Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Hanna-Barbera's Wonderful World of Colours

The original Hanna-Barbera occasionally had colour problems—even though the shows were broadcast in black and white.

The problem involved the reason you’ve heard for the old H-B characters having collars or bow ties. It made it easier to allow a head to move on one set of cels while the body was held on another cel. Otherwise, the animated part were on cels overlaid on other cels. Painting was a problem because you would end up with, say, a brown Yogi Bear body part on top of another brown Yogi body part. Two browns piled on each other would result in a different shade of brown, so the painter would have to be told to use a different shade of brown on the overlay.

Of course, the studio was churning out cartoons so there were times the colours didn’t match and the animation checker didn’t catch it. Here are a couple of examples from the 1958 Yogi cartoon The Brave Little Brave.

You can also easily see where the overlay ended.

The drawings above are by Ken Muse. This is another cartoon where a sequence in mid-cartoon was picked up by Mike Lah. He liked the google-eyed look on Yogi.

Lah’s animation is simple but you can’t mistake the expressions. Here’s Yogi shot by Li’l Tom Tom’s arrow. Sharp teeth a specialty (Lah drew the same kind of teeth under Tex Avery at MGM).

Lah also loved characters running in place with their arms extended.

In one scene, an arrow ricochets into a tree and through a hole in the trunk, puncturing Yogi’s butt (another favourite gag by Joe Barbera). Lah emphasises the pain by having the hair on the back of Yogi’s head stand on end.

I’ve mentioned before how much I like Lah’s work at Hanna-Barbera. He was busy with commercial work at the same time and soon was dedicating his time at Quartet Films, which he took over in the 1960s.


  1. This color situation was taken care of by doing "color compensation". If you had a level like a separate arm one level above the held body, you would have to use that same color that had been tinted down to "compensate" from the greying down of the cell level. Six cell levels were considered the most cells you could use.

  2. Ed Benedict said he gave the H-B characters neckwear to "dress them up" and make them more visually interesting, not for cel separation purposes.