Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lou Scheimer Filmation Book Review

Years ago, Michael Swanigan and Darrell McNeil issued a book called "Animation by Filmation", which essentially was the first book covering the history of the Saturday morning TV production giant. That book was and still is indispensable. However, it is incomplete and contains many errors.
The advantage of Andy Mangels' "Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation" is that it covers the entire story first hand and directly from the source. Although Lou was partnered with Norm Prescott for a number of years and with Hal Sutherland, it was Scheimer that was there during Filmation's remarkable 25+ year reign and beyond and is still with us today.
After I wrote my book, "Created and Produced by Total TeleVision productions: The Story of Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo and the Rest", I was looking around for another project to work on. After dismissing Hanna-Barbera and Rankin-Bass as they had been covered very well, I looked into Filmation. I abandoned my idea once I discovered that Mangels had already begun the project, which was fraught with delays. I had heard about his book in 2011 and it was already behind schedule even then.
I forgot about Mangels' book and went on to other projects until earlier in 2013 when animation greats Scott Shaw! and Darrell McNeil told me of the availability of Mangels' book. McNeil even went on to recommend purchasing the book through TwoMorrows' (the publisher) website as it includes a full-color digital copy at no additional charge.
As far as the contents go, I learned quite a bit. Admittedly, Filmation was not my favorite cartoon studio growing up. I preferred H-B, R-B and DePatie-Freleng much more. In fact, I'm working on a DFE book now.
While recycling animation was done as a cost-saving measure at Filmation, as a viewer, it made everything they did come off as cheap to me, not just in cost, but quality as well.
Hindsight really displays Filmation's charms. I did have my favorites even then (Fat Albert, Archie, Star Trek) and respect even more now (Superman, Aquaman, Jerry Lewis, He-Man, etc.)  
Mangels made the story told by Scheimer even more lush by filling out his memories of working on each of the shows with elaborate details and statistics and images to make this a must for any animation fan or scholar. It really puts the earlier Filmation book effort to shame (however, if you can find a copy of that earlier tome, it is still highly recommended for its multiple character model sheets and the fact that the book is virtually impossible to find.)
Mangels also gets Scheimer to speak at length about many projects that Filmation was considering over the years like a Marx Brothers animated series and why they didn't happen. He also discusses the largely forgotten Uncle Croc's Block show, which was also a personal favorite of mine, despite the fact that it was such a monumental flop for the ABC network that they refused to ever purchase a show ever again from Filmation as a result.
Great coverage is also presented of Scheimer's formative years as well as the successes and failures of Filmation and the ultimate end of the studio and what Scheimer has done since.
This is a must have book and I give it my highest recommendation.

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