Barbera Dies At 95
been a while since the studio that bore his name has borne
his name. Though kids today know his characters, it's doubtful
they know the man behind them in the way those of us who
had real sugar-frosted Saturday mornings did.
with the news of Joe Barbera passing (five years after his
creative partner William Hanna) at age 95, let this be a
moment to acknowledge how he changed the face of children's
television. Or maybe it's better to say he helped carve
the face of children's television.
can remember a bunch of us hanging backstage at a junior
theater show, complaining that Hanna-Barbera were ruining
Tom and Jerry with that Great Grape Ape. We were
young, thinking that MGM had sold out their cat and mouse,
not realizing that Hanna and Barbera got their start directing
Tom and Jerry theatrical cartoons. In fact, I later
discovered, they had won an Oscar for their efforts.
After MGM shut
down their animation division, the resourceful duo formed
their own studio and pioneered the use of "limited"
animation. The technique, in which characters often stood
still while just their heads were animated to speak, saved
a lot of money and fit television perfectly. It forced their
cartoons to rely more on verbal characterization and wit.
Starting with Ruff and Reddy, the duo spawned classic
characters like Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and perhaps
the bane of my childhood (though I loved him), Quick Draw
good thirty years before The Simpsons, Hanna-Barbera
broke into prime time with The Flintstones, the
first season of which, at least, appealed directly to adults.
The kids just picked up on it. That success never quite
repeated. Though The Jetsons are still fairly well
known today, there doesn't seem to be a huge demand for
syndication of Where's Huddles? or Wait 'Til
Your Father Gets Home.
also okayed the designs of artists like Doug Wildey and
Alex Toth. Under the Hanna-Barbera banner, they produced
Jonny Quest, Space Ghost and a host of other quasi-adventure
shows that allow Adult Swim to exist today.
with some of his favorites.
the studio had a surprisingly solid run, too, with The
Man Called Flintstone, Hey There, It's Yogi Bear and
the Generation X favorite Charlotte's Web.
In the nineties,
the studio sold to Time-Warner, and a few years ago the
conglomerate phased the name Hanna-Barbera out, preferring
the brand name that most kids knew anyway: Cartoon Network.
To see the best of Barbera's work, you have to go to the
sister network, Boomerang.
take a moment of silence for this man. Maybe mention it
to your kids. Because if Joe Barbera hadn't taken a second
glance at the great dane in a failing pilot called Who's
Scared?, we wouldn't have Scooby Doo.
As for me, I'm
going to exit, stage left.