Wednesday, 25 September 2013

You Can Meet Huckleberry Hound

Everyone wants to meet celebrities. It’s a little difficult when the celebrities are cartoon characters but someone figured out a way around that, probably in the silent days of Felix the cat—get people to dress up as the characters.

To be honest, it seems kind of silly. You know someone in a six-foot costume isn’t really Huckleberry Hound. Huckleberry Hound is something drawn and on a screen. But I suppose if one can accept the fact a blue dog can drive a car, talk to you and be a knight in the Middle Ages, one can accept some guy in a costume as a character. And, like I say, everyone wants to meet celebrities.

So it was that Screen Gems decided cartoons, comic books and merchandise wasn’t enough. They had to put Huck and Yogi (and later Quick Draw McGraw and others) out on the road. They eventually hit the county fair circuit with a human emcee, Eddie Alberian, with professional mimes in $800 outfits dancing and singing to the tape recorded dialogue of Daws Butler.

Here’s a syndicated newspaper story, unbylined, published in the
Binghamton Press of May 21, 1960. The Carlo Vinci drawing accompanied the story.

That TV Hound Sure Gets Around
Hollywood—Two of this year's most widely travelled TV personalities are a blue dog with a deep southern drawl and an oversize bear sporting a pork-pie hat.
The pair, Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear, have managed to accept 73 invitations since last August and still show up weekly on the Huckleberry Hound television series.
What makes this possible is the fact that they're cartoon characters, the creations of Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
"In the past eight months we've booked Huck and Yogi into department stores, shopping centers, football and baseball games, concerts, parades, factories and exhibitions," says Ed Justin of Screen Gems, who's in charge of the personal appearances.
"They are scheduled for the Memorial Day '500' Race at the Indianapolis Speedway," he added. "Fans will be relieved to hear that Huck does not plan to drive in the race."
Confronted with so many playdate opportunities for the cartoon stars, without a body to deliver, Justin had special Huck and Yogi costumes made, at a cost of several hundred dollars apiece. The costumes are filled by local heat-and claustrophobia-resistant actors.
What led to the travels of the ubiquitous dog was the unusually widespread popularity of the Huckleberry Hound show that emerged soon after it went on the air. Some of the kudos came from rather far afield.
In Hull, England, the traditional Jazz and Cycling Society changed its name to the Yogi Bear Club, and within a few months the membership doubled.
Huckleberry Hound was invited to play for either side at the Stanford-Washington football game, but the offer was declined on the ground that no helmet would fit him. He wound up a cheer leader for both teams.
The 57th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment at Huddersfield, England, asked for permission to make Yogi Bear the official mascot of the outfit.
In Tucson, Ariz., an official questionnaire given to all police officers included the question: "Do you watch Huckleberry Hound on television?"
In West Seneca, N. Y., an organization known at Machemer's Chestnut Lodge Yogi Bear Appreciation Society was founded.
Seven scientists at the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico requested an El Paso (Texas) television station to show Huckleberry Hound at a later hour since they were too busy working on missile projects during its air time.
The scholarly Yale Alumni Bulletin made a survey of undergraduate viewing tastes and revealed that Huckleberry Hound was among the four top programs with Yale men.
And the world's newest geographical designation is an Island off Antarctica named Huckleberry Hound, after the TV, cartoon hero. The island, located at 70° 40' West, was discovered a short time ago by the U. S. S. Glacier, an Icebreaker assigned to explore Bellingshausen Sea, the last uncharted area of the vast frozen continent.

As you can see by the story, the Huckleberry Hound Show was an almost-instant fad after it debuted. At the time, television comedy consisted mainly of laugh-tracked domestic sitcoms and old radio stars hosting variety shows. The Huck show characters were new, wise-cracked to the audience and (fitting the leisurely, suburban 1950s) not too manic or goofy; they were in (generally) adult situations behaving like adults. It’s no wonder parents were attracted to the early shows just as much as kids.

1 comment:

  1. The spring-to-fall period of 1960 in hindsight was probably the creative high-point for Bill & Joe's studio, if not the financial one. Two (good) seasons of the Huck show and one of Quick Draw in the can, the Flintstones debuting on ABC and -- at least for the moment -- no signs that the studio's ability to churn out appealing stories and characters was being overburdened by too much work (or -- to borrow from Chuck Jones' jab -- that it had been going long enough for them to run out of reworkings of the theatrical material).