Edited by: Eric Nolen-Weathington
Published by: Twomorrows Publishing
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
Besides Hanna-Barbera, it’s hard to imagine another company besides Filmation that was as synonymous with Saturday morning cartoons. Lou Scheimer and his production company were a major presence in the living rooms of multiple generations of children. Just a quick glance through the pages of Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation was a quick trip down the memory lane of my childhood. I don’t know if it was the fact that I watched entirely too much television as a kid or that Scheimer and Co. were so productive but just a perusal of the pages of this fantastic book brought back waves of nostalgia for a time when action and adventure were just a television screen away. Filmation truly was responsible for hours and hours or morality laced animation that made the weekend mornings and after school afternoons worth waiting for.
So when I got the opportunity to review this book I just had to take it. I’ve obviously remained an avid animation and comic book fan into my adulthood so I was eager to be able to read into the history of one of the companies that was ultimately responsible for my obsession with American pop culture. I’m glad to report that after having read this book I can say that Mr. Scheimer and co-writer Andy Mangles have written an autobiography that is truly worthy of the Filmation legacy.
Scheimer approaches his history within the animation industry with a humor, self-deprecation, and modesty that puts the reader immediately at ease. His writing style is that of a seasoned professional slowly revealing the secrets in his bag of tricks. You can see why the man was partly responsible for so many properties that were branded into the memories of children everywhere.
Having said that I don’t want to say that what he’s spinning in this book are simply light fairy tales. Scheimer goes into serious detail about every Filmation production with complete honesty. What you have with this book is an intricately detailed, impressively told, warts and all history of the behind the scenes workings of one of the most prolific animation studios in television history. Scheimer doesn’t shy away from details that others might see as embarrassing or unsightly. He goes into the background story of almost every production and provides amusing and sometimes eyebrow raising anecdotes of his time as the co-head of Filmation studios. Scheimer isn’t spinning gossip in these pages, he’s just telling his story and that story just happens to be of a life filled with hard work, tough times , great triumphs, and crazy characters (both of the animated and real life variety)…all of which happen to make for some great storytelling.
In all honesty I was incredibly impressed with the scope of attention to detail in the book. Mr. Scheimer seems to remember everything about the particulars of his life. Some of the credit should probably go to co-writer Mangles as well as the editor of this book as it seems like a lot of research went into backing up some of Scheimer’s accounts prior to publication. Whoever deserves the credit the attempt at authenticity is really appreciated. What is in the book is a treasure trove of information that spans the early Superman Filmation ‘toons, to the creation of the cartoon pop superstar characters in The Archie cartoons, to Fat Albert and his gang, to the adventures of Flash Gordon and on into He-man and the Masters of the Universe and beyond. No Filmation property is skipped over and every one of them gets at least some moment in the spotlight to shine. This book is a cartoon lover’s dream!
It should be noted that this is, in fact, Lou Scheimer’s autobiography and not just a book about the history of Filmation. As such, the early chapters of the book are devoted to Scheimer’s childhood, his time in the armed services post World War Two, and his years at art school. A lot of this might not seem all that interesting to fans of cartoon history or trivia. When I first sat down to read the book I too thought that those early chapters were a bit of a waste of valuable reading time. Once I continued reading, however, I discovered the writing style to be so folksy and welcoming that I actually found myself not trying to rush through those chapters as I seemed to actually be enjoying them! While it’s true that some of the stories presented early in the book tend to trail off into unnecessary tangents I do think that it’s a particular aspect of the writing that adds a bit of charm to the book. In the end it feels as if you’re being led through the narrative by a familiar friend.
I highly recommend this book for fans of Saturday morning entertainment from the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Scheimer and Twomorrows Publishing have given us fans a terrific manuscript that serves as a historical time capsule of a bygone era in animation. If you ever snuck downstairs to watch Saturday morning cartoons as a kid and wondered about the people who made them then this book is for you. It’s a fun read that will take you back to those days while giving you an inside look at all of the work that was going on to bring you the derring-do that was happening on your TV screen.