Animator extraordinaire

Credits: Tom and Jerry, Flintstones, Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo ...

Published December 19, 2006

LOS ANGELES - Joe Barbera, half of the Hanna-Barbera animation team that produced such beloved cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear and the Flintstones, died Monday (Dec. 18, 2006).

Mr. Barbera, 95, died of natural causes at his home with his wife, Sheila, at his side, Warner Bros. spokesman Gary Miereanu said.

With his longtime partner, Bill Hanna, Mr. Barbera first found success creating the Tom and Jerry cartoons. The antics of the battling cat and mouse won seven Academy Awards, more than any other series with the same characters.

The partners, who teamed up at MGM in the 1930s, went on to a new realm of success in the 1960s with a witty series of animated TV comedies, including The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo and Huckleberry Hound and Friends.

Their strengths melded perfectly, critic Leonard Maltin wrote in his book Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons. Mr. Barbera brought the comic gags and skilled drawing, while Hanna brought warmth and a keen sense of timing.

"This writing-directing team may hold a record for producing consistently superior cartoons using the same characters year after year," Maltin wrote.

Warner Bros. chairman and CEO Barry Meyer called Hanna and Mr. Barbera's characters "not only animated superstars, but also a very beloved part of American pop culture."

The team's cartoons spanned "the Stone Age to the Space Age, and from prime time to Saturday mornings, syndication and cable," Meyer said.

Hanna, who died in 2001, once said that he was never a good artist but that his partner could "capture mood and expression in a quick sketch better than anyone I've ever known."

After MGM folded its animation department in the mid-1950s, Hanna and Mr. Barbera were forced to go into business for themselves. With television's sharply lower budgets, their new cartoons put more stress on verbal wit rather than the detailed - and expensive - action featured in theatrical cartoons.

Like The Simpsons three decades later, The Flintstones found success in prime-time TV by not limiting its reach to children. The program was a parody of The Honeymooners. The Jetsons, which debuted in 1962, were the futuristic mirror image of the Flintstones.

Fast Facts:

How the team began

Joseph Barbera met William Hanna at MGM. The two became friends and decided to create a cartoon film. Their idea was a cat-and-mouse cartoon featuring Jasper, a hot-tempered cat, and an unnamed chubby-cheeked mouse. The 1940 short, Puss Gets the Boot, earned Hanna and Barbera their first Oscar nomination. In their next short, the cat was renamed "Tom" and the mouse was christened "Jerry."