Wednesday, 8 November 2017

The House Built By a Hound

Quick quiz: who were the first three employees of H-B Enterprises on July 7, 1957?

We know there are three because an article in the Christian Science Monitor of October 22, 1963 says so. And we know who they are because a photo of the ribbon-cutting on the company’s office on opening day appears in Mike Barrier’s book Hollywood Cartoons. Frankly, I would have guessed one was Mike Lah, Bill Hanna’s brother-in-law who was asked to invest in the company but didn’t, and maybe Ed Benedict, who designed the studio’s first characters and could both lay out and animate a cartoon (he was Paul Fennell’s art director for a while in the 50s). No, the correct answer is writer Charlie Shows (from Disney), layout artist Dick Bickenbach and production man Howard Hanson (both from MGM).

By the time this article was written, H-B Enterprises had changed its corporate name and moved out of the Kling Studios on La Brea and were ensconced in a custom-built studio familiar to all fans (1963 photo of studio and what looks like a 1957 Plymouth to the far left courtesy of Jerry Eisenberg and Tony Benedict). It talks about the start of the studio, a familiar tale, and then how cartoons are made. Even though the animation is limited, the process is still elaborate and not really much different than a theatrical cartoon.

Success Story of a Cartoon
Hound Helps Build a Business

By Everett M. Smith
Hollywood, Calif.
Several of the top stars of movies and television are carrying out their active careers here today in a modern “dog house”—a house built by a hound.
Residents of this movie capital and its Greater Los Angeles environs long have become accustomed to the outward, and even the inner appearances of conventional movie studios—their streets of false-fronted buildings and their huge indoor sound stages.
Most residents, too, along with visitors, have glimpsed many of the stars of movie and TV off stage, and all are familiar with the star-studded sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard.
Yet it is doubtful if one person in ten thousand, passing the new three-story, two-acre home of Hanna-Barbera Productions in the historic Cahuenga Pass would ever associate the office-like building with either movies or TV. Even the stars, themselves, never are seen outside the building.
But, inside—third location since they teamed up in 1957—William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are carrying out a fresh new concept for producing audio-animation for TV and movies.
Here, in a brief six years, these two former cartoonists for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer have grown steadily from a staff of three—(a writer, an animator, and a cameraman)—to a fast-growing firm now numbering nearly 300 artists, animators, writers, and directors.
This is actually a modern cartoon factory, and their TV shows include Huckleberry Hound (whose antics made the new building possible), The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Jetsons, Quick-Draw McGraw, Touché Turtle, and Top Cat—shows seen by more than 300 million viewers weekly throughout the world.
The shows are currently syndicated in more than 42 countries, and right now the first is working on its first full-length feature starring Yogi Bear, a 90-minute movie for release next spring.
In addition, H-B is engaged in the production of industrial films as well as commercials, both animated and live action, for many of the country’s leading firms.
It all began in the spring of 1957 when a phone rang and Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who had just racked up their twentieth year and seventh Academy Award making “Tom and Jerry” cartoons for MGM, were told to discontinue production and to lay off their entire staff. It was quite a blow.
“But, it turned out to be the greatest break in our lives,” says Bill Hanna today. Out of necessity, he and Joe pooled their resources and began thinking in terms of cartoon shows and “planned animation” for television. They offered their new projects to MGM, as well as to several other TV companies, but were politely turned down. Finally, they brought their drawings to Screen Gems, a TV subsidiary of Columbia Pictures, in July, 1957. Hanna-Barbera Productions was started.
The firm’s first TV effort was “Ruff and Reddy,” featuring the antics of a quick-thinking cat and his pal, Reddy, a dim-witted, lovable dog. This TV show, which enjoyed a three-year run, was followed by Huckleberry Hound, the first half-hour series in TV to consist entirely of original animation. Huckleberry, a noble-hearted canine with the look of a bloodhound, was an instant success. In 1960, the Huckleberry Hound show was awarded an Emmy for the “outstanding achievement in the first of children’s programming.”
That fall, the company unveiled “The Flintstones,” which quickly became one of the highest-rated TV shows, and is now in its fourth season. Meanwhile, Yogi Bear, a non-conformist woodland creature, who had been featured on the Huckleberry Hound show, had become so popular that it was decided to up him to stardom, giving Yogi his own show, which debuted in January, 1961. Additionally, Hanna-Barbera had produced two other half-hour shows, Top Cat, and The Jetsons, the latter dealing with a family of the future.
What is it like inside this modern cartoon factory? Well, in the first place, there are no time clocks or memos. The hours kept by both Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, and their methods for getting jobs done, are considered quite unorthodox, even by Hollywood standards.
If an animator or artist feels he does his best work by coming in at night and working until dawn, that’s fine with Bill and Joe. Their only important consideration is that the best job be done.
The film story comes first. It is then revised, edited, and re-edited, and trial sequences are sketched as it is tape recorded. Tiny offices and cubicles, each with a worker or two, line the long corridors of the building. Here, employees write, sketch, paint, and work on their respective bits of the finished product.
Each tiny movement of a cartoon character must be sketched and redrawn many times, and the finished pictures must be in correct synchronization with the sound track.
Next comes the inking and the color work on celluloid, some 200 different shades of color being used; and from one to six sheets of celluloid for each cartoon frame. Cameras and sound equipment make up the last step before the final cutting and editing of the finished film.
Reels upon reels of sound effects are stored in one office. They cover every conceivable noise—from snores and squeaks to whooshes, pops, and bangs. It takes some four months to produce a half-hour show.
“If there is one underlying philosophy to our cartoons,” says Bill Hanna, “it is to project warmth and good feeling. We spoof lots of things, but we don’t see anything funny in violence. Even our villains are nice fellows.”
His sentiments are echoed by Joe Barbera. “We’ve never tried to educate children,” he says. “We’ve never tried to preach to them. We’ve just tried to entertain them. Children are much more perceptive than adults.”


  1. If you check Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales on Wikipedia, you'll see that the creator made the cartoon at least partly educational on purpose.

    1. To Yowp:
      It's since the article mnetions the educational issue".

      I like the title of this, though now if you say this, the dog that comes to mind as building the studio won't be Huck, but Scooby-Doo...

  2. It might be noted that The Kling Studios were originally the Chaplin Studios. And H-B was spread out into other buildings as well. Their commercial work went across the street to Playhouse Pictures were I worked for three years in the 1990s. That's where Bill Melendez was animating and directing the Peanuts Ford commercials before he started his studio in 1965.

    1. Also, H-B Enterprises didn't become Hanna-Barbera Productions until 1959. And Bill Hanna's brother-in-law was Roy Wade, who was a Cameraman.

  3. "Audio-animation"? As opposed to silent cartoons?

    I enjoyed the bit where Bill and Joe's proposals were "politely turned down" by M-G-M. According to Joe, the response of the studio execs was, "Why the hell didn't you make [the theatrical shorts] that cheap before?!"

  4. Do youthink that the photo of Bill and Joe was real or just a publicity thing?