|Predecessor||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio|
|Successors||Warner Bros. Animation|
Cartoon Network Studios
|Founded||July 7, 1957|
|Fate||Absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network Studios|
Feature length movies
Taft Broadcasting (1966–1987)
Great American Broadcasting (1987–1991)
Turner Broadcasting System (1991–2001)
Warner Bros. Animation (1996–2001)
Time Warner (1996–2001)
Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc. (/ , - / HAN-ə bar-BAIR-ə, - BAR-bər-ə), also variously known as H-B Enterprises, H-B Production Co., and Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc., was an American animation studio and production company founded in 1957 by Tom and Jerry creators and former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer animation directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, and remained active until 2001.
Hanna and Barbera dominated television with a wide variety of animated series, including The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Flintstones, The Yogi Bear Show, The Jetsons, Wacky Races, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and The Smurfs and won eight Emmy Awards and in 1976, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for their achievements in animation. Their studio was a prominent presence in American television animation for over four decades.
Taft Broadcasting bought the studio in 1966 and retained ownership of it until 1987. By the 1980s, as the profitability of Saturday-morning cartoons was eclipsed by weekday afternoon syndication, Hanna-Barbera's fortunes had declined. In 1991, Turner Broadcasting System purchased it from Taft (which had been renamed Great American Broadcasting in 1988) and used much of its back catalog as programming for Cartoon Network. Hanna and Barbera continued to serve as creative consultants and mentors.
Hanna-Barbera became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Animation after Turner's merger with Time Warner in 1996, before being absorbed into that studio and former division Cartoon Network Studios after Hanna's death in 2001; Barbera died in 2006. Since its closure, the studio has continued to operate as a name-only company and remains the copyright holder for its catalog, with Warner Bros. handling production of new animation.
Tom and Jerry and birth of studio (1939–1957)
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 (MGM) studio in 1939, while working in Rudolf Ising's unit at MGM's animation division. With both having worked at other studios since the early 1930s, Hanna and Barbera 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. It was released to theaters in 1940 and served as the pilot for the long-running theatrical short subject series Tom and Jerry.
Serving as directors of the shorts for 20 years, Hanna supervised the animation, while Barbera did the stories and preproduction. Seven of the cartoons won seven Oscars for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) between 1943 and 1953, while the others got nominated for 12, but these were awarded to producer Fred Quimby, who was not involved in the creative development of the shorts.:83–84 New projects were also done by the duo for MGM, animated/live action sequences for Anchors Aweigh, Dangerous When Wet and Invitation to the Dance and the one-shot shorts Gallopin' Gals, The Goose Goes South, 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, MGM decided in early 1958 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 MGM, 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 determined 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, one year after the MGM animation studio closed.
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.
Success with animated sitcoms (1957–1969)
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, Inc., 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, followed that year.
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, Top Cat, Wally Gator, Touché Turtle and Dum Dum, Lippy the Lion & Hardy Har Har and The Jetsons soon followed in 1961 and 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, Hanna-Barbera's operations moved off the Kling lot (by then renamed the Red Skelton Studios) to 3400 Cahuenga Boulevard West in Hollywood. 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, a new 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. Taft folded the studio 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, a new Abbott & Costello series, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, The Herculoids, Shazzan, Fantastic Four, Moby Dick and Mighty Mightor, and Samson & Goliath.
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, The Adventures of Gulliver, and The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn arose 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 a record label, Hanna-Barbera Records, headed by Danny Hutton and distributed by Columbia Records. Previously, children's records featuring Hanna-Barbera characters were released by Colpix Records.
Mysteries, spinoffs and more (1969–1979)
Hanna-Barbera writers Ruby and Spears created Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! for CBS Saturday mornings in 1969, a mystery-based program which blended comedy, action and elements from I Love a Mystery and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Running for two seasons, it centered on four teenagers and a dog solving supernatural mysteries, and became one of Hanna-Barbera's most successful creations and has spawned servral new spin-offs, such as The New Scooby-Doo Movies, The Scooby-Doo Show, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo and many others, which were regularly in production at Hanna-Barbera into the 1990s.
Referred to as "The General Motors of animation", Hanna-Barbera eventually went even further by producing nearly two-thirds of all Saturday-morning cartoons in a single year. Several Hanna-Barbera series from the 1970s, such as Josie and the Pussycats, The Funky Phantom, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, Speed Buggy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids, Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Inch High, Private Eye, Clue Club, Jabberjaw and Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels built upon the mystery-solving template set by Scooby-Doo, with further series built around teenagers solving mysteries with a comic relief pet of some sort.
The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show returned The Flintstones characters to television in 1971 with a new spin-off series based on their now teenaged children. The Flintstone Comedy Hour and The New Fred and Barney Show remained in production through the early 1980s. Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and others returned in 1972 for brand new shows, such as Yogi's Gang, Laff-a-Lympics, Yogi's Space Race, and Galaxy Goof-Ups, while Tom and Jerry were also given a new series of televised cartoons in 1975.
The Great Grape Ape Show and The Mumbly Cartoon Show followed soon after. In 1972, Hanna-Barbera opened an animation studio in Australia, with the Hamlyn Group acquiring a 50% stake in 1974. Hamlyn was acquired by James Hardie Industries. In 1988, Hanna-Barbera Australia bought itself out from Hardie and Taft Broadcasting, with the studio changing its name to Southern Star Group. The studio has since become Endemol Shine Australia, a division of the Banijay Group. In 1973, Hanna-Barbera produced the first of several iterations of Super Friends, an action-adventure series adapted from DC Comics' Justice League of America superhero characters.
Following the initial 1973 Super Friends TV series on ABC, the show returned to production in 1976, remaining on ABC through 1986 with continuations such as The All-New Super Friends Hour, Challenge of the Super Friends, and The World's Greatest Super Friends. Hanna-Barbera's other 1970s series included Harlem Globetrotters, Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch!, The Roman Holidays, Sealab 2020, Jeannie, The Addams Family, Partridge Family 2200 A.D., These Are The Days, Valley of the Dinosaurs, Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, CB Bears, The All New Popeye Hour, Godzilla, Buford and the Galloping Ghost and Jana of the Jungle, among many others.
Charlotte's Web, an adaptation of E. B. White's children's novel and Hanna-Barbera's first feature film not based on one of their TV shows, was released in 1973 by Paramount Pictures. While the majority of American television animation during the second half of the 20th century was made by Hanna-Barbera, with major competition coming from Filmation and DePatie-Freleng, then-ABC president Fred Silverman gave its Saturday-morning cartoon time to them 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.
Ruby and Spears worked with Hanna-Barbera in 1976 and 1977 as ABC network executives to create and develop new cartoons before leaving in 1977 to start their company, Ruby-Spears Enterprises, with Filmways as its parent division. In 1979, Taft bought Worldvision Enterprises, which became Hanna-Barbera's distributor. New live-action material were produced in the 1970s and early 1980s, as wel as new live-action/animated projects since the mid-1960s. Their live-action unit spun off and became Solow Production Company in 1976.
Control decrease and The Smurfs success (1980–1991)
Led by Marc Levoy, Hanna-Barbera began developing a computerized digital ink and paint system in 1979, long before other animation studios. This process helped bypass much of the time-consuming labor of painting and photographing cels, and was implemented on a third of Hanna-Barbera's animated programs, televised feature films and specials from 1984 through 1996. Super Friends, The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang, Richie Rich, new episodes of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, and The Flintstone Comedy Show emerged in 1980.
Laverne and Shirley in the Army, Space Stars, The Kwicky Koala Show, and Trollkins debuted in 1981. Taft purchased Ruby-Spears Enterprises from Filmways, making it a sister studio to Hanna-Barbera. As a result, several early-1980s series were shared between both studios, the animated version of Mork & Mindy and The Scooby-Doo/Scrappy-Doo/Puppy Hour among them. Competing studios Filmation, Marvel/Sunbow, Rankin/Bass and DIC introduced successful syndicated shows based on licensed properties. While Hanna-Barbera continued to produce for Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons, it no longer dominated the TV animation market and its control over children's programming went down from 80% to 20%.
The Smurfs, adapted from the comic by Pierre Culliford (known as Peyo) and centering on a group of tiny blue 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. Jokebook, The Gary Coleman Show, Shirt Tales, Pac-Man, The Little Rascals, The Scooby-Doo/Scrappy-Doo/Puppy Hour, The Dukes, Monchhichis, The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show and The Biskitts would be aired in 1982 and 1983.
Following an animation strike in 1982, more of Hanna and Barbera's shows were outsourced to studios outside of the United States and firms such as Cuckoo's Nest Studios, Mr. Big Cartoons, Mook Co., Ltd., Toei Animation, and Fil-Cartoons in Australia and Asia provided production services to Hanna-Barbera from 1982 through to the end of its existence. The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries, Snorks, Challenge of the GoBots, Pink Panther and Sons, Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, Yogi's Treasure Hunt, Galtar and the Golden Lance, Paw Paws and new episodes of The Jetsons premiered in 1984 and 1985.
The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible, the first new straight-to-video series, debuted. In 1986, new episodes of Jonny Quest, Pound Puppies, The Flintstone Kids, Foofur and Wildfire aired while Sky Commanders and Popeye and Son debuted in 1987. Taft, whose financial troubles were affecting the Hanna-Barbera studio, was acquired by the American Financial Corporation in 1987, which renamed Taft to Great American Broadcasting the following year. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley, new episodes of Yogi Bear, Fantastic Max, The Further Adventures of SuperTed, and Paddington Bear followed in 1988 and 1989.
Around this time, Great American sold Worldvision to Aaron Spelling Productions, while Hanna-Barbera and its library remained with them. Producer Tom Ruegger, working at H-B on A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, got a call in January 1989 from Warner Bros. to resurrect its animation department. Ruegger, along with several of his colleagues, left Hanna-Barbera at that time to develop new programs such as Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs at Warner Bros. 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. While 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, 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.
Acquisition by Turner, Cartoon Network, and absorption into Warner Bros. Animation (1991–2001)
In 1991, while Young Robin Hood, The Pirates of Dark Water and Yo Yogi! debuted on-air, Turner Broadcasting System outbid MCA (then-parent company of Universal Studios), Hallmark Cards and other major companies in acquiring Hanna-Barbera while also purchasing Ruby-Spears as well. The two studios were acquired in a 50-50 joint venture between Turner Broadcasting System and Apollo Investment Fund for $320 million. Turner purchased these assets to launch a new all-animation network aimed at children and younger audiences.
Its president of entertainment Scott Sassa hired former MTV Networks executive Fred Seibert to head Hanna-Barbera, who filled the gap left by the Great American-era production crew with new animators, directors, producers and writers, including Pat Ventura, Craig McCracken, Donovan Cook, Genndy Tartakovsky, David Feiss, Seth MacFarlane, Van Partible, Butch Hartman and Stewart St. John. In 1992, after being renamed to H-B Production Company, the studio unleashed new animated series Fish Police, Capitol Critters and new episodes of The Addams Family for broadcast.
Turner launched Cartoon Network, the 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 again named itself to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc. (though the Hanna-Barbera Productions name would still be used in regards to the pre-1992 properties) and while Turner acquired its remaining interests from Apollo Investment Fund for $255 million, Droopy, Master Detective, The New Adventures of Captain Planet, SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron and 2 Stupid Dogs emerged that year and in 1994. At this time, Turner Broadcasting System refocused the studio to produce new shows exclusively for its networks.
Dumb and Dumber debuted and aired on ABC in 1995 and became the final new Hanna-Barbera show to air on a broadcast network. Afterwards, 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 it, including Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and The Powerpuff Girls. In 1996, while new series 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 and operated alongside that studio there until 2001, when H-B was absorbed into it. After Hanna-Barbera's absorption into Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network Studios was revived and took over production of Cartoon Network's programming. Hanna died of throat cancer on March 22, 2001.
The Cahuenga Blvd. studio faced demolition after Hanna-Barbera vacated the facilities in 1997, despite the efforts of Barbera and the 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.
New projects based on legacy properties (2001–present)
After absorbing the Hanna-Barbera studio, Warner Bros. Animation has continued to produce new productions based on Hanna-Barbera's legacy properties. Barbera continued to be involved in the production of new material based on Hanna-Barbera's properties until his death of natural causes on December 18, 2006.
Warner Bros. has produced several films based on Hanna-Barbera properties, including the film Yogi Bear in 2010 and Top Cat: The Movie in 2011, as well as several films based on the Scooby Doo franchise. Most recently, the Warner Animation Group released the film Scoob! on May 15, 2020, which is intended to be the first installment of a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe. Warner Bros. also has films based on The Jetsons, The Flintstones and Wacky Races in development along with more new content.
Production process changes
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 "planned 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 films. It produced six theatrical feature films, among them are higher-quality versions of its television cartoons and adaptations of other material. It was also one of the first animation studios to have their work produced overseas. One of these companies was a subsidiary began by Hanna-Barbera in November 1987 called Fil-Cartoons in the Philippines. Wang Film Productions got its start as an overseas facility for the studio in 1978.
Hanna-Barbera was known for its large library of sound effects, which have been featured in exhibitions at the Norman Rockwell Museum.
List of Hanna-Barbera productions
- List of Hanna-Barbera characters
- List of films based on Hanna-Barbera cartoons
- List of Hanna-Barbera-based video games
- Hanna-Barbera in amusement parks
- Hanna-Barbera Classics Collection
- Golden age of American animation
- Animation in the United States in the television era
- Laugh track
- List of animation studios owned by Warner Bros. Entertainment
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