Thursday, January 31, 2008

Where Did You Go, Filmation Library?

In early 1989, I was hard at work at Filmation, turning out scripts for a series called Bugzburg, also doing development work. Then, abruptly, Filmation was shut down. And 150 people got to box up their their personal belongings, carry them out to out to their cars, and drive home.

A long time later, a former Filmation executive told me that crates filled with Bugzburg art, boards, and scripts were gathering dust in a San Fernando Valley warehouse, forgotten, unloved and unproduced. "What happened to all the other shows they made?" I asked. He confessed he didn't know.

As of today, I know:

In March of 2004, the Filmation library of programming was purchased by London's Entertainment Rights PLC, and by January 2005 a deal was struck between ER and BCI Eclipse for the first rights to a show in the library, He-Man ...[C]ertain titles -- where the rights were co-owned by another entity -- did not get attached to that deal ...

Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was a Filmation project that originally went elsewhere ... We have learned from reliable sources that [Entertainment Rights, PLC] has regained control of the property, and will begin producing DVDs themselves later in 2008 ...

Few remember that Filmation was -- in 1985 -- the largest animation studio in Los Angeles. Fewer still remember that Filmation prospered, for years and years, as CBS's major supplier of animated product. From its small beginnings in 1962, it became a powerhouse in teevee animation, pioneering the business model of product tie-ins and syndicated animated series that was subsequently raised to a high art by Disney Television Animation.

Filmation closed its doors almost exactly 18 years ago. Though the studio is long gone, the shows it turned out over twenty-six years continue to be sold and re-sold, making new distributors new batches of money, and proving the industry adage:

"Live action comes and goes, but animation marches on forever."

You don't believe it, just go to a discount toy mart and look at the bins of DVDs featuring public-domain Fleischer cartoons. Popeye is ever-green ... and ever-lucrative.


Anonymous said...

The wikipedia entry on Filmation says all the original film was tossed after they were transfered to PAL in the 90's. Anyone know if that is true?

That would rule out any future true hi-def releases.

Anonymous said...

Hi-Def?!? The mind goes numb thinking about watching that crap on anything better than a 21" tube. A bad transfer could only make it more accceptable to the eyes. And I worked on some of that crap.

What was good about Filmation certainly wasn't the product. It was the fact that they kept jobs here and not shipping overseas.

Ruben Chavez said...

I thought it was 1987 that the studio closed down. I was there for the final boot,and I remember going into aerospace for a couple of years before returning to the studios in 1989.
Whatever, just a thought, I did kinda wonder where all the library went and if Lou was still attached financially.

Steve Hulett said...

Lou is still out there, does a little work with Tom T./Gang of Four.

I think he sold out to Hearst Co. years ago. L'Oreal was the final buyer before the studio closed in February, 1989.

Anonymous said...

>>A bad transfer could only make it more accceptable to the eyes<<

You got your wish. The DVD releases have been DVNR'd into oblivion. Most are converted PAL, complete with speed-up.

And DVD releases there are! They're in the process of releasing nearly ALL the Filmation properties as inexpensive box sets. Mission Magic is already available!

Go check it out at You won't believe it.

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