Joseph Barbera almost worked for Disney

He wouldn't have ever paired with William Hanna!

Image credit: The Everett Collection

Alternative histories provide us with a cautionary look at what could have been. There's a reason why this kind of story is told over and over again throughout the 20th century. We love glimpsing into some parallel universe that offers us some insight into what happens in our real world. That's why authors like H.G. Wells, Philip K. Dick, and Philip Roth have returned to this well of "What If?" 

One tiny decision or action could change the course of everything, and it's fun to look at how things may have turned out. In the world of animation, we nearly had an alternate timeline wherein Mickey Mouse and Jerry Mouse were cousins. 

Joseph Barbera is a fourteen-time Academy Award-nominated animator, director, and producer. Along with his partner William Hanna, Barbera helped create some of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time. Among his memorable animated inventions were the Flintstone family, Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, and Tom & Jerry.

Hanna-Barbera defined several generations of cartoon history, but according to the 2006 book Who's Who in Animated Cartoons, Barbera almost traded that all in before it happened. 

All the way back in 1932, Barbera secured his first job animating at New York's Van Beuren Studios. The pay was a measly $15 a week. But Barbera had bigger plans and quickly maneuvered to move up the industry ladder. He soon contacted Walt Disney about possible employment. Barbera wrote a letter asking if there were any openings at Disney's studio. Walt himself responded saying that he would interview Barbera the next time Disney was in New York. 

But despite the promising correspondence, Disney never followed through on the offer. 

While it may have been crushing at the time, the miscommunication was hugely beneficial to Barbera's career and to the history of cartoons. Because instead of going to work for Disney, Barbera was able to continue to bet big on himself, eventually running a studio that competed directly with his former potential employer. 

"I probably would have become a devoted member of his staff," said Barbera, "and [I'd] still be with Disney studios today."

While it's interesting to consider Barbera's skillset being put to use at Disney, our present timeline is all the better for each of the creations he brought to light under Hanna-Barbera Studios. 

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5 Comments

Lantern 28 days ago
$15 a week actually was pretty decent pay in the 1930s.
SalIanni 29 days ago
Another "What If" idea for you. Today, all of Hanna-Barbera's properties are owned by Warner Brothers, the company behind Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes. What if this partnership had happened 50 or 60 years ago when Hanna-Barbera was at their peak? Would they have ended up animating Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck while Chuck Jones worked on Yogi Bear? (He did end up with Tom and Jerry in the 60s but those cartoons were awful compared to their earlier classics). We'll never know.
Runeshaper 29 days ago
Reminds me of Disney’s “What If…?” series lol 😆
fug1969 30 days ago
I’ve waited years for MeTv.
I enjoy The Fugitive so much!
David Jansen was the right actor To play the fugitive.
He was fantastic!
Please don’t take this off.
It’s only on one time a week.
Alfred Hitchcock is another tv show I love.
Next is The Twilight Zone.
I didn’t know it was only on for only 5 seasons.
I wish you would get Marcus Welby md. Robert Young was excellent playing Marcus Welby.
ncadams27 fug1969 29 days ago
Regarding Marcus Welby, MD - none of the classic TV networks show any medical shows, although there were a lot that could be described as such, e.g., Ben Casey, Dr. Kildare, Medical Center, and Medic from the 50s. MeTV could air Trapper John, MD alongside of M*A*S*H.
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