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Archive for the ‘Cartoon heroes’


Resurrecting The Flintstones?

January 28th, 2008

Fred Flintstone art

This Flintstones style guide was one of the last projects I oversaw as the last president of Hanna-Barbera cartoons. But it was probably one of the first things I wanted to accomplish.

Shortly after I joined the company I had an enlightening dinner with John Kricfalusi where we got to know each other. In addition to discussing some first principles of cartoon making (where I told John to my thoughts about doing classic-type shorts and found out he’d thinking along the same lines; I guess there are no original ideas) John told me about his frustrations about the ‘evolution’ Hanna-Barbera’s classic characters had taken since the early 1960s. He introduced me to master designer Ed Benedict, one of his heroes, who’s designed everyone from Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, and The Flintstones. And how HB’s cutifying and firming up the modeling of the characters had actually completely robbed them of their personalities.


John made perfect sense to me and solidified an ignorant instinct I had about the lessening of the vintage Hanna-Barbera shows that started losing their power around the time of The Jetsons. It became one of my missions at the studio to restore the power of the great, funny drawings in the company’s heritage. So, in addition to the resurrection of the a shorts program I tried to instill a passion for the great designs that built the joint.

Boy was it hard. For thirty years the culture had re-developed around the cute, squat, and dull designs that emerged around the early/mid 60s; it had convinced itself that that art was the ‘good stuff’ and the earlier models were crude, inexact, and ‘bad.’ But, as the young artists started to re-populate the ranks, their interest in the original designs and animation started to take hold and eventually led us to master artist Craig Kellman (now working primarily with Genndy Tartakovky’s Orphanage).

Fred Flintstone Model Comparisons

Not more than 25 in 1996, Craig was commissioned by HB Licensing Creative Director Russell Hicks to completely redesign the licensing guide that had come out just the year before. And wow did he take to it. Hundreds –probably thousands– of drawings poured out from Craig’s desk. Superior drawings too, too great for someone of his tender age. But, one by one, anyone could see their power and their humor, and soon enough we completely republished the style guide, a “redux” if you will.
Check out the drawings above and you’ll see how much Ed’s influence was on Craig, but also the pathetic, enemic versions that have dominated for the last 50 years.

From “On the Rocks”

Alas, we were a little too late. Seemingly within minutes after publication Ted Turner sold Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network to Time Warner. No one there really gave a crap about old or new designs, and the Cartoon Network executives with senior responsibility were more interested in their employment than the studio. A few of them –Mike Lazzo, Linda Simensky, and Brian Miller– thankfully had enough juice to get a 90 minute special,”On the Rocks,” produced using the models. But, by then, The Flintstones had lost their mojo and the film went pretty much unnoticed.

But, don’t fret. The designs exist forever, and one day The Flintstones will come back, with a passionate advocate steering them to wonderful comedy greatness. In the meantime, enjoy some of Craig’s designs.

Frederator postcard series 6.19

December 8th, 2007


Mailed out the week of December 10, 2007

This card is the first in our series of “Original Cartoon Inspirations” (I’ve got no idea what the others will be or when we’ll publish them). Because on a few different levels Joseph Barbera & William Hanna fit that description to a tee.

Obviously, Eric and I started our cartoon careers at the Hanna-Barbera Studios, working alongside of Joe and Bill. There really wasn’t any better inspiration than that experience. To be able to have long, first hand, conversatons about making Tom & Jerry, or The Flintstones and The Jetsons gave us insight on everything from the creative process, to setting up the most successful production shop in history, to just the everyday interaction among the very talented and very human characters that populated the building over the decades. Sitting in a car or a plane with Bill for hours at a time, hearing him reminisce about going fishing every year with Tex Avery… there’s really nothing I can say to recreate those moments. And, of course, that’s on top of being glued to the TV set for days at a time when the original HB shows hit the air in the late 50s.

This photograph was taken in 1995 by Jeff Sedlik, as part of my ongoing effort to give Joe and Bill (and the whole studio) the respect they deserved. I knew Jeff as an LA based photographer primarily known for sittings with jazz musicians (I already owned Miles Davis and BB King portraits) and I think he did a fabulous job with the guys. I think the session was their last formal sitting.

PS: Eric scheduled this card because December 14th’s the 50th anniversary of the debut of the first Hanna-Barbera Productions TV series, The Ruff & Reddy Show. It’s worth commemorating.

Frederator Postcards Series 1, 1998
Frederator Postcards Series 2, 1999
Frederator Postcards Series 3, 2000
Frederator Postcards Series 4, 2003
Frederator Postcards Series 5, 2004-2005
Frederator Postcards Series 6, 2007-2008

Oh Yeah! John Kricfalusi.

October 5th, 2005

It’s always a great day at Frederator Studios when our great friend John Kricfalusi comes by with cartoon ideas like Wally.

Many of you have heard me talk about the importance of John to our approach to making cartoons. Though we were circling around the idea of classic style shorts like Looney Tunes, it wasn’t until we moved to Hollywood and met John that we understood how we would approach them. The value of artists as the prime movers, the make-each-drawing-funny neccessity, timing, acting… the list of influential items is enormous. Of course, it’s not that Mr. Kricfalusi invented this stuff, but, I think it’s fair to say, he was most definitely the most vocal person in reviving these notions as important in the new generation entering the business in the 90s.

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For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure of watching a John K pitch, my really crappy cell phone camera caught this classic Spumco moment.

Thanks John, you’ve made a great difference to all of us.

Thanks to John Kricfalusi for his kind permission to post this drawing of Wally.