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Joseph Barbera, Half of Cartoon Duo, Dies at 95

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Joseph Barbera, Half of Cartoon Duo, Dies at 95 :no: :( R.I.P





Joseph Barbera, Half of Cartoon Duo, Dies at 95


Published: December 19, 2006

Joseph Barbera, an innovator of animation who teamed with William Hanna to give generations of young television viewers a pantheon of beloved characters, including Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and the Flintstones, died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 95.


A spokesman for Warner Brothers said he died of natural causes, The Associated Press reported.


Mr. Barbera and the studio he founded with Mr. Hanna, Hanna-Barbera Productions, became synonymous with television animation, yielding more than 100 cartoon series over four decades, including “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?,” “Jonny Quest” and “The Smurfs.”


On signature televisions shows like “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons,” the two men developed a cartoon style that combined colorful, simply drawn characters (often based on other recognizable pop-culture personalities) with the narrative structures and joke-telling techniques of traditional live-action sitcoms. They were television’s first animated comedy programs.


Before that, Mr. Barbera and Mr. Hanna had worked together on more than 120 hand-drawn cartoon shorts for MGM, dozens of which starred the archetypal cat-and-mouse team Tom and Jerry. The Hanna-Barbera collaboration lasted more than 60 years. The critic Leonard Maltin, in his book “Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons,” wrote that Mr. Barbera’s strength was more in his drawing and gag writing while Mr. Hanna had a good sense of comic timing and giving characters warmth.


“I was never a good artist,” said Mr. Hanna, who died in 2001. But Mr. Barbera, he said, “has the ability to capture mood and expression in a quick sketch better than anyone I’ve ever known.”


Born Joseph Roland Barbera on March 24, 1911, in the Little Italy section of Manhattan and raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Mr. Barbera tried his hand at banking, playwriting and amateur boxing before the successful sale of a sketch to Collier’s magazine encouraged him to pursue a career as a cartoon artist. He wrote a letter to Walt Disney, then a rising star of California’s animation industry, in search of employment; Mr. Disney apparently promised to look Mr. Barbera up on a subsequent visit to New York, but the proposed meeting never took place.


Instead, Mr. Barbera began his animation career on the East Coast. After a four-day stint with the animator Max Fleischer, he began writing gags and drawing cartoon cels for the Van Beuren Studios in 1932. When the studio shut down in 1936, he found work at the Terrytoon Studios in New Rochelle, N.Y., but one year later was lured away to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s animation unit in Culver City, Calif.


It was at MGM that Mr. Barbera was first paired with Mr. Hanna, a veteran cartoon writer and musical composer and lyricist. After toiling on a short-lived series of animated shorts based on the Katzenjammer Kids comic strips, the two men formed a plan to produce their own material.


As Mr. Barbera recalled in an interview in Michael Mallory’s book “Hanna-Barbera Cartoons,” “In desperation one time, we were sitting in a room waiting for the place to fold, and I said to Bill: ‘Why don’t we try a cartoon of our own?’ ”


Their first such project for MGM, a 1940 theatrical short called “Puss Gets the Boot,” introduced audiences to a relentless cat named Jasper, perpetually frustrated in his pursuit of a crafty mouse called Jinx. It was nominated for an Academy Award. Over the next 17 years, the occasionally sadistic antics that Mr. Barbera and Mr. Hanna devised for their anthropomorphic rivals — rechristened Tom and Jerry — would earn MGM another 13 Oscar nominations and seven statuettes.


Though MGM put Mr. Barbera and Mr. Hanna in charge of its animation division in 1955, the studio closed the unit two years later. So the two turned to their side company, H-B Enterprises, which they had established to produce animated television commercials, and began working full time on television programs.


Their first series, “The Ruff & Ready Show,” had its debut on NBC in December 1957. That was followed in 1958 by “The Huckleberry Hound Show,” about a powder-blue pooch who spoke and sung (badly) with a Southern drawl. That series later won an Emmy and yielded a spinoff show for one of its supporting characters, an Ed Norton-like forest denizen named Yogi Bear.


Mr. Barbera and Mr. Hanna revisited the template of “The Honeymooners” in 1960 to create their most popular series, “The Flintstones,” a half-hour animated sitcom about two families living in the Stone Age suburb of Bedrock. It appeared in prime time on ABC and was a top-20 show in its first year.

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