Your Favorite Vintage Saturday Morning Cartoons Are Now in a Museum

Classics like <em>Scooby Doo</em> and <em>The Flintstones</em> get their own special exhibit
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Generations of American kids have spent their Saturday mornings parked in front of a giant cathode ray tube with a bowl of cereal watching cartoons. The incredible galaxy of memorable characters we all know and love, from The Flintstones to Scooby Doo to The Powerpuff Girls, were all produced at a gorgeous midcentury modern cartoon factory in Hollywood—the Hanna-Barbera studios.

The creators of those shows, William Hanna and Joe Barbera, finally get their due in Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning—the first museum exhibition on the world’s most successful animation partnership, which opens at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts next week. “This exhibition continues our look at visual storytelling in its many forms,” says museum curator Stephanie Haboush Plunkett. “Illustration and cartoons are the people’s art.”

Scooby-Doo Where Are You! presentation board by Iwao Takamoto
Scooby-Doo Where Are You! presentation board by Iwao Takamoto

Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum SCOOBY-DOO and all related characters and elements © & ™ Hanna-Barbera. (s16)

Joe Barbera and William Hanna with Atom Ant and Secret Squirrel, 1965
Joe Barbera and William Hanna with Atom Ant and Secret Squirrel, 1965

A. F. Archive, Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum ATOM ANT, SECRET SQUIRREL and all related characters and elements © & ™ Hanna-Barbera.

Alan Reed, Jean Vander Pyl, Mel Blanc, and Bea Benaderet in a recording studio as they perform parts for 'The Flintstones,' Los Angeles, California, 1960.
Alan Reed, Jean Vander Pyl, Mel Blanc, and Bea Benaderet in a recording studio as they perform parts for ‘The Flintstones,’ Los Angeles, California, 1960.

Photo by Allan Grant/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum

Hanna and Barbera met while working on Tom and Jerry cartoon shorts at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1930s, and they started their own studio in 1957. Besides the incredible genius of the animators themselves, the secret sauce at Hanna-Barbera was the ability to churn out programming on the cheap (the fledgling outfit didn’t have the budgets that MGM did). They used new technology to copy cels and a technique called “limited animation” that only animated parts of the image like the mouth and eyes. The Hanna-Barbera style simplified characters and backgrounds (which were inspired by their California surroundings) and created animation that was cheaper, easier to produce, and more distinctive.

An unidentified Hanna-Barbera Productions animator works on an animation cell of Fred Flintstone, from the studio's cartoon 'The Flintstones,' 1960
An unidentified Hanna-Barbera Productions animator works on an animation cell of Fred Flintstone, from the studio’s cartoon ‘The Flintstones,’ 1960

Photo by Allan Grant/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum

The Flintstones concept art, c. 1960 by Ed Benedict
The Flintstones concept art, c. 1960 by Ed Benedict

Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum THE FLINTSTONES and all related characters and elements © & ™ Hanna-Barbera.

The Flintstones model sheet by Dick Bickenbach, 1965
The Flintstones model sheet by Dick Bickenbach, 1965

Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum THE FLINTSTONES and all related characters and elements © & ™ Hanna-Barbera. (s16)

The team produced many popular shows, and later, in the ’90s and 2000s, they made a few forgettable live-action versions of The Flintstones and Scooby Doo. The founders died in 2001 (Hanna) and 2006 (Barbera) and the storied company disappeared into Warner Bros. Even the famed studio building on Cahuenga was sold to developers and turned into apartments and an L.A. Fitness (if only the people working out on the elliptical machines realized they’re sweating on the site where George Jetson, Yogi Bear, and the Smurfs were once drawn).

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, 1950s
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, 1950s

Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum TOM AND JERRY and all related characters and elements © & ™ Turner Entertainment Co. (s16)

The Impossibles presentation board, 1966, by Iwao Takamoto
The Impossibles presentation board, 1966, by Iwao Takamoto

Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum FRANKENSTEIN JR AND THE IMPOSSIBLES and all related characters and elements © & ™ Hanna-Barbera. (s16)

The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, 1968
The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, 1968

A.F. Archive, Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum BANANA SPLITS and all related characters and elements © & ™ Hanna-Barbera.

Earlier this year, Warner announced they were rebooting Scooby Doo and “unlocking the whole Hanna-Barbera Universe,” so stay tuned. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed that the Hanna-Barbera exhibition travels to Los Angeles.

Animation drawing of Tom from Flirty Bird, 1945
Animation drawing of Tom from Flirty Bird, 1945

Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum TOM AND JERRY and all related characters and elements © & ™ Turner Entertainment Co. (s16)

William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, 1980s
William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, 1980s

Photograph courtesy the Norman Rockwell Museum

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