Lou Scheimer & Andy Mangels,
Creating the Filmation Generation
(Tomorrows, 2013)

What do Superman, Stanley Stoutheart, Krypto the Superdog, Batman and Robin, the Archie Gang, Star Trek, Fat Albert, The Brady Bunch, Wonder Woman, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger and Zorro all have in common?

Answer: They all appeared, animated, on TV in shows created by Lou Scheimer's Filmation Studios. If you were a kid in the 1970s and '80s, you grew up hanging on your shag carpet on Saturday mornings watching Scheimer's shows. Later, when you were just a little older, you watched his live-action shows, like Shazam, Jason of Star Command and The Secrets of Isis (which, since it starred the lovely Joanna Cameron, was probably watched by your father, too).

In Creating the Filmation Generation, Scheimer tells the story of how he went from often-unemployed animator to semi-legendary studio head who revolutionized Saturday morning TV, always while nipping at the heels of Hanna-Barbera. The result is a book that is rarely less than interesting but never quite becomes as fascinating as it should be.

Part of the problem is that this is more the story of a studio head than an artist. Most of the book discusses the problems of keeping the cash flow going, developing properties that don't come to fruition for one reason or another, mostly financial; when he does tell a tale from the artist's side, it comes across like this:

One day, Art Nadel send out a memo to all writers that henceforth all scripts had to be turned in with a maximum two-day turnaround. It was a joke, of course, based on the fact that Straczynski had completed an entire He-Man script in one day. He had been in a competition with Larry DiTillio to see who could write the fastest -- on their IBM SElectric typewriters, no less -- and Joe had won. That feat earned him the nickname "Speedy."

Of course, everyone is capable of telling an anecdote that is (a) less than totally fascinating, and (b) meaningless to most of its audience, but Scheimer's book is filled with them. He and his co-author also present a prose style a little on the clunky side.

Still, there is a lot to like in these pages. If you want to know how Saturday morning kid's programming was created during the glory years, Scheimer will pass that information on to you.

Just not in a compelling way.

book review by
Michael Scott Cain

1 June 2013

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