Monday, February 9, 2015

The Iwao Book, Living With A Legend

If I had to pick my favourite character designer at Hanna-Barbera, it’d be no contest. This blog is devoted to the studio’s earliest cartoons, all of which were brightened by the hand and imagination of designer Ed Benedict. He’s responsible for Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Ruff and Reddy, Quick Draw McGraw, the Flintstones and the Rubbles and a bunch of alley cats (Top and otherwise). Rarely did he get screen credit at the time except for whenever he drew layouts. Benedict’s designs were, as someone put it to me, “made workable” for the animators by Dick Bickenbach, who put them on model sheets.

My bias toward Benedict and Bick doesn’t mean I don’t recognise the enormous contributions to the studio by Iwao Takamoto. Iwao arrived at H-B in 1961 and pretty soon made his mark. He designed Astro on “The Jetsons.” He’s responsible for a bunch of characters in the studio’s first feature “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear,” including a dog shaped like a canister-style vacuum cleaner that was named Mugger and later found life as Muttley. He came up with Dick Dastardly and Penelope Pitstop. Then there was a Great Dane...Scooby something-or-other. We’ll leave the list right there, but it’s a lengthy one.

Iwao co-wrote a great book (with Mike Mallory), published in 2009, about his life and his career at Hanna-Barbera. Some time ago, his step-daughter, Leslie E. Stern, mentioned to me she was going to write a book about Iwao. It’s been available for some time but, somehow, I missed a chance to tell you about it.

I can’t give you a review because I haven’t read the book. However, Christine Pullara of channel 11 in Atlanta has, and she interviewed Leslie not that long ago. Watch their chat below by clicking on this link (I can’t embed it here without it automatically playing whenever you land on this post). And you can check out other reviews on Leslie’s site, including ones by Mallory, Jerry Beck and Leonard Maltin, all of whom are extremely well-versed in the Hanna-Barbera of the 1960s.

If you’re interested, and you should be, the book is available through Amazon.com.

7 comments:

  1. With the Benedict and Bick's work, I don't have any problem connecting the styles to the characters (most of which of course have their roots in the more stylized later MGM efforts). With Iwo, you have to kind of separate the drawing style and designs from the weaker H-B efforts they were used in service towards -- the look of the characters is better than what other studios were doing, even as the quality of the shows took a header once Bill and Joe jumped into Saturday morning TV production (looking in hindsight at "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear" the two worlds collide, with the Benedict-influenced designs showcasing the studio's successful first seven years, while some of Takamoto's secondary character designs would foretell the look of Hanna-Barbera going on into the late 1970s).

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  2. Thanks for the news, Yowp. I had no idea this book was published! Another one on my to-read list… I also didn't know Iwao started at H-B in 1961… I knew he designed the Great Gazoo, so given that and the fact that the look and feel of H-B cartoons starting in the mid-1960's is very different from that of early H-B cartoons, I had always assumed that Iwao joined H-B in the mid-'60's. As a side note, I'm somewhat surprised that in the interview you link to, Leslie Stern doesn't mention her stepbrother Michael Takamoto, whose name I recognize from the credits of some of the latter-day H-B shows such as "The Snorks." I've long wondered whatever happened to Michael and what he's doing these days.

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  3. What cartoon is that Takamoto credit from above? I'd like to look it up, if I have it.

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  4. Joe, hover your mouse on the image. Through the magic of the internet, it will tell you.

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  5. Don't forget that Iwao Takamoto also worked on Disney.

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  6. Don't forget that Iwao Takamoto also drew the Yogi Bear Sunday pages (distributed by McNaught Syndicate for the newspapers from the whole world) between 1966 and 1968.

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  7. Msopt know Iwao did work on Disney; his best was in the 1960s (coupled with the last of the truly funny HB chaacters), Abboitt and Costello, and one character from Yowp's least fave, but one of mine, "No biz like Showbiz": (final season debut with Fred;'s nightmare about a musical baby Pebbles and Bamm Bamm spoofing the Beatles), I believe, he designed the Beatles manager spoof (Brian Epstein) Eppy Brianstone (himself with a voice actor otherwise not heard on the show, Bernard Fox who did a splendid voice job as well). I hate to admit I enjoy Gazoo..:)SC I don't think Takamoto was at Filmaiton, though there is a diesng similairity (Marty Murphy, Jerry Esienberg, Jack Manning and others diesnged as well in the 70s.).

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