Hanna-Barbera was a company founded in 1944 by pioneer animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The company started out as a commercial/advertising studio, which later created some well-known television opening sequences. Their first independent program, The Ruff & Reddy Show (1957), was among the earliest animated cartoon shows made specifically for television. After the death of William Hanna in 2001 (he was a consultant for the first live-action Scooby-Doo film), Time-Warner officially dissolved Hanna-Barbera, continuing its animation projects under the name "Cartoon Network Studios" (a name which had begun to appear a few years earlier). Hanna-Barbera productions have featured a great many talking animal and funny animal characters, and their prominence on television for so many years has led them to become a significant part of American popular culture. While some of their characters are poorly remembered (or in one or two cases best left forgotten) the furry fandom, many of whose members grew up watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons, would not be the same without the influence of Hanna-Barbera.
The Hanna-Barbera technique
After leaving MGM in the mid-1950s, Hanna and Barbera moved primarily to television, developing a simplified animation technique known as "limited animation". This involves overlaying character cels and animating only very small segments of an active character (such as the mouth, eyes, or feet) at a time. Combined with simple abstract matte backgrounds, this cut back significantly on production time and as a side-effect led to a distinctive Hanna-Barbera "look". In later years, cost-cutting often extended to avoiding special effects entirely (shaking the camera, sound effects, and some kind of character "take" being the only clues to an off-camera event) which did gain the studio some negative criticism.
Over some 45 years on television, Hanna-Barbera gave birth to dozens of cartoon characters--some well-known and some not-so-well-known--but far too many to list here. Not the least of these included Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Yogi Bear (and Booboo), Snaggle Puss, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Jonny Quest, Magilla Gorilla, Dick Dastardly and Muttley, Scooby-Doo, (Here Comes) The Grump, The Impossibles, Jabberjaw, Speed Buggy, Dink the Little Dinosaur, The Pirates of Dark Water, The SWAT Kats, Dexter (the one with the laboratory), and the Powerpuff Girls. They brought Peyo's Smurfs to the screen and continued the adventures of Popeye. Through their acquisition of Ruby-Spears, they also indirectly had a hand in a number of licensed properties such as Spider-Man, Justice League, Pac-Man, The Go-Bots, and (most recently) Megaman. It bears noting that the majority of Hanna-Barbera characters are non-human; and even shows like The Flintsones could include talking animals as supporting characters.