l-ln 1957. animatorJoe Barbera and storywriter Bill Hanna were ignomiously thrown out of a job when M( N shut down the film animation side oftheiroperations. Not a particularly notable occurrence. you might think. l’ntil. that is. you realise that the job in question was producﬁing probably the most popular comic twosome in the silver screen's lumin'ary -ladcn history: Tom (rm/.lerry.
'l‘he cartoons ran for tw enty years. won seven ( )scars and helped form the mould that the two men would later exploit so successfully on television: distinctively individual animal characters with all the mannered appeal of the biggest
llll\ year sees the thirtieth anniversary of llitllllit-Httl’lk‘l'd l’roductions. the first company ever to produce animation specially made for teley ision. It's a year iit which they unleash a \ycltet of t'ey tyed
favourites back onto our screens. in their ow n tw o-hour mov ie specials: 'l‘op (at returns for the first time in twenty si\' years w ith a feature called [fever/y III/ls ( at: those titegalithic Neighbours. liltc‘ l'littlstonc‘s. meet tip with their post—Nuclear counterparts. 'l he .letsons. while the studio‘s first big success l lucklcberry
Hound gracesoui' screens once more in [Ii/1U ( [our]. lftr’ lftlrftlllrf I/It' lltu‘k/c/ierry.
.loe Barbera‘s fiftieth year in animation looks set to be a good one. “tree decades ago. however. the duo weren't so sure about the wiseness of their move from big screen to the small box. Speaking from his I lollywood office. the seventy-four year old mogul recalled their dilemma 'Sure. there w as a lot of snobbery against us because we were working in television. All the time. But those people who criticised
its just didn't understand the logistics of the thing. \Vitli font and Jerry we w ere given $451" lllto make a five minute cartoon. ( )n ‘l‘\' we had Sillllll to do the same amount of animation. so obv iously corners were gonna hay e to be cttt. [be funny thing is that now everybody is doing it. .-\ll the animation that Disney do. for instance. is done a lot more cheaply. liven their cinema stuff.‘
In the late WSHs the majority of television's cartoon fare w as culled froin prehistoric cinema reels. The duo decided it was time for a change. negotiating their way round the problctns of finance with characteristic ingenuity. Rather diplomatically. the Hanna-Barbera press office describe the solution as a ‘pioneering process brought about by budget limitations.‘ We. on the other hand. know it better as Limited Animation?
You remember — backgrounds which changed into an endlessly repeating tree whenever Yogi Bear and the Ranger embarked upon a chase. facial expressions that ranked with Roger Moore in terms of muscular dexterity and characters who mov ed as if they’d just been discharged from traction. 'l‘he finely detailed skill ofthe Tom and Jerry days was no longer economically
8'I‘hc t—isiﬂl? .‘s‘m . s Dec 1088
a i t
In a rare interview. Joe Barbera. in Hollywood. talks to Allan Brown about thirty years of Hanna and Barbera.
viable. In its place came a form of animation which relied heavily upon character and mannerism to maintain interest.
The sight ofsuch cost-cutting may have been a shock to the system in 1958 but it wasn‘t to stop l lanna-Barbera Productions from becoming the ‘(ieneral Motors ofthe cartoon industry.‘
'l‘hree hundred different series. specials and movies have rolled off their production lines in the last thirty years -- one and a half thousand hours ofslapstick knockabout
cartooning and more cornerstones of'
your youth than you‘d care to remember; Huckleberry Hound. for one —- a stetson. a grimace and an off-key rendition of(‘lementine: Yogi Bear. the pie-stealing (‘irizzly of Yellowstone Park (later transformed into a saintly model citizen at the behest ofthe Moral Majority); Penelope Pitstop (‘Hi —
elpll)and 'l‘op(‘at. with the indefatigany useless ()fficer Dibble. .\'ot forgetting more modern. but equally seminal. creations like Hong Kong Phooey ( ‘Is it Henry the mild mannered janitor'.’ Could be? . . .'). Scooby I)oo and Catch The Pigeon. starring [)astardly and the medal-seeking mongrel Muttley.
Asked to plump fora favourite. .loe Barbera will follow the bear. He still talks with an undisguised enthusiasm for all things animated. especially a picnic-hungry (irizzly who first saw the light of day in 1960 ‘I guess it's because Yogi‘s smarter than the average bear. y" know '.’ That‘s why I love him the most. He was a little anti-establishment. a little rebellious.‘ Evert when he became a Yellowstone vigilante. righting wrongs and doing goods I" Oh well.' Joe laughs. ‘We all have to grow up sometime. I guess.‘
Listening to him talk about the brace of projects ready to go into production. one is tempted to doubt the assertion. ‘l’ve just had dinner with Michael Bond. who‘s a lovely guy. because we hope to be doing a production of his Paddington Bear. Is that character popular over your side'.’ '.lust a little . . . ‘()h great. It‘s such a lovely concept. After that we go into production with a new Tom and .lerry movie project. We‘ve just completed the script for that and some artwork as well and let me tell you. it looks absolutely wonderful. And after that. were gonna be doing some live action stuff- A l-‘linstonez. movie and a .lctsons tnovie which‘ll be for the big screen .'
'l'alkiug about the big screen. how big a rival have Disney been over the years 1’ ‘Ah well you see. Disney have always really been .‘vlickey .\louse he‘s been their mascot and chief character since the very earliest days. We. rather differently. have always relied on a great number of characters to carry our name.
':\nother thing is that tltey always kinda shunned television until we demonstrated that it could be done. y' know'.’ ( )l course I admire them and everything btit they're really very different from Hanna—Barbcra.‘
liveryone is very different from Hanna-Barbera. The last five years may have seen them in something of a creative trough - the series of heavily moralized Smurfcartoons. for instance. and the recent Biblical adaptations ~ but the dawning of their third decade heralds a distinct upsw ing in both their profile and their credibility. All of which is fair enough but it hardly answers that most burning of qltcsliotts-— why did fired l’linstone have only four fingers on each hand '.’ ‘I get asked that all the time.‘ chucklcsloe. ‘Tvlainly because cartoons look strange with the full complement of fingers. l guess. 'l’oo fidgety. But. I‘ll tell you something that's really funny — Yogi Bear in (iermanl ’l'hat'll kill you “Ach tung. Yogil'”