Saturday, 27 April 2013

Huckleberry Hound — Fast Gun Huck

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Brad Case; Layout – Walt Clinton; Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Warren Foster; Story Director – Alex Lovy; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound, Dying Man, Flesh Wound Bystander, Neighbour, Bar Patrons – Daws Butler; Narrator, Teeny Terwilliger, Shooter, Bar Patrons, Sheriff – Don Messick.
Music: Spencer Moore, Jack Shandlin, Bill Loose-John Seely, Victor Lamont, Geordie Hormel.
First Aired: week of January 9, 1961 (rerun week of May 29, 1961).
Episode: Huckleberry Hound Show K-047, Production E-132.
Plot: Huck, the fastest gun in the West, brings in Teeny Terwilliger, the second-fastest gun in the West.

Tedd Pierce was the one writer that Hanna-Barbera didn’t hire from Warner Bros. but that didn’t stop Pierce’s Warner material from showing up at H-B from the writers it did—Mike Maltese and Warren Foster. Maltese decided Sylvester Jr’s back-of-the-hand-to-the-head “Oh, the shame of it!” would work well for Augie Doggie (first used in Pierce’s “Who’s Kitten Who”). In this cartoon, Foster has borrowed a more obscure gag from Pierce. Teeny Terwilliger loads a rifle to shoot Huck. “First, the ball,” he says. “Then the powder. Then the waddin.’ Now, I’ll ram it down tight.” The rifle explodes in Teeny’s face. “I must have done somethin’ wrong. I’ll put in the waddin’ in first this time…” If you don’t recognise the gag, it comes from “The Slap-Hoppy Mouse,” a cartoon released in 1956 where Pierce gives similar dialogue to Sylvester and the same two explosions in the face.

The funniest part of the whole scene is something that Foster came up with himself. While all this is taking place, Huck is completely oblivious to it. He’s entirely wrapped up in his steady line of patter to the bad guy so he has no idea what’s going on around him. Foster comes with some really good bits. The only thing that’s jarring is first few seconds. It’s just plain ugly. Dick Thomas’ background resembles a child’s drawing and the gunman clomping down the street looks like something out of a Gene Deitch Tom and Jerry. But then we get into better stuff.

Actually, the first scene has no direct bearing on the plot. It’s a shootout, with the angle mimicking the title card—we see a guy getting shot (in silhouette, and in cycle animation) through the bow-legs of a gunman. The gagline: “Call me bow-legged, will ya’?” Don Messick digs up his serious narrator’s voice and is accompanied by some very effective stock music. We actually get into the action in the second scene when Messick intones famous names of the Old West, dropping the seriousness to ask “Quick Draw McGraw?” when the inside reference comes up on the screen. We’re now introduced to the Huckleberry Kid, the Fastest Gun in the West. The basic premise of the cartoon is everyone is afraid of whoever the fastest gun is—except the second-fastest, who wants to be number one.

But being the fastest gun has its drawbacks. The narrator points out that Huck is steely-eyed and always ready to draw, and the scene cuts to our hero bouncing up and down on his faithful horse (“named ‘Horse’,” the narrator informs us). Huck looks at us. “You know, this always bein’ ready to draw shore crimps up my arms.” And it also has people high-tailing it out of towns before Huck arrives. “I don’t get it,” Huck tells us. “I read in the papers where the West is really buildin’ up. But all I ever see is empty towns.” And then he tells us his burden, as the corny melodramatic “Winter Tales” plays in the background. “This bein’ fastest gun in the west is a lonesome life. Only ones that’ll speak to me are the lawmen.” And even the sheriff in this cartoon is hiding behind an uprighted saloon table in fear. “Would you please stop that steely-eyed stuff and put your arms down?” the sheriff asks.

Huck agrees to take on the job of bringing in Teeny Terwilliger, the second-fastest gun. “I get so lonesome, I’ll talk to anybody.” Foster makes fun of a Western cliché in the next gag. Huck has his hands ready to draw, walking toward the door, the sound of spurs jingling on the soundtrack. He stops and looks at us. “You know, I just cain’t figure out that jinglin’ noise. I’m not even wearin’ spurs.”

Huck arrives at Teeny’s hideout badly singing a chorus of “Clementine” over some randomly strummed guitar strings. He wants to “talk a bit before blastin’.” Teeny isn’t impressed. He calls Huck a “no-good, wart-headed varmint” (can you tell Foster wrote for Yosemite Sam at Warners? Teeny calls Huck a “horny-toad” later). Huck apparently hasn’t talked to anyone for so long, he has no conception he’s been insulted. “Sure is nice to find a feller that’ll engage in some perlite conversation with you,” he confides to the audience. Teeny looks at us. “Yack, yack, yack. I never heerd nobody yack so much.” Now we get the rifle scene mentioned above.

“I better quit while I’m behind,” Teeny says to us. The cartoon has reached its climax and we get a bizarre gun battle. “I’m fightin’ ya fair and square because I have no other choice,” Teeny says to Huck, who informs the bad guy he has a lightning draw. And he does. A lightning bolt comes out of Huck’s gun and zaps Teeny. It’s a visual pun that you don’t expect. And then Huck has another surprise. In exchange for the return of stolen gold, he offers to retire from the fast-gun racket, making Teeny number one.

The cartoon ends with civilian Huck being greeted by townspeople—and Teeny popping up from inside a rain barrel where he’s hiding. Teeny can’t stand being the Fastest Gun. His friends run away from him. He cries that no one has spoken to him in three months. “Poor feller. I know just how he feels,” Huck says. Then he has an offer for viewers. “If anyone wants to be the Fastest Gun, I can get you a really good deal.” The cartoon ends with Huck winking.

Some appropriate music has found its way onto the soundtrack. The first cue reminds me of Spencer Moore’s material on the Capitol Hi-Q “D” series. I’m missing about a half-dozen reels of the first 20 and I suspect it’s on one of them. A couple of nice Western cues and the tinkly “Winter Tales” work really well. It and “Home on the Range” are among some solo old-time piano cues Victor Lamont arranged for the Sam Fox library (“Man on the Flying Trapeze” was another one, but it wasn’t used in cartoons as far as I know).

0:00 - Huckleberry Hound Sub Main Title Theme (Curtin).
0:13 - Dramatic Underscore (Moore) – Gunfight scene.
0:40 - ZR-39A WESTERN SONG (Hormel) – Scroll of names, Huck ready to draw guns.
1:02 - TC-205 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Loose-Seely) – Huck on horse.
1:20 - off-key banjo – Huck sings.
1:30 - TC-205 LIGHT MOVEMENT (Loose-Seely) – Narration, Huck rides in empty town, bar patrons take off.
2:00 - WINTER TALES (Lamont) – Huck regrets being a fast gun, sheriff talks to Huck, “buckin’ for first place.”
2:50 - HOME ON THE RANGE (Lamont) – “Only the fastest gun,” jingling gag.
3:13 - L-1154 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) – Huck on horse.
3:22 - off-key guitar – Huck sings.
3:31 - L-78 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – “That’s the Huckleberry kid,” “…yack so much.”
4:27 - L-80 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – “I’ll put a stop to it,” wadding gag.
5:09 - L-75 COMEDY UNDERSCORE (Moore) – Huck talks about a stagecoach, lightning gun scene.
5:55 - LAF-10-7 GROTESQUE No 2 (Shaindlin) – Huck offers to quit the fastest gun racket, Huck walks down street, talks to off-camera people.
6:22 - zig-zag strings/bassoon music (Shaindlin) – Twerwilliger in barrel scene.
6:58 - Huckleberry Hound Sub End Title theme (Curtin).


  1. Yowp writes:

    “Foster makes fun of a Western cliché in the next gag. Huck has his hands ready to draw, walking toward the door, the sound of spurs jingling on the soundtrack. He stops and looks at us. “You know, I just cain’t figure out that jinglin’ noise. I’m not even wearin’ spurs.””

    Stuff like THIS, is why I love these cartoons! An unexpected laugh is always the best kind!

  2. I couldn't agree more. Even in cartoons, I love it when they break " The Fourth Wall " and make those type comments.

  3. Very, very anthological this Huckleberry Hound episode, which's a tremendous parody of the Westerns (thanks to the Warren Foster's script). And the Huck's opponent (Teeny Terwilliger) seems mirrored on Yosemite Sam.
    Walter Clinton also rocks on the designs of this episode. If John Kricfalusi (which's fanatic for the Walter Clinton's designs on the Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the 50s and the 60s) saw this topic...

  4. The Huck cartoons where he's incongruously presented as the fastest gun in the west, or the "Master of Disguises" and is taken seriously by the other characters in the story are among the best Foster did in the series, because it allows a lot of silly ideas to be built around the ridiculous (in a good way) premise.

  5. Now there's a third Huck cartoon in the west, with the first being the first season's "Sheriff Huckelberry", "Lawman Huck".SC. And JL, I'm with you on these being the best...

  6. And Joe and Erroll, right on about Huck's fourth wall breaking.Steve

  7. "Actually, the first scene has no direct bearing on the plot."
    The opening is a parody of the opening of the TV series Gunsmoke.


    1. Gunsmoke (1955-75) and Bonanza (Paramount Pictures, 1959-74) were big hits on TV when this Huckleberry Hound episode was being produced.

  8. Actually, there were more Western-themed Huck cartoons than that. I consider the Chief Crazy Coyote trilogy Westerns. And yes, Westerns were hugely popular and dominant on prime-time TV the turn of the 1950s and 60s. So it made sense that cartoons, both TV and theatrical, would exploit that.

    1. Yeah, but I meant Huck going after a "paleface" bad guy as someone to do so (whether as a sheriff or whatever).There is another (with Capitol score, that is), not yet featured, "Lawman Huck", where Huck has to take someone on a train.Steve C

  9. The idea is that I hope Pixar will do this