Hanna-Barbera, Unstoppable Killing Machine

Jaime Weinman

With the announcement that Family Guy and Futurama producer David Goodman will write a feature film based on Hong Kong Phooey, the question naturally arises: what’s Hanna-Barbera got on the entertainment industry? (It can’t be compromising photos; there aren’t any that TMZ hasn’t already gotten hold of.) Most cartoon franchises, including the good ones, have trouble staying viable in today’s market, but H-B product seems unstoppable. And the worse their product is, the better it does: their somewhat well-regarded early TV work hasn’t sold great on DVD and hasn’t had a lot of interest from the movie industry, but Scooby-Doo and its ripoffs are doing great.

A historical tip for those who want to know which cartoons to avoid: most cartoons directed by Charles A. Nichols (also billed as C. August Nichols to lull us into a false sense of security) are hard to sit through. At Disney in the ’40s and ’50s, he was in charge of directing the series of cartoons featuring Pluto without Mickey, and even granting that it’s hard to make a good cartoon with the only character who’s more boring than Mickey, his cartoons are some of the dullest ever produced by that studio. Then he became Hanna-Barbera’s chief director in the ’70s, possibly the worst era for TV cartoons, and when H-B threatened to improve slightly, he moved over to Ruby-Spears (started by two of H-B’s employees) to direct the “Rambo” cartoon and “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” Oh, and he was a director on Robonic Stooges. An impressively long career, but not a great filmography.

Update: In comments, SeanStok brings up the matter of Grape Ape. Yep, Nichols’ name is on that too.

Update 2: But in fairness I should add that Nichols did the animation of the Coachman in Pinocchio, the most evil Disney villain ever and the only one who gets away with all his crimes, and directed one really wild and trippy cartoon, Plutopia.