THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF HANNA BARBERAHARRY L. RINKER
Wednesday, Nov. 22, 1995
WILLIAM DENBY Hanna and Joseph Roland Barbera. Why do these names ring a bell? While collectors may not be familiar with these gentlemen as individuals, they certainly know their creations - Huckleberry Hound, Yogi and Boo-Boo, Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles Flintstone, Jonny Quest, and Scooby-Doo.
Collectors and scholars are assessing who has exercised the greatest influence on the generations of Saturday morning television cartoon show youngsters - Hanna and Barbera or Walt Disney? Betting money is on Hanna and Barbera.
I was surprised at how hard it was to research the lives of these men and the history of their cartoon empire. I found a piece here, a piece there. At Hanna-Barbera Studios, I talked with Karen Farris and Marc Grossman in the publicity department. Individuals and a company of their importance deserve better.
Much of this information comes from press releases provided by Karen Farris on behalf of Hanna-Barbera Studios. Credit where credit is due. I am plagiarizing freely because I believe much of the information will be as new to you as it was to me.
William Danby Hanna was born on July 14, 1910, in Melrose, N.M. Attending college during the Depression, he studied structural engineering briefly before a lack of finances forced him to end his studies. A talent for drawing landed him a job at the Harman-Ising animation studio in 1930. Hanna worked there for seven years.
Joseph Roland Barbera was born in New York City in 1911. Although enamored with drawing, Barbera initially worked as an accountant at a law firm, following his studies at the American Institute of Banking. He lost his job as a result of the Depression. After a brief stint as a magazine cartoonist, in 1932 Barbera joined the Van Beuren studio, where he helped animate and script Tom and Jerry.
The original Van Beuren Tom and Jerry cartoons featured two zany human characters who found themselves constantly in weird and strange situations. MGM's "Tom and Jerry," the cartoon with which most of us are familiar, stars a cat and a mouse. Cartoon historians see a clear linkage between the two. They should.
For Hanna and Barbera, 1937 was a magic year. MGM was organizing a new cartoon unit in Hollywood. Barbera headed west and joined MGM as a scriptwriter and later an animator. Hanna, one of the first MGM staff members, directed many of the "Captain and Kids" cartoons, collaborating with William Allen.
It was not until 1938 that Hanna and Barbera were first teamed together. Their first project was "Gallopin' Gals." In 1939 Hanna and Barbera collaborated again, this time on "Puss Gets the Boot," the cartoon that would propel Tom, the cat, and Jerry, the mouse, to cartoon stardom. From this point forward, Hanna and Barbera were inseparable.
During the next 18 years, Hanna and Barbera worked together on over 200 Tom and Jerry cartoons, earning seven Academy Awards in the process. The pair won critical acclaim in the 1940s as their cartoon characters danced with Gene Kelly in the motion pictures "Anchors Away" and "Invitation to Dance" and with Esther Williams in the film "Dangerous When Wet." When MGM's Fred Quimby retired in 1956, Hanna and Barbera were placed in charge of all MGM's cartoon production.
In 1957, after being with MGM for 20 years, Hanna and Barbera struck out on their own. Their goal was to develop cartoons for television, a medium they saw as an opportunity for a new animation style and the introduction of a host of new cartoon characters. Their independent Hanna-Barbera Studio would define the art of television animation.
Hanna contributed his talents in respect to personnel management and comic tempo. Barbera added skilled draftsmanship, a strong story-telling ability, and comic inventiveness.
For almost 40 years, Hanna and Barbera have charmed television viewers and movie audiences with a never-ending array of lively, entertaining cartoon characters, beginning with Ruff and Reddy and extending through the Smurfs. In 1991, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were elected to the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
Now in their 80s, Hanna and Barbera continue to work. Bill Hanna was executive producer on the feature-length animated musical adventure "Once Upon a Forest" from Twentieth Century Fox and directed "I Yabba-Dabba-Doo" and "Hollyrock-A-Bye Baby," both ABC specials.
Joe Barbera was a creative consultant for the animated feature film "Tom and Jerry - The Movie," produced by Turner Entertainment Co. and distributed by Miramax. He also served as producer and executive producer for the syndicated Hanna-Barbera / Fox Children's Network show "Tom and Jerry Kids."
Hanna and Barbera are lending their individual talents to the World Premier Toons project, 48 seven-minute cartoon shorts, the first of which aired on the Cartoon Network last February. Hanna is directing "Hard Luck Duck," his first solo outing since 1937. Barbera is directing the popular Flintstones snorkasaurus Dino, the original purple dinosaur, in "Stay Out."
To learn more about Hanna and Barbera, read Joseph Barbera's "My Life In Toons," published by Turner Publishing in 1994, and their entries in Maurice Horn's (editor) "The World Encyclopedia of Cartoons" (New York: Chelsea House: 1981). Hanna is has an autobiography, titled "A Cast of Friends," published by Taylor Publishing Co. You can also pick up "Hanna Barbera Cartoons" by Michael Mallory.