Hanna-Barbera Cartoons (formerly known as Hanna-Barbera Productions, Inc.) also known at various times as H-B Enterprises, H-B Production Company, and Hanna-Barbera Cartoons) was an American animation studio that dominated American television animation for nearly three decades in the mid-to-late 20th century.
The company was originally formed in 1957 by former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) animation directors William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (creators of Tom and Jerry) and live-action director George Sidney in partnership with Columbia Pictures' Screen Gemstelevision division. Over the next four decades, the studio produced many successful animated television shows, includingHuckleberry Hound, The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Jonny Quest, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, and The Smurfs, among others.
The studio also produced several theatrical films, short subjects, telefilms, specials and commercials, earning Hanna-Barbera eightEmmys, a Golden Globe Award, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, among other merits. In the mid-1980s, the company's fortunes began to decline after the profitability of Saturday morning cartoons was eclipsed by weekday afternoon syndication. In late 1991, the company was purchased by Turner Broadcasting System, who used much of the H-B back catalog to program its new channel,Cartoon Network. Both Hanna and Barbera went into semi-retirement after Turner purchased the company, continuing to serve as mentors and creative consultants.
During the mid-1990s, Hanna-Barbera began producing original programming for Cartoon Network, including Cartoon Cartoons shows such as Dexter's Laboratory, Johnny Bravo, Cow and Chicken and The Powerpuff Girls. In 1996, Turner merged with Time Warner, and Hanna-Barbera became a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Animation. With William Hanna's death in 2001, the studio was absorbed into its parent, and the spinoff Cartoon Network Studios continued the projects for Cartoon Network output. Joseph Barbera continued to work for Warner Bros. Animation until his death in 2006.
Hanna-Barbera Productions currently exists as an in-name-only company used to market properties and productions associated with the studio's "classic" works such as Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo and Huckleberry Hound. In 2005, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciencesunveiled a bronze wall sculpture of Hanna and Barbera and their characters, honoring the duo's work in television and film.
Melrose, New Mexico native William Hanna and New York City-born Joseph Barbera first teamed together while working at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon studio in 1939. Their first directorial project was a cartoon entitled Puss Gets the Boot (1940), which served as the genesis of the popular Tom and Jerry series of cartoon theatricals. Hanna and Barbera served as the directors and story men for the shorts for eighteen years. Seven Tom & Jerry cartoons won the Academy Awards for Best Short Subject (Cartoons) between 1943 and 1953, though the trophies were awarded to their producer Fred Quimby, who was not involved in the creative development of the shorts.:83–84 With Quimby's retirement in 1955, Hanna and Barbera became the producers in charge of the MGM animation studio's output. Outside of their work on the MGM shorts, Hanna and Barbera moonlighted on outside projects, including the original title sequences and commercials for the hit television sitcom I Love Lucy.
MGM decided in early 1957 to close its cartoon studio, as it felt it had acquired a reasonable backlog of shorts for re-release. Hanna and Barbera, contemplating their future while completing the final Tom and Jerry and Droopy cartoons, began producing animated television commercials. During their last year at MGM, they developed a concept for an animated television program about a dog and cat pair who found themselves in various misadventures. After they failed to convince MGM to back their venture, live-action director George Sidney, who'd worked with Hanna and Barbera on several of his features – most notably Anchors Aweigh in 1945 – offered to serve as their business partner and convinced Screen Gems, the television subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, to make a deal with the animation producers.
Screen Gems took a twenty percent ownership in Hanna and Barbera's new company, H-B Enterprises, and provided working capital to produce. H-B Enterprises opened for business in rented offices on the lot of Kling Studioson July 7, 1957, two months after the MGM animation studio closed down. Sidney and several Screen Gems alumni became members of H-B's original board of directors, and much of the former MGM animation staff – including animators Carlo Vinci, Kenneth Muse, Lewis Marshall, Michael Lah, and Ed Barge and layout artists Ed Benedict and Richard Bickenbach – as H-B's production staff.