Joseph Barbera
Joseph Barbera

Joseph Barbera (March 24, 1911 – December 18, 2006) was an American animator, director, producer, storyboard artist, and cartoon artist, whose film and television cartoon characters entertained millions of fans worldwide for much of the 20th century.

Through his young adult years, Barbera lived, attended college, and began his career in New York City. After working odd jobs and as a banker, Barbera joined Van Beuren Studios in 1932 and subsequently Terrytoons in 1936. In 1937, he moved to California and while working at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Barbera met William Hanna. The two men began a collaboration that was at first best known for producing Tom and Jerry and live action/animated hybrid films. In 1957, after MGM dissolved their animation department, they co-founded Hanna-Barbera, which became the most successful television animation studio in the business, producing programs such as The FlintstonesYogi BearScooby-DooTop CatThe SmurfsHuckleberry Hound and The Jetsons. In 1967, Hanna-Barbera was sold to Taft Broadcasting for $12 million, but Hanna and Barbera remained heads of the company until 1991. At that time, the studio was sold to Turner Broadcasting System, which in turn was merged with Time Warner, owners of Warner Bros., in 1996; Hanna and Barbera stayed on as advisors.

Joseph Barbera
Joseph Barbera and Bill Hanna

Hanna and Barbera won seven Academy Awards and eight Emmy Awards. Their cartoon shows have become cultural icons, and their cartoon characters have appeared in other media such as films, books, and toys. Hanna-Barbera’s shows had a worldwide audience of over 300 million people in the 1960s and have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Joseph Barbera died at age 95

He died from natural causes at age 95 at his home in Studio City, Los Angeles on December 18, 2006 at 11:44 p.m., ending a 70-year career in animation. His wife Sheila was at his side. He was also survived by two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He was also survived by three children from his first marriage, Jayne (who worked for Hanna–Barbera), Lynn, and Neal.He is buried in a private section of the Great Mausoleum in Glendale’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Joseph Barbera

Legacy of Joseph Barbera

Most of the cartoons Barbera and Hanna created revolved around close friendship or partnership; this theme is evident with Fred and Barney, Tom & Jerry, Scooby and Shaggy, The Jetson family and Yogi & Boo-Boo. These may have been a reflection of the close business friendship and partnership that Barbera and Hanna shared for over 60 years. Professionally, they balanced each other’s strengths and weaknesses very well,but Barbera and Hanna travelled in completely different social circles. Hanna’s circle of personal friends primarily included other animators; Barbera socialized with Hollywood celebrities—Zsa Zsa Gabor was a frequent visitor to his house. Their division of work roles complemented each other but they rarely talked outside of work since Hanna was interested in the outdoors and Barbera liked beaches and good food and drink. Nevertheless, in their long partnership, in which they worked with over 2000 animated characters, Barbera and Hanna rarely exchanged a cross word. Barbera said: “We understood each other perfectly, and each of us had deep respect for the other’s work.”Hanna once said that Barbera could “capture mood and expression in a quick sketch better than anyone I’ve ever known.”

Joseph Barbera
Tom and Jerry

Barbera and Hanna were also among the first animators to realize the enormous potential of television. nLeonard Maltin says the Hanna–Barbera team “held a record for producing consistently superior cartoons using the same characters year after year—without a break or change in routine their characters are not only animated superstars, but also a very beloved part of American pop culture”.They are often considered Walt Disney’s only rivals in cartoon animation.


Barbera and Hanna had a lasting impact on television animation. Cartoons they created often make greatest lists. Many of their characters have appeared in film, books, toys, and other media. Their shows had a worldwide audience of over 300 million people in the 1960s and have been translated into more than 20 languages.The works of Barbera and Hanna have been praised not only for their animation, but for their music. The Cat Concerto (1946) and Johann Mouse (1952) have both been called “masterpieces of animation” largely because of their classical music.

Did you see first episode of Tom and Jerry? See it below!

Joseph Barbera
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