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Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One. A Bear, a Smurf and a Caveman walk into a bar….

Omar Jeter

Very few children can remember a childhood that did not involve Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone, or Space Ghost. And almost every person in the world can name at least five characters created by the geniuses of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. They were the architects of Saturday morning cartoons, they were the Trailblazers of family entertainment for almost over seven decades. Their characters are often replicated, duplicated and referenced to even in today’s Times.
William Hanna was born and raised in Melrose, New Mexico, and Joseph Barbera was a good old city boy born in the Italian lower east side neighborhood of New York City. With their Origins running very similar tracks as far as going to college for entertainment and acting. Fate intervened in 1939 with them first crossing paths at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer MGM Studios working for the animation division of that company. After numerous conversations in diners that lasted all night long, the two quickly became best friends and realized that a dynasty was waiting to be built. Working on their first animation collaboration that was nominated for an Oscar, Puss Gets the Boot was released in theaters in the year 1940 and was a precursor to the Tom and Jerry franchise. With their first creation being an absolute home run they knew they were on the something and so they decided to split up the task and daily duties, William Hanna being the head honcho in the animation drawing end and Joseph Barbera was left in charge a story writing and pre-production.
The boys were putting MGM Studios on the map being nominated for 12 Oscars. Seven of the cartoons winning the best short subject cartoons between 1943 and 1953. This did not extinguish the fire of Hanna-Barbera by any means as they went on to do numerous more cartoon shorts as well as diving occasionally into the live-action Musical genre. And while the water was just as fine, their hearts lied in the animation field, it was their true love. While not being objective to helping MGM Studios The Duo saw that the stars were in alignment and that their next chapter required them forging their own path as well as their own company while working on numerous animation commercials along with the other previously mentioned projects they decided it was time. And after numerous negotiations with Distributors for their product H-B, Enterprises was born.
Live-action director George Sydney recognized greatness from the start and he, along with several other members of Screen Gems Studios was brought aboard as the first incarnation of the H-B Enterprises board of directors.
And starting in 1957, a Cavalcade of characters was on the March featuring the likes of Huckleberry Hound, Pixie and Dixie, Mr. Jinks, and their grandest creation to date, the picnic basket stealing, shenanigan creating, quick-witted, silver tongue ambassador of Jellystone Park known as the one and only Yogi Bear. Becoming the official mascot for the company for the next few decades and being one of the first animated series to win an Emmy Award, Hanna-Barbera was making more money than they knew what to do with, they were the gunslingers of television and film with no signs of slow down as the animated House of ideas never ran short of creations and with the introduction of El Kabong himself, Quick Draw McGraw a stable with starting to take shape, but the duo knew better than to rely on a one-trick pony (no pun intended) and they realized that there were so many more Creations to come up with.
1960 saw the animated version of CBS’s Flagship show The Honeymooners take place in the form of the Flintstones, and the first family of bedrock Took the airwaves by storm. Nothing like it was ever done before and America could not wait to see the Further Adventures of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble take place. Which allowed the duo to lockdown Primetime television with a rating juggernaut so now they were conquering not only the movie theaters but children’s television and Primetime networking. And while the Yogi Bear stable was growing with the additions of Top Cat, Wally Gator, Touche Turtle and Dum-Dum, in 1962 they decided to take us to the Future with the futuristic fun-filled Adventures of The Jetsons which also was a huge hit.
There was simply so much growth happening that the company decided to buy land in Hollywood California and build a one-of-a-kind Hollywood studio which allowed the public to tour and actually see how these creations go from Ink and paper to the big screen. And while such additions as Magilla Gorilla Peter Potamus and Secret Squirrel and Adam Ant joined the animal kingdom of Comedy, Hanna-Barbera was working on their next Primetime hit in the form of Jonny Quest. The Adventures of the Quest family was definitely risk-taking as the themes were a bit more on the adult side and with borderline violence and off-screen demises happening to the villains of the show, it paid off once again because they push the envelope but they did not push it too far as to cause controversy and thus they held another top hit for Primetime in their hands. The Duel has always been known for keeping their eyes open for popular things and Americana culture and with the age of the superhero taking place in the 60s, Hanna and Barbera decided it was time to build a new universe filled with action-packed Adventure. We saw the likes of Space Ghost, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, The Herculoids, Shazan, the Fantastic Four which was the property of Marvel Comics but licensed out to Hanna Barbera, Moby Dick, the Mighty Mightor, Samson and Goliath, Frankenstein Junior, The Impossibles, and others making up the superhero Universe of Hanna-Barbera.
And then in 1969 it happened…… One of Hanna-Barbera’s most iconic Creations was born and those meddling kids along with their dog changed television as we knew it forever in the form of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!!! The Great Dane scaredy-cat was instantly received by children and adults alike going from coast to coast solving Supernatural Mysteries it was a game-changer for Hanna Barbera and it solidified their foothold on Saturday morning airtime and between 1969 and 1979 thanks to the Harlem Globetrotters, Josie and the Pussycats, The Funky Phantom, Speed Buggy, Dynamutt, Captain Caveman, and many many other franchises, Hanna Barbera dominated 60% of the Saturday morning time block between 8 a.m. and 12 noon. And with other companies such as Filmation, Marvel comics, DC Comics and other companies vying for the title 60% of the airwaves to be dominated by a single company was absolutely unheard of. In fact, depending on the region that you were watching they were actually competing with themselves as multiple Creations were being aired at the same time which was also unheard-of.
And then in the eighties which is considered to be the height and Nexus of animated television shows, The Smurfs, the Snorks, and Scrappy-Doo as well as Richie Rich retained the dominance of Saturday morning and syndication Airwaves. Though the waters were filled with more Sharks looking for dominance as well in the form of Ruby-Spears, DIC Corporation, the Canadian formed Nevala Studios, and Filmation, while still having their championship belt, it was getting a little h harder to hang on to it. And while the eighties were very good to the company, the 90s we’re not. Still pumping out hits but given horrible time slots, they relied heavily on Galtar, The Adventures of Don Coyote and Sancho Panda, fantastic Max, and the Paw Paw bears to keep their name alive. But then the Hanna-Barbera company thoughts themselves that if they could not get the time slots they desired as well as the treatment they deserved from certain channels, they would just simply create a channel of Their Own and thus Cartoon Network was born. With the Channel having no qualms about airing Productions from multiple companies, they make sure that their own Creations were taken care of first. It’s like being fed the same dinner except their Properties were fed first.
And while allow these Studio stories usually have a rise and fall scenario, the company to this day is still doing very well with William Hanna and Joseph Barbera selling their controlling stocks to the other members of the board the creative genius has sailed off into the sunset and retired to see their Creations live on decades later. Truly it is an amazing Legacy that they left behind. With many if not all of their Creations still playing on Cartoon Network as well as Boomerang and available to purchase in collections on DVD as well as available for streaming on YouTube. The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera is timeless and can be enjoyed by today’s generation with a little guidance from the parental units.


Special to The Colletonian (3424 Posts)