A Cartoon King Is Dead at 90

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Los Angeles - Animation pioneer William Hanna, who with

partner Joseph Barbera created such beloved cartoon characters as Fred

Flintstone, Yogi Bear and Tom and Jerry, died yesterday. He was 90.

Hanna died at his North Hollywood home with Violet, his wife of 65 years,

at his side, said Sarah Carragher, a spokeswoman for Warner Bros., which owns

Hanna-Barbera Studios. Carragher said he had been in declining health for the

last few years.

Hanna and Barbera collaborated for more than a half-century, first teaming

up at MGM in 1937. They created the highly successful Tom and Jerry cartoons,

the antics of a cat and mouse team that won seven Academy Awards.

They broke new ground by mixing Tom and Jerry with live action stars such

as Gene Kelly in "Anchors Aweigh" and Esther Williams in "Dangerous When Wet."

They found new success with a witty series of television animated comedies,

highlighted by "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons" and "Yogi Bear." "Huckleberry

Hound and Friends" won the first Emmy Award given to an animated series.

Their strengths melded perfectly, critic Leonard Maltin wrote in his book

"Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons."

"This writing-directing team may hold a record for producing consistently

superior cartoons using the same characters year after year - without a break

or change in routine," Maltin wrote.

Hanna was born in Melrose, N.M., on July 14, 1910. He left college to work

as a construction engineer, but lost the job in the Depression. He found work

with Leon Schlesinger, head of Pacific Art and Title, a cartoon production

company.

In 1930, Hanna signed with Harmon-Ising Studios, the company that created

the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoon series, where he worked as a

member of the story department, as a lyricist and a composer.

One month after being hired at MGM, he formed his partnership with Barbera.

Hanna said, "I was never a good artist," but he said Barbera "has the

ability to capture mood and expression in a quick sketch better than anyone

I've ever known."

The two first teamed cat and mouse in the short "Puss Gets the Boot." When

it was a hit with audiences and got an Oscar nomination, MGM let the pair keep

experimenting with the cat and mouse theme, and the full-fledged Tom and Jerry

characters - almost always telling the story entirely in action, not dialogue -

were the result.

The team's move into television wasn't planned; they were forced to go into

business for themselves after MGM folded its animation department in the 1950s.

With television's sharply lower budgets, their new animated stars put more

stress on verbal wit rather than the highly detailed, and highly expensive,

action of the theatrical cartoon.

Like "The Simpsons" three decades later, "The Flintstones" found success in

prime-time TV by not limiting its reach to children. It ranked in the top 20

shows in the 1960-61 season and Fred Flintstone's "yabba dabba doo" soon

entered the language.

The show's creators freely admitted it was a parody of "The Honeymooners,"

with Fred Flintstone as Jackie Gleason and Barney Rubble as Art Carney.

(Likewise, Yogi Bear was modeled on Phil Silvers' character of Sgt. Bilko in

"The Phil Silvers Show." [CORRECTION: In an obituary of cartoonist William

Hanna that appeared in Friday's editions, The Associated Press erroneously

reported that the TV character Sgt. Bilko served as the model for Yogi Bear.

Bilko was the model for Top Cat. pg. A02 ALL 3/24/01])

"The Jetsons", which debuted in 1962, were the futuristic mirror image of

"The Flintstones."

"Somebody said, 'What's next?' and we went from the rock era into the

future," Barbera said at a celebration when the show turned 25 in 1987. "It

wasn't that brilliant, really, but we used a lot of gimmicks and gadgets and it

worked."

Hanna-Barbera received eight Emmys, including the Governors Award of the

Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presented in 1988.

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