Saturday, 14 January 2012

Huckleberry Hound — Pony Boy Huck

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – La Verne Harding; Layout – Tony Rivera; Backgrounds – Bob Gentle; Story – Warren Foster; Story Sketches – Dan Gordon; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Narrator, Chief Crazy Coyote, Vulture, 2nd Pony Express Manager – Don Messick; Huckleberry Hound, Pony Express Manager, Horse – Daws Butler.
Music: Spencer Moore; Jack Shaindlin; Raoul Kraushaar?
First aired: week of Dec. 28, 1959 (rerun, week of July 4, 1960).
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show No K-035.
Plot: Pony Express rider Huck has to get the mail past Chief Crazy Coyote.

Chief Crazy Coyote and the Joe Besser horse are back in La Verne Harding’s first attempt at animating Huck (her last one was in the fourth season). Harding’s animation is pretty undistinguished here, and Tony Rivera’s design of the horse is much more streamlined than Walt Clinton’s in the first Huck/Crazy Coyote match-up. Warren Foster’s story has some cute bits in it.

Foster used a narration device in a bunch of cartoons, with Don Messick as a narrator intoning “This picture is dedicated to...” This was the first one where he tried it. (Pet Vet and Huck’s Hack were the others in Huck’s second season). In this case, it’s “dedicated to the memory of the Pony Express riders” and opens with Huck and his horse in long shot. Foster tries a running gag when Huck enters the Pony Express office. Huck’s told he’s being assigned the duty of delivering a package because “you, above all others, live up to our proud motto.” Huck doesn’t know what he’s talking about. After it’s explained (“the mail must go through”), Huck promises he will live up to the “proud mott-to.” As he walks to the horse stable, he repeats the sentence over and over, emphasising a different word each time. “I gots to ree-member to learn that proud mott-to.”

The next gag’s fun. Huck’s horse is reluctant to take him on the delivery. He peeks out of the stable and up and puts his hoof out. “Oh, come on! It’s not rainin’!” Huck shouts at him.

Okay, the narration sets up some spot gags of Huck getting on the horse. He slides along the side of the galloping horse to mount him. “Performed at full speed, it was a beautiful thing to watch,” says our solemn narrator. Huck crashes into a fence post. Hanna’s timing is perfect. “As we were saying...” intones Messick. This time, the horse mounts Huck. “Now what did I do wrong?” Huck says to the audience.

We fade into the next scene and Huck is riding the horse. Huck hits the horse with a switch to get him to go faster. The horse stops, turns and tells him he doesn’t like it and won’t say it. Foster resists the temptation to add “Or I’ll give you such a pinch. You cra-zy!”

If you’ve lost track, Crazy Coyote is supposed to be the antagonist. We’re a third of the way through the cartoon and he hasn’t shown up yet. Foster has to toss in a “Neither rain, nor snow” narration gag. Messick describes torrential rains, snow-choked passes (all we see is a hat moving on top of the snow) and the deepest rivers. The horse stops short of the river but all Huck does it fly across to the other side with a wimpy sound effect landing. The gag is apparently the way Daws Butler bends his vowels when he says “starch” and “cuffs.”

Huck’s now in ‘Injun Country’, where you “cain’t be too careful...Ol’ Crazy Coyote shows up where you least expect him.” While Huck’s saying all this, the top-hatted chief is sitting right behind him on the horse, baying like (presumably) a coyote, and Huck’s telling us a coyote’s out there and not far away. Huck doesn’t notice for a good 20 seconds of screen time until Craze says he wants off at Big Rock. And even then, he’s pretty casual about it, telling him it’s against the rules to take on riders. “Oh, bro-ther!” says the Besser horse. And he doesn’t even know it’s Crazy Coyote until the chief tells him in the next scene. Harding wastes a chance at a take. All that happens is the camera cuts from a two-shot of Huck with his eyes half closed and the Chief to a shot of Huck with his eyes fully-opened. Lame.

Foster pulls a gag out of nowhere. Crazy Coyote grabs the letter Huck’s delivering so Huck pulls out his gun. The chief responds by holding up the letter wherever Huck moves the barrel of his gun because if the letter gets damaged by bullets, Huck will be fired. So Huck simply shoots into the air and a buzzard falls from the sky and lands on top of Crazy Coyote. “Sorry I had to use you, Mr. Vulture.” The vulture responds with his best impression of Señor Wences: “S’all right.”

Anyone recognise the next gag? The chief does a war dance. Cut to a shot of a chart that teaches him the steps. The only thing that screws up the bit is he explains what he’s doing and then reads what’s on the chart. Not only can we see it for ourselves, the gag’s over by the time he’s finished talking. Oh, and Craze does his “hee-haw” laugh to stretch out the scene even more.

You should recognise the next gag. Crazy Coyote rolls a boulder down the steep slope of the Great Divide to bowl down Huck and his horse. But “Shucks. Me miss-um.” The boulder rolls past the pair up the other side of a cliff and into the air. Yeah, suddenly Crazy Coyote is emulating another cartoon coyote. The boulder lands on top of him as he looks at the audience, gets into a Jackie Gleason-esque pose and says “And away-um we go.” The scene ends with Crazy (Coyote, not Guggenheim) under the rock giving a weird muffled laugh that sounds like Gloop or Gleep from The Herculoids (also voiced by Don Messick).

Short gag. Narrator: “But as the brave rider presses on”—we see more cycle footage of Huck riding the horse—“a relentless redskin draws a bead and fires!” Crazy Coyote turns as he aims his rifle and points it against a rock. The bullet, of course, can’t get out the front end, so it explodes inside the rifle. Muffled laugh by Craze again.

Huck finally arrives at the Pony Express station. But the horse keeps riding right through it, up a flight of stairs (as we can tell by the camera pan up and to the left) and out an upstairs window. Foster just gives Huck a few “whoa”s but avoids turning him into Yosemite Sam going “Aw, come on, horsey, pretty please” and so on (Foster, of course, wrote a majority of the Bugs-Sam cartoons at Warners).

So Huck “brought the mail through, just like our motto says,” the Pony Express guy behind the desk tells him. “Well, I’m right humble, and grateful, and proud, and grateful and humble...” “Never mind all that,” the Express guy interrupts. He hands Huck the letter and him told he has to deliver it in person—to Chief Crazy Coyote. The final scene has a close-up of Huck, with galloping sounds in the background, telling us he has to keep his eyes peeled for Crazy Coyote because he’s liable to show up any place. Cut to a medium shot that reveals Huck is riding atop Crazy Coyote’s hat. We hear the hee-haw laugh and the cartoon fades out to end.

Crazy Coyote made one more appearance, in the third season’s Huck Hound’s Tale, which is similar in plot to the first season cartoon written by Charlie Shows.

The music is a bit of a nightmare here. Someone decided to give Huck a chase cue every time he rode his horse, and Crazy Coyote a couple of the standard Indian cues in the Hi-Q library when he appeared. But there are cases when a cue is heard for a few seconds, then the sound cutter cuts into the middle of one of the familiar pieces of stock music generally used on Huck cartoons. It doesn’t flow. You can hear the interruption. If you have a staff composer, (s)he can blend it together, but it doesn’t work with a stock library of different composers, arrangements and tempos.

You’ll see I haven’t identified most of the music. I have some chase themes on a few reels of the Hi-Q ‘D’ series which sound similar to what’s used when Huck’s on horseback but not that one. That’s if it is only one; I honestly can’t tell. My guess is the chase theme and the Indian music were written by whoever ghost-wrote for Geordie Hormel or Spencer Moore. The Indian music may be in the Hi-Q ‘X’ series but I haven’t been able to locate it. The chase cue was only used in this one cartoon.

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title theme (Curtin)
0:25 - medium dramatic chase (?) – long shot of Huck and horse on plains, Huck walks into Pony Express Station
0:38 - creepy reverb trumpet music (Kraushaar?) – Huck in Pony Express office.
1:09 - L-70 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Huck mumbles to himself, horse looks for rain, horse takes off.
1:38 - medium dramatic chase (?) – Huck tries to get on horse, horse skids to stop.
2:14 - TC-201 PIXIE COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Horse complains to Huck.
2:35 - medium dramatic chase (?) – Huck on horse, weather gags.
3:03 - four beat tom-tom/flute cue (?) – shot of Injun Territory map, Crazy Coyote howls like coyote.
3:19 - medium dramatic chase (?) – Huck on horseback, “Whoa!”
3:49 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck talks to Crazy Coyote, Vulture drops on Crazy Coyote.
4:35 - medium dramatic chase (?) – Huck on horse.
4:39 - four beat tom-tom/flute cue (?) – Chief does war dance, shot of foot chart.
4:57 - two drum-beat cue (?) – Crazy Coyote laughs.
4:59 - medium dramatic chase (?) – Huck and horse up Great Divide, slide down.
5:14 - four beat tom-tom/flute cue (?) – Crazy Coyote on mountain, pushes rock.
5:20 - medium dramatic chase (?) – Huck and horse slide down, rock goes past them, lands on Crazy Coyote,
5:31 - four beat tom-tom/flute cue (?) – Crazy Coyote looks down hill.
5:35 - medium dramatic chase (?) – Rock rolls down mountain, crashes on Crazy Coyote, Huck rides, Crazy Coyote’s rifle goes off, horse rides into Pony Express office.
6:23 - no music. Pan up side of building, Huck and horse crash through window, thud.
6:32 - PIXIE PRANKS (Shaindlin) – Huck in office.
6:55 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Huck on Crazy Coyote.
7:10 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin)


  1. I sometimes wonder about Foster’s doing sequels to a number of the First Season Barbera / Shows cartoons – like this one, the one with Leroy the Lion, Powerful Pierre, Dinky Dalton, etc. And, if memory serves for certain cartoons I haven’t seen in over two decades (due to their not being on DVD!), Pierre and Dinky even *looked different* in that “Foreign Legion” cartoon and the one with Dinky as a prisoner on a train.

    Did H. and B. actually tell Foster to write sequels to these? Or, did Foster simply try to draw and expand on some of the existing works? Guess we’ll never know…

  2. Joe, just judging by what Barbera said at the time, Kellogg's looked at characters and suggested other cartoons be made with them. That's how Snuffles ended up in a bunch of cartoons. So I suspect Barbera told Foster that the sponsors wanted them developed so he went to work.

  3. Makes sense, Yowp!

    Leroy would certainly have been merchandisable – and, potentially, the star of a Kellogg’s/H-B series of his own. I could see the same for Iggy and Ziggy. Even the Snickering Dog and Wee Willie could probably have sustained the rigors of merchandising.

    The two wolves from “Sheep-Shape Sheepherder” clearly evolved into Hokey Wolf and Ding-a-Ling.

    Same for The Little Duck in early Yogi Bear becoming Yakky Doodle. And even Yowp became a very successful blogger.

  4. Do you know how someone could get a video copy of this very episode?