Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Bill and Joe Meet Norman Rockwell

Surely you remember that great Hanna-Barbera series of the 1970s, Josie and the Pussycats—1,000,000 B.C.? You don’t? Well, that’s because it never got on the air.

Starting with something called Nino From Coconino in late 1958, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Dan Gordon and many others on staff over the years came up with proposals for animated series that were either reworked or just never managed to entice a network or a sponsor. The aforementioned Josie series was among them.

Fortunately, some artwork from these unfulfilled projects was preserved and will be part of a wonderful exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum called Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning on view starting November 12th and running through May 29, 2017.

Jeremy Clowe at the Museum describes it thusly:
Hanna Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning will focus primarily on the golden years of the studio—from the premiere of their first cartoon, The Ruff and Reddy Show, in 1957 and The Huckleberry Hound Show in 1958 to the debut of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! in 1969. Hanna and Barbera’s early work on Tom and Jerry will be explored, in addition to the scores of TV and film animation and live-action projects created by the studio between 1970 and 2001. Included within the exhibition will be original animation art, sketches, model sheets, photographs, and archival materials that detail the process of bringing the studio’s creations to life. Also included in the exhibition, Hanna-Barbera-related toys and other commercial products, and an interactive installation that will draw from the vast library of sound effects created by the studio. An exhibition video, produced by Norman Rockwell Museum, will include commentary from original Hanna-Barbera animators Tony Benedict, Jerry Eisenberg, Willie Ito, and Bob Singer. An exhibition catalogue will include a foreword by Jayne Barbera, daughter of studio founder Joe Barbera, and essays by animation historians Jerry Beck and Michael Mallory.
You can’t get better animation pedigrees than the people taking part. Mike Mallory knows as much about the studio’s early history as anybody. Tony Benedict was the fourth writer behind Charlie Shows, Mike Maltese and Warren Foster to be hired at the studio, having started his career at Disney before going to UPA. The other three spent time in the late ‘50s at Warner Bros. with Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Bob McKimson and many great artists before moving on to Hanna-Barbera. And Jerry Beck? Well, he’s....uh....well, he’s done something. Can’t remember what, though.

Fans should appreciate the artwork. The curators have found a couple of the single-panel cartoons that Joe Barbera drew on a freelance basis for Collier’s in 1934 and panels from one of his storyboards for Terrytoons after he left Van Beuren in 1936 (I believe they’re for a Kiko the Kangaroo cartoon). There are layout and production drawings from the Huckleberry Hound Show, concept drawings by Ed Benedict (including some for The Jetsons and Wally Gator that I’ve never seen before), and a script treatment and pitch art for proposals named Mysteries Five and Who’s S-s-scared? that became a series that is arguably the studio’s most popular. And a lot more.

The Norman Rockwell Museum is in Stockbridge, Massachusetts on Route 183. If you’re within driving distance, I’d heartily recommend you take in this fine event and show Warner Bros. Consumer Products, which is co-sponsoring the exhibition, there is still plenty of life in the old Hanna-Barbera characters and we’d sure love to see those original cartoons on home video and when we tune up our TV sets.

You can learn more about the showing by checking out the Museum web site.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad these type exhibits are coming to museums. This one would be well worth a Saturday afternoon. We had a Chuck Jones exhibit come to our local museum. It was amazing. Had cells, his actual sketches behind glass with penciled in dialog and other notes for the editor and coloring staff, and tons of other great stuff. I would love for the H-B exhibit to come our way.