Saturday, 22 December 2012

Huckleberry Hound — Nuts Over Mutts

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ed Love; Layout – Tony Rivera; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voices: Huckleberry Hound, Cop – Daws Butler; Narrator, Snickering Dog – Don Messick.
Music: Jack Shaindlin, Bill Loose-John Seely, Geordie Hormel, Raoul Kraushaar.
First Aired: week of December 13, 1960.
Production: Huckleberry Hound Show K-044, Production E-118.
Plot: Huck tries to help a snickering dog.

A dog snickering at someone else’s misfortune certainly was a durable concept at Hanna-Barbera. Most cartoon fans think of Muttley when they hear about the idea, but that kind of character was around long before him or Precious Pupp, who debuted a couple of years earlier. A white, reversible-eared, snickering dog appeared as Huckleberry Hound’s adversary in five cartoons, starting with “Fireman Huck” and “Postman Panic” in the first season, “A Bully Dog” in the second, “Nuts Over Mutts” in the third and “Two For Tee Vee” in the fourth, though the last-named features a big-headed bulldog. The concept actually pre-dates Hanna-Barbera; you can find it in Tex Avery’s wonderful “Bad Luck Blackie” (1949), for example.

Writer Warren Foster follows the same format in this cartoon as in “A Bully Dog.” A narrator sets up the situation, and there is a series of almost-blackout gags as the dog thwarts Huck’s attempt to meet his goal, leaving our hero worse for wear, with the dog snickering to cap the scene.

Probably the most notable thing about this cartoon isn’t the snickering dog. It’s Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera’s product placement. At one point, Huck attempts to lure the snickering dog with Gro-Pup T-Bone Dog Biscuits. They’re a real product. And they’re made by Kellogg’s, which happened to sponsor the Huckleberry Hound Show. It’d be really shameless except for the fact the Huck show was sold/bartered to stations as a complete half-hour package including Kellogg’s ads between the cartoons. So it isn’t much different to have the sponsor’s product in one of the cartoons itself. And that’s the package the dog biscuits came in at the time (they also appear as Snuffles’ favourite snack in several Quick Draw McGraw cartoons).

Ed Love is the animator. As usual, characters have two upper teeth during dialogue. And I like the look he gave the snickering dog during the tippy-toe sequence. But I wonder if Ed was in a hurry to get this cartoon animated. The characters don’t jerk their heads as many angles as they did in early Love cartoons. And some of the drawing isn’t all that pretty. Then, again, it may be because of Tony Rivera’s designs. I’m not crazy about the cop, for example.

The backgrounds are by Dick Thomas. In the opening of this cartoon, he draws buildings as outlines but has buildings as blocks of colour within them, like in the opening of “A Bully Dog.” And there’s one background drawing that simply different shaped rectangles of colours to abstractly indicate buildings. But his skies are a basic light blue and his grass is green; no wild colours like Art Lozzi might try. He has some nice brown shades on the snickering dog’s house.

Let’s run through Foster’s familiar-sounding storyline.

Don Messick’s narration informs us of the job of a city dog catcher, who performs a noble service. The dog catcher in this story is Huck, who gets a chorus of ‘My Darling Clementine,’ re-written especially for his occupation. The idea that a dog (Huck) is capturing other dogs is never satisfactorily explained in any of these Huck/Snickering Dog cartoons. “Yes, a lost dog’s best friend is the dog catcher,” says the narrator before the shot dissolves to a snoozing dog in his doghouse. “But there are some dogs who don’t think so.” Hey, wait a minute. How can he be a “lost” dog if he’s in his yard sleeping next to his dish? “The approaching dog catcher represents fun, fun, fun!” First snicker. Fade out.

The dog pretends to be crippled by hobbling on a crutch. Huck decides to rescue the “aminal.” The dog runs into his yard, slams the door shut and the following Huck smashes into it. “Must be a mighty powerful draft whistlin’ through that yard. Slams the gate shut real hard” Second snicker. Fade out.

“Operation Fish Pole” is next. Huck tosses a bone on a fishing line at the dog. Third snicker. Dog ties fishing line to a car that drives off (it’s 1960 so the car is without tailfins). The car pulls Huck off camera. No violence. Fourth snicker. Fade out.

It’s Gro-Pup T-Bone Dog Biscuit time. A trail of biscuits leads to Huck who plans to corral the dog by dropping a metal garbage can over him. The dog gulps all but the last biscuit. Fifth snicker. Instead, he rushes to a bystanding cop and bites him in the butt. Sixth snicker. The chase is on. Huck corrals the officer instead of the dog. The annoyed cop drags Huck away. Seventh snicker. “A little lost dog, eh? Wait till the sergeant hears this one.” Fade out.

Huck’s been released with a suspended sentence, a warning and a $200 fine. Cut to the dog rolling down the street on top of a tire, croaking “beep.” Huck’s pleased to see the dog’s leg has “healed” (though he’s seen the dog in two other scenes since the crutch gag) but discovers the wheel’s been stolen from his van. The dog ends up bouncing the wheel off Huck’s head (burying Huck into the sidewalk) then kicking it at the running Huck, who lands flat on his back. He’s not drawn crumpled or anything; he looks perfectly normal. Foster’s line is the tired: “Well, he let me have it, alright.”

Huck reaches into the dog’s house and pulls out the dog chomped down on his arm (like in “A Bully Dog”). “I got a firm grip on you I have.” Eighth snicker. Fade out. Meanwhile, the cop’s on the phone. “Stolen dog, eh? Right out of a dog house.” Huck strolls by with the dog on his arm singing his modified version of “Clementine.” Cut to a scene of Huck in jail. The camera pulls back to reveal the dog on his arm. “He won’t be roamin’ the streets—for 30 days, at least.” Ninth snicker. Fade out. All done.

Let’s face it. Foster doesn’t give Huck a lot of witty cracks to the camera and Love could have just as easily drawn a mashed-up-looking Huck after being bashed around because only the mouth moves anyway. But these guys were under an incredible workload. Foster was writing the entire Huck series, plus a bunch of The Flintstones and Loopy De Loop theatrical shorts.

The cop isn’t Irish in this one. Daws gives him a W.C. Fields voice. Maybe it was because of Fields’ reputation with dogs.

There’s lots of running in this cartoon so Jack Shaindlin’s “On the Run” gets a lot of use. Shaindlin’s sad trombone/violin music during the crutch sequence works well. Having Huck sing “Clementine” (at length) while stock music is in the background at the end is really dissonant and I have no idea why it was done.

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title Theme (Curtin).
0:14 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Narrator speaks.
0:32 - Clementine (trad.) – Huck sings, “But there are some dogs…”
0:55 - 7-MR-183 creepy muted reverb trumpet music (Kraushaar) – “…who don’t think so”, dog tippy-toes, snicker, Huck in truck.
1:29 - LAF-72-3 sad trombone music (Shaindlin) – Dog on crutch, Huck tells dog he’ll rescue it.
1:53 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Dog runs, closes gate, Huck crashes.
2:02 - TC-301 ZANY WALTZ (Loose-Seely) – Huck flops to ground, snicker.
2:16 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) – Huck with fishing rod, snicker, dog ties fishing line to car, car drives away.
2:53 - LAF-20-5 TOBOGGAN RUN (Shaindlin) – Fishing line unreeling, Huck pulled away, snickering.
3:16 - LAF-27-6 UNTITLED TUNE (Shaindlin) – Huck with dog biscuits, snicker, dog bites cop, “Come back here, you mutt.”
4:04 - ZR-47 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Dog runs, Huck catches cop in garbage can, Huck dragged away, snicker.
4:39 - C-14 DOMESTIC LIGHT (Loose) – Huck on sidewalk, dog on tire, truck missing tire, Huck dashes out of scene.
5:12 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Huck runs down street, wheel on Huck’s head.
5:33 - 8-MR-377 creepy muted reverb trumpet music (Kraushaar) – Huck in hole in pavement, dog on wheel.
5:44 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Huck runs down street, tire crashes into Huck, dog on Huck’s arm, snicker.
6:14 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Cop on phone, Huck walks with dog on arm, Huck and dog in jail, snicker.
6:58 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin).


  1. Even as a kid, the unstated irony of this cartoon kind of bothered me. A hound dog-catcher?

  2. Good review, Yowp, and one that I'd been long waoiting for. Agreeed, there was a lot of "One the run" but also other Jack Shaindlin music, the "sad music" worked well in its rae appearance as well..anyone singing over music alredy played that's not even the same song sung never always rested with me,either...Steve C.

  3. Thanks for the early Christmas present, a Huckleberry Hound cartoon review by Yowp. There was a big smile on my face as I read your review. Thanks for all the great reviews, articles and blogs and I'm looking forward to reading more in 2013.

  4. And this is first Hanna-Barbera short to include a merchandising from Kellogg's (Gro-Pup T-Bone dog biscuits), which sponsored several Hanna-Barbera classical series (among them, this one, which's being depicted here, The Huckleberry Hound Show).

  5. TBH, the way "Snickers" is drawn so smug throughout Lovey's shorts always annoyed me; considering he was a rather one-note ploy to Huck, I suppose Warren was short for time or couldn't be bothered to give him some additional development like Precious or Muttley were much later on.

    It might have been more satisfying, I feel, if he had received a fair number of lumps here as he did in "Fireman Huck", or at least let Huck have, literally, the last laugh for once - but then, to each their own.

  6. I know what you mean Steve. It is strange when you give it some serious thought. Huck as a Postman fighting off the hostile dog, Huck as a Fireman, rescuing a cat and keeping the neighborhood dog away, Huck at the barbecue trying the keep the dog from stealing his steak and yes, Huck as a dog catcher..and on and on . Speaking just for me. I think it's the fact that Huck is such a " Mr. Everyman ", that it's easy for me to overlook the fact that he IS a dog. But, that's just me.

  7. This is no more an issue that it is when Daffy Duck or Woody Woodpecker eating a turkey leg.

  8. I'm guessing that the irony of a dog as dog-catcher was deliberately planned, as well as the many other instances of dog vs. dog in the Huckleberry cartoons. In fact, Huck seems to have gotten in more trouble than usual whenever his opponent was a less articulate member of his own species.

    The ending of this cartoon seems particularly fitting. Instead of putting the dog in the dog pound, which was his objective, he gets arrested and ends up not in the dog pound like a dog, but in jail like a human, even though he is not exactly a human. (Similar to the ending of "Barbecue Hound.") Evidently, his anthropomorphic nature qualifies him to be treated like a human most of the time. However, this is not a bitter ending, because even in jail and with an antagonistic dog latched onto his arm, Huck remains cheerful. Even though he appears to have failed, he looks upon it as a victory of sorts, which ends the cartoon on a happy if humorously ironic note.