Wednesday 22 March 2017

Why We Love Huckleberry Hound

Today’s letter comes from Mrs. S.K., who writes:
I felt rather guilty about enjoying Huckleberry Hound so much until I read your article in TeleVue. My husband and I liked the explanation given by the professor as to the reason so many adults enjoy the program. We would like to know how we can become members of the Huckleberry Hound fan club.
Well, actually, the letter didn’t arrive today. It arrived at the office of the Washington Evening Star and was published August 21, 1960. Mrs. S.K. wrote in response to a cover story in the paper’s “TeleVue” section of July 31, 1960.

Huck made history that year by winning an Emmy, the first animated programme and the first syndicated show to do so. (The show was nominated next year but lost). It gave the Star’s TV writer, a Huck fan, a chance to do an article about Huck, his friends and Hanna-Barbera in general, no doubt assisted by a publicity handout from Arnie Carr at H-B.

The writer looks at Huck’s appeal, and part of it goes back to the character Huck is descended from—the casual, “Jubilo”-whistling, southern wolf voiced by Daws Butler and created by Tex Avery for MGM in the early 1950s. Avery once remarked something to the extent that all kinds of violent things would happen to the wolf, but he’d respond with something the audience least expected—a casual remark. (Avery remembered even MGM producer Fred Quimby thought the wolf was funny, a rare compliment). But unlike the wolf, Huck was a protagonist, not an antagonist. He was friendly and likeable, undeserving of bad things; people pulled for him.

Oddly, the article refers to Time For Beany as a cartoon. As you likely know, it was a puppet show. Incidentally, there was another connection between Huck and Beany. Writer Charlie Shows supplied material for both characters. The story refers to Hanna-Barbera’s new studio. It’s not the one at 3400 Cahuenga that everyone associates with the company. It was the little windowless concrete block that was a little further up the boulevard that H-B used after the Kling Studio on La Brea which, incidentally, turned 100 this year (construction began at the behest of owner Charlie Chaplin in November 1917).

Maybe the most interesting thing, especially to those of us who have watched the over-produced Emmy shows as of late, is the reaction when Huck won.

I’ve included a sidebar, along with poor photocopies of microfilmed images, that went with the story.

‘Disrespect for Reality’

Star TV Critic
When the Emmy for the best children’s show was awarded to Huckleberry Hound, two men trotting out blithely to accept it and a hush seemed to fall over the distinguished audience.
Now it may have been that the stars in attendance in Hollywood, being adults, were momentarily struck dumb by the title of a show they had never watched. As a paid-up, grown-up member of the Huckleberry Hound fan club, however, I prefer to think that the silence was due to the fact that the audience confidently expected Huck to gallop on stage, say a few scintillating words (which were needed) and gallop off, the Emmy between his ever-lovin’ fangs.
This is not a children’s show—not really. They love it, but so do their parents.
You’d have to go back, almost, to Time for Beany, a cartoon show that was popular on TV in the early ‘50s, to find a series which combined in the drawings, an appeal to the little folk, and in the story and fresh dialogue, a lure for their elders.
During one of those monthly collection drives in suburbia for charity, one woman said happily, as she stopped by one home—
“I haven’t missed but a few minutes of Huckleberry Hound. Every house I’ve visited on the block had the show turned on!”
(WTTG—5, which runs the show on Thursday at 7 p.m., is hereby given permission to quote the above.)
Who are the men who accepted the Emmy for Huck?
You ought to know them—for if you’ve been to the movies in the last 20 years, you’ve applauded their cartoon efforts. Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna, Huckleberry’s creators, are the men responsible for those amusing Tom and Jerry shorts.
And when the bottom fell out of the movie business, they moved over to TV.
Actually Joe and Bill have a hard time convincing anyone that they could complete successfully in the electronic medium with the champ Emmy collector, Walt Disney.
Especially since full animation was prohibitively costly.
What Joe and Bill pitched, in fact, was planned animation as opposed to full animation, a technique which relies strongly on story and dialogue and utilizes only about 10,000 drawings per half hour as opposed to the 40,000 which would be needed for a fully animated subject.
In three years, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc., zoomed from nowhere to an Emmy. They now employ 175 people, will open new studios in Hollywood next month, and will be represented by their fourth show, The Flintstones, on ABC-TV this fall.
“Each character,” Barbera explains, “must have a unique personality—like Huckleberry. He’s slow-moving, but nothing fazes him. He takes on bank-robbers, dragons and amorous cocker spaniels with the same steady determination.”
In one cartoon, he fell head first from the top of a skyscraper.
“That,” he drawled, as he hit the ground with a mighty thud, “was a purty big building.”
Seriously, Barbera feels that is this “disrespect for reality” that lends an animated cartoon its charm.
Huckleberry’s pals, if you’ve never watched, include Yogi Bear, who continually tries to find peace and quiet in a landscaped bedlam called Jellystone National Park, and Mr. Jinks, a tomcat whose vocal inflections give evidence of his training at a “modern” acting school.
Daws Butler, a graduate of Time for Beany and a former colleague of Stan Freberg’s, is the voice of Huckleberry, Yogi, Mr. Jinks, the little mouse, “Dixie,” and other characters.
Why is Huck so popular? A university professor attempted to explain:
“Huck is put upon, embarrassed, taken advantage of and thrust into horrendous situations—but he never seems to mind. Perhaps Huck represents something that appeals to the basic needs of most people. He’s like a good tonic in a time when one is sorely needed.”

Oft-Honored Hound
The Emmy award to Huckleberry Hound wasn’t the first award or honour achieved by this cartoon series. The list includes:
Huck Hound Day at the University of Washington. Eleven thousand students joined his fan club.
Initiation into the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at UCLA. His portrait hangs over the fireplace.
A poker parlor in Gardenia, Calif., broke up a pot-limit game so the employes could watch Huck on TV.
Employes of an aircraft plan adopted him as a mascot.
A SAC bomber is adorned with his visage.
A bill was introduced in a Western State legislature to rename a 50-acre woodland tract into Huckleberry Hound State Park.


  1. Avery's "Billy Boy" and Michael Lah's "Blackboard Jumble" (which reuses a lot of the animation from Tex's "Three Little Pups") are really the prototype stories for the eventual Huckleberry Hound cartoons. In both the wolf is the protagonist who ends up suffering, first at the hands of the goat and then at the hands of the Droopy triplets (not using Bill Thompson's voice here allowed Droopy to be the antagonist for the only time in his career, since it allowed Lah to make them visually hyperactive without any pedantic voice to get in the way other than Daws' wolf).

  2. Is that exactly how the article first appeared, mistakes and all? ('Complete' for 'compete' for example, and 'trotting' for 'trotted'.) Maybe you could fix them for ease of reading? (Hope you don't mind me pointing them out.)

  3. Is huck hound day or the national park still around? I know there was a large huge Popeye club at a college in Canada (which you can read through bottom link)