Leonard Maltin starts the interview, parts 1-4.
Sunny Perish (?) concludes parts 5-7.
I have to say that when Barbera died I had no feeling whatsoever. I still don’t. That last Tom & Jerry which has his name attached was as horrendous as anything he’s done since the second year of The Flintstones.
I saw few Tom & Jerry’s growing up in New York. In theaters, we were always treated to Terrytoon, Paramount and infrequent Disney shorts. I don’t think I saw a Tom & Jerry projected until I went to animation programs at MOMA. Finally, in my college years all those Tom & Jerry shorts were thrown into syndication, and they ran in NY on channel 11, a station once owned by The NY Daily News, at 5:30pm.
I had to rush home from school nightly to see these programs – 3 shorts each. After weeks of viewing, I was blown away. My initial reaction was that I had spent 17 years trying to see any and every piece of animation and had found this trove of fully animated shorts – lots of lives spent – on films that I hadn’t seen. If there were that many films that I hadn’t seen, what did that say about the work of so many other animators whose work lived in limbo?
My second reaction was horror. These films were violent to the point of horrific. The animation was superb, the music was brilliant, but the violence was upsetting. These are the only cartoons ever to have caused me to flinch. Seeing – I think it was – the Oscar winning, The Two Mouseketeers where Jerry runs the course of a table past a turkey that has a knife sticking out of its side – which lies just over his head. Tom pursues. He’s taller. The violence takes place off screen (as H&B did for years to save animation). Tom is cut and I flinched. I didn’t like that and still don’t. Another cartoon had an axe cut off Tom’s tail. It hurt. The characters I never cozied up to were being mangled by their creators. Not like the funny stuff that was going on at WB; it was different here. The directors hurt them, and then hurt them some more.
After MGM, H&B opened. Even before those Tom & Jerry shorts made it to TV, RUff & Reddy, Huck Hound, Yogi and The Flintstones brought new style to limited animation TV. I enjoyed it as a kid (in B&W), and I even felt I could guess-count the drawings in a scene. Timing was good and the design was excellent. The Hoyt Curtain music wasn’t my favorite – it seemed to be playing without regard to what was on screen, but still, I liked these shorts.
Then came the rest. With Johnny Quest I started not liking H&B. I didn’t like Scooby Doo or so many of the rest of the titles I couldn’t name for you. The mechanics were always showing, but now there was no string of good design, good timing, good anything to hold it together. Crap was what H&B produced. That crap provided a lot of jobs – even more to Asia, but it was not good film making.
Their first feature, “Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear,” was ridiculous. I thought that I even saw the edge of a pan cel move through a scene. Colors popped, animation was mediocre at best, and the story was tedious. It didn’t get better with “Charlotte’s Web” or “Heidi.”
So now, Hanna and Barbera have died. Their studio died when Turner bought them out and Cartoon Network rolled over them. After MGM, they made some interesting shorts that was about quantity not quality. They were the type of animators more interested in the dollars they could bring home than the films they were making. I don’t blame them for it, but I can’t glorify their work either. They were who they were, and I give them credit for the long and elaborate careers they had.
– Last Sunday, there was a NY Times review of Neal Gabler’s Disney book.
- Chuck Oberleitner has a detailed commentary here on the ousting of Chris Sanders and his American Dog project from Disney’s animation department.
The article comes off as quite accurate without painting villains the way we animators are want to do. Of course, there’s no way any of us will really know what the truth is, and it almost doesn’t matter at this point. Animation history moves on. Maybe Chris Sanders will return to 2D animation; Lilo & Stitch was the last decent film from the Disney (non-Pixar) studio.