Saturday, 2 February 2013

Huckleberry Hound — Legion Bound Hound

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ken Muse; Layout – Dick Bickenbach; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas; Story – Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voices: Narrator, Singer on Record, Bottle Throwing Legionnaire, Legionnaire noise, Fort Commander – Don Messick; Huckleberry Hound, Powerful Pierre, Captain on Phone, Legionnaire noise – Daws Butler.
Music: Bill Loose/John Seely, Phil Green, Geordie Hormel, Spencer Moore, Jack Shaindlin, unknown.
First aired: week of October 31, 1960 (rerun, week of April 17, 1960).
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-041.
Plot: Foreign Legionnaire Huck sets out to capture Powerful Pierre, the scourge of the desert.

Friz Freleng made a really funny cartoon at Warner Bros. called “Sahara Hare” (1955) that featured a desert, a camel and a bad guy trying—and failing every time—to get at the hero of the cartoon inside an abandoned stone fort. It was written by Warren Foster.

Well, guess what?

Okay, this cartoon isn’t quite the same. But you can’t miss the similarities. And the thought crossed my mind that you could probably have built a pretty good theatrical series featuring a low-key Huck (much like his wolfy predecessor in the Avery cartoons at MGM) fluidly assisting a hot-headed Powerful Pierre to beat himself up. In full animation and fully scored, of course. A shame the Hanna-Barbera studio’s lone theatrical shorts were of the limited animation variety with a B-list star.

“Legion Bound Hound” is one of those Foster efforts where the plot suddenly veers off in a different direction halfway through. In the first half, Huck is ridiculed. In the second half, Pierre shows up and he becomes laughed at, while Huck becomes the hero by default. Huck doesn’t get inside the fort until the middle of the cartoon, the same as Bugs Bunny in “Sahara Hare.”

No one would mistake the first half for a Bugs cartoon. Huck casually talks to the audience, and gets abused by his underlings (unseen to save animation) but there are enough funny situations that make the cartoon enjoyable. The cartoon pans over one of Dick Thomas’ background drawings of “trackless wastes of the Sahara” to a fort belonging to the Foreign Legion. “Some join to seek excitement. And others seek to forget or be forgotten,” intones Don Messick as the camera pans across a drawing of snoozing soldiers. So far, we’ve had 21 seconds of cartoon with no animation.

Then we’re told it takes a “tough, tough, TOUGH leader” to keep the “tough, tough men” of Company B in line. That’s Huck’s cue to saunter out and have his friendly request for “drillin’ and marchin’ this morning” laughed at (a bottle is thrown through the door at Huck). Of course, Huck’s oblivious to their ridicule. He explains to us the men “come here to forget. Just like me. I come here to forget my fian-cee.” Cut to shot of Huck’s girl-friend who, like most girl-friends in cartoons, is drawn like a male character in drag. “Uh, what’s her name. Hey! I finally forgot her. I cain’t even remember her name. This calls for a celebration!” Huck turns on a portable record player and we hear Messick singing “My Darling Clementine,” accompanies by the usual electric organ in the cartoon. Turns out that’s Huck’s girl-friend’s name. So now, he hasn’t forgotten any more.

The phone rings. Company B has been asked to bring in Powerful Pierre. “Go jump in the lake” is the first response. Soldiers will always respond to a bugle call, Huck tells us. They do. They shove the bugle in his mouth. So Huck heads across the desert on his camel in search of Powerful Pierre. He’s crushed between the camel’s humps, accompanied by horn honk sound effects. The camel collapses merely for the purpose of a dialogue gag (“They call the critter like this the ‘Ship of the Desert.’ Must be because every once in a while, they sink.”) Huck unfolds a rather long road map and walks on top of it to find Pierre at the end of it. Pierre’s had a design change since we last saw him in “Ten Pin Alley” the previous season. He’s lost some weight, his chin is pointier and he’s brown (must be the desert heat). Pierre bashes Huck around a little, includes sending him skidding across sand dunes, the top of each one burning Huck’s butt (I can’t remember which cartoon used the same gag), to the wall of an abandoned fort.

So now comes Huckleberry Hound’s version of “Sahara Hare” as Yosemite Sam Pierre tries to get Huck out of the fort.

● Pierre presses a button in the wall that’s supposed to reveal a secret entrance. It reveals a cannon instead. We all know what’s going to happen. We saw it in “Sahara Hare.” It takes 11 seconds for it to happen because the cartoon has to pad for time.
● Pierre tries to catapult himself into the fort on a palm tree he’s tied down. End result is like the pole vault gag in “Sahara Hare.” Pierre flies into a stone battlement. “Missed,” notes Huck to end the scene.
● Pierre runs at the fort’s door with a palm tree as a battering ram. “Sahara Hare” didn’t use the gag but lots of other cartoons have. Huck opens the door. Pierre keeps running right through and bashes into the wall on the other side of the fort (which we don’t see. Saves money animating it). Pierre’s passed out in a pile of rubble.

Huck is granted a reward for capturing Pierre. He’s decided he wants to go to town to see his fianc-ee. “Permission granted to see what’s her name” says the Commander. “That’s the one! How’d you know?” answers Huck. Cut to a boat. Huck didn’t tell the Commander his fianc-ee lives in Cucamonga, so ends the cartoon sailing to the U.S.A. singing “Oh, my darlin’, Clem-what’s-her-name.”

This was Foster’s last tangle with Pierre, but it wasn’t the final Pierre cartoon. That came the following season when Tony Benedict wrote “Huck’ dé Paree” and the character was redesigned again by Tony Rivera.

With a few exceptions in the first season, Hanna-Barbara cartoons didn’t end with the sound engineer fading out the stock music. No matter what library was used, just about all the cues all had definite loud ends, either with a stab or a cymbal crash. Sometimes, the cutter would back-time a cue so it would be joined in progress during the cartoon and end exactly when the cartoon ended. In a couple of cartoons, the cutter simply uses only the stab at the end of the music. That’s what happens in this cartoon. To give the soundtrack a flourishing finish, the last three notes of Jack Shaindlin’s “Rodeo Day” are heard. The cutter also picked out a bugle call, the same one that was used (sped up) in the Augie Doggie cartoon “In the Picnic of Time” the previous season. It may be from the Capitol Hi-Q “X” series. And there’s a fanfarish trumpet and brass counterpoint cue that’s heard when Huck is first seen riding his camel. The only other cartoon where I recall hearing it is “Missile Bound Cat” as the entrance music for Space Cat. I don’t know where it comes from; it’s not among the “X” series music of Geordie Hormel’s that I have (another “X” series cue is in this cartoon). There’s one brief spot where the cutter decides against any music and it’s really effective. It’s when Pierre smashes into the castle. Huck looks at him and says “Missed.” Having silence makes the word stand out and the gag a little funnier.

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title Theme (Curtin).
0:14 - EM-147 DOCUMENTARY MAIN TITLE (Green) – Opening narration.
0:37 - ZR-127 PERIOD CHASE (Hormel) – Violence at Company B, narration, Huck walks to door.
0:54 - TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – Huck asks about marching, talks to audience, puts on record.
1:34 - Clementine (Trad.) – Record plays, Huck turns off record player.
1:42 - TC-204A WISTFUL COMEDY (Loose-Seely) – “Her name is Clementine,” phone rings, “Mon Cappy-tann.”
1:57 - LAF-27-6 UNTITLED TUNE (Shaindlin) – “That’s French,” Captain yells on phone, Huck at door.
2:37 - bugle call – Huck plays bugle, bugle shoved in mouth.
2:43 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Huck blinks, pulls out bugle, talks to audience.
2:48 - triumphant trumpet cue (?) – Huck rides camel, camel falls to ground.
3:14 - TC-432 HOLLY DAY (Loose-Seely) – Huck on camel on ground, road map, Pierre with rifle scene.
4:12 - LAF-72-2 RODEO DAY (Shaindlin) – Huck lifted by by rifle barrel, crashes into wall, cannon fires, Pierre smoulders.
5:12 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – “There is someone home…”, Pierre flung from palm tree.
5:20 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) – Pierre flies through air into wall.
5:28 - no music – “Missed.”
5:30 - ZR-48 FAST MOVEMENT (Hormel) – Battering ram scene.
6:08 - La Marseillaise (Trad.) – Huck/Commander scene.
6:32 - seagoing medley (unknown) – Huck on boat, “in the good old,”
6:40 - Clementine (Trad.) – “U.S. of A.”, Huck sings.
6:56 - LAF-7-12 FUN ON ICE (Shaindlin) – Two notes and cymbal at end of cartoon.
6:58 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin).


  1. Pierre has kind of a proto-Dick Dastertly look to him in profile. Not sure if that's a good thing or not, but you could tell overall as the 50s turned into 60s that H-B was getting more and more away from characters designs that looked like they could have stepped out of a mid-50s MGM CinemaScope cartoon.

    As for the 'missed' gag and the use of silence to accentuate the gag, one of the more endearing things about the early H-B shorts -- especially Season 1 of Huck -- was the lack of fear of having quiet moments be part of the gags. Whether it was by design or just because of the studio's production efforts circa 1958, there's a variance in the levels of voice and music from quiet to loud you just don't see later on. By the time we get to the Wally/Touche/Lippy shorts in 1962, it's all music and/or all voice/SFX all the time, as if the studio felt that if the cartoon had any quiet moments, the kids watching would change the channel.

  2. Given what we know of Bill Hanna, could the complete elimination of ANY music-less moments, by the Wally/Touché/Lippy era, be merely because he PAID Hoyt Curtin to compose and conduct music – and he was darned well going to USE IT any and everywhere he could, wall-to-wall, start-to-finish?

    …Not so out-of-the-question, is it?

  3. Joe, by the time Lippy, etc. rolled around, I don't think Hanna had a lot to do with each individual cartoon (especially something as low on the studio's list as the syndicated five-minuters). And Joe Ruby has said the sound cutters were fully in charge in deciding the music that went with the action. So I don't think he used Curtin's material for the sake of using, any more than there was extra dialogue because they were paying Daws anyway.