Animation – A Never Ending Story Pt 3 – Its The Hanna-Barbera Decade(s)!

The Golden Age of Animation dissipated slowly through time. The view on Animation changed, it was beginning to be seen as more for kids. Rather than a respected art form. Its hard to say when the Golden Age ended exactly. What can be said is that the rise of Animation made for Television was apparent by the 1960s. Although Animation was produced for Television networks earlier than the 60s, by this time Animation finally found some stability in the realm of Television. Its important to note that during the 1960s -and early 1980s Hanna-Barbera ruled this era in many ways. For one they produced many shows for various networks. While Disney and Warner Bros stood as the powerhouses of cinema because of their many characters, HB Studios is in essence their Television counterpart. Many of HB’s characters, such as Shaggy and Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, and Jonny Quest  have either lasted the test of time or influenced modern animators.

However there are big differences between Theatrical Animation and Animation made for Television. Animation made for moviegoers had high production values, whereas animation made for Television usually had less production value. For example the budget for an animated theatrical 7 min short may be $30,000, while if that same short were to be made for Television the budget might be $10,00 or less. It is because of this that animated films tended to be more fluid in motion, everyone seems to be moving all the time, there is greater depth, and the colors seem more vivid. Television animation relies heavily on limited animation, characters only move when they absolutely need to, backgrounds might be reused/looped, and everything seems much flatter. It was also during this era that parent groups formed in order to force regulations upon Television animation.

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Hannah Barbera ushers in American Animated Television in 1958 with the introduction of Huckleberry Hound. Before the creation of this show many cartoons usually consisted of 7-10 minute cartoons. Likewise many cartoons rarely made it past their first season. The Huckleberry Hound Show rounded off the miscellaneous running times of shows and rounded them off to a TV friendly 30 minutes. It was formatted as a variety show, many cartoons would follow this style for the concurrent decades. Essentially Huckleberry Hound would be the ‘star’ of the show. However there would be other stories starring different protagonists. Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Pixie & Dixie and Mr. Jinks all made their debut on this show.  Although new characters would appear later in the show.

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In 1959 Rocky and Bullwinkle make their first appearance on the ABC network. Unlike their Cinema counterparts, many cartoons did not have a wide selection of places to call home. When theatrical cartoons where widely produced there was a variety of studios to go to for financing. And there where many theaters which would show these animated  theatrical shorts. However for cartoons Public TV did not offer many backers, as there were only three major networks ABC, NBC, and CBS.  The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show focused mainly on the adventures of Rocky and Binkle as they live their lives in Frostbite Falls and stopping the criminal exploits of spies Boris and Natasha. The show was produced by Jay Ward Productions. That same year HB Studios creates the Quick Draw McGraw Show. The show revolved around an anthropomorphic horse named Quick Draw Mcgraw his sidekick Baba Looey, and sometime his alter ego El Kabong, as they strived to keep the peace in their town. Moonbird by Storyboard-Harrison Studios wins the academy award. The plot revolves around two boys who get out of bed to so they can catch a bird.

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Rembrant films wins an Oscar for their short Munro in 1960, they are the first foreign production company to win this award. The plot revolves around a four year old child who is accidentally drafted by the US Army. Hannah Barbera creates the first Primetime cartoon, The Flintstones. Primetime meaning that a show was played between 7-10pm. This was usually when American families would huddle together and watch TV together. Unlike other cartoons that they had created, The Flintstones were designed to appeal to both adults and children. The series focuses on a stone age family’s, The Flintstone’s, antics.  Usually caused by Fred or Barney Rubble. The Show was also a prime example of how early television was very unregulated as The Flintstones were sponsored by Winston Cigarettes.

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Yogi Bear is birthed by HB Studios in 1961. It is one of their most recognizable shows. Yogi along with his sidekick Boo Boo go around Jelly Stone Park pillaging picnic baskets from unsuspecting campers.  Crawley Films creates Tales of the Wizard of OZ. The series follows Dorthy Gail and her continually stay in the Land of Oz. Many of the episodes are taken from various books of the original Oz series. Eratz by Dusan Vukotic wins the emmy.

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The Jetsons premiere in 1962. HB Studios took their original concept of the Flintstones, and combined with the high expectations of 21st century advancements back in the 60s, imagined what the future modern family would be like. The series resulted in the modern day working man George Jetson, who worked hard for his money. While his wife worked hard  all day to spend it. The Hole by John and Faith Hubley wins the Oscar. Two construction workers discuss the possibility of a nuclear attack.

In 1963 Astro Boy becomes the first popular Japanese animated cartoon in America. The show focused on the adventures of Astro Boy, a mechanical boy who would usually save the world. Whether or not it can be deemed an anime is hard to say, upon its initial release in America Astro Boy was edited to be more marketable to American audiences. The series was created by Osamu Tezuka, usually cited as the “Father of Anime,” Astro Boy featured the characteristic big bug eyes that many anime shows use today.  Some attribute the big eye phenomenon to Tezuka working for Disney, as many of Disney’s characters had big eyes, the idea being that he applied the Disney stylized eyes to his own characters. The Critic by Ernest Pintoff wins as the Academy Award for Animation.

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Hanna Barbera Productions produced their first feature film in 1964. Hey There, It’s Yogi bear. An important milestone for Hanna Barbera Productions. Unlike many of their previous animated works their movie had moderate production values. The movie itself also served as a way for Hanna Barbera to address their critics. Character’s movements seemed more natural, and the vivid colors really gave new life to the Yogi Bear universe. Up until this point Hanna Barbera Productions were producing many shows for TV networks who would allocate very little money to make cartoons. So many of HB’s characters movements seemed very mechanical.  As a result their animation was highly mocked by Theatrical Animators such as Walt Disney. Furthermore HB debuts Jonny Quest. Not only was it a more higher end animated series, but it also featured a realistic rendering of humans. The show would later come under fire from parents groups for showing deaths and violence on screen. Warner Bros Animation completes its final theatrical short. Titled Senorella and the Glass Huarache, a Mexicanized version of the classic Cinderella story. As for why this was Warner Bros final cinematic short, TV began to outpace movie studios in terms of money.  Tv stations were airing animated shorts that cost a fraction of cinematic cartoons. Warner Bros took notice and shut down their animation studio this same year.  The world is introduced to the Oscar winning Pink Panther cartoon series in The Pink Phink, the show itself was spawned from the opening of the first Pink Panther movie which was actually a live action movie. Initially animated by United Artists, later by Mirisch-Geoffrey-DePatie Freleng, the show typically revolved around the silent Pink Panther and his various odd ball adventures.

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The Atom Ant show is created in 1965 by Hanna-Barbera. Atom Ant is a lesser known character, his story is simply that of an ant which was exposed to radiation which gave him super powers, making him a superhero. That same year Secret Squirrel is also created, albeit for another TV station. The show revolved around the anthropomorphic Secret Squirrel who, on orders from his boss Double-Q, would stop villains from all over the world with his sidekick Morocco Mole. The first peanuts TV special is released. A Charlie Brown Christmas was based off of the characters from Charles M. Schulz’ Peanuts comic strips. King Features Syndicate debuts The Beatles TV series. The show consisted mainly of the The Beatles singing their sings and on occasion getting into wacky adventures. The Dot and Line by Chuck Jones takes home the Oscar. The very geometric story involves a line that tries to win the love of a dot.

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In 1966 Hanna Barbera Productions release their second feature length movie, and later Space Ghost. The Man Called Flintstones starred The Flintstones family in a spy comedy film. Unlike their last movie this one gained more acclaim. The story encompassed The Flintstones family getting sucked into a spy conflict. Space Ghost centered on the title character, his two sidekicks, and a monkey traveling through space stopping any evildoers they can find. Chuck Jones adapts Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The story is about the Grinch who sets out to thwart the coming of Christmas, but later finds that the holiday is more about being with family and friends and less about materialism. Walt Disney dies while working on The Jungle Book. A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature win at the Academy Awards.

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Under MGM Chuck Jones works on Purr-Chance to Dream in 1967. It is the last Tom and Jerry Cinematic short and final Metro Goldwyn Mayer animated release. In the short Tom has various nightmares of being beaten. Birdman and the Galaxy Trio is created by Hanna-Barbera. That same year Stan Lee creates a Spider-Man animated series for ABC. However more importantly Speed Racer is imported from Japan and is a critical success for Japanese animation in America. Like Astro Boy the series was edited and dubbed in English for American audiences. The series was created by Tatsuo Yoshida and focused on Speed Racer competing in various races with his Mach 5 vehicle. The Box by Fred Wolf wins the Oscar.

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In 1968 a computer animated sequence called Kitten is made in Russia. The sequence is a kitten moving from one side of the screen to the other, combined with an animated opening of a mischievous cat, it was an early attempt to give dimension to a very young medium known as CGI. Besides that it was a big advancement from the bouncing ball animated sequence decades earlier. The Beatles release their animated feature film Yellow Submarine by United Artists and King Feature Syndicate. A musical, the story involves The Beatles battling the Blue Meanies. Action for Children’s Television (ACT) is formed by Peggy Charren in Massachusetts. The organization is formed in an effort to have formal regulations made on cartoons. As parents did not want cartoons to exploit their children. This essentially took form with parents not wanting product placement or toy ads to play alongside cartoons. Though this all happened on a case by case basis and there were no formal laws prohibiting such practices. Winnie the Pooh the Blustery Day by Disney wins the Oscar. This marks Disney’s first win at the Academy Awards after more a decade of losing.

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In 1969 the highly classic mystery show Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! is released by Hanna Barbera Productions. The series focused on four young adults and their talking Great Dane, as they went town to town solving mysteries. There are very few series’ that have come along and were able to have a lasting effect on either animation or cinema. Scooby-Doo, Where are you changed the animated character group dynamics. There were five characters, each of which had their own unique defining characteristics. Shaggy the cowardly stoner, Velma the overly smart geek, Daphne the girl in peril, Fred the courageous leader, and Scooby-Doo the talking dog. To this day it is still widely referenced in American media. The first Peanuts feature film is released. Titled A Boy Named Charlie Brown, the movie follows Charlie Brown as he tries to win a spelling bee and prove to himself hes finally good at something. Disney wins at the Academy Awards with their short It’s Tough to be a Bird.

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Hanna-Barbera creates Josie and the Pussycats in 1970. In essence a Scooby-Doo clone, the first of many. The idea was to keep using the Scooby-Doo formula, but put a different twist on it. Needless to say Hanna-Barbera made many knock off shows of their own show. Josie and the Pussycats had a music based theme, the title characters would inadvertently find themselves on a mystery solving case. The Aristocats is the first post Walt Disney film to be released by Disney. Lee Mishkin’s Is It Always Right to Be Right? wins at the Oscars. Turner Broadcasting opens for business. A cable provider, they will later bring about the founding of Cartoon Network.

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In 1971 Motown Productions releases The Jackson 5ive show. Each episode was about the Jacksons traveling from venue to venue to perform a concert, with every concert almost not coming to fruition as one brother usually gets held up for any random reason. Chuck Jones produces The Cat in the Hat TV special for CBS. Loosely based on the book of the same name, The Cat in the Hat comes to visit two little children in order help introduce excitement in their boring day. The Crunch Bird by Ted Petok wins at the Academy Awards.

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Fritz the Cat by Ralph Bakshi,the first animated X-rated (NC-17) film is released in 1972. Based on a comic strip, the film tries to illustrate the atmosphere of the time. Such as the extreme rates of crime, lax sexual practices, wide drug use, and well as race relations between whites and minorities. Likewise it proved that animation truly wasn’t a medium that was made solely for children. Two main reasons being that the language in the film is often very vulgar and sexual acts are depicted. Ralph Bakshi continues to direct boundary pushing animated films throughout the 70s, and in turn gains much praise for his efforts. Comedian Bill Cosby creates Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. Animated by Filmation the show usually tried to educate kids and a featured a song in every episode. A Christmas Carol by Richard Williams wins the Oscar.

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Schoolhouse Rock! is created by ABC in 1973. Every episode sought to educate children through music. It debuted as a saturday morning cartoon show. During this time in American Animation the FCC was creating stricter rules on animation made for TV. This was mostly from parent groups that felt advertisers were obsessively targeting kids and exploiting them. Likewise cartoons would be subject to stricter regulations in the future. Usually being with language, grammar, depiction of violence, and marketing towards kids. Although it would take awhile for this to take full effect. The collage themed animated short Frank Film by Frank Mouris wins the Academy Award.

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In 1974 Faces and Body Parts by Fred Parke is unveiled. Another step for CGI. It featured a short animation of various facial movements and some dialogue. However it was still very crude and uninspired, as many people who did CGI were not animators, but rather scientists. Closed Mondays by Bob Garner and Will Vinton win at the Oscars. The story revolves around a drunk man who sees art in a museum come to life.

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You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown is released by CBS in 1975. A Peanuts special, it focuses on Charlie Brown getting trying to win a local race despite incredible odds and learning what it means to win and lose in life. Great by bob Godfrey wins the Oscar. The 25 minute short is a comedic bio of inventor Isambard Kingdom Bruel.

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DynoMutt, Dog Wonder is created by Hanna Barbera Productions in 1976. Seeing the popularity in Superheroes the duo creates a Batman inspired cartoon. Dynomutt was actually the sidekick to the heroic Blue Falcon. Dynomutt was a  goofy robotic dog, but always managed to stop the bad guys. Leisure by Bruce Petty won the Academy Award. Turner Broadcasting becomes the first “superstation” when they begin transmitting their programs via satellite.

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In 1977 the forerunner to Nickelodeon is created, called Pinwheel. The channel is available only on cable TV. From the very beginning the channel focuses on children’s programming.  The channel is moderately successful, but the era of “children’s entertainment” is changing. This change will bring about the the first glimmers of modern American Animation.  It’s Your first Kiss, Charlie Brown premieres on CBS. The TV special explores the anxieties of kids having their first kiss. Charlie Brown likes this girl, but doesn’t really know how to communicate his feelings to her. Moreover are children truly ready for relationships? Ralph Baskin releases Wizards. A fantasy film revolving around the forces of magic and technology battling one another. Co Hoedeman wins an Oscar for his short The Sand Castle.

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The Lord of the Rings is adapted by Ralph Bakshi  into an animated feature by Fantasy Films in 1978. Another great success for Bakshi, the movie’s use of animation is widely acclaimed. A sequel was in the works, but later falls through. The hopes for a sequel eventually plants the seeds for the live action movie, as hype and demand make the Lord of the Rings series profitable.The All-New Popeye Hour is created by Hanna Barbera. This marks Popeyes popular return to animation. Although still popular, the series is definitely not the same under HB Studios. Nevertheless the series continues for a few years. The French film Special Delivery wins the Oscar. Directed by Eunice Macaulay and john Weldon the quirky film revolves around a man who inadvertently kills the mailman and tries to hide the evidence.

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In 1979 HB Studios creates the Scooby-Doo and Scrappy Doo show,  their last major expansion of the original Scooby Doo universe. Likewise it was a symbol of their current state as a leader in animation. Scrappy was a great dane puppy who was full of spunk and courage unlike his uncle Scooby, and often had to be saved.  He was obviously created in an effort to keep kids entertained by the then 11 year old series. Loved by some and dislike by others he brought a different dimension to the series, mostly because of his attitude and creed to help others. The 70s was the end of many movements and of course an era. Hanna-Barbera Productions doesn’t fare very well in the 80s. Traditional American Animation in general is plagued by a lack of vision and innovation. Every Child, a film by the National Film Board of Canada wins the Oscar. The film highlights childrens right to be loved and have a home.

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What characterized this era the most was the rise of HB Studios as an Animation powerhouse in the late 50s. Hanna-Barbera Productions remained a household named and built a national influence, but as the 70s came to an end something was evident. The American animation studio was waning in innovation. The fall of MGM and Warner Bros Animation divisions signaled a fact, which was the changing atmosphere of animation. TV stations weren’t concerned about quality Animation, but rather making Animation profitable. Likewise Animated commercials popped up throughout the decades, mostly to attract children into buying things. This tactic usually worked, and would eveutally come back to haunt not only the Animation community, but the world of big business as well. The Flintstones and Johnny Quest are prime examples of this, as both series’ starred in various commercials. Continued unregulation of Animation led to stereotypes, on-screen violence, the prerequisite of Saturday morning cartoon blocks flooded with ads, among other things. Parents groups formed, however not many had enough power to force the FCC to regulate Animation on broadcast TV or nationwide. So instead these groups were usually forced into dealing with the TV stations directly with protests or phone calls. Fritz the Cat reminded America that Animation was made by adults, and as such should never be seen as a medium built exclusively just for kids. Ralph Bakshi continued to reinforce his ideals as his animated films bordered on the lewd and racist, yet retained its status as art.

The 80s would see American Animation on its deathbed. With much of this caused by greed and the old guard from the Golden Age of Animation holding the industry back in the 50s and 60s. Animation would become a battlefield, only the strong would survive and each animated show sought to lead America into a new generation of modern Animation. Or so they claimed. The 80s would spawn no such winner. The precursors of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network would stand by waiting for the right time to enter into the foray.

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