June 1987 v85 p63(1)
'No one can disregard the toy industry.' (interview with Lou
with nearly a quarter of a century of providing animation
and family programming, is readying "Pinocchio and the
Emperor of the Night," and "The Legend of BraveStarr"
for theatrical motion picture release. This marks a slight
departure from Filmation's traditional function of supplying
65 half-hour episodes. This is understandable, however, since
animation has undergone several changes in recent seasons
as the economic climate shifts and tastes in entertainment
continue to evolve. Currently, the company is readying 65
half-hour episodes of "BraveStarr' for nationwide television
syndication, with 85 percent of the nation's market sold.
Lou Scheimer, as the firm's executive producer, completed
production of 65 half-hour segments of the nationally-syndicated
"Ghostbusters" series. Filmation was established
under the premise of providing programming with socially responsible
content with total production done within the United States.
began to redefine animation in 1983 when it developed "He-Man
and the Masters of the Universe" for daily syndication
by Group W Productions, rather than Saturday morning network
scheduling. Filmation then launched 65 half-hours of "She-Ra:
Princess of Power' in September 1985. "Ghostbusters"
followed in 1986. Its "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids"
is being seen in syndication with 50 new episodes plus 40
from its dozen years on CBS.
a recent interview with PLAYTHINGS, Scheimer, founder, president
and CEO of Filmation, a division of Group W Productions which
is, in turn, a division of Westinghouse Broadcasting and Cable
Inc., talks freely about the various changes challenging the
How does Filmation position itself with regard to the toy
No one can disregard the toy industry. It is certainly a force
to be dealt with. Keep in mind, however, that we don't produce
shows because of the toys. Toys and shows maintain different
needs. We separate those needs. We try to produce enlightening
shows. Developing shows just to take advantage of ancillary
rights would be immoral and unethical.
What kind of financing is needed in today's market?
One of the major problems is that shows are expensive to produce.
Filmation insists that all its work is done in the United
States--right here in the San Fernando Valley--adding a tremendous
amount to costs. Shows average between $20 million and $22
million per series of 65 half-hours produced. Word has it
that in Japan, it could be done for $13 million to $15 million.
We have to make money on our commercial minutes.
How important is Saturday morning television to the success
of a property?
There is no definitive relationship between the success of
show and the sale of toys relating to the property. "Smurfs"
has a successful run but after the initial popularity, the
How is the role of the animator changing in today's quick-paced
It is definitely a fast market but only the quality shows
will continue to air. We seem to be headed toward a weeding
out of shows. Years ago, there were only three or four half-hour
shows available. Now, there are 28-30 half-hours. As a result,
the audience has become fragmented. There is so much more
to watch and it precludes any chance of having one megahit.
But this is expected to change in the next few years. In 1988,
there will be fewer shows available. Many of the fringe shows,
merely produced to generate ancillary sales, will fall short
when they realize there is no longer a fast buck to be made
What is the expected life span for a show today?
Short-term licensing will fade. No matter what the expected
life span is, if a show is no good, it will not last. But
a well-conceived show will continue long after others have
been dropped. The audience is better served with fewer shows.
With 30-40 concepts out there, enthusiasm gets diffused when
no one show has an identity. After the weeding out in the
next few years, there should be only 10-15 concepts.
How would you define "good entertainment?"
Totality of the property. A good show puts forth quality programming.
We have a responsibility to offer good entertainment to our
young people. To do this, we became one of the first animation
houses to retain outside educational advisors to guide the
shows' awareness toward pro-social attitudes. We're glad when
the child finishes watching the show and is a little better
off. Smiling never hurt anyone. We feel good when children
are able to realize that problems they think are unique to
them are actually shared and understood by others.
Are there any major changes in Filmation's marketing plan
with regard to animation for television?
Our 1987 series schedule has already been established. Our
1988 is set. We have an overall schedule mapped out through
1991 including a three-year schedule that we are currently
presenting to the stations.
It has been mentioned that Filmation is involved with the
New Classics (Pinocchio and Snow White). Does this signal
a major return in general to classic properties?
We hope to be leading Filmation into new areas with full animation
feature films. We are readying "Pinocchio and the Emperor
of the Night" and "The Legend of BraveStarr"
for theatrical motion picture release. We are all in the business
of creating standards, but we must remember that need does
not necessarily come from fairy tales.
What are your comments about interactive TV toys?
Concepts such as Captain Power create two classes: those who
have the toys and those who don't. It is difficult to defend
that concept on creative grounds. I would be upset to see
that certain children's parents couldn't afford the toys that
interact with a television show. Prices would have to come
down substantially on the products. There is a legitimate
way to deal with interaction, namely, the VCR. With the advent
of video, you have toys and pictures that work together. VCRs
are virtually everywhere and provide a great deal of entertainment
Thank you for your comments on animation.