Cartoon Network Studios
, formerly known as Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc.
is a cartoon animation
studio founded by William Hanna
and Joseph Barbera
that has produced television cartoons for over forty years.
Hanna and Barbera were first teamed together while working at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer animation studio in 1939. Their first directorial project was a cartoon entitled Puss Gets the Boot (1940), which served as the genesis of the popular Tom and Jerry cartoon series. Hanna, Barbera, and MGM live-action director George Sidney formed Hanna-Barbera Productions in 1944 while working for the studio, and used the side company to work on ancillary projects, including early television commercials and the original opening titles to I Love Lucy.
After an award-winning stint in which they won eight Oscars, MGM closed their animation studio in 1957, as it felt it had acquired a reasonable backlog of shorts for re-release. Hanna and Barbera hired most of their MGM unit to work for Hanna-Barbera Productions, which became a full-fledged production company starting in 1957. The decision was made to specialize in television animation, and the studio's first series was The Ruff & Reddy Show, which premiered on NBC in December 1957. In order to obtain working capital to produce their cartoons, Hanna-Barbera made a deal with the Screen Gems television division of Columbia Pictures in which the new animation studio received working capital in exchange for distribution rights. The company never had a building of its own until 1963, when the Hanna-Barbera Studio, located at 3400 Cahuenga Blvd. in West Hollywood, California, was opened. The Columbia/Hanna-Barbera partnership lasted until 1967, when Hanna and Barbera sold the studio to Taft Broadcasting while retaining their positions at the studio.
Hanna-Barbera was the first animation studio to successfully produce animated cartoons especially for television; until then, cartoons on television consisted primarily of rebroadcasts of theatrical cartoons. Other Hanna-Barbera works included a theatrical cartoon series, Loopy De Loop, for Columbia Pictures from 1959 to 1965; and the opening credits to the ABC/Screen Gems television show Bewitched. Later, H-B would use the Bewitched characters as guest stars on The Flintstones.
Many of Hanna-Barbera's original TV series were produced for prime-time broadcast, and they continued to produce prime-time TV cartoons up until the early 1970s. Such shows as The Huckleberry Hound Show (and its spin-off, The Yogi Bear Show), Quick Draw McGraw, Top Cat, Jonny Quest, The Jetsons, and especially The Flintstones were originally broadcast during prime-time hours, competing with live-action comedies, dramas, and quiz shows.
The Flintstones in particular became a top-rated show. "The Blessed Event", the February 22, 1963 episode which depicted the birth of Pebbles Flintstone, was the highest-rated episode in the show's history, mirroring the I Love Lucy birth episode.
But the Hanna-Barbera studio especially captured the market for animated TV shows produced for syndication and Saturday mornings, grabbing the majority of TV cartoon production and holding it for over thirty years. During the 1970s in particular, most American TV cartoons were produced by Hanna-Barbera, with the only competition coming from Filmation and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, plus occasional prime-time animated "specials" from Rankin-Bass, Chuck Jones, and Bill Melendez's Peanuts (Charlie Brown).
The Hanna-Barbera studio has been accused of contributing to the decrease in quality of animation and TV cartoons from the 1960s through the 1980s. This relates to their being one of the first studios to do animated cartoons for television and dealing with constrained budgets. The perception of cartoons as a "kid's medium" made them a low priority for television executives. For example, one 22-minute (30 minutes with commercials) episode of Josie and the Pussycats in 1970 had the same budget--$45,000--as one 8-minute Tom and Jerry short from the late-1940s. Such budgetary constraints demanded a change in production values.
Hanna-Barbera introduced limited animation, popularized in theatrical animation by UPA, on the television series The Ruff & Reddy Show as a way of reducing costs. This led to a reduction in animation quality. The studio's solution to the resulting criticism was to go into features, producing both higher-quality versions of their TV cartoons (Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! in 1964, The Man Called Flinstone in 1966), and Jetsons: The Movie in 1990) and adaptations of other material (Charlotte's Web in 1973 and Heidi's Song in 1982).
The field of animation reached its low point in the mid-1970s, even as the audience for Saturday morning cartoons was at its peak. The strong focus on scripting and dialogue that had carried the earlier cartoons was more-or-less gone by 1973, as the studio's output had increased to the point that story quality had to take a backseat to production output. By this time, most Hanna-Barbera shows had degenerated into variations on but a few themes, with each successful formula (The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, SuperFriends) milked dry through repetition. Various animation short-cuts became unfortunate Hanna-Barbera trademarks, like plots being advanced by characters seen only as "talking heads," and crashes and disasters happening just off the frame, heard but not seen, as sound effects. The soundtracks rather than the visuals carried the majority of the plot and humor of the cartoons.
The slow rise and fall and the Turner rebound
The state of the field of animation changed during the 1980s
, thanks to competitors' syndicated cartoon series based upon popular toys
and action figures
, including Filmation's He-Man
and Rankin-Bass' Thundercats
. The Hanna-Barbera studio fell behind, as a new wave of animators and production studios introduced variety into the market for TV cartoons in the 1980s and 1990s
Throughout the '80s, Hanna-Barbera churned out shows based on familiar licensed properties like The Smurfs, The Snorks, Pac-Man, The Dukes of Hazzard, Shirt Tales, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, and Challenge of the GoBots, and also produced several ABC Weekend Specials. Some of their shows were produced at their Australian-based studio (a partnership with Australian media company Southern Star Entertainment ), including Drak Pack, Wildfire, The Berenstain Bears, Teen Wolf, and CBS Storybreak. H-B also aligned themselves with Ruby-Spears Productions, which was founded in 1977 by former H-B employees Joe Ruby and Ken Spears. H-B's then-parent Taft Broadcasting purchased Ruby-Spears from Filmways in 1981, and Ruby-Spears often paired their productions with Hanna-Barbera shows.
H-B also had a habit of making "kid" versions of popular characters in the 1980s, including The Pink Panther and Sons, The Flintstone Kids, Popeye and Son, and A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. In 1985, Hanna-Barbera launched The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, a weekend-only program that introduced new versions of old favorites like Yogi Bear, Jonny Quest, The Snorks, and Richie Rich alongside brand new shows like Galtar and the Golden Lance, Paw Paws, Fantastic Max, and Midnight Patrol. The following year, H-B produced Yogi's Great Escape, the first entry in its Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10, a series of 10 original telefilms based on their popular stable of characters, including the popular crossover The Jetsons Meet The Flintstones.
Throughout all of this, both Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears were subject to the financial troubles of parent company Taft Broadcasting, and had gradually moved away from producing everything in-house, deciding instead to outsource some of the production to studios in Taiwan, The Phillipines, and Japan. Hanna-Barbera in particular was also held down by the demands of TV networks, mainly ABC, who insisted on rehashing Scooby-Doo many times over; this stifled creativity, leading many of the better writers and creative people to leave in 1989. They responded to a call from Warner Bros. to resurrect their animation department, ultimately developing Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs.
In 1990, the bottom fell out: Taft Broadcasting (which had since changed its name to Great American Broadcasting in 1988) went bankrupt, and both Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears were put up for sale. In 1991, Hanna-Barbera and much of the original Ruby-Spears library were acquired by Turner Broadcasting. Filling the gap left by the departure of most of their creative crew during the Great American years was a new crop of animators, writers, and producers, including Pat Ventura, David Kirschner, Donovan Cook, Craig McCracken, Genndy Tartakovsky, Seth MacFarlane, David Feiss, Van Partible, and Butch Hartman. The new group was led by former Hanna-Barbera Australia head Buzz Potamkin . In 1992, the studio was renamed as H-B Productions Company, changing its name once again to Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc. a year later.
In the early 1990s, Hanna-Barbera created cartoon series like Tom and Jerry Kids (and its spin-off, Droopy: Master Detective) and The New Adventures of Captain Planet (a sequel to the original DiC/TBS Productions series Captain Planet and the Planeteers), and the ill-fated Yo Yogi!. They also introduced shows that were quite different from their previous releases, including Wake, Rattle, and Roll, 2 Stupid Dogs, Swat Kats, and The Pirates of Dark Water. In the mid-'90s, Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network (which introduced many Hanna-Barbera shows to a new audience) launched the World Premiere Toons (later renamed What A Cartoon then Cartoon Cartoons) project, which introduced a brand new stable of characters and, in a way, changed Hanna-Barbera forever.
The Cartoon Network Studios era
After the merger between Turner Entertainment and Time Warner Entertainment in 1995, the conglomerate had two separate animation studios in its possession. Though corporately they were combined, Hanna-Barbera Animation and Warner Brothers Animation operated separately, a practice which they continue to do to this day. While WB Animation focused their programming on the-then new network, The WB, Hanna-Barbera began to solely focus on the Cartoon Network. Cartoon Network became the exclusive home of all new Hanna-Barbera productions. One of the first original series to air on Cartoon Network was Genndy Tartakovsky's Dexter's Laboratory, one of the first spinoffs from the What-A-Cartoon! (a/k/a World Premiere Toons and Cartoon Cartoons) project. Others followed like Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken, and The Powerpuff Girls, the last series to use H-B's famous swirling star logo (which was first used in 1979). H-B also produced several new direct-to-video movies featuring Scooby-Doo (released by Warner Bros.) as well as creating a new Jonny Quest series, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest .
Around 1998, the Hanna-Barbera name began to disappear from the newer shows from the studio in favor of the Cartoon Network Studios name (although the H-B logo was still shown together with the Cartoon Network logo at the end of shows until 2001). This came in handy with shows that were produced outside of Hanna-Barbera, but that Cartoon Network had a hand in producing, like aka Cartoons' Ed, Edd, and Eddy, Kino Film's Mike, Lu and Og , Curious Pictures' Sheep in the Big City, Codename: Kids Next Door, and Noodlesoup/Astrobase Go's The Venture Bros., as well as the shows the studio continues to produce, like The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Evil Con Carne , Samurai Jack, Megas XLR, Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi (co-produced with Renegade Animation).
When William Hanna died in 2001, an era was over. Though the Hanna-Barbera name remains for "classic" productions based on properties like the Flintstones, Scooby-Doo, and others, the studio bearing its name is now Cartoon Network Studios, which continues the traditions made from its founding fathers while creating new paths of their own. The name "Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc." is still its official name, used in some official documents and copyright notices.
In 2002, a brand new series about Scooby-Doo and the gang entitled What's New, Scooby-Doo? was released. Despite being produced at Warner Bros. Television Animation (not Cartoon Network Studios), the copyright message at the end of each episode states the author as "Hanna-Barbera Cartoons, Inc." This is the only recent series in which Hanna-Barbera's name is mentioned as the author (as Cartoon Network's series are copyrighted by the channel itself).
Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10
Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 was a series of ten syndicated telefilms made from 1986 to 1988, featuring the most popular Hanna-Barbera characters in feature-length adventures.
Theatrical feature films
Cartoon Network Studios productions
Theatrical Feature films
Dexter's Laboratory in Chicken Scratch (2002, Warner Brothers; preceded The Powerpuff Girls Movie in theatres.)
Last updated: 08-28-2005 04:18:37