Hanna-Barbera was an American animated cartoon production company that produced animated television programming and motion pictures for forty-five years between 1957 and 2001. Hanna-Barbera was founded in 1944 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer animation directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera as H-B Enterprises, through which the pair used to do freelance television commercial production. After MGM shut down its animation studio in 1957, H-B Enterprises became Hanna and Barbera's full-time job, and the company became Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1960. For three decades, Hanna-Barbera produced many successful cartoon series, including The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Yogi Bear Show, Jonny Quest, Wacky Races, Scooby-Doo, and Smurfs, all of which would go on to become icons of American pop culture.
In 1991, the company was purchased by Turner Broadcasting, primarily so that Turner could use its 300-plus cartoon series library as the basis of the programming for its new Cartoon Network cable television channel. Re-christened H-B Production Company in 1992, and Hanna-Barbera Cartoons in 1993, the studio continued without active regular input from William Hanna or Joseph Barbera, who both went into semi-retirement yet continued to serve as figureheads for the studio.
During the late 1990s, Turner turned Hanna-Barbera towards primarily producing new material for the Cartoon Network. In 1996, Turner was bought out by Time Warner. With William Hanna's death in 2001, Hanna-Barbera was absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation, and Cartoon Network Studios assumed production of Cartoon Network output. Joseph Barbera remained with Warner Bros. Animation as a figurehead until his death on December 18, 2006. The Hanna-Barbera name is today only used to market properties and productions associated with Hanna-Barbera's "classic" works such as The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo.
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera first teamed together while working at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer animation studio in 1939. Their first directorial project was a cartoon entitled Puss Gets the Boot (1940), which served as the genesis of the popular Tom and Jerry cartoon series.
Hanna, Barbera, and MGM live-action director George Sidney formed H-B Enterprises in 1944 while continuing working for the studio, and used the side company to work on ancillary projects, including early television commercials and the original opening titles to I Love Lucy.
After an award-winning stint in which Hanna and Barbera won eight Oscars, MGM closed their animation studio in 1957, as it felt it had acquired a reasonable backlog of shorts for re-release. Hanna and Barbera hired most of their MGM unit to work for H-B Enterprises, which became a full-fledged production company starting in 1957. The decision was made to specialize in television animation, and the studio's first series was The Ruff & Reddy Show, which premiered on NBC in December 1957. In order to obtain working capital to produce their cartoons, Hanna-Barbera made a deal with the Screen Gems television division of Columbia Pictures in which the new animation studio received working capital in exchange for distribution rights.
By 1959, H-B Enterprises was reincorporated as Hanna-Barbera Productions, and had become a leader in television animation production. While regularly criticized for its use of limited animation techniques, Hanna-Barbera Productions produced prime-time, weekday afternoon, and Saturday morning cartoons for all three major networks in the United States, and for syndication. The studio also produced a few theatrical projects for Columbia Pictures, including Loopy De Loop, a theatrical shorts series and feature film projects based on their television properties.
The company never had a building of its own until 1963, when the Hanna-Barbera Studio, located at 3400 Cahuenga Blvd. in Studio City, California, was opened. The Columbia/Hanna-Barbera partnership lasted until 1967, when Hanna and Barbera sold the studio to Taft Broadcasting while retaining their positions at the studio.
Starting in 1965, Hanna-Barbera tried its hand at being a record label for a short time. HBR Records was distributed by Columbia/CBS Records, with artists such as Louis Prima, The Five Americans, Scatman Crothers, and The 13th Floor Elevators.
From 1969 to about 1983, Hanna-Barbera Productions was the premier television animation studio in the world, almost exclusively dedicated to producing Saturday morning cartoons. The company's fortunes declined some after weekday afternoon syndication became the most successful venue for television animation.
Hanna-Barbera was the first animation studio to successfully produce animated cartoons especially for television; until then, cartoons on television consisted primarily of rebroadcasts of theatrical cartoons. Other Hanna-Barbera works included a theatrical cartoon series, Loopy De Loop, for Columbia Pictures from 1959 to 1965; and the opening credits to the ABC/Screen Gems television show Bewitched. Later, H-B would use the Bewitched characters as guest stars on The Flintstones.
Many of Hanna-Barbera's original TV series were produced for prime-time broadcast, and they continued to produce prime-time TV cartoons up until the early 1970s. Such shows as The Huckleberry Hound Show and its spin-off, The Yogi Bear Show, Quick Draw McGraw, Top Cat, Jonny Quest, The Jetsons, Wacky Races, and especially The Flintstones were originally broadcast during prime-time hours, competing with live-action comedies, dramas, and quiz shows.
The Flintstones in particular became a top-rated show. "The Blessed Event", the February 22, 1963 episode which depicted the birth of Pebbles Flintstone, was the highest-rated episode in the show's history, mirroring the I Love Lucy birth episode.
But the Hanna-Barbera studio especially captured the market for animated TV shows produced for syndication and Saturday mornings, grabbing the majority of TV cartoon production and holding it for over thirty years.
Over a two-decade span of success, Hanna-Barbera introduced many successful cartoon series, including The Flintstones, The Jetsons, The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Yogi Bear Show, Jonny Quest, and Scooby-Doo, all of which would go on to become icons of American pop culture.
During the 1970s in particular, most American television animation was produced by Hanna-Barbera, with the only competition coming from Filmation and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, plus occasional prime-time animated "specials" from Rankin-Bass, Chuck Jones, and Bill Melendez's Peanuts.
The Hanna-Barbera studio has been accused of contributing to the decrease in quality of animation and TV cartoons from the 1960s through the 1980s. Some people believed that their cartoons had "watered down humor". This relates to their being one of the first studios to do animated cartoons for television and dealing with constrained budgets. The perception of cartoons as a "kid's medium" made them a low priority for television executives. For example, one 22-minute (30 minutes with commercials) episode of Josie and the Pussycats in 1970 had the same budget--$45,000--as one 8-minute Tom and Jerry short from the late-1940s. Such budgetary constraints demanded a change in production values. In a story published by The Saturday Evening Post, critics stated that Hanna-Barbera was taking on more work than they could handle and were resorting to shortcuts only a television audience would tolerate. An executive who worked for Walt Disney said, "We don't even consider the competition."
Hanna-Barbera introduced limited animation, popularized in theatrical animation by UPA, on the television series The Ruff & Reddy Show as a way of reducing costs. This led to a reduction in animation quality. The studio's solution to the resulting criticism was to go into features, producing both higher-quality versions of their TV cartoons (Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! in 1964, The Man Called Flintstone in 1966, and Jetsons: The Movie in 1990) and adaptations of other material (Charlotte's Web in 1973 and Heidi's Song in 1982).
The field of animation reached its low point in the mid-1970s, even as the audience for Saturday morning cartoons was at its peak. The strong focus on scripting and dialogue that had carried the earlier cartoons was more or less gone by 1973, as the studio's output had increased to the point that story quality had to take a backseat to production output. By this time, most Hanna-Barbera shows had degenerated into variations on but a few themes, with each successful formula (The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, SuperFriends) milked dry through repetition. Various animation short-cuts became unfortunate Hanna-Barbera trademarks, such as plots being advanced by characters seen only as "talking heads," and crashes and disasters happening just off the frame, heard but not seen. The soundtracks rather than the visuals carried the majority of the plot and humor of the cartoons. This era of H-B animation is frequently skewered by Adult Swim (most notably Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law) and in many of Robert Smigel's "TV Funhouse" segments on Saturday Night Live.
The state of the field of animation changed during the 1980s, thanks to competitors' syndicated cartoon series based upon popular toys and action figures, including Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Rankin-Bass' Thundercats. The Hanna-Barbera studio fell behind, as a new wave of animators and production studios introduced variety into the market for TV cartoons in the 1980s and 1990s.
Throughout the 1980s, Hanna-Barbera churned out shows based on familiar licensed properties like The Smurfs, The Snorks, Pac-Man, The Dukes of Hazzard, Shirt Tales, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy, and Challenge of the GoBots, and also produced several ABC Weekend Specials. Some of their shows were produced at their Australian-based studio (a partnership with Australian media company Southern Star Entertainment), including Drak Pack, Wildfire, The Berenstain Bears, Teen Wolf, and almost all of CBS Storybreak. Starting in the 1980s and continuing until shortly after they were taken over by Turner Broadcasting, they also worked on several lesser-known shorts, such as the direct-to-video series The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible.
H-B also aligned themselves with Ruby-Spears Productions, which was founded in 1977 by former H-B employees Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. H-B's then-parent Taft Broadcasting purchased Ruby-Spears from Filmways in 1981, and Ruby-Spears often paired their productions with Hanna-Barbera shows.
H-B also had a habit of making "kid" versions of popular characters in the 1980s, including The Pink Panther and Sons, The Flintstone Kids, Popeye and Son, and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. In 1985, Hanna-Barbera launched The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, a weekend-only program that introduced new versions of old favorites like Yogi Bear, Jonny Quest, The Snorks, and Richie Rich alongside brand new shows like Galtar and the Golden Lance, Paw Paw Bears, Fantastic Max, and Midnight Patrol. The following year, H-B produced Yogi's Great Escape, the first entry in its Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10, a series of 10 original telefilms based on their popular stable of characters, including the popular crossover The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones.
Throughout all of this, both Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears were subject to the financial troubles of parent company Taft Broadcasting, which had just been acquired by the American Financial Corporation in 1987 and had its name changed to Great American Broadcasting the following year. H-B had gradually moved away from producing everything in-house, deciding instead to outsource some of the production to studios in Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan. Hanna-Barbera in particular was also held down by the demands of TV networks, mainly ABC, who insisted on rehashing the Scooby-Doo formula many times over, as with Captain Caveman and Josie and the Pussycats; this stifled creativity, leading many of the better writers and creative people to leave in 1989. They responded to a call from Warner Bros. to resurrect their animation department, ultimately developing Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs.
In 1990, burdened with debt, Great American put both Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears up for sale. In 1991, Hanna-Barbera and much of the original Ruby-Spears library were acquired by Turner Broadcasting.
Turner President of Entertainment Scott Sassa turned to an unusual choice to lead the failing studio. Fred Seibert was a cable television branding guru who had created the MTV and Nickelodeon branding and marketing, and had invented Nick-at-Nite, but he had never worked in cartoon production. He immediately filled the gap left by the departure of most of their creative crew during the Great American years with a new crop of animators, writers, and producers, including Pat Ventura, Donovan Cook, Craig McCracken, Genndy Tartakovsky, Seth MacFarlane, David Feiss, Van Partible, and Butch Hartman and new production head Buzz Potamkin. In 1992, the studio was renamed H-B Productions Company, changing its name once again to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc. a year later.
In the early 1990s, Hanna-Barbera created cartoon series like Tom and Jerry Kids Show (and its spin-off, Droopy: Master Detective) and The New Adventures of Captain Planet (a sequel to the original DiC/TBS Productions series Captain Planet and the Planeteers), and the ill-fated Yo Yogi!. They also introduced shows that were quite different from their previous releases, including Wake, Rattle, and Roll, 2 Stupid Dogs, Swat Kats: The Radical Squadron, and The Pirates of Dark Water. In the mid-1990s, Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network (which introduced many Hanna-Barbera shows to a new audience) launched Seibert's innovation, the back-to-the-future concept of cartoon shorts World Premiere Toons (a.k.a. What A Cartoon!), which introduced a brand new stable of characters and, in a way, changed Hanna-Barbera forever.
The first original Cartoon Network series to emerge from the World Premiere Toons project was Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory. Others programs followed, including Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and The Powerpuff Girls, the last series to use H-B's famous swirling star logo (first used in 1979). H-B also produced several new direct-to-video movies featuring Scooby-Doo (released by Warner Bros.) as well as a new Jonny Quest series, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.
After the merger between Turner Broadcasting and Time Warner in 1996, the conglomerate had two separate animation studios in its possession. Though under a common ownership, Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. Animation operated separately until 1998. In 1998, the Hanna-Barbera building was closed and the studio was moved to the Warner Bros. Animation lot at Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California.
Around 1998, the Hanna-Barbera name began to disappear from the newer shows from the studio in favor of the Cartoon Network Studios name. This came in handy with shows that were produced outside of Hanna-Barbera, but that Cartoon Network had a hand in producing, like aka Cartoons' Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Kino Film's Mike, Lu and Og, and Curious Pictures' Sheep in the Big City, as well as the shows the studio continued to produce, like The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy and Samurai Jack.
When William Hanna died on March 22, 2001, an era was over. The last official Hanna-Barbera production was Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase, which distributed the movie and outsourced the actual production to Warner Bros. Television Animation. After 2001, Hanna-Barbera was completely absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation and further Cartoon Network projects were handled by Cartoon Network Studios. Joseph Barbera continued to work for Warner Bros. Animation on projects relating to Hanna-Barbera and Tom & Jerry properties until his death on December 18, 2006.
Though the Hanna-Barbera name remains on the copyright notices of new productions based on "classic" properties like the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, and others, the studio that produces it is Warner Bros. Animation (generally, although Cartoon Network Studios has occasionally handled production); where as most Cartoon Network series previously produced by Hanna-Barbera are copyrighted by the channel itself.
List of notable Hanna-Barbera productions:
* The Ruff & Reddy Show (1957)
* Huckleberry Hound (1958)
* Quick Draw McGraw (1959)
* Loopy De Loop (1959-1965, Short Subjects, co-production with Columbia Pictures)
* The Flintstones and various spin-offs (1960)
* Top Cat (1961)
* The Yogi Bear Show and various spin-offs (1961)
* Wally Gator (1962)
* The Jetsons (1962)
* The Magilla Gorilla Show (1963)
* Jonny Quest (1964)
* Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! (1964, co-production with Columbia Pictures)
* The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show (1965)
* The Peter Potamus Show (1966)
* Space Ghost (1966)
* The Man Called Flintstone (1966, co-production with Columbia Pictures)
* Birdman and the Galaxy Trio (1967)
* Shazzan (1967)
* The Herculoids (1967)
* The Banana Splits Adventure Hour (1968; live action/animated)
* Wacky Races and various spin-offs (1968)
* Scooby-Doo, Where are You! and various spin-offs (1969)
* Josie and the Pussycats (1970)
* The Funky Phantom (1971)
* Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch! (1971)
* The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1971)
* The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan (1972)
* Sealab 2020 (1972)
* Super Friends and various spin-offs (1973)
* Charlotte's Web (1973, co-production with Paramount Pictures)
* The Addams Family (1973)
* Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch (1974)
* Hong Kong Phooey (1974)
* The New Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape Show (1975)
* The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour (1976)
* Jabberjaw (1976)
* Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics (1977)
* The All-New Popeye Hour (1978)
* The Richie Rich/Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show (1980)
* The Smurfs (1981)
* The Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show (1982)
* Shirt Tales (1982)
* Snorks (1984)
* Pink Panther and Sons (1984)
* Challenge of the GoBots (1984)
* Pound Puppies (1986)
* The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley (1988)
* The New Yogi Bear Show (1988)
* Jetsons: The Movie (1990, co-production with Universal Pictures)
* Tom and Jerry Kids (1990, co-production with Turner Entertainment)
* The Addams Family (second animated version) (1992)
* 2 Stupid Dogs (1993)
* SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron (1993)
* The New Adventures of Captain Planet (1993)
* The What-A-Cartoon! Show (1994)
* Dexter's Laboratory (1996)
* Johnny Bravo (1997)
* Cow and Chicken and various spin-offs (1997)
* The Powerpuff Girls (1998)
Besides their cartoons and characters, Hanna-Barbera was also famous for their vast library of sound effects. Besides cartoon-style sound effects (such as ricochets, slide whistles and more), they also had familiar sounds used for transportation, household items, the elements, and more.
When Hanna and Barbera started their own cartoon studio in 1957, they created a handful of sound effects, and had limited choices. They also took some sounds from the then-defunct MGM animation studios. By 1958, they began to expand and began adding more sound effects to their library. Besides creating a lot of their own effects, they also collected sound effects from other movie and cartoon studios, such as Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation, and even Walt Disney Productions.
Some of their famous sound effects included a rapid bongo drum take used for when a character's feet were scrambling before taking off, a "KaBONG" sound produced on a guitar for when Quick Draw McGraw would smash a guitar over a villain's head, the sound of a car's brake drum combined with a bulb horn for when Fred Flintstone would drop his bowling ball onto his foot, an automobile's tires squealing with a "skipping" effect added for when someone would slide to a sudden stop, a bass drum and cymbal combination for when someone would fall down or smack into an object, a xylophone being struck rapidly on the same note for a tip-toeing effect, and a violin being plucked with the tuning pegs being raised to simulate something like pulling out a cat's whisker. The cartoons also used Castle Thunder, a well-known thunder-and-lightning sound effect.
In the 1980s, Hanna-Barbera slowly began to cease using their trademark sound effects. By the 1990s and cartoons such as Swat Kats and Arabian Nights, the sound effects were virtually nonexistent, being replaced with newer, digitally-recorded sounds, as well as other cartoon sound effects such as the Looney Tunes sound library. By 1996, each cartoon from the company had its own set of sound effects, including some selected from the classic H-B sound library, as well as some new ones and various sounds from Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons. Several of the classic H-B sound effects still pop up from time to time in Cartoon Network Studios' productions. However, on What's New, Scooby-Doo? and many of the direct-to-video Scooby-Doo animated movies, the Hanna-Barbera sound effects are very rarely used. Exceptions were two direct-to-video movies from 2002-2003, Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire and Scooby-Doo and the Monster of Mexico, which extensively uses the H-B sound effects, along with remixes of the original 1969 Scooby-Doo, Where Are You background music and the original voice cast (sans the departed Don Messick). This was soon quickly dropped.
However, since the 1960s, several other cartoon studios have used the sound effects, including, but not limited to, Filmation, DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, DiC Entertainment, Film Roman, Spumco, Nickelodeon Animation Studios and many others. By the 21st century, almost every animation studio was using the sound effects. Nowadays, like Hanna-Barbera, they are used sparingly, while some cartoons like Warner Bros. Animation's Krypto the Superdog and Spumco's Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon make heavy use of the classic sound effects, mostly for a retro feel. The show Family Guy has also utilized Hanna-Barbera sound effects on several occasions, mostly to parody Hanna-Barbera itself. Also, the popular PC adventure game The Neverhood extensively used the Hanna-Barbera sound effects, such as when Klaymen would walk, the footsteps of Fred Flintstone could be heard.
The Hanna-Barbera Sound Effects were not originally available to the public or other sound editors, although some Hanna-Barbera sounds show up in various sound libraries such as Valentino and Audio Network. H-B released a seven-LP record set in 1986 entitled The Hanna-Barbera Library of Sounds, which contained many of the classic effects. However, in 1993, the last President of the studio, Fred Seibert recalled his early production experiences with early LP releases of the studio's effects and commissioned Sound Ideas released a four-CD set entitled The Hanna-Barbera Sound FX Library, featuring almost all of the original H-B sound effects used from 1957 to 1992 (including the sounds H-B had borrowed from other studios). The sound effects were digitally remastered, making them suitable on new digital soundtracks. A fifth CD was added in 1996, entitled Hanna-Barbera Lost Treasures, and featured more sound effects, including sounds from Space Ghost and The Impossibles.