Tag Archives: hanna-barbera

Drawn Together

Joseph Barbera, who was born 100 years ago today, and Ub Iwerks, who would be turning 110, shared a common birthday, the same profession (animation), and both became half of partnerships which forever changed the history of animated entertainment.

Barbera (pronounced Bar-Bear-Ah) was half of the enormously successful Hanna-Barbera Productions team that in 30 years brought over 3000 half-hour episodes of animated programming to television. Their roster of shows included The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, The Huckleberry Hound Show, and Scooby-Doo.

Born on this date in 1911 in Manhattan to Sicilian immigrants, Barbera discovered a penchant for drawing early in life, and for many years worked for animators in New York. In 1937, he was lured to California by MGM where he sat next to a young Californian animator named William Hanna.

The two would develop the Tom and Jerry franchise in 1940, and would oversee the production of 114 shorts featuring the cat and mouse team over the next 17 years. Along the way, the animated duo would be nominated for 14 Academy Awards, winning seven, and appear in some noted live-action films, like Anchors Aweigh with Gene Kelly.

After the MGM brass abruptly closed down their animation division in 1957, Hanna and Barbera created their own company, with Hanna getting top billing by winning a coin toss.

The two men had quite different personalities. Hanna was a homebody, but Barbera liked the nightlife, and included several celebrities among his roster of friends. But together they formed the rarest creature in business: the perfect partnership. It was said that in all the decades they worked side by side, that hardly a cross word ever passed between the two men.

The name Ub Iwerks isn’t well known outside of animation circles, but it should be, as he is largely responsible for the creation of a character you may have heard of named Mickey Mouse.

Ub, a child of German immigrants, was born in Kansas City ten years to the day prior to Barbera, and like his younger colleague, would later form a partnership with another young animator that would alter popular culture.

The animator in question was, of course, Walt Disney, who worked with Iwerks at the same commercial art firm in Kansas City. In 1920, the two formed a partnership called Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists, which, had it succeeded, may have made Iwerks a household name.

Instead, the firm dissolved and Walt migrated west to create animation, eventually bringing Ub out to work at Disney Brothers Productions, of which Iwerks received a 20% share of the partnership.

Walt and Ub formed a successful animation team, with the visionary Disney creating stories, and the machine-like Iwerks bringing Walt’s vision to life by creating as many as 600 drawings a day!

The men first struck gold, or at least thought they did, with the character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. But after Oswald was lost in an ownership dispute with Universal, the two men collaborated on a new character named Mickey Mouse, born of a combination of Walt’s vision and Ub’s steady hand.

Disney and Iwerks, like Hanna and Barbera, had very different personalities, with charismatic Walt contrasting sharply with Ub, who had a serious disposition and was shy around women.

The success of Mickey brought an end to the Disney-Iwerks collaboration, as Ub – chafing under the workload and lack of credit he felt he was getting from Walt – left to form his own animation studio, which folded a few years later.

Iwerks would eventually return to Disney, but as a worker, not a partner, having sold his 20% share of the Disney empire back to Walt, thereby costing his heirs billions in future equity.

Joseph Barbera and Ub Iwerks, through talent, hard work, and (at least for a time in Ub’s case) successful partnerships, created some of the world’s most beloved animated characters, leaving behind legacies of laughter.

Thanks, guys and “Happy Birthday” to you both.


It Came From Eddie Brandt’s

I got some sad news today at lunch when a friend of mine handed me a copy of the L.A. Times obituary section, which listed the passing of 90-year-old Eddie Brandt. Brandt was the owner and founder of Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, a movie rental store that has become a second home to legions of film geeks like me.

As a tribute to Eddie, today I am reposting an article I wrote about his store in July, 2010.


It may not look like much from the outside, but the first time I stepped through the doors of Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee in North Hollywood, I knew I had discovered the movie rental mother lode. 

Lots of film buffs feel the same way, including Hollywood insiders like Leonard Maltin and Quentin Tarantino, who I’ve personally seen browsing among the 87,000 VHS tapes, 18,000 DVDs, and 22 tons of pictures and movie posters that can be found at 5006 Vineland Avenue. 

Since 1969, Eddie Brandt’s has been renting films and television shows on beta, VHS, laserdisc, DVD, and now Blu-ray. There are thousands of larger, flashier places to rent films, but there is only one Eddie Brandt’s. Some say it’s the world’s first video store, and hosts of Eddie Brandt’s fans, like me, also believe it’s the world’s best

Eddie Brandt was a comedian and song writer for Spike Jones and Spade Cooley for many years before becoming a writer for animated shows at Hanna-Barbera. It was there that he met his wife Claire, who was an inker. They married in the late 60s, and after cartoon work became scarce, they started a new business selling film stills they acquired from garage sales and swap meets. The fledgling enterprise got a major boost when Eddie bought a truckload of images from Columbia Pictures for a song, that would otherwise have ended up in the city dump.  

Home video was introduced at the time, and the Brandts began their film rental business with a half-dozen B-Westerns. This was at a time when films cost $50 each on betamax, and a decent player would set you back about $2500.

Eddie Brandt’s is still a family operation. Eddie, who is nearing 90, has retired, but Claire still manages photo sales. Their son Donovan–a walking film encyclopedia–heads up movie rentals. 

I stop in from time to time to locate rare silent comedies and B-Westerns that I know I won’t find at Blockbuster. I like listening in on conversations about discoveries other customers have made in the store, like the guy who once rented an ancient documentary about Coney Island and saw his parents on the film as youngsters! 

Over the past couple of decades, I’ve only heard “we don’t have it” a handful of times. At Eddie Brandt’s they like to say, “If we don’t have it, you probably can’t get it.” 

(One last thing … Back when Claire worked at Hanna-Barbera, she would often bring her baby daughter in to work with her. Her daughter wore a pony tail on the top of her head. At the same time, the artists were creating a new child character for a hit show. When Pebbles Flintstone debuted, she had a similar pony tail and bore a striking resemblance to Claire’s daughter …  Coincidence? We don’t think so.) 

To view Eddie’s L.A. Times obituary, click here.