Did people living in the 1960s and ’70s experience the best pop culture had to offer? Movies were radical, music was galvanizing, and television was rapidly growing into a medium that offered more authentic representation across demographics. What often goes unsaid is how awesome it was to be a kid watching cartoons during this period. Thanks to Hanna-Barbera Productions — founded by Metro-Golden-Mayer animation geniuses William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (of “Tom and Jerry” fame) and eventually the primary content generator of Warner Brothers Animation — cartoon programming evolved from frivolity to fundamental education. Children were given an often satiric glimpse into adulthood from a fantastical perspective they could appreciate. With 249 individual series, seven Oscars, eight Emmys, there was no higher power TV animation entity than Hannah-Barbera, spawning an unprecedented collection for future generations of avid cartoon lovers to absorb.
One of their most popular creations was “Scooby-Doo,” a series that began in 1969 and now offers vital entertainment in these trying times with its first CGI animated movie, “Scoob!” The beloved program — featuring an anthropomorphic Great Dane who solves mysteries with his human companions — received its fair share of past movie upgrades. Nearly two decades ago, it got a live-action overhaul with 2002’s “Scooby-Doo: The Movie” and a follow-up sequel, “Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed” (2004). The dismal critical reception of both gave Warners Bros time to contemplate its next move, eventually realizing that sticking to its animated roots might be the best path forward for the hallmark IP. Thus “Scoob!” has entered the home video digital market, its prospective success potentially setting off a chain reaction for other Hanna-Barbera properties to make their nostalgic return. Here are five Hanna-Barbera series that could follow in the pawprints of “Scoob!”
The first has to be “The Flintstones” because it shares a near-identical feature film trajectory with “Scooby-Doo.” Just like the rambunctious furry sleuth and gang, Fred Flinstone and company underwent a live-action transformation to disastrous response. “The Flintstones” (1994) and prequel “The Flinstones Viva Rock Vegas” (2000) ironically came off more juvenile than their cartoon progenitor.
The stone age domestic sitcom was the first animated program to be granted a prime time slot, garnering instant acclaim which culminated in a historic Emmy nomination for “Best Comedy Series” (1961). To tarnish its prestigious reputation with slapstick antics and complete ignorance of the series’ innate biting social commentary was a steep injustice. Therefore, a future “Flinstones” CGI movie — currently in development limbo at Warner Bros — should strive to remind fans of its striking contemporary relevance despite its setting, perhaps using DreamWorks’ “Shrek” quadrilogy as template inspiration for the type of brainy comedy to aim for.
The next obvious candidate is “The Flinstone’s” futuristic cousin, “The Jetsons.” Another sitcom that deals with the pressures corporate employment places on a family, George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, and canine Astro are the quintessential nuclear household of the future. The only difference from today is that their high-rise lifestyle is the norm for everyone, a utopia that isn’t as free-flowing and carefree as advertised.
The CGI-movie needn’t skimp on the visual enthrallment the series is known for, but there are some valuable lessons to be learned from its 1990 animated theatrical feature (“Jetsons: The Movie”). The chief mistake was trying to appeal to all ages when it was competing in a marketplace against live-action films with stronger, broader appeal. However, its anti-housing development displacement/anti-corporation undertones provide instructive cautionary lessons for children looking toward their own future. Such instrumental themes and subtext should be woven into a future “Jetsons” computer-animated feature, though maybe a step back in overt self-seriousness.
Jettisoning off from “The Jetsons,” we land on “Jonny Quest,” an adventure saga following the international journey of a young American boy and his scientist father. This show had all the exploratory energy of “Indiana Jones,” and a movie remake should amplify that same level of intrepid excitement. The 1964 series only ran for one season but inspired a revival show, “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest” during the heyday of Cartoon Network. The series featured some impressive cutting-edge CGI for the time period, showcasing stunning digital rendering woven into the 2D animation. One could only imagine the visual possibilities of today’s version of “Jonny Quest.” More importantly, the protagonist himself isn’t beholden to a preexisting ethnicity. An adolescent and inquisitive young boy of color braving a new scientific frontier would be a landmark achievement of onscreen youth-oriented storytelling.
In a post-“Parks and Recreation” era, bringing “Yogi Bear” back makes all the sense in the human world and animal kingdom. Could you imagine crossover possibilities (permitting a joint studio venture) seeing the NBC comedy’s crazy cast taking a stab at running Jellystone Park, only to be constantly foiled by the ignorantly blissful Yogi Bear? Even if that pipe-dream fantasy doesn’t materialize, there’s still plenty of humor to derive from the forest fella for a new generation of kids. Adorably pragmatic Boo-boo has massive merchandising potential, but more than anything, Yogi’s return would be a form of escapist therapy for everyone right now who’s longing to enjoy the great outdoors again once it’s safe.
This last proposal might be controversial, but sometimes in order to salvage a faltering product, you have to understand what made it work in the first place. Marvel is as popular as ever, but many don’t even realize that one of its first transitions from page to screen was in Hanna-Barbera’s cartoon, “Fantastic Four.”
The dynamic foursome of Mister Fantastic, Invisible Girl, The Human Torch, and The Thing all entered the lives of children of the ‘60s. Depicting courage and bravery against insurmountable odds despite perceived oddities made kids reflect on their own individual uniqueness and take pride in it. After Josh Trank’s cantankerous direction of the live-action reboot from 2015, maybe the next iteration needs to remind audiences that genuine heroism must outweigh cold spectacle. In order to accomplish this, it all needs to be reborn where it began — as morally engrossing and inspirational entertainment for kids.