Joe Barbera (of Hanna-Barbera fame) died yesterday at the age of 95. There's no doubt he was a 'success'. As co-inventor of Tom & Jerry, The Flintsones, Scooby-Doo, and countless other animated characters, he was acclaimed by both the entertainment industry and fans alike. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find many people in your own circle of friends who have not seen a Joe Barbera creation.
By all accounts, he was part of the pioneering wave of American animators that sprang up in New York and Hollywood in the years surrounding The Great Depression. While not on the same plane as Walt Disney and Chuck Jones, Barbera carved out a niche in producing an amazing range of programming for theater audiences and (eventually) TV.
Ultimately, the name Hanna-Barbera became synonymous with 'quality' - or lack of it. To deal with the enormous costs required to manually produce a steady stream of cartoon shorts, Barbera opted to produce cartoons with less detail, fewer drawings, more reliance on stock footage, and more reliance on recycled stories. As technology advanced, they embraced it as a way to produce fill-in drawings and further reduce costs.
Low-cost, cheap,-looking - this is how I remember the work of Hanna-Barbera. Out of all their work, the only cartoons I can say anything good about are Johnny Quest, the original Scooby-Doo shorts, and (sometimes) The Flintsones. For the most part, I found their cartoons - including the ones I liked - to be uninteresting, mean-spirited, low quality junk. The characters: usually 'one-note' and generally (but not always) unlikable to me.
I'm no purist, but what is the appeal of Tom & Jerry?
The news reporters will fall all over themselves today in eulogizing Joe Barbera because, after all, he became rich and successful and recognized for his life's work. But me - I'm largely mystified by it all.