Joseph Barbera Comment

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The following appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle. The citation is Evenson, Laura (1997-06-03). ""Yabba Dabba Do!" Hanna-Barbera's Saturday morning artwork at Cartoon Art Museum". The San Francisco Chronicle p. B1.

"Yabba Dabba Do!"
Hanna-Barbera's Saturday morning artwork at Cartoon Art Museum

For ``Flintstones fans who think the Bedrock gang spoofed ``The Honeymooners, cartoon legend Joseph Barbera has news.

`` `The Honeymooners' was a fabulous show, but what they didn't have was a Stoneway piano, an Ann-Margrock, or a Polarock camera, where you had the woodpecker in a box who goes back and chisels a portrait out of stone, said Barbara, 85, relishing his creations during a recent phone interview. ``Then there was Wilma vacuuming using a small mastodon on wheels that she pushes back and forth over a carpet.

Such visual gags helped Barbera and his partner, Bill Hanna, 86, produce a parade of icons that changed cartoon history. For more than two generations, Hanna- Barbera's cartoons have been a staple of television's Saturday morning cartoons. By reflecting American culture, their cartoons shaped the way young viewers perceived their culture.

Fans can relive such cartoon favorites as Tom and Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Yogi Bear through a retrospective of the work of Hanna-Barbera Productions at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco starting tomorrow. The exhibit, which includes more than 80 animation cels, storyboards and production drawings, runs through October 12.

For more than 60 years, the Hanna-Barbera names popped up on movie and television screens, prompting viewers to wonder who was this Hanna-Barbera and did ``she color all her own characters.

But it was a two-man team who created and produced the lovable parade of scheming cats, scrounging national park bears, and animated people ranging from the stone age to the space age. The outgoing Barbera piloted the creation of new characters and their personalities, and persuaded the networks to air them. Hanna oversaw the inking, paint ing, music and some of the writing.

The team's TV work has held up well since they arrived on the tube in 1957 with ``Ruff & Reddy. And their longevity surprises many critics of their limited-animation process: Instead of the 28,000 drawings per 'toon, their TV work averaged only 2,000 drawings. The result was cartoons that looked flatter and more static than the more fluid, rounder Disney characters that nearly disappeared overnight as the less expensive Hanna-Barbera methods gained popularity.

Hanna-Barbera ``had the not- very-positive credit for reducing the quality of children's television because it was known for cheap animation, said Kathryn Montgomery, president of the Center for Media Education in Washington, D.C.

Hanna and Barbera are the first to say that it wasn't their artwork that led to the longevity of the Hanna-Barbera gang of animated mice, cats, hounds, bears and humans.

``The No. 1 ingredient is the story, Barbera said. ``Then it's the timing and the humor and the voices that are all cast very carefully. Yogi, for example, had a distinctive voice. Barbera breaks into the familiar carny-slick bear's patter ``How do you do, Boo Boo? What the ranger don't know won't hurt us.

``You see, he added, returning to his own Brooklyn-tinged voice without skipping a beat, ``what you have there is a little Art Carney. The voice has to have a personality, know what I mean?

The less gregarious Hanna attributes the longevity of the team's creations to even more basic components: the characters themselves. ``It all goes back to the original concept of the characters and their voices, then the writing and design, he said. ``If you get that right, it all seems to work out.

He added that his own characters lasted so long ``because we placed them in situations that hap pen to all of us and will continue to affect us 200 years from now.

Cartoons ranging from the stone-age ``Flintstones to the space-age ``Jetsons strike a chord with both Baby Boomers and Gen- Xers, Barbera added, ``because they both reflect and parody the enduring ideal of the American family.

Both Hanna and Barbera sharpened their skills at smaller animation studios during the Depression, before meeting up at MGM in 1937. The duo produced ``Puss Gets the Boot, the genesis of the Tom and Jerry cartoons shown in movie theaters that won seven Academy Awards.

``You would think this is terrif ic, and then one day the phone rings, Barbera said. The caller announced that MGM's parent company, Loew's, was closing the studio. Rival animation studios had also closed, leading Barbera and Hanna to conclude that they were on their own.

``In desperation I did a storyboard called `Ruff & Reddy,' Barbera said. ``My 12-year-old daughter put the color on it. Columbia Pictures' television department bought five shorts and overnight Hanna and Barbera had reinvented themselves as TV animators.

Recently, the team has had to reinvent themselves again, as elder statesmen of a thriving animation industry. The Hanna-Barbera studio passed through many hands before it was acquired about two years ago by Time-Warner. The studio continues to turn out new cartoons, including a few based on its older characters. ``They developed new `Jonny Quest' segments and the first thing they changed was the story and the character and as far as I'm concerned, it was a disaster, Barbera said.

But such changes don't bother cartoon legends.

``I do think young animators are being thrust into the business without enough training, he said. ``But look, that's their business. Everybody needs to do their own thing.


``The World of Hanna-Barbera opens tomorrow through October 12 at the Cartoon Art Museum, 814 Mission St., San Francisco. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call (415) CARTOON.


(1-3) Scenes from the classic opening sequence in Hanna-Barbera's `The Flintstones' during which Fred gets locked out of his Bedrock home, (4-5) Joseph Barbera and (top) a 1962 animation cell from "The Jetsons",



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