In honor of the upcoming Annie Awards, the Oscars and Grammys and Emmys of animation, I’d like to reflect on my favorite animators of all-time. This is an appropriate occasion as the Annies are animation’s highest achievement. The animators who entertained me throughout my childhood with such iconic cartoons on Saturday morning television were William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, better known simply as Hanna-Barbera.
Many of their animations are still relevant pop culture classics while some of their cartoons have been made into feature films. Most recently a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character popular amongst baby boomers released a 3-D motion picture during the holidays. Now let us become more familiar with these extraordinary animators. While the enormous contributions they’ve made in the magical world of animation from another era is truly unmatched.
The Two-Man Team of Hanna-Barbera
In 1939 William Hanna and Joseph Barbera both worked at MGM’s cartoon studio. During their tenure at MGM they won seven Academy Awards for Best Short Subject for their earlier cartoons. In 1957 with the dwindling end of the studio system of contract players and other staff at the major studios Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer decided to close its cartoon studio for good. Screen Gems studios offered them a partnership and the duo animation team of Hanna-Barbera formed a new company called H-B Enterprises.
After their new formation as an animation production company they achieved remarkable success with cartoons such as Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. They won an Emmy for Children’s Programming in 1960. Also in that year another cartoon by Hanna-Barbera was to make its premiere in the fall season. It was a cartoon version of a primetime sitcom titled “The Honeymooners.” This time it would be set in prehistoric times with cave people and dinosaurs. Meet the Flintstones.
From September 1960 till April 1966 this uniquely conceived stone-age family and their best friends and neighbor aired on primetime at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays. Even though it was billed as a sitcom in cartoon form it was like watching a regular comedy show, but with animated characters instead. Starting with its lively, easy to sing along theme song to its distinctive twist on modern appliances, names and technology by giving it a prehistoric invention made this cartoon stand out from all the rest. This was and still is my favorite cartoon.
As a kid I was amazed how they’d take a contemporary item and make it work in a believable way for the Stone Age. Not once did I ever cringe or wince at their extraordinary inventions or reinventions on the show. It was always funny and entertaining. Fred and Wilma Flintstone were the main characters along with their daughter, Pebbles. Their best friends Barney and Betty Rubble were also neighbors. They had a son named Bamm-Bamm. Dino was Fred’s best dinosaur. In September 2010 “The Flintstones” celebrated 50 years. Two live-action films have been made about this cartoon creation by Hanna-Barbera.
Going from one extreme in time to another is a space age cartoon set in 2062 that was based on “The Flintstones.” This was another one of my favorites. The inventions on there were interesting, but no where as fascinating to me as on “The Flintstones.” It premiered in September 1962 till April 1963 on Sunday nights as a 30-minute animated sci-fi sitcom. “The Jetsons” were revived once again in 1985 to 1987. This ’80s version I am completely unfamiliar with.
However, when it finished its run on primetime it became a Saturday morning cartoon staple for decades. The premise of this animated show was about a family with George Jetson as head of the household, Jane as the dutiful wife (still following 1950-1960 trends), Judy who is the eldest daughter, Elroy their youngest son, Rosie the housekeeper robot and Astro their pet dog. In 1990 there was a full-length animated feature film of “The Jetsons.” A live-action film is in the works with a possible release date in 2012.
Other Classic Animation Characters of Hanna-Barbera
In addition to Hanna-Barbera’s animated masterpieces of “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons” they have created an abundance of characters that have evolved into other animated forms or live-action films. Most recently their character of Yogi Bear was released as a 3-D live-action film in December 2010. Dan Aykroyd was the voice of Yogi Bear and Justin Timberlake as Yogi’s buddy, Boo-Boo Bear.
“Scooby-Doo, Where Are You” was a cartoon on Saturday mornings in the late ’60s and early ’70s about four teens and their goofy Great Dane dog solving mysteries. In 2002 there was a full-length live-action film release of “Scooby-Doo.” Another similar cartoon was “Josie and the Pussy Cats” about an all-girl band and their crazy adventures. It was also adapted into a live-action film in 2001.
Also in 2001 is when William Hanna passed away at the age of 90. In 2006 at the age of 95 Joseph Barbera passed away. These brilliant animators have given myself and generations to come interesting animated characters and cartoons still popular today in the 21st century, the same time frame as “The Jetsons.”
The Annie Awards – Animation’s Highest Honor, Annie Awards.org
The Free Encyclopedia, Wikipedia
The Flintstones and Hanna-Barbera, Webrock – Top That.net