Yogi Bear comic book Top Cat comic book

Joseph "Joe" Barbera is one of the most famous animators of all time, together with his business partner William Hanna. Between 1940 and 1958 they had their first success producing the hilariously violent 'Tom & Jerry' cartoons for the MGM film studios. In 1957 they founded their own company, Hanna-Barbera Productions, which eventually became the most succesful TV cartoon studio in the world. They scored international hits with series like 'The Flintstones' (1960-1966), 'Yogi Bear' (1961-1962), 'Top Cat' (1961-1962), 'The Jetsons' (1962-1963), 'Wacky Races' (1968-1970) and 'Scooby-Doo' (1969-1970), while also adapting comics series by other artists to the small screen, like Peyo's 'The Smurfs'. While the quality of some of their TV output has often been contested they at least proved that TV animation could be as profitable as film animation. They pioneered the first prime-time animated sitcom ('The Flintstones') and received 7 Oscars, 8 Emmy's and one Golden Globe for their work. Several of their shows also inspired numerous comic book spin-offs.

Cartoon by Joe BarberaCartoon by Joe Barbera
Cartoons drawn by Joseph Barbera, depicting different moments in his life (1961, source:hannabarberaforever.com).

Early life and career 
Born in New York City in 1911, Barbera had a banking job when he sold his first cartoons to magazines like Redbook, Saturday Evening Post and Collier's. He began his career in animation at studios like Van Beuren - where he was hired and mentored by Jack Bogle - and Terrytoons in the 1930s. He teamed up with William Hanna while working at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in California.

Tom & Jerry
At MGM, Hanna and Barbera scored their first success with the 'Tom & Jerry' animated series, which kicked off with their debut cartoon 'Puss Gets The Boot' (1940). The shorts revolve around a blue housecat, Tom, and a little brown mouse, Jerry, who constantly fight and chase each other. Barbera drew out the storyboards of every 'Tom & Jerry' short, while Hanna timed every gag. Together with the writers they also oversaw the plots and gags. Among the animators who worked in their unit at the time were Gus Arriola, Dick BickenbachDon R. ChristensenGeorge CrenshawHarvey EisenbergJerry EisenbergDan GordonGene Hazelton, Volus Jones, Irv Spence, Cecil SurryReuben Timmins and Carl Wessler. 'Tom & Jerry' became an unexpected hit and one of the most popular cartoon series of the 1940s and 1950s. While cat-and-mouse cartoons weren't new Tom and Jerry did set the standard for the genre. Many animation studios tried to duplicate its success with similar cat and mice duos, such as Famous Studios' 'Herman and Katnip' (1940-1958), Terrytoons' 'Roquefort Mouse and Percy Cat' (1950-1955) and, decades later, Hanna-Barbera's own 'Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks' (1958-1961), 'Punkin' Puss & Mushmouse' (1964-1965) and 'Motormouse and Autocat' (1969-1971). Yet none of them matched 'Tom & Jerry' 's dynamic animation, hilarious slapstick violence with breakneck speed and excellent timing. Hanna and Barbera managed to avoid formulaic writing by thinking up clever variations for the same old gags. After Tex Avery moved to MGM in 1942, his influence spread to 'Tom & Jerry' too, even though he never worked on the series. Yet Hanna & Barbera studied his physically impossible gags and clever editing, which made their series only better and funnier. Contrary to most cartoons at the time (except Disney's 'Pluto' cartoons) 'Tom & Jerry' also stood out by rarely using any dialogue. Their pantomime comedy helped the series break through all language barriers and become universally popular. 

The 'Tom & Jerry' series managed to win seven Academy Awards, an animation record only equalled and surpassed by Walt Disney. Their seven crowned shorts were 'The Yankee Doodle Mouse' (1943), 'Mouse Trouble' (1944), 'Quiet Please!' (1945), 'The Cat Concerto' (1947), 'The Little Orphan' (1949), 'The Two Mouseketeers' (1952) and 'Johann Mouse' (1952). Other cartoons have also become classics, such as 'Fraidy Cat' (1942), 'Bowling Alley Cat' (1942), 'The Zoot Cat' (1944), 'The Mouse Comes to Dinner' (1945), 'Tee for Two' (1945), 'The Milky Waif' (1946), 'Trap Happy' (1946), 'Solid Serenade' (1946), 'Salt Water Tabby' (1947), 'A Mouse in the House' (1947), 'Kitty Foiled' (1948), 'Mouse Cleaning' (1948), 'Heavenly Puss' (1949), 'Love That Pup' (1949), 'Tennis Chumps' (1949), 'Little Quacker' (1950), 'Cue Ball Cat' (1950), 'Jerry's Cousin' (1951), 'Slicked-up Pup' (1951), 'Posse Cat' (1954) and 'Pecos Pest' (1955). The cat and mouse furthermore had cameos in the live-action MGM musicals 'Anchors Aweigh' (1944) and 'Dangerous When Wet' (1953), dancing with respectively Gene Kelly and Esther Williams. Kelly's dance sequences with an animated serpent and two Arab guards in the film 'Invitation to the Dance' (1956) were also animated by Hanna-Barbera. 

Tom & Jerry comics
As early as 1942 Dell Comics distributed 'Tom & Jerry' comics, as one of the features in Our Gang Comics, based on the long-running theatrical film series 'Our Gang' (nowadays better known as 'The Little Rascals'). By 1949 'Our Gang' had been terminated and thus the series was retitled Tom and Jerry Comics. It ran until issue #212 (July 1962), after which Western Publishing took over, continuing the comic book series until issue #344 (1984). The comic books mostly went unsigned, but the artwork was often provided by MGM animators. Among the identified writers were people like Del Connell, Jack Cosgriff, Gaylord Du Bois, Carl Fallberg, Vic Lockman and Don Sheppard. The main artist behind many classic 'Tom & Jerry' comics was Harvey Eisenberg. Other prominent artists were Fred AbranzLarry Antonette, Hal Bittner, Jack Bogle, Ken ChampinPhil De LaraTom Hickey, Lynn KarpGeorge KerrKen LandauCecil Surry and Irving Tripp. In other countries like Italy, Spain and Germany local artists drew their own stories starring the famous cat-and-mouse duo. Between 1950 and 1952 a 'Tom & Jerry' newspaper comic was published, officially credited to MGM producer Fred Quimby, but in reality written and drawn by Gene Hazelton, Ernie Stanzoni and Dan Gormley

Storyboard art for 'Jerry's Cousin' by Chuck Couch

Tom & Jerry: legacy
Thanks to their success William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were promoted to producers in 1955. Unfortunately the rise of a new popular medium - TV - made many animation studios cope with rising production costs and unavoidable financial cuts. In 1957 MGM became the first classic animation studio to close down. Others would follow in the next two decades. Yet 'Tom & Jerry' didn't fade away from memory. The old theatrical cartoons remain as beloved as they were in their heydays. They kept rerunning on many TV channels for decades. The only real dated aspect was Tom's African-American owner Mammy Two-Shoes, who is a stereotypical "mammy" housemaid. Between 1961 and 1967 new 'Tom & Jerry' theatrical shorts were created by various directors, respectively Gene DeitchChuck Jones, Maurice Noble, Abe Levitow, Tom Ray and Ben Washam. In the following decades Hanna-Barbera created many new TV shows and direct-to-video episodes revolving around Tom and Jerry. In 1992 a film, 'Tom & Jerry: The Movie' (1992), was released. All in all, none of these later cartoons ever matched the quality of the 1940-1957 MGM shorts, which are still regarded as the best. Among their celebrity fans were Whoopi Goldberg, Clive James, Terry Gilliam, LeBron James, Doug Walker (aka The Nostalgia Critic) and Johnny Knoxville (of 'Jackass' fame). Before they became famous the pop band Simon & Garfunkel performed under the name 'Tom & Jerry'. Steven Spielberg used a clip from the Tom & Jerry short 'The Mouse Comes to Dinner' (1945) in his film 'E.T.' (1982). The Belgian comics artists Tome and Janry based their pseudonym on 'Tom & Jerry'. More controversially, Yasser Arafat was a fan of 'Tom & Jerry' too, because he "sympathized with a small character fighting back against an aggressor ten times his size." And when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was ousted from power in 1979 troops found dozens of 'Tom & Jerry' film reels in his abandoned palace. 

The most enduring controversy of 'Tom & Jerry' has always been its violence. While other 1940s and 1950s cartoons have also received this criticism 'Tom & Jerry' is usually seen as the most excessive in this aspect. Many shorts feature very sadistic and painful scenes, which since the 1970s have been contested by moral guardians as being unsuitable for children. Some people have campaigned for censorship, but countercriticism has stated that most adult viewers simply overthink these violent scenes too much by comparing them with reality. In Italy Massimo Mattioli's 'Squeak the Mouse' (1980) has satirized the controversy with a similar cat-and-mouse duo, but far more gruesome violence. A few years later Matt Groening introduced a cartoon mouse-and-cat duo, Itchy and Scratchy, within his TV cartoon show 'The Simpsons', which satirizes cartoon violence pushed to gory extremes, often ending with Scratchy the cat being disemboweled, decapitated or dying other horrific deaths. 

The JetsonsScooby Doo

Hanna-Barbera Productions
Within the same year MGM closed down its animation studio Hanna and Barbera established their own company, Hanna-Barbera Productions (1957). Much of their output would be devoted to production of animated TV series. Some low-budget animation studios had already tried to launch TV cartoon shows, but since they had no real hits they usually failed to keep their company financially stable. Another problem was that they couldn't produce a full 20-minute episode on a weekly basis. Only Walt Disney had the foresight of using the new medium as a way to promote his cartoons. And even he mostly reran old animated cinematic shorts on TV, while only creating new footage to link this archive material together. The Walt Disney Company never even attempted creating full-blown animated TV shows until 1985. Just like Disney Hanna-Barbera also reran their old 'Tom & Jerry' cartoons. The success helped them finance new animated series, exclusively for television. To cut down costs all animation was stylized and simplified, making use of stock footage and backgrounds whenever possible. Many of their early animated shows imitated the sitcom format, complete with a laugh track. Thanks to these strategies and techniques Hanna-Barbera managed to become the most financially profitable and successful TV cartoon studio in the world, scoring hits with shows like 'The Huckleberry Hound Show' (1958-1961), 'The Flintstones' (1960-1966), 'Yogi Bear' (1961-1962), 'Quick Draw McGraw' (1959-1962), 'Top Cat' (1961-1962), 'The Jetsons' (1962-1963), 'Magilla Gorilla' (1963-1967), 'Jonny Quest' (1964-1965), 'Wacky Races' (1968-1970), 'Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!' (1969-1970), 'Josie and the Pussycats' (1970-1971), 'Wait Till Your Father Gets Home' (1972-1974), 'Hong Kong Phooey' (1974), 'The Smurfs' (1981-1989) and 'Snorks' (1984-1989). All of the above named shows also kept their popularity in repeats. Generations have grown up enjoying their semi-animated characters, who moved against ever-looping backgrounds. 

Studio employees, animators and comics artists
One artist who was a frequent writer for Hanna-Barbera cartoons was Don R. Christensen. Jack Mendelsohn wrote scripts for 'Scooby-Doo', while Kin Platt did the same for 'Top Cat' and a few 'Jonny Quest' episodes. Piet van Elk was a background painter for various TV shows of the company, including 'Jonny Quest', 'Scooby Doo' and 'The Smurfs'. Other artists who worked for Hanna-Barbera’s TV cartoons (and occasionally made comics for them too) were Pete Alvarado, Roman AràmbulaMike Arens, Dick Bickenbach, Preston Blair, Doug CraneHarvey Eisenberg, Jerry EisenbergOwen Fitzgerald, Mo GollubClark Haas, Willie ItoKen LandauBill LignanteAlex Lovy, Jack ManningNorman Maurer, Carlos MegliaDon MorganPhil Mendez, Sparky MooreDan NoonanSiem PraamsmaCliff Roberts, Glenn SchmitzMike SekowskyTony SgroiScott ShawPeter SheehanWarren TuftsCliff Voorhees and Kay Wright.

Huckleberry Hound & Yogi Bear
The studio's first hit was 'The Huckleberry Hound Show' (1958-1961), about a happy-go-lucky blue dog who enjoys singing "My Darling Clementine". Another character who made his debut on this show was Yogi Bear. The picknick basket stealing bear soon received his own spin-off show, 'The Yogi Bear Show' (1961-1962). It became Hanna-Barbera's first genuine TV hit. Such was the popularity of the "smarter-than-the-average bear" that he became their first character to receive cameos in all their other shows. He was used for official warning signs in U.S. national parks and also inspired the novelty hit 'Yogi' (1960) by the Ivy Three.

The Flintstones
Encouraged by these early successes Hanna-Barbera soon conceived a bold idea: an animated TV series that would air in the prime-time TV slot. 'The Flintstones' (1960-1966) was the first animated TV sitcom in history and became a colossal international success. Set in an anachronistic Stone Age, the antics of Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty were very similar to a live-action domestic sitcom, but with more cartoony jokes. The show appealed not only to children, but also to adults. Until the arrival of Matt Groening's 'The Simpsons' (since 1989) no other animated TV series managed to duplicate The Flintstones' prime-time success, run for a record-breaking seven seasons or attract an equally big fanbase among mature audiences. 'The Flintstones' also pioneered the first pregnant animated character (when Wilma gave birth to Pebbles in a 1963 episode) and were the first animated TV show to feature Hollywood celebrities as "special guest voices": Hoagy Carmichael, Ann-Margret, Tony Curtis and Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York (best known as Samantha and Darrin from the TV sitcom 'Bewitched' (1964-1972)). Hanna-Barbera incidentally also provided the animated opening sequence of every episode of 'Bewitched'.

The Jetsons 
'The Jetsons' (1962-1963) were basically a futuristic version of 'The Flintstones', fondly remembered for the jazzy theme song composed by Hoyt Curtin, who wrote music for most of Hanna-Barbera's TV cartoon series.

Top Cat
'Top Cat' (1961-1962) revolved around a gang of street cats intermingling with an obsessive policeman. The show is extraordinarily beloved in Latin America, where the Spanish name of Officier Dibble, 'Matute', even became an Argentinean and Uruguayan neologism for "policemen".

Wacky Races
'Wacky Races' (1968-1970) introduced the campy villain Dick Dastardley and his snickering dog Muttley, who would also reappear in other H&B series.

The most popular of Hanna & Barbera's later endeavours was 'Scooby-Doo' (1969-1970), about a group of friends who solved mysteries accompanied by a cowardly hippie, Shaggy, and his equally frightened Great Dane Scooby-Doo. The series ran for several seasons under various different names, inspired countless spin-offs, TV specials and films and even motivated Hanna-Barbera to create similar but less succesful animated shows about crime-solving teenagers and an anthropomorphic pet. 

Jonny Quest 
Yet sometimes Hanna-Barbera dared to break with tradition too. 'Jonny Quest' (1964-1965) was their first non-humorous show and therefore used realistically drawn and animated characters, designed by Doug Wildey.

Wait Till Your Father Gets Home
'Wait Till Your Father Gets Home' (1972-1974) even dared to take a political route. Heavily inspired by the live-action sitcom 'All In The Family' but still a lot tamer, the series dealt with the generation gap between conservative middle-aged people and progressive teenagers. 

Huckleberry Hound by Harvey Eisenberg
'Huckleberry Hound' comic, drawn by Harvey Eisenberg.

Despite their global and enduring popularity Hanna-Barbera also drew criticism. Many viewers feel that they brought animation into a dark age. The drawings were simplified and animation limited to the point of stiffness. The same backgrounds, sound effects, corny gags and even whole scenes were recycled into infinity. Several Hanna-Barbera shows borrowed heavily from already popular franchises. Huckleberry Hound's voice and mannerisms were lifted from actor Andy Griffith and a dog catcher in Tex Avery's 'The Three Little Pups' (1953) and 'Billy Boy' (1953).  Even the voice actor was the same: Daws Butler. Yogi Bear borrowed a lot from actor Art Carney. 'The Flintstones' took its mustard from the sitcom 'The Honeymooners', while 'Top Cat' had the same plotlines and cast characterizations as Phil Silvers' sitcom 'You'll Never Get Rich' (Sgt. Bilko). This became more blatant as the decades rolled by, particularly in the series Hanna-Barbera made about popular comic book heroes. 'The Fantastic Four' (1967-1970) was directly based on the Marvel comic book series created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. 'Josie and the Pussycats' was inspired by Dan DeCarlo's popular Archie Comics title. 'Super Friends' (1973-1974) brought popular DC comics characters like 'Superman', 'Batman', 'Wonder Woman' and 'Aquaman' together. 'The Addams Family' (1973) was an adaptation of Charles Addams' eponymous ghoul family, while 'The All-New Popeye Hour' (1978-1983) recycled E.C. Segar's 'Popeye'. 'The New Shmoo' (1979) gave the breakout character from Al Capp's 'Li'l Abner' his own show, while 'The Smurfs' (1981-1989) and 'Lucky Luke' (1983) were based on the Belgian comics series created by respectively Peyo and Morris. Also from Belgium came the characters of 'The Snorks' (1984-1986), which were created by Nic Broca and Raoul Cauvin. Other shows were complete rip-offs of films ('Laurel & Hardy', 'Abbott & Costello', 'Charlie Chan', 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' and 'Godzilla') or TV shows ('I Dream of Jeannie', 'The Partridge Family', 'Happy Days', 'Laverne & Shirley' and 'Mork & Mindy'). At a certain point Hanna & Barbera even started to rip off itself! 'Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks' (1958-1961), 'Punkin' Puss & Mushmouse' (1964-1965) and 'Motormouse and Autocat' (1969-1971) were basically re-hashes of 'Tom & Jerry'. 'Hokey Wolf', 'Quick Draw McGraw', 'Breezly and Sneezly', 'Hippo Potamus', 'Wally Gator', 'Magilla Gorilla' and 'Hair Bear Bunch' recycled  'Yogi Bear'. And in the 1970s the company produced a disturbing lot of 'Scooby-Doo' clones, including 'Josie & The Pussycats', 'Fangface', 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids', 'Clue Clubs', 'Goober & The Ghost Chasers', 'The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan', 'Speed Buggy' and 'The Funky Phantom'.

The most unusual of all these cash-ins were shows where characters from different franchises were brought together in unusual combinations. In 'Fred and Barney Meet The Thing' (1979) the two Flintstones friends were teamed up with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four member. 'Casper and the Angels' (1979-1980) was a crossover between 'Casper The Friendly Ghost' and the titular characters of the TV series 'Charlie's Angels'. 'The Richie Rich/Scooby-Doo Show' (1980-1982) and 'The Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show' (1982-1983) featured Alfred Harvey and Warren Kremer's billionaire boy character. Even toys ('Pac-Man', the Rubik's Cube, etc.) and celebrities (Harlem Globetrotters, Gary Coleman, Cantinflas, Harold Ramis, etc.) received their own shows. As a result of their approach other TV cartoon studios started copying their cheap production methods and even their formulaic sound effects. New episodes were churned out on a weekly basis, regardless of quality. Many shows barely lasted one season and stigmatized the medium as cheap, throwaway children's entertainment without any artistic pretenses. To cut costs most of the production process, even the animation, was done cheaply in other countries such as Australia, Spain or South Asian nations like Korea, Japan and Taiwan. This created less job opportunities for young American animators, as well as less opportunity to learn skills. 

However, it must be said that Hanna-Barbera didn't invent limited animation, nor factory-like production of cartoons. Paul Terry's animation studio Terrytoons already received criticism for its lack of quality and inspiration decades before Hanna and Barbera got into the business. In the late 1940s, early 1950s UPA, a cartoon studio best known for creating 'Gerald McBoingBoing' and 'Mr. Magoo', were the first to make limited animation the norm. They influenced several other animation studios in the 1950s and 1960s to do the same, mostly because it was the only efficient way to produce cartoons for the new medium television. In fact, one might even conclude that Hanna-Barbera actually helped animation survive, since many classic Hollywood cartoon studios quit production of theatrical cartoons between 1957 and 1972 and were lucky that TV cartoons were still in demand. Hanna-Barbera not only proved the viability of TV animation: they were also one of the few animation studios in Hollywood who were always hiring new people. Many veterans could still make themselves useful and earn a living by working for them. They also created opportunities for future talents such as John Kricfalusi ('Ren & Stimpy'), Seth MacFarlane ('Family Guy'), Van Partible ('Johnny Bravo'), Craig McCracken ('The Powerpuff Girls'), Butch Hartman ('The Fairly OddParents', 'Danny Phantom') and Genndy Tartakovsky ('Dexter's Laboratory', 'Samurai Jack', 'Hotel Transylvania'). Hanna-Barbera, by then owned by Warner Bros, returned to the forefront of TV animation in the mid-1990s, with a series of new creations for Cartoon Network, such as 'Dexter's Laboratory' (1996-2003), 'Johnny Bravo' (1997-2004) and 'The Powerpuff Girls' (1998-2005). 

Flinstones comic
'The Flintstones' Sunday comic of 29 November 1964.

Hanna-Barbera TV-based comics
Most of Hanna-Barbera's creations also appeared in comic books published by Dell/Western and Gold Key in the 1960s, and Charlton in the 1970s. Among the many talented artists working on these comics, Harvey Eisenberg and Pete Alvarado stood out. Leading artist for the syndicated newspaper strips starring 'Yogi Bear' and 'The Flintstones' was Gene Hazelton. Publishers in Europe also started developing their own material. For instance De Geïllustreerde Pers from The Netherlands published stories with 'The Jetsons' and 'Yogi Bear' by local artists like Jan Steeman, Jan van Haasteren, Ed van Schuijlenburg and Ton Beek. Il Giornalino in Italy also published original material by Italian authors. In 2016 DC Comics started the 'Hanna-Barbera Beyond' project in which classic franchises were reimagined in more realistically drawn and less childish comic book versions. 'Future Quest' (2016-2017) was written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Ron Radall, Craig Rousseau, Steve Rude and Evan Shaner and brought characters from obscure H&B series together in a science fiction story. In 2017 this title was continued under the title 'Future Quest Presents', but with a different artist: Ariel Olivetti. 'Scooby Apocalypse' (2016) reimagined 'Scooby-Doo' as a post-apocalyptic saga, written by J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen and Jim Lee, while Wellington Alves, Dale Eaglesham and Howard Porter provided artwork. 'Wacky Races' received a similar treatment with 'Wacky Raceland' (2016), written by Ken Pontac and drawn by Leonardo Manco. 'Dastardly and Muttley' (2017) reimagined the recurring villains as an aerodynamic war comic, written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Mauricet. Other comics released since are 'The Flintstones' (by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, 2016-2017), 'The Ruff and Reddy Show' (by Howard Chaykin and Mac Rey, 2017), 'The Jetsons' (by Jimmy Palmiotti and Pier Brito, 2017), 'The Banana Splits' and 'The Snagglepuss Chronicles'. 

Other notable Hanna-Barbera comics artists have been Ray Dirgo and Frank B. Johnson.

As mentioned earlier Hanna & Barbera won a record-breaking 7 Academy Awards for their 'Tom & Jerry' series. The studio received eight Emmy Awards over the years, as well as a Golden Globe. In 1976 Hanna and Barbera received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They were only the second animators after Disney in 1960 to enjoy this honour. A year later the duo received a Winsor McCay Award (1977) too. In 1997 the Sojourner Mars rover inspected various rocks on the planet Mars. Three rocks were named after the Hanna-Barbera characters Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo and Bamm-Bamm.

Final years, death and legay
William Hanna passed away in 2001. Joe Barbera remained active until the very end. He was credited as executive producer, writer and co-director on several new Warner Bros. productions starring 'Scooby-Doo' and 'Tom and Jerry' until his own death in 2006. Since then many of Hanna-Barbera's most popular TV shows are still repeated worldwide for new generations of children to enjoy. 

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera
Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera (from Dutch newspaper Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 10 August 1965). 


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