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Asbury Park Press from Asbury Park, New Jersey • Page 88

Publication:
Asbury Park Pressi
Location:
Asbury Park, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Page:
88
Extracted Article Text (OCR)

E6 Asbury Park PressSunday, May 22, 1994 '-fir. 1 "'Ifctoa. -jjf Q9 By MARK VOGER PRESS STAFF WRITER It was a lucky day, 37 years ago, when animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera lost their jobs wo wrongs made a right in 1957: 1. MGM closed down its animation studio, effectively putting William Hanna and Jospeph Barbera out on the streets, and 2. the still-new medium of television was in dire.

down, and there were very few (animated) pictures being produced for the theater at all." "MGM was in great financial trouble," Barbera says. "They discovered that they could reissue our older 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons and get as much income as making a new one. That's how popular Tom and Jerry were. So, they said, 'Wait a minute. Let's not make any new ones.

We need of fresh cartoons. Since that time, Hanna and Barbera have built a cartoon empire, producing 3,500 half-hours of animation for 350 different series, specials, movies, handily snaring eight Emmys (to add to their we did that. It worked, and it worked very, very well. The entire industry came back." Off and running "Ruff and Reddy" was the first animated series produced by Hanna and Barbera for television. After the success of "Ruff and Reddy," Hanna-Barbera Productions cranked out one small-screen hit after another: Huckleberry Hound, Pixie and Dixie, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw and Augie Doggie all brightened the childhoods of the baby boomers of the late '50s and early '60s.

"We blossomed," Barbera says. "Instead of doing eight five-minute cartoons a year which would be 40 minutes, right? we were doing an hour and a half to two hours a week As such, Hanna and Barbera had to further streamline their respective roles in their burgeoning operation. don have to spend the money. "Which was very shortsighted of them." "I think we had made 160 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons," Hanna says. "That many cartoons could service the theatrical circuits without any trouble at all.

They had plenty there to keep the whole thing going indefinitely, and they tried to, but they didn't figure it right." "They hit the panic button," Barbera says. "Because, the next man who took over the presidency of MGM said, 'Who the hell did this? It's the stupidest move you ever Says Hanna: "So, Joe and I were the first ones to turn to television. We had to. There was no other place for us to go." TV or not TV? seven Oscars). Just consider the pantheon of characters created by these two living legends of animation: Yogi Bear, the Jetsons, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Augie Doggie, Pixie and Dixie, Snooper and Blabber, Touche Turtle, Squiddly Diddly, Snagglepuss, Dick Dastardly, Wally Gator, Magilla Gorilla and hundreds more.

How would your childhood have been, had these characters never existed? On Friday, Hanna-Barbera Productions' greatest creation is getting Spielberg-icized. "The Flintstones" starring John Goodman as gruff-but-lovable caveman Fred is a shoo-in as this Not that television welcomed Hanna and "We both worked on the development of characters," Hanna says. "When we would have a character and a format set up in our minds, Joe would then work with the writers. He also directed the voice talent. "For my role, I was doing the timing and the animation.

I worked with the artists, going over the scenes. Joe and I together would look at the pencil tests, and call for whatever corrections were needed." Barbera took on another role. "I ended up going out, being the salesman," he says. "I had to get on the darn plane in the wintertime and fly to Chicago or New York or St. Louis or wherever to pitch the shows.

I When I came back, I'd put 'em into work Barbera with open arms. "Television was brand new," Barbera says, "and we were turned down and rejected by everybody fk I because they knew that making summer Batman or Jurassic Park, perhaps you've already obtained your tie-in glass mugs from "RocDonalds?" Hanna and Barbera, both 83 who made barefoot cameos in the forthcoming film spoke with SECTION in back-to-back phone interviews conducted in January, a week before the Los cartoons the way we were making them was too expen- sive. i nose cartoons we made "i Angeles earthquake that shook their studios. for MGM cost and record em and cast em, and Bui would supervise the production any- Early days Born in New Mexico, William Hanna began his career in the early '30s at Harman-Ising Studios, working on "Looney Tunes" and "Merry Melodies." He joined MGM's animation studio as a director and story editor in 1937. Born in New York's Lower East Side, Joseph Barbera did magazine illustrations before working at Fleischer Studios end.

"It got to a point where they thought it was so easy that Bill would walk in and say, 'Hey, I need seven shows this and walk out, right? "Do you know what it means to sell one show?" Birth of Bedrock Of all the shows he pitched, Barbera's toughest sell might have been when he tried to convince network executives and advertising sponsors to buy a revolutionary concept: the first-ever prime-time animated series, '0 LS5 0 or ,0. "The Flintstones." 'There were a lot of misgivings about whether it would work or not," Barbera recalls. "It caused quite a flurry. I can understand that, because it was so new. and Van Beuren Studios.

Hanna hadn't been at MGM long before Barbera joined him at MGM's animation studio in June of '37. For MGM, the fledgling team created Tom and Jerry, the cartoon cat and mouse, in their very first joint effort: "Puss Gets the Boot" (1940) Recalls Hanna: "We had this cat-and-mouse idea, and made one. It was looked at and we were told not to make any more. They felt the cat and the mouse was good for just one, period. "Well, that show went into the Texas circuit, and a lady her name was Mrs.

Short wrote a letter to our boss and said, 'When are you going to make some more of those delightful cat and mouse "So, he said, 'Go ahead and make some "We started making them then, and I think that was practically the only thing we did for the next 20 years." During their two decades with They were afraid. An animated show on prime time? At 8 o'clock at night?" The producer spent eight weeks in New York trying to sell the series. "I was pitching and pitching and pitching," he says. "People on Madison Avenue would be told, 'Go on up to the Screen Gems office and get a look at this crazy guy doing all the voices and all the sound That's the way I had to do it, right? This was a cartoon show this was not live action. So, I'd take all the parts, do all the voices and keep pitching.

MGM, Hanna and Barbera developed a kind of "shorthand" production system that gave them an advantage over competing studios. Everybody loved it. Nobody bought it They kept loving it and passing, until the very last day." After ABC-TV finally bought Photo courtesy: HANNA- "The Flintstones," Hanna and Barbera gave the project a great deal of special attention. BARBERA PRODUCTIONS Joseph Barbera (left) and William Hanna, the men behind the 'toons. 9 01 2 Recalls Barbera: "Back then, when (Friz) Freleng or Tex Avery did a cartoon, they'd sit and work on the idea and mull it over.

Sometimes, they talked to a story man, but they still controlled the story. Each individual like, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng or Tex Avery had to work on the story, sketch it themselves, time it themselves and hand it out to the animator themselves. "That way, they were hard pressed, I'll tell you. Tex never got more than four or five out a year, and the studio was screaming at him that he was supposed to be doing eight cartoons a year. "When we started Bill had been timing and directing, and I had been a story man and an animator we almost automatically split the job up.

"Say, for instance, we had an idea. We called it 'Bowling Alley a 'Tom and I'd say to Bill, 'That's a heckuva good title. Why don't we do He'd say, Now, he's busy at that moment handing out the animation for the one we just finished, right? So would start on 'Bowling Alley "We never had a script. I would write the story as I drew it. And I would also be laying it out, production-wise.

So, when I got through, it was ready to go into production. As I finished the boards, I would hand them to Bill and he would time it out, make what you call 'sheets' (drawings), call the animator in, give him the artwork we had done and give him the scenes to do. "It was that simple." The shutdown of '57 But by 1957, Hollywood's golden age had long since faded and business was slipping. "Television, at that particular time, was making inroads on the theaters, and they were suffering," Hanna recalls. "Warner Bros, was closing down, MGM was closing down, Disney was slowing where from $40- to $60,000 for five minutes.

That's what they were running. "Finally, Screen Gems agreed to do a series of five-minute shorts. I had worked up a storyboard and my daughter, Jayne she was about 12 colored it at home. We went to Screen Gems and they kind of reluctantly decided to make a deal with us to produce five-minute cartoons. And do you know what the budget we got for that was? $3,000.

We went from $60,000 to $3,000." "In order to accomplish this," says Hanna, "we had to change the way we made cartoons. In 'Tom and there was hardly any dialogue at all. It was all action. It required a great many drawings to make. When we made the cartoons for television, we used a lot more dialogue, and not as many drawings are required for that." "We'd use every trick that we knew about," Barbera says.

"Taking drawings and moving them. Jiggling the screen. Zooming your camera in and out. Doing every trick you can to impart motion with the least amount of drawings. "Now this is out of either you call it 'Yankee ingenuity' or desperation.

But you have to remember that we had to do it. There was no market and there was no money. So, we had to adapt. "And what happened was, we rejuvenated the whole industry. No one was doing cartoons when "At that time, our thinking was, we were making a nighttime Hanna recalls.

"Let's try and do as good a job as we can, and live up to the confidence they had in us to do it. We worked hard on developing the models, the selection of the voices, the quality of the animation." The rest is television history. "The Flintstones" debuted on Sept. 30, 1960, and for six seasons used its prehistoric setting to poke fun at exploding suburbia and advancing technology. Adults and children alike followed the adventures of Fred, Wilma, Pebbles, Barney, Betty, Bamm-Bamm, Dino and all the other citizens of Bedrock.

Many more Hanna-Barbera-produced cartoon series followed, but none seem to possess that same spark of resonant warmth and humor as "The Flintstones." Both Hanna and Barbera consider the exploits of the "modern Stone Age family" to be their crowning achievement. "The outstanding thing, and possibly the most original," says Barbera, "was 'The Says Hanna: "I think that whether I should admit this or not Joe and going back to 'Tom and have been very lucky in being able to do cartoons that have universal appeal. 'Tom and Jerry' seemed to be as well liked by adults as by children. "The of course, was geared more to adults, but I guess we were just lucky that the kids seemed to enjoy "The too. Maybe it was just the gadgets, but they seemed to enjoy it as much as the adults.

"So, I honestly think we just kind of lucked out." Next GET PSYCHED returns with the voice of Wilma Flintstone herself, Jean Vander Pyl! All characters 1994 HANNA-BARBERA PRODUCTIONS LL.

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