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Joseph Barbera

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Also Known As: Joseph Roland Barbera, Joe Barbera Died: December 18, 2006
Born: March 24, 1911 Cause of Death: natural causes
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession: executive, animator, director, producer, story writer, accountant

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One half of the most celebrated animation-producing duos in history, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera's company, Hanna-Barbera Productions, created some of the best-loved animated television programming of the 20th century and beyond, including "The Huckleberry Hound Show" (syndicated, 1958-1961), "The Yogi Bear Show" (syndicated, 1961-62), "The Flintstones" (ABC, 1960-66), "The Jetsons" (ABC, 1962-63), "Jonny Quest" (ABC, 1964-65), "Super Friends" (ABC, 1973-1986) and "The Smurfs" (NBC, 1981-89). With Hanna, Barbera began his career with the Oscar-winning Tom and Jerry animated shorts for MGM. When the company shuttered its animation division, the duo launched their own company, striking pay dirt almost immediately with "Huckleberry Hound" and "The Flintstones," their first primetime series. Hanna-Barbera's cartoons, driven largely by bright, simple artwork, clever writing, and memorable characters, led the television animation field until the 1980s, when financial difficulties resulted in their sale to a variety of companies. They rebounded in the 1990s as part of Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network, for which they oversaw such cutting-edge cartoons as "The Powerpuff Girls" (1998-2005) before...

One half of the most celebrated animation-producing duos in history, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera's company, Hanna-Barbera Productions, created some of the best-loved animated television programming of the 20th century and beyond, including "The Huckleberry Hound Show" (syndicated, 1958-1961), "The Yogi Bear Show" (syndicated, 1961-62), "The Flintstones" (ABC, 1960-66), "The Jetsons" (ABC, 1962-63), "Jonny Quest" (ABC, 1964-65), "Super Friends" (ABC, 1973-1986) and "The Smurfs" (NBC, 1981-89). With Hanna, Barbera began his career with the Oscar-winning Tom and Jerry animated shorts for MGM. When the company shuttered its animation division, the duo launched their own company, striking pay dirt almost immediately with "Huckleberry Hound" and "The Flintstones," their first primetime series. Hanna-Barbera's cartoons, driven largely by bright, simple artwork, clever writing, and memorable characters, led the television animation field until the 1980s, when financial difficulties resulted in their sale to a variety of companies. They rebounded in the 1990s as part of Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network, for which they oversaw such cutting-edge cartoons as "The Powerpuff Girls" (1998-2005) before Hanna's death in 2001. Joseph Barbera's vast output of animated fare over the course of his six-decade career contained so many beloved characters and shows that his position as one of the dominant forces in American animation was assured for eternity.

Born Joseph Roland Barbera on March 24, 1911 in New York City, he was the eldest of three sons by barbershop owner Vincent Barbera and his wife, Francesca. His father's gambling habit left the family in dire financial straits, and he abandoned the family during Barbera's teen years. Though he developed a talent for boxing in his teen years, his chief interest was drawing. He began selling cartoons to magazines in the 1930s before taking a job in the ink and paint department of Fleischer Studios. Positions at Van Beuren Studios, where he worked on a cartoon series about a pair of vagrants named "Tom and Jerry, which preceded his tenure at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's cartoon department in 1937. There, he met and forged a close relationship with artist William Hanna, with whom he worked alongside the legendary animation director Tex Avery. In 1940, they jointed directed "Puss Gets the Boot" (1940), which concerned the pursuit of a clever mouse by an energetic if easily foiled cat. The project was nominated for a Best (Cartoon) Short Oscar, which marked the beginning of the long-running and wildly successful Tom and Jerry series.

For the next 17 years, Hanna and Barbera worked almost exclusively on the beloved series, which netted 14 Academy Award nominations and won seven between 1943 and 1952. The characters' popularity also translated into appearances in some of MGM's live-action films, most notably "Anchors Aweigh" (1945) and "Invitation to the Dance" (1955), both with Gene Kelly. Though Hanna and Barbera were the series' creators and chief architects, the shorts were credited to their supervisor, Fred Quimby, who accepted each of its Oscars without inviting the animation pair to the stage. Eventually, Hanna and Barbera would replace Quimby as heads of MGM's animation division. Unfortunately, their ascent preceded the studio's decision to close the department in 1957. MGM had been steadily losing revenue to television, and found that licensing their old material was more cost effective that creating new cartoons. Hanna and Barbera quickly launched their own short-lived company, Shield Productions, with animator Jay Ward, creator of Rocky & Bullwinkle. After this entity folded, Hanna and Barbera launched their own production company, initially called H-B Enterprises, which was soon redubbed Hanna-Barbera Productions.

Hanna's talent for story construction and connections to top artists was key in the creation of their first series, "The Ruff & Reddy Show" (NBC, 1957), which concerned a cat and dog voiced by Daws Butler and Don Messick, who would go on to provide the voices for nearly all of Hanna-Barbera's programs. Though only a modest success, "Ruff & Reddy" proved that Hanna-Barbera could produce quality animation for television on a small budget, and soon led to their first substantial hits, "The Huckleberry Hound Show," which also featured a segment devoted to a scheming bear named Yogi, who starred on his own syndicated series from 1961 to 1962. The program became the first animated series to win an Emmy for Best Children's Program in 1959, and was quickly followed by "The Quick Draw McGraw Show" (syndicated, 1959-1961). When Hanna and Barbera discovered that nearly half of the viewing audience for "Huckleberry" was comprised of adults who were drawn to the show by its wry humor, they decided to expand their efforts to a primetime animated series.

The result was "The Flintstones," a parody of "The Honeymooners" (CBS, 1955-56) that concerned the comic adventures of a Stone Age family. A Top 30 hit during its first three seasons on air, it was followed by a futuristic variation on the same premise called "The Jetsons." Both programs proved extremely popular in syndication, while "The Flintstones" would enjoy three decades of spin-offs and theatrical features while reaping considerable financial rewards through numerous product tie-ins and licensing efforts. By the end of the decade, Hanna-Barbera was unquestionably the most prolific and successful television animation studio in the business, with such series as "Top Cat" (ABC, 1961-62), "Wally Gator" (ABC, 1962-63), "Jonny Quest," "Space Ghost" (CBS, 1966-68) and the live-action "Banana Splits Adventure Hour" (NBC, 1968-1970) populating the airwaves. One of their most enduring characters, the mystery-solving Great Dane Scooby-Doo, would premiere during this period with "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" (CBS, 1969-1972), and like "The Flintstones," would be revived in various iterations over the next three decades.

These and other Hanna-Barbera series followed a basic story formula that revolved around a close partnership between two or more friends, often with divergent personalities, as seen in the relationships between Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy and countless others. The friendship (or friendly competition) between the characters was seen as reflective of Barbera's own relationship with Hanna, which remained close and unchanged for nearly six decades. Part of the reason for their successful collaboration was due to the fact that both men rarely socialized with each other outside of their work; Hanna preferred the company of other animators and loved the outdoors, while Barbera could be frequently seen with other celebrities at fine restaurants or upscale locations. Regardless of their different interests, both men worked together in harmony, complementing each other's strengths while balancing their respective weaknesses. Their compatibility was often seen as the key to the longevity of their business. Despite stiff competition from other television animation companies like Filmation, Rankin-Bass and Ruby-Spears, Hanna-Barbera continued to reign as the dominant producers of TV cartoons in the 1970s. A combination of shows featuring new characters like "Hong Kong Phooey" (ABC, 1974) and "Josie and the Pussycats" (CBS, 1970-72) with established characters from their catalog like "The New Scooby-Doo Movies" (CBS, 1972-74) and new programs featuring characters from the past like "The Tom and Jerry/Grape Ape/Mumbly Show" (ABC, 1975-76), helped to secure their position within the industry. One of their greatest successes of the decade was "Super Friends," which showcased DC Comics' iconic stable of superheroes, including Superman and Batman.

Hanna-Barbera also experimented with theatrical and made-for-TV features during this period, earning hits with the feature-length adaptation of "Charlotte's Web" (1973) and the Emmy-winning ABC drama "The Gathering" (1977). But their grip on the market weakened in the 1980s, due in part to the success of Filmation's "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" (syndicated, 1983-85) and financial difficulties on the part of their parent company, Taft Broadcasting, which had purchased them in 1966. As a result, Hanna-Barbera was forced to outsource much of their animation, which affected the quality of their product. They enjoyed some success during this period, most notably with the Emmy-winning "Smurfs," a joint effort with Belgian companies Dupuis Audiovisual and SEPP International S.A. But the end of the decade found the company on the auction block as a result of the debts incurred by Great American Broadcasting, which had purchased Taft Broadcasting in 1987. Most of Hanna-Barbera's animation staff moved to Warner Bros. during this period, leaving the company as a shell of its former self.

In 1991, Turner Broadcasting and the Apollo Investment Fund purchased Hanna-Barbera in a joint venture for $320 million. Former MTV executive Fred Seibert was put in charge of Hanna-Barbera, which soon changed its name to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, with Hanna and Barbera remaining as co-chairmen. Seibert hired a host of up-and-coming animation talent, including Craig McCracken, Seth McFarlane and Genndy Tartakovsky, to produce a slate of new programming, while re-launching established brands like Tom and Jerry and "The Flintstones" in new series. Feature-length versions of "Tom and Jerry" (1993) and a trio of animated films, including "The Pagemaster" (1993) and "Cats Don't Dance" (1993), were box-office failures, but Hanna-Barbera's product received a sparkling new showcase with The Cartoon Network, which launched in 1992. The company's vast library of animated work was introduced to a whole new audience, while new programming, including "The Powerpuff Girls," "Dexter's Laboratory" (Cartoon Network, 1995-2004) and "Johnny Bravo" (Cartoon Network, 1997-2004) established Hanna-Barbera as a viable production house in the 21st century. New direct-to-video movies featuring Scooby-Doo and revived series for "Jonny Quest" and Tom and Jerry, as well as live-action versions of "The Flintstones (1994) and "Scooby-Doo" (2004) also continued to reach viewers.

In 1996, Hanna-Barbera became part of Time Warner as a result of the merger between the company and Turner Broadcasting. Two years later, their lot on Cahuenga Boulevard in Studio City was closed, and operations were moved to the Warner Bros. Television Animation division in nearby Sherman Oaks. Hanna and Barbera continued to supervise Warner Bros. animated projects until Hanna's death from throat cancer on March 22, 2001. Barbera would remain a fixture of the company, co-directing and producing the Tom and Jerry short "The Karate Guard" (2005) and penning the story for the feature-length "Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale" (2007), which marked his final work on the venerable franchise. On Dec. 18, 2006, Barbera died of natural causes at the age of 95. At the close of their careers, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were among the most honored animation producers in Hollywood, with seven Oscars and eight Emmys to their name, as well as a 1960 Golden Globe, the 1988 Governor's Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and several Annie Awards, among countless other tributes. In 2005, a wall sculpture at the Television Academy's Hall of Fame Plaza was dedicated to Hanna and Barbera.

By Paul Gaita

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Jetsons: The Movie (1990) Director
2.
3.
4.
5.
  Three Musketeers, The (1973) Director
6.

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, The (2000) Voice (Special Appearance)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Worked for Van Beuren Studio as writer of "Tom and Jerry" series (of no relation to later MGM cartoon)
1937:
Signed with MGM as writer; teamed with William Hanna
1940:
First venture with Hanna, "Puss Gets the Boot"; nominated for an Academy Award for Best (Cartoon) Short Subject
1955:
With Hanna succeeded Fred Quimby as head of MGM cartoon department; MGM closed the division in 1957
1957:
Teamed up with William Hanna to produce the series "The Ruff & Reddy Show," under the company name H-B Enterprises, soon changed to Hanna-Barbera Productions
:
Co-directed (with William Hanna) the feature-length animated films, "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear" (1964) and "A Man Called Flintstone" (1966)
1968:
Hanna and Barbera continued to operate studio under agreement with Taft Co.
1968:
Produced live action feature film, "Project X"
1988:
Taft and the Hanna-Barbera Studio sold to Great American Broadcasting, with Barbera appointed president
1991:
Ted Turner announced the signing of definitive agreements for Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc to buy Hanna-Barbera Productions Inc. (and its library of more than 3,000 half-hours of animated programming and more than 350 different series, telefilms and theatrical relases) for $320 million from Great American Communications Co. in November
1994:
Inducted into the TV Hall of Fame by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
2005:
Wrote, co-storyboarded, co-directed and co-produced the theatrical Tom and Jerry short "The Karateguard"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

New York University: New York , New York -
American Institute of Banking: New York , New York -

Notes

Hanna and Barbera have created such animated programming series as "Ruff and Ready" (1957-60), "Huckleberry Hound" (1958-62), "Pixie and Dixie" (1958-62), "Quick Draw McGraw" (1959-62), "Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy" (1959-62), "Yogi Bear" (1960-62), "Snagglepuss" (1960-62), "The Flintstones" (1960-66), "Top Cat" (1961-62), "The Jetsons" (1962-63, 65-67, 69-76), "Jonny Quest" (1964-65, 67-72), "The Fantastic Four" (1967-70), "Scooby-Doo" (1969-86), "The Superfriends" (1973-83), "Richie Rich" (1980-83), "The Smurfs" (1981-). Beside the "Yogi Bear" and "Flintstones" films mentioned above, the duo's feature-length animated films have also included "Charlotte's Web" (1973) and "Heidi's Song" (1982).

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Dorothy Earl. Divorced in 1964.
wife:
Sheila Barbera.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Vicente Barbera. Barber.
mother:
Frances Barbera.
daughter:
Lynne Meredith Barbera. Mother, Dorothy Earl.
daughter:
Jayne Earl Barbera. Mother, Dorothy Earl.
son:
Neal Francis Barbera. Mother, Dorothy Earl.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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