WILLIAM DENBY HANNA
William Denby Hanna (1910-2001)
American animator and producer born in Melrose, New Mexico, on July 14, 1910. William Hanna studied to become a structural engineer but had to drop out of college with the onset of the Depression. A talent for drawing led him to join the Harman-Ising animation studio in 1930; there he worked for seven years in the story and layout departments.
When the MGM animation unit was established in 1937, Hanna became one of its first staff members and directed many of the Captain and the Kids cartons in 1938-39, together with William Allen. In 1938 he and Joe Barbera were teamed for the first time on a short titled Gallopin' Gals; the association became permanent the next year when the duo directed the first of the Tom and Jerry cartons, "Puss Gets the Boot." Over the next 18 years Hanna and Barbera directed more than 200 Tom and Jerry shorts, winning great popularity and a number of Oscars along the way. For a brief period following Fred Quimby's retirement in 1956, they were also in charger of production.
In 1957 Hanna and Barbera struck out on their own and formed Hanna-Barbera Productions with a view to producing cartoon films for television as well as for theatrical release. The success of their early television series, Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear, helped establish them in the field, but their theatrical venture, Loopy de Loop, fizzled out. In the early 1960s the phenomenal success of The Flintstones boosted the studio to the top of the TV cartoon field; Hanna-Barbera Productions was sold to Taft Communications in 1966 for a reported $26 million, with Hanna and Barbera remaining at the head of the company.
Hanna-Barbera has been churning out animation material at an increasing pace as television has provided a greater and greater market for their product. Among the more than 100 cartoon series and specials produced by Hanna-Barbera in the 20 years of the studio's existence, there are very few that are commendable or even watch able. Some of their series titles are Atom Ant, Magilla Gorilla, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Quickdraw McGraw, Ruff and Ready, Auggie Doggie and Doggie Daddy (an imitation of the earlier Spike and Tyke MGM cartoons), Dastardly and Mutley and Birdman; the specials include Alice in Wonderland, Jak and the Beanstalk, Cyrano de Bergerac and Charlotte's Web.
Hanna-Barbera has been called "the poor man's Disney," but even that appellation is probably too charitable. There is no artistic reason why Hanna and Barbera, who proved themselves very talented craftsmen during their halcyon days at MGM, could not have used limited animation to better effect than they have in all their days as independent producers. Jay Ward and others have proved that TV animation need not be as dreadful an exercise as Hanna-Barbera made it. On November 24, 1977, CBS aired a special called The Happy World of Hanna-Barbera, in which their current production was contrasted with their earlier work at MGM -- The worst condemnation that could possibly have been imagined.