Animator Joseph Barbera; Created Yogi Bear, Other Beloved Cartoons

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Joseph Barbera, 95, who with his partner, William Hanna, created some of the most enduring and beloved animated characters to enliven American film, television and conversation, died Dec. 18 at his home in Los Angeles.

In addition to Yogi Bear, he was the co-creator of Tom and Jerry, the constantly scrapping cartoon cat and mouse whose years of antics and engaging personalities convulsed movie theater patrons and earned seven Oscars.

With Hanna, Mr. Barbera also brought to life the Flintstone family, whose weekly doings in a prehistoric setting made television history as the first successful prime-time animated series.

A childhood flair for sketching took Mr. Barbera from difficult times in Depression-era New York to vast success in Hollywood and recognition as an entertainment industry pioneer.

Mr. Barbera died of natural causes at his home with his wife, Sheila, at his side, Warner Bros. spokesman Gary Miereanu told the Associated Press.

Mr. Barbera and his partner, who died in 2001, complemented each other's talents in creating what became an entertainment empire. Over their decades of collaboration, they brought forth an array of cartoon characters, some of them human, many of them animals with endearingly human personalities.

The characters they are known for creating include the Jetsons, who were viewed as the futuristic counterparts of the Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla and Scooby-Doo, a canine who spawned an entertainment franchise of his own.

Although the stars of their shows existed only in the imagination and in ink and paint, Hanna and Mr. Barbera also paired cartoons with live actors in such films as "Anchors Aweigh," in which Gene Kelly danced with a drawing.

In a study of the animated cartoon published by critic Leonard Maltin, the two men were described as each making a contribution to their joint enterprise.

According to "Of Mice and Magic," it was Hanna who seemed to imbue the characters with their humanity and provided the timing of their interplay.

The equally vital jokes and comic repartee -- and the lines and curves that provided the characters' very presence -- were said to be the work of Mr. Barbera.

According to another account, the partnership was so successful that the two men made an effort to keep their relationship at the studio, fearing that too much exposure to each other socially might jeopardize their legendary professional success.

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