|Fate||Absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation|
|Predecessor||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio|
|Successor||Warner Bros. Animation|
Cartoon Network Studios
|Founded||July 7, 1957|
Theatrical feature films
Theatrical short films
|Parent||Taft Broadcasting (1966–1991)|
Turner Broadcasting System (1991–1996)
Time Warner (1996–2001)
Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. (/ , - / HAN-ə bar-BAIR-ə, - BAR-bər-ə), simply known as Hanna-Barbera and also referred to as H-B Enterprises, H-B Production Company and Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc., was an American animation studio founded in 1957 by Tom and Jerry (cat and mouse duo) creators and former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer animation directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, in partnership with film director George Sidney.
For three decades in the 20th century, it was a prominent force and leader in American television animation as it created a variety of popular animated characters and a succession of cartoon series, including The Flintstones, The Yogi Bear Show, The Jetsons, Wacky Races, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and The Smurfs.
While their cartoons won seven Oscars and eight Emmys, Hanna and Barbera were also awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Established as a successful company, the two men and Sidney sold it to Taft Broadcasting on December 29, 1966. By the mid-1980s, when the profitability of Saturday-morning cartoons was eclipsed by weekday afternoon syndication, Hanna-Barbera's fortunes had declined.
Turner Broadcasting System purchased the studio from Taft (by then renamed Great American Broadcasting) in late 1991 and used much of its back catalog as the foundation and programming for Cartoon Network and later Boomerang. After Turner purchased the company, Hanna and Barbera continued to serve as creative consultants and mentors.
The studio became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Animation in 1996 following Turner's merger with Time Warner and was ultimately absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation in 2001. As of 2019, Warner Bros. continues to produce new animation based on Hanna-Barbera's catalog using the Hanna-Barbera brand name.
William Hanna, a native of Melrose, New Mexico, and Joseph Barbera, born of Italian heritage in New York City, first met at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio in 1939, while working at its animation division (through its Rudolf Ising unit) and solidified a partnership that would last for six decades. Their first cartoon together, the Oscar-nominated Puss Gets the Boot, featuring a cat named Jasper and an unnamed mouse, was released to theaters in 1940 and served as the pilot for the long-running theatrical short subject series Tom and Jerry. Hanna and Barbera served as directors of the shorts for over 20 years, with Hanna supervising the animation and Barbera in charge of the stories and pre-production.
In addition being nominated for twelve Oscars, seven of the cartoons won seven for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) between 1943 and 1953, but were awarded to producer Fred Quimby, who was not involved in the creative development of the shorts.:83–84 The pair also directed new hybrid animated and live-action musical sequences for MGM's feature films Anchors Aweigh (notable for its dance sequence featuring Gene Kelly and Jerry), Dangerous When Wet and Invitation to the Dance and wrote and directed a handful of one-shot cartoons, Gallopin' Gals, Officer Pooch, War Dogs and Good Will to Men, a 1955 remake of 1939's Peace on Earth.
With Quimby's retirement in 1955, Hanna and Barbera became the producers in charge of the MGM animation studio's output, supervising the last seven shorts of Tex Avery's Droopy series and directing and producing a short-lived Tom and Jerry spin-off series, Spike and Tyke, which ran for two entries. In addition to their work on the cartoons, the two men moonlighted on outside projects, including the original title sequences and commercials for the CBS sitcom I Love Lucy. With the emergence of television, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer decided in early 1957 to close its cartoon studio, as it felt it had acquired a reasonable backlog of shorts for re-release.
While contemplating their future, Hanna and Barbera began producing animated television commercials and during their last year at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, they had developed a concept for a new animated TV program about a dog and cat duo in various misadventures. After they failed to convince the studio to back their venture, live-action director George Sidney, who had worked with Hanna and Barbera on several of his theatrical features for MGM, offered to serve as their business partner and convinced Screen Gems, a television production subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, to make a deal with the producers.
A coin toss would determine that Hanna would have precedence in naming the new studio. Harry Cohn, president and head of Columbia Pictures, took an 18% ownership in Hanna and Barbera's new company, H-B Enterprises, and provided working capital. Screen Gems became the new studio's distributor and its licensing agent, handling merchandizing of the characters from the animated programs. The duo's cartoon firm officially opened for business in rented offices on the lot of Kling Studios (formerly Charlie Chaplin Studios) on July 7, 1957, two months after the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer animation studio closed down.
Sidney and several Screen Gems alumni became members of the studio's board of directors and much of the former MGM animation staff — including animators Carlo Vinci, Kenneth Muse, Lewis Marshall, Michael Lah and Ed Barge and layout artists Ed Benedict and Richard Bickenbach — became the new production staff for the H-B studio. Conductor and composer Hoyt Curtin was in charge of providing the music while many voice actors came on board, such as Daws Butler, Don Messick, Julie Bennett, Mel Blanc, Howard Morris, John Stephenson, Hal Smith and Doug Young.
H-B Enterprises was the first major animation studio to successfully produce cartoons exclusively for television and after rebroadcasts of theatrical cartoons as programming, its first TV original The Ruff and Reddy Show, premiered on NBC in December 1957. The Huckleberry Hound Show came next in 1958 and aired in most markets just before prime time. A ratings success, it introduced a new crop of cartoon stars to audiences, in particular Huckleberry Hound, Pixie and Dixie and Mr. Jinks and Yogi Bear and was the first animated series to win an Emmy.
The studio began expanding rapidly following its initial success and several animation industry alumni – in particular former Warner Bros. Cartoons storymen Michael Maltese and Warren Foster, who became new head writers for the studio – joined the staff at this time along with Joe Ruby and Ken Spears as film editors and Iwao Takamoto as character designer. By 1959, H-B Enterprises was reincorporated as Hanna-Barbera Productions and slowly became a leader in TV animation production from then on. The Quick Draw McGraw Show and its only theatrical short film series, Loopy De Loop, would follow in 1959.
The Flintstones premiered on ABC in prime time in 1960, loosely based on the CBS series The Honeymooners. It was set in a fictionalized stone age of cavemen and dinosaurs. Jackie Gleason considered suing Hanna-Barbera for copyright infringement, but decided not to because he did not want to be known as "the man who yanked Fred Flintstone off the air". The show ran for six seasons, becoming the longest-running animated show in American prime time at the time (until The Simpsons beat it in 1997), a ratings and merchandising success and the top-ranking animated program in syndication history. It initially received mixed reviews from critics, but its reputation eventually improved and it is now considered a classic.
The Yogi Bear Show and Top Cat would soon follow in 1961. The three shows Wally Gator, Touché Turtle and Dum Dum and Lippy the Lion & Hardy Har Har aired as part of The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series then The Jetsons debuted in 1962. Several animated TV commercials were produced as well, often starring their own characters (probably the best known is a series of Pebbles cereal commercials for Post featuring Barney tricking Fred into giving him his Pebbles cereal) and H-B also produced the opening credits for Bewitched, in which animated caricatures of Samantha and Darrin appeared. These characterizations were reused in the sixth season Flintstones episode "Samantha".
In 1963, its operations moved off the Kling lot (by then renamed the Red Skelton Studios) to 3400 Cahuenga Boulevard West in Hollywood, California. This contemporary office building was designed by architect Arthur Froehlich. Its ultra-modern design included a sculpted latticework exterior, moat, fountains and a Jetsons-like tower. In 1964, newer programs of The Magilla Gorilla Show, The Peter Potamus Show and Jonny Quest aired. Atom Ant, Secret Squirrel and Sinbad Jr. and his Magic Belt came in 1965. Screen Gems and Hanna-Barbera's partnership lasted until 1965, when Hanna and Barbera announced the sale of their studio to Taft Broadcasting.
Taft's acquisition of Hanna-Barbera was delayed for a year by a lawsuit from Joan Perry, John Cohn, and Harrison Cohn – the wife and sons of former Columbia Pictures president Harry Cohn, who felt that the studio undervalued the Cohns' 18% share in the company when it was sold a few years previously. In 1966, an animated Laurel and Hardy series, Frankenstein Jr. and The Impossibles and Space Ghost first aired and by December 1966, the litigation had been settled and the studio was finally acquired by Taft for $12 million. It would fold it into its corporate structure in 1967 and 1968, becoming its distributor.
Hanna and Barbera stayed on with the studio while Screen Gems retained licensing and distribution rights to the previous Hanna-Barbera produced cartoons, along with trademarks to the characters into the 1970s and 1980s. A number of new comedy and action cartoons followed in 1967, among them are The Space Kidettes, The Abbott and Costello Cartoon Show, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, The Herculoids, Shazzan, Fantastic Four, Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor and Samson & Goliath (a.k.a. Young Samson).
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, The Adventures of Gulliver and The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn arosed in 1968, while the successful Wacky Races and its spinoffs The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines aired on CBS, followed by Cattanooga Cats for ABC. The studio had its first (and only) record label Hanna-Barbera Records, headed by Danny Hutton and distributed by Columbia Records. Previously, children's records featuring H-B characters were released by Colpix Records.
Next came Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! in 1969, which blended comedy, action and elements from I Love a Mystery and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Running for two seasons on CBS, it centered on four teenagers and a dog solving supernatural mysteries. Referred to as "The General Motors of animation", Hanna-Barbera would eventually go even further by producing nearly two-thirds of all Saturday morning cartoons in a single year. On the horizon, the studio produced a steady stream of new mystery-solving, prime time, Saturday morning, superhero, action-adventure and spinoff cartoons for broadcast.
These include Harlem Globetrotters, Josie and the Pussycats, Where's Huddles, The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch!, The Funky Phantom, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, The Flintstone Comedy Hour, The Roman Holidays, Sealab 2020, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space, the feature film Charlotte's Web, Speed Buggy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids, Yogi's Gang, Super Friends, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Inch High, Private Eye, Jeannie, The Addams Family, Hong Kong Phooey, Devlin, Partridge Family 2200 A.D., These Are The Days, Valley of the Dinosaurs, Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, The Tom & Jerry Show, The Great Grape Ape Show, The Mumbly Cartoon Show, The Scooby-Doo Show, Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, Clue Club, Jabberjaw, Laff-A-Lympics, CB Bears, The Robonic Stooges, The All-New Super Friends Hour, The All New Popeye Hour, Yogi's Space Race, Galaxy Goof-Ups, Buford and the Galloping Ghost, Challenge of the Super Friends, Godzilla, Jana of the Jungle, The New Fred and Barney Show, Casper and the Angels, The New Shmoo, The Super Globetrotters, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo and The World's Greatest Super Friends.
The majority of American television animation were made by Hanna-Barbera with their major competition coming from Filmation and DePatie-Freleng. ABC president Fred Silverman gave H-B the majority of its Saturday morning cartoon time after dropping Filmation for its failure of Uncle Croc's Block. Along with the rest of the American animation industry, it began moving away from producing all its cartoons in-house in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Joe Ruby and Ken Spears left to found their own studio Ruby-Spears Enterprises in 1977, with Filmways as its parent company. In 1979, Taft bought Worldvision Enterprises, which would become Hanna-Barbera's syndication distributor.
New shows from Hanna-Barbera were entirely in live-action, though it had already got into live-action in the late 1960s (mixing it with animation). Its live-action unit was spun off and renamed Solow Production Company, which immediately following the name change, was able to sell the action series Man from Atlantis to NBC. Its most distinguished live-action production by far was The Gathering, an Emmy award-winning TV movie starring Edward Asner and Maureen Stapleton, written by James Poe and directed by Randal Kleiser.
Super Friends, The Flintstone Comedy Show, The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang and Richie Rich emerged in 1980, then came Laverne and Shirley in the Army, Space Stars, The Kwicky Koala Show and Trollkins in 1981. Taft purchased Ruby-Spears from Filmways the same year. While Filmation, Marvel/Sunbow, Rankin/Bass and DIC introduced successful syndicated shows based on licensed properties (mostly toy lines), Hanna-Barbera continued to produce for Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons, but no longer dominated the TV animation market as it did formerly.
While its control over children's programming went down from 80% to 20%, Hanna-Barbera's next highly successful series The Smurfs, adapted from the comic by Pierre Culliford (known as Peyo) and centering on a gang of tiny blue forest dwelling creatures led by Papa Smurf, premiered and aired on NBC for nine seasons, becoming the longest-running Saturday morning cartoon series in broadcast history, a significant ratings success, the top-rated program in eight years and the highest for an NBC show since 1970.
In 1982, fresh cartoons Jokebook, The Gary Coleman Show, Shirt Tales, Pac-Man, The Little Rascals and The Scooby & Scrappy-Doo/Puppy Hour first aired then The Dukes, Monchhichis, The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show and The Biskitts came to the airwaves in 1983. The studio set up a computerized digital ink and paint system and was innovative for its time. It was the first to use digital coloring, long before other animation studios. This process did not require as much effort as time consuming labor of painting on cels and photographing them.
Many of Hanna and Barbera's shows were outsourced to Cuckoo's Nest Studios, Mr. Big Cartoons, Mook Co., Ltd., Toei Animation and Fil-Cartoons in Australia and Asia. The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, Snorks, Challenge of the GoBots, Pink Panther and Sons and Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show all aired in 1984. In 1985, The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo along with Yogi's Treasure Hunt, Galtar and the Golden Lance and Paw Paws (the three shows introduced in The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera) debuted while new Jetsons episodes premiered.
The studio also presented The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible, its first new straight-to-video series. In 1986, new Jonny Quest episodes and series of Pound Puppies, The Flintstone Kids, Foofur and Wildfire aired. Sky Commanders, Popeye and Son and the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 made-for-television movies debuted in 1987. Meanwhile, Taft, whose financial troubles were affecting Hanna-Barbera, would be acquired by the American Financial Corporation in 1987, renaming it Great American Broadcasting the following year.
A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley, new Yogi Bear episodes, Fantastic Max, The Further Adventures of SuperTed and Paddington Bear followed in 1988 and 1989. Worldvision was sold to Aaron Spelling Productions except for Hanna-Barbera's library, which remained owned by Great American. Some of the staff got a call from Warner Bros. to resurrect its animation department and Tom Ruegger along with his colleagues left to develop new programs there. David Kirschner, known for producing the An American Tail and Child's Play film franchises, was later appointed as the new CEO of Hanna-Barbera.
In 1990, under Kirschner, the studio formed Bedrock Productions, a unit for various movies and shows. Great American put Hanna-Barbera, along with Ruby-Spears, up for sale after being less successful and burdened in debt. New shows Midnight Patrol: Adventures in the Dream Zone, Rick Moranis in Gravedale High, Tom & Jerry Kids Show, an adaptation of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures, The Adventures of Don Coyote and Sancho Panda and Wake, Rattle, and Roll (later as Jump, Rattle, and Roll) first aired.
In 1991, Young Robin Hood (a co-production with Canada's CINAR), The Pirates of Dark Water and Yo Yogi! debuted while the Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears libraries were acquired by a 50-50 joint venture between Turner Broadcasting System (which by that time also bought the pre-May 1986 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer library) and Apollo Investment Fund for $320 million. Turner purchased these assets to use in launching an all-animation network aimed at children and younger audiences. Turner's president of entertainment Scott Sassa hired former MTV Networks executive Fred Seibert to head Hanna-Barbera.
Seibert filled the gap left by the Great American-era crew with new animators, directors, producers and writers, including Pat Ventura, Craig McCracken, Donovan Cook, Genndy Tartakovsky, David Feiss, Seth MacFarlane, Van Partible, Stewart St. John and Butch Hartman. In 1992, the studio was renamed to H-B Production Company and released Fish Police, Capitol Critters and new Addams Family episodes, while Turner launched Cartoon Network, the world's first 24-hour all-animation channel, to air its library of cartoon classics, of which Hanna-Barbera was the core contributor.
In 1993, the studio changed its name again to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc. while Turner acquired the remaining interests in the studio from Apollo Investment Fund for $255 million. The studio released a number of new cartoons in 1993 and 1994 for broadcast, including Droopy, Master Detective, The New Adventures of Captain Planet, SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron and 2 Stupid Dogs. At this time, Turner Broadcasting System refocused the studio to produce new shows exclusively for its networks. In 1995, an adaptation of Dumb and Dumber premiered on ABC, becoming the final new Hanna-Barbera show to air on a broadcast network.
What a Cartoon! (first promoted as World Premiere Toons), an animation showcase led by Seibert, premiered and featured new creator-driven shorts developed for Cartoon Network by Hanna-Barbera's in-house staff. Several new original animated series emerged from What a Cartoon!, including Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken and The Powerpuff Girls. In 1996, while new series of Cave Kids and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest premiered, Turner Broadcasting merged with Time Warner.
In 1998, after being on Cahuenga Blvd. since 1963, Hanna-Barbera, its archives, and its extensive animation art collection moved to Sherman Oaks Galleria in Sherman Oaks, California where Warner Bros. Animation was located. The company operated alongside Warner Bros. Animation at Sherman Oaks Galleria until 2001, when both studios were merged together by parent company Time Warner.. After the Hanna-Berbera/Warner Bros. merger, Cartoon Network Studios was revived and took over production of Cartoon Network's programming.
Hanna died of throat cancer on March 22, 2001 and Barbera died of natural causes on December 18, 2006. Senior Hanna-Barbera character designer Iwao Takamoto died of a heart attack on January 8, 2007. The Cahuenga Blvd. studio faced demolition after Hanna-Barbera vacated the facilities in 1997, despite the efforts of Barbera and others to preserve it. In May 2004, the Los Angeles City Council approved a plan to preserve the headquarters while allowing retail and residential development on the site.
After absorbing the Hanna-Barbera studio, Warner Bros. Animation continued to produce new productions based on Hanna-Barbera's legacy properties, including new Scooby-Doo and Tom & Jerry direct-to-video films and television series along with other new animated content for network broadcast, motion picture release and made-for-video.
In 2016, Warner Bros. announced the film Scoob! was in the works, based on the classic Scooby-Doo property. The film, originally scheduled for release in September 2018 but later pushed back to 2020, is intended to be the first installment of a Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe. The studio is also developing films based on The Jetsons (with Conrad Vernon set to direct and Matt Lieberman writing the screenplay), The Flintstones, and Wacky Races.
In 2016, DC Comics debuted a new comic book initiative titled Hanna-Barbera Beyond, which is a re-imagining of some of the Hanna-Barbera studio's classic cartoons and characters in darker and edgier settings. Additional titles arrived in March 2017 crossing over with the DC Universe.
The small budgets that television animation producers had to work within prevented Hanna-Barbera from working with the full theatrical-quality animation that Hanna and Barbera had been known for at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. While the budget for MGM's seven-minute Tom and Jerry shorts was about $35,000, the Hanna-Barbera studios was required to produce five-minute Ruff and Reddy episodes for no more than $3,000 a piece. To keep within these tighter budgets, Hanna-Barbera furthered the concept of limited animation (also called semi-animation) practiced and popularized by the United Productions of America (UPA) studio, which also once had a partnership with Columbia Pictures. 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 Warner Bros. Cartoons and whose short The Dover Boys practically invented many of the concepts in limited animation—to disparagingly refer to the limited television cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera and others as "illustrated radio".
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. An executive who worked for Walt Disney Productions said, "We don't even consider [them] competition". Animation historian Christopher P. Lehman argues that Hanna-Barbera attempted to maximize their bottom line by recycling story formulas and characterization instead of introducing new ones. Once a formula for an original series was deemed successful, the studio would keep reusing it in subsequent series. Besides copying their own works, Hanna-Barbera would draw inspiration from the works of other people and studios.
Lehman considers that the studio served as a main example of how animation studios which focused on TV animation differed from those that focused on theatrical animation. Theatrical animation studios tried to maintain full and fluid animation, and consequently struggled with the rising expenses associated with producing it. Limited animation as practiced by Hanna-Barbera kept production costs at a minimum. The cost in quality of using this technique was that Hanna-Barbera's characters only moved when absolutely necessary.
Its solution to the criticism over its quality was to go into movies. It produced six theatrical feature films, among them are higher-quality versions of its television cartoons (Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!, The Man Called Flintstone and Jetsons: The Movie) and adaptations of other material (Charlotte's Web, Heidi's Song and Once Upon a Forest). It was also the first animation studio to have their work produced overseas. One of these companies was a subsidiary started by Hanna-Barbera called Fil-Cartoons in the Philippines. Wang Film Productions got its start as an overseas facility for the studio in 1978.
Hanna-Barbera was noted for its large library of sound effects, which have been featured in exhibitions at the Norman Rockwell Museum.