William HannaOccupation / Title:
14/07/1910Date of death:
Melrose, New Mexico
William Hanna was a seven-time Oscar winning animation legend, who along with partner Joseph Barbera created hundreds of the most memorable cartoon characters and shorts. These characters include Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, and many, many others. Hanna, along Barbera developed in the 50′s a much less costly style of animation for TV syndication that revolutionized the animation industry.
Family and early life
Born in New Mexico, and raised in Melrose, Hanna moved with his family to California in 1917. Hanna developed many interests in his youth, including cartooning, music, and piano composition.
In 1931, Hanna’s talent in drawing led him to a job at Harman-Ising studios, where he first started working as a temp worker, washing cels. By 1937, Hanna had advanced enough at the company to be lured away by Fred Quimby, when MGM decided to open up their own animation unit, disposing of Harman and Ising. Quimby hired Hanna on as a story editor and director, and he was among one of the first staff to be hired on.
Hanna directed three The Captain and the Kids cartoons, and in 1938, Hanna and Barbera were paired together to work on a cartoon. Barbera had began his career in a similar fashion, working first as a draftsman and then as an animator for Van Beuren studio.
The first collaboration between the pair resulted in the cartoon Puss Gets the Boot, released in 1940. This marked the first appearance of characters that resembled what would later be known as Tom and Jerry, resulting in their first Academy Award nomination for “Best Short Subject”. The success of Puss resulted in more cat and mouse cartoons being greenlit, and Quimby allowed them to create The Midnight Snack in 1941. The success of Tom and Jerry resulted in seven Academy Award wins, including cartoons such as Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943), Mouse Trouble (1944), The Cat Concerto (1947), The Little Orphan (1949), and Johann Mouse (1953). Other cartoons nominated included Dr Jekyll and Mr. Mouse (1947), Jerry’s Cousin (1951) and Touche, Pussy Cat! (1954)
At the height of Tom and Jerry’s popularity, Hanna and Barbera worked together to direct five shorts a year. They won critical acclaim when in the 40′s, the team mixed together live-action with animation onscreen, inserting the two characters for a dance sequence in Anchors Away, starring Gene Kelly. The two characters also appeared in the live-action film Dangerous When Wet in 1953, starring Esther Williams, in an animated swimming segment.
In 1957, Hanna and Barbera unexpectedly found out that MGM was shutting down their animation department, in the midst of their successes, due to financial reasons. This led to the formation of Hanna-Barbera Productions and the studio was located in Hollywood, on 34000 Cahuenga Blvd. As the medium of television was thriving in the 50′s, the two created a form of animation that would suit the small screen.
They did this by minimizing budgets and reducing the number of cels onscreen to a minimum, and the first production released by their own company was The Ruff and Reddy Show, featuring a cat and a dog. This series’ budget was $2,800 per cartoon, versus the $50, 000 per cartoon budget to produce a single cartoon short back in the MGM days. Their technique to cut costs was through minizing cels, roughly 12,000 per half hour cartoon, only a third of the amount of cels needed for an entire Bugs Bunny cartoon back in the 40′s.
Through the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s, Hanna and Barbera would revolutionize television programming for children, creating 3,000 half-hour shows that dominated the Saturday morning line-ups. These shows included Huckleberry Hound, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, Atom Ant, Top Cat, Magilla Gorilla, Pixie and Dixie, and Josie and the Pussycats, to list a few.
Some of the most popular shows during this period included The Flintstones, which was the longest running prime-time cartoon in its day, as well as Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, featuring the dog and his teenage friends. These shows became major successes for the duo, spawning off many cartoon Specials and even feature films. In this period, the animation team earned eleven Emmy nominations, including nominations for the series created in the 80′s The Smurfs.
At the height of their success, in 1967, Hanna and Barbera sold the studio to Taft Broadcasting, and in 1976, they both received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1977, they were honored by ASIFA to received the Winsor McCay Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1993, both animators were inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
By the 90′s, Hanna and Barbera decided to sell their cartoon library to Turner Broadcasting, which was about to launch Cartoon Network, using a large amount of Hanna-Barbera Productions to fill their broadcasting schedule.
The two animators remained active well into the 90′s, working as executive producers or overseeing productions, and network specials for The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo.
In 1993, Hanna worked as an executive producer on the 20th Century Fox feature Once Upon a Forest, and teamed up again with Barbera to oversee feature length adaptations of The Flintstones as well as the live-action Scooby-Doo update.
In 1995, Hanna created by himself, two original cartoon shorts for the Cartoon network, titled Hard luck Duck, and Wind-Up Wolf, and a year later, he published his autobiography, written with Tom Ito.
By the early 2000, Hanna’s health was failing, but he kept busy by writing poetry and music. On March 22nd, 2001, Hanna passed away due to natural causes in his Hollywood home at the age of 90.
- Lenburg, Jeff. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2006.