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(Well, they should, since they've been around for 30 years or more, but that's not my point.) Many of Hanna-Barbera's most endearing characters were already endeared to the American public when they burst on the screen. A paradox? Nope, pure genius. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera had a trick up their collective sleeves for creating characters that were at once original and yet familiar. They based their voices and personas on existing comedians of the day. It isn't hard to figure out that The Honeymooners was the inspiration for The Flintstones. Fred is almost a cartoon Ralph Kramden and Wilma is a Stone Age Alice. But wait, why doesn't Barney bear more of a resemblance to Art Carney's Ed Norton? (You didn't know there would be a quiz, did you?) The answer is, Hanna-Barbera had already tapped Carney's brilliant characterization a few years earlier. Take a look at Yogi Bear, with his flat hat and occasional vest. Listen to Yogi's voice in your head, "He-ey Boo-Boo!" Now play back your memory of Ed Norton, "He-ey Ralphie Boy!" Audiences were primed to love Yogi Bear because they already loved Norton! Some of the other Hanna-Barbera inspirations are a bit more obscure, but in historical context they make perfect sense. Before he was cast as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, Bert Lahr had a long career as a radio comedian. His stop-and-go voice pattern was unmistakable. And his character was eminently lovable. Who better to serve as the role model for that overzealous thespian known as Snagglepuss? Here's an even tougher one, one you'll really have to travel back to the late fifties to appreciate. Listen to Huckleberry Hound's voice in your head. (Or better yet, watch
the cartoons!) Picture his laid-back demeanor and easy-going southern disposition. Nothing ruffles the feathers of this hound of hounds. Who's Huck modeled after? Although today's audiences know him as Matlock, and older ones among us will forever think of him as Sheriff Andy Taylor, Andy Griffith had made quite a name for himself as a Carolina comedian by 1958. His slow-talking style and southern charm made Andy's comedy records very popular and a good choice as a blueprint for the true blue cartoon pooch. Baba Louie, the Mexican bull, was inspired by the comical twists of the English language by a Cuban star of the period. Yes, Baba Louie is a caricature of Desi Arnaz (bet you figured that one out.) Of course, before I Love Lucy, Desi's big hit was a song called "Babaloo." And none other than the inimitable (but often imitated) Jimmy Durante served as the prototype for Doggie Daddy. You almost can't see one without thinking of the other. There are many more that I'll let you ponder on your own. (Maybe tracing the roots of Hanna-Barbera characters could become a popular party game?) Ironically, many of the Hanna-Barbera characters have outlasted their live-action counterparts. But to their everlasting credit, Bill and Joe always knew how to make enduring characters out of endearing characterizations. Bill Burnett Creative Director Hanna-Barbera Cartoons Inc.