Friday, October 18, 2013

Lou Scheimer, 1928-2013

Lou Scheimer, co-founder of Filmation Associates and a key figure in the history of American TV animation, died yesterday, two days before what would have been his eighty-fifth birthday.
Lou came out of Carnegie Mellon Univ in Pittsburgh and began in animation as a layout artist on TV shows. In 1967 he and a bunch of his friends created a new company called Filmation. To start, he had his friends come over from their lunch hours at H&B and Disney and sit at drawing tables to look busy while the clients toured the facility. Actor Ted Knight stood in as the film editor.

Filmation grew, and by the 80s was one of the largest animation facilities in America. HeMan, She-Ra, Fat Albert, and much more. Even he would admit their output was not "high-quality" stuff, but it employed many people during lean years like the Recession of 1983, and made childhood memories for millions of kids.

Some artists who become bosses tend to forget their roots, like that necktie is now part of their anatomy. Lou Scheimer never stopped being "one of the guys". He was passionate about animation and his fellow artists. It actually pained him to lay people off. In 1982 when the Guild held a city-wide strike to try and prevent all our work outsourced overseas, Lou shouldered a sign and picketed his own studio, because he agreed that work should stay in town. Lou never reneged on his promise to keep as many people working as he could.

He was funny, self-effacing, generous, and warm. Borge Ring said " he looked like Dean Martin." Others described him like a big teddy bear. Its reassuring in this world when you see the good-guys can still win. Lou Scheimer was a good guy. And I shall miss him. So Long Lou Scheimer, you did well.

-- Tom Sito

I was working at Filmation the day the company's doors closed for the last time (February whatever, 1989).

Lou called groups of us into the top-floor screening room in relays and gave us the news that Filmation was ending. Other bosses would have had some underling do it, but Lou did the heavy lifting himself. He was straight-from-the-shoulder about it, also highly emotional. The studio had been his baby from its founding twenty-six years before, even though he no longer owned it. And he choked up as he told us everything was over. The anguish was etched into his face.

I worked for a few different studios in my story days; Filmation was the only shop where the head guy wore his heart on his sleeve; that heart was on prominent display on that grim February day when the company went dark.

I saw Lou sporadically in the years after Filmation, and he was never anything but a warm and effusive gentleman every time we met. A couple of years ago, I went to his hilltop home to interview him for a TAG podcast. Lou had a lot of fabulous stories, but his speech was impaired, and I never published the recordings. A pity, because he had a lot of insights and wisdom to share.

Mr. Scheimer was everything Tom Sito says he was. A good guy who didn't finish last.

-- Steve Hulett


Ken Roskos said...

Still loved those shows. I only met Lou once at an ASIFA event back in 1998.

Site Meter