Saturday, 2 March 2019

Big Hound on Campus

One of the things you have likely discovered if you’re a long-time reader of this blog is that there was a time when Huckleberry Hound had a cult-like status.

It didn’t last long (pop culture phenomena tend to be like that) but his personality gripped people of all ages. Nothing bothered him. No matter what happened to him, he’d take it in stride. And then he’d have a one-liner about it for the people watching on TV. This seemed fresh and new to the critics, but it really wasn’t. Tex Avery had a wolf with pretty much the same voice as Huck who did the same thing in MGM cartoons of the 1950s. But Huck came into people’s homes on a regular basis. He had funny friends that would interact with him between their own, separate cartoons. And, to be honest, Avery’s wolf was funny but Huck was likeable.

Here are a couple of short newspaper stories from Florida published during Huck’s first season. The first is from the Tampa Bay Times of March 29, 1959 and the second from the Miami News of August 13, 1959. The Huck show aired on Thursdays in both cities.

Is TV Going To The Dogs?

Who's the most popular TV personality? None other than Huckleberry Hound, as any informed teenager will tell you at the drop of a hat. If you don't agree, then, Brother, thems fightin' words!
Huck Hound, seen Thursdays on WFLA-TV, and his cohorts are the brain-children of Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna, cartoonists for H-B Enterprises, who also created the Tom and Jerry cartoons.
Huckleberry Hound is a slow-moving character that nothing can faze; he is the master of understatement. He falls, head first, off a skyscraper and, upon landing with a thud, drawls, "That was a purty big building."
"Huck Hound can be anything he wants to be," explains Barbera, "a cowboy, cave man, or lion tamer."
He continues "A cartoon character is never limited by restrictions of space or time. Yogi Bear can take enough buckshot in his hide to lay out a dozen real bears then laugh in the hunter's face."
ONE REASON a cartoon has such appeal, Mr. Barbera believes is that the cartoon is a medium of fantasy. A small child has just discovered that when you touch something hot you get burned. While this is true, it dismays the youngster no end. When he sees the cartoon character stroll through a forest fire without getting singed, he is "utterly delighted" Barbera explains.

Adults Like Huck Hound

TV Editor of the Miami News
The college kids of the nation are officially adopting Huckleberry Hound. Huckleberry Hound, or Channel 7 at 7 tonight, is that Southern-drawling pooch originally designed to amuse the kids.
He's the pen-and-ink child of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, the creators of Tom and Jerry. Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse have entertained movie-goers during the past 20 years. They also brought MGM seven Academy Awards.
But Huck's philosophy—and his friend, Yogi Bear—caught the fancy and affection of adults.
Right here at The Miami News, in fact, a few of our reporters and editors tote about a lofty disdain for television in general. But four words—"It's Huckleberry Hound time"—will send them sprinting for the tube. The college kids are proclaiming their esteem.
The University of Washington held a "Huck Hound Day" on campus and 11,000 students joined his fan club. Southern Methodist and Texas Christian Universities have dedicated days to Huck this October.
At UCLA, Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity initiated him and hung his portrait over the fireplace.
Homecoming Theme
In the Big Ten, Huckleberry Hound is the theme of Ohio State's homecoming celebration.
All the admiration isn't Ivy-League, either. Bars have been named for him; poker games adjourned for him; airplanes decorated with his picture and speed limits broken for him.
"Huck is put upon, embarrassed, taken advantage of and thrust into horrendous situations," said one professor. "But he never seems to mind."
Perhaps his ability not to mind is the key to his infectious popularity.
Hanna and Barbera also turn out the Ruff and Reddy cartoons seen Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. on Channel 7.
The duo used to produce 50 minutes of Tom and Jerry cartoons per year for MGM. Last television season, they did more than 900 minutes of cartoons.
Their 200 employes use more than a full tank-car of ink a year. It takes 90 separate drawings for one laugh movement, and 10,000 individual drawings for a half-hour cartoon sequence.

Incidentally, the frames in this post are from Skeeter Trouble (first aired in 1959), where Huck tries to get rid of a mosquito ruining his relaxing visit to the great outdoors. The animator is Carlo Vinci. We posted some of Carlo’s shake takes from this cartoon in this post. Carlo loved rubbery head shakes where one part of the head is facing one way, and the rest facing the other way (though not at 180 degrees to each other). Here’s how he turns Huck’s head.

The cartoon ends with an endless cycle of Huck driving stage right. It takes 16 drawings before the background by Monty repeats. There are four drawings in the cycle, animated on twos.

Besides the Vinci animation and Monty’s nice settings, I’ve always liked this cartoon because it’s the only one in which Daws Butler did his Fred Allen voice. It’s a shame he didn’t repeat it in narration in other cartoons, but Don Messick tended to be cast as the narrator in Huck’s first season.


  1. Huck has always had a cult like status, most HB cartoons, did, just faded over the years, but thanks to your blog and in general the internet, more are discovering and liking the character..

  2. Avery at MGM and then at Lantz (where he kind of had it foist onto him) used Daws' laconic southern character as the adversary for the bland lead. We were ostensibly supposed to be rooting for Droopy and Chilly Willy, even though the laughs of the cartoon were being provided by the Wolf and Smedley. Huck being the star of the cartoon allowed the audience to immediately identify with him, without having to wade through caring anything about his adversary, other than the gags setting up Huck's reactions that could come out of them.