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Joe Barbera Passes Away at 95

December 19, 2006 at 6:50 PM EDT

GWEN IFILL: Remembering the man behind the cartoons and characters that may have shaped your childhood.

FRED FLINTSTONE: Yabba dabba doo!

GWEN IFILL: Joe Barbera and his late partner, Bill Hanna, invented many a child’s best friend: cats, mice, bears, pre-historic honeymooners, and futuristic families.

Barbera, seen here on the right, was the animator, Hanna the director, of generations of cartoons that shaped pop culture. Their first creation in 1940 was another team: Tom and Jerry. That cartoon followed a cat named Tom in his relentless pursuit of Jerry, a crafty mouse.

YOGI BEAR: If Mr. Ranger finds out he’s chasing Boo-Boo, I’ve got to get to Boo-Boo first.

GWEN IFILL: By the 1950s, the Hanna-Barbera studio was turning out new classics, like the sarcastic rule-breaking Yogi Bear.

YOGI BEAR: Boo-Boo, we’ll never eat that forest fare while I’m smarter than the average bear.

GWEN IFILL: “The Flintstones,” the first animated situation comedy to air in primetime, became Hanna-Barbera’s most popular series. The show chronicled the comings and goings of Fred and Wilma Flintstone and their best friends, Betty and Barney Rubble.

FRED FLINTSTONE: Wilma, get dinner on the table. I’m home!

GWEN IFILL: From pre-historic to futuristic, 1962 saw the debut of “The Jetsons.”

JANE JETSON: The teacher said you were going on a field trip this morning.

ELROY JETSON: That’s right, Mom. We’re studying the Siberian salt mines.

JANE JETSON: Well, keep warm. And don’t pick fights with the little Russian boys. Good-bye.


GWEN IFILL: And in the 1970s, Scooby-Doo, the mystery-solving dog, arrived.

SHAGGY: Like, which way did they go?

MONSTER: They went that a-way.

SHAGGY: Oh, thanks, man.

MONSTER: It’s all right.

Losing personality to technology

GWEN IFILL: The Hanna-Barbera team won seven Academy Awards and eight Emmys. Their characters inspired movies, songs and plays.

But Joe Barbera worried in recent years that something was being lost in the new age of computer-animated cartoons.

JOE BARBERA, ANIMATOR-PRODUCER: See, the thing that I'm concerned about is the fancier we get -- I mean, the more that we have with computers, the computer business that we put in there, I think it begins to take the heart out of the character, the warmth in the characters, which is one of the reasons I think our characters are still going, like, for instance, "Flintstones," 33 years later, going full-speed. The Tom and Jerrys, 50 years later, still going full-speed.

That's without any computer. Those are just natural, warm, funny characters and good stories. That's what makes it work.

GWEN IFILL: Although his cartoon characters live on, Joe Barbera died Monday of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles. He was 95 years old.