cover image Hanna-Barbera, the Recorded History: From Modern Stone Age to Meddling Kids

Hanna-Barbera, the Recorded History: From Modern Stone Age to Meddling Kids

Greg Ehrbar. Univ. of Mississippi, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4968-5185-7

Ehrbar (coauthor of Mouse Tracks) charts a buoyant if granular history of animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions and its audio and visual innovations. After meeting at MGM Studios in 1937, budding cartoonists Bill Hanna (1910–2001) and Joe Barbera (1911–2006) teamed up, combining Barbera’s knack for story with Hanna’s “impeccable animation timing” to create cat-and-mouse duo Tom and Jerry. When MGM’s animation division folded in the mid-1950s, the pair opened Hanna-Barbera Enterprises with Ruff and Reddy, a “buddy premise” cartoon with a “jaunty, lightly irreverent attitude” that reflected the animation industry’s turn toward adult audiences. Further success came with The Flintstones—the first cartoon “sharp enough for adults” that kids still loved, according to Ehrbar (the show also gained momentum thanks to tie-in records, including 1961’s Songs of the Flintstones, which featured the “Meet the Flintstones” theme song). As the first prime-time cartoon, The Flintstones opened up “a market beyond daytime” and helped to revive animation—and expand its creative possibilities—at a time when its popularity was waning. Drawing on an impressive array of popular and obscure cartoons, this account benefits from Ehrbar’s meticulous research and passion for the subject, though he sometimes lets minutiae bog down the narrative. It’s best suited for die-hard animation buffs. (Aug.)