The Story of a Legend
Wolfgram Evans) You may not be aware of the first time that you
encountered William Hanna or one of his many cartoons. Chances
are that it was a Saturday morning and you were probably curled
up on the couch with a big bowl of Trix. Or maybe it was a Wednesday
afternoon and you were sprawled on the floor, relaxing from a
hard day of school when The Flintstones, The Smurfs, Yogi Bear,
The Shirt Tales, Scooby-Doo or any number of other multicolored
characters ran across your TV screen. You may not have realized
it at the time, but these cartoons, produced in part by William
Hanna, would come to represent not only a certain form of entertainment,
but they would also become markers of your youth. Such is the
genius of William Hanna, one of the few entertainers whose work
is not only entertaining and influential in it's own
time, but also holds a timeless importance in influence and entertainment.
born in Melrose, New Mexico on July 10, 1910. His father was a
construction engineer who moved the family from job to job before
finally settling them in Los Angeles in 1919. Nearly immediately,
William encountered one of his true loves: The Boy Scouts. He
joined the new organization quickly and remained an active participant
in it through his entire life. It was here where he also started
down the path he was born to take. While assisting his father
with the construction of the Pantages Theatre, he learned that
Warner Brothers was going to be starting an animation division.
With strong natural talents and no formal training, he went looking
himself a job and rose quickly through the studio; he was soon
putting in time as the head of the Ink and Paint Department. Hanna
continued to work and grow and in the mid-1930's, he found himself
in the position of director in the animation unit at MGM (his
directorial debut was 'To Spring' in 1936).
At this point,
MGM had been 'outsourcing' their animated films but in 1937, they
decided to bring their production directly under the MGM roof.
One of the
first people they hired was Bill Hanna who was given the position
of Director of Animation. He, of course, needed people to direct,
so MGM went looking for animators. It is here where Joe Barbera
steps into the picture. Barbera and Hanna 'latched on' to each
other early on. The two of them couldn't have been any more different,
but it might be safe to say that each man saw his own potential
in the other.
With his partner Joe Barbera, William Hanna won
seven Academy Awards, and eight Emmys (including the
prestigious Governors Award). They've won Golden Globes,
Annies, several environmental awards (for various series
episodes), received a star on the Hollywood Walk of
Fame and been the recipients of numerous other accolades
on their way to being inducted into the Television Academy
of Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 1993.
of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera was a serendipitous event
and one that seems to have been determined to happen years before.
Their strengths complimented their weaknesses and their personalities
meshed perfectly. Barbera had a certain skill with the drawing
board while Hanna had an innate knack for timing and gags, pieces
crucial to the success of a cartoon. The two worked together at
MGM for over 20 years, reaching successes unknown outside of Disney
(The once won four Academy Awards in a row.). The were a special
partnership, producing not only great works of entertainment,
but acting as an influence to other animators, both in and out
of MGM's cartoon division.
In 1956, the
partners were placed in charge of the entire animation unit at
MGM. It was to be a promotion that was short lived as in 1957
the animation division was closed.
a partnership that spanned over sixty years of film
and television, Hanna and Barbera worked with over 2,000
Hanna was one of the first animation producers (and definitely
one of the biggest animation 'names') to embrace television as
a viable outlet for his trade. After the closing of the MGM studio,
Hanna had to search for an outlet for his creative talents. One
day he had a chance meeting with Jay Ward. Ward was looking to
revive his 'Crusader Rabbit' TV series (which had been the first
animated program on television). Hanna saw this as a great way
to get his fingers into television and he agreed to take on the
job, forming Shield Productions to handle the work. Just as they
started though, the project stalled out. Hanna was energized by
what he saw and did during the short time he was in production.
With a renewed interest in animation, he contacted his old partner
Joe Barbera with the idea of going into television. The decision
of that conversation was a decision that changed an industry.
They formed Hanna-Barbera Productions and in 1957, using many
of the former Shield staff artists put 'Ruff and Reddy' on the
air. At this moment Hanna-Barbera became television animation.
There would be high and low marks but they would go on to set
a consistent mark of entertainment right up through today.
Hanna-Barbera cornered the market on animated adaptations
of live action shows. Throughout their career, they
had a part in the following animated series:
Fonz and the Happy Days Gang
Partridge Family: 2200 A.D.
Laverne and Shirley in the Army
The Gary Coleman Show
I Dream of Jeannie
Mork and Mindy
The Dukes (From the Dukes of Hazzard)
and The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley
Hanna is one of the few entertainers in the world who will live
on, in work and influence for years to come. On March 22, 2001
Mr. Hanna passed away at his home in North Hollywood, California.
He is survived by his wife Violet and his friends Yogi Bear, Magilla
Gorilla, George Jetson, Huckleberry Hound, Barney Rubble, Snagglepuss,
The Banana Splits, Penelope Pitstop, Kwicky Koala, Foofer, Fred
Flintstone, Hong Kong Phooey, Space Ghost, Johnny Quest, Tom and
Evans is a freelance writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio. He has
written for the Internet, print and had several plays produced.
He enjoys the study of animation and laughs over cartoons with
his wife and daughter.
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