was an American animation
studio founded in 1963 by Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott that, along with Hanna-Barbera
, dominated the American Saturday morning cartoon market throughout the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, particularly in the genre of action-adventure cartoons.
The studio was run on a shoestring budget, so they had to limit costs wherever possible. This condition was aggravated by Filmation's "people before art" policies which forbade the company from outsourcing jobs to cheaper foreign animation studios.note
This resulted in Filmation's (in)famous cost-cutting techniques: Limited Animation
and considerable reliance on re-used footage
Moreover, Lou Scheimer's social conscience led him to submit the studio's productions to the oversight of various Moral Guardians
, resulting in the avoidance of any controversial or challenging aspects in its series and in the various And Knowing Is Half the Battle
lectures appended to episodes in the 1970s and '80s. On the plus side, Filmation did employ many of the best animation writers of the 1970s and '80s, and its artwork (as opposed to animation) featured graceful and gutsy character designs and impressive, intricate backgrounds—though the company characteristically exploited the latter by interrupting many episodes with long slow background pans featuring no animation at all.
The studio's first success came in 1966 with The New Adventures of Superman
; this was soon eclipsed by the runaway popularity of The Archie Show
in 1968. Archie
spun off Filmation's next hit, Sabrina and The Groovie Goolies
, in 1971. In 1972 a bizarre crossover
film was made for The ABC Saturday Superstar Movies
featuring the Groovie Goolies meeting various Looney Tunes
characters. The studio's first foray into socially conscious cartooning came in 1972 with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
; thereafter, didacticism would be common not only on cartoons like Mission: Magic!
(a precursor to The Magic School Bus
in featuring a supernaturally endowed teacher, Miss Tickle
, along with later 1980s pop idol Rick Springfield), but in Filmation's live-action productions as well, such as the environmentally educational Ark II
(which featured another magical, Hot Librarian
-ish teacher, who transformed into the Egyptian goddess ["O mighty Isis!"
] in order to fly around in skimpy skirts and demonstrate social lessons into the bargain).
Throughout the 1970s, Filmation produced some well-regarded animated adaptations
of various series, such as The New Adventures of Flash Gordon
; Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
; Zorro; The New Adventures of Batman
, and Star Trek: The Animated Series
, as well as some less well-regarded ones, such as The Brady Kids
(whose dancing pandas and helicopter-tailed wizard bird are deployed
to hilarious effect in a Mushroom Samba
sequence in A Very Brady Sequel
), The New Adventures of Gilligan
, My Favorite Martians
, and Uncle Croc's Block
, which featured an all-canine version of M*A*S*H
In 1981, Filmation sought to tap into the increasingly popular fantasy market with Blackstar,
its analogue to Ruby-Spears' Thundarr the Barbarian
(characteristically, the studio had planned to make the hero a black astronaut, but CBS insisted on appealing to a different demographic
, so Blackstar became a deeply tanned white man). In 1983, Filmation achieved its greatest success with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)
, a daily syndicated series based on a wildly popular line of toys from Mattel. This was quickly followed by a gender-flipped
spin-off, She-Ra: Princess of Power
and Tarzan and the Super 7
were other entries in the studio's action-adventure line. These series were a favorite target of consumer advocates in the Eighties, being often characterized as nothing more than 30-minute toy commercials.
Filmation owned the rights to a 1975 live-action series called The Ghost Busters
starring F Troop
co-stars Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch (one of Filmation's favorite voice actors), and a guy in a gorilla suit
. Columbia Pictures
had to apply for the rights to call its 1984 movie Ghostbusters,
and after its success, Filmation revived the series in animated format, now called simply Ghostbusters,
animated show from the movie thus became The Real Ghostbusters,
while Filmation's version was for a while named The Original Ghostbusters.
Filmation was owned first by TelePrompTer and later by Westinghouse (the logo above being rendered in the distinctive "Group W" font
shared among most Westinghouse broadcasting assets), but was bought by the L'Oreal Corporation in 1987 and promptly shut down, probably for tax purposes. Its last production to be released was the theatrical feature Happily Ever After
, an unofficial sequel to Disney
's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
(featuring seven "dwarfelles" in place of dwarfs), six years after the studio was killed.note
Attempts by founder Lou Scheimer to re-animate
the studio proved unsuccessful; Scheimer died in 2013. The studio's library is currently owned by Dreamworks Animation
Series Created by Filmation Include:
Animated Features Created by Filmation Include:
Tropes Associated With Filmation Shows Include:
- Action Girl: Isis; Teela on He-Man; Judge J.B. Mac Bride on Bravestarr; She-Ra and her companions on her eponymous show.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Particularly in the Eighties, very few shows ended without one of these, sometimes having very little to do with the actual plot of the episode.
- Animated Adaptation: Many, many, many of Filmation's shows were adaptation of series from other media, from Comic Book to Film to Live-Action Television, perhaps the most famous being Star Trek: The Animated Series.
- Audible Gleam: This was a recurring sound effect in many of Filmation's productions. In fact, it's even featured in the first version of the company's Westinghouse-era (post-1983) logo.
- Black Magician Girl: Evil-Lyn on He-Man; Apparitia and Mysteria on Ghostbusters; Shadow Weaver on She-Ra (She actually looks a little bit like a Black Mage...)
- Bratty Half-Pint: Batso, Ratso, and Hauntleroy on Groovie Goolies; Brat-A-Rat on Ghostbusters; Imp on She-Ra.
- By the Power of Grayskull!: "O mighty Isis!"; "For the honor of Grayskull!"; and, of course, the Trope Namer.
- Cool Steed: Blackstar's dragon-horse, Warlock; He-Man's Battle-Cat (and Skeletor's Panthor); Bravestarr's transforming, shotgun-totin' Thirty-Thirty.
- Dem Bones: The Groovie Goolies featured a skeleton band called "The Bare Bones Band", A skeleton named "Bone-Apart",who was dressed in a Napoleonic hat and was constantly falling apart (Groan!) and later, "Scared Stiff" on Ghostbusters was a skeletal robot ghost (who was ALSO constantly falling apart) — and, of course, Skeletor, at least from the neck up.
- Dull Surprise
- Episode Title Card: Many Filmation series use them.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Tracy on Ghostbusters; N'kima on Tarzan.
- Evil Overlord: Blackstar's Big Bad was actually called "The Overlord," but Skeletor, Hordak, Stampede, Tex Hex, and Prime Evil all clearly fall into this category.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Filmation's "Show No Guns" policy was so extreme that a Filmation artist once circulated a sketch of He-Man holding a pineapple pistol-wise and going "Bang! Bang!"
- Funny Animal: Largely averted in Filmation series; though there were Waldo Kitty, Thun the Lion-Man, Thirty-Thirty (sometimes), and Adam the live-action talking chimp, this trope was nowhere nearly as popular with Filmation as with most other animation studios.
- Heroic Build: Just about every male Filmation protagonist looks like He-Man. Blackstar, Bravestarr, Prince Adam (even when not as He-Man).
- Hey, It's That Voice!!: Filmation had its own stable of voice actors, including John Erwin, Pat Fraley, and Larry Storch — and, notoriously, Lou Scheimer and his own children. Frank Welker, Linda Gary, Melendy Britt and Jonathan Harris were also recurring voices.
- Iconic Logo: The two famous ones are the spinning "Lou Scheimer/Norm Prescott" and the Lou Scheimer signature.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Rick Springfield on Mission: Magic!; most of the casts of Star Trek: The Animated Series and The New Adventures of Gilligan.
- Limited Animation: A common complaint about the company's works, with the exception of their Zorro cartoon (it was outsourced to TMS Entertainment).
- Magical Girl: Sabrina; Miss Tickle on Mission: Magic; Mara on Blackstar; The Sorceress on He-Man; Glimmer, Castaspella, Frosta, and Queen Angella on She-Ra.
- Mecha-Mooks: Ming's robot warriors on Flash Gordon; the Lavaloks (basically, stone dinosaur robots) on Blackstar; Skeletor's robots on He-Man; Hordak's Horde Troopers on She-Ra.
- Not Quite Starring: The entire basis for Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?
- Opening Narration: Filmation liked Opening Narrations (or occasionally Expository Theme Tunes) and used them in a lot of their shows (He-Man, Flash Gordon, Fat Albert, Zorro, and many others). Of course, a few like Star Trek and The Lone Ranger had Opening Narrations carried over from their live action versions.
- Our Ghosts Are Different: The "ghosts" on the animated Ghostbusters series included a werewolf ghost and a robot ghost.
- Our Monsters Are Different: The Groovie Goolies were a fairly early example of the friendly, funny variation of the classic Universal movie monsters.
- Scenery Porn: Filmation's background paintings were very often beautiful and detailed — as emphasized by the everlasting so-called "Filmation pan" that generally opened episodes of their cartoons.
- Small Annoying Creature: For some unholy reason a favorite character with Filmation, including Ping and Pong the Pandas in The Brady Kids, Ptolemy and Tut-Tut on Mission: Magic!, Batmite in the The New Adventures of Batman, Mo in Space Sentinels, The "Trobbits" in Blackstar, Orko in He-Man, Cowl and Imp in She-Ra, Belfry and Brat-A-Rat in Ghostbusters, Deputy Fuzz and his crooked cousing Outlaw Scuzz in Bravestarr.
- Stock Footage: Unfortunately, perhaps the single best-remembered characteristic of Filmation series.
- Stock Sound Effects: Many of the sound effects in Filmation's cartoons were low-quality copies of the Hanna-Barbera sound effects (often with a more audible echo, or at a slightly lower pitch), along with a few custom-created sounds and some stock sounds from Disney's cartoons (by Jimmy Mac Donald.) Some sound effects were borrowed from the original Star Trek series such as the phaser, photon torpedo, and transporter sound effects.
- Surrounded by Idiots: The Evil Overlords of Filmation's 1980s series invariably surrounded themselves with muscle-bound, moronic minions. Despite the fact that they inevitably bungled whatever mission he sent them on, the Big Bad never considered icing them and hiring someone competent.
- Talking Animal: Largely averted in Filmation series; though there were Jughead's Hot Dog (who didn't really "speak"; we just hear his thoughts) or He-Man's Cringer, and Belfry the Bat, this trope was nowhere nearly as popular with Filmation as with most other animation studios.
- Theme Music Power-Up: Hey, there's the chorus going "He-Man! He-Man!" (or "She-Ra! She-Ra!" or "Let's go, Ghostbusters! Let's go! Let's go!"). Must be time to kick some super-villain butt.
- Transformation Sequence: He-Man; She-Ra; Bravestarr; Ghostbusters. One of Filmation's favorite methods for avoiding new animation.