Sunday, August 13, 2017

My Filmation Generation!


Filmation is in no small part the reason I'm here. When I was a tyke a new cartoon show debuted starring Superman. I loved it and later when Aquaman came on too, I liked that just as much if not more. Then came an avalanche of heroes such as Birdman, the Herculoids, Space Ghost and many more. TV led to comics and comics have remained a mainstay of my life every since. But so have cartoons and to that end the book Creating the Filmation Generation by Lou Scheimer with assist from Andy Mangels is a walk through my memories.


The saga is set up chronologically and we follow the early days of Lou Scheimer and then we get to halcyon 60's when he and two others -- Hal Sutherland and Norm Prescott -- co-created the little company Filmation. They were up and comers and were just about to fold when Mort Weisinger gives them a call and offers them the chance to bring Superman to Saturday morning TV. They rather swindled their way into the deal, but when they landed it they delivered and Superman became a hit. Soon followed Aquaman (Wesinger was shameless), the JLA, the Teen Titans, Batman, and eventually other properties like Fat Albert,  Archie, Tarzan, Captain Marvel, Isis, Lone Ranger and so many more.


In this sometimes excruciatingly detailed account by Scheimer we follow the rise of Filmation and follow along as they produce entertaining TV (if not stellar animation) product for both the Saturday morning urchins (me among them) and attempts to break into other areas such as big screen films and night time TV. Scheimer has a memory like an elephant and recounts with fine detail the production details along with the names of the myriad folks who walked in and out of the Filmation studios.


Scheimer is proud of what his studio produced. He touts the accomplishments of Fat Albert and the awards it won and should have won. He points out with vigor the many times that Filmation shows featured ethnically diverse casts, in times when such things were not necessarily givens. He talks repeatedly about how crucial Filmation was in keeping animation jobs inside the United States when many producers were racing to outsource to Asia to save a few nickels.


This tome follows Filmation's rise and its eventual fall as it gets absorbed into one company after another, each successively less sensitive to the goals of creating good cartoons. Scheimer too balances the need for art and commerce and makes few apologies. That latter point is key to this book, one which shares not only technical details but ribald yarns about some names you've heard of before. There's more drinking than you'd think and even some completely inappropriate office sex. The story of Filmation is not for kids, though its cartoons most certainly were.

I highly recommend this one.

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2 comments:

  1. My God, I remember so many of these. Back then, I would have confused them with the Hannah Barbara cartoons, only because I was too young to differentiate.

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    1. I always simultaneously admire Filmation's use of repeated material for their heroic cartoons because it was so good and hated it because it was so common. Reading this I know they did it keep costs down and keep jobs here.

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