Saturday, 3 December 2011

Huckleberry Hound — A Bully Dog

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – ?, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson (no credits).
Voice Cast – Huckleberry Hound – Daws Butler; Narrator, Dog, Woman – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose, Phil Green, Spencer Moore, Geordie Hormel, Jack Shaindlin, Raoul Kraushaar?, Hoyt Curtin, unknown.
First Aired: week of November 2, 1959 (rerun, week of June 6, 1960)
Production No K-031.
Plot: Huck must get past a dog to deliver a telegram.

You can’t get much more basic than this cartoon. Dog snickers. Huck chats to audience then tries to get something past dog. Dog crushes plan. Dog snickers. Huck makes crack to audience. And over and over it goes until Huck succeeds and there’s a surprise ending.

Yes, this is the plot of Postman Panic from the previous season, except Warren Foster made Huck a messenger boy instead of a postman. Yes, the same white, studded-collared, snickering dog that bothered Huck in Postman Panic and, originally, in Fireman Huck, is back. And, yes, this is pretty well a tried and true cartoon format; you don’t have look much past some of the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons that Foster wrote.

This is the only Huck cartoon I can’t find any credits for. You can easily tell the animation is by Ken Muse. For the first two seasons of the Huck show, no one else drew characters with a thin, half-row of upper teeth. The most interesting background is the very simple, stylised streetscape at the start of the cartoon; Dick Thomas does the same sort of thing in Nuts Over Mutts the following season.. And as for character design, check out the dowager with the Fred Flintstone Five o’clock Shadow. If I had to guess, I’d say Tony Rivera or Bick Bickenbach was responsible; it’s sure not Walt Clinton’s work.

Well, the opening’s nice, too. A map of North America with different vast communication hubs, like Minot, North Dakota, lighting up as Don Messick’s narration builds. “Today, the very life of a nation depends on swift communication,” he announces in his best documentary style (appropriately, a cut called ‘Documentary Main Title’ in the Hi-Q library is in the background). Two background drawings of telegraph poles follow, with the camera panning over them, quicker and quicker, meaning about eight seconds of no footage for Ken Muse to draw. “Millions of messages are sped across the wires, linking city to city. And the final link in this chain of speed, speed and more speed is—the messenger boy!”

That’s when Huck strolls into the picture, kicking a can on a sidewalk, singing ‘Clementine.’ He’s got a message to deliver to Mr. Muggins, 400 Regency Drive. He reaches the address. But there’s a dog house. “That can mean trouble.” We can see the dog hiding behind a tree, out of Huck’s sight. Cue the snickering. The half-eye look is a novel design.

The snickering gets really tiresome after awhile. Evidently someone at Hanna-Barbera realised that. About a decade later, Precious Pupp generally limited his snickering as a cap after the bad guy got powdered, not before and after.

Huck doesn’t have any uproarious lines. But it’s typical Huck. He makes his casual observations, then deals with pain, but doesn’t get bothered by anything that happens to him. Daws Butler adeptly bends some syllables that I couldn’t begin to try to spell.

Another old cartoon device is dredged up—the instructional manual with advice that never works. Huck has one on how to deal with dogs (but shouldn’t he know? He is a dog, you know). That’s where the gags come in. Here’s a summary of them.

● Huck asks the dog to “come and sniff my friendly hand. Closer. Closer.” The dog bites it. “That’s a might too close.”
● Huck gives the dog a bone to bury. The dog buries the bone—and Huck.
● Huck does a high wire act to get to the house. The dog runs into the house and gets a rolled up trampoline. I like the shot from Huck’s perspective of the trampoline; there are a few looking slightly up layouts in the cartoon as well. The dog bounces higher and higher on the trampoline (to some music that’s joined in progress; the edit is not good) and bites Huck in the butt.

● Huck uses a pair of bed springs (Mike Maltese used this gag in Ready, Woolen and Able, one of his last Warners cartoons before leaving for Hanna-Barbera). The dog swats him down with a tennis racket before Huck can get over the brick fence. Huck bounces down a manhole and bounces up and down in the sewer, his head bulging the road above. “Well, back to the li’l ol’ helpful hints book,” is the best tag line that Foster can come up with. No snickering in this scene.
● Huck hides in “a ashcan.” The dog, who is on a branch up a tree, drops a convenient anvil on him (the impact is off camera).
● Huck (without a Tarzan yell) swings from a thin rope toward an open winder, uh, window. The dog and his trowel quickly fill the window with bricks. Huck crashes into them. “Well, at least I got to the door,” he sighs to us.

● Huck rings the doorbell. “Telegram for Mr. Muggins!” The woman with the 5 o’clock shadow opens up and cries for Mr. Muggins. It turns out Mr. Muggins is the dog, who chomps Huck on the butt again. She sent the telegram to her dog for his birthday. Despite all this, the smiling Huck is delighted to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the dog, still attached to his rear because “it’s the Code of the Messenger Boys.” So the cartoon ends with ‘Happy Birthday’ sung to ‘Clementine,’ as the dog snickers.

Foster brought back the dog and his snicker the following season in the funnier Nuts Over Mutts. The dog doesn’t have a name in that one. Those inflicted with Continuity Obsession Disorder will now insist the dog is named “Mr. Muggins” in all his appearances, but the name was merely used to set up a gag in this one cartoon. Yowp recommends anyone who can’t control their desire to inflict continuity on cartoons in an era where such never existed should join C.O. Anonymous.

The sound cutter back-timed a circus-evoking cue in the trampoline scene, but I can only guess its origin; probably the Sam Fox library, though Jack Shaindlin liked using saxophones in some late ‘40s cues. And that unidentified short, reverb, muted trumpet and bass clarinet cue makes another appearance.

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title theme (Curtin).
0:13 - EM-147 DOCUMENTARY MAIN TITLE (Green) – Telegraph poles, can kicked on sidewalk.
0:32 - Clementine (Trad.) – Huck appears, Narrator: “Delivering a message to...”
0:49 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – “Mr Muggins...”, dog bites Huck, opens book, decides to be friendly.
2:21 - creepy reverb muted trumpet cue (Kraushaar?) – Dog bites hand scene.
2:49 - ZR-51 LIGHT ANIMATION (Hormel) – Huck decides to get bone, drops bone on string.
3:09 - LICKETY SPLIT (Shaindlin) – “Whilst I deliver...”, dog buries Huck.
3:30 - LAF 27-6 UNTITED TUNE (Shaindlin) - Huck reads book, walks line toward house.
3:51 - LICKETY SPLIT (Shaindlin) – Dog runs out of house with newspaper.
3:56 - Clementine (Trad.) – Huck on line, dog snickers next to trampoline.
4:14 - trapeze music (unknown) – Huck on wire, dog bites Huck in butt.
4:28 - TC-437 SHOPPING DAY (Loose-Seely) – Huck on bed springs scene.
5:12 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose) – Garbage can/anvil scene.
5:38 - C-14 DOMESTIC LIGHT (Loose) – Window scene, Huck talks to woman.
6:38 - Clementine (Trad.) – Huck sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to dog.
6:55 - Huckleberry Hound End bumper cue (Curtin) – cartoon fades out.
6:58 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin).


  1. At the end of the episode when Huckleberry sings the telegram, his voice changes. Why is that?

  2. Andrew, I've listened back to the cartoon and Daws' voice doesn't change at all. He's using the same pitch and accent. That's just the way Huck sings.

  3. By the design, it looks like the Tony Rivera's desgin.