Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Joseph Barbera Dies

Just had news that Joseph Barbera, the last survivor of the Hanna-Barbera animation partnership, died today aged 95.

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera met while working at MGM's animation studio, and were instrumental in the development of Tom and Jerry; however, it was in developing a profitable model of animation for television that they really made their mark on the animation industry.

Fred and Wilma: At It Like Knives

Their first hit show was The Flintstones, a sitcom set in the stone age and inspired by the popular US show The Honeymooners. Two features made The Flintstones revolutionary; first, it was longer than the standard six-minute cartoon format, allowing more complex stories to be told, and secondly, it was aimed at the whole family, including adults. Fred and Wilma Flintstone were, in fact, the first cartoon characters to have a sex life, if only by implication; when the couple have a daughter (Pebbles), we get to see Wilma's pregnancy develop over several episodes.
Hanna-Barbera milked the
Flintstones format with two other shows; The Jetsons, about an ordinary family in the future, and the less-well-remembered Wait Till Your Father Gets Home!, which was set in the then-present day of the 1960's, and which, with its real-life themes of the generation gap and cold-war paranoia, was in many ways a predecessor of recent shows such as The Simpsons and Family Guy.

The Scooby Gang: Not At It Like Knives

Hanna and Barbera were able to develop longer shows for television by eschewing the highly detailed Disney style of drawing, and instead concentrated on adapting for television the simplified, more angular style developed by Friz Freling and Chuck Jones at Warner Brothers. They exploited other labour-saving tricks such as endlessly looping backrounds behind moving characters. This style was dismissed as "illustrated radio" by some critics, but it proved enormously popular with the public, yielding numerous hits including Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Top Cat (also based on a live-action sitcom, this time Phil Silver's Sergeant Bilko) Scooby Doo and Wacky Races. Scooby Doo, which premiered in 1969, has gone to at least twelve series, spawned two live action films, numerous animated films and video games, not to mention a host of imitations including Funky Phantom and Goober and the Ghost Chasers. Phrases such as "Scooby Gang" and "Scooby Snack" have now pretty much entered the language.

1 comment:

Bolt-01 said...

One sad thing about this is that I was at the Universal theme park in Orlando on the 20th, and there was not a single mention of this sad event, despite many of the charaters he created being visible and signing things for kids.