By:Tim Janson, Columnist
Review Date: Sunday, January 06, 2008

One of the trends among higher end collector’s books over the past couple of years have been to pack them with all sorts of extra treasures and trinkets. I guess since DVD’s have extra features, why not books as well. The latest such book is Insight Editions’ The Hanna-Barbera Treasury which spotlights the legendary animation company with a look at their history, its many famous cartoons and characters, and including all types of interesting memorabilia.

The studio was formed by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera in 1944 as they worked for the MGM studios producing the Tom & Jerry series of cartoons. The HB animation of that time period easily rivals the best animation being produced by Disney or Warner Brothers and the Tom & Jerry cartoons still hold up well sixty years later. But what really made HB great was their embrace of the new medium of television, and their realization that they had to sacrifice some quality to remain profitable. Many animation studios folded in the 1950’s when it became so cost prohibitive to produce cartoons. 

Hanna-Barbera decided to start stressing characters over animation. It gave them a bit of an undeserved bad rap from animation snobs who frowned upon their repetitive animation techniques. But, simply put, they did what they had to do to remain profitable and as a result, created some of the most memorable characters in animation history. Even Disney cannot boast as many notable characters as the HB studio. The book takes a look at two dozen of their most famous characters in chronological order, beginning with Tom & Jerry in the 1940’s. The history and creation of each show is covered with all sorts of interesting stories and anecdotes. Rare photos of period merchandise are also pictured as well as those “extras” I spoke of earlier.

The studio’s most prolific period was the 50’s and 60’s and leading things off was that irresistible, laid-back pooch, Huckleberry Hound. Huck was literally the first prime time cartoon star, often rating in the top 10 TV shows in many cities. Huck also produced the first animated spin-off series, Yogi Bear. The extras in this section are reproductions of puzzle cards, which reflect Huck’s many different occupations. 

Yogi Bear appeared on the Huckleberry Hound show in 1957 and got his own TV show in 1961, and his own big screen theatrical film “Hey There, it’s Yogi Bear” in 1964. You’ll see early production sketches of the character which vary fairly radically from the finished product. The Yogi section comes packed with a mini, facsimile coloring book.

The 1960’s was simply incredible for the Hanna-Barbera studio. The 60’s saw the birth of characters such as Snagglepuss, The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Top Cat, Jonny Quest, Atom Ant, Birdman, Space Ghost, and Wacky Races.

The Flintstones remain one of the great pop culture Icons of the 60’s, with a plethora of mass-merchandising products, everything from books to toys and comic books to vitamins. The Flintstones section includes a repro animation cell, sketch guides, and more puzzle cards. 

The 70’s saw the rise of perhaps the studios most popular and enduring character, Scooby Doo! It’s also here that the book unfortunately concludes. This is the one drawback to the book. The 70’s featured a lot of memorable characters who are omitted: Hong Kong Phooey, Captain Caveman, Josie & the Pussycats, and Dynomutt are all left out of the book. The Hanna-Barbera Treasury is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to all their shows but rather a spotlight on their biggest stars. While I would have liked to have seen more coverage of the 1970’s, hopefully this means there will eventually be a volume 2.

Mania Grade: B+
Author: Jerry Beck
Publisher: Insight Editions
Pages: 156
Price: $45.00