Posted by: Jennifer | December 19, 2006

exit, stage right

A creative genius responsible for the way that many of us were brought up has died.

Joseph Barbera, who, with his longtime partner William “Bill” Hanna, created such beloved cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and Jonny Quest, died of natural causes Monday at his Studio City home. He was 95.

During the 1940s, Barbera and Hanna were MGM’s blue-ribbon cartoon directors, winning seven Oscars for the “Tom and Jerry” shorts. After MGM closed its animation unit in 1957, they moved to television, where they created a series of hits in the 1960s, beginning with “The Flintstones,” the first animated series in prime time.

By the 1970s, Hanna-Barbera was the dominant studio in Saturday morning cartoons, making shows for the three major networks and accounting for as much as 70% of the so-called kid-vid programming in some seasons.

“Joe Barbera was a passionate storyteller and a creative genius who, along with his late partner Bill Hanna, helped pioneer the world of animation,” Sander Schwartz, president of Warner Bros. Animation, said in a statement. “Bill created a landmark television production model and Joe filled it with funny, original show ideas and memorable characters that will stand for all time as his ultimate legacy.”

Hanna Barbara was responsible for some of the best television to ever air, and all of it was in cartoon form. The fifties and sixties brought us the Flintstones and Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound and The Jetsons and Jonny Quest and Scooby Doo and Space Ghost. The seventies saw Josie and the Pussycats and The Addams Family and The Tom and Jerry Show. The Smurfs and the Pound Puppies were massive hits in the eighties, and in the ninties Dexter’s Laboratory, Johnny Bravo and the Powerpuff Girls ruled the Cartoon Network line-up. I bet there is not a person reading this post who can say that they did not watch a Hanna-Barbara cartoon as some point in their childhood, no matter what their current age.

Joseph Barbara is one of those people that do the extraordinary — they set out to do something that makes them happy, and in some small way they end up changing the whole world. (And if you think that it is overstatement, think of what life would be like if these cartoons had never aired.) That’s quite a legacy to leave behind. But at least we still have a small piece of him remaining, and that can be found in every character he ever created.

BTW, in the interests of full disclosure, I should make sure that everyone knows that I wanted to be Wilma Flintstone when I grew up. So I’m slightly biased towards the entire Flintstone family.

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