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The Filmation Effect

Omar Jeter

Throughout the decades’ multiple Animation Studios and children’s companies became synonymous with those oh so memorable logos, and one of the most recognizable has to be the Filmation studios company and The Man Behind at all, Lou Scheimer!
Lou Scheimer was born on October 19th, 1928 in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, a graduate of Carnegie Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, this animation Mastermind was always fascinated with the craft. Meeting and pairing up with the legendary Hal Sutherland they began their cartoon careers working at Larry Hammond pictures who was known for their two major sources of income and popularity, Bozo the Clown and Popeye the Sailor, they were put on a project for their first animation as lead directors for the classic cartoon Rod Rocket in 1961making it a major success. After working on numerous other projects together they decided to leave True Line Studios and begin working on the independent circuit with Chuck Jones, Stan Lee, and others on various projects from Tom and Jerry to the Marvel superheroes to Spider-Man to the various Looney Tunes animation shorts learning their crafts like a chef traveling from Kitchen to Kitchen.
While this is taking place a gentleman by the name of Norm Prescott by chance met with the two pioneers and agreed to start an animation studio by the name of Filmation family animation in which the name would change variously throughout the decades, their first project entitled Journey Back to Oz was a direct sequel to the MGM film The Wizard of Oz although not as heavily advertised and as we would know throughout the coming years they would be various movies that would try to Dethrone or share the title of a true sequel to The Frank Oz Epic. While trying their hands at licensed properties their first crack was in the form of a Marx Brothers cartoon series which unfortunately was not successful. Determined not to give up they were seeking other licenses and properties to turn into animated moneymakers, and with the animated options of various DC Comics properties such as Superman, the Flash, and Teen Titans just to name a few all while making a deal to produce Star Trek animated episodes, Filmation was starting to gain traction. And after scoring an epic deal to produce Archie cartoons, they became the studio juggernaut that they knew they could and just like any good business, after a while you won’t have to hunt down properties so much because the properties and licenses and actors and actresses will soon start knocking on your door hoping to have a cartoon based on their intellectual properties.
The following years saw a mighty Armada with them at one point dominating at least 60% of Animation time slots allotted for children’s programming rivaled only by Hanna-Barbera, not that there were many contenders for that particular throne but that is still Quite a feat to accomplish. Producing more shows such as My Favorite Martian, Will the real Jerry Lewis please stand up, The Partridge Family, Lassie, and the Rescue Rangers, Gilligan’s Island and its sequel Gilligan’s planet, there seem to be no stopping Filmation Studios. And then they thought to themselves that if these intellectual properties can bring them this much money, what could they possibly do with characters and shows they created on their own.
The 70s saw the company creating such hits as Hero High, Groovie Ghoulies, Fraidy Cat, and Uncle Crocs block. Finally taking his rightful place on the animation Throne, Lou scheimer was starting to come into Focus. With shows airing on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and WPIX, there were even times where his own shows would compete with each other in similar time slots which were unheard of. And then it happened…
Closing out the 70s with there epic ,animation hits, Flash Gordon and Fat Albert, the Mattel Corporation approached them with what they thought would be a silly idea but turned into one of the biggest and successful intellectual properties of the eighties and perhaps of all time, and with Saturday morning cartoons being dominated by their interpretations of Tarzan, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, as well as their own creations such as super stretch and micro woman, Manta and Moray, as well as Fantastic Voyage still playing on syndication, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe debuted in 1983, although a bit hesitant at first because of a similar project that was not quite as successful called BlackStar, Lou scheimer decided to take another chance at the fantasy meets science good guys versus bad guys Scenario, and it was one of the best moves the studio ever made. Going strong for Five Seasons and producing over a hundred and thirty episodes, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is refer to today as one of the most successful children’s properties ever developed, with a franchise revenue of almost 400 million dollars of its first 3 years by following the trifecta formula of toys, cartoons, and books. In the 80s you had to follow this formula in order to have a successful property and he-man was the leader of the pack. They took a chance with a spinoff which featured his sister She-Ra in the animation hit She-Ra Princess of Power. It seems like there was no stopping Filmation Studios from completely monopolizing the kids Market. And then they made the first of two very fatal mistakes…
It is one thing to be King of the Hill, it is another thing to directly challenge another successful company and franchise. And Filmation’s next project was the beginning of the end for the studio company. Paramount Studios just released the Epic Blockbuster hit Ghostbusters, and of course once again following the rules cartoons, books and action figures surely made for a successful run, and while Filmation was aware that this project was in the works they decided to have a head-on race and pick up an old property from the 1970s based on the same name in which they traded blows back and forth in the courtroom of who’s on first. Filmation’s version of Ghostbusters forced Paramount Studios version to change their name to The Real Ghostbusters, but no matter the name there was something about a bland leader with no personality, his best friend who is afraid of everything but was yet recruited to hunt ghosts anyway, and a backpack wearing gorilla that just did not vibe with the children….. they lost millions of dollars on the ill-fated project, and their next license property doomed the company for good.
Once again tapping into the rich veins of Mattel in hopes of Landing another hit to pull the company out of its Financial nosedive, they rolled the dice on Marshall Bravestarr. Bravestarr was the tale of an outer space Sheriff on the planet of New Texas who took on the daily schemes and shenanigans of the galactic outlaw Tex Hex. The cartoon was lukewarm at best but the cartoon was, unfortunately, the best thing going as the oversized toys were also overpriced and with lack of merchandising. Filmation’s other projects were barely on syndication. And with other Animation Studios such as Nevalla, DIC, Rankin Bass, Marvel entertainment, Disney Family Entertainment, Sunbow Studios, and others on the rise, it was literally Barbarians at the gates and they stormed Filmation Castle, and the company, unfortunately, went out of business. Making one last gasp they decided to try their hand in the movie business and with an unsuccessful first start in the He-Man and She-Ra Epic secret of the sword, they would try their hand at their very last project entitled Pinocchio and the emperor of the night.
Nothing lasts forever, Empires rise and Empires fall. But nobody can truly deny the unique animation Style, outstanding storytelling, and the longevity of Lou Sheimer’s groundbreaking company. Over the years he has received multiple lifetime achievement awards and has been called the animator’s animator. This creative genius can look back and have nothing to be ashamed of because his legacy will live forever as a source of inspiration, as a Standard Bearer, and as a mentoring guide.


Special to The Colletonian (3424 Posts)