Saturday, 7 April 2012

Huckleberry Hound — Cop and Saucer

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – Ed Love, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Joe Montell, Story – Warren Foster, Story Direction – Alex Lovy, Titles – Art Goble; Story Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huck Hound, TV Announcer – Daws Butler; Radio Dispatcher, Alien – Don Messick.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Spence Moore, Geordie Hormel, Jack Shaindlin, Phil Green, Raoul Kraushaar?
First Aired: week of December 21, 1959 (rerun, week of June 27, 1960).
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-034.
Plot: Huck thinks a flying saucer is an illegally parked car.

Huckleberry Hound attracted fans because he was laid-back and somewhat naïve. But Warren Foster fiddled with his personality a bit in a handful of cartoons and it wasn’t for the best. Huck became flat-out stupid and couldn’t comprehend something obvious right in front of him. It’s not an endearing characteristic for him.

So that’s why I’m not crazy about this cartoon. I can accept Huck believing a huge flying saucer is a car. Considering designs of cars in the late 1950s, anything was possible. But Huck believing a metal thing with an antenna, and a wheel at the bottom is a person? Sorry, Warren. Yeah, I realise if Huck knew he was a space alien at the start it’d screw up your final gag, but I don’t buy it. He’s not Mr. Magoo who had an excuse for mistaking things in front of him.

Don Messick is admirable in this. At least, I think it’s Don as the alien. Bill Hanna would be too cheap just to bring him in to do a police radio dispatcher. Don had a bunch of different and unique vocal effects, showing what great talent he had.

Ed Love loved teeth, at least in the 1959-60 season. He used little mouth movements in dialogue sequences, with heads going up and down all over, sometimes on ones, sometimes on threes. Huck has teeth in this cartoon. I don’t know why Ed stopped drawing like this about a year later; you don’t really see it in The Flintstones, and certainly not in The Jetsons.

Joe Montell didn’t have an awful lot of backgrounds to draw in this cartoon. Much of the action takes place in a city park and a good portion of that is in front of one background drawing of trees. You can tell it’s Montell because of the dots he uses in the foliage.

And here’s some of the work of Tony Rivera. He’s got a small cast, besides Huck and the alien. One TV newsman. And he designed the props, including the saucer and Huck’s squad car. Oh, and there are some little birds. We’ll get to them in a second.

Foster starts with a dialogue gag after the almost-standard narrator intones about policemen, and how they serve and protect at night, and then introduces Huck. His rendition of ‘Clementine’ is interrupted.

Dispatcher: Attention! Calling Car 6-1-3-4-8-7-6.
Huck: No.
Dispatcher: 9-8-1-1-0-3-5-6-4.
Huck: No.
Dispatcher: 0-2.
Huck: Uh, uh.
Dispatcher: 2.
Huck (turning his eye to the camera): That’s m’car.

The radio sends the hound to the park to investigate a UFO. Huck calls it “ridica-luss.” Cut to the TV newsman who editorialises it’s “the silly season” and laughs at the very idea of a flying saucer. Well, it turns out the reports are true. Huck thinks the saucer must be a foreign car in the middle of the road “obstructing justice” and he goes to ask “that feller over there” if he knows who owns the car. The “feller” is the alien.

Now maybe it isn’t that Foster thinks Huck is a dullard. Maybe he’s woven into his cartoon a veiled commentary on the incompetence of some police investigations and corporate media bias.

Nah. The laughs are how Huck is too brain dead to see a metallic bell-shape isn’t a real person. And that the alien’s disintegrating gun is a kid’s toy (one that “can be downright dangerous in an adult’s hands” Huck tells us).

Well, let’s go through the gags.

► The alien uses a metallic cuff to grab Huck’s neck and throw him back and forth on the ground and finally against a tree. Huck informs us he’s been taught judo at the Police Academy. After getting whooped, he remarks “Of course, there are new holds comin’ along all the time.”
► Huck cuffs the alien. More throwing around (some nice little drawings by Love here).

► Huck pulls on the hand cuff but has trouble dragging the alien away. Cut to a shot of him being cuffed to his car. “I gots to remember t’leave off m’brake next time,” he decides.
► The alien’s ray dissolves Huck’s ticket, a garbage can where he’s hiding, a bird house where he’s hiding, the water in a lake where he’s parked himself and finally his police car as he calls for help. “This is a 7-0-7-3. Whatever that is.”

Huck’s annoyed. He demands the alien to use his car to take them both to the station. The alien carries them into the saucer, which lifts off. For some reason, the alien has the audio of the TV channel piped into his saucer’s control room. The announcer chuckles the saucer’s lifted off with a policeman in it. Huck looks out a porthole. Cut to a drawing of the earth, turning as the camera pulls back. Now clueless Huck clues in to what’s happened and cries as the iris closes.

Not much to say about the music cues in this cartoon. You can hear all 60 seconds of Shaindlin’s ‘On the Run’ starting at 4:35, then the sound cutter has added a little reprise. The short flute effect sounds like something from Phil Green’s Kiddie Comedy Suite but I haven’t been able to find it.

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title theme (Hanna, Barbera, Curtin, Shows)
0:13 - C-19 LIGHT ACTIVITY (Loose) – Pan of city, Huck in squad car.
0:31 - Clementine (Trad.) – Huck sings ‘Clementine’ in car.
0:41 - L-81 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Police radio goes off, duty to check all rumours.
1:06 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Police car speeds, TV announcer, stops squad car.
1:35 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Hormel) – Shot of saucer, Huck demands license.
2:20 - creepy reverb muted trumpet music (Kraushaar?) – Alien pulls out gun, clamps around Huck’s neck.
2:49 - solo flute effect (Green) – Huck to camera “Little does he know.”
2:52 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Alien bashes Huck to the ground, Huck against tree.
3:10 - TC-303 ZANY COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck cuffs alien.
3:36 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Alien pulls back Huck, bashes Huck.
3:44 - C-3 DOMESTIC CHILDREN (Loose) – “Don’t get the picture,” Huck pulls on handcuff, attached to squad car, beam through ticket,
4:35 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Huck hides in garbage can, birds, motorboat, squad car zapped.
6:04 - C-14 DOMESTIC LITE (Loose) – Alien carries Huck into saucer, shot of earth, Huck cries.
6:58 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End-Title theme (Curtin).


  1. I pretty much didn't care for this cartoon the same as you when I saw it back in the 80's. Poor Huck'll probably get probed when it's all said and done.

  2. Between my affection for the work of Charlie Shows, and cartoons like this, I sometimes feel like the “odd man out here”.

    One of my most favorites is “Piccadilly Dilly”, and this one’s out of the same playbook. I also like “Huck’s Hack” and “Science Friction”.

    Yeah, Huck SHOULD be quicker on the uptake, but is he REALLY so much worse here than in (say) “Freeway Patrol”? Maybe Foster just UPPED that a bit, but it was always there.

    Huck “sees what he sees”, “knows what he knows” (and, not a whole lot else, apparently), but is remarkably – almost superhumanly – persevering, and goes through his paces with equally remarkable understatement! I just like that about him!

    This is a very well designed late ‘50s era cartoon, with additional props going to Don Messick for doing that “Throat-Bobbing Thing” (?) he does for alien sounds. Do I recall the sound correctly? It’s been a long while since I’ve see it… Thanks again, Warner Home Video!!!

    It also has my favorite H-B cartoon ending-type (one that soon faded away, alas) where the main character is left in an impossible fix as we fade out. Many of the early ones ended that way, and almost none of the later ones. …Too bad.

  3. To me, Foster kind of borrows from the weakest part of Mike Maltese's script from 1955's "Jumpin' Jupiter", where Porky finally gets to see the bird-like alien and simply brushes him off as a "Friendly Navajo".

    The genius of the Porky-Sylvester trilogy as far as the pig's role went was that he was always on the edge of catching on, but never had enough observable information to get clued in (or, as with the end of "Scaredy Cat" finally did get enough to figure it out). The problem with the 'Navajo' scene, and the problem with Huck here, is you have to go from the 'just not getting all the facts' situation to a 'has all the facts but stupidly ignores them' scenario. It's why a cartoon like this is so tough to put over (even the Jekyll-Hyde cartoons like the Foster-Freleng trilogy or "Picadilly Dilly" require very tight stories to work, because once you do a gag that indicates the 'dupe' has the information to figure out the problem but just refuses to do so, he goes from having the viewer's sympathy to just being an idiot).

  4. 'Freeway Patrol' is different in that Huck shows he's on top of it at the end. And being fooled by bad drag is an old comedy device (and not unknown among some drunken heterosexual men in real life).
    'Picadilly Dilly' would be different if Huck actually saw the transformation. But he has no way of knowing the two characters are the same guy so I can see him not figuring it out.
    I'm not a big fan of 'Huck's Hack,' either.

  5. Interesting observation of Ed Love's tooth abandonment. I vaguely remember seeing teeth in some of his very earliest FLINTSTONE episodes. However, Love never animated on THE JETSONS.(Irv Spence, whose facial tics are somewhat similar to Love, did.)

    By 1962 the studio had enough animators that it could assign certain ones to certain series more than others. AFAIK Ken Muse never animated on JONNY QUEST. Honestly, I shudder to think how that would have looked.

    1. If Muse had been there, Bandit would have looked like Tom.

      Ed had several two-tooth mouth positions; one looks like buck teeth, almost identical to the first frame above except it's two teeth. I've seen it in Jinks and Huck and incidental characters on the Huck show, but don't recall it on the Flintstones. Ed seems to have developed a few different mouth positions for that show.

  6. When somebody who normally isn't an idiot is, who knows what could happen? Something stupid, probably...