Hanna-Barbera Productions was the studio company responsible for the creation of the Smurfs cartoon show that aired on Saturday mornings on NBC from 1981 to 1990. It is now part of Time-Warner Communications and now also exists as Cartoon Network Studios.
Hanna-Barbera was an animation studio that dominated North American television animation during the second half of the 20th century. The company was originally formed in 1944 by MGM animation directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera and live-action director George Sidney as H-B Enterprises in order to produce sponsored films and later television commercials.
After MGM shut down its animation studio in 1957, H-B Enterprises became Hanna and Barbera's full-time job, and the company was re-named Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1960. Over the next three decades, Hanna-Barbera Productions produced many successful cartoon shows, including The Huckleberry Hound Show, The Flintstones, Top Cat, Tom and Jerry, The Yogi Bear Show, The Jetsons, Jonny Quest, Scooby-Doo, and The Smurfs, many of which would go on to become icons of Western pop culture. In the mid-1980s, the company's fortunes declined somewhat after the profitability of Saturday morning cartoons were eclipsed by weekday afternoon syndication.
In 1991, the company was purchased by Turner Broadcasting. Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera both went into semi-retirement, yet continued to serve as ceremonial figureheads for the studio. During the late 1990s, Turner turned Hanna-Barbera towards primarily producing new material for its Cartoon Network, which had been built around reruns from the Hanna-Barbera library. In 1996, Turner was bought out by Time Warner. With Bill Hanna's death in 2001, Hanna-Barbera was absorbed into Warner Bros. Animation, and Cartoon Network Studios assumed production of Cartoon Network output. Joe Barbera remained with Warner Bros. Animation until his death in 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.
The beginnings of Hanna-Barbera
Melrose, New Mexico native William Hanna and New York City-born Joseph Barbera first teamed together while working at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon 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 (MGM)|Tom and Jerry cartoon series. Hanna and Barbera served as the directors and story men for the Tom and Jerry cartoons for seventeen years, winning eight Academy Award for Animated Short Film|Academy Awards for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) between 1943 and 1953 for their work.
Hanna, Barbera, and MGM live-action director George Sidney formed H-B Enterprises in 1944 while continuing working for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer|MGM, and used the side company to work on ancillary projects, including early television commercials and the original opening titles to the popular 1950s television series I Love Lucy.
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 at this time. The decision was made to specialize in television animation. In order to obtain working capital to produce their cartoons, H-B 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. H-B's first TV series was The Ruff & Reddy Show, which premiered on NBC in December 1957.
In 1958, H-B had their first big success with The Huckleberry Hound Show, a syndicated series aired in most markets just before primetime. The program was a ratings success, and introduced a new crop of cartoon stars to audiences, in particular Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear. The Huckleberry Hound Show won the 1960 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Children's Programming.
By 1959, H-B Enterprises was reincorporated as Hanna-Barbera Productions, and was slowly becoming a leader in television animation production. After introducing a second syndicated series, Quick Draw McGraw, in 1959, Hanna-Barbera migrated into network primetime production with the animated American Broadcasting Company|ABC sitcom The Flintstones in 1960. Loosely based upon the popular live-action sitcom The Honeymooners yet set in a fictionalized stone age of cavemen and dinosaurs, The Flintstones ran for six seasons in prime time on ABC, becoming a ratings and merchandising success.
Hanna-Barbera 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. This California contemporary office building was designed by architect Arthur Froehlich, its ultra-modern design included a sculpted latticework exterior, moat, fountains, and after later additions, a Jetsons-like tower. 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.
Hanna-Barbera was one of the first animation studios to successfully produce cartoons especially for television. Until then, cartoons on television consisted primarily of rebroadcasts of theatrical cartoons. During the early and mid-1960s, the studio debuted several new successful programs, among them prime time ABC series such as Top Cat (1961-62), The Jetsons (1962-63), and Jonny Quest (1964-65). New series produced for syndication and Saturday mornings included The Yogi Bear Show (a syndicated spinoff from Huckleberry Hound, 1961-63), The Hanna-Barbera New Cartoon Series featuring Wally Gator (syndicated, 1962-63), The Magilla Gorilla Show (syndicated, 1964-67), and The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show (NBC, 1965-67). Hanna-Barbera also produced several television commercials, often starring their own characters, and animated the opening credits for the ABC sitcom Bewitched (the Bewitched characters would appear as guest stars in an episode of The Flintstones).
The studio also produced a few theatrical projects for Columbia Pictures, including Loopy De Loop, a series of theatrical cartoons shorts, and two feature film projects based on its television properties, Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! (1964) and The Man Called Flintstone (1966).
Starting in 1965, Hanna-Barbera tried its hand at being a record label for a short time. Danny Hutton was hired by Hanna-Barbera to become the head of Hanna Barbera Records or HBR from 1965-1966. Bubblegum University HBR Records was distributed by Columbia Records|Columbia/CBS Records, with artists such as Louis Prima, Five Americans, Scatman Crothers, and The 13th Floor Elevators. Previously, children's records with Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters were released by Colpix Records.
The Hanna-Barbera studio especially captured the market for Saturday morning cartoons. After the success of The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show in 1965, H-B debuted two new Saturday morning series the following year: Space Ghost and Dino Boy, which featured action-adventure, and Frankenstein, Jr. and The Impossibles, which blended action-adventure with the earlier H-B style. A slew of H-B action cartoons followed in 1967, among them Shazzam, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Moby Dick and the Mighty Mightor, Young Samson and Goliath, The Herculoids and an adaptation of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four (1967 TV series)|Fantastic Four. Between these programs and others remaining on the air (reruns of The Flintstones, The Jetsons and Jonny Quest), Hanna-Barbera cartoons aired on all three networks' Saturday morning lineups, and dominated CBS's and NBC's schedules in particular.
While the action programs were notably popular and successful, pressure from parent-run organizations such as Action for Children's Television forced the cancellation of all of them by 1969. In 1968, Hanna-Barbera mixed live-action and animated comedy-action for its NBC anthology series, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, while the successful Wacky Races, aired on CBS, returned H-B to straight animated slapstick humor.
Hanna-Barbera's next runaway hit came in 1969 with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, a program which blended elements of the H-B comedy series, the action series, and rival Filmation's then-current hit program The Archie Show. Scooby-Doo centered on four teenagers and a dog solving mysteries, and was popular enough to remain on the air and in production until 1986. A cavalcade of H-B Saturday morning cartoons featuring mystery-solving/crime-fighting teenagers with comic pets soon followed, among them Josie and the Pussycats (TV series)|Josie and the Pussycats (1970-72), The Funky Phantom (1971-72), Speed Buggy (1973 -74), Clue Club (1976-78) and Jabberjaw (1976-77). By 1977, Scooby-Doo was the centerpiece of a two-hour program block on ABC titled Scooby's All-Star Laff-a-Lympics, which also included Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, and Laff-a-Lympics.
During the 1970s in particular, most American television animation was produced by Hanna-Barbera. The only competition came from Filmation and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, as well as occasional prime-time animated "specials" from Rankin-Bass, Chuck Jones and Lee Mendelson-Bill Meléndez's adaptations of Peanuts. Besides Scooby-Doo and the programs derived from it, Hanna-Barbera also found success with new programs such as Harlem Globetrotters (TV series)|Harlem Globetrotters and Hong Kong Phooey. The syndicated Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, which debuted in 1972, returned Hanna-Barbera to adult-oriented comedy, although Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was more provocative than The Flintstones or The Jetsons had been. The studio revisited its 1960s stars with Flintstones spin-offs such as The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show and The Flintstone Comedy Hour.
"All-star" shows featuring Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and the other Hanna-Barbera funny animals included Yogi's Gang and the Yogi's Space Race programming block. Hanna-Barbera also produced new series starring older cartoon favorites such as Popeye (The All-New Popeye Hour) and its own Tom & Jerry (Tom and Jerry Show|The New Tom & Jerry/Grape Ape|Grape Ape Show). Super Friends, a Hanna-Barbera produced adaptation of DC Comics' Justice League of America comic book, remained on Saturday mornings from 1973 to 1986.
Over three decades, Hanna-Barbera produced prime-time, weekday afternoon, and Saturday morning cartoons for all three major networks in the United States, and for syndication. The small budgets television animation producers had to work within prevented Hanna-Barbera, and most other producers of American television animation, from working with the full theatrical-quality animation the duo had been known for at MGM. Instead, Hanna-Barbera modified the concept of limited animation practiced and popularized by the United Productions of America (UPA) studio. 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 1200 drawings instead of the usual 26,000. Dialogue, music, and sound effects were emphasized over action, leading Chuck Jones, a contemporary who worked for Hanna and Barbera's rivals at Warner Bros. Cartoons when the duo was at MGM, to disparagingly refer to the limited TV cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera and others as "illustrated radio".
The studio's solution to the criticism over its quality was to go into features. The studio produced five theatrical features, among them higher-quality versions of their TV cartoons (Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!, The Man Called Flintstone, and Jetsons: The Movie in 1990) and adaptations of other material (Charlotte's Web (1973 film)|Charlotte's Web in 1973 and Heidi|Heidi's Song in 1982).
The slow rise and fall
In the 1980s, competing studios such as Filmation and Rankin/Bass began to introduce successful syndicated cartoon series based upon popular toys and action figures. These included Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power and Rankin/Bass's Thundercats, Silverhawks and Tigersharks. The Hanna-Barbera studio fell behind; for the most part they continued to produce for Saturday mornings, although they no longer dominated the market as before. Hanna-Barbera also aligned themselves with Ruby-Spears Productions, which was founded in 1977 by former H-B employees Joe Ruby and Ken Spears.
Hanna-Barbera's then-parent Taft Broadcasting purchased Ruby-Spears from Filmways in 1981, and Ruby-Spears often paired their productions with Hanna-Barbera shows. Taft also bought Worldvision Enterprises in 1979; this company became the syndication distributor for most of Hanna-Barbera's shows throughout the 1980s.
Hanna-Barbera followed the lead of its competitors by introducing shows based on familiar licensed properties like The Smurfs, The Snorks, Pac-Man, Shirt Tales, Happy Days, and GoBots, and also produced several ABC Weekend Specials. One of their shows based on a licensed property, The Dukes, was co-produced with eventual corporate sibling Warner Bros. Television, which produced the parent series The Dukes of Hazzard. Some of their shows were produced at their Australian-based studio (a partnership with Australian media company Southern Star Entertainment), including Drak Pack, Wildfire (1986 TV series)|Wildfire, The Berenstain Bears, Teen Wolf (cartoon)|Teen Wolf, and almost all of the CBS Storybreak specials. The studio also worked on other projects with less fanfare during the late 1980s and early 1990s, such as the direct-to-video series The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible.
After the success of CBS' hit 1984 Saturday morning cartoon series Muppet Babies, which featured toddler versions of the popular Muppets characters, Hanna-Barbera began producing shows featuring "kid" versions of popular characters, based upon both their own properties (The Flintstone Kids, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo) and characters owned by others (Pink Panther and Sons, Popeye and Son).
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 Paws, Fantastic Max, and Midnight Patrol. The following year, H-B started 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. Along with much of the rest of the American animation industry, Hanna-Barbera had gradually begun to move away from producing everything in-house in the early 1980s. Much of the Hanna-Barbera product was outsourced to studios in Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan, including Toei Animation, Wang Film Productions and Fil-Cartoon. In 1989, much of Hanna-Barbera's staff responded to a call from Warner Bros. to resurrect Warner Bros. Animation - their animation department. Producer Tom Ruegger and a number of his colleagues left the studio at this time, moving to Warner Bros. to develop hit programs such as Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs.
The Turner rebound
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's President of Entertainment Scott Sassa hired Fred Seibert, a network television executive with no experience in animation, to head the Hanna-Barbera studio. 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 introduced new versions of earlier properties such as Yo Yogi!, Tom and Jerry Kids, its spin-off Droopy: Master Detective. It also assumed production of TBS (TV network)|TBS's Captain Planet and the Planeteers in 1993, renaming it The New Adventures of Captain Planet. The studio 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 1992, Turner launched Cartoon Network, to showcase its huge library of animated programs, of which Hanna-Barbera was the core contributor. As a result, many classic cartoons - especially those by H-B - were introduced to a new audience. In 1994, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera was ended, so that Turner could refocus H-B to produce new shows exclusively for the Turner-owned networks, especially Cartoon Network.
In February 1995, Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network launched World Premiere Toons (a.k.a. What A Cartoon!), a format designed by Seibert. The weekly program featured new creator-driven cartoon shorts developed by its in-house staff. Several original Cartoon Network series emerged from the World Premiere Toons project, the first of which was Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory in 1996. Others programs followed, including Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and The Powerpuff Girls. Hanna-Barbera 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. That year, the Hanna-Barbera building was closed and the studio was moved to the Warner Bros.
Animation lot at Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California.
The Cartoon Network Studios era
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 Cartoon Network had a hand in producing, like a.k.a. Cartoon's Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Kino Films' 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 and various original Cartoon Network shows.
When William Hanna died on March 22, 2001, an era was over. Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase featured a dedication to Hanna but the actual production was a Warner Bros. Animation production. 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.
Although 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; whereas most Cartoon Network series previously produced by Hanna-Barbera are copyrighted by the channel itself.
List of notable Hanna-Barbera productions
- For a complete list of Hanna-Barbera productions, see Complete list of works produced by Hanna-Barbera. For a list of Hanna-Barbera TV shows released in DVD season sets, see List of Hanna-Barbera TV shows on DVD.
(Programs marked with an asterisk (*) continued production under Cartoon Network Studios following the
absorption of Hanna-Barbera into Warner Bros. Animation.)
The Hanna-Barbera sound effects
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 snare-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 (sound effect)|Castle Thunder, a well-known thunder-and-lightning sound effect. Other common sounds such as Peeong (a bass guitar-sounding thud) and Bilp were used regularly in all of its cartoons.
In the 1980s, Hanna-Barbera slowly began to cease using their trademark sound effects. This was especially true with the action cartoons of the time such as Sky Commanders. By the 1990s, with cartoons such as Fish Police, SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron|Swat Kats and the animated telefilm Scooby-Doo in Arabian Nights|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. A few early 1990s cartoons continued to use the sound effects, such as Tom and Jerry Kids and Gravedale High. 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, Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! seemed to use the H-B sound effects more often than the previous series did.
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 hit FOX show Family Guy has also utilized Hanna-Barbera sound effects on several occasions, mostly to parody Hanna-Barbera itself, possibly since creator Seth McFarlane was a former Hanna-Barbera staff member. Also, the popular PC adventure game The Neverhood (and its sequel Skullmonkeys) 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 1996 (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. Also in 1994, Rhino Records released a CD containing some of Hanna-Barbera's famous sound effects, titled simply as "Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Sound FX", and also included some answering-machine messages and birthday greetings and short stories starring classic Hanna-Barbera characters, and was hosted by Fred Flintstone. In 1996, it was reissued with the "Hanna-Barbera's Pick-a-Nic Basket of Cartoon Classics" CD set, which also contained three other CDs of H-B TV theme songs and background music and songs from The Flintstones. Here, the CD was relabeled as "The Greatest Cartoon Sound Effects Ever."