Thursday, February 3, 2011

"The Good, the Bad, and Huckleberry Hound" – Part 2

Longtime pal and comedy-writer extraordinaire John Ludin has been good enough to send along some of his vivid (and funny) memories of Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna and many others during the making of “The Good, the Bad and the Huckleberry” at Hanna-Barbera Productions back in 1988.   

And here they are:  

"I was just reading your blog - and laughing out loud.  I so remember Joe telling us about the kids singing, "Look at the bears, look at the bears, look at the bears." We smiled and nodded and went back to work, thinking he would forget it in a day or two. Every week we had to give Joe an update on the script and where we were going with it next. 

The following week, we returned to his office and he brought it up again, acting out the entire scene.   "So, this group of kids in a bus sees Yogi and Boo Boo and yells 'Look at the bears, look at the bears, look at the bears.'" Heading back to your office, we wondered why Joe was insistent on this, especially since Yogi wasn't even in the story, and opted to just leave it out, especially because it was so senseless. The next week Joe had read the latest draft and asked why the scene wasn't in the script. And I think he was kind of bugged that we didn't see how funny it was. One of us asked why the kids were there, and why they were in a bus. Joe said it could be a tour bus. He then, of course, reenacted the whole scene. I remember going back to your office and saying we should see what would happen if we left it out once again. You were smarter than that and advised we had better just put it in, so we could make it work. We wrote it in, then I recall, in an homage to Groucho, having Huck turn to camera and deadpan, "That was a strange interlude, twern't it?" or something like that. 

Joe was only outdone by Bill, who slapped in the Dalton's "Gold, Gold, Gold" song without us knowing anything about it. "Our swimming pools are filled with gold, by heck, We got so much gold, around our neck," or some equally lame lyric.    

Howie Morris as Ernest T. Bass
Do you remember Joe telling us how the crazed brave Chuckling Chipmunk (I think that was his name) would laugh? Joe did the silliest little giggle and wanted to make sure that the character sounded just like that.  Howie Morris had been cast to do the voice and did it his own way, which was pretty funny. When it came time for pick-ups, (voice director) Andrea Romano asked if we had anything. We were in the other room and I was explaining to her what Joe wanted for the laugh. The actors were on the other side of the glass, watching us talk to Andrea, but I know I was the one discussing the laugh, asking to get one take, just so we would have it, the way Joe had done it. And I had to do the laugh, so Andrea would know what to tell Howie. She then went back in and asked Howie to redo the laugh, recreating what I had done. He was visibly upset about this. He begrudgingly did it the way he was asked, and then was cut loose from the session.

As Howie left, he took the time to open the door to where we sat, looked at me, pointed and yelled almost to the point of being unintelligible, "My laugh was a whole lot funnier than that dumbshit giggle you wanted, because I know what's god damn funny because I've been doing this for a god damn long time with people like Caesar and Brooks and Reiner and you don't know what the fuck you're doing." Or words to that affect. Do you remember that? What a great moment. And all because of Joe.

Also, you might recall, we were trying to beat Glenn Leopold (who was writing one of the nine other cartoon movie scripts – “Scooby Doo and the Ghouls School,” I think) in terms of finishing ours first.  I think he beat us by a day - but we worked hard to make every joke count.  I remember throwing out all sorts of stuff.   If it wasn't a set-up or a punch line, we jettisoned it.  It was the most streamlining that I had ever done to that point.  We were always asking, "Can we cut this out and it still makes sense?"  If yes, then we cut it.  Look at the arc in that story.  It's huge. What a crazy idea to fill up that much time with one character.

I sure had a great time while we were there pounding it out every day. And I'll stack up the jokes in "The Good, the Bad and the Huckleberry" against anything.    

Pat Buttram, Tommy Lester, "Green Acres"
So here's one more memory about the show...

I was delighted to meet Pat Buttram in the recording session, being a fan of old westerns and especially Green Acres. Pat played the referee in the boxing match where Huck was up against this behemoth, sure to be pulverized. The line was, "Let the massacre begin." Pat said, in that perfect cracking voice, "Let the mass-uh-cree begin." I really laughed and later, I mentioned it to him. He said in some Autrey movie, he had said it that way and Gene laughed, so he's said it that way ever since. Classic. And that's why, if you're recording a western, you hire Pat Buttram."

John Ludin with Wayne Kaatz and me  (1988)

Thanks for the memories, John!  

And, before signing off, here's one last quick anecdote from John Ludin about Joe Barbera, when Joe was working on an ambitious animated home video series called “The Greatest Adventure Stories form the Bible.”

“I still laugh when I think about Joe telling us that nobody has ever told the story of Noah and the ark properly, regarding what it was like inside that arc:  'And then the boat rocks and this elephant comes sliding right at you and Jesus Christ it's a big damn elephant.'"

As Joe used to say, “It was a helluva deal!”  


  1. I want to see this movie, this is my favorite Hannah Barbara character, the colors remind me of the fifties, so it looks pretty good. Are those original cel set ups?

  2. The frame caps are from a 1958 Huck TV show segment. The last image is a piece of publicity art for "The Good, the Bad, and Huckleberry Hound."

  3. Tom,

    I am the world's biggest Huckleberry Hound fan for my whole life; I am 51 years old, and I just want to thank you for the greatest Huck cartoon ever made, "The Good, The Bad and Huckleberry Hound." I was so impressed with this film when I first saw it on TV when it debuted, and I have purchased a VHS copy and now a DVD copy from Warner Brothers. Everything that I love about this character and his cartoons are in this story. I wrote to Jon Ludin a few years ago because I lived in Bozeman for a while and he shared his thoughts on the movie with me. Your movie is the best of the "Superstar 10" movies. I like how Huck talks to the narrator and breaks the fourth wall to talk to the audience. It is very reminiscent of some Looney Tunes and early H-B TV cartoons with some of the gags like Stinky Dalton coming down and getting flattened like the Coyote. You guys did a great job on it and I wanted to thank you for your participation in this movie. With the way some of the 1980's H-B shows were coming out, I was dreading how Huck's movie would come out, but then I watched it and was very surprised. I think the animation itself looks stilted at times and not very fluent, but the writing was dead on and Daws Butler and the rest of the voice cast did an excellent job. I have watched this movie at least a hundred times and I still enjoy it as much today as I did when it first came out. Once again, thank you. By the way, I took my e-mail address from one of the names in your movie -

  4. You rock, Greg! John Ludin and I had a blast writing it. I too love Huck and the whole gang of early HB characters. My favorite section in "The Good-Bad-Huck" is the homage to the "Nicholas Nickelby" 8 hour stage show that was playing around the country at the time.

  5. Wow! Thank you for that little tidbit about the recap. When I first saw the film in 1988, it premiered at 1 p.m. on Portland TV on a Sunday. The Seattle Mariners game that preceded it ran 45 minutes late, so I missed the first part of the movie. They joined it in progress where Huck is starting to clean up the town ("I do not do windows"). The only way I knew what had transpired earlier was through that recap. It was invaluable for people like me who were forced to come into the movie late.

    By the way, that brings up a question I have been curious about with the movie. Where did the idea for the end of the movie come from with the midnight ghost train and dressing Huck up as a ghost? I recognize a lot of western movie scenes from other films in the Huck movie, but that one I'm not familiar with.

    Also, to show you how big of a Huckleberry Hound fan that I am, for a wedding present, a friend made for my bride and I by hand a stained glass Huckleberry Hound picture. It is the prize of my Huck collection.

  6. I think when John and I were outlining the story, we had that ghost train concept in from the beginning. Probably came from our extensive work on Scooby up to that point. Lots of ghosts in Scooby. I need to get the dvd of this!