Joseph Barbera, co-founder and co-chairman of the ground-breaking animation house Hanna-Barbera Studios, died Monday at his Studio City home. He was 95 years old.
Barbera and his partner William Hanna, who died in 2001, created hundreds of beloved cartoon characters during their more than 60-year partnership. Tom and Jerry, Huckleberry Hound, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Scooby-Doo and Yogi Bear were among their creations.
"Joe Barbara was a passionate storyteller and a creative genius who, along with his late partner Bill Hanna, helped pioneer the world of animation," said Sander Schwartz, president of Warner Bros. Animation, which now controls the studio's library, in a statement. "Bill created a landmark television production model and Joe filled it with funny, original show ideas and memorable characters that will stand for all time as his ultimate legacy."
Born in the Little Italy section of New York City in 1911, Barbera worked as a New York banker until the 1930's when Collier's Magazine published some of his hand drawn comics. After studying art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Barbera honed his animation skills at the Van Beuren animation studios in New York.
It wasn't until 1937 when Barbera was hired by MGM as an animator and writer that he met William Hanna, whom MGM had also just hired as a director and story editor. Hanna's comedic timing and ability to manage top creative talent were the ideal complement to Barbera's animation skills and storytelling instincts.
The pair's first collaboration at MGM was entitled "Puss Gets the Boot," which led to the creation of the cartoon cat and mouse Tom and Jerry. The animation partners won acclaim in the 1940s when their cartoon duo danced alongside Gene Kelly and other live-action stars in motion pictures such as "Anchors Aweigh."
When MGM eliminated the studio's animation department, Hanna and Barbera decided to make cartoons directly for the small screen. In 1957, Hanna-Barbera Studios opened its doors as one of the first independent animation studios to produce series television.
In 1960, the team created TV's first animated family sitcom, "The Flintstones." The show was the first animated series to air in primetime, the first animated series to go beyond the six or seven-minute cartoon format, and the first animated series to feature human characters. The series ran for six years and went on to become the top-ranking animated program in syndication history.
The company was acquired in 1991 by Turner Broadcasting, which made the 300-plus cartoon series library the cornerstone of the Cartoon Network cable channel. Turner was bought by Time Warner Inc. in 1996, and Hanna-Barbera was absorbed into Warner Bros Animation in 2001.
Barbera wrote his autobiography, "My Life In Toons" in 1994. He is survived by his wife Sheila, and three children by a previous marriage.
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