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William Hanna

William Hanna



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Also Known As: William Denby Hanna, Bill Hanna Died: March 22, 2001
Born: July 14, 1910 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Melrose, New Mexico, USA Profession: executive, producer, director, animator, lyricist, composer, story editor, screenwriter, structural engineer


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 Barbera, Hanna 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 Barbera, Hanna 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. William Hanna'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 July 14, 1910 in Melrose, NM, William Denby Hanna was the third of seven children and the only son of construction superintendent William John Hanna and his wife, Joyce. His father worked on both the railway and water and sewer systems in the western states, which required him to move the family on frequent occasions. During his first years, Hanna moved from Oregon to Utah to California, eventually settling in Watts, CA in 1919. There, he cultivated a number of skills, including music, art and writing that would come into play during his career in animation. He studied journalism and structural engineering at Compton City College, but was forced to drop out at the onset of the Great Depression. Hanna subsequently found work as an engineer on the construction of the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, but the country's economic spiral also cost him that job. At the encouragement of his sister's boyfriend, he applied for a job at Pacific Title and Art, where his talent for art, though formally untrained, earned him a job at the Harman and Ising animation studio, which produced the "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" shorts for Warner Bros in conjunction with Pacific Title and Art. The studio became a separate entity from the title company in 1933, and Hanna joined them in their new capacity as animation producers for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Hanna earned his first directorial credit on the 1936 animated short "To Spring" shortly before MGM wooed him to their own in-house animation division. There, he met and forged a close relationship with artist Joseph Barbera, with whom he worked alongside the legendary animation director Tex Avery. In 1940, they co-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 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 Hanna's own relationship with Barbera, 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 until his own death in 2008. 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


Filmographyclose complete filmography



CAST: (feature film)

 Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, The (2000) Voice (Special Appearance)
 Flintstones, The (1994)
 I Yabba Dabba Do (1993)
 Trap Happy (1946) Tom Cat
 Quiet Please (1945) Tom Cat

Milestones close milestones

As the son of a construction superintendent for the early Santa Fe railroad stations, moved with family from train stop to train stop
At age 12, began a lifelong association with the Boy Scouts of America (date approximate)
At age seven, moved with family to San Pedro, CA
Continued to work for Harman-Ising when they severed ties with Schlesinger and left Warner Bros. over budget disputes; Harman-Ising contracted to produce cartoons for MGM
Contracted with NBC-TV to create a six-minute cartoon on a budget of $2,800 (as compared to the minimum budget of $50,000 alloted by MGM for a theatrical cartoon short of the same length)
Directed and produced (both with Barbera) "Jetsons: The Movie"
Executive produced (with Barbera) "The Smurfs", a hugely successful cartoon series based on the Belgian comic strip by Peyo Culliford (end date approximate)
Executive produced (with Barbera) the studio's first live-action TV-movie "Hardcase" (ABC), a Western
In tandem with Barbera, produced and directed "Top Cat", an ABC primetime series; although Top Cat's primetime stay was short, he would later star as the treasure master in "Yogi's Treasure Hunt" of "The Futuristic World of Hanna-Barbera"
Produced and directed (both with Barbera) the sci-fi-flavored ABC cartoon sitcom "The Jetsons"; only 24 episodes produced originally; 41 additional episodes produced in 1985 to make the series more viable in the syndication market
Revived (and revised) the popular characters Tom & Jerry for CBS's "Tom and Jerry Show"
Taft Broadcasting, Hanna-Barbera's parent company, sold to the Great American Broadcasting Company; did not affect day-to-day operation of studio
Took a job with the engineers building the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard
With Barbera, executive produced and directed "The Adventures of Jonny Quest", their first successful animated adventure series and the last to be created for primetime; reputedly the first animated show to use realistic human figures; after a season in primetime, the show subsequently played on Saturday mornings on each of the networks; new episodes produced in 1986 for inclusion in the expanded syndicated Sunday morning series "The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera"
With Barbera, produced "Charlotte's Web", a feature musical based on E B White's classic book; earned the studio an Annie Award
With Barbera, produced and directed "The Quick Draw McGraw Show", a syndicated cartoon series
"The Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour", a short-lived live-action comedy variety series (with high-tech puppet hosts) aired on NBC in primetime
Animated the lengthy "Sinbad the Sailor" segment of Gene Kelly's multi-part dance film "Invitation to the Dance" in which Kelly danced in an elaborate cartoon environment (shelved until 1956)
Co-founded production company Hanna-Barbera (with Barbera)
Developed story material for "Bosko" cartoons while washing paint off animation cells
Feature producing and directing debut (both with Barbera), "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear", a theatrical feature spin-off of the TV series; also feature screenwriting debut (with Barbera and Warren Foster)
Hanna-Barbera Productions produced the acclaimed CBS live-action TV-movie, "The Gathering", a 1978 Emmy winner for Outstanding Special (Drama or Comedy); Barbera listed as executive producer (Hanna did not not take an individual credit); generated a sequel "The Gathering, Part II" (NBC, 1979)
Hired as a cel-washer by Harman-Ising studios, then working with producer Schlesinger on the Looney Tunes cartoon series for Warner Bros.; worked with future animation director Friz Freleng
Joined the writing staff; wrote lyrics and music as needed; with artist Paul Fennell, formed a unit to produce cartoon musicals
Major supporting character Spike the Dog introduced in "Quiet, Please"
Painted cels and punched animation paper
Premiered their first animated TV series, "Ruff and Reddy" (NBC), starring a quick-thinking cat (Ruff) and a dimwitted dog (Reddy) in six-minute "bookends" for vintage cartoons
Produced (with Barbera) "The Huckleberry Hound Show" (syndicated), TV's first all-animation TV show; introduced the character of Yogi Bear who would star in his own series, "The Yogi Bear Show", beginning in 1961
Referred to a newly formed animation company, Harman-Ising Studios, by his brother-in-law Jack Stevens (himself an employee of Leon Schlesinger's Pacific Title, an art studio that crafted titles and artwork for film companies)
Various entertainment subsidiaries of Taft Broadcasting reorganized into the Taft Entertainment Company with Hanna-Barbera as a division; Hanna served as senior vice president (and Barbera as president) of Hanna-Barbera Productions
With Barbera, assigned to direct a live-action/animated sequence in which Jerry the mouse dances with sailor Gene Kelly in the musical feature "Anchors Aweigh"
With Barbera, named production heads of the MGM animation department after Fred Quimby retired due to health reasons; picked up first Oscar nomination (along with Quimby and Barbera) for "Good Will to Men"
Wrote and directed only "Tom and Jerry" cartoons for 17 years; the series won an unprecedented seven Academy Awards between 1943 and 1952; unit head Fred Quimby took home the statuettes
Began directing cartoon shorts for Harman-Ising
Earned star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; honored with Joseph Barbera
Executive produced and directed (both with Barbera) "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" (ABC), a cartoon comedy mystery series which remained in continuous production--under various titles--for 17 years (end date approximate)
First meeting with Barbera
Hanna-Barbera produced its first live-action feature film, "C.H.O.M.P.S.", starring Valerie Bertinelli
Left college to look for work after the economic collapse (date approximate)
MGM, hurt badly by the growing competition form TV, eliminated the studio's entire animation department
Produced and directed (both with Barbera) "The Man Called Flintstone", a theatrical feature spin-off of the TV series
Provided his voice for ABC movie "I Yabba Dabba Do!"; also directed (solo) and produced (with Barbera)
Ran inking and painting department during the day; worked with Ising on story material at night
With Barbera, animated a sequence for the musical "Dangerous When Wet" in which Tom and Jerry dance with Esther Williams
With Barbera, sold studio to Taft Broadcasting
"The Huckleberry Hound Show" became Hanna-Barbera's first Emmy-winner (Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Children's Programming); the first cartoon to win an Emmy
Began attending school in Logan, UT
Began taking lessons on the alto saxophone; performed with a group of local children (subsequently studied piano, composition and harmony)
By age three, lived in Baker, OR where his father was assigned to build a dam
Executive produced (with Barbera and three others) "The Flintstones" feature film
First collaboration with Barbera "Puss Gets the Boot"; first Tom and Jerry cartoon (though Tom Cat is initially named Jasper); neither Hanna nor Barbera received screen credit; sole producing credit went to Rudolf Ising; nominated for a 1940 Oscar
Hired by MGM as a director and story editor when the studio began its own animation unit under the supervision of Fred Quimby; Joe Barbera hired initially as an animator but soon became a storyman
Inducted into the TV Hall of Fame by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
Moved to Los Angeles
Produced (with Barbera) "Heidi's Song", an animated feature
Produced (with Barbera) "Wait Til Your Father Gets Home", a syndicated "adult" cartoon series dealing with similar issues as those on "All in the Family"
TNT, TBS and the Cartoon Network aired "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest"
With Barbera, directed the animated opening credits for the musical "Holiday in Mexico"
With Barbera, produced and directed the hugely successful ABC cartoon sitcom, "The Flintstones", the longest running animated series in primetime until Fox's "The Simpsons" broke its record


Compton Junior College: Compton, California - 1929
Compton Junior College: Compton, California - 1929


About his relationship with Joseph Barbera: "One thing that has probably kept us together is that, while we work very closely here at the studio, his outside interests are entirely different from mine, and we never see each other socially. We have had strictly a business relationship all along.

"When Joe and I did the Tom and Jerry cartoons at MGM, Joe did all the drawing, and I did all the timing and directing. We'd sit across a big desk and together we'd develop all the material ... My talent, I believe, has been in organization. I'm still directing pictures, but I'm also directing the work of other people. And I also spend a lot of time with the writers. My own efforts have always been in writing: I have written the main titles and lyrics for over one hundred series." --William Hanna, in "Cartoons Today"

"As it is now, we're turning out eight half-hour shows a week. One person works on more footage per day than all of us combined used to. Back in the Tom and Jerry days, I personally did a minute and a half of film a week; now I do as much as thirty-five minutes a week. So you can see the quantity produced is much greater today. The economics has a lot to do with it, of course. The economics of TV dictates the quality. I think we do a fair job on character design and we do a good job on voice casting and in backgrounds, but we fall short in actual animation. It is unfortunate that more money cannot be spent on animation. The cost per foot of Tom and Jerry-type animation would be prohibitive, even for theatrical shorts. I think that to achieve the same standards today, a six-minute Tom and Jerry would cost in the area of $100,000. They only cost $30,000 to make in the forties." --Wiliam Hanna, in "Cartoons Today"

"In the early days, I had bar sheets. Did you ever see those? I had [music] bar sheets and I would set established tempos--2/10 frame beats to the bar, 2/12, 2/14. Whatever the click was ... The reason ours [characters] worked so well with the music is because we had bar sheets there and would establish a tempo that would suit a chase, or a spooky scene, or whatever it was and you'd establish that tempo and record it to that ... For me it was a godsend. The music that I had studied." --Hanna quoted in THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER 1994 ANIMATION SPECIAL ISSUE

Companions close complete companion listing

Violet Blanch Hanna. Married on August 7, 1936; survived him.

Family close complete family listing

William John Hanna. Superintendent of construction. Worked on early Santa Fe railway stations.
Avice Joyce Hanna. Wrote poetry.
Marion Hanna. Author. Younger; had short stories published.
David William Hanna.
Bonnie Jean Hanna.

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