Saturday, 15 November 2014

Huckleberry Hound — Bullfighter Huck

Produced and Directed by Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna.
Credits: Animation – Ken Southworth, Layout – Tony Rivera, Backgrounds – Dick Thomas, Written by Tony Benedict, Story Director – John Freeman, Titles – Art Goble, Production Supervisor – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound, Crowd – Daws Butler; Narrator, Bull, P.A. Announcer, Crowd – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
First aired: 1961-62 season.
Plot: In Spain, Huck fights a bull.

A staple of Hanna-Barbera cartoons was for characters to whisk themselves off-screen, followed by a camera shake and sound effects to indicate violence, and then a cut to a character in some kind of disarray. In this cartoon, there are a lot of impact drawings involving Huck and the bull he is fighting.

The animation in the cartoon is by Ken Southworth, who settled in at Hanna-Barbera after bouncing around in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Thomas Kenneth Southworth was born in England in 1918 and came to the U.S. with his parents. They settled in Chicago where his dad Thomas was a janitor and Ken got a job as an office clerk at a wholesale grocer. He graduated from the Chicago Institute of the Arts then headed west to Disney. Southworth moved on to the Walter Lantz studio, then MGM (where he was in the Hanna-Barbera unit) and was introduced to the world of TV animation through Sam Singer Productions, the home of the astoundingly bad “Bucky and Pepito.”

Southworth managed to escape thanks to a company called Animation Associates, set up by John Boersma, Lou Zukor and Rudy Cataldi to make animated commercials; Cataldi had worked for Singer. Variety reported the company had completed a pilot for a cartoon tele-series about a private eye. The trade paper then announced on August 19, 1960 the company had hired 11 animators to work on Q.T. Hush cartoons—the ten listed were Bill Carney, Xenia DeMattia, Jack Ozark, Dan Bessie, John Freeman, Clarke Mallery, Volus Jones, Don Williams, Ed Aardal and Virgil Ross—along with a second film cutter (Lucky Brown, in addition to Charles Hawes). On the 31st, Variety blurbed that Southworth had been hired by the company to direct 20 cartoons (as a side-note, the paper also revealed in the same edition that “Ruff and Reddy” would be replaced by “King Leonardo” on Saturday mornings in the fall). A number of these people ended up doing work, freelance or otherwise, at Hanna-Barbera soon after; perhaps H-B contracted out to Animation Associates. Southworth’s career at the studio lasted into into the 1990s. He died in 2003 at the age of 89.

This may be his best cartoon. He tries to a little something extra out of the limited animation. H-B almost always animated action horizontally or vertically. Here are two drawings of an angular run. Southworth either drew in perspective or a camera trick was used. Either way, the studio rarely did this.

When he draws Huck being ploughed into by the bull, Huck’s montera comes off his head and twirls end-over-end in the air. Southworth could just as easily have it fly from the frame or land on the ground and save work (in one scene, there are duplicate monteras for a couple of frames; it may be a camera error). Instead of straight run cycles, Southworth changes Huck’s body position, and he also stretches out the bull’s body, giving them some variety (and making it look like the characters are accelerating). There are also some little extras, like nostrils flaring in a little cycle, and the bull’s lips wavering in anger. And he actually gives a real startled take in the cartoon, not something lame like eyes getting a little wider. Huck pulls his sword on the bull. With perfect timing, the bull chomps on it. Huck’s body shows the surprise. It makes the scene funnier, though the drawing is on threes (two of them have brush lines) so it may not register as well as it could.

Dick Thomas constructed the backgrounds. Here are a few.

Tony Benedict’s story starts with the usual format. Off-screen narrator Don Messick sets up the scene. Huck is a matador in Spain. As usual, Huck butchers the native tongue as he chats with the viewers. “Bonus daisy!” he happily tells us. He arrives at the stadium. “Well, I’d better get into my purdy bullfightin’ suit, the embroidery and all like that,” he tells us. “Keep your eye on me, folks, ‘cause I gets terrible handsome once-t I get my bullfightin’ garments on.” And the version of “Clementine” he sings this time includes the word “Tory-dory” (as in “toreador”).

As you’ve seen by the drawings, the bull pounds Huck pretty well. The crowd boos. “Folks around here always ‘boo’,” he explains to the viewers at home, “you know, to kindly show their contempt.” Then he adds, in Daws Butler talk, “But they don’t reas-lize that this is the basic matador stra-gedy.”

Tony pulls off a funny little scene where Huck and the bull run out of the arena. That doesn’t faze the P.A. announcer one bit. “We shall continue with the audio version of the programme,” he decides. Then he continues with a play-by-play of the fight that’s completely made up. “Of course, I ad-lib just a little,” he confides in us. While he’s doing this, he’s oblivious that the bull and Huck are running back and forth behind him. Finally, they stop and look at him. When he realises where they are, he shouts “¡Ay, Chihuahua! I think it’s time for a station break!” and he dives right off the broadcast area (with the sound of crashing dishes). Huck turns to the bull and says “Let’s get on with the show, Toro.” And they do. Southworth, incidentally, doesn’t simply have the announcer’s body rigid on one cel during the play-by-play. He puts him in about four different positions, with hand-claps and an arm thrust. He’s trying to keep the scene from looking stagnant.

Finally, the bull sends Huck crashing through the wooden barrier in the ring. “Does the matador have some last words for his fans about the moment of truth?” asks the announcer. “Just one thing, a-mygo” replies the pain-eyed Huck. “The moment of truth shore hurts.” At this point, the bull sticks his head in the frame and happily growls “Ain’t it de truth?” and gruntingly laughs as Huck turns his eyes to the audience to end the cartoon.

There’s a camera error during one of the run cycles. The camera man has the background going in the wrong direction for four frames.

The Hoyt Curtin underscore doesn’t include any Spanish-sounding music. Some short neutrals are used for the first minute and a bit. During one of the Huck-runs-from-bull scenes, there’s a Hammond organ piece used in a number of cartoons. You can also hear a short variation of the Flintstones “Rise and Shine” when Huck walks into the ring and before the bull comes out.


  1. Dick Thomas was a great BG artist. He later ended up at DePatie-Freleng and was credited for doing BGS on -all- of their theatrical shorts released after 1969.

  2. Too bad Huck didn't win at the end of this cartoon. That was probably the worse beating Huck has ever gotten in any cartoon.