Saturday, 29 March 2014

Huckleberry Hound — The Scrubby Brush Man

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Edwin Parks, Layout – Jim Carmichael, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Tony Benedict, Story Director – John Freeman, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound – Daws Butler; Narrator, Scrubby President, Customer, Butch – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First Aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: Huck, the Scrubby Brush Man, tried to sell a brush to a recalcitrant would-be customer.

The Hanna-Barbera studio kept adding cartoons to its drawing boards and had to keep adding staff as a result. So in Huckleberry Hound’s 1961-62 season (his last with new cartoons), we start to see new names in the credits replacing Ed Love, Ken Muse and others who were moved over to the prime time “Flintstones” and “Top Cat.”

Ed Parks was an animation veteran. He was born on August 25, 1915 in Waterbury, Connecticut, where he grew up. He and his widowed mother arrived in Los Angeles in the mid to late 30s; the 1940 Census lists him as a cartoonist. An inside reference is made to him in the 1949 Goofy cartoon “Tennis Racket.” Parks left Disney in 1961 during/after production of “1001 Dalmations” and spent the rest of his career at Hanna-Barbera, working on pretty much everything the studio produced over the next 15 years. “The Scrubby Brush Man” was either his first or second cartoon for H-B. Parks died on January 31, 1999. You can read more about him HERE.

Among layout artist Jim Carmichael’s stops in animation was Columbia’s Screen Gems studio. During the war, he was employed at the Combat Intelligence Section at Air Force HQ. And writer Tony Benedict had just arrived from UPA. He took over writing most of the Hucks from Warren Foster, who was busy with “The Flintstones,” and rightfully decided Huck would be perfect to drop into a send-up of Fuller Brush door-to-door salesmen. The cartoon has a quick set up before getting into a string of Huck-fails-to-sell-a-brush-to-an-angry-guy gags. Huck, as usual, comments to us on each failure before moving on.

The set-up: no Scrubby Brush salesman has ever returned from, let alone made a sale in, the 13th District, so the boss sends for super-salesman Huck. He’s not considered a dolt by management in this cartoon.

Huck: Howdy, Pres. You wanna buy one of our new brushes? You can have it at half-price, what with you bein’ the boss and all.
President: That’s what I like, Huck. Always pitching.

Huck arrives at a house owned by a guy who clearly doesn’t want to be bothered. Here are the gags:

● Huck tries subliminal advertising by chanting a “buy” suggestion outside a window, then ducking out of sight when the guy inside turns around. But the guy catches Huck and slams the window on his snout.
● Huck sings a commercial jingle through the window on a bullhorn. The guy punches Huck in the head right through the bullhorn. “Some folks don’t know good music when it hits them right smack-dab in the face,” Huck tells us.
● Huck uses a remote camera to hook into the guy’s TV set to give a commercial. The guy punches the screen and his fist comes through the camera and hits Huck in the face. “It’s gettin’ so the commercials have commercials,” growls the guy. Huck decides the customer “has had enough softenin’ up.”
● He ignores signs like “Salesman Go Home” (“Sure signs of weak sales resistance,” Huck opines to us) and rings the doorbell. When the guy answers, Huck observes “I see you have one of our products in your hand there.” The guy bashes Huck on the head with the huge brush. “That’s what we call in the trade ‘the brush off’,” Huck chuckles.

● Huck puts his foot in the door. We hear a chomp. A bulldog clamps on Huck’s leg, runs into the yard and buries him.
● Trying to win the customer’s confidence, Huck gives him a gift of colog-nee. The guy gives Huck a gift. “I think I know what it is on account of it’s tickin’.” Kaboom! “How about that. I was right. A home-made bomb. You get to know all the tricks after awhile.
● A crash helmet doesn’t stop Huck from being crushed by a chest of drawers dropped on top of him from the second storey of the house.

● The best gag is an old one but it’s still funny. Huck knocks on the back door. The door opens and crashes him against the side of the house. Huck tries knocking from the other side. The door opens the other way and crashes him against the other side of the house. “How about that? A two-way door.”

Huck now returns to headquarters. The anxious president wants to know about the sale. It turns out Huck sold a back brush to himself because he needed it. The boss faints. “Hmm. I guess he just couldn’t stand success.” The next five seconds is filled with music and Huck turning to and from the audience to fill the cartoon’s allotted time.

Ah, yes, Hoyt Curtin’s music. We get urgent “Top Cat” music when Huck saunters to the 13th District through the television punch scene. The odd thing is he’s sings ‘Clementine’ during part of the time. The music doesn’t work. Either play ‘Clementine’ in the background or let Daws Butler sing a capella. Later, Huck sings a jingle to the ‘Clementine’ music and the “Top Cat” music is playing. More “Top Cat” music follows during the brush bash scene. The gift exchange scene has a cue used in several series of that era but without the melody line. It should be mentioned Curtin never gave formal names to any of his cues; what names we have here were, I suspect, given to the cues by the late Earl Kress when he was assembling the Pic-a-nic Basket Hanna-Barbera music set for Rhino Records a number of years ago.


  1. One of the better final season efforts, both story-wise and graphically, even if it would have been nicer to have with the Capitol music beds.

  2. Edwin Parks even animated episodes of "The Flintstones" in Season 3, 4 and 6. I think he animated the last "Snagglepuss" cartoon: "Royal Rodent" cause the animation looks like his and it has the credits missing. Speaking of Top Cat, the backgrounds of the alley do look similar to the show: "Top Cat" itself.

  3. Anon, as TC had many of the same layout and BG people, I guess that's not a surprise.

    JL, the Hucks stand up pretty well. Maybe it's because he's wise-cracking directly to the audience, as opposed to Yogi talking to himself or other characters. I think the change of scenery in each cartoon helped Huck, too. I don't mind the TC cues but they shouldn't be playing when Huck's singing something else.

  4. Yowp, I agree 200 percent with your comments (Top Cat had, as you and I agree, some of Curtin's best music around!! Some of it turned up sometimes on the Flintstones, esp.the famed season 2 episode "Happy Housewife", with a rare appearance by Paul Frees and using the very first piece of background music that CUrtin ever wrote for a cartoon-the post-main title opening of Loopy De Loop's first, "Wolf-Hounded",1959, which much have REALLY taken audiences of 1959 by surprise compared to the TV cartoon music HB used). As for Jim Carmichael, he also worked at Disney, such as on 1941's "Dumbo" where longtime archivist-celeb in his own right Dave Smith identified Carmichael as one of the now un-PC crows led by Cliff Edwards.:) Steve C.