Animation Legend Joe Barbera Dead At 95
First Published: December 18, 2006 6:19 PM EST Credit: TAO Nightclub Las Vegas
-- Barbera worked as a New York banker until the 1930’s when Collier’s Magazine published some of his hand drawn “comics.” After studying art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Barbera honed his animation skills at the Van Beuren animation studios in New York. It wasn’t until 1937 when Barbera was hired by MGM as as an animator and writer that he met William Hanna, whom MGM had also just hired as a director and story editor. Hanna’s precise comedic timing and ability to manage top creative talent were the ideal complement to Barbera’s strong animation skills and storytelling instincts.
The pair’s first collaboration at MGM was entitled “Puss Gets the Boot,” which led to the creation of the immortal Tom and Jerry. The duo won tremendous acclaim in the 1940s when their cartoon cat and mouse danced alongside Gene Kelly in the motion pictures “Anchors Aweigh” and “Invitation to Dance,” and alongside Esther Williams in “Dangerous When Wet.” Over the years, Tom and Jerry have been honored with seven Academy Awards.
Concerned by the advent of television, MGM eliminated the studio’s animation department and, suddenly unemployed, Hanna and Barbera decided to make cartoons directly for the small screen. In 1957, twenty years after the birth of Tom and Jerry, Hanna-Barbera Studios opened its doors as one of the first independent animation studios to produce series television. The fledgling studio’s first production was “Ruff and Reddy” followed by “The Huckleberry Hound Show” in 1958. The lovable blue canine became an immediate hit and won Hanna-Barbera its first Emmy Award, marking the first time an animated television series had been honored with an Emmy. The studio’s next series, “Quick Draw McGraw,” premiered in 1959 and showcased the lanky, Stetson-wearing horse on two legs, ol’ Quick Draw McGraw himself. The series also introduced America to Jellystone Park’s most famous bears, Yogi and Boo Boo, and the mischievous mice, Pixie and Dixie.Breaking new ground became a tradition at the Hanna-Barbera Studios. In 1960, the team created television’s first animated “family sitcom,” “The Flintstones,” a series marked by a number of other firsts — the first animated series to air in primetime, the first animated series to go beyond the six or seven-minute cartoon format, and the first animated series to feature human characters. “The Flintstones” ran for six years and went on to become the top-ranking animated program in syndication history, with all original 166 episodes currently seen in more than 80 countries worldwide. Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles Flintstone, along with Betty and Barney Rubble are some of Hanna-Barbera’s most celebrated classic characters and have spawned spin-off television series, specials and feature films. Hanna and Barbera served as executive producers of 1994’s “The Flintstones” feature film and even made a cameo appearance. “The Flintstones” soon paved the way for other primetime cartoons including “The Jetsons,” “Top Cat” and “The Adventures of Jonny Quest.”Another popular offering from Hanna-Barbera featured a cowardly Great Dane named Scooby-Doo, who eventually made his own place in television history. The popular series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” remained in production for 17 years and maintains the title as television’s longest-running animated series. In 2002, the character returned with an all-new series aptly-titled “What’s New Scooby-Doo?” The popular snack-eating canine has inspired a pair of live-action feature films, and an ongoing series of direct-to-video movies that now numbers in double-digits. As further testament to the character’s everlasting appeal, the new series “Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!” currently airs on Kids’ WB! on The CW as the top-rated Saturday morning children’s show.In addition to their award winning animated series, Hanna-Barbera also produced animated feature films including the award-winning “Charlotte’s Web,” and “Heidi’s Song,” a full-length animated musical based on Johanna Spyri’s novel “Heidi.”In 1981, Hanna-Barbera developed the phenomenally successful “The Smurfs” which won two Daytime Emmy Awards in 1982 and in 1983 for Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series and a Humanitas Award (an award given to shows which best affirm the dignity of the human person) in 1987.
After nearly 50 years of making animation magic, Barbera and his partner William Hanna were elected by their peers to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Hall of Fame in 1994. During his 80s and into his 90s, Barbera continued to report to his office regularly, taking an active role in the creation of new Hanna-Barbera projects. In 1992, he served as a creative consultant for the animated feature film “Tom and Jerry - The Movie” and executive produced “Tom and Jerry Kids,” the Hanna-Barbera/Fox Children’s Network series which ran from 1990 to 1994. In 2000, he lent his voice for a small part in the Tom and Jerry short “Mansion Cat.” The beloved cat and mouse have enjoyed a lengthy career that continues to thrive today. Tom and Jerry have been featured over recent years in several top-selling direct-to-video films and a new television series, “Tom and Jerry Tales,” premiered in Fall 2006 to strong broadcast ratings for Kids’ WB on The CW.
In 2000, Cartoon Network launched the Boomerang Network, created specifically as a showcase for the Hanna-Barbera library. The popular cable network airs animated programs 24 hours a day, bringing the delights of the Hanna-Barbera legacy to new generations.
Barbera wrote his autobiography, “My Life In Toons” in 1994. He is survived by his wife Sheila, and his three children by a previous marriage — Jayne, Neal and Lynn.
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