Book Review - Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation
The lawsuits, labor strikes, and Scheimer’s public debates with Peggy Charren of Action for Children’s Television over her accusations of too much violence in children’s TV, and that TV cartoons were just half-hour and one-hour long commercials for their sponsors’ toys. Scheimer’s Emmy and Annie Awards. Scheimer’s increasingly desperate, public pleas within the animation industry and during the 1980s to keep animation production within the United States instead of sending it abroad to cut costs (“runaway production”).
One manner in which Scheimer’s personal narration differs from other studios’ histories is that Scheimer reveals some production costs. Other histories discuss technical aspects in detail but never reveal price tags. Another is offering personal opinions of the people with whom he dealt. Practically everyone he meets all during his career is described as a saint … a gentle soul. “Don Knotts was one of the sweetist, loveliest men in the world. (p. 250) But every so often there is someone whom he names who “is not very pleasant”.
Scheimer does not directly discuss Filmation’s reputation for poor quality production, but he does not try to hide it, either. When he appeared at a Star Trek fan convention to promote Filmation’s forthcoming animated series, “… I heard a girl’s voice say, ‘I hope it doesn’t turn out like all the rest of Filmation’s sh*t!’” (p. 98) One of Filmation’s early live-action TV series was 1975’s The Ghost Busters, with two humans and a gorilla. “On our budget we couldn’t afford both an actor and a gorilla suit, so we needed to try to find an actor who owned a gorilla suit!” (p. 119) How much does it cost to rent a gorilla suit? Filmation’s Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night movie was reviewed by the Boston Herald as, “The creators at Filmation have been churning out animated garbage for 25 years, and nobody has been able to get rid of them.” (p. 251)
In 1969 Filmation was sold to the TelePrompTer Corporation; in a stock exchange. This did not affect Filmation’s operations. In 1974 Hal Sutherland left the company. In 1981 TelePrompter was acquired by the Westinghouse Electric Corp. Westinghouse left Scheimer to run Filmation as he wished, but was more obtrusive about owning the company. Early in 1987, the top management at Westinghouse changed, and Scheimer did not have a close relationship with his new bosses. In 1988 a rich French company, L’Oreal, wanted to buy Filmation from Westinghouse. Scheimer at first thought that L’Oreal was prepared to give its money to Filmation to increase its production or its quality, but he soon learned that L’Oreal was just interested in Filmation’s extensive animation library. It intended to close Filmation down and start releasing Filmation’s backlog on the new home video market. Scheimer pleaded with Westinghouse to reject the sale, or give him time to raise enough money to top L’Oreal’s offer, but on Friday, February 3, 1989, the sale went through. Filmation was closed down, and its entire staff was laid off.