Creating the Filmation Generation tells the story of the famous animation studio that coloured the airwaves of the 1980s with its classic Saturday morning cartoons such as Batman, Star Trek, Archie, Flash Gordon and my personal childhood favourite He-Man and the Masters of the Universe! Told by its co-creator Lou Scheimer, the book covers in detail the entire 25 year history of the studio starting with Lou’s own background in illustration and animation, to the opening of Filmation Studios, (or very nearly not, as described in an amusing anecdote of light-hearted deception ) and the continuing successes or failures, covered show by show.
Unfortunately this book does have its problems; mainly in that it’s text heavy to say the least, often bogged down by far too many financial, ratings and celebrity statistics where more room should have been allowed for the art. To be fair, this seems to be where Lou’s interested predominately lies, in the business side of things, leaving the artwork to speak for itself; which if you’re interested in the work and the illustrators behind it, can make for a tiresome read.
The artwork sadly does seem to take a back seat, which might be typical of the studio itself, but it’s a real shame that most of the reproductions of sketches, character drawings or animation cels are rarely shown any bigger that a couple of inches; in fact most of the images on offer are basic screen grabs of various quality shown predominately in black and white. There are some 16 pages of colour at the end containing better quality images and welcome contributions from Adam Hughes, Alex Ross, Frank Cho and Bruce Timm, but even these are confined to their own single spread.
I badly wanted to like this book, but it disappointingly fails to hit the mark for me. It’s no doubt the definitive resource on the Filmation Studio, (and was a long time coming too) but it left me questioning if my memories of the old Saturday morning favourites are somewhat rose-tinted, as its presents an image of a company that was so utterly focused on sales, putting out dubious quality work, some with tenuous links to more successful Disney pictures; a practice often leading to legal disputes.
Coincidentally, I recently read this quote from Dave Stevens, whom, among others spent a brief spell at the studio on their way to better things;
“After failing to convince that I was the prefect fit for the Mouse House, I had jumped from the DePatie-Frelang frying pan into the Filmation Studios fire, which was definitely the bottom of the animation barrel by 1980. They basically produced every show from massive “stock” books, containing scenes marked for re-use in every possible way. We constructed shows containing virtually no new layouts. It was all traced stock footage from past efforts. Pee-yew!” – From Brush With Passion – The Art and Life of Dave Stevens.