Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Joe Barbera dies at 95 causes Jeff to wax nostalgic

Some of you know Jeff Jonas, one of our talented artists here at SOE. Here are his remembrances of working at Hanna Barbera in the early '70's. The "Jayne" that Jeff mentions is Joe Barbera's daughter.

Wow 95, everybody goes sometime. Joe Barbera was a harsh taskmaster but a good businessman... most of my childhood was spent as a child of H&B... much longer than the time spent as a Disney-kid. My Dad, Homer Jonas, worked at Hanna and Barbera studios from about 1964 until his death in 1979. My dad disliked a number of folks that hired out back then, he was not fond of Chuck Jones, he hated the guys at Filmation (although Filmation was right down the street in Reseda), and he had a grudge against going back to Disney's after he was canned along with the whole crew that worked on "Wind Wagon Smith."
He hated H&B more than the rest of them, but they paid him better.

I worked at H&B in the summer during college, as a copy boy in the copier room, under "Tiger" West from 1972-1974. My job was creating copies of scripts storyboards and art, and sometimes using the big Xerox cameras that made cels to be painted. Joe Barbera gave us our Reseda* suburban lifestyle, and eventually kept my dad onboard during the periods of lay offs that always happened between November and March as the TV productions had to be in the can by November, and the new ones did not gear up till March. So I owe allot to Joe Barbera, he put me through college. (Yes the same town featured prominently in both "Boogie Nights" and "The Karate Kid")

Joe Barbera's passing made me reminisce on my goof ball memories as copy boy in "The Studio."

One day, Joe Barbera fired me for sitting on the stool and putting my aching feet up on the copier.... he said I was ok since I told him I was on break.
I guess he was impressed when I didn't piss my pants. I didn't take breaks in the copy room any more, but that meant mingling outside with the crazed women cannibals , and whacky artists.

I hated it when we got stuff too late to copy and it had to be delivered to a board meeting in progress, usually we had a 52 page script and thirty copies needed by 3:15, of course the original was handed to us at 3:00.... so off we went cachugging the the copiers, hoping that there would be no jams, or worse no breakdowns that we couldn't fix. The worst case was when the 11x17 copier overheated and jammed- it would catch on fire, we had to douse it with the fire extinguisher then clean the drum, what a chore. Usually at 3:15 they would come in asking for the job... we would say that we only have 12 copies done.... they would take them. I'd carry in the other 18 and pile them up on the table.

Sometimes the board meetings would be bizarre, studio folks I would know with some stars (like Paul Winchell) and maybe the Banana Splits would be in the exec area. There was a standing rumor that one of the Banana Splits took off his mask in the hallway- Joe saw him and sent him packing.

Joe Barbera was on the first floor so I often had to run into the exec areas... Hanna had almost the whole top floor penthouse for his office. Hanna was hardly ever there but had a nice June Cleaver secretary. Nobody hung out on the third floor.

Barbera once asked me who I was... " I said Homer Jonas' son." He said "Jonas eh? I like the tack of your jib" (no I'm lying.... I don't recall what he said, or grunted :)

Normally my interactions with the boss were short. "Here copy this".... so I would put it in the the priority rack in front of everybody else's stuff. I liked the sense of power when others would frown as there important storyboard got pre-empted by Barbera's rush job (only the bosses ASAP or rush would get credit)

We had ASAP stuff and ASAP!!! stuff and ASAP NOW! stuff, sometimes we'd get due for meeting at 2:30 (which was logged in at 2:45 :)

Jayne was scarier, she was the "real" boss in the joint I always tread lightly around her because she would fire folks for looking at her sideways.

I also was scared of the women in the office because some of them were really foxy and my dad said I had to be careful because if I got too close to them they might "chew me up and spit me out sideways"..... this was enough to make me terrified of the ladies that were in anyway curious. (You see my dad was a big flirt so it was difficult for me to take the needling some of the tough talking gals could dish out.. plus the fear of cannibalism). Some of the tough gals (read lesbian.. or bi... I didn't know.. jeesh ...lay off I was 19ish and a geek) were always coming on to me to make me copy their stuff first, since they could tell how embarrassed I was .... I think I turned beet red every time... it always worked too because I would get their stuff done so I wouldn't get eaten or needled anymore.

The ink and paint ladies scared me even more. My dad said they might jump me up there and lock me somewhere so they could have their way with me, "it had happened before". This made me rush out of there as soon as I dropped off their stuff. I think my dad specifically set them up to harass me. They would call me Homie's son... come over here and pick this up... take this to your dad (it would be a folded note saying "Homer you are a shithole" inside a heart) ...gosh working with your dad is so much fun!

I remember I had to loiter (while waiting for a pickup) and was kind of drawn to my favorite cute Ink & Paint cannibal. I liked one of the big bottles of rust color cel vinyl paint they used for Scooby Doo. I gathered all my courage and said to her I like the color called "Carole". She giggled allot, so did the other tribeswomen. Later my dad told me HER name was Carole, and obviously he had already gazed at her... or more.... yechh. It is really unnerving to gawk at women that your dad had already pre-gawked. This gave me a real queasy feeling about high school.

I remember a big fight broke out in the Layout area.... shouting and screaming. Somebody was shouting at Bob Singer and he was yelling back. I walked back to see the ruckus but it was over. Miss Becky walked by and told not to bother, my dad had intervened and offered them both jelly beans which calmed the situation. Miss Becky looked liked the gals my dad drew cartoons of.... oops she WAS some of the gals my dad drew.. oops. I never ran from Miss Becky, in fact, I had one kind of uncomfortable moment when I couldn't actually get myself to leave her cube.... I was frozen by her .... tension mounted.. I think she said "shoo" and giggled... that broke me like the French at Waterloo.

Sorry these reminiscences are not politically correct, but the world was not PC back then. They smoked and swore and cursed. Some of the tough gals would call me Homer's puppy, they said I needed a collar and leash.... all this through the cigarette smoke. Yikes... run away! I remember a cute Japanese lady liked me. She was in the Xerox dept. She asked me to her party in Burbank. I immediately had visions of a dark Turkish setting with everybody smoking opium with S&M going on all over the place. I told her I didn't have my driver's license (because I was a geek). "Maybe Homeh, bring you?" .... Oh yeah have my dad drive me to a party with Turkish opium smoking and wild cannibalism going on all over the place.... he would have left me in the car and gone in himself as I curled up into the fetal position.

I remember some funny conversations... this guy that looked like David Crosby would come in and just start talking to me about this big eyed waifish looking female artist. I had no idea why he kept confiding in me. He would just start telling me how horny she made him.... and how he had to figure out how to get to her.... even though he had mild regrets about being married. He wanted me to slip a note into her stack of copies that I would deliver. I remember telling her clearly... "That note is not from me!!!"
Phew! Avoided getting eaten again.

Lots of famous folks came into the copy room to talk to us... well er.. use the phone since otherwise they had to use the pay phones since we had the only open outside line outside the exec offices! I met lots of cool folks too many to name, but Scatman Caruthers, Don Adams, Ross Martin, Ted Cassidy, and of course Mel Blanc, Tom Hatten.. among many others were forced to use our phone.

I once spent the whole afternoon putting cels and background art into the chopper downstairs. A lot of it was soiled and bent and ruined... but I stacked aside the good stuff. I gave away most of it...(mostly to impress girls unsuccessfully), over time I got tired of it and sold it all at the ComicCon in 1981 for $780.00! Woo Hoo! (to put things in context over the summer my H&B 1973-74-75 copyboy job would earn me about $1800.00 each summer which was my " books, fun and pizza money" when I was back at college at SDSU).

My only actual contribution to a film was on Charlotte's Web. I helped shoot some of the stock animation sequences of the big parade ending scene.
Charlotte's Web had another funny moment. I was copying the storyboard song sequence that had Fern holding Wilbur and spinning around and dancing with the pig. Soon I noticed that the whole storyboard had fern not wearing any clothing. It was very funny. I mentioned this to Mr. Nichols, he wasn't amused, later on had to re copy all those boards, but now with a fully clothed Fern.

Sometimes I would read the scripts. Often we would get the network censor's version. Stuff like "Make sure screech of Pteranodon is not too scary" would be written in red ink. Anybody that knows H&B knows that there is only one Pteranodon screech and it is the same one from Jonny Quest used over and over. The most PC show ever was "These are the Days"... and "Valley of the Dinosaurs" man were they ever edited by the sensors!
(My dad hated the fact that the dog in "These are the Days" was named Homer... he often would note that it was deliberate. Luckily TATD was not a hit :)

Once my supervisor, Dennis Matthews and I were talking about Othello while mindlessly copying stuff. One of the layout artists commented.... "You copy guys are in here discussing Shakespeare, and I work all day drawing talking dogs"...... Yes the copy room was the intellectual hub of H&B.


Jeff Jonas


rickart said...

Awesome stuff, Jeff! Thanks for sharing! I love the cannibal paint and ink ladies... they sound so fierce! That's just what the game industry is missing!

Scatman! Ted Cassidy! Don Adams! Cool!

Mr Goodson said...

Excellent. Thanks for posting all that. Jeff sounds like he was lucky to have a great creative environment that he interpreted as a gawky teenager living hell. Actually sounds like a hard job.

Tom Moon said...

Yes, it sounds like the business environment back then in those old animation studios was not nearly so casual as what we are used to in the video game business. Still, I would like to have had that experience.

Davis Chino said...

Jeff, your glorious past is like a brilliant Xmas star that beams over the fruited plain of the TAG site. Magi-like, we are drawn to your illumination....

LOVED the reminiscences.

Just think, perhaps one day our kids (tho' you, me, Ellis don't have any--yet) will thrill their friends with stories of meeting Tom Moon while working as a tester on EverQuest IX...("Yes, the real Tom Moon!")

Ah, sweet generational turn-over.

And Merry Freakin'! One day in the year of 2007 I am coming to your house to help you go through some of this stuff--and I'll dress up like an Ink-n-Paint Cannibal, circa 1974, if it'll help.

Meanwhile, we're trying to make Alpha this Friday. Sheesh, whose idea was this getting me back into games?


Word to all, and to all, a good word.

p.s. Did you get Animation Blast #9? There's a whole article on Diz in the 50's, with big pics of yr Pops....

rickart said...

Davischino... back in games!? Where are you at, you animating fool!? How did I not know this?

Mr Goodson said...

Marty is my boss at Heavy Iron. If he lasts 6 months I may get some bonus cash out of the deal

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice commentary. I'm trying to get the illustrated version onto my website soon!

Anonymous said...

Not only is he not Tiger woods.. he was Tiger West..... sorry my memories went blank for that one.
Tom please resumbit that with Tiger West....
sheesh.. brain dead

Tom Moon said...

Post Correction:

Jeff Jonas apologizes for his mental lapse... he worked under "Tiger" WEST, not "Tiger" Woods. The blog entry has been so corrected.

Tom Moon said...

Who was "Mr. Nichols" exactly? What was his position and relation to the Charlotte's Web project?

Skribbl said...

Hey JJ (and Tom),

Thanks for the post! sounds like some fun times! You should be a regular contributor to TAG!

weezie said...

Great post! I hope you don't mind, but I shared it with a bunch of folks I work with who are huge Hanna Barbera fans.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Charles A. Nichols
was known as Nick Nichols.
He was the Directro on Charlotte's Web.

Toonhead_NPL said...

This was great! Thanks -- I liked seeing those recognizable H-B names in there ... all you'd need was Xenia and you'd have a full house!

rickart said...

Hey, Toonhead! Yer a neighbor to me!

JeffJ said...

We made page one of CartoonBrew!

NARTHAX said...

That pteranodon screech used since Jonny Quest by H-B sounds like a turkey being castrated. In reality, according to a sound mixer, it was a red-tailed hawk sped up and harmonized.

Digital Marketing said...

I like your post.

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