In 1961, Hanna- Barbera Productions, not Walt Disney Studios, were the kings of primetime TV animation. The company created and run by Hollywood veterans Joe Hanna and Bill Barbera was at the top of its game. It made sense that Hanna-Barbera would become partners-of-sorts with another veteran leader at the top of his game, Louis Marx - the toy king.
Just a few short years earlier Hanna-Barbera Productions were just an upstart studio struggling to get a stake in the formative new media we now call Television. In TV's early days there was a huge shortage of content (not unlike the web not too long ago). For children's programming, old movies, shorts (like The Little Rascals, Laurel & Hardy and The Three Stooges), Saturday-afternoon serials (like the Buck Rogers and Superman), and cartoon shorts from the 1930s and 1940s filled the bill at first. But the fast evolving media needed its own hits...its own stars.
Into the fray came Hanna-Barbera Studios. They arrived with great experience – animating years of Tom and Jerry theatrical cartoon shorts for the then-defunct MGM Studios' animation division. More importantly they were one of the first companies to boldly utilize a new simpler, and cheaper, animation technique – called "limited animation." This technique, which incidentally was pioneered by animators at the Disney Studios in the early 1950s, gave H-B Productions the means to provide an entire season of half hour cartoon shows to the networks on time - a feat that was widely believed to be financially and technologically prohibitive. (If you have ever watched a Hanna-Barbera cartoon you already know what limited animation is.)
Despite the visual constraints of limited animation, Hanna-Barbera succeeded by relying on zany characters and wacky situation comedies, brought to life by seasoned voice actors such as Daws Butler (Droopy Dog, then Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Snagglepuss, Quick Draw McGraw and others), Don Messick (Ranger Smith, Boo Boo, Astro and others) and Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, then Barney Rubble and others). It didn't seem to bother anyone that many of Hanna-Barbera's most memorable cartoon characters and shows were basically rip-offs of popular non-animated stars and shows from vaudeville, old-time radio, and even early TV – such as The Phil Silvers Show (as Top Cat) and the Honeymooners (as The Flintstones). Additionally, Doggie Daddy is based upon comedian Jimmy Durante; Snagglepuss parodies Burt Lahr (most famous for the lion in Wizard of Oz); Yogi Bear is modeled after the Honeymooners' Art Carney; to name a few.
Starting with The Ruff & Ready Show in 1957, Hanna-Barbera quickly hit gold with a string of top TV shows: Huckleberry Hound (1958); The Yogi Bear Show and Quick Draw McGraw (1959), to Top Cat and Hokey Wolf (1961). Hanna-Barbera's most indelible creation remains the Flintstones, which made its debut in 1960, and is always running in syndication somewhere in the world. Hanna-Babera was acquired by Ted Turner Broadcasting in 1991 and became part of Time Warnr in 1996. The Studio is now experiencing a successful second life as part of the popular Cartoon Network and it's offspring, Boomerang.
The TV-Tinykins line arrived as part of a massive avalanche of Hanna-Barbera character-themed toys from the Louis Marx Company; produced and sold in unprecedented numbers. For the two companies it was their golden age.
To learn more about TV-Tinykins click the images at the top of this article.