In business together longer than most marriages, two men from very different backgrounds created a company that would come to dominate Saturday morning television. Partners for over 60 years, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera possessed a relationship that would last through the rise and fall of two cartoon studios and the creation of thousands of characters and hundreds of animated and live-action TV shows, films, and specials. In addition to receiving commercial and critical acclaim, their ground-breaking animation work was awarded with 7 Academy Awards (and 8 additional nominations), 8 Emmys, and numerous other awards.
Together, animators Hanna and Barbera created one of the most memorable cartoons in history – Tom and Jerry. During the rise of television in the 1950s when film studios ceased producing cartoons, Hanna and Barbera saved the field of animation through talent, innovation, and hard work. At a time when General Motors sold 50% of all cars in the U.S., the television program 60 Minutes referred to Hanna-Barbera as “the General Motors of animation,” even though Hanna-Barbera would eventually go even further by producing nearly 2/3 of all Saturday morning cartoons in a single year.
Hanna-Barbera Productions was formed in 1957 by Hanna and Barbera, who were very successful animators and producers at MGM Studios. As a result of their work on the Tom and Jerry animated film shorts, MGM received seven Academy Awards for animation – more than Walt Disney himself. Hanna and Barbera left MGM when the studio stopped production on animated films. Capitalizing on the changing viewing habits of audiences, the partners achieved immediate success on TV with The Huckleberry Hound Show and Yogi Bear in 1958, followed by the groundbreaking prime-time series, The Flintstones, in 1960. Throughout the next 40 years, Hanna-Barbera produced an astonishing 1,246 hours of original animation in 249 individual cartoon series for television.
When Cartoon Network was formed in 1992, Hanna-Barbera supplied most of the programming. Hanna-Barbera was eventually absorbed by Warner Bros., but their animation legacy remains available in syndication and on DVD. The impact of Hanna-Barbera’s cartoons is evident in today’s popular culture, from Fred Flintstone hawking vitamins and Fruity Pebbles cereal to the ongoing creation of new Scooby-Doo television series, comic books, and animated and live-action movies.
The exhibition will focus primarily on the “golden years” of Hanna-Barbera, from the premiere of their first television cartoon, The Ruff and Reddy Show, in 1957 and The Huckleberry Hound Show in 1958 to the debut of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! in 1969. Hanna and Barbera’s early work on Tom and Jerry will be explored, in addition to the scores of TV and film animation and live-action projects created by the studio between 1970 and 2001. Included within the exhibition will be original animation art, sketches, model sheets, photographs, archival materials, toys and other commercial products, and an interactive installation that will draw from the vast library of characters created by Hanna-Barbera. An exhibition video, produced by Norman Rockwell Museum, will include commentary from veteran Hanna-Barbera animators Tony Benedict, Jerry Eisenberg, Willie Ito, and Bob Singer. An exhibition catalogue will include a foreword by Jayne Barbera, daughter of studio founder Joe Barbera, and essays by animation historians Jerry Beck and Michael Mallory.