Hanna-Barbera Productions was a powerhouse of animation during the second half of the 20th century. With classic cartoons like The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, the company pretty much made Saturday mornings the treat they were. And it didn't stop there. Alongside Warner Bros. and, later, Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, Hanna-Barbera provided childhood entertainment and shows for the adults in the room, too.
The sheer number of cartoon episodes, short films, and feature movies they produced is pretty amazing - and so are some of the facts about our favorites. From shows that never quite made the cut, to the influential people behind the animated characters themselves, take a look and vote up the coolest Hanna-Barbera facts.
Actor and comedian Paul Winchell was a man of many talents; he was a ventriloquist and also an inventor, building and patenting a mechanical heart in 1963.
Winchell began voice acting for Hanna-Barbera during the late 1960s, notably appearing in Winnie the Pooh featurettes. As the voice of Tigger, Winchell won a Grammy for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too in 1974. When The Smurfs first aired in 1981, he provided the voice for the antagonist, Gargamel.
While Winchell navigated acting and performing, he simultaneously invented and patented dozens of devices. His artificial heart design, which he donated to the University of Utah, was fundamental in developing the model that was used in 1982 for the first artificial heart transplant.
The Jetsons first aired in 1962, with the lead character George voiced by George O'Hanlon, who voiced the Jetson patriarch for the initial 24 episodes of the show. When it was canceled, he spent his time writing and picking up other acting roles.
When The Jetsons was revived during the 1980s, O'Hanlon was again tapped to voice George. By that time, he had suffered a stroke and "couldn't read, he couldn't memorize, he couldn't concentrate very well." The studio was willing to accommodate him and O'Hanlon received assistance recording his lines. According to Joseph Barbera:
[O'Hanlon] couldn't see. So you had to read him the line, and he would then do it, and that was one line at a time.
The same system was used when O'Hanlon voiced George for The Jetsons movie in 1989. As he was finishing up a recording session, however, he showed signs of distress. He was taken to the hospital, where he passed soon after, the result of a second stroke. When it was released in 1990, The Jetsons was dedicated to O'Hanlon and to voice artist Mel Blanc, who'd passed a few months earlier, as well. Both O'Hanlon and Blanc's parts in The Jetsons were completed by voice actor Jeff Bergman.
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Most Of The Hanna-Barbera Characters Had Collars Because It Was Easier To Draw
There's a reason so many Hanna-Barbera characters have collars. From Yogi Bear to Fred Flintstone to Huckleberry Hound, the animated stars were drawn wearing collars because it cut down significantly on the number of drawings needed for each episode. According to Joseph Barbera, putting a collar or necktie around a character helped cut costs, which was important as they shifted their focus from putting cartoons on the big screen to television during the late 1950s and '60s.
With a collar, animators really only had to worry about drawing a character's head; the body could remain relatively static. Called "limited animation," it developed "because there was no money, absolutely no money," according to Barbera.
When Jack Nicholson arrived in Hollywood during the mid-1950s, he applied for a job at MGM. He was hired in May 1955 as an "office pinky" - essentially a mailroom clerk. His real duties included serving as a go-between for MGM animation, something he did until 1957.
Nicholson made friends with many animators at MGM and even proved himself to have drawing skills. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, both working for MGM at the time, saw promise in him and offered him a job as an animator. Nicholson turned them down, determined to break into acting instead.
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When William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created the cartoon cat-and-mouse team of Tom and Jerry in 1940, it was for a series of short films. Tom and Jerry grew out of the successful Puss Gets the Boot, the first collaboration between Hanna and Barbera.
In Puss Gets the Boot, Tom (then called Jasper) and Jerry did their very literal game of cat-and-mouse. While Puss Gets the Boot was nominated for an Academy Award in 1940, it didn't win. Over the subsequent two decades, however, the stand-alone Tom and Jerry cartoons would earn a dozen additional nominations and take home seven Oscar statues.
In 1943, The Yankee Doodle Mouse won, while Mouse Trouble received the Oscar in 1944. Quiet Please!, The Cat Concerto, and The Little Orphan won Academy Awards in 1944, 1945, and 1946. In 1951 and 1952, respectively, The Two Mousketeers and Johann Mouse rounded out Tom and Jerry's Oscar victories.
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Mel Blanc And Hanna-Barbera Did A Lot Of Work Together In The Stone Age
Setting a cartoon in the Stone Age proved successful for Hanna-Barbera Productions with The Flinstones, so they did it again with the late-1970s show, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels. Captain Caveman, or "Cavey," was accompanied in his crime fighting by three young friends - a nod to Charlie's Angels.
The voice of Cavey was Mel Blanc, perhaps better known for his work with Warner Bros. While Blanc was the voice of Looney Toons characters like Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Elmer Fudd, his exclusive contract with Warner Bros. had long since expired. Blanc was also the voice of Barney Rubble on The Flintstones as well as Dino the Dinosaur.
After Blanc was injured in a car accident in 1961, Hanna-Barbera was among the many companies that sent the production to the "man of 1,000 voices." By one account, Hanna-Barbera recorded 65 cartoon episodes from Blanc's home.