William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were two animation directors at MGM before founding their own animation studio. From 1958 until the early 2000s the studio produced an astonishing amount of classic cartoons. Seemingly every idea they came up with struck gold and cemented themselves in the collective pop culture conscious. Some characters, like Yogi Bear and Fred Flintstone, survive even to this day as instantly recognizable characters.
Each show had its own distinctive flavor of animation but all fell under the umbrella of Hanna-Barbera’s house style. The unification of this style was a seal of approval for the audience. Without knowing that Hanna-Barbera specifically created a cartoon, a viewer would know by the familiar art style. The following 15 shows offer the best of the best of what Hanna-Barbera produced in their heyday from the early 1960s to late 1970s.
The terror of Tokyo attacks! Each episode revolved around a scientific exploration team, including a precocious young boy and a ditsy relative of Godzilla, calling on the King of All Monsters to do battle with one of the dozens of big, bad kaijus featured on the show. While none of Godzilla’s most famous foes like Rodan, King Ghidorah, or Mothra appeared, the show still featured deadly giant monsters with great character designs.
Nothing can compete with seeing a live action “Godzilla” movie featuring men in monster suits. However, this show gave fans the ability to see more of their favorite city destroyer do battle with other giant monsters. This show sneaks onto this list for having a fun, mindless premise. Many Hanna-Barbera shows are filled to the brim with clever satire and slapstick humor. Godzilla shows that Hanna-Barbera were great at making action cartoons as well.
14. THE ADDAMS FAMILY
The crazy and kooky, mysteriously spooky Addams family made their way to an animated cartoon in the mid 1970s. The path to a Hanna-Barbera adaptation was a long twisty one. “The Addams Family” was first a cartoon newspaper comic in the 1930s, a live action sitcom in the 1960s, then they had cameo appearances in other Hanna-Barbera properties, and finally their own animated series. While most adaptations of “The Addams Family” restrict the family to their run-down mansion, this animated series put them on a road trip in an RV to take their spookiness out and about.
This animated series was built on the success of the previous live action series with a few cast members returning to lend their voices. Throughout all the adaptations, the draw for “The Addams Family” remains the same. The lovable cast of eccentric, death-obsessed screwballs are actually a tight knit family who love each other dearly.
13. THE JETSONS
“The Jetsons” poked fun at modern (1960s) life through the lens of a futuristic family, their robot maid, and space dog. The show made viewers laugh with the silly antics of the characters but also dazzled them with the predictions of how life would be in the future. How many viewers grew up watching the show desperately wanted to own a flying car? Or the promise that life would be a leisurely utopia when robots automated everything?
While certainly a well-known cartoon, “The Jetsons” is lower on this list because it is clone of sorts of the formula used for “The Flintstones.” Over the course of dozens and dozens of shows, Hanna-Barbera tended to stick to a few premises. There’s nothing wrong with “The Jetsons,” but there’s nothing they hadn’t done before. “The Jetsons” and “Flintstones” were so popular that one of the most celebrated crossovers involved the two families swapping time periods.
12. HONG KONG PHOOEY
A dopey dog who is a janitor turns into the number one super guy Hong Kong Phooey. The show was created in the mid 1970s as a riff and mild parody of the popular martial arts movies of the time. The character was depicted as a bit of a slowpoke both in and out of costume. His kung fu mastery was obtained through a mail-order catalog after all! Each episode would feature the superhero dog attempting to fight crime only to accidentally succeed because of his friends.
One of the most interesting aspects of the show is that “Hong Kong Phooey” was voiced by Scatman Crothers. Crothers was a famed entertainer whose most famous role was the chef in “The Shining” who teaches little Danny Torrance about his telepathic gifts. Crother’s career spanned stage, silver screen, and television. He was one of the highest profile actors to lend his talents to the works of Hanna-Barbera.
11. SPACE GHOST
A superhero clad in a white suit with a black hood and yellow cape, Space Ghost was an adventurer, explorer, and general force of good. His missions took him throughout the far reaches of space along with his sidekicks Jan, Jace, and monkey Blip. The show was packaged with another series called “Dino Boy” about a young man trapped in a lost world of prehistoric animals. While “Space Ghost” is a fun enough superhero romp through outer space the reason it is on this list is for its legacy.
In 1994 Mike Lazzlo, a then vice president at Cartoon Network, took original animations from the “Space Ghost” cartoon and remixed them into a surreal late night talk show featuring Space Ghost and former foes turned sidekicks Brak and Zorak. “Space Ghost Coast to Coast” was one of the very first television shows to air on the Adult Swim network. Without innovative shows like “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” Adult Swim would not be the powerhouse network it is today.
10. TOP CAT
Top Cat and his merry gang of fellow felines would hang out in Hoagy’s Alley causing all sorts of mischief for the neighborhood flat foot Officer Charlie Dibble. Top Cat is a dreamer and a schemer always on the lookout for a way to improve his life and the life of his friends. The show’s success comes from its hang out vibe. Viewers watch as Top Cat and his crew try to move up in the world from stray alley cats to high society furballs.
“Top Cat” was one of the earlier Hanna-Barbera entries and the title character was a breakout star. His carefree trickster attitude made him a fan favorite who appeared in many of the subsequent crossover series. His popularity led to comic book series and even two recent movies that were released in 2011 and 2015, respectively. Both “Top Cat” the show and the character have proven themselves to be lasting, instantly identifiable parts of the Hanna-Barbera universe.
A giant great white shark who is the drummer for a band of teenagers living in an underwater city in the far future of 2076. It’s a no-brainer why “Jabberjaw” gets onto this list. Like many cartoons Hanna-Barbera produced, it had a group of teenagers solving mysteries as a plot device. Most of “Jabberjaw’s” humor was in the same vein as “The Flintstones.” The show was absolutely littered with oceanic puns and gags.
“Jabberjaw” gets on this list for its sheer audacity. The premise appears to be made out of a series of dares or by pulling plot elements from a hat. Even though it has one of the silliest high concepts on this list the show itself delivered plenty of laughs and entertainment. Despite all this, “Jabberjaw” was never treated as a joke. He’s a beloved member of the Hanna-Barbera stable and had cameos in lots of other productions.
8. THE YOGI BEAR SHOW
Yogi Bear, along with the Flintstones family and Hucklberry Hound, was one of the earliest breakout stars for Hanna-Barbera. His daring-do schemes along with apprehensive sidekick Boo Boo proved to a be a highly successful combination that has entertained audiences since his debut in 1958. Rounding out the cast of the show was Ranger Smith who was constantly agitated by Yogi’s antics. The first Yogi Bear show was also home to fan favorite Snagglepuss, the pink, theater-obsessed mountain lion.
Yogi’s popularity made him the unofficial face of Hanna-Barbera for many years. It was his character name that branded many of Hanna-Barbera’s crossover and team up shows like “Yogi’s Gang” and “Yogi’s Treasure Hunt.” Outdoor enthusiasts know that to this day there are campgrounds and parks named after Jellystone from the cartoon. Yogi Bear was so popular that even to this day people are unable to say picnic basket without imitating his slow sing-song drawl.
7. JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS
“Josie and the Pussycats” debuted in a 1970 Hanna-Barbera cartoon after first appearing in the Archie comics universe. The rock trio of Josie, Melody, and Valerie found themselves constantly in hot water while on the way to their rock gigs. Not only did they have to solve mysteries and catch criminals but they also had to keep their manager’s jealous twin sister at bay. The cartoon was fun, hip, and had great music to boot. It showed that Hanna-Barbera were no slouches in keeping up with the youth they were making content for.
“Josie and the Pussycats” are consistently among some of the most popular characters in the Hanna-Barbera universe. They have shown up in other properties like Scooby-Doo. After their initial series there was a sequel series set in outer space. In 2001 a criminally underrated (yes, seriously) movie was made as an adaptation of the series starring Rachel Leigh Cook and Rosario Dawson. Currently a version of the band is featured on the smash hit CW show “Riverdale.”
6. THE ADVENTURES OF JONNY QUEST
“The Adventures of Jonny Quest” had its roots in old time adventure serials produced for radio, film, and pulp novels. It distinguished itself by having a futuristic, albeit grounded, sci-fi bent. The result was a classic and thrilling cartoon designed to wow audiences with fancy vehicles and cool gadgets. The set up is one of the great hooks to a children’s cartoon. Jonny Quest is the son of a famed adventurer and scientist who goes on all sorts of dangerous missions with his trusty bodyguard. It’s no wonder many children flocked to the show and imagined themselves as part of the action.
The legacy of Jonny Quest has a long tail that includes two sequel series that aired in 1986 and 1996. The characters were featured on spoof show “Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law” in an episode about a custody battle between the senior Quest and Race Bannon. Possibly the most notable influence the show has had is that it inspired the Adult Swim show “The Venture Bros.”
5. THE FLINTSTONES
“The Flintstones” was initially produced as a riff on the classic television show “The Honeymooners,” but quickly became a powerhouse in its own right. The cartoon about a prehistoric family aired during primetime and is considered one of the first cartoons to do so. The success of the show rested on its familiar stories about family all the while set in the stone age. This gave the show the ability to satirize the culture at the time.
The characters of the Flintstones including Fred, Barney, and their wives Wilma and Betty continue to be recognizable today because of how popular the show was. Not to mention that even children to this day can see Fred and Barney’s faces on cereal boxes. Without “The Honeymooners,” there wouldn’t be “The Flintstones,” but without “The Flintstones,” we wouldn’t have classic shows like “The Simpsons.” “The Flintstones” is an integral part of our pop culture DNA.
4. SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU!
“Scooby-Doo, Where Are You” is perhaps the single most popular cartoon on this list. To this day, animated movies and television shows are still being produced with the four mystery solvers and their talking, cowardly Great Dane. It is simply staggering to look at all the works produced under this brand. As of this writing, the latest direct-to-DVD movie, “Shaggy’s Showdown,” was released on February 14th, 2017.
It’s not hard to understand why Scooby-Doo has transcended into a media empire. Everything about the original cartoon is perfection. The theme song was instantly iconic with it’s fun, poppy, harmonies. The monster designs – always revealed to be costumes – are spooky without being frightening. Casey Kasem’s slacker drawl to Shaggy’s voice and Don Messick’s rough yet high-pitched Scooby voice have become staples of impressionists all around the world. After 40 years of consistent productions, “Scooby Doo” is a cornerstone to our modern entertainment lexicon.
3. WACKY RACES
In the mid-1960s, there was an influx of car racing pictures and some of which featured a large, crazy cast of characters. Two of these movies were “The Great Race” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” “Wacky Races” sought to mimic this trend by offering up its own take on the genre. Every episode featured 11 different racing teams competing for the title of World’s Wackiest Racer. The racing team of Dick Dastardly and his faithful dog Muttley would try to sabotage the race.
While “Wacky Races” might not be as well known as some of the other shows on this list, it’s sheer quality is what puts it at such a high ranking. It is quite possibly the funniest show on the list. The Narrator character offers up whip-fast wordplay and puns for the audience and there are shades of Wile E. Coyote to Dick Dastardly’s plans, and the variety in character designs for each of the racing teams is fantastic. That variety makes for an exciting and fun experience watching the show.
2. FANTASTIC FOUR
All Hanna-Barbera cartoons are gorgeous. Every show they produced had thick outlines on the characters, bold yet simple backgrounds, and a varied color palette that pops off the screen. But no show on this list matches subject matter to animation better than their adaptation of the “Fantastic Four.” The reason for this is simple. Hanna-Barbera and Jack Kirby had complimentary styles. That’s not claim that they are identical styles either.
Aside from the art, this show gets ranked highly because of its timeliness. “Fantastic Four” #1 was released in 1961 and the cartoon in 1967. That’s a fairly quick turnaround time for a quality animated show to capitalize on a culturally significant comic book. In hindsight, “Fantastic Four” is considered to be one of the paradigm shifting comic books that legitimized the artistic medium. It shows that all involved in the production of the cartoon knew how important “Fantastic Four” was to pop culture.
1. SUPER FRIENDS
“Super Friends” was released in the early ‘70s and has a delightfully Silver Age campy charm to it. The heroes – Batman, Robin Superman, Aquman, and Wonder Woman – are joined by two plucky sidekicks and fight against the Legion of Doom and their evil plots. All the characters have a loud, clear, and earnest way of speaking to each other. It creates the feeling of a cheesy ‘60s comic book come to life. Any conversation about the “Super Friends” cartoons must give special mention to Aquaman. It can be argued that Aquaman’s reputation was soiled for many years following the cartoon. It’s not a positive quality but it is notable nevertheless.
“Super Friends” ended up boasting a whopping six spinoff cartoons after its original iteration. Although some of those shows gained better ratings than the original, featured bigger rosters, or were better animated, they wouldn’t have existed without the original. The first version of this cartoon was a landmark cultural icon that proved there is always a place for the Justice League somewhere in our media, whether it’s in the cartoons, comics, or movies.
Which Hanna-Barbera cartoon was your favorite? Tell us in the comments!
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