Category Archives: filmation
Lou Scheimer, the father of Filmation, and the king of American television animation for many of our childhoods, has passed away at the age of 84.
Filmation was a small animation studio, one of the few still doing animation in the United States, rather than shipping it overseas. Founded by Scheimer, Hal Sutherland, and Norm Prescott in 1962, they did some little known cartoons like “Rod Rocket.” They really caught fire when they licensed the DC Comics characters in 1966.
Beginning with “The New Adventures of Superman,” they began to expand to shorts that featured other characters like Superboy, Aquaman, Batman and Robin, and later the Justice League of America and the Teen Titans, as well as those groups’ individual members. These cartoons were, along with the 1966 “Batman” TV series on ABC, my gateway drug into comic books. My love of Aquaman, Superboy, and others sprang from early viewings.
The DC deal brought another comics company to Filmation’s offices, and Archie came to Saturday morning animation for years under their guidance. Later in the 1970s, Filmation became a major player in the animation game, producing cartoons of “The Brady Kids,” “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” and “Star Trek: The Animated Series” among many others.
Filmation delved into live-action with shows like “Isis,” “Space Academy” and Shazam.” While the studio began to get a reputation for repeating backgrounds, limited animation, recycling designs, rapid jump cuts, and using the same music over again, they had also produced some real quality programming as well.
In the 1980s Filmation produced some of its most well known shows like “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which featured, like many of the previous shows, a lesson at the end of every episode. Before closing up shop in 1989, Filmation also produced over the years some very cool versions of Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and the Lone Ranger, using then fairly new rotoscoping techniques.
With the loss of Lou Scheimer on Friday, we have lost one the legends of animation, and for me, a big chunk of my childhood. He’ll be missed.
Superman Vs. The Elite ~ In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to say I did not like the Joe Kelly and Doug Mahnke story this is based on, “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way” from Action Comics #775, but then I didn’t think much of that run, nor of the characters Manchester Black and The Elite either. Sorry, when it comes to Superman, I’m pretty much a traditionalist, although the story did raise a few salient points. I remain unconvinced.
I definitely dug the punk rock pop culture Warhol-ization of the Filmation cartoons from the 1960s mashed up with Curt Swan art of the 1970s for the opening credits sequence. A nice touch. I loved the cartoon at the beginning, the interaction between Lois and Clark, and loved the battle between Superman and the Atomic Skull too, someone really wants me to like this movie. The animation style is a bit odd in places however, Lois most notably stands out as small and sometimes cross-eyed in a bad anime way. That and Superman’s ridiculously huge chin, I mean, he’s not the Tick, ya know?
The gist of the story is Superman is old-fashioned and passé in our world. Why simply capture and imprison a murderous destructive criminal like the Atomic Skull when Superman could so easily rid the world of him. We need a proactive hero, not a reactive hero. Manchester Black and The Elite exploit this when they stop escalating war in Bialya while Superman watches and acts futilely.
Later, after a team-up between our ‘heroes,’ the Elite declare war on the baddies, promising punishment and zero tolerance. Superman is starting to look bad, and in his investigation of his competitors, they are not looking great either, he just can’t prove it. At this point, Lois begins to get annoying. She is less the Margo Lane equal partner and more the Doiby Dickles comic relief. Not cool for this Lois fan.
Speaking of comic relief, I liked the Rush Limbaugh clone doing a Aaron Sorkin style soapbox rant as Superman races to stop the Elite from killing more soldiers in the Bialyan conflict. Superman gets his butt handed to him, when saved by the Elite, and given medical attention at their headquarters, there is even more Sorkin preachiness. On the other hand, I like the preaching provided by Pa Kent. Like Lois should be, his parents are Superman’s rock.
A second battle with the Atomic Skull, this time against both Superman and The Elite, completely turns the tide toward Black against the man of steel. As The Bride would be wont to say, “Is it time for the good guys to win yet?” I liked the movie less and less the more I watched. This was just too much morality play in my comic books for me.