Joe Barbera, half of the Hanna-Barbera animation team that produced such beloved cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear and the Flintstones, has died, a Warner Bros. spokesman said. He was 95.
Barbera died Monday of natural causes at his home with his wife, Sheila, at his side, spokesman Gary Miereanu said.
With his longtime partner, Bill Hanna, Barbera first found success creating the highly successful Tom and Jerry cartoons. The antics of the battling cat and mouse went on to win seven Academy Awards, more than any other series with the same characters.
The partners, who had first teamed up while working at MGM in the 1930s, went on to a new realm of success in the 1960s with a witty series of animated TV comedies, including "The Flintstones," "The Jetsons," "Yogi Bear," "Scooby-Doo" and "Huckleberry Hound and Friends."
Their strengths melded perfectly, critic Leonard Maltin wrote in his book "Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons." Barbera brought the comic gags and skilled drawing, while Hanna brought warmth and a keen sense of timing.
"This writing-directing team may hold a record for producing consistently superior cartoons using the same characters year after year - without a break or change in routine," Maltin wrote.
"From the Stone Age to the Space Age and from prime time to Saturday mornings, syndication and cable, the characters he created with his late partner, William Hanna, are not only animated superstars, but also a very beloved part of American pop culture. While he will be missed by his family and friends, Joe will live on through his work," Warner Bros. Chairman and CEO Barry Meyer said Monday.
Hanna, who died in 2001, once said he was never a good artist but his partner could "capture mood and expression in a quick sketch better than anyone I've ever known."
The two first teamed cat and mouse in the short "Puss Gets the Boot." It earned an Academy Award nomination, and MGM let the pair keep experimenting until the full-fledged Tom and Jerry characters eventually were born.
Jerry was borrowed for the mostly live-action musical "Anchors Aweigh," dancing with Gene Kelly in a scene that become a screen classic.
After MGM folded its animation department in the mid-1950s, Hanna and Barbera were forced to go into business for themselves. With television's sharply lower budgets, their new cartoons put more stress on verbal wit rather than the detailed - and expensive - action featured in theatrical cartoon.
The Hanna-Barbera studio eventually became a subsidiary of Great American Communications Co., and in 1991 it was purchased by a partnership including Turner Broadcasting System, which used the studio's library when it launched cable TV's Cartoon Network in 1992.
The influence of Hanna-Barbera was felt for decades. In 2002 and again in 2004, characters from the cartoon series "Scooby-Doo" were brought to the big screen in films that combined live actors and animation.
"Joe's contributions to both the animation and television industries are without parallel - he has been personally responsible for entertaining countless millions of viewers across the globe," said friend, colleague and Warner animation President Sander Schwartz.
Neither Hanna, born in 1910, nor Barbera, born in 1911, set out to be cartoonists. Barbera, who grew up in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, originally went into banking. Soon, however, he turned his doodles into magazine cartoons and then into a job as an animator, the AP reports.
Hanna, who had studied engineering and journalism, originally went into animation because he needed a job.
Funeral arrangements were pending, Miereanu said. In addition to his wife, the animator is survived by three children from a previous marriage, Jayne, Neal and Lynn.