How Hanna-Barbera used simple animation to highlight music, dialogue and sound design

(image via Pinterest)


The difference between what we did at Warner Bros. and what’s on Saturday morning is the difference between animation and what I call illustrated radio. If you can turn off the picture and still know what’s going on, that’s illustrated radio. (synopsis via Laughing Squid)

Hanna-Barbera was very much the mainstay of my childhood Saturday mornings.

Everything from Scooby Doo to Jabberjaw to The Flintstones and gloriously on and on kept me amused through school holidays and lazy weekends; I laughed at the characters who were alive and as animated as they could be to me.

In this video essay from filmmaker Patrick Sullivan, it becomes clear that they weren’t nearly as animated as I thought, with Hanna-Barbera going for simpler animation augmented by inspired use of sound effects, music and dialogue to make things seem more frenetic than they technically were based on the visuals alone.

Chuck Jones called it “illustrated radio”, the idea that you could turn off the animation and still know what was going on by sound alone, a revelation that underscores just how clever these cartoons were, and why I and so many other people love them so much.


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