The Hanna-Barbera Exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum
HANNA-BARBERA: The Architects Of Saturday Morning
My husband is rarely the one to initiate a museum visit, but when he does it’s usually to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Lenox, MA. While neither he nor I are particularly drawn to Rockwell’s own work, we support the museum’s mission to explore visual storytelling in many forms.
On a rainy Sunday in March we drove to the museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, looking forward to the Hanna-Barbera: The Architects of Saturday Morning exhibit. Described as “the first museum exhibition on the world’s most successful animation partnership,” the exhibit tells the story of two businessmen who revived a dying film animation industry by revolutionizing a new format, Saturday morning cartoons.
When we arrived there were a couple dozens cars in the lot. We checked our jackets and umbrella in the free coat room, and made our way to the front desk to purchase our tickets, $36 for two adults.
Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Magilla Gorilla, Super Friends, The Smurfs, and so many others.
Four colorfully painted rooms contain the chronologically structured exhibit. Seeing the display of toys, games and other commercial products brought back a rush of memories, as I expect it will for anyone who grew up between 1950 and 1980. Sketches, model sheets, and original animation art support photographs and other archival items.
There are materials and memorabilia to engage and entertain all interest levels. For the deeply devoted, the details go deep. Younger patrons or those who aren’t as interested in the process can watch a selection of vintage cartoons.
The Exhibition Video and Interactive Installation
Most of all, what brought it to life for me was the exhibition video. Footage of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera complement interviews with others involved in their business and their lives. In addition to the founders, there are inkers, colorers, animators, family, and friends. Those interviewed discuss what it was like to work in their industry at that time. They explain the process of bringing a single episode to life, technical aspects of particular jobs, and their relationship with and opinion of the founders.
Along with the video, there is an interactive installation. A large touch-screen monitor displays a grid of characters. Two chairs sit in front of the monitor and a rain-shower-shaped speaker hangs overhead. Users choose a character by tapping on an image on the screen. This causes a page about that character to load with biographic details such as age, height, weight, and occupation. Listen to sounds created by the studio for each character, learn about this character’s friends, or watch clips from their show.
I often find audio mixed in with traditional art to be distracting and disruptive. Surprisingly, this didn’t happen here. While the audio was easy to hear when standing in front of the video screen, the noise was barely noticeable across the room.
After spending almost two hours wandering through the exhibition, I was most impressed with the thoughtfulness of its execution. Information is extensive but not overwhelming. So many interests were considered. Therefore, whether your passion is art, business, or marketing, you’re sure to be drawn in by at least one thread.
Signage is Important
Finally, the signage for the show is well considered. As a result, if a visitor wants to walk through quickly, they can get a general overview of the story by reading the largest signs. For those who want more, another set of signs summarize the era with more depth and nuance. The smallest signs detail individual items.
HANNA-BARBERA: The Architects Of Saturday Morning opened November 2016 and ends Monday, May 29, 2017.
After the Show
Recommended for breakfast or lunch near the museum: