- Mar 24, 1911
For over four decades, Joseph Barbera reigned, along with his partner William Hanna, as one of the princes of American animation, second only to Walt Disney. Over the years, Hanna and Barbera created so many inimitable cartoon legends that their resumé reads like a laundry list of American television icons: Tom & Jerry, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, the… More Bio:
For over four decades, Joseph Barbera reigned, along with his partner William Hanna, as one of the princes of American animation, second only to Walt Disney. Over the years, Hanna and Barbera created so many inimitable cartoon legends that their resumé reads like a laundry list of American television icons: Tom & Jerry, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, the Jetsons, the Flintstones, Top Cat, Jonny Quest, Huckleberry Hound, the Smurfs, and many, many others.
Born on March 24, 1911, in Manhattan, the son of an Italian immigrant, Joseph Roland Barbera came of age in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he demonstrated an incredible propensity for artistry as a young man. After high school, Barbera studied at the American Institute of Banking, before the sale of one of his illustrations to Collier's magazine turned his head in the direction of work as a full-time cartoonist; deeply inspired, Barbera wrote a letter to Walt Disney, requesting employment. Disney responded, and agreed to contact Barbera and meet with him on his next trip to New York, but never followed through on this promise.
Undiscouraged, Barbera signed on with one of Disney's rivals, Max Fleischer, but the stint lasted less than a week. Barbera then went to work for the Van Beuren Studios from 1932-1936, then the Terrytoon Studios, in New Rochelle, NY. Not one year later, Metro Goldwyn-Mayer's animation department in Culver City, CA, caught a glimpse of Barbera's work and, sensing the depths of his talent, instantly hired the prodigious young man to work in their animation department. At MGM, Barbera's supervisors paired him up with Hanna, a seasoned animator, score composer, and librettist, and the two set to work turning out animated adaptations of Katzenjammer Kids shorts. In the process, they became fast friends as well.
Both men felt dissatisfied with the subjects at hand, however, and convinced the department heads to let them devise, script, illustrate, and animate their own short subjects. This resulted in the 1940 short Puss Gets the Boot, which later received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short. Puss Gets the Boot lost that year to Rudolf Ising's The Milky Way, but the warm public reception to Puss paved the way for a seemingly limitless period of work for Hanna and Barbera at Metro -- their job security further anchored by additional Oscar nominations and wins for shorts. These included -- among others -- Yankee Doodle Mouse in 1943, Mouse Trouble in 1944, Quiet Please! in 1945, The Cat Concerto in 1946. The Oscar nods wrapped with the 1957 short One Droopy Knight; in the interim, the Tom and Jerry series spawned 113 individual episodes.
Meanwhile, significant changes occurred at MGM. Hanna and Barbera were first promoted to heads of the animation department; then, in 1955, the department closed altogether, inspiring the two men to strike out on their own, full-time. They turned to H-B Enterprises and reinvented the outfit as a base for animated television series. One of Hanna-Barbera's key innovations during this period involved a now-standard technique called "limited animation," where the animators reduced the number of drawings per minute from around 1,000 to about 300, making the prospect of a weekly animated series a highly feasible one.
H-B debuted with its first weekly, The Ruff & Reddy Show, in 1957, then produced The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958). The program won an Emmy and yielded a spin-off, The Yogi Bear Show, about a now-notorious bear with a penchant for swiping "pic-a-nic" baskets from unsuspecting tourists in Jellystone Park. If Hanna and Barbera admitted that Honeymooners mainstay Ed Norton inspired Yogi, they took the success of the series as a cue, unofficially revamping the entire Honeymooners series in animated form for their next project. That effort, The Flintstones -- about two Stone Age couples raising their children in the town of Bedrock -- reinvented the si
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