Sunday, January 23, 2011

"The Good, the Bad, and the Huckleberry" -- starring Daws Butler


In the late 1980's, Hanna-Barbera made a syndication deal to produce ten new animated TV movies for local stations around the country.  These movies, which would air in two-hour prime time blocks, were to star many of Hanna-Barbera's biggest cartoon stars.  One of the first of these feature-length TV movies was "Yogi and the Magical Flight of the Spruce Goose."  It premiered at Thanksgiving in 1987.   I recall watching it on TV with my kids...I think it was the longest two hours of their young lives.  It really did seem to go on forever, with the numerous and lengthy commercial breaks virtually destroying all tension and sense of continuity to the story.  

Others titles in this series included "Scooby Doo Meets the Boo Brothers," "The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones," and "Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats."  Many of them sounded promising, at least on paper.  But all of them seemed to collapsed under the weight of the interminable length of the time slot.  Two hours proved to be too much for a lot of these stories.  

Back then, John Ludin and I had been working together on "Yogi's Treasure Hunt" and we were both big fans of Quick Draw McGraw, so we tried to interest the powers that be in giving one of these movies to Quick Draw.  Joe Barbera, who was in charge of this movie package, wasn't keen on the Quick Draw concept, but he suggested we pursue a different title he had been considering:  "The Good, the Bad and the Huckleberry" --a western starring Huckleberry Hound.   John and I leapt at the chance to write this one.  We vowed to make it the best darned Huck cartoon ever.  

Well, it didn't quite work out the way we planned.   

We managed to tell part of the story we wanted to tell...but Mr. B had some thoughts on the subject, and he was quite insistent that we do what he requested.  We were surprised by this, because in our experience, this was not the normal procedure for Joe.  He usually let us do our own thing.  But these ten feature-length TV movies were important to him and the studio, so he took a personal interest in each one of them.  

Fortunately for John and me, Joe didn't micromanage our script, but he did insist on some moments that never quite made sense to us.  For instance, in the middle of an old western town in the 1880's, a bus containing kids would pull up, the kids would look out the bus windows, see Yogi and Boo Boo out on the street, and shout, "Look at the bears, look at the bears, look at the bears."  Yogi would find this annoying... while John and I just found it confusing.  This moment had absolutely nothing to do with  Huckleberry Hound's taming of the wild west, but Joe wanted it in there.  So it stayed in there.  

We learned later that Joe dictated the entire plot and virtually all of the dialog in almost every one of the other movies, so in the end, John and I felt fortunate that Joe trusted us enough to let us write most of the script on our own.  

But, ultimately, "The Good, the Bad, and the Huckleberry" was defeated by the same thing that brought down most of the other nine movies in this series:  they were just too dang long!  

Above is the cover page from the script, signed by the voice of Huck, Yogi, Quick Draw, Hokey Wolf and many others:  the great Daws Butler.  

4 comments:

  1. Tom, thanks for the story. It explains a lot.
    The interruption line came from Yogi Bear's Big Break, as I'm sure you know, but the stop-the-plot-for-an-oddity sounds like something Barbera might have seen in his NY days watching Fleischer cartoons.

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  2. Besides "Yogi Bear's Big Break," I'm wondering if Joe used a version of this gag in some other cartoon as well. I recall him saying that this gag "always gets a laugh" when he told us to include it. Made me think he may have slipped it in on other occasions as well...into a "Wacky Races" episode? Into "Yogi's Ark Lark," perchance?

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  3. I remember that "look at the bears!" line from way back in the original Yogi Bear cartoons!

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  4. You are correct, sir. From the first Yogi cartoon, I think.

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