Yabba-Dabba-Doo! A 70th Anniversary Salute to Hanna-Barbera

From the Exhibit Designer: In the Making: 7 Decades of Hanna-Barbera

By Van Partible
Creator, Hanna-Barbera’s Johnny Bravo

What is it like to be “in the making?”  We marvel when we hear how Dick Wolf was producing five television series in 2000, but did you know that in 1974, Hanna-Barbera Productions had ten series running on three different networks?!

Yabba-Dabba-Doo! A 70th Anniversary Salute to Hanna-Barbera CONTINUES...

Every week the storyboard artists were churning out a complete story while the animators were pumping out ten thousand feet of animation. Layout artists got it down to a science where two guys could lay out a show in thirty-four hours. They were running Xerox twenty-four hours a day with eighteen-hour shifts seven days a week. With simplified designs and animation cycles (walks, runs, etc.), Hanna-Barbera created a new way of making cartoons, which was often criticized for being a “factory” rather than a studio.  

The question is, “If Hanna-Barbera was really as bad as its critics say they were, how did they create characters like the Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, who are still worldwide icons?"

Appeal.  

That’s what Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera created when they got together in 1939 and directed their first Tom and Jerry cartoon. From then on, whatever Bill and Joe produced was based on a knowledge that the characters had to possess that “certain something” that made you love them. For decades, the two surrounded themselves with people who helped them bottle that appeal and distribute it to every kid watching TV on Saturday morning. Little did they know that they would revolutionize the art and process of animation production along the way. While Walt Disney was working towards making cartoons realistic and beautiful, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were bringing the medium back to caricature and fun. Hanna-Barbera’s cartoons seemed simple and childish, but the process to get multiple cartoons on TV at the same time was the complete opposite.

Like any well-oiled machine, there were key players to keep it running: Ed Benedict, Alex Toth, Iwao Takamoto, Jerry Eisenberg, Willie Ito. These are but a few of the names that pop up time and time again in the credits of all of Hanna-Barbera’s productions. Before there were computers, these artists spent thousands of hours in the studio, with pencils and paintbrushes in hand, developing the look and feel of Hanna-Barbera’s cartoons. Along with a handful of other artists over the years, they experimented with line by creating a vocabulary of shapes, playing with perspective, and applying various color schemes to establish the blueprint for each cartoon before it was sent through the system. And it was a system.

Bill and Joe gave birth to characters who are an important part of our pop culture history. How else can you explain why there are rocks on Mars named after Bamm-Bamm, Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, Yogi, and Boo-Boo?

Characters & images TM & © 2009 Cartoon Network. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.

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