In 1929, after watching 'The Skeleton Dance,' Barbera decided to become an animator. He made a failed attempt as a cartoonist for 'The NY Hits Magazine.'
Around the time, a job at the 'Irving Trust Bank' on Wall Street took care of Barbera's expenses while he published cartoons for 'Redbook' and 'The Saturday Evening Post.' He also had a successful stint with 'Collier's.'
Barbera also sought the advice of Walt Disney to make a successful career in the animation industry.
Barbera landed a job with 'Fleischer Studios' while studying at the 'Art Students League of New York’ and the ‘Pratt Institute.' In 1932, the 'Van Beuren Studios' hired him as an animator and a storyboard artist.
Barbera's early projects were 'Cubby Bear' and 'Rainbow Parades.' He also created an earlier version of 'Tom and Jerry.'
In 1935, Paul Terry of 'Terrytoons' studio refused to produce Barbera's first solo storyboard about 'Kiko the Kangaroo' and 'Dirty Dog.' However, Barbera joined the studio after 'Van Beuren' shut down in 1936. The original storyboard was auctioned in November 2013.
In 1937, Barbera joined the 'Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer' (MGM) cartoon unit in California, with a hope to get a higher salary. To his dismay, like Brooklyn, Los Angeles, too, was under the grip of the Great Depression.
Barbera met William Hanna soon, and by 1939, they made a strong professional bond that lasted for the following 6 decades. The two collaborated with animator Tex Avery.
In 1940, Barbera and Hanna co-directed 'Academy'-nominated cartoon 'Puss Gets the Boot.' Despite the success, their supervisor, Fred Quimby, did not want any more cat-and-mouse cartoons for his studio.
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Barbera and Hanna ignored Quimby's thought and continued developing their next cat-and-mouse-themed cartoon, which later became their most famous creation, 'Tom and Jerry.'
Quimby eventually gave Hanna and Barbera permission to pursue the 'Tom and Jerry' project.
Barbera and Hanna introduced a renewed version of 'Tom and Jerry' characters in 'The Midnight Snack' (1941). For the next 17 years, they directed over 114 popular cartoon shorts for 'Tom and Jerry.'
Following the trend, Barbera and Hanna, too, created animated training films during World War II.
Initially, 'Tom and Jerry' had no dialogues, and the story was told only through motions. The 11th short, 'The Yankee Doodle Mouse' (1943), earned the series its first 'Academy Award.'
'Tom and Jerry' ended up winning seven 'Academy Awards' out of the 14 nominations it had secured, the highest number in the category. Hanna and Barbera also have eight 'Emmy Awards' to their names.
From 1946 to 1951, Barbera and 'Tom and Jerry' designer Harvey Eisenberg ran 'Dearfield Publishing,' a comic-book company.
Hanna and Barbera replaced Quimby after he retired in late 1955. In 1957, 'MGM' shut down its animation studio and fired everyone. Barbera and Hanna then started their company, 'Hanna-Barbera Productions.'
The company had some initial struggle to reap revenues. Following 'Walt Disney,' 'Hanna-Barbera,' too, began to re-air old 'Tom and Jerry' cartoons. The attempt was successful and earned them the money they required to finance exclusive animated series for color television.
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While Barbera wrote the gags and sketched the characters, Hanna worked on the timing, the story construction, and the recruitment of artists. They would take the major business decisions together, while the title of the president alternated between them every year.
The company released some of its most popular series, such as 'The Huckleberry Hound Show' (1958–1961), 'The Flintstones' (1960–1966), 'Yogi Bear' (1961–1962), 'Quick Draw McGraw' (1959-1961), 'Top Cat' (1961-1962), 'The Jetsons' (1962–1963), 'Magilla Gorilla' (1963–1967), 'Jonny Quest' (1964–1965), 'Wacky Races' (1968–1970), 'Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!' (1969–1970), 'Josie and the Pussycats' (1970–1971), 'Wait Till Your Father Gets Home' (1972–1974), 'Hong Kong Phooey' (1974), 'The Smurfs' (1981–1989), and 'Snorks' (1984–1989).
'Hanna-Barbera' also produced animated specials modeled on 'Alice in Wonderland,' 'Jack and the Beanstalk,' and 'Cyrano.' They also created feature-length films such as 'Charlotte's Web' and 'Heidi's Song.'
'Hanna-Barbera' adopted cost-cutting techniques to provide more animated series, and by the late 1960s, the company became the most flourishing TV cartoon studio in the world, producing over 3,000 animated half-hour series.
In December 1966, 'Taft Broadcasting' ('Great American Communications') acquired 'Hanna-Barbera Productions,' but the two retained their position of company head until 1991. Following this, the company was sold to the 'Turner Broadcasting System.'
'Hanna-Barbera' then began producing 'Cartoon Network' original series such 'Dexter's Laboratory' and 'The Powerpuff Girls.' 'Turner' merged with 'Time Warner' in 1996.
However, Barbera and Hanna continued to assist 'Turner.' They also worked on some new shows, such as shorts for 'The Cartoon Cartoon Show' and film adaptations of 'The Flintstones' (1994) and 'Scooby-Doo' (2002).
Barbera lent his voice to a 2000 'Tom and Jerry' cartoon, 'The Mansion Cat.' 'Hanna-Barbera' was absorbed by 'Warner Bros. Animation' after Hanna died in March 2001.
Barbera became the executive producer for the direct-to-video unit of 'Warner Bros.,' producing TV series such as 'What's New, Scooby-Doo?' and 'Tom and Jerry Tales.' He also wrote and co-created the film version of 'Tom and Jerry,' titled 'The Karate Guard' (2005).
The direct-to-video feature 'Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale' was Barbera's last work and was released posthumously in 2007.