Reflections on the art and business of animation.
Your comment on McCracken's site is astute, succinct and on the mark - as usual. You're a good writer with very good taste.
Hanna-Barbera may be an acquired taste I suppose, but I definitely enjoy the early Yogis, Hucks and Flintstones for their design and colour sense. No, the animation was not great but it still displayed fine cartoonist sensibilities. I can easily watch any of those old shows today and appreciate them still, while pretty much any TV animation created in the last 25 years leaves me cold. Case in point: I was flipping channels a couple days ago and came across an old episode of The Flintstones where Fred gets persuaded by Santa's elves to fill in for Santa who is in bed with a cold. Not great writing but fun art, back when they were still outlining them in that solid black ink line before Xerox sort of deadened them. The designs were still cartoony and expressive, the art direction warm in colour and very appealing. My channel surfing later brought me to all manner of contemporary Christmas specials, all dull and lifeless in design. Especially bad was "A Very Fairy Christmas", which suffered from muted, almost "metallic" computer colour, a bland sameness to every character's face, and absolutely lifeless Flash-style cutout animation. I'll take an early 1960s HB cartoon anyday over what passes for TV animation these days, thanks just the same.
Yeah, that "HB saved the animation industry" remark seems to have been cooked up when Bill died a few years back. It always seemed like "revisionist history to" me, but, arguably, they did manage to keep a lot of industry veterans employed at a time when theatricals were going the way of the do-do. This is not to say I disagree with the points you, Harry and Thad made, though!
When I hear the statement that H and B "saved the animation industry," I'm reminded of the Viet Nam-era quote by some soldier who said that they had to destroy the village in order to save it.
I second everything you wrote, Mark. I was asked recently why I hadn't adressed the passing of Joe Barbera on my own blog. The first truthful answer was that I hadn't had the time--but while thinking on it, I knew I likely wouldn't post anything at all. First, because so many other bloggers have written some excellent obituaries on him already, and secondly, because apart from some childhood memories of loving the Great Gazoo on the Flintstones(I know, I know), and one or two soaky toys that I played with, I never cared deeply about the H-B product. Finally, it's purely personal, but I could never stand Tom and Jerry, ever.
I too am rather uncomfortable with that quote of H-B having "saved the animation industry". But by that same token I deeply resent today's mantra that Flash is somehow saving domestic animation jobs from being outsourced overseas. In my opinion, Flash is helping to destroy the medium altogether!Be that as it may, I still think one has to keep things in perspective. What Hanna-Barbera did was create a template for TV animation that worked successfully within that medium's smaller budgets and shorter turnaround time. All things considered, I believe the H-B design style of the early 60's was just right for TV: lacking the lush visuals of its theatrical predecessor, yet retaining a cartoonist's sensibilities with graphically appealing shapes and colours. Even if one views the animation of that era as "limited", it is still drawn in an organic manner (by REAL cartoonists!), unlike the static, unappealing character cutout parts that are the staple of Flash and other likeminded computer animation programs today. So in closing, I mourn the passing of Joe and Bill, as well as such luminaries of the Hanna-Barbera stock company including designers Ed Benedict and Gene Hazelton, voice actors Daws Butler, Don Messick, and Mel Blanc, and the composer of their jazzy theme tunes, Hoyt Curtin. Together, these and many other talented folks gave me many fond memories of Saturday mornings of a bygone era.
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