Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. (also called Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc., and Hanna-Barbera Enterprises, Inc.), is an American animation studio that dominated North American television animation during the second half of the 20th century. The company was originally formed in 1944 by MGM animation directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera and live-action director George Sidney as Hanna-Barbera Enterprises in order to produce sponsored films and later television commercials.

After MGM shut down its animation studio in 1957, Hanna-Barbera Enterprises became Hanna and Barbera's full-time job, and the company was renamed Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1960. Over the next three decades, Hanna-Barbera Productions produced many successful cartoon shows, including The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Flintstones, Top Cat, Tom and Jerry, The Yogi Bear Show, The Jetsons, Jonny Quest, Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs, and Wacky Races. In the mid-1980s, the company's fortunes declined somewhat after the profitability of Saturday morning cartoons were eclipsed by weekday afternoon syndication.

In 1991, the company was purchased by Turner Broadcasting System. Joe Barbera and Bill Hanna both went into semi-retirement, yet continued to serve as ceremonial figureheads for the studio. During the late 1990s, Turner turned Hanna-Barbera towards primarily producing new material for its Cartoon Network, which had been built around reruns from the Hanna-Barbera library. In 1994, the company was renamed Hanna-Barbera Cartoons.

In 1996, TBS owner Ted Turner was bought out by Time Warner. With Bill Hanna's death in 2001, Hanna-Barbera was absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation, and Cartoon Network Studios assumed production of Cartoon Network output. Joe Barbera remained with Warner Bros. Animation until his death in 2006.

The Hanna-Barbera name is today used only to market properties and productions associated with Hanna-Barbera's "classic" works such as The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo.

History[edit | edit source]

The Beginnings of Hanna-Barbera[edit | edit source]

Melrose, New Mexico native William Hanna and New York City-born Joseph Barbera first teamed together while working at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio in 1939. Their first directorial project was a cartoon entitled Puss Gets the Boot (1940), which served as the genesis of the popular Tom and Jerry cartoon series. Hanna and Barbera served as the directors and story men for the Tom and Jerry cartoons for seventeen years, winning eight Academy Awards for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) between 1943 and 1953 for their work.

Hanna, Barbera, and MGM live-action director George Sidney formed H-B Enterprises in 1944 while continuing working for MGM, and used the side company to work on ancillary projects, including early television commercials and the original opening titles to the popular 1950s television series I Love Lucy.

MGM closed their animation studio in 1957, as it felt it had acquired a reasonable backlog of shorts for re-release. Hanna and Barbera hired most of their MGM unit to work for H-B Enterprises, which became a full-fledged production company at this time. The decision was made to specialize in television animation. In order to obtain working capital to produce their cartoons, H-B made a deal with the Screen Gems television division of Columbia Pictures in which the new animation studio received working capital in exchange for distribution rights. H-B's first TV series was The Ruff & Reddy Show, which premiered on NBC in December 1957.

In 1958, H-B had their first big success with The Huckleberry Hound Show, a syndicated series aired in most markets just before primetime. The program was a ratings success, and introduced a new crop of cartoon stars to audiences, in particular Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. The Huckleberry Hound Show won the 1960 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Children's Programming.

By 1959, H-B Enterprises was reincorporated as Hanna-Barbera Productions, and was slowly becoming a leader in television animation production. After introducing a second syndicated series, Quick Draw McGraw, in 1959, Hanna-Barbera migrated into network primetime production with the animated ABC sitcom The Flintstones in 1960. Loosely based upon the popular live-action sitcom The Honeymooners yet set in a fictionalized Stone Age of cavemen and dinosaurs, The Flintstones ran for six seasons in prime time on ABC, becoming a ratings and merchandising success.

Hanna-Barbera never had a building of its own until 1963, when the Hanna-Barbera Studio, located at 3400 Cahuenga Blvd. in Studio City, California, was opened. This California contemporary office building was designed by architect Arthur Froehlich, its ultra-modern design included a sculpted latticework exterior, moat, fountains, and after later additions, a Jetsons-like tower. The Columbia/Hanna-Barbera partnership lasted until 1967, when Hanna and Barbera sold the studio to Taft Broadcasting while retaining their positions there.

Television cartoons === The former Hanna-Barbera building at 3400 Cahuenga Blvd. in Studio City, California, seen in a 2007 photograph.Hanna-Barbera was one of the first animation studios to successfully produce cartoons especially for television. Until then, cartoons on television consisted primarily of rebroadcasts of theatrical cartoons. During the early and mid-1960s, the studio debuted several new successful programs, among them prime time ABC series such as Top Cat (1961-62), The Jetsons (1962-63), and Jonny Quest (1964-65). New series produced for syndication and Saturday mornings included The Yogi Bear Show (a syndicated spinoff from Huckleberry Hound, 1961-63), The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series featuring Wally Gator (syndicated, 1962-63), The Magilla Gorilla Show (syndicated, 1964-67), and The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show (NBC, 1965-67). Hanna-Barbera also produced several television commercials, often starring their own characters, and animated the opening credits for the ABC sitcom Bewitched (the Bewitched characters would appear as guest stars in an episode of The Flintstones).

The studio also produced a few theatrical projects for Columbia Pictures, including Loopy De Loop, a series of theatrical cartoons shorts, and two feature film projects based on its television properties, Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! (1964) and The Man Called Flintstone (1966).

Starting in 1965, Hanna-Barbera tried its hand at being a record label for a short time. Danny Hutton was hired by Hanna-Barbera to become the head of Hanna Barbera Records or HBR from 1965-1966.[1] HBR Records was distributed by Columbia Records, with artists such as Louis Prima, Five Americans, Scatman Crothers, and The 13th Floor Elevators. Previously, children's records with Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters were released by Colpix Records.

The Hanna-Barbera studio especially captured the market for Saturday morning cartoons. After the success of The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show in 1965, H-B debuted two new Saturday morning series the following year: Space Ghost, which featured action-adventure, and Frankenstein, Jr. and The Impossibles, which blended action-adventure with the earlier H-B humor style. A slew of H-B action cartoons followed in 1967, among them Shazzan, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor, Young Samson and Goliath, The Herculoids and an adaptation of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four. Between these programs and others remaining on the air (reruns of The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Jonny Quest), Hanna-Barbera cartoons aired on all three networks' Saturday morning lineups, and dominated CBS's and NBC's schedules in particular.

While the action programs were notably popular and successful, pressure from parent-run organizations such as Action for Children's Television forced the cancellation of all of them by 1969. [2] In 1968, Hanna-Barbera mixed live-action and animated comedy-action for its NBC anthology series, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, while the successful Wacky Races, aired on CBS, returned H-B to straight animated slapstick humor.

Hanna-Barbera's next runaway hit came in 1969 with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, a program which blended elements of the H-B comedy series, the action series, and rival Filmation's then-current hit program The Archie Show. Scooby-Doo centered on four teenagers and a dog solving mysteries, and was popular enough to remain on the air and in production until 1986. A cavalcade of H-B Saturday morning cartoons featuring mystery-solving/crime-fighting teenagers with comic pets soon followed, among them Josie and the Pussycats (1970-72), The Funky Phantom (1971-72), Speed Buggy (1973-74), Clue Club (1976-78) and Jabberjaw (1976-77). By 1977, Scooby-Doo was the centerpiece of a two-hour program block on ABC titled Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics, which also included Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, and Laff-a-Lympics.

During the 1970s in particular, most American television animation was produced by Hanna-Barbera. The only competition came from Filmation and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, as well as occasional prime-time animated "specials" from Rankin-Bass, Chuck Jones and Lee Mendelson-Bill Meléndez's adaptations of Peanuts. Besides Scooby-Doo and the programs derived from it, Hanna-Barbera also found success with new programs such as Harlem Globetrotters and Hong Kong Phooey. The syndicated Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, which debuted in 1972, returned Hanna-Barbera to adult-oriented comedy, although Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was more provocative than The Flintstones or The Jetsons had been. The studio revisited its 1960s stars with Flintstones spin-offs such as The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show and The Flintstone Comedy Hour. "All-star" shows featuring Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and the other Hanna-Barbera funny animals included Yogi's Gang and the Yogi's Space Race programming block. Hanna-Barbera also produced new shows starring older cartoon favorites such as Popeye (The All-New Popeye Hour) and its founders' own Tom & Jerry (The New Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show). Super Friends, a Hanna-Barbera produced adaptation of DC Comics' Justice League of America comic book, remained on Saturday mornings from 1973 to 1986.

Quality controversy[edit | edit source]

Over three decades, Hanna-Barbera produced prime-time, weekday afternoon, and Saturday morning cartoons for all three major networks in the United States, and for syndication. The small budgets television animation producers had to work within prevented Hanna-Barbera, and most other producers of American television animation, from working with the full theatrical-quality animation the duo had been known for at MGM. Instead, Hanna-Barbera modified the concept of limited animation practiced and popularized by the United Productions of America (UPA) studio. Character designs were simplified, and backgrounds and animation cycles (walks, runs, etc.) were regularly re-purposed. Characters were often broken up into a handful of levels, so that only the parts of the body that needed to be moved at a given time (i.e. a mouth, an arm, a head) would be animated. The rest of the figure would remain on a held animation cel. This allowed a typical 10-minute short to be done with only 1,200 drawings instead of the usual 26,000. Dialogue, music, and sound effects were emphasized over action, leading Chuck Jones, a contemporary who worked for Hanna and Barbera's rivals at Warner Bros. Cartoons when the duo was at MGM, to disparagingly refer to the limited TV cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera and others as "illustrated radio". [3]

In a story published by The Saturday Evening Post in 1961, critics stated that Hanna-Barbera was taking on more work than it could handle and was resorting to shortcuts only a television audience would tolerate. [4] An executive who worked for Walt Disney Productions said, "We don't even consider [them] competition." [4] Ironically, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, Hanna-Barbera was the only animation studio in Hollywood that was actively hiring, and it picked up a number of Disney artists who were laid off during this period.

The studio's solution to the criticism over its quality was to go into features. The studio produced five theatrical features, among them higher-quality versions of its TV cartoons (Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!, The Man Called Flintstone, and Jetsons: The Movie in 1990) and adaptations of other material (Charlotte's Web in 1973 and Heidi's Song in 1982).

The slow rise and fall === In the 1980s, competing studios such as Filmation and Rankin/Bass began to introduce successful syndicated cartoon series based upon popular toys and action figures. These included Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power and Rankin/Bass's Thundercats, Silverhawks and Tigersharks. The Hanna-Barbera studio fell behind; for the most part they continued to produce for Saturday mornings, although they no longer dominated the market as before. Hanna-Barbera also aligned themselves with Ruby-Spears Productions, which was founded in 1977 by former H-B employees Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. Hanna-Barbera's then-parent Taft Broadcasting purchased Ruby-Spears from Filmways in 1981, and Ruby-Spears often paired their productions with Hanna-Barbera shows. Taft also bought Worldvision Enterprises in 1979; this company became the syndication distributor for most of Hanna-Barbera's shows throughout the 1980s.

Hanna-Barbera followed the lead of its competitors by introducing shows based on familiar licensed properties like The Smurfs, The Snorks, Pac-Man, Shirt Tales, Happy Days, and GoBots, and also produced several ABC Weekend Specials. One of their shows based on a licensed property, The Dukes, was co-produced with eventual corporate sibling Warner Bros. Television, which produced the parent series The Dukes of Hazzard. Some of their shows were produced at their Australian-based studio (a partnership with Australian media company Southern Star Entertainment), including Drak Pack, Wildfire, The Berenstain Bears, Teen Wolf, and almost all of the CBS Storybreak specials. The studio also worked on other projects with less fanfare during the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as the direct-to-video series The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible.

After the success of CBS' hit 1984 Saturday morning cartoon series Muppet Babies, which featured toddler versions of the popular Muppets characters, Hanna-Barbera began producing shows featuring "kid" versions of popular characters, based upon both their own properties (The Flintstone Kids, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo) and characters owned by others (Pink Panther and Sons, Popeye and Son).

In 1985, Hanna-Barbera launched The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, a weekend-only program that introduced new versions of old favorites like Yogi Bear, Jonny Quest, The Snorks, and Richie Rich alongside brand new shows like Galtar and the Golden Lance, Paw Paws, Fantastic Max, and Midnight Patrol. The following year, H-B started Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10, a series of 10 original telefilms based on their popular stable of characters, including the popular crossover The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones.

Throughout all of this, both Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears were subject to the financial troubles of parent company Taft Broadcasting, which had just been acquired by the American Financial Corporation in 1987 and had its name changed to Great American Broadcasting the following year. Along with much of the rest of the American animation industry, Hanna-Barbera had gradually begun to move away from producing everything in-house in the late 1970s and early 80's. Much of the Hanna-Barbera product was outsourced to studios in Australia, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan, including Toei Animation, Wang Film Productions and Fil-Cartoon. In 1989, much of Hanna-Barbera's staff responded to a call from Warner Bros. to resurrect their animation department. Producer Tom Ruegger and a number of his colleagues left the studio at this time, moving to Warner Bros. to develop hit programs such as Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs.

The Turner rebound === In 1990, burdened with debt, Great American put both Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears up for sale. In 1991, Hanna-Barbera and much of the original Ruby-Spears library were acquired by Turner Broadcasting.

Turner's President of Entertainment Scott Sassa hired Fred Seibert, a network television executive with no experience in animation, to head the Hanna-Barbera studio. He immediately filled the gap left by the departure of most of their creative crew during the Great American years with a new crop of animators, writers, and producers, including Pat Ventura, Donovan Cook, Craig McCracken, Genndy Tartakovsky, Seth MacFarlane, David Feiss, Van Partible, Stewart St. John, and Butch Hartman and new production head Buzz Potamkin. In 1992, the studio was renamed H-B Productions Company, changing its name once again to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc. a year later.

In the early 1990s, Hanna-Barbera introduced new versions of earlier properties such as Yo Yogi!, Tom and Jerry Kids, its spin-off Droopy: Master Detective. It also assumed production of TBS's Captain Planet and the Planeteers in 1993, renaming it The New Adventures of Captain Planet. The studio also introduced shows that were quite different from their previous releases, including Wake, Rattle, and Roll, 2 Stupid Dogs, Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron, and The Pirates of Dark Water.

In 1992, Turner launched Cartoon Network, to showcase its huge library of animated programs, of which Hanna-Barbera was the core contributor. As a result, many classic cartoons - especially those by H-B - were introduced to a new audience. In 1994, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera was ended, so that Turner could refocus H-B to produce new shows exclusively for the Turner-owned networks, especially Cartoon Network.

In February 1995, Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network launched World Premiere Toons (a.k.a. What A Cartoon!), a format designed by Seibert. The weekly program featured new creator-driven cartoon shorts developed by its in-house staff. Several original Cartoon Network series emerged from the World Premiere Toons project, the first of which was Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory in 1996. Others programs followed, including Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, I Am Weasel and The Powerpuff Girls. Hanna-Barbera also produced several new direct-to-video movies featuring Scooby-Doo (released by Warner Bros.) as well as a new Jonny Quest series, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.

After the merger between Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner in 1996, the conglomerate had two separate animation studios in its possession. Though under a common ownership, Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. Animation operated separately until 1998. That year, the Hanna-Barbera building was closed and the studio was moved to the Warner Bros. Animation lot at Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California.

The Cartoon Network Studios era === Around 1998, the Hanna-Barbera name began to disappear from the newer shows from the studio in favor of the Cartoon Network Studios name. This came in handy with shows that were produced outside of Hanna-Barbera, but Cartoon Network had a hand in producing, like a.k.a. Cartoon's Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Kino Films' Mike, Lu and Og, Curious Pictures' Sheep in the Big City and Codename: Kids Next Door, Lucasfilm Animation's Star Wars: Clone Wars, Renegade Animation's Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi and Porchlight Entertainment's The Secret Saturdays, as well as the shows the studio continued to produce, like The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Samurai Jack, Megas XLR, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Camp Lazlo, The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, Ben 10, My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Squirrel Boy, Transformers Animated and Chowder.

When William Hanna died on March 22, 2001, an era was over. Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase featured a dedication to Hanna but the actual production was a Warner Bros. Animation production. After 2001, Hanna-Barbera was completely absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation and further Cartoon Network projects were handled by Cartoon Network Studios. Joseph Barbera continued to work for Warner Bros. Animation on projects relating to Hanna-Barbera and Tom & Jerry properties until his death on December 18, 2006.[5]

Although the Hanna-Barbera name remains on the copyright notices of new productions based on "classic" properties like the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, and others, the studio that produces it is Warner Bros. Animation; whereas most Cartoon Network series previously produced by Hanna-Barbera are copyrighted by the channel itself.

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