Monday, January 27, 2014


Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation is Scheimer’s 2012 autobiography, which he wrote with Andy Mangels. Scheimer co-founded Filmation in 1962, and he was the only one left when the sale to L’Oreal shut the company down in 1989. As such, this book also serves as a comprehensive history of Filmation, which is best known for such cartoons as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, and Star Trek: The Animated Series.

The book begins with Scheimer’s parents’ immigration to the United States and his childhood and schooling; from the foundation of Filmation onward, Scheimer keeps things mostly chronological but largely gives a show-by-show account of events. I only have one real complaint about the way the book is laid out—it would have been nice to get more information on the animation process earlier in the book so that certain portions would be easier to follow.

The book has a very conversational tone, which makes it extremely engaging. Scheimer’s personality really comes through unfiltered, and by all accounts, he was quite a character. He never met a tangent he didn’t like, but most of what he has to say is so interesting that it’s easily forgiven (e.g., his dad purportedly punched Hitler in the face).

Scheimer heavily emphasizes his passion and vision for animation throughout the book. He was a trailblazer, he says, for incorporating racial diversity into children’s cartoons, and for producing material that communicated values, morals, and instruction. He was also committed to keeping animation jobs in the United States when most studios were sending large amounts of work overseas (this is, in fact, one of the primary reasons for Filmation’s well-known and oft-maligned stock animation system.

This is a huge book—8.5” by 11”, and almost 300 pages—and it’s kind of unwieldy. It’s worth wrestling with, though, because of the vast number of pictures. Contrary to what its Amazon page would lead you to believe, however, the book is not in full color. Only pp. 209–224 are; the rest are in black and white, so caveat emptor. The book really could have done with some serious copyediting, especially to clean up Scheimer’s serial misuse of “I” when he should have used “me” and the redundancies in the writing (Mangels, isn’t that your job?).

For me, at least, the production and editorial knocks on the book are readily forgivable. Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation gave me a new appreciation for Scheimer, for Filmation, and for some of the cartoons I grew up with; I’m grateful simply that the book exists.

If any of the Filmation shows you grew up with are still meaningful to you as an adult, odds are you’ll find Lou Scheimer: Creating the Filmation Generation well worth your time.