- Filmation was also the name of a technique for isometric graphics in 8-bits video games by Ultimate Play The Game.
Filmation Associates was a company that produced cartoons for television during the later half of the 20th century. During a period lasting from the 1960s through the 1980s, the only real competitors to Hanna-Barbera Productions in the field of TV cartoons were Filmation and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Filmation's founders and principal producers were Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott. (Supposedly, the trademark rotating "Produced by" credit at the beginning of Filmation programs was a clever device to allow them to share equal billing; later Filmation productions credited only Scheimer.)
Filmation has a reputation for exploiting the technique of limited animation to produce a number of animated series with a distinct look. They made heavy use of rotoscoping, and they also re-used the same animated sequences over and over, many times, to the point where the Filmation style was instantly recognizable (and often despised by TV critics and animation scholars). The studio is noteworthy for refusing to rely upon animation studios outside the United States for the bulk of its production. Also distinctive, some shows -- particularly many live-action and animated productions of the 1980s and latter '70s -- imparted a simple moral- or life-lesson (explained by a key character, in a child-friendly manner) in the epilogue. This was echoed in the occasional "...and knowing is half the battle" admonitions of Hasbro/Claster Television's 1980s "GI Joe" cartoons.
As with other producers of Saturday morning cartoons, Filmation was more concerned with quantity than quality; however, they did make a number of attempts to rise above the standard animated fare and produce reasonably well-written cartoons. The best-known example of this is their animated adaptation of the Star Trek series, which included scripts contributed by well-known science fiction writers and starred most of the original cast. Other favorably remembered Filmation series included a 16-part animated serial of Flash Gordon (originally intended as a movie for theatrical release but shown in its entirety only once on NBC) and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, an animated educational series created by and starring Bill Cosby. The animated adapatations of the Archie Comics characters were also noteworthy for the pop music produced for it, particularly the song, "Sugar, Sugar," which was a #1 hit single.
There were very few original animated characters created by the studio. Two examples were Fraidy Cat, a timid feline who has lost 8 of his 9 lives, which come back to haunt him; and Wacky and Packy, two cavemen who enter the modern age through a time warp. Both of these originally aired as segments of the Uncle Croc's Block show on ABC. (Which was hosted by Charles Nelson Reilly). Apparently, the show did so poorly, that ABC ceased ordering programs from Filmation. So in a period where ideas for cartoons had run dry (comedy was heavily scrutinzed for violence, and everything else seemed to copy the popular Scooby Doo format), Filmation's strong point was its adaptations of popular TV shows. (The studio also reportedly wanted to do a M*A*S*H cartoon, but was turned down; leading them to do the canine M*U*S*H spoof, which was the third animated segment on Uncle Croc's Block).
Filmations's other strong area (and where we see the most original concepts) was its live action shows, including Space Adademy, its spinoff Jason of Star Command, Ark II, and Shazam and Isis. Also deserving mention was a special featuring several of Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes stars (paired with Filmation's own Groovie Goolies, a group of classic monsters). This aired in ABC's Saturday Superstar Movies in 1972. While most of the Warner Brothers characters were drawn well (veteran Warners animator Virgil Ross was working there at the time), and voiced by veteran voice actor Mel Blanc, the special is not liked by many fans of classic Warners animation; once again, because of the limited animation, as well as a weak storyline.
The Filmation studio was owned by TelePrompTer in the early 1970s, then by Westinghouse (through its Group W Productions division) in 1982, though in 1987 it was purchased by the L'Oreal cosmetics company. L'Oreal promptly closed the studio and ended Filmation's legacy. Animation scholars and fans believe the studio was closed for tax purposes. Filmation's last production was the feature film Happily Ever After (an unofficial sequel to the story of Snow White), released to theaters in 1993. Also, at the time of the closing, two new animated TV shows, one of them called "Bugzburg", were beginning production.
Since then, most of the Filmation back catalog has come under the ownership of Hallmark Cards, through their Hallmark Entertainment subsidiary; however, since a large amount of Filmation's output was based on characters licensed from other companies, many titles are actually under the control of other studios (notably Paramount and Warner Bros.).
In March 2004, ownership of the Filmation back catalog which was under the ownership of Hallmark was sold to a British company called Entertainment Rights. Entertainment Rights have since made the revelation that when Hallmark converted all of their Filmation shows to digital format in the 1990s, only PAL-format copies were made, with the original film prints apparently discarded. This was due to Hallmark's previously unknown (but long suspected) short-sighted policy of only distributing Filmation shows outside of the U.S., thus potentially leaving all Filmation shows forever running 3% faster than they originally did.
Notable TV animated series from Filmation included:
- The New Adventures of Superman (September 1966 - CBS)
- The Adventures of Superboy (1966)
- The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure (1967 - CBS)
- The Batman/Superman Hour (1968-1969 - CBS)
- The Adventures of Batman & Robin (1969-1970 - CBS)
- Fantastic Voyage (1968)
- Journey to the Center of the Earth (1967)
- The Archie Show (1968)
- The Hardy Boys (1969)
- Dick Tracy (Single episode on Archie's T.V. Funnies) (1971)
- Sabrina The Teenage Witch (1971-1974)
- Lassie's Rescue Rangers (1973)
- The Brady Kids (1972-74)
- Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973)
- Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972)
- My Favorite Martians (1973)
- The New Adventures Of Gilligan (1974)
- The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty (1975)
- Groovie Goolies (1970)
- Shazam! (Live-action TV series) (1974)
- The Secrets of Isis (Live-action TV series) (1975)
- The Ghost Busters (Live-action TV series) (1975)
- The New Adventures Of Batman (1977)
- Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle (1976)
- Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down? (1970)
- Ark II (Live-action TV series) (1976)
- Space Academy (Live-action TV series) (1977)
- The Super 7 (1978)
- Jason of Star Command (Live-action TV series) (1979)
- Uncle Croc's Block (1975)
- Mission: Magic (1973)
- Flash Gordon (1979-81)
- Space Sentinels (1977)
- Fabulous Funnies (1978)
- Mighty Mouse, Heckle & Jeckle, & Quackula Adventure Hour (1979)
- The Brown Hornet (Single episoide on Fat Albert) (1979)
- Sport Billy (1980)
- Tom & Jerry Comedy Show (1980)
- Gilligan's Planet(1982)
- Tarzan, Lone Ranger, & Zorro Adventure Hour (1981)
- BlackStar (1981)
- Kid Superpower Hour with Shazam! (1981)
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-85)
- The New Adventures Of Fat Albert (1984)
- She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985-87)
- The Ghost Busters (animated) (1986-88)
- Bravestarr (1987-89)
- List of Filmation titles at the Internet Movie Database
- Entertainment Rights
- Filmation Nation (DVD Toons)