Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Astro's Writer Speaks

For those of us who watched our favourite cartoons over and over again in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the idea of being able to read about them from the people who made them was inconceivable. Life changes. Technology changes. Thanks to the internet, it’s not so inconceivable now. My favourite cartoons are from the mid-‘20s through the ‘60s so, unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of people who worked on them who are still around.

But Tony Benedict is.

Tony started at Disney toward the end of the Golden Age of theatrical cartoons and then got in at Hanna-Barbera when the studio was in my favourite period. New Huckleberry Hound and Quick Draw McGraw shows were still being made. “The Flintstones” had become a hit. Loopy De Loop was... well, we can’t win them all.

You’ll recall Tony was hoping to put together a documentary telling of his time at Hanna-Barbera before Bill and Joe sold the studio to Taft Broadcasting. But there’s one slight problem. The studio’s current owner wants approval (and payment) to use its characters, even by the very people who drew them and wrote for them. And it’s a little difficult doing a documentary about Hanna-Barbera without any cartoon characters in it. I could listen to stories about Carlo Vinci, Daws Butler and Mike Maltese all day, but I suspect I’m in the minority—most people want to see Yogi Bear or Dino, even if only for a fleeting moment. So the documentary didn’t come out. Tony’s hoping to rework it into a film covering his own story about his decades in animation and have it ready for the fall.

A good thing in all this is Tony is blogging. You may have seen the link to The Last Cartoonery in the blog roll to your right. Click RIGHT HERE for it.

Tony’s featured some interesting artwork, including a storyboard from one of the “new” Jetsons episodes of the ‘80s (two decades earlier, Tony wrote the episode that brought the world Astro, my favourite Jetsons character that isn’t named Uniblab). Tony worked with almost all the great people who started the studio or arrived a year or two after. It’s an amazing list of talent. I hope he gets around to telling some stories about them on his blog. People like these:

Three great layout artists, Willie Ito, Jerry Eisenberg and Dick Bickenbach. This was taken while filming the TV special “Here Comes A Star” (1963), which includes shots of various departments of the Hanna-Barbera studio in their brand-new building making a cartoon. We’ll feature murky, fairly low-res screen grabs from that later this the week as Tony has graciously identified a pile of people in them. Tony also supplied some photos of his own (including the above) that are of much better quality. In the third picture below, barely visible behind Willie is Iwao Takamoto at the drawing board. If you click on that picture, you might spot the Punkin Puss model sheet to his left. I didn’t get a chance to ask Tony who the guy is in the first two photos. I want to say Dan Gordon, but I don’t think he had that much hair. Maybe it’s Art Pierson, the director of the special.


  1. I'd really like to hear about the "art furniture," a sort of conglomerate drawing board, shelving and drawers. In some pictures it looks like fiberboard and 2x4s. The problem with fiberboard, though, is you can't get it wet. And these guys were putting coffee cups and sodas on it all day. It would be interesting to know what it is made of, who built it for Hanna Barbera, and whatever became of the original furniture.

  2. I didn't realise it was particle board, Craig. I figure they'd have used plywood. But I honestly don't know.

  3. Willie Ito and jerry eisenberg are also both still living