The limited soundtrack: the sound and music of Hanna-Barbera from 1957-1973
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 17:07 by Alex Mesker
This thesis is concerned with changes in animation and animation music practices that occurred between the late 1950s and early 1970s. More specifically, the thesis focuses on the legacy of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera as well as their two notable music directors, Hoyt Curtin and Ted Nichols. During this period, the Hanna-Barbera company helped usher in a new era of animation, one that was dramatically different to the earlier theatrical approach of larger motion picture companies like MGM, Disney and Warner Bros. Consequently, the primary research question of this thesis asks how cartoon soundtracks for television were different to those of theatrical cartoons. Through an analysis of Hanna-Barbera's approach to both animation and (under)scoring, this thesis assesses the impact that the television medium had on cartoon soundtracks. In particular, the analysis focuses on the interplay between visual and aural components to clarify the significance of sound and music to plot and narrative. Consequently, it explores the changing nature of cartoons from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, and examines how the approach to constructing soundtracks changed over this time. Critical to this change were the financial limitations and consequent technological ramifications associated with new animation practices. Analysis is directed towards Hanna-Barbera's soundtracks in order to identify key changes to sound composition/creation that were affected by production changes at the company. Consequently, a comprehensive discussion of the company's history is undertaken in order to link commercial decisions to sonic results. Ultimately, the thesis proposes the theorised concept of 'limited soundtrack' as a process associated with the limited animation techniques of Hanna-Barbera, and posits 'limited soundtrack' as an essential way to understand musical production in twentieth century television animation. Central to the concept of a limited soundtrack is the idea of thematic composition-a process through which musical phrases, segments, patterns and motives are created in response to planned screen actions, moves or gags. Thematic composition in the context of limited soundtrack, provides a frame to understand the changes to music and soundtrack associated with animation in the middle of the twentieth century. Limited animation removed a composer's control over action and rendered him reactive rather than proactive in influencing the storyline.