The prolific animation giant Lou Scheimer, founder of Filmation studios, has passed a the age of 85. Under his guidance, the studio produced countless hours of children’s programing for both Saturday mornings and syndication, leaving an indelible mark on the memories of countless children of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
The studio created many non-science fiction/fantasy series, perhaps most famously ‘Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids’ the first animated series starring African American characters, co-created by Bill Cosby who hosted each episode. That series won many Emmy Awards for its forward thinking premise and strong moral messages, a theme that many subsequent Filmation creations would incorporate. In 1977, he won a Primetime Emmy for ‘A Fat Albert Christmas’.
Though not sci-fi or super hero-related, he did adapt ‘The Archies’ to animation which ended up creating four actual Billboard Top 40 singles, ‘Bang Shang-A-Lang’ (#22), ‘Sugar, Sugar’ (#1), ‘Jingle Jangle’ (#10) and ‘Who’s Your Baby?’ (#40). This cartoon was later paired with a more supernatural series ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’. Both shows were reinvented several times by the company over subsequent seasons.
But the studio crafted many more science fiction/fantasy oriented shows that many will recognize. In the 60s, these included various seasons that featured alternating headliners Superman, Batman and Aquaman. In addition, the studio produced cartoons based on ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ and followed that up with ‘The Fantastic Voyage’.
In 1974, Scheimer won a Daytime Emmy for ‘Star Trek’ an animated continuation of the classic sixties show. Other shows produced during this decade included ‘Mission Magic’ (Rick Springfield’s big break!), ‘Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle’, ‘The New Adventures of Flash Gordon’ and ‘The New Adventures of Batman’. Filmation also ventured into live-action programing with ‘Ark II’, ‘The Ghost-Busters’ (not to be confused with the Bill Murray 80s comedies), ‘Space Academy’ (starring James Dohan a.k.a. Scotty from ‘Star Trek’) which morphed into ‘Jason of Star Command’ and most famously ‘Shazam!’ and ‘Isis’ (also known as ‘The Secrets of Isis’).
In the eighties, Filmation produced ‘Blackstar’, a science fiction/swords & sorcery combo that predated ‘Masters of the Universe’, but speaking of that…
The most notable of Scheimer’s contributions to the eighties was without a doubt ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’ and its spin-off ‘She-Ra, Princess of Power’. ‘Masters of the Universe’ was a toy line produced by Mattel who approached Filmation about creating a cartoon to feature the various action figures, playsets and vehicles, basically enticing kids to want to buy the corresponding toys. Not content to simply churn out a mindless commercial, Scheimer insisted they build in those morals and lessons so many of his previous shows had included. Not just tacked onto the end, but woven into the actual storylines, so that at the end of the episode, the moral made sense.
Both the toys and cartoon were a smash hit! Mattel and Filmation created ‘She-Ra, Princess of Power’ a female-centric spin-off starring He-Man’s long lost twin sister, giving girls a butt-kicking role model to emulate.
It’s certainly worth mentioning that, as more and more animation was being outsources to Japan, Korea and other foreign countries, every frame of animation created by Filmation was crafted in-house in their Los Angeles studio, where all the voice acting and music was also recorded.
Not only did Lou Scheimer executive produce the Filmation shows, he provided several voices including N’Kima on ‘Tarzan’ and Dumb Donald on ‘Fat Albert’. He also composed music for several of the shows.
Filmation folded at the end of the eighties after another toy tie-in ‘BraveStarr’ failed to catch on, but Scheimer continued working.
In recent years, his health began to fail, as he underwent quadruple bypass surgery and he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Anybody past a certain age remembers ‘Fat Albert’, ‘The Archies’, ‘Shazam’ and ‘Isis’, ‘He-Man’ and ‘She-Ra’ and most probably many more of these programs including the licensed properties. Not only did Scheimer create kids entertainment, he did it with the goal of not just entertaining, but educating and instilling solid values. The world could use more people like that.
Lou Schemer (1929-2013)