Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Filmation's "Golden Age"

From 1979 to about 1981 Filmation experienced what Eddie called its Golden Age. It was at least a sort of golden age for the storyboard artists.


Eddie and Tom Minton and a crew of talented young guys drew some really funny storyboards, but when we saw the finished pictures, they didn't reflect exactly the guts and life from the boards.
The Filmation methods and style were stacked against even the funniest ideas and in the end everything came out looking like - well Filmation.

This is Filmation trying to do Tex Avery.

I started doing layouts on the Tom and Jerry/Droopy show around this time. I wasn't very good, but I learned a little about staging and posing and didn't trace the model sheets. I learned a real lot about reusing scenes over and over!
These backgrounds don't actually go with the cls. That's just the way they sell cels now for some reason and it confuses things all the more.
There were even some old animators who had worked on classic cartoons that were wacky and fun in the 30s and forties, but by the 80s that life had been beaten out of them and they were used to drawing everything blandly.

Mighty depressing.
Working on these cartoons showed me that it would take a lot more than talent to get cartoons to be funny again. The whole production system had to be turned around so that good ideas could actually make it to the screen.

28 comments:

HemlockMan said...

Well, you did it. And then they tried to kill you.

Peggy said...

I religiously watched the Mighty Mouse space serial they were doing in those days, even though it was on at the ungodly hour of 6:30 or something. It had cliffhangers! I don't remember much of anything about it, I mean I was like six or something.

drawingtherightway said...

Being that the animation was done in house at Filmation, did they have the animator draw the key poses or did they just use the poses from the layout? By the way this post is dated February 4th but it just showed up for me for the first time today (February 9).

Alex said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hkPVAbmkns

Handcuffs on a Snake - A peculiar take from an actual Filmation Mighty Mouse cartoon. Boarded by Eddie Fitzgerald, and animated by Kent Butterworth

I'm referring you to this because it's proof that there was talent working in the 1970s/80s. Only it wasn't allowed to be let out. It really puts those problems into perspective.

And btw, Filmation's attempts to do Tom and Jerry and other MGM and Terrytoons characters? It could've been worse.

Gabriele_Gabba said...

Good gawd John! This is scary! Thank god it never lived long.. I wonder if i'll be saying the same thing about our animation today...

Jeremy said...

it's funny. I have a filmation's "how to" layouts book. It's not that bad for instruction!

glamaFez said...

These stills are difficult to look at (particularly the gasping H & J one).

But at least there's no 'tude.

Martin Juneau said...

Those Heckle and Jeckle designs are hideous. But the Curbside pitch made a dozen of years ago make the looks much uglier despite the good animation on it and the voice acting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_gRIeSLQ1U

JohnK said...

Hey Jeremy

would you be able to upload that manual to a blog??

Your pal,

John

KennethJ said...

They're not bad, that is if your going off of Filmation's usual fare. Or it could just be my bias to preferring any animal based character.

C said...

I'm scared of the giant cat lady stomping that poor car.

bergsten said...

Has anyone noticed that, the worse the artwork is, the more copyright notices, confidentiality, trade secret, etc. things are stamped all over them?

Nary a one on the SpĆ¼mco stuff.

Elana Pritchard said...

Hey does anyone want to see children solving a cartoon puzzle I made?

Check out my blog:
puzzle fun at elana's blog

bergsten said...

Here's a question for all...

What was the last cartoon you could stand to watch as a kid?

I don't remember what it was, but I remember the cartoon that made me stop -- Magilla Gorilla.

Zoran Taylor said...

"Handcuffs on a Snake" - written by.....SAM SIMON!!! Yes, the very man who scared the everloving crap out of Matt Groening so awfully that he apparently *ahem* had to be let go. And thus has gotten only a fraction of the credit he deserves for the success of The Simpsons. Apparently he was a huge, burly, angry, crazy, cigar-chomping monolith who put everyone on edge. Sound familiar?

Zoran Taylor said...

BTW John, if you're still looking for "Get A Job" - here it is.

God, can you believe Caslor and Barker did ALL of that animation?! There's whole scenes shot on one! It must've taken YEARS!! (I'm sure it did - and for more reasons then just that, too.....)

RooniMan said...

I never liked the Droopy show. It was boring as hell. So boring, I can barely remember that crap pile.

John Pannozzi said...

Am I the only one who thinks Filmation's Droopy cartoons are like the Plan 9 From Outer Space: so bad it's almost unintentionally hilarious? Someone reads to do commentaries ala MST3K.

And I think it's worth noting that shows like Filmation's Mighty Mouse had Sam Simon on the writing staff, who helped developed the Simpsons and really gave that show it's distinctive humor. And I think Simon (and maybe a few other writers who had any semble of talent) and guys like you, Tom, Eddie and Kent were the reason I can watch Filmation's The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse & Heckle & Jeckle (not to be confused with Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures) and not want to hurt myself.

John Pannozzi said...

Am I the only one who thinks Filmation's Droopy cartoons are like the Plan 9 From Outer Space: so bad it's almost unintentionally hilarious? Someone reads to do commentaries ala MST3K.

And I think it's worth noting that shows like Filmation's Mighty Mouse had Sam Simon on the writing staff, who helped developed the Simpsons and really gave that show it's distinctive humor. And I think Simon (and maybe a few other writers who had any semble of talent) and guys like you, Tom, Eddie and Kent were the reason I can watch Filmation's The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse & Heckle & Jeckle (not to be confused with Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures) and not want to hurt myself.

Zoran Taylor said...

@John P. - Guess what Sam Simon was?

A CARTOONIST.

It's not like there ain't a pattern here, Doc.....

martinus said...

Hi John.
Some of these got me thinking about a british show made in the 80's called Count Duckula.
It used sparse animation and was actually pretty funny. By the looks of it a creator driven cartoon. Have you seen it? Any comments?

I also finally got Ren and Stimpy season one and two yesterday( I live in South Africa-it took about a month to arrive) It's amazing. When I was a kid I was used to Billy West's Ren, and much as I think Billy is great, his Ren doesn't match yours.

I also recently got some Looney Tunes golden collection. Loving it. But how hideous are those images on some of the boxes and title menus?

Martinus

martinus said...

Sorry for the double post, but I thought this might be of interest.
Agonybooth.com has detailed recaps of Mr T's horrific cartoons.
Here's a taster:

"The '80s were a weird time to grow up, because it was kind of like this limbo between the no holds barred slapstick violence of cartoons of the '60s and '70s, and the (generally) more thoughtful kid's fare of today. Somewhere around that time, Dr. Spock or somebody said it wasn't good to let kids watch cartoon animals shooting at each other, or pushing each other off cliffs. So in place of that, guess we got? Heavy moralizing. Drugs are bad, the handicapped are people too, don't let a stranger touch you, stay in school. Stop, drop, roll. No, go, tell."

http://www.agonybooth.com/recaps/Mister_T/Mystery_of_the_Golden_Medallion.aspx

Steve Hogan said...

Judging from all the reports on The Howard Stern Show, Sam Simon didn't come out of The Simpsons too badly. He survived his divorce with Jennifer Tilly still rich enough to support Ralph Cirella in the manner to which he's accustomed.

glamaFez said...

"What was the last cartoon you could stand to watch as a kid?"

Watched Scooby-Doo with my little sister, nauseated by all except Scooby-Doo and Shaggy. About that same time, "Kit n' Kaboodle" appeared in National Lampoon, and changed my life.

drawingtherightway said...

Speaking of 80's cartoons, I just saw that they are coming out with this DVD. The cartoons on the cover sure are ugly!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Haw! I meant "Golden Age" in a relative way...relative to the rest of the output at that studio. It's certainly true that the cartoons we worked on were rendered unwatchable by the studio system.

Sam Simon did write decent scripts for the studio at that time. He's the best non-artist writer that I've ever worked with.

Jorge Garrido said...

Eddie, Sam Simon IS an artist! Maybe he wasn't in the layout department at Filmation, but he designed most of the town characters on The Simpsons and refined Matt's crude scribbles of the family. He's also a television director, who worked on The Norm Show, The George Carlin Show (which Carlin hated) and The Drew Carey Show. He's one of the most talented people in show business... but apparently he has a lot of personal problems.

He's WAY more talented that Matt Groening. James L. Brooks can write like a son-of-a-bitch but he only really contributed his writing to one episode. Sam Simon, meanwhile, is known as a comedy writing god by the likes of Conan O'Brien and Jim Reardon, one of the funniest people ever, and he's one of the few who bridged the gap between comedy writers and animators.

I heard some horror stories on this very blog from Simpsons layout artists about Matt but never about Sam.

I wish Sam would return to animation, but he's happy, I guess, doing poker shows with Artie Lange, Norm MacDonald and his ex-wife.

Jeremy said...

Hey John.

I'll upload that manual to this blog:
http://filmationlayout.blogspot.com/

there is about 70 pages to upload, so I'll let you know once its all there!

take care,

Jeremy