“The Huckleberry Hound Show” was William Hanna and Joseph Barbera’s second made-for-TV series (“The Ruff and Reddy Show”, NBC-TV 1957-60 was their first.) The series premiered in 1958 and starred a dim-witted, good-natured hound dog with a Southern drawl. The show took television audiences by storm. Sponsored nationally by Kellogg’s Cereals, the show was the first fully animated series made strictly for television, in contrast to those hosted by live performers or ones with a cinematic history.
Syndicated on October 2,1958, and aired most frequently on Thursday afternoons, “Huckleberry Hound” was about an honest, hard-working dog who was trying out a variety of careers. In the premiere episode, “Wee Willie,” Police Patrolman Huckleberry is assigned the difficult task of returning a playful escaped gorilla to the zoo. Subsequent episodes involved his pursuing such occupations as mailman, truant officer, veterinarian, lion tamer, explorer, mounted police officer, firefighter, and once even dogcatcher.
Huckleberry’s relaxed Southern accent was provided by the late voice actor Daws Butler. A master of more than 100 vocal characterizations, Butler had previously worked with Hanna and Barbera at the MGM studios when the team was producing the extremely popular “Tom and Jerry” theatrical cartoons.
“Pixie and Dixie” and “Mr. Jinks” were the first additional segments on the 30-minute program. Pixie and Dixie were two little mice who were constantly menaced by their playful nemesis. Jinks the Cat, who “hates meeces to pieces.” The theme was a low-budget version of Hanna and Barbera’s old “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, with the addition of an extra mouse.
Next came the immensely popular Yogi Bear, whose adventures made up the second featured segment. Calling himself “smarter than the average bear,” Yogi was an inhabitant of Jellystone National Park, and the free-spirited bear was constantly busy pilfering picnic baskets, to the disapproval of his diminutive friend Boo Boo, as well as that of the generally good-natured Ranger Smith.
Voiced by Daws Butler, Yogi resembled Art Carney’s Ed Norton, from “The Honeymooners” series, from his vocal attributes to his pork pie hat with the tilted brim. Yogi’s success on The Huckleberry Hound Show, which even rivaled that of its star, eventually led to his own series in the fall of 1961. He was replaced by an even smarter animal, the conniving Hokey Wolf, whose gift for gab and deceit closely resembled comedian Phil Silver’s Sergeant Bilko.
Although children comprised the show’s largest audience, “The Huckleberry Hound Show” also became a favorite with many adults. In 1959 it was awarded an Emmy for Best Children’s Program. It was the only cartoon series ever to win such an honor, until the premiere six years later of Charles Schulz’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The success of the series eventually led to a string of similarly animated types and brought in millions of dollars in sales revenue through products bearing the likenesses of the show’s characters.
Through several revivals in the 1970s, with pal Yogi Bear, including repeats of the old shows. Huckleberry Hound remains one of television’s most memorable cartoon characters.