RIP Lou Scheimer (Fat Albert, Star Trek: The Animated Series, etc.)


Saturday morning cartoon pioneer Lou Scheimer, whose Filmation company created Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Groovie Goolies, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and many other classics of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, has died. He was 84. Above, Scheimer with some of his Filmation characters in an illustration from the cover of his book, "Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation." From the New York Times:

Filmation was considered noteworthy on two counts: it kept production in the United States in an age of increasing outsourcing (then as now, the labor-intensive work of animating many American cartoons was done in Asia) and it sought to produce cartoons with a message of social tolerance.

The studio was among the first to make minority characters mainstays of the cartoon landscape, as the enduring success of “Fat Albert,” broadcast on CBS from 1972 to 1985, attests. It did likewise for strong female heroines, as in its feature film “Happily Ever After,” which began production the 1980s but was not officially released until 1993.

A de facto sequel to the 1937 Disney film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,“ the Filmation version replaces Grumpy et al. with female “dwarfelles,” voiced by Carol Channing, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Tracey Ullman, among others. Snow White (voiced by Irene Cara) has little need of rescuing. "Lou Scheimer, TV Cartoon Producer, Dies at 84"

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  1. I'm sorry I'm only learning of Scheimer's story now that he's gone. As a teenager my friends and I passed around videotapes of Star Trek: The Animated Series, which we all really enjoyed. Before that I grew up watching Fat Albert. I remember one episode distinctly, which dealt with the prejudice faced by a girl whose parents were an interracial couple. I was so naive then I didn't see anything controversial about the episode. I knew that some people had a problem with "racial miscegenation", and I knew those people were idiots.

    Only tangentially related: Years later I heard one of Bill Cosby's routines about Fat Albert that inspired the animated series. It was about Fat Albert's car, which had a Cessna engine in it. Cosby impersonating the engine remains one of the funniest things I've ever heard.

  2. Filmation had live series "The Ghost Busters" (with Larry Storch!) years before the Ghost Busters movies, and that's why the animated version of the movies had to be called "The Real Ghostbusters," while Filmation revived "The Ghost Busters" as a cartoon.

    Frankly, I'm too terrified to click on any YouTube videos of Filmation products because I will activate the dormant ROM chip in my brain that holds all those theme songs and god knows what else that was engraved on my brain as a child. I'm still recovering from the "Banana Splits" theme song showing up in "Kick Ass."

  3. I know it is unwise to speak ill of the dead... I was about to suggest that except for Fat Albert and Sabrina, I was hard-pressed to remember a Filmation show that did not completely annoy me (for example, check out the Bat-mite character, and/or the sound of Joker's voice, from The New Adventures of Batman. Or... don't).

    But then I realized they did these live-action shows that I enjoyed, like Space Academy, Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis.

    So... Never mind.

  4. they've been re-running it for a few years now on the Qubo network's "Night Owl" block of programming, which I think is all Filmation shows; they do He-Man, She-Ra, and Bravestarr, too. This is weeknights while the late-night talk shows are on, on 14-3 over-the-air tv. When I was a kid, Ghostbusters annoyed me since it wasn't the same as the movie, but now it seems like the best of that bunch, honestly. But Fat Albert crushes everything. Bounce network (36-2) uses it to transition from late night to morning television, so I get to watch a block of classic Soul Train into two Fat Alberts when I'm actually up at that hour, which is great.

    One thing I really like about Filmation's (notoriously cheap) animation is they sometimes used very cinematic compositions:

    and also their use of mostly human figure drawing over cartoony simplified characters.

  5. Star Trek: TAS was kind of a trip. Some of the episodes were pretty straightforward Star Trek stuff--even a couple of sequels of sorts to TOS episodes--but then you had things like "The Slaver Weapon", an adaptation of a Larry Niven Known Universe story that effectively merged that continuity with Star Trek continuity. Even as a kid, well before I'd heard of canonicity in science fiction continuities, I knew that that was... problematic. And, even though the animated format let them easily introduce non-human crew members such as Arex and M'Ress, it also led to things like the episode with the seventy-foot-tall Spock clone. Trippy!

    Also, I can still sing the first verse of the Fat Albert theme song from heart.

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