In 1958, history was made when Hanna-Barbera launched the first completely animated television series to hit American airwaves with The Huckleberry Hound Show. Now, children all over North America were able to tune in on Saturday mornings and thrill to three separate cartoon adventures featuring Yogi Bear, Pixie And Jinxie with Mr. Jinks, and of course, old Huckleberry Hound himself and Kellogg's, being the show's sponsor, was able to capitalize on the audience!
The show ran for fifty-seven episodes in total, of which twenty-six are represented on this first volume. The three story cartoons prove to be a lot of fun and while some of the material sticks a little close to the formula and as such becomes a bit predictable, that's half the fun of the material – just how will Yogi and Boo Boo get that picnic basket and escape the Ranger this time? We know they'll do it, there's no suspense there, the catch lies in 'how' it happens and the masterminds behind this series always seemed to come up with some pretty creative ways to make that happen.
Some of the Pixie and Jinxie material comes dangerously close to being a Tom & Jerry clone in spots but Mr. Jinks is cool enough and funny enough to save these bits, always there with a catch phrase or a one liner to save the day.
While Yogi would go on to get his own show and become a lot more popular than any of the other characters from this series, the star of the show this time out really is Huckleberry Hound himself. His strange southern drawl and penchant for breaking into song make him a completely loveable character and a pretty funny one as well. The writers and animators weren't in the least bit concerned with consistency or realism, nor should they have been, and as such they weren't afraid to place the dog in all manner of oddball scenarios, each one different from the next. One week he's be hanging out with Wee Willie, the next week he'd be taking on some trappers, the week after that he might be helping the police, and then the next week you might find him acting out a famous fairy tale. It was this freewheeling scripting and story development that made Huckleberry Hound as much fun as he was.
While the animation throughout the show might look primitive to those used to today's very different way of bringing moving pictures to life, the flat backgrounds and hand drawn characters have a completely endearing charm all their own and while maybe they're not as technically complex as some of today's animated fare, it's shows like this that remind us how far the industry has come in terms of what it's able to do and how fast it's able to do it. Considering the enduring popularity of the characters that this series spawned and the animation boom that kicked off shortly after this shows success, it's no wonder that the series is held in such high regard by fans of classic cartoons.
Despite the limitations of the animation, the series proved to be quite successful and a lot of the credit for that has to go to the voice actors who brought the series to life. The famous Daws Butler voiced many of the characters that popped up throughout the series, handling vocal duties for not only Yogi Bear but also for Huckleberry Hound and Mr. Jinks. The equally talented Don Messick voiced Boo Boo and Pixie, and he'd later go on to fame as the voice of Scooby-Doo.
The twenty-six episodes contained on this set are laid out as follows (Yogi Bear is usually first, followed by Pixie And Dixie, and concluding with Huckleberry Hound though there is some deviance from that line up from time to time):
Episode One: Yogi Bear's Big Break/Cousin Tex/Huckleberry Hound Meets Wee Willie
Episode Two: Slumber Party Smarty/Judo Jack/Lion-Hearted Huck
Episode Three: Pie Pirates/Kit-Kat-Kit/Tricky Trapper
Episode Four: Big Bad Bully/Jinks' Mice Device/Sir Huckleberry Hound
Episode Five: Foxy Hound Dog/Pistol Packin' Pirate/Sheriff Huckleberry
Episode Six: Big Brave Bear/Scaredy Cat Dog/Rustler-Hustler Huck
Episode Seven: Tally Ho-Ho-Ho/The Little Bird-Mouse/Freeway Patrol
Episode Eight: High-Fly Guy/Jiggers/It's Jinks/Cock-a-Doodle Huck
Episode Nine: Baffled Bear/The Ghost With The Most/Two Corny Crows
Episode Ten: The Brave Little Brave/The Ace of Space/Huckleberry Hound Meets Wee Willie
Episode Eleven: Yogi Bear's Big Break/Jinks Junior/Fireman Huck
Episode Twelve: The Stout Trout/Cousin Tex/Dragon Slayer Huck
Episode Thirteen: The Buzzin' Bear/Jinks The Butler/Lion-Hearted Huck
Episode Fourteen: Slumber Party Smarty/Jinks' Flying Carpet/Hookey Daze
Episode Fifteen: The Runaway Bear/Judo Jack/Skeeter Trouble
Episode Sixteen: Be My Guest Pest/Puppet Pals/Tricky Trapper
Episode Seventeen: Pie Pirates/Mark Of The Mouse/Sheep-Shape Sheepherder
Episode Eighteen: Duck In Luck/Kit-Kat-Kit/Barbecue Hound
Episode Nineteen: Bear On A Picnic/Dinky Jinks/Sir Huckleberry Hound
Episode Twenty: Big Bad Bully/Hypnotize Surprise/Hokum Smokum
Episode Twenty-One: Prize-Fight Fright/Jinks' Mice Device/Birdhouse Blues
Episode Twenty-Two: Brainy Bear/Nice Mice/Postman Picnic
Episode Twenty-Three: Robin Hood Yogi/King-Size Surprise/Ski Champ Chump
Episode Twenty-Four: Daffy Daddy/Cat-Nap Cat/Lion Tamer Huck
Episode Twenty-Five: Scooter Looter/Mouse-Nappers/Little Red Riding Huck
Episode Twenty-Six: Hide And Go Peek/Boxing Buddy/The Tough Little Termite
Overall, this is a really nice selection of material. Though there is a wee bit of repetition in terms of content (a couple of segments show up twice, which is a shame) most of the gags and jokes still work really well even today. The characters and most of the humor has aged very well and it's great to be able to go back to these episodes through the magic of DVD. What hasn't aged so well, however, are some of the racial stereotypes. While personally I'm able to chalk it up to a product of a by gone era where political correctness was nothing more than a vague turn, some of the supporting characters depicted in a couple of episodes could be construed as a little offensive to certain people (the Judo Jack sketch being a prime example). Other than that, having almost half of the complete run of the series in one handy-dandy DVD boxed set is a treat and it's nice to be able to have this material made available again, especially considering its importance in the history of American television animation.
Each and every one of these episodes was meant to be seen fullframe and that's exactly how they appear in this set. Thankfully, the elements look to have been in pretty good shape for this release as the video quality is great. Colors are nice and strong, print damage is surprisingly minimal, and there aren't any mpeg compression issues noticeable at all. There is a fine coat of grain overtop the picture pretty consistently and a few small scratches here and there but that's to be expected considering the age of the episodes. Overall, this set looks quite nice.
The original mono mixes are maintained here on this release and for the most part, they all sound pretty decent. Things do get a bit flat in one or two scenes and those used to the flurry of activity present on more modern animation releases such as the DVD releases for The Simpsons might be disappointed but there aren't any serious problems with these tracks at all. Dialogue is clean and clear and easy to understand, the background music and sound effects levels are balanced properly in the mix, and there is nary a trace of hiss or distortion present at all.
There are alternate dubbed tracks available in French and Spanish, as well as an English closed captioning option.
The best of the supplemental material to be found on this set is a documentary entitled The Legendary Sound Of Daws Butler, which is a look back at one of animation's most famous voice actors. While there isn't any footage of the man in here, there is a wealth of still photographs and some great pictures of him doing his thing, as well as a group of brief interview clips with some of the people working in the industry today who count him as an influence. In addition to the interviews, this segment also explores just what exactly is entailed in performing as a voice actor in an animated show and it proves to be not only interesting but also quite educational though at just under thirteen minutes in length, it's maybe a bit too short.
There's also a section called Reconstructed Episodes and in a nutshell what this is, is an option that allows you to watch the original opening and closing Kellogg's promo spots for each of the first six episodes in the set. There's also some additional bridging material in here in the form of little promo spots that appeared throughout the six episodes that this material is provided for. While none of this is really essential viewing, it is kind of neat to see how this material was presented back when it was a fresh, new television show decades ago and it's also interesting to see how cereal advertising has changed over the years.
There's also a five and a half minute featurette that emphasizes the way that Huckleberry Hound spoke, with a fake university professor explaining the way that he annunciated certain words for effect. It's mildly amusing, much more so than the awful Huckleberry Hound Music Video that is basically just some samples of quotes from the dog over top of some bad drum machine/rap beats. It's a completely pointless feature that adds nothing to the set.
All four discs are housed inside the familiar Hanna-Barbera packaging (it's a digipack inside a clear plastic overlay sleeve) and inside you'll find a reproduction of an animation cell from the show. The set also features animated menus and chapter selection.
While the quality of the supplements leaves a little to be desired, the episodes on this set all look and sound pretty good and the content holds up really well. With that in mind, for fans of vintage animation, The Huckleberry Hound Show – Volume One comes recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.