Saturday, 24 January 2015

Lion-Hearted Huck Backgrounds

Fernando Montealegre was one of a number of MGM émigrés to the new Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio in 1957; he had received credits for background art in the Droopy cartoons directed by Mike Lah during Metro’s last days.

His name appears frequently on “The Huckleberry Hound Show” in 1958 but seems to show up less often in 1959 when the studio put “The Quick Draw McGraw Show” into production (it was still working on a reduced number of Hucks and Ruff and Reddys).

One of his cartoons was “Lion-Hearted Huck,” which aired the week of October 6, 1958. There are only ten backgrounds in the whole cartoon. The one seen most often is this junglescape.

This is one of those famous Hanna-Barbera repeating backgrounds. During the opening narration, Huck drives past that dark tree seven times before director Joe Barbera cuts to a close-up shot. You probably know how this works. That dark tree is at both ends of the drawing. The background moves and when the cameraman gets to one end of the drawing, he moves it back to the other end. The trees are supposed to match so the drawing looks seamless. In the early cartoons, things didn’t always match up exactly but viewers didn’t notice. Look at these two consecutive frames. See how the lines on the dark tree aren’t the same? This is where the background drawing is moved back.

Here are some more of Monte’s backgrounds.

From the opening of the cartoon.

This is the TV set where a little monkey monitors big-game hunter Huck driving in his jeep. It was designed by Dick Bickenbach, who laid out the cartoon.

These two feature cel overlays. The second one is a little more obvious. The first drawing is used when the monkey runs into the tree, the second when Le Roy the lion reaches for a phone inside the tree.

Here’s another jungle background; the blue rock on the right is on an overlay, as is the square patch of dirt. There’s a pan from one to the other but I couldn’t get the colours to match to recreate the full drawing, so you’ll have to settle for both ends.

This is a pretty typical Huck cartoon. He gets smashed and even chomped by a huge trap but thinks it’s all kind of funny. He doesn’t get his lion, though. One of Le Roy’s pranks backfires and the cartoon ends with the lion in the sky, screaming for help.

When we reviewed this cartoon ages ago, the stock music cues were enumerated but we didn’t have links to them available then. So let’s provide them now. Most of the music is by Jack Shaindlin. A hunt for a copy of ‘On The Run’ has been fruitless (the late Earl Kress made a concerted effort to find it but could not. Apparently the current rights holders don’t even have it). Spencer Moore’s ‘Animation Comedy’ consists of little bassoon parts that could be used as production elements.

0:00 - Huck sub-main title Dixieland theme (Hoyt Curtin).
0:26 - ZR-49 LIGHT EERIE (Geordie Hormel) - Monkey warns lion that Huck is looking for game.
2:01 - LAF-1-1 FISHY STORY (Shaindlin) - Huck follows tracks, chases lion into cave, digs hole.
4:00 - L-1158 ANIMATION COMEDY (Moore) - Lion starts bulldozer.
4:06 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) - Lion covers hole, snares Huck, tosses tacks in path of Huck’s jeep.
5:13 - LAF-21-3 RECESS (Shaindlin) - Lion jacks up jeep, Huck caught in trap, lion steals motor.
6:48 - LAF-2-12 ON THE RUN (Shaindlin) - Lion rides motor in sky.
7:12 - Huck sub-end title Dixieland theme (Curtin).


  1. You really could put the backgrounds from the first season's shows into an MGM CinemaScope cartoon and not really notice the difference. Starting with Season 2, the background (while still nice) evolved more towards the studio's late 1950s-early 60s style, with slightly less detail, as would be expected considering the differences between people watching the cartoons on a 21-inch black-and-white TV screen and a gianormous CinemaScope theater screen.

    1. So very true J Lee. Also grew up watching these on the trusty 21 inch black and white. Sad thing is, watching them on color sets from the 1970s though the present on those worn out 16mm prints, or faded, unrestored 35 mm prints also doesn't do justice to these wonderful lay outs.

  2. The few Lah unit backgrounds I've looked at are a little more stylised than the backgrounds for the HB studio.
    In '59, the studio acquired Dick Thomas who was the most conventional of the bg artists (coming from the lacklustre McKimson unit, it's probably not too surprising).

  3. First: thank you for such amazing geekery! These early HB cartoons have a je ne sais quoi that is hard to articulate to people who only know things like Scooby Doo, Space Ghost and Wacky Racers. When I first met my wife she couldn’t understand why I liked the old HB cartoons so much: I am a fine artist as well as graphic artist, so she tried to respect my opinion, but… When I pointed out to her things like BG-art and voice characterization, it hit her like a ton of bricks, “DUH, I get it now—sorry!” Without your site culling all of the background info together, it would be more than a battle to find out any of this info—thank you!

    We finally made it to Arizona to “Bedrock City”, and it was wonderful! As rundown as it was, it still had a real charm to it that the early HB cartoons had in them, and is completely missing in the pictures I’ve seen of the on in the Dakotas. BTW, if you go there, go in the evening, close to closing, Arizona is famous for its sunsets and they really bring the place to life: MAGIC!

  4. Thanks again for posting these....glad to see the links to cues not lined to when you first started (as that was still back before you had them to link to-Shaindlin's "On the Run" being the sole elusive one). Seems like no more Yogi's (the only segment from the original cartoons that had the stock cues now using Hoyt Curtin's) being reviewed, or else you're just taking a long earned vacation since the Martin L.King Holiday a few weeks ago..."That'll kill him..if it doesn't kill me first"!-Leroy Lion..:)SC