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Filmation 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, known in those days as "runaway production."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.

When first established, the company started working on a series started over at a different company, Rod Rocket. As soon as production ended, the company busied themselves with commercial work for companies like Gillette, Marathon Oil and Ford. As well as film titles such as the MST3K-mocked Hercules and the Captive Women and several Italian imports subcontracted from optical effects house The Westheimer Company. They also attempted to start production of Journey Back to Oz around this time, but monetary issues made the film fall into Development Hell until the early 1970s.

The studio's first real 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, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies, 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, Shazam! (1974) and Isis (which featured another magical, Hot Librarian-ish teacher, who transformed into the Egyptian goddess ["O mighty Isis!"] in order to fly around in a skimpy skirt 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; The New Adventures of 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 called "M*U*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. Bravestarr 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. The Spin-Off 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; L'Oreal was only interested in Filmation's massive library of shows and was uninterested in producing any new series. 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. Most of the studio's library is currently owned by NBCUniversal, on behalf of DreamWorks Animation. A retrospective co-written by Scheimer in 2012 entitled "Creating the Filmation Generation" was released*.

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. MacBride on Bravestarr; She-Ra and her companions on her eponymous show.
  • Alan Smithee: Ray Ellis, who wrote much of the music on Filmation series in the pre-Levy/Saban era, was mostly credited as "Yvette Blais and Jeff Michael" - Blais was his wife while Jeff and Michael were the names of Norm Prescott's sons. (Ellis had to be pseudonymous because he was employed at a music publishing company at the time).
  • 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.
  • Animation Bump: Zorro, due to TMS's involvement is considered one of the few shows above the usual standard of Filmation's usual output. Even despite the limited quality of the said output, there were a few animators who tried to do better, including Tom Sito and Eddie Fitzgerald.
    • Pinocchio also visibly has much better animation than the usual Filmation standard, as to be expected for a theatrical production.
    • Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All was also noticeably better animated than usual, with rotoscoping used for vehicles being the high point. This one is also justified as the film was intended to run in primetime.
  • 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.
  • Band Toon: Many of their series (Fat Albert, The Brady Kids, The Archies, etc.) involved the characters doing musical numbers as filler, with the justification that the characters had formed a band. The songs were original, and could even become breakout hits (as with "Sugar Sugar" from the Archies), but the main appeal of the trope was surely that the musical numbers could use lots of stock footage.
  • Battle Couple: Manta and Moray.
  • Black Magician Girl: Evil-Lyn on He-Man; Apparitia and Mysteria on Ghostbusters; Shadow Weaver on She-Ra (who 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.
  • Creator Backlash: Some ex-Filmation staffers, such as Will Finn, John Kricfalusi, Eddie Fitzgerald, Paul Dini and J. Michael Straczynski have openly expressed their contempt for the company and the shows they worked on. Even Lou Scheimer has disowned a handful of titles, Uncle Croc's Block in particular.
    • In an interview, Don Bluth mentions in passing that he worked at Filmation only to pay the rent, and didn't enjoy the shows or working there at all.
      "After that, my church called me and asked if I wanted to go on a mission trip to Argentina. So I quit the Disney studio, flew off to Argentina, and was there for two and a half years. When I came back I worked at Filmation Studios just to earn money to pay my rent. I didn’t like it (at) all."
    • Even Hallmark, who bought out the Filmation library, looked down on their cartoons with open disdain and reacted with aggravation towards fans who approached the company about the shows. Hallmark even went as far as destroying the original film elements for the cartoons once they did broadcast transfers of them. note 
  • Creator Cameo/Descended Creator: Not exactly a cameo, per se. But applied to co-founder Lou Scheimer, who showed up in nearly all of the company's shows as a lead voice actor starting with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids. This is especially noticeable in He-Man and She-Ra, where he voiced nearly half of the supporting and one-off cast of both series.
  • Darker and Edgier: Bravestarr went to places that most shows of this company wouldn't dream of and some of the subjects were surprisingly mature and solemn.
  • 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.
  • Diagonal Billing: From 1969 to 1982, the opening and closing credits of Filmation shows would have the words "Produced By" or "Executive Producers" with Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott's names revolving around it, which was a creative way for both producers to get equal billing. [1] Later shows, starting with Gilligans Planet, would just have Scheimer's trademark signature script flashing on screen.
  • Digital Destruction: Many 2000s DVD releases of these cartoons have the sound higher pitched. This was because, when they owned the rights to the library in the 90s, Hallmark (the card company) deliberately threw out the original masters (as well as sound masters and other important archival material) and made new ones- but only for international distribution, apparently because they hated Filmation's library (which begs the question of why they even bought the rights to begin with); this was discovered when Entertainment Rights (which has, through various mergers, been absorbed into Dreamworks Animation, and by extension, NBCUniversal) bought it off Hallmark. Hence, the majority of the library is now high-pitched, due to being in the PAL format as compared to NTSC. Some of the lucky few to escape this included Ghostbusters (both the live-action and animated versions), several of their little-known live-action series like Ark II, and Star Trek: TAS (the latter being held by Paramount, then CBS), and likely other series held by other companies, like their DC Comics cartoons (distributed by Warner Bros.). That said, one could always lower the pitch of the sound to replicate the original masters.
  • Domestic-Only Cartoon: Nearly all of them, with the exception of Zorro.
  • Dull Surprise: A side-effect of the Limited Animation. The characters didn't actually have that many expressions.
  • End of an Era: Contributed twice to the downfall of domestically animated TV cartoons:
    • First when they outsourced Zorro to TMS in 1980, a move that Scheimer ultimately regretted.
    • Their eventual takeover and disbandment by L'Oreal in 1988 spelled the end of widespread domestic television animation.
  • Episode Title Card: Many Filmation series use them.
  • 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. While many of rival Hanna-Barbera's best-known characters of the 1960s and 70s were animals, Filmation's most popular characters were humans. Exceptions included Waldo Kitty, Thun the Lion-Man, Thirty-Thirty (sometimes), and Adam the live-action talking chimp.
  • He Also Did: Before he founded Filmation, Lou Scheimer supposedly worked as an animator for Hanna-Barbera's first animated series, The Ruff & Reddy Show (1957), before quitting early in production over the show's animation quality. Of course his company would later go on to rival note  Hanna-Barbera in the Saturday morning market throughout the 70s and 80s.
  • 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 Sound!: After getting the contract to do the the animated series, Filmation got access to a library of sound effects from the original Star Trek, and recycled them extensively in subsequent productions, as heard in the likes of Sport Billy, He-Man, Ghostbusters, and others.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Rick Springfield on Mission: Magic!; most of the casts of Star Trek: The Animated Series, The New Adventures of Gilligan, and The Brady Kids.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Despite, or perhaps because of, the studio's reputation in the industry, much of their back catalog doesn't receive the amount of home media exposure that their competitors do. Even when a show of theirs is released it's not until long after it had already been bootlegged on the web. The fact that you can find bootleg episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe with a quick YouTube search when it's already available on Netflix really drives the point home. It doesn't help that Hallmark destroyed the original masters to many of their shows when they owned the company.
    • This is especially the case for Fat Albert, which may never see an official release again following Bill Cosby's 2018 conviction of sexual assault.
  • Ken Burns Pan: Panning across a painted background while characters deliver dialogue in voiceover. Used so frequently that animators sometimes call the technique a Filmation Pan. In fairness, these background paintings are often gorgeous.
  • 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.
  • Moral Guardian: Lou Scheimer was dead set on avoiding any subjects in his studio's filmography that were deemed too challenging or controversial. However, shows like Star Trek: The Animated Series and (believe it or not) specific episodes of He-Man often tried to rise above the norm with more serious and mature plot lines.
    • And then there's Bravestarr that tackled issues such as death, crime, murder, greed and corruption with an impressive amount of seriousness.
  • No Budget: Even more so than their rivals, seeing how one of their first employees was a mannequin dressed up to pass as a secretary!
  • 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.
  • Public Domain Animation: At least four of their cartoons are this. Both Rod Rocket and His Mother Marveled had their copyrights expire in 1991, while the Uncle Croc's Block segments Fraidy Cat and Wacky and Packy had theirs expire in 2003.
  • Recycled In Space: The Hardy Boys, who go around solving mysteries with their friends... as a cool and groovy band!
  • 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.
  • Stock Footage: Unfortunately, perhaps the single best-remembered characteristic of Filmation's series. Longer-running series would often have a library of stock footage that storyboarders would work in whenever possible, and a for a few series, such as He-Man, they developed their stock animation sets first before doing animation for the individual shows.
  • 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. The distinctive "heat ray" sound from the 1950's War of the Worlds film also gets used a lot.
  • 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's series; though there were Jughead's Hot Dog (who didn't really "speak"; we just hear his thoughts) or He-Man's Cringer, Belfry the Bat, all of the characters in Fraidy Cat and M-U-S-H, and Wacky and Packy's Packy, 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: The title characters of He-Man and She-Ra; Thirty-Thirty of Bravestarr; the long Suiting Up sequence from animated Ghostbusters; Web Woman from Tarzan and the Super 7; Micro Woman of Super Stretch and Micro Woman; and many many others. One of Filmation's favorite methods for avoiding new animation (not that it was limited to their animated shows, as the sequences in the live-action Shazam! and Isis series demonstrated).
  • Troubled Production: Happened on several occasions, according to the book "Creating the Filmation Generation":
    • The company itself. After numerous production blunders involving Journey Back to Oz, the studio was close to becoming bankrupt and shutting its doors even before they began. It wasn't until DC Comics gave them the contract for The New Adventures of Superman that they were able to get out of the red.
    • This was the reason why the Zorro cartoon was even given to TMS Entertainment in the first place. As the company was working on multiple shows at the time (Among them being Blackstar), it was the only viable option. Problems were further complicated when TMS had to animate the first episode in five weeks.
    • Uncle Croc's Block also suffered from things such as Executive Meddling, low ratings, and an uncooperative Charles Nelson Reilly (who only took the job in order to get a show in prime time).
    • The three movies they did fared little better- Journey Back to Oz took nearly a half a decade to complete (and three more years to even be released). Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night caught the unwanted attention of Disney, who took them to court over the matter (thus driving the budget to its final $9 million as a result). Happily Ever After meanwhile, was made near the end of Filmation's lifespan, and wasn't given a theatrical release until 1993, six years after the company went out of business.