Producer Lou Scheimer—a founder of the Filmation studios responsible for cartoons like Fat Albert and He-Man—has died at the age 84. Along with Disney veteran Hal Sutherland and the late Norm Prescott, Scheimer founded Filmation Associates, a production company geared to turning out animated and live-action children’s TV shows for Saturday mornings. Filmation’s cartoons, in particular, had a distinctive, readily identifiable look that was largely the result of such cost-cutting measures as rotoscoping and heavy reliance on the repeated use of stock footage. Filmation sought to compensate for the deficiencies of its animation with tie-ins to famous, pre-sold properties and, in some rare cases, better writing.
Filmation began in 1962 and immediately began to founder, with a feature film, Journey To Oz, that was shut down for years due to lack of money, and a planned TV series that remained unsold. Salvation arrived in 1968, in the form of a deal with DC Comics to create an animated Superman series. In the ’60s and ’70s, Filmation also scored hits with cartoons based on Archie comics, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and Batman, and Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids, a series spinoff of a 1969 TV special developed by Bill Cosby and a different team of animators. (Scheimer, who often contributed voice work to the cartoons under the pseudonym “Erik Gunden,” stepped in to provide the voice of Dumb Donald.)
In 1973 and 1974, Filmation produced 22 episodes of an animated Star Trek series, featuring voice work by most of the original cast members and scripts by such writers as Larry Niven, D. C. Fontana, and David Gerrold. The series won a Daytime Emmy Award for best children’s series of its year.
In 1983, Scheimer and Filmation had their biggest success with He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, a sword-and-sorcery fantasy based on a line of Mattel toys. It yielded 130 episodes, a spinoff series starring He-Man’s twin sister She-Ra, a 1987 live-action movie starring Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella, a 2002 Cartoon Network reboot, and another big-screen adaptation that’s currently in development. Filmation ceased production in 1989; its library is currently owned by DreamWorks.