Passing of Joseph Barbera

This past Monday marked the passing of one of the last true giants in the animation world. To say Joseph Barbera was a legend in his field is simply an understatement.
Joseph Barbera was born on March 24 of 1911 and began his career quite earnestly as a delivery boy for a local tailor in Manhattan and later on, during the time of the Great Depression he attempted to become a cartoonist for a now defunct local New York Magazine. Fortunately for the world of animation, he didn’t end up getting this job and instead found employment with the Van Buren Studio in 1932 as a writer and animator till the studio closed down in 1936, after which he found work at MGM Studios. A short year later he moved from his local New York environment out to California to work on MGM’s newly launched cartoon division where he met and worked with William Hanna where they began making history with Puss Gets The Boot, otherwise known as the introduction of two of his most famous characters, Tom and Jerry, who they would continue to develop over the next 17 years.

His Accomplishments

In addition to his 17 year run on Tom and Jerry, Barbera, along with Hanna has put out some of the most long lasting influences in the world of animation, entertainment and pop culture, many of which are still being reborn anew to this day. In addition to those seminal characters the list also includes “The Flintstones”, “The Jetsons”, “Jonny Quest”, “Scooby Doo”, “Yogi Bear”, “Quick Draw McGraw”, “The Banana Splits”, “The Atom Ant Show”, “Birdman and the Galaxy Trio”, episodes of the “Fantastic 4”, “Loopy de Loop”, “Motormouse and Autocat”, “The Harlem Globetrotters” animated series, “Sealab 2020”, “Josie and the Pussycats”, “The Smurfs”, “Cartoon Alley”, and the “Karate Guard” amongst many many others. His work spanned over 70 years and just a casual glance at that list will show you exactly the type of iconic power he and his partner were able to muster up, with many of these series being revived as live action movies over the past few years, and it is worth noting that none of them managed to capture the same vibrancy and endearingly human qualities of their animated sources of inspiration.
Of all his accomplishments one that stands out most after Tom and Jerry would be The Flintstones. The first successful animated show to be aired in prime time, it was directly influenced by The Honeymooners and made no attempt to hide that love of the Jackie Gleason hit. It ran from 1960 through 1966 with brief returns to the small screen in the early and late 70’s. No other animated series was able to pull this off till “The Simpsons” in 1989, almost 30 years later. It should also be noted that “The Simpsons” also paid homage to the Tom and Jerry duo via its cartoon within a cartoon, “Itchy and Skratchy”.

Influences

Barbera’s work with Hanna has had a resounding impact on the world of animation. The Simpsons and its Honeymooners-esque setting is an obvious one. But there is much more than that. The crazy comic timing and antics of Tom and Jerry set the bar for almost everything to come after and stood out from such peers as Disney. In its early years it stood apart for the almost surreal violence portrayed in the cat and mouse chases, but this was countered by a sublime sense of comic timing and amazing visual gags. But it always seemed like it may go that one step too far and that’s what kept you equally laughing and on the edge of your seat. That style and sense of humor has carried into the modern day, influencing shows on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network who run reinterpretations of many of the old Hanna-Barbera classics, the early days of Ren and Stimpy and pop culture on a whole. Think about how many catch phrases from Scooby Doo do you hear pop up in causal conversation or most probably have used yourself. The visual joke of people running past the same tree in the background over and over, or the parodies of old Hanna-Barbera shows that are seen on Cartoon Network nowadays, many of which were overseen by Barbera himself?

Not many people leave as big of a mark on the world of popular culture as this man has, so rather than mourn his passing, it seems to be more fitting idea to celebrate his influence. And in the spirit of that celebration we have opened a special category for him if you wish to submit anything in memoriam. When you submit simply go to Community Projects -> Events -> Tributes -> Artist tributes -> Joseph Barbera to submit your work. Let’s all give this giant one last big Yabba Dabba Doo to mark his achievements.

RIP Joseph B. Thank you for all the cartoons that drew my childhood. (:

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