Saturday, 3 January 2015

Huckleberry Hound — Ben Huck

Produced and Directed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.
Credits: Animation – John Boersma; Layout – Tony Rivera; Backgrounds – Art Lozzi; Written by Tony Benedict; Story Director – Lew Marshall; Titles – Art Goble; Production Supervision – Howard Hanson.
Voice Cast: Huckleberry Hound, Crowd – Daws Butler; Narrator, Loudspeaker Voice, Referee, Mad Barbarian, Lion, Crowd – Don Messick.
Music: Hoyt Curtin.
Production E-181.
First Aired: week of February 5, 1962.
Plot: In ancient Rome, Huck fights the Mad Barbarian.

Note: The title card is missing a yellow-boxed “Hanna-Barbera” above the title. It was on a separate cel.

Muttley and Precious Pupp snickered. But they didn’t wear out their welcome by snickering too often during a cartoon. This cartoon doesn’t have a dog (unless you count the humanised Huckleberry Hound) but it does have a Mad Barbarian who chuckles. And chuckles. And chuckles. 12 times in about five minutes. It’s too much. And it spoils the cartoon.

Tony Benedict follows the 1961 Huck story format. A narrator sets up the cartoon over a pan of a background. Huck and the narrator chat. Huck then takes on another character in a series of spot gags, commenting to us as things go along. This one has the addition of the main story being told in flashback, and then returning to the present at the end. It’s similar to the Yogi Bear cartoon “Hide and Go Peek” (1959), where it turns out a pile of rocks is really a camouflaged elephant. The same sort of thing happens here; Huck is disguised as a statue.

John Boersma receives the animation credit. I’m still trying to figure out whether he’s the only animator who draws the palm-facing-up, little-finger-pointing-upward, gesture. He uses it in a bunch of cartoons and he uses it in this one as well.

Here’s Art Lozzi’s background that opens the cartoon. Tony’s story plunks Huck into the days of Ben Hur (from the 1959 movie of the same name).

Intoning Narrator: Here amid the pomp and splendour of ancient Rome, stood many great monuments to the heroes of the Empire.
(fade into next background drawing)

Intoning Narrator: The great Caesar. The brilliant Augustus. And the most famous of all—Ben Huck.

At this point, Hoyt Curtin’s fan-fare cue is cut off and replaced with a dissonant trumpet making a questioning sound (I can’t explain it, but you’ve heard it on “The Flintstones”). The “statue” says “Howdy, narrator” and kibitzes with the off-screen voice about why he’s “hidin’ out, kinda secret-like.” Then we go into the flashback.

Huck’s off-key version of Clementine this time ends with the lyrics “And her shoes are triple Ceeeee!”

The next little bit may be the best part of the cartoon. Huck arrives at the Roman Coliseum (as the background drawing spells it). “And I outta go on inside so’s that everyone can shout and throw me posies and all.” That’s what they do. “And there’s just one thing about this hero business,” Huck tells us, as flowers start to cover him. “You just got ta like posies.” That’s when he’s clocked with a flower pot containing posies. Tony tosses in some sign gags.

The P.A. announcer/referee now introduces the Mad Barbarian from Gaul (they wear Viking horns in Gaul?) and Ben Huck, from Rome’s East Side. I guess it’s based on New York’s East Side which, judging by the context of the cartoon, must have been a tough place at one time. And, so, the battle is on. I’ll avoid going through all the gags. The inevitable lion shows up (spitting out Huck) and there’s the familiar “tunnel/low bridge” gag where Huck, standing up in a chariot, smashes into the top of the exit because he doesn’t duck.

The cartoon ends with the cartoon back in the present with Barbarian still stalking Huck, who is above him atop a Doric pillar. “With that old Barbarian around loose,” Huck tells Mr. Narrator, “I might could be here a couple of thousand years. So I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t spread it around.” The iris closes to end the cartoon.

Odds and ends...

● Huck’s vocabulary includes Bugs Bunny’s “stragedy.”
● Our hero mangles the language when he remarks about the Barbarian: “He must have a statistic sense of humor.”
● Daws doesn’t pronounce the “w” in “sword” like he did in countless cartoons, including at least one of Huck’s.
● For a moment, it sounds like Charlie Shows slipped into the writing room, as Huck asks “How about a truce, Bruce?”
● Near the end of the flashback, there’s a little bongo sound effect when the Barbarian runs in place before rushing off scene to find Huck.
● Hoyt Curtin’s trombone stomp that includes a sampling of “English Country Garden” as well as the minor key variation of the Flintstones’ “Rise and Shine” theme are included on the soundtrack.

With this post, we’ve reviewed every cartoon that appeared on the Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw series.


  1. Cool! Now you can start on Yogi Bear!

  2. The "'Rome's East Side" line may have been an inside gag by Tony directed at fellow H-B writer Michael Maltese, who grew up on New York's Lower East Side (where certain areas were considered pretty tough/dangerous over the years -- the area where I lived was redone by post-World War II urban renewal, but was called the Gas Light District and was considered pretty bad right up through the early 1940s).

    I know you've still got a few Yogi cartoons to go -- any plans to tackle the Snaglepuss/Hokey/Yakky group? (even though I know the latter would be painful, especially in the non-Fibber Fox/Ally Gator efforts)

  3. Can only agree with you reg; the Mad Barbarian's chuckle. Methinks Tony missed a trick by having at least *one* chuckle being interrupted be a "ka-nock" on the head or something. Least then it'd have broken up the monotony.

    My favourite gag, though, has to be the statues before the flashback. The Hoyt Curtain trumpet was timed quite nicely there.

    You must be pretty close to completing these cartoon reviews, though. Aside from future newspaper articles, looks like there won't be much left to talk about...!

  4. The Barbarian is probably chuckling because Fred Flintstone's old fur is tickling him.

  5. And as our Huck begins...."A FUNNY THING Happened to me on my way tyo forum:"..a Broadway reference! And yes, it is done like "Hide and go peek".:)Steve

    1. Is it really "a Broadway reference"? Vaudeville comedians often began a story with the line: "A funny thing happened on the way to the theater". Here, they changed it to "the Coliseum" (sic). The Sondheim-Shevelove-Gelbart musical premiered on May 8, 1962, months after this cartoon was first aired. But the coincidence is indeed intriguing, since both works are set in Roman times. How far ahead did they start advertising for the show? That information could throw some light into the matter. By the way, IMDB, Wikipedia, and BCDB all give Ben Huck's airing date as September 15, 1961, whereas Yowp says it is February 5, 1962, a date for which I did not find confirmation anywhere else. Similar date divergences from IMDB occur for several other episodes reviewed on this site.

  6. I'm surprised the ref didn't describe Huck's opponent as a Hanna barbarian.

  7. 1/4/15 Wrote:
    Don Messick must have had a real ball with the overt snickering on this one. It may have been one snicker too many, but I do miss Mr. Messick's snickering since his 1997 death. So far, no voice over today could snicker as well as Don Messick.

    1. I agree Rob. I also miss Daws and all their contemporaries.

    2. I love how Huck gets so disgusted at the barbarian's "HEH-HEH-HEH-HEH", he grumbles near the end, "I hope he laughs hisself SICK!".

  8. I love Huckleberry Hound

  9. Did you forget to mention the part where the Barbarian poked his spear at Huck, causing the hound to be tickled?