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William Hanna Biography

Birth Name:
William Denby Hanna
Birth Place:
Melrose, New Mexico, United States
Director, producer, executive producer, lyricist, composer

Fast Facts

  • With partner Joseph Barbera, built an animation empire, creating such classic cartoons as Tom & Jerry, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, the Jetsons, the Flintstones, Jonny Quest, the Smurfs, and many, many others
  • In 1930, began working at the Harman-Ising cartoon studios, providing story ideas, music and lyrics for the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series, and becoming an MGM story editor and director when Harman-Ising moved to that studio
  • In 1937, MGM formed its own animation department led by Fred Quimby, who hired Hanna and teamed him with Barbera
  • Melded animation with live-action films, such as when Jerry the mouse danced with Gene Kelly in Anchors Aweigh (1945) and swam with both cartoon co-star Tom and aquatic actress Esther Williams in Dangerous When Wet (1953)
  • Earned multiple Oscar awards and nominations, prompting a promotion to head of MGM's animation department; when that department was shuttered in 1957, Barbera and Hanna were free to build their company, Hanna-Barbera Productions, for animated TV series
  • Developed a production technique called "limited animation" that made cartoons more efficient to produce on a larger scale, thereby facilitating the creation of their weekly series
  • His Emmy-winning cartoon The Last of the Curlews (1972) became the first ABC Afterschool Special


  • 1990Emmy-Outstanding Children's Program: nominated
  • 1984Emmy-Outstanding Animated Program: nominated
  • 1983Emmy-Outstanding Animated Program: nominated
  • 1982Emmy-Outstanding Animated Program: nominated
  • 1957Oscar-Best Short Subject (Cartoon): nominated
  • 1955Oscar-Best Short Subject (Cartoon): nominated


  • Bonnie Jean Hanna Williams -- Daughter
  • William John Hanna -- Father
  • Avice Joyce Hanna -- Mother
  • David William Hanna -- Son
  • Violet Hanna -- Wife