Monday, August 11, 2008

Stop Maligning H-B Characters! Part 1

Alright here's the deal. As an avid Hanna Barbera FANatic, i have, over the years, been very critical of how H-B, and now WB have handled their characters. At the same time, i have watched Disney treat their characters with loving hands and gently mold them and shape them to fit into the next generation. As much as i defend them and admire them and love their characters, there was a sense of "throw away" that accompanied a lot of their toons, especially in arguably their most lucrative decade, the 70's. Instead of nurturing their would be stars, Dynomutt, Jabberjaw, Captain Caveman etc., they were tossed aside in order to usher in whatever new trend in society would be. Interestingly enough, they had a hand in helping creating one sociological trend with the creation of Scooby Doo and shows of that ilk.

Scooby, along with the Archie's and Sabrina, helped continue the whole teen as rock band, solving mysteries, era that children loved during this time. It was fodder for kids ages 8,9,10, 11 and 12 who wanted to watch people like their older siblings, get into scrapes and figure out how to get out of them with a little luck, ingenuity and help from some sort of anthropomorphic animal. If you look at the popular shows of the time, teens ruled the airwaves and, not coincidentally, advertisers were once again realizing the buying power of 18-24 year olds. The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, along with various other teen-centric performers such as The Jackson Five, The Osmond's and later 8 is Enough and Family, all showcased teens in a positive and appealing light. Scooby Doo, a lasting staple in cartoon history, showcased this very appealing aspect and in effect help proliferate this sociological trend. A trend they tried hard to keep afloat in congruence with Scooby; Goober and the Ghost Chasers, Jabberjaw, Clue Club, Speed Buggy, Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels, Jeannie, the Funky Phantom et al. Unfortunately, none of them were treated with enough respect to remain a part of American pop culture for good. Some of which you can see below. This is the 1st of my maligning theory i like to call...The Maligning!!

As the 80's loomed, toy manufacturers started coming up with very cutesy cuddly animals and toys to appeal to a whole new generation of kids that would sit along side the Star Wars stable of stars on the shelves. They include Monchhichi's, Cabbage Patch Kids, Pound Puppies and Strawberry Shortcake. Out of this came H-B's response to this issue which included such blah banality as...well, the Monchhichi's, Pound Puppies, Richie Rich, Paw Paws, and their most successful show for almost a decade, the Smurfs. Out of this was also born the "adorable" Flintstone Kids, Yo Yogi, A Pup Named Scooby Doo and Tom and Jerry Kids. This brings me to The Miligning #2 - i don't care if you make a show with the Flintstones as kids, i love the idea, but to design them to be so unrecognizable from its original appearance is a disservice to not only the characters but to the original designers and the fans who made the show popular to begin with. Why would a toddler Fred wear a tie? Why would Betty look like a fat idiot with a beehive hairdo? The original style from the 60's wasn't even a beehive! Below you see my version of what the Flintstone kids should have looked like. You can see more at

Now, in the 80's and 90's H-B did use their original most popular stars in various vehicles all very poor in storytelling and animation, but with loves comes acceptance, so i overlooked those aspects in order to have those guys on TV. Such shows as Yogi's Treasure Hunt, Fred and Barney Meet the Shmoo (and the Thing for some reason), the Real Adventures of Johnny Quest, probably their best update and the new episodes of the Jetsons, probably their worst update of all time! Orbitty anyone? But this is where the next malignment of characters began. The design, i suppose you could say, kept up with the times by rounding all the characters so much that they looked interchangeable. This is the era of Wilma's chin elongated so much, she could challenge Jay Leno to a chin off, Fred's overbite becoming an under bite, Barney's smock becoming more and more dark brown that in the Flintstones Christmas Carol, its almost black and the Jetsons being "animated" so on-model, most of the show is simply poses stolen directly from the model sheets themselves.

Thank the fates, this has come full circle as the Craig Kellman version of the Flintstones made it to print in The Flintstones: On the Rocks...a wonderful rendition of these characters. Also Yogi Bear's foray into reclaiming artistic glory via John K's view of the cartoons with his Yogi and Ranger Smith adaptations. Basically, and John K would agree with this, they evolved the look of the characters to a place so unappealing, that it took away their original appeal we all fell in love with thanks to the the designs of Ed Benedict, Dick Bickenback, Jerry Eisenberg, Iwao Takamoto and the rest.

Now, they are releasing The Man Called Flintstone on DVD, which is a great move, but did you see the possible cover art? it is at the top!

How is this piece of art, created decades ago to exist with the advent of VHS movies, supposed to appeal to the general shopper? If they were smart (and so far i have agreed with most of what they have done with the DVD releases) they will switch it up and have someone like Patrick Owsley do the cover. Or Craig Kellman, or any number of artists who would keep alive the look that is synonymous with the original material. Below is a sample of Craig Kellman Flintstone character designs.

P.S. While I'm on the topic...if you want H-B DVD's to sell, and you look at the sales of previous releases to make the decision on what to release or to release more at all...don't put out crap like Wait Til Your Father Gets Home. Way to put the nail in the coffin when we don't have on DVD much more popular fare such as Hair Bear Bunch, Quick Draw McGraw, Laff-a-Lympics, Peter Potamus and Jabberjaw!!!

Part II coming soon


darcat said...

I agree with you totally! I have started collecting everything I can find that was done in Kellman's style. I comb through web pages and ebay and buy what I find because it seems the cutesy style still rules. I hate it.

darcat said...