William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
Born William Hanna, July 14, 1910, in Melrose, NM; Joseph Barbera, March 24, 1911, on the Lower Est Side (Little Italy), NY. Legendary innovators in early animation, Hanna and Barbera have treasured have treasured their more than 60-year prolific partnership. Hanna’s enthusiasm for animation started from day one on the job working for Harman-Ising, freelance producers of cartoons. In his splendid 1996 autobiography entitled A Cast of Friends (co-written with Tom Ito; Taylor Publishing Company, Texas), Hanna stated, “Everyone seemed to enjoy their work and each other, and the family-like atmosphere set a personal precedent for me early on of discovering my closest friendships with the people with whom I worked.” On his own, he expanded his work hours without asking for extra pay. He started to “suggest gags and comics situations for the cartoons.” He wrote, “A lot of these things just came to me while I was working away painting a cel or maybe chewing on a ham sandwich at noon…. Zany little stunts… I also began writing little songs that (were incorporation) into Warner Bros.’ early Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons.” Hanna found himself so enthralled with the process that he worked his normal shift, went home for dinner, then returned to the studio and worked until midnight. His normal workday was 14 to 15 hours long. By his third year, Hanna earned $37.50-a-week, then after a meeting with competitor Walt Disney, Harman-Ising raised his salary to $60.00. In June 1937, MGM Studio hired Hanna as a director and story editor in their new cartoon department. On his second day of work, Hanna met another new MGM animation employee, Joe Barbera. Barbera grew up spending a lot of time daydreaming and drawing. No one else in his large Italian family had the gift of illustration, and he can remember his mother only saving one of his works, but he knew he had special talents. In his excellent 1994 autobiography entitle “My Life in ‘Toon” (Turner Publishing, Atlanta, Georgia), Barbera wrote, “It seemed to me that God had looked around, saw me, and just said: You can draw. And that’s there was to it.” He was his high school’s champion athlete, drew sketches of pretty girls he wanted to (and did) date, edited and drew cartoons for the school newspaper, and graduated early. He skipped college as times were tough; the Great Depression loomed. Barbera, who was lousy at arithmetic, got a job-through one of his father’s contracts- as an assistant tax man at Irving Trust Bank. The year was 1928 and he was paid $16-a-week. He “hated each and every minute of it,” but with most of his friends out of work, he was too scared to leave. He likened his six years there to a “torturous jail sentence.” For mental survival, he spent his lunch hour drawing. At noon each Thursday, he submitted his cartoons to the top magazines of the day, Redbook and Collier’s. He dashed to the local subway and took the ride to Grand Central Station. From there, he made his way to Park Avenue, where both magazines were headquartered. Each week he would pick up his rejects and bring new creations. For two straight years his material was rejected. Finally, he sold a single cartoon to Collier’s magazine for $25, then sold another three. Barbera was awakened to the possibility of moving cartoons when he saw Walt Disney’s cartoon short, the “Skelton Dance” at the Roxy Theatre. Barbera even wrote his first and only fan letter to Walt Disney and included a sketch he had done of Mickey Mouse. To his surprise, Disney wrote back, thanking him for the drawing a signed the letter with his unique trademark script. Inspired, Barbera took art lessons at 50 cents a piece. Then, like most of the country, he found himself laid off, Instead of sadness, he felt freedom. With moxie, he took his four published cartoons to Van Beuren Studio, and was hired as in “in-betweener” sketch artist at $25-a-week. Like his soon-to-be partner, Hanna, Barbera did not restrict himself to normal work hours. He commented that he worked: “feverishly in my attic (apartment) every night, practicing, practicing and practicing – for all practical purposes, inventing (for myself) – the art and science of animation. After some months I became good enough to ascend to the next rung on the animation ladder, an assistant.” He traveled to the West Coast in his ’36 Ford roadster, and he landed a job at MGM Studio, where he met Hanna. Their first collaboration, “Puss Gets the Boot” introduced audiences to “tom and Jerry,” the world’s most famous cat and mouse team. They received acclaim after merging their “Jerry” animation with live actor Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh (1945), and providing the “Tom and Jerry” sequence for swim queen Esther Williams in Dangerous When Wet (1953), the movie’s highlight. When the two collaborated, the result was nothing short of magical. With the onset of TV, the two men formed their own company in 1957. A coin toss determined whose name would be first. In 1958 they released the happy, good natured blue canine on “The Huckleberry Hound Show.” Every kid in America loved this dog. The show became an instant hit and won Hanna-Barbera its first Emmy Award. It was also the first time an animated TV series won an Emmy. Next, the team created the character Quick Draw McGraw in 1959. It featured a cuddly looking horse who walked around on two legs and wore a fine Stetson hat. America also fell in love with Jellystone Park’s two most fascinating creatures, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo Bear. Breaking new ground, in 1960 Hanna-Barbera created TV’s first animated family sitcom, “The Flintsones,” a landmark series for a number of reasons. “The Flintsones,” was the first animated series to go beyond the six or seven-minute cartoon format, and the first animated series to feature human characteristics. After its initial six-year run on ABC, it has remained one of the top-ranking animated programs in syndication history, with all original 166 episodes still being viewed worldwide. In a spin-off, there have been two major motion pictures with superstar actors playing the roles. Other Hanna-BArbera prime time cartoons include “The Jetsons” and “Top Cat.” Hanna-Barbera also created the precious cowardly Great Dane, Scooby-Doo, who possesses a scratchy voice and foolhardy laugh, “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” made its TV debut in 1969 and continues to be one of TV’s longest-running animated series. In 1981 Hanna-Barbera did it again with “The Smurfs,” which won Daytime Emmy Awards in 1982 and 1983 for Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series and a Humanitas Prize in 1987. Animated features include the tender family tale, Charlotte’s Web (1973), and Heidi’s Song (1982) a sweet movie for the very young… Fred Flintsone’s “Yabba Yabba Doo” is “an expression of jubilance; a spontaneous, loud exclamation of joy; an exchange of greetings between good friends denoting respect and admiration.” Hanna-Barbera became part of the Warner Bros. family in 1996. Warner Bros. houses one of the most impressive animation libraries in the world.
Hanna-Barbera collected seven Academy Awards for Tom and Jerry, eight Emmy Awards, one Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Governors Award. One Golden Globe. Inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1991. Their star dedication ceremony took place on July 21, 1976.
Hanna summed up his feelings in a sweet poem:
For the first few days, Hanna was my name
As it appeared on the Walk of Fame
I thought I heard people say
Is it Hanna or banana?
I told them either name is fine
I’m happy that my star will shine
And it will shine and shine and shine
As long as that big star is mine!”
Barbera said, “Only in America, this phrase certainly applies to a kid born in Brooklyn who started working in a deli at the age of eight. For this kid to be standing on Hollywood Boulevard, staring at a star with his name on it, certainly seems like he’s accomplished an impossible dream, but it’s happened to me. Many times I have stood on the corner close to my star and have marveled at the reaction of hundreds of tourists from all over the world as they read the names of the stars and pose for pictures with the stars on the great Hollywood Walk of Fame. Some have cameras, others are just laughing and mugging. And, as I watch these fans in Tinseltown, I realize that I’ve received more than 200 awards in my career, but none has meant as much to me as that fabulous Star on Hollywood Boulevard.