Comic Creator Hanna-Barbera


Bill Hanna & Joe Barbera

(14 July 1910 - 22 March 2001 & 24 March 1911 – 18 December 2006, USA)   United States


Yogi Bear comic book Top Cat comic book

The business partners William "Bill" Hanna and Joseph "Joe" Barbera formed one of the most famous animation duos of all time. 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 became the most succesful TV cartoon studio in the world. They scored international TV hits with creations 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), and also successfully adapted existing franchises for the small screen, such as Peyo's 'The Smurfs'. Even though the quality of their TV output is often contested, they at least proved that TV animation could be as profitable as film animation. Hanna-Barbera 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 comic book spin-offs.

Bill Hanna
The eldest of the duo, William Hanna, was born in 1910 in Melrose, New Mexico Territory. He came from a family of Irish-American descent. During his childhood, the family lived on several locations in the western regions of the USA, because of father Hanna's work as construction superintendent for the railroads. Finally settled in Watts, California, Bill Hanna began his lifelong association with the Boy Scouts of America in 1922. In high school, he played the saxophone in a dance band. His musical talent came in useful in his later career, when he helped write soundtracks and themes for his TV shows.

After dropping out of college, Bill Hanna's first job was construction engineer. One of the projects he worked on was the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. A more artistic career followed at Pacific Title and Art to design title cards for motion pictures. In 1930, he got a job at the Harman-Ising animation studio, where he worked his way up to head of the ink and paint department. In 1933, Hanna followed Harman and Ising to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), where he directed his first short: 'To Spring' (1936). He stayed at MGM when the partnership with Harman-Ising ended, and worked on the animated 'Captain and the Kids' series (1938-1939), based on Rudolph Dirks' newspaper comic. At MGM, he also met Joseph Barbera, with whom he formed a steady partnership for the next sixty years.

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

Joe Barbera
Joseph Barbera was born in 1911 in New York City into a family of Sicilian immigrants. When Joe was four months old, the family moved to Manhattan's Little Italy section to Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he spent his childhood. His father ran three barber shops, but lost the family fortunes by gambling them away. At high school, Joe showed talent for both drawing and boxing. Although he won several boxing titles, he eventually decided to focus on a career in cartooning. Fascinated with animation after watching Walt Disney's 'The Skeleton Dance' (1929), he finetuned his skills during art classes at the Art Students League of New York and the Pratt Institute. He sent Disney a fan letter, but while Uncle Walt replied that he was bound to visit New York and would give him a phone call, he never did. In interview published in The Guardian on 27 December 2000, Barbera reflected: "The luckiest break I ever had was that he never called. I would have gone over there and disappeared." 

Barbera had a daytime banking job, which he despised. In his spare time, he sold his first single-panel cartoons to magazines like Redbook, Collier's and the Saturday Evening Post. After a stint in the ink and paint department of the Fleischer Studios, his actual career in animation began in 1932 at the Van Beuren Studios. Mentored by Jack Bogle, he worked on the 'Cubby Bear' and 'Rainbow Parades' cartoon series, as well as an earlier 'Tom and Jerry', unrelated to the cat-and-mouse feature. When Van Beuren closed down in 1936, Barbera was hired by Paul Terry's Terrytoons studio. After only one year, he left New York for Los Angeles, California, where he joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

Cel setup for the 'Tom & Jerry' short 'Touché, Pussycat' (1954).

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 the storyboards of every 'Tom & Jerry' short, while Hanna was in charge of gag timing. Together with the writers, they also oversaw the plots and gags. Among the animators who worked in their unit 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. Although cat-and-mouse cartoons weren't new, Tom and Jerry set the standard for the genre. Several animation studios tried to duplicate its success with similar duos, such as Famous Studios with 'Herman and Katnip' (1950-1959) and Terrytoons with 'Roquefort Mouse and Percy Cat' (1950-1955), and even Hanna-Barbera themselves with 'Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks' (1958-1961), 'Punkin' Puss & Mushmouse' (1964-1965) and 'Motormouse and Autocat' (1969-1971). However, none of them matched 'Tom & Jerry' 's dynamic animation and hilarious slapstick violence with breakneck speed and excellent timing. Hanna and Barbera avoided formulaic writing by thinking up clever variations on 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. Hanna & Barbera improved their shorts by carefully studying Avery's physically impossible gags and clever editing. Contrary to most cartoons at the time, 'Tom & Jerry' stood out for its rare use of dialogue. The 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 become classics too, 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 additionally 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 the Hanna-Barbera duo. Thanks to Tom and Jerry's success, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were promoted to producers in 1955. However, rising production costs and unavoidable financial cuts became problematic for many animation studios in the 1950s, especially when television gained popularity. In 1957, MGM was forced to close down its studio. 'Tom & Jerry' was discontinued at the height of its popularity. Interestingly enough, one of the animators who joined in just before the studios closed was future Hollywood legend Jack Nicholson. He therefore went into acting instead. 

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

Tom & Jerry comics
The success of the cartoon series naturally led to comic book versions. As early as 1942, Dell Comics printed 'Tom & Jerry' comics as a regular feature in Our Gang Comics, named on the long-running theatrical film series 'Our Gang' (nowadays better known as 'The Little Rascals'). By 1949, the 'Our Gang' series was terminated and the book was retitled Tom and Jerry Comics. It ran until issue #212 (July 1962), after which Western Publishing continued it under its Gold Key imprint until issue #344 (1984). Like most of the Dell/Western comics, the stories were unsigned, but the artwork was often provided by MGM animators. Among the identified writers were Del Connell, Jack Cosgriff, Gaylord Du Bois, Carl Fallberg, Vic Lockman and Don Sheppard. A leading 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 countries like Italy, Spain and Germany, publishers made their own stories with the famous cat-and-mouse duo, made by local artists and writers. Between 1950 and 1952, a 'Tom & Jerry' newspaper comic was syndicated by Associated Press, officially credited to MGM producer Fred Quimby, but in reality written and drawn by Gene Hazelton, Ernie Stanzoni and Dan Gormley

Tom & Jerry: legacy and influence
Although Hanna & Barbera were forced to cancel 'Tom & Jerry' in 1957, the cat and mouse didn't fade away from memory. For decades, the classic cartoons reran on TV channels all over the globe. They remained popular enough to motivate MGM in producing new theatrical shorts. From 1961 until 1967, various directors made their own low-budget versions of 'Tom & Jerry', subsequently Gene DeitchChuck Jones, Maurice Noble, Abe Levitow, Tom Ray and Ben Washam. In 1975, Hanna & Barbera's own production company was approached by MGM Television to make new 'Tom & Jerry' cartoons, this time directly for television. This resulted in 'The Tom & Jerry Show' (1975-1977), in which the two were no longer enemies and Jerry wore a red bow tie. The second half of the broadcast consisted of 'The Great Grape Ape Show', starring Grape Ape and Mumbly.

In later decades, other TV reboots followed: ''The Tom & Jerry Comedy Show' (1980-1982) by Filmation, 'Tom and Jerry Kids' (1990-1993) and 'Tom and Jerry Tales' (2006-2008) by Turner Entertainment and 'The Tom & Jerry Show' (2014-2021) by Warner Bros. Television. Plagued by low budgets, parental pressure groups and a heavy competition, these later cartoons never reached the same quality or popularity as the original 1940-1957 MGM theatrical shorts made by Hanna & Barbera. In 1992, 'Tom & Jerry: The Movie', was released, the duo's first feature-length film. Joe Barbera served as creative consultant. Various direct-to-video films followed between 2001 and 2017. In 2021, a new 'Tom & Jerry' feature film was released, mixing animation with live-action.

'Tom & Jerry' garnered some notable celebrity fans over the years: 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 duo 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 comic artists Tome and Janry based their pseudonyms 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. 

Tom & Jerry: controversies
An unfortunately dated aspect of the otherwise timeless series is Tom's African-American owner Mammy Two-Shoes, a stereotypical "mammy" housemaid. Yet the most enduring controversy has always been its violence. Other animated series of the 1940s and 1950s also received this criticism, but 'Tom & Jerry' is often regarded as the most excessive. Many scenes are incredibly sadistic, especially towards Tom. Very realistic sound effects make the violence all the funnier, and more painful. Since the 1970s moral guardians, like the censor-crazy British activist Mary Whitehouse but also various parental pressure groups in the U.S., have contested 'Tom & Jerry' for being unsuitable for children. Some people campaigned for censorship. Countercriticism has stated that adult viewers of 'Tom & Jerry' simply overthink all this violent slapstick too much by comparing it with reality. In Italy, Massimo Mattioli's comic book series 'Squeak the Mouse' (1980) satirized the controversy with a similar cat-and-mouse duo, but far more gruesome violence. In 1988 Matt Groening introduced the mouse-and-cat duo 'Itchy and Scratchy' within his TV cartoon show 'The Simpsons'. A vicious parody of 'Tom & Jerry', Itchy and Scratchy push cartoon violence to its gory extremes. Scratchy the cat is a constant victim to Itchy's sadism, often without having done anything. He ends up being disemboweled, decapitated or dies other horrific deaths. 

'Yogi Bear' storyboard art by Laverne Harding (early 1960s).

Hanna-Barbera Productions
In the same year MGM closed down its animation studio, Hanna and Barbera established their own company: Hanna-Barbera Productions (1957). Most of its output was devoted to production of animated TV series. Other low-budget animation studios had already tried their luck with TV cartoon shows, but none of them became hits. Additionally, many studios didn't have the capacity to produce a full 20-minute episode on a weekly basis. Walt Disney had the foresight to use the new medium as a promotion for his cartoons. Still, his TV shows mostly reran old animated cinematic shorts, with new footage linking this archive material together. The Walt Disney Company never even attempted to create full-blown animated TV shows until 1985.

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, reusing stock footage and the same backgrounds whenever possible. Many of HB's 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 these shows maintained their popularity in reruns. Generations have grown up enjoying these semi-animated characters, moving against ever-looping backgrounds. 

Studio employees, animators and comic artists
One of the prominent writers of Hanna-Barbera cartoons was Don R. Christensen. The Dutchman Piet van Elk was a background painter for many of the company's TV series, including 'Jonny Quest', 'Scooby Doo' and 'The Smurfs'. Other artists working for Hanna-Barbera's TV cartoons were Pete Alvarado, Roman AràmbulaMike Arens, Dick Bickenbach, Preston Blair, Andrea BrescianiDoug CraneHarvey Eisenberg, Jerry EisenbergOwen Fitzgerald, Mo GollubClark Haas, Harry HoltWillie ItoKen LandauBill LignanteAlex Lovy, Jack ManningNorman Maurer, Carlos MegliaDon MorganPhil Mendez, Sparky MooreDan NoonanSiem PraamsmaCliff Roberts, Glenn SchmitzMike SekowskyTony SgroiScott ShawPeter SheehanDon SherwoodBob SingerIwao TakamotoWarren TuftsCliff Voorhees and Kay Wright. Many worked on comic book stories too.

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

Huckleberry Hound & Yogi Bear
After 'The Ruff and Reddy Show' (1957-1963), the studio's first success was 'The Huckleberry Hound Show' (1958-1961), about a happy-go-lucky blue dog who enjoys singing "My Darling Clementine". Another character debuting on this show was Yogi Bear. Yogi and his sidekick friend Boo-Boo live in Jellystone Park where they steal picknick baskets from tourists, much to the annoyance of park ranger Smith. Yogi topped Huckleberry's success and quickly received his own spin-off show: 'The Yogi Bear Show' (1961-1962).The "smarter-than-the-average" bear was such a hit that he received cameos in all of Hanna-Barbera's other shows. He was also the first Hanna-Barbera character to receive his own feature-length animated film: 'Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!' (1964). Nearly half a century later he starred in a live-action film combined with CGI animation: 'Yogi Bear' (2010). The bear additionally inspired the novelty hit 'Yogi' (1960) by The Ivy Three and is still used on official warning signs in U.S. national parks. 

Between December 1959 and July 1962, even before Yogi's solo TV show, Dell Comics released 'Yogi Bear' comic books. The series was continued under the Gold Key Comics imprint from October 1962 until 1970. Charlton Comics then took over the license and released 35 issues between 1970 and 1977, followed by 9 issues at Marvel Comics in 1977. From the 1990s on, Harvey Comics, Archie Comics and DC Comics have all made limited comic book series around the character too. Between 5 February 1961 and 1 March 1981, a 'Yogi Bear' newspaper comic was distributed by the McNaught Syndicate, drawn by Gene Hazelton and written by Don R. Christensen. Among the many assistants on the series were Dick BickenbachTony Di PaolaHarvey EisenbergJerry Eisenberg, Mark Evanier, Dale HaleLee HooperJoe MesserliIwao Takamoto and Al Wiseman

1961 cell setup from the 'Top Cat' show.

More funny animals
Many funny animal creations followed. Other characters with their own segment in the 'Huckleberry Hound' show were 'Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks' (1958-1961) and 'Hokey Wolf and Ding-A-Ling Wolf' (1960-1961). Sponsored by Kellogg's, 'The Quick Draw McGraw Show' (1959-1961) starred a horse sheriff in the American Old West. The show introduced several other classic characters in their own segments, such as the father-and-son dachshund duo 'Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy' and the cat-and-mouse detective team 'Snooper and Blabber'. A prototype of the pink campy cougar 'Snagglepuss' also debuted in 'The Quick Draw McGraw Show', until appearing in his own segments in 'The Yogi Bear Show' (1961).

A popular creation was 'Top Cat' (1961-1962), about the leader of a gang of street cats intermingling with an obsessive policeman. Some of the show's scripts were written by Kin Platt. The show is extraordinarily beloved in Latin America, where the Spanish name of Officier Dibble, 'Matute', became an Argentinian and Uruguayan neologism for "policeman". 'Top Cat' received an animated feature film, 'Top Cat: The Movie' (2011), and a CGI animated film 'Top Cat Begins' (2015), which did better in Latin America than elsewhere in the world. 

'The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series' (1962-1963) was an anthology series consisting of segments starring 'Wally Gator', 'Touché Turtle and Dum Dum' and 'Lippy the Lion & Hardy Har Har'. 'The Magilla Gorilla Show' (1963-1967) and 'The Atom Ant / Secret Squirrel Show' (1965-1967) introduced even more anthropomorphic fauna to the HB universe. Notable anti-heroes were the villainous moustache-twirling human Dick Dastardley and his snickering dog Muttley. Originating in the 'Wacky Races' show (1968-1969), they later had their own series: 'Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines' (1969-1970).

Several of these characters appeared in comic book stories too, starting with solo issues in Dell's 'Four Color Comics' series. Some moved on to have their own, short-lived series, such as 'Top Cat', 'Magilla Gorilla', 'Snagglepuss' and 'Quick Draw McGraw'. These titles were subsequently published by Dell, Gold Key and Charlton Comics. In later years, Hanna-Barbera combined many of these characters for all-star TV cartoon series like 'Yogi's Gang' (1973), 'Yogi's Space Race' (1978) and 'Yogi's Treasure Hunt' (1985-1988).

Storyboard for the 1961 'Flintstones' episode 'Snorkasaurus Hunter'.

The Flintstones
Encouraged by their early successes, Hanna-Barbera had a bold idea: air an animated series in the prime-time TV slot. 'The Flintstones' (1960-1966) was the first animated TV sitcom in history. It modelled its comedy after live-action domestic sitcoms, most obviously 'The Honeymooners'. The antics of Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their next door neighbors Barney and Betty Rubble are typical wacky shenanigans, complete with catchphrases like the Fred yells: "Yabba-dabba-doo" and "Wilmaaaa!". The series also has a catchy theme song. 'The Flintstones' became a massive international hit, appealing to children as much as adults. The stories are set in an anachronistic Stone Age, where all machinery is made with use of stones, wood or prehistoric animals. It was the first animated TV show to feature Hollywood celebrities as "special guest voices": Hoagy Carmichael, Ann-Margret and Tony Curtis. For the 1965 crossover episode 'Samantha', Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York reprised their Samantha and Darrin roles from the TV sitcom 'Bewitched'. Their appearances weren't all that strange, since Hanna-Barbera also animated the opening and closing sequences of this live-action fantasy sitcom. 'The Flintstones' also pioneered the first pregnant animated character: in a 1963 episode Wilma gave birth to a daughter, Pebbles. She also inspired the name of the Belgian rock band The Pebbles, famous for the hit 'Seven Horses in the Sky' (1969).

Until the arrival of Matt Groening's 'The Simpsons' in 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 large mature fanbase. One animated feature film, 'A Man Called Flintstone' (1966), and two live-action comedy films, 'The Flintstones Movie' (1994) and 'The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas' (2000), were made. The live-action 'Flintstones Movie' is notable for starring John Goodman as Fred and featuring Elizabeth Taylor as Pearl Slaghoople in one of her rare post-1963 film roles. The B-52s scored a global hit with their re-recording of The Flintstones' theme music. Although the films made a lot of money, critics gave them negative reviews. 

On 2 October 1961, 'The Flintstones' received a newspaper comic too. Syndicated by McNaught, Gene Hazelton was the lead artist and writer, until Don Sherwood took over in 1986. After McNaught went out of business in 1989, the feature was continued by the Editor Press Service. In 1994, Karen Matchette succeeded Sherwood. Over the decades, many anonymous artists and writers contributed to the 'Flintstones' newspaper comic, including Roger Armstrong, Dick BickenbachTony Di PaolaHarvey Eisenberg, Jerry EisenbergRic EstradaDale HaleLee Hooper, Jesse Marsh, Joe MesserliBob Singer and Iwao Takamoto. Many of these artists also worked on the 'Flintstones' comic book series. Between October 1962 and September 1970, Western Publishing released 54 comic book issues. From November 1970 until February 1977, Charlton Comics took over and changed the title to 'The Flintstones and Pebbles'. Marvel published nine issues of 'Hanna-Barbera's The Flintstones' between October 1977 and February 1979. Years later, Harvey Comics released 13 issues (September 1992-June 1994), followed by Archie Comics with 22 issues from September 1995 until May 1997. 

The JetsonsScooby Doo

The Jetsons 
'The Flintstones' were followed by 'The Jetsons' (1962-1963), basically a futuristic version of the Stone Age family. The show is fondly remembered for its jazzy theme song composed by Hoyt Curtin, who wrote music for most Hanna-Barbera TV series. Three decades later the series received an animated feature film: 'Jetsons The Movie' (1990).  Between January 1963 and October 1970, Gold Key Comics published a 'Jetsons' comic book series, continued by Charlton Comics from November 1970 until December 1973. Between September 1992 and November 1993, Harvey Comics rebooted these comics. Archie Comics also brought out titles between September 1995 and August 1996. New books have since then been published by DC Comics. One artist who drew 'Jetsons' comics in the 1960s was Lee Holley

The most popular of Hanna & Barbera's later endeavours was 'Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?' (1969-1970), about a group of friends who solve mysteries, accompanied by a cowardly hippie, Shaggy, and his equally frightened Great Dane Scooby-Doo. The main characters were designed by Iwao Takamoto, and the scripts written by Don R. Christensen and Jack Mendelsohn. The series ran for several seasons under different names and inspired countless spin-offs and TV specials. It also motivated Hanna-Barbera to create similar, but less succesful animated shows about crime-solving teenagers and an anthropomorphic pet. Two live-action films, 'Scooby-Doo' (2002) and 'Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed' (2004), as well as a CGI-animated film, 'Scoob!' (2020), have been released as well. 

In December 1969, Gold Key Comics launched a 'Scooby-Doo' comic book series, originally mere adaptations of the TV episodes. Gradually, original stories were made too. The comics were written by Mark Evanier and drawn by Phil De Lara, Jack ManningDan Spiegle and Warren Tufts, lasting 30 issues until 1974. In 1975 Charlton Comics released 11 new 'Scooby-Doo' comic books, drawn by Bill Williams. Between 1977 and 1979, Marvel Comics published nine issues, written by Mark Evanier and drawn by Dan Spiegle. Both men also worked on the 1995 'Scooby-Doo' comic book series, produced by Archie Comics and from 1997 continued by DC Comics. 

Experimental series
Sometimes, Hanna-Barbera dared to break with tradition. 'Jonny Quest' (1964-1965) was their first non-humorous animated TV show and used realistically drawn and animated characters, designed by Doug Wildey. It features a young boy who joins his scientist father on exotic adventures. The scripts were written by Kin Platt. '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 a lot tamer, the series dealt with the generation gap between conservative middle-aged people and progressive teenagers. The scripts were written by Don R. Christensen

'Scooby-Doo' publicity cell.

Despite their global and enduring popularity, Hanna-Barbera also drew criticism. Critics feel they brought animation into a "dark age". The drawings on their shows were simplified and the 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 from the Tex Avery cartoons '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, while the concept was quite similar to Walt Disney's 'Humphrey the Bear'. 'The Flintstones' took its inspiration from the sitcom 'The Honeymooners'. 'Top Cat' shared plotlines and cast characterizations with the Phil Silvers sitcom 'You'll Never Get Rich (Sgt. Bilko)'.

This lack of originality became more blatant as the decades rolled by, particularly with the licensed cartoon series Hanna-Barbera made with 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 comic characters like 'Superman', 'Batman', 'Wonder Woman' and 'Aquaman' together. 'The Addams Family' (1973) was an adaptation of Charles Addams' ghoul family, and '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. '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 underwater creatures 'The Snorks' (1984-1986), 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 themselves. 'Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks' (1958-1961), 'Punkin' Puss & Mushmouse' (1964-1965) and 'Motormouse and Autocat' (1969-1971) were rehashes 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 '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 teamed up with Marvel'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 commercial approach, other TV cartoon studios started copying their cheap production methods and 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 artistic pretenses. To cut costs, most of the production was done cheaply by international studios in Australia, Spain or South Asian nations like Korea, Japan and Taiwan. This created less job and training opportunities for American animators. 

Since Hanna & Barbera is easily the most popular and visible children's TV animation studio in the world, its characters, style and clichés have often been parodied. Among others in Mad Magazine, but also in adult animated series, including Matt Groening's 'The Simpsons', Trey Parker & Matt Stone's 'South Park', Seth MacFarlane's 'Family Guy' and Seth Green's 'Robot Chicken'. Matt Groening went on record saying that he "hates Hanna & Barbera animation for creating safe, formulaic worlds". John Kricfalusi likes early Hanna & Barbera, but despises what the studio became after 1966. His cartoons 'Boo Boo Runs Wild' (1999), 'A Day in the Life of Ranger Smith' (1999) and 'Boo Boo the Man' (2000) are grotesque but loving homages to 'Yogi Bear'. His 'Father and Son Day' (2001) and 'The Best Son' (2002) do the same with the Jetsons. Interviewed on 1 September 2004 by Martin Goodman on the website animationworld.com, Kricfalusi said about Hanna-Barbera: "I love those cartoons and I still watch them to this day. They're very conservative, yet very solid in character development and design. If somebody would let me, I would just keep making Hanna-Barbera cartoons forever. There's something about the first three years of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons that feel really good."

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

In their defense, Hanna-Barbera did not invent limited animation, nor factory-like production of cartoons. Decades before Hanna and Barbera got into the business, Paul Terry's animation studio Terrytoons already received criticism for its lack of quality and inspiration. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the cartoon studio UPA, known for 'Gerald McBoingBoing' and 'Mr. Magoo', was the first to make limited animation the norm. They influenced several 1950s and 1960s animation studios to do the same, mostly because it was the most efficient way to produce cartoons for the new TV medium. In a way, Hanna-Barbera actually helped animation survive, since many classic Hollywood cartoon studios quit the production of theatrical cartoons in the 1957-1972 period and were lucky that TV cartoons were still in demand. Hanna-Barbera not only proved the viability of TV animation: they were also among the few animation studios in Hollywood always hiring new people. Many veterans could still 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'). 

Also, most of Hanna and Barbera's "commercial sell-out" took place after the company was no longer theirs. In 1966, the studio was bought by Taft Broadcasting, and it was subsequently owned by the Turner Broadcasting System (1991-2001), with Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera remaining on board as creative consultants. By 1996, the studio was transfered to Warner Bros. Animation, returning the Hanna-Barbera brand to the forefront of TV animation with popular new series for Cartoon Network, such as 'Dexter's Laboratory' (1996-2003), 'Johnny Bravo' (1997-2004) and 'The Powerpuff Girls' (1998-2005). Since 2001, the Hanna-Barbara studio is a name-only company under the Warner Bros. banner.

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

Hanna-Barbera comics
Throughout the decades, many Hanna-Barbera creations have appeared in comic books, mostly published by Dell Comics, Gold Key and Charlton. Like most comic books based on licensed characters, the creators remained anonymous. Still, some stood out for their distinguished contributions. Harvey Eisenberg and Pete Alvarado were defining artists for the comic books stories, and Gene Hazelton was the leading artist of the newspaper strips. Other notable Hanna-Barbera comic artists have been Fred Abranz, Joe AlbisturCarlos AvaloneRay DirgoFrank B. Johnson and Karen Matchette. With the core of the production limited to the 1960s and 1970s, HB comics never received the widespread popularity of Disney comics, where licensees across the globe have secured an ongoing story production. However, some European publishers have created their own comics with Hanna-Barbera characters. De Geïllustreerde Pers from The Netherlands, for instance, ran stories with 'The Jetsons' and 'Yogi Bear' by local artists like Jan Steeman, Jan van Haasteren, Ed van Schuijlenburg and Ton Beek in their monthly magazine De Flintstones. The Italian magazine Il Giornalino also published original material by domestic authors.

In the 1990s, Hanna-Barbera-related comic books returned with new series published by Harvey Comics (1992-1994) and Archie Comics (1995-1997). When Hanna-Barbera became part of Warner Bros., the comic book rights turned to DC Comics, another division of Time Warner. Since then, DC released new titles with old and new HB characters as part of their Cartoon Network line. In 2016, DC Comics started the 'Hanna-Barbera Beyond' project in which classic franchises are reimagined in semi- realistically drawn and less childish comic book versions. 'Future Quest' (2016-2017), written by Jeff Parker and drawn by Ron Radall, Craig Rousseau, Steve Rude and Evan Shaner, brought together characters from obscure H&B series 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' (2016-2019) reimagined 'Scooby-Doo' as a post-apocalyptic saga, written by J.M. DeMatteis, Keith Giffen and Jim Lee, with Wellington Alves, Dale Eaglesham and Howard Porter providing 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' (2017) and 'The Snagglepuss Chronicles' (2018). 

As mentioned before, Hanna & Barbera won a record-breaking 7 Academy Awards for their 'Tom & Jerry' series. Over the years, their studio received eight Emmy Awards, as well as a Golden Globe. In 1976, Hanna and Barbera were honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame as the second animators after Disney (1960). 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. Rocks were named after the Hanna-Barbera characters Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo and Bamm-Bamm.

Final years, death and legacy
During the 1990s, both Barbera and Hanna published autobiographies, respectively in 1994 and 1996. William Hanna died of esophageal cancer at his home in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, on 22 March 2001. He was 90 years old. 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'. This included brand new 'Tom & Jerry' shorts. For 'The Mansion Cat' (2001), Barbera served as consultant and he also performed the voice of Tom's owner. In 'The Karate Guard' (2005), Barbera was credited as co-storyboarder, co-director and co-producer. Joseph Barbera passed away at age 95 on 18 December 2006. Even today, many of Hanna-Barbera's most popular TV shows are still repeated worldwide for new generations of children to enjoy. 

Point-of-purchase display starring Scooby-Doo, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Snaggle Puss and Yakky Doodle (1970s). 


Series and books by Hanna-Barbera in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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