Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Adios Hollywood Joe (1911-2006)

This has been a bad year for losing people. I know I said that last year and the year before that, but this year has been especially bad. Alex Toth, Ed benedict and now Joe Barbera.
H-B in it's heyday was where any kid interested in animation in the 1960's wanted to work (in fact I'm told that master animator and historian Mark Kausler actually ran away from home at 16 to go to Hollywood and become an animator. He essentially ran away Hanna-Barbera productions in L.A.).

I snapped this pic as I was driving by the old H-B Building on Cahuenga in the mid-90's. Production activity had dropped off to next to nothing by this point in time...But at least the building itself was still in use and both Bill and Joe were still walking it's halls. Now Bill's gone, Joe's gone, the building is gone and their names have all-but-disappeared from public daily viewing.

Well, unless you happen to be on Hollywood Boulevard...(or watching Boomerang, I guess). I love how even though I took this picture probably 15 years ago, light appears to be shining on Joe's name.

The Tom and Jerry unit with the seven oscars the team garnered during their run on the original Tom and Jerry series. A moment frozen in time from Animation's golden age.
When I first came out to to LA it was the early 1990's and I was actually working on a Tom and Jerry project. The call for reference went out and a couple of things surfaced I hadn't was a rough storyboard for a good portion of Nit-Witty Kitty (1951) I was immediately struck by how both raw and totally on-target this short-hand board was. "Wow, who did these?" I got an answer I wan't expecting --"Joe Barbera". What?? Joe drew? I asked naively (up to that point I had always thought of Joe as more of a businessman than an artist). "Whaddaya mean? He drew great! Those are his story sketches" growled my peer, (a little aggravated by my ignorance) "He always knew EXACTLY what he wanted and he was able to translate it, as well as synthesize other ideas elequently for the layout guys." I didn't know it then, but I have since found out, it was true!
Here's a twelve-page example...
The Setup: Tom has experienced "a sharp blow to the head" while chasing Jerry and now he thinks he a mouse. Mammy Two-Shoes (having inadvertantly administered the blow) is distressed about Tom's condition...but the more he acts like a mouse, the more her fear of mice overrides her concern...

Check out this frame grab from the finished cartoon.
See how the close the attiude and pose is to Joe's original sketch.

This one too...

Yup...that plays just like the Tom and Jerry Cartoon alright.
Joe co-produced and directed hundreds of MGM cartoons before they ever made a penny off of television, the medium they created hundreds of animated programs for ...and what they're probably most remembered and revered (and lambasted) for. I have several posts planned around some old H-B shows coming up with that in mind, (and the original idea that I was going to TRY to keep this post short) I'm gonna jump all the way into the mid-1990s with sa little genuine (and long overdue) "Hollywood Joe" appreciation...

Now, here's the big lug as we know and love him. A meat-eatin', life-lovin', Pope-meetin', cartoon-makin' Maverick! His visage is featured here with pride... appearing as a cut-out mask on the back of the 1995 H-B/Spumco produced "Huckleberry Hound Show" cel painting kit
box! Now if it only worked the mask in the movie The Mask.

John K's unique instructions for proper Joe Barbera mask use and etiquette. Oddly --as I write this, John just appeared on TV Land talking about Joe and how the catch-phrase "Yabba Dabba Doo!" came to pass. It makes me realize more than ever just how many of us in the industry today are here because of Joe. The world today is a very different and more joyous place than it would 've been without him. Thanks again, Buddy!

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Barbera has left the building. Good luck and Godspeed, Joe...
You'll be missed.

Thanks and best wishes for this post go out to the Barbera family, the extended Hanna-Barbera family, John Kricfalusi, Spumco, J. D. Suggs, J. Riechek, Leonard Maltin and Patrick Brion.


Anonymous Craig J. Clark said...

I, too, was quite saddened to hear of Barbera's passing, especially in the same year as Alex Toth. I've been a devotee of Space Ghost Coast to Coast (and its Adult Swim progeny) for over a decade now, and to lose two of the minds behind the original '60s show is a great blow. Warner Bros. needs to get on the ball and release it while Gary Owens is still around and able to talk about its inception and cultural impact.

11:28 AM

Blogger C. Martin Croker said...

Yeah, wouldn't THAT be nice? All the original Space Ghost (there's only 20) on DVD with folks like Gary and some of the existing staff doing commentaries on some key episodes (like "Zorak")? Lord know why Warners has been dragging it's feet on the release of ANY of the 1960's H-B Superhero shows. The same way they released "Wacky Races", "Dastardly & Muttley" and "Penlope Pitstop" all at once, they could do thesame with say, Space Ghost, Birdman and the Herculoids! --with each volume having a few commentaries and a little 5-10 minute featurette on the Show's creators and creation. Maybe one of these days. I say write 'em a letter! For some reason those seem to still carry a lot of weight down there.
(After all...just ONE letter from a woman in Europe was solely responsible getting all the smoking scenes cut out of every Tom and Jerry made during the last 60 years!)

1:00 PM

Anonymous Craig J. Clark said...

Wow. Never underestimate the power of the post, I guess. I shall do some research and find out who to write to. I'd really like to see this happen.

While I'm at it, I should also bug them about releasing the next volume of Coast to Coast. I'd say we've been kept waiting for that long enough.

Oh, and your other account doesn't allow for anonymous comments, so thanks for the most recent update. A little Space Ghost for the holidays goes a long way.

1:23 PM

Blogger Chris Sobieniak said...

Being reminded of those cel painting kits Spumco put out back then. I still have the cut-out masks of Bill and Joe but haven't use 'em at all other than storing them, possible to stick up on the wall someday for fun!

4:07 AM


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