s huge footprints nobody could miss, leading to “the old Schultz place” (I’d like to think he means “Schulz”, but you can hear the “t” pronounced).

Here’s the throwaway gag. Huck follows the direction on the sign “Blow Horn For Admittance.” He gets covered in pink goo. “Hmm. These kids stick their bubble gum in the darndest places,” he tells us.

Huck keeps up his steady patter to the view. He yells at the door to the giant’s castle: “Alright, Shortie, open the door,” then turns to us and adds “I calls this giant ‘shortie.’ ‘Cause, uh, that’s kind of a gag sayin’ we got in the trade.” Here’s Bob Gentle’s background. The camera pans over it after Huck peeks through the door.

It turns out the giant is sleeping or “paralysed with fear” in Huck’s mind. The gags:

The snoozing giant reacts to Huck clobbering him on the head by crunching him with a fly-swatter.
Giant falls chasing Huck because of a rope tied to his leg. Clobberings have no effect. Giant: “Fee fo fi found. I smell a Huckleberry Hound.” Huck, to viewers: “That’s giant-talk. Silly, isn’t it?”
Huck hides in cuckoo clock from giant (somehow, the rope got removed), pops out at the stroke of two (though the clock reads ‘1’ and doesn’t chime). Clobberings have no effect. The fun part is Huck strangling the cuckoo bird, who is yelling “Let me go.”
The old shell game as Huck hides under cup (plot filler, no jokes) then Huck skating on top of a cake. Huck, joking to viewers: “This slippery icin’ reminds me of the old mill pond in winter. I used to do figure eights the hard way. Two fours.” He skates right into the giant’s mouth. There’s no gag line as he forces his way out.

Finally, Huck inventively quells the giant by clobbering his foot, then slingshotting a reducing pill into the giant’s mouth while he screams in pain. Cartoon reducing pills always provide instant results. The giant shrinks with a little popping sound effect and two sets of different-sized lines (on twos) over his head. Huck tells the giant to run along and figure out what happened. Huck to viewers: “Say! You notice that ‘shortie’ name kindly fits now.”

And Huck sings ‘Clementine’ as he walks right to left, the same background rolling past him three times. “Another day, another giant,” he casually tells us.

All the music works well enough in this cartoon. When the giant shrinks, the sound cutter uses part of a series of bassoon elements lumped together in one cue. I haven’t been able to determine if the instrumental of ‘Clementine’ Huck sings overtop is stock music or something Hoyt Curtin arranged for underscore use.

0:00 - Huck Sub Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:14 - ZR-103 PERIOD MAIN TITLE (Hormel) – Pan over countryside and Huck’s door.
0:35 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose) – Huck on phone.
1:12 - Clementine (trad.) – Huck walks and sings, spots footprints.
1:17 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Camera follows footprints, gum gag, pan of castle interior.
2:14 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Huck walking in castle, fly swatter gag.
3:15 - creepy trumpet reverb music (Kraushaar?) – Huck ties rope to bed, giant falls down.
4:04 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Bops giant on head, runs away, giant runs to cuckoo clock.
4:40 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Huck and bird come out of clock, shell game, Huck lands on ice.
5:33 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Skating scene, Huck pops out of giant’s mouth.
5:55 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck behind chair leg, shoots pill into giant.
6:27 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Giant shrinks.
6:32 - ZR-52 LIGHT MOVEMENT aka LIGHT QUIET (Hormel) – “Well, that did it,” “Another day, another giant.
6:49 - Clementine (trad.) – Huck walks and sings.
6:59 - Huckleberry Hound sub-end title theme (Curtin).


  1. This is one of those "ultra-low key" cartoons that Hanna-Barbera developed for Huck, since they couldn't surround it with the same sort of full animation gags Avery and Lah did in their cartoons with Daws' laconic voice. The success of that voice and Foster's dialogue is what makes it succeed, and looking back today, it's quite a change from the H-B cartoons that would come only 3-4 years later, when laconic was out and all shorts had to be five minutes of perpetual non-stop limited animation wackiness.

  2. "Hey, Shorty! Oh, Shorty!" I love this cartoon.

  3. As I’ve said elsewhere on this Blog, Quick Draw drove a jeep because he couldn’t be seen riding a horse.

    And the King in “Dragon Slayer Huck” has a SERIES of telephones (“Help! The Dragon!”) …and apparently no secretary to answer them so , by the time we got to “Giant Killer”, who even noticed Huck’s phone.

    Even more remarkable was Touché Turtle’s phone, which could seemingly receive calls THROUGH TIME ITSELF. From Julius Caesar, Captain Ahab, etc.

    After growing up on Huck as a little kid, I caught up with him again in my mid-teens. It was the line in this cartoon about “Their MO cards all read[ing] the same!” that told me that Huck was written for a more adult and general audience than the silly and forgettable seventies cartoons that were polluting the airwaves at the time! I remember that line to this day!

    I want this on DVD!!!!

  4. Excellent use of the old fairy-tale giant type character. And the music selections DEFINITELY work for the cartoon, likewise "I never seen such a hard head","Y'all g'wawn home now, and
    figger it out for yourself Shorty","three headed giant, four headed"..from Huck, and "Fee Fi Fo Found, I Smell the Blood of Huckleberry Hound","He must there. here".. & finally (after being shrunk, his last words) "What happen"(sic) from the giant.

    Interesting that you should mention Walter Lantz, Yowp, he did one of the best Jack/giant cartoons, the 1946(?) Woody one with:
    Giant:"Fee, Fi, Fo Fum...I smell"
    Woody Woodpecker (cutting him off):"You sure do"!LOL

    Steve C.
    -probaly the second most devoted Huck fan after G.Chenoweth...

  5. Ironic that the title is "Huck, the Giant Killer"- because he really doesn't "kill" anyone (unless you count his manipulating Dinky Dalton's bullet so that he ends up shooting himself in "Sheriff Huckleberry"). Huck is, by nature, a gentle soul who wouldn't harm anyone. But, since he's supposed to be a "giant killer" in this story, he aupposed to do his job {which he does by trying to smack the giant's nose a bit}. But he KNOWS he's not going to really "kill" anyone, so he dispatches the giant by literally cutting him down to size. To Huck, that's "killing a giant".