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William Hanna dies; ani icon redrew industry
By Greg Hernandez
Friday March 23 02:15 AM EST

LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) --- William Hanna, half of the legendary Hanna-Barbera team behind such animated television classics as "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons," died Thursday at his home in North Hollywood. He was 90.

With partner Joseph Barbera, Hanna produced an array of cartoon programs with characters who have stood the test of time, including Scooby-Doo -- being made into a Warner Bros. live-action feature film -- Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound.

Born in Melrose, N.M., Hanna's animation career began in Hollywood in 1930. He continued working on the Warner Bros. lot until a few months ago when his health began to fail, said Warner Bros. animation president Jean MacCurdy, who worked for Hanna-Barbera Prods. during the mid-'80s.

"It's not just the body of work that is extraordinary, but it's the man himself," MacCurdy said. "He was one of the most dynamic production persons I've ever known in my life. We all learned so much from this man. He was so generous with his knowledge and skills."

Hanna and Barbera, inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 1993, had a creative partnership that lasted more than 60 years. They met while working at MGM in 1937 and broke new ground by mixing animation and live action. Their cartoon characters Tom and Jerry danced with Gene Kelly in "Anchors Away" and "Invitation to Dance" and with Esther Williams in "Dangerous When Wet."

The pair founded Hanna-Barbera Studios in 1957 when MGM closed its cartoon division. They went on to produce more than 3,000 animated television shows.

Animator John Kricfalusi, creator of the "Ren & Stimpy" cartoon series, said the Hanna-Barbera team was largely responsible for cartoons being made exclusively for television using an inexpensive limited animation system.

"In the late 1950s, animation in movie theaters was dying, and people were getting laid off, and it looked like the end of the cartoon business," Kricfalusi said. "They got together and created Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound and made it work. They saved everybody's job. They started doing cartoons for $3,000 instead of $30,000 by using less cels per second."

Among their accomplishments were "Flintstones," the first animated primetime show, and "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" which was produced for 17 years and was television's longest-running animated series.

"The reason those cartoons lasted so long was because they had great appeal," said Kricfalusi, who worked for Hanna-Barbera in 1984. "Even though there was no budget, they had Hollywood's top writers and expert animators."

Hanna remained active professionally until the end of his life. He was an executive producer on Universal's 1994 live-action version of "Flintstones" starring John Goodman, and he also executive produced 20th Century Fox's "Once Upon a Forest."

Hanna-Barbara Inc. was folded into Warner Bros. -- now owned by AOL Time Warner -- in 1996 following its integration of Turner Broadcasting System, which owned Hanna-Barbera.

Last year, cable's Cartoon Network launched the Boomerang Network, which was created as a showcase for the Hanna-Barbera library.

Of his relationship with Barbera, Hanna once said in an interview: "One thing that has probably kept us together is that, while we work very closely here at the studio, his outside interests are entirely different from mine, and we never see each other socially. We have had strictly a business relationship all along."

Barbera did the drawing, while Hanna did the directing.

"It was an interesting team, Joe and Bill," MacCurdy said. "Joe really created a lot of the characters and concepts, and Bill saw that they got made. He ran production with an iron fist."

Barbera, who continues to work at Warner Bros., was "devastated" at the news of Hanna's death, MacCurdy said, and he was unavailable for comment Thursday.

"I think both Bill and Joe are humble people but very proud of all they've done, as well they should be," MacCurdy said. "I loved him a lot."

Hanna is survived by his wife of 65 years, Violet Hanna, son David Hanna, daughter Bonnie Hanna Williams and seven grandchildren. Services are pending.

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