Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Craptastic Cartoons

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.

4 comments:

Kid Dork said...

You know, you make a good point. I've heard people go on about how much they loved 'The Flintstones' or 'The Jetsons', but even as a kid, they were an endurance test to watch. Put them up against Chuck Jones, and they just wither.

I also liked Johnny Quest, but probably only because of the opening credits.

Crazylegs said...

I think you nailed it - 'endurance test'.

You know, I caught an episode of Johnny Quest awhile back and it occurred to me just how Politically Incorrect they are by today's sad standards. If you think about it, nearly every villain was vaguely Asian. And don't get me started about Hadji. Seriously!

Sonny Drysdale said...

Stop me if you've heard this one - apparently it's an obit headline from FARK - "Joseph Barbera dies. Funeral procession to pass same three buildings every two seconds."

I don't mind vintage 'Flintstones.' Especially when they would have a movie-celebrity guest star on like Ann-Margrock or Stoney Curtis or Cary Granite.

Wouldn't it have been great if they could have a guest-spot by Rock Hudson but named him 'Rick?'

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