The 1980s was the beginning of the end for Filmation Studios ... sort of. For, while their Saturday morning fortunes began to fade and eventually disappear, their successes turned to the burgeoning syndication market. It was there, starting in the early 1980s, that the studio introduced us to a sword-wielding warrior who became an animated legend.
Unfortunately, the studio's success in syndication would be a small, but powerful, blip for the two-decade old company. By the end of the 1980s the studio would fade into memory as the company was broken up and its talent moved onto bigger and better things.
If the 1960s was a decade of birth for Filmation, the 1970s was a time where it skipped childhood and moved straight into the role of responsible adult. With somewhere in the area of 30 programs airing during that decade, the team of Lou Scheimer, Hal Sutherland and Norm Prescott became big players on Saturday mornings. Not only that, but the trio helped usher in a number of genres that would become staples for both their own productions and those of the other studios as well.
If that weren't enough, the 1970s saw Filmation dabble into something that had come and gone on the Saturday morning schedule since the 1960s: live-action series. Combining comedy, drama and special effects, the studio produced an number of shows that provided a lot less cheese than the live-action series of, say, Sid & Marty Kroftt.
In the glory days of the Saturday morning cartoon, translated to be from about 1966 to sometime in the 80s, a handful of studios dominated the network schedules from year to year. Eventually, names like Hanna-Barbera, Sid & Marty Kroftt, DePatie-Freeleng and Rankin-Bass became as common to see on the screen as the characters they created. Add to that list an animation and live-action studio that presented two faces: one of quality storytelling, characters and imagination, and another of mass-produced, limited animation.
I speak of Filmation Studios. From 1966 to 1988, this studio produced dozens of cartoons and live action series and paved the way for a number of genres that are still remembered to this day. It also gave us a number of talented artists and writers that went on to bigger and better things. Today, we take a look at this studio, which gave us The Archies, Jason of Star Command and He-Man.
Children's television is the ultimate pacifier. Where else in the world can a terrible, horrific monster that destroys both life and property with nary a whiff of sympathy be turned into a soft, cuddly character who has his own line of soft, cuddly dolls being sold at the local Wal-Mart? It's only later in life, after they've adjusted to these de-fanged monsters, do they realize that their beliefs were so wrong. Aaaannnddd, that's where the therapy comes in.
But, we're not here to talk about the emotional problems that are paralyzing you today. We're here to talk about those vampires, ghosts and mummies that were stripped down and made to be funny, clumsy and even musically oriented. After the jump you'll see a few examples of what I mean. Don't worry, they won't scare you...they've been homogenized for your nightmare-free pleasure.
On a cursory glance at the 1970-71 Saturday morning schedule, one would think it was another year of classic children's fare. Yet, on closer examination, one would notice something else about the schedule. It was a bit dull. Oh, there were certainly some classics that premiered during this time -- many of them remembered to this day -- but the rest of the shows were somewhat forgettable.
It was almost like the networks and production studios had run out of steam when it came to Saturday mornings and weren't sure what to do. Understandable, since strict network standards as well as lobby groups like Action for Children's Television (ACT) put a stranglehold on what could and could not be shown. The result was a mix of animated spin-offs and live-action series that were a bit on the bland side. It would be a trend that continued through the first few years of the 1970s.
So, if you have your bowl of Cap'n Crunch on-hand, let's journey back to 1970.
Well, heck, I guess you can learn something new every day. In 1975, Filmation produced a live-action series titled Ghostbusters. The series ran on CBS for two official seasons and eventually the name "Ghostbusters" was forgotten until the box office smash with the same title hit screens in 1984.
Folks around my age probably remember The Real Ghostbusters, a cartoon spun off from the movie with the clever hook that they were the actual Ghostbusters, and the guys in the movie were just actors. At the same time, however, after having settled out of court with Columbia Pictures for using the name, Filmation decided to try and cash in on the name by making a cartoon titled The Original Ghostbusters, which featured the sons of the original CBS series taking up the business once again.
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