ANIMATION ANECDOTES
October 13, 2017 posted by Jim Korkis

Animation Anecdotes #333

BraveStarr. In the L.A. Times Magazine (December 28, 1986), there was a lengthy article about BraveStarr, the new animated television series from Filmation. BraveStarr as a character with vaguely alluded to Native American elements could draw on four innate animal characteristics: eyes of the hawk, the ears of the wolf, the strength of the bear and the speed of the puma.

“The idea was that Indians are the people closest to the earth which allowed us an element of mysticism,” said Filmation vice president Arthur Nadel who with Lou Scheimer, Scheimer’s daughter Erika (who was Filmation’s director of development), writer Bob Forward and others developed the scenario. It is set in the year 2349 in the town of New Texas (originally New Cheyenne) during a “Kerium rush”. Kerium is a fluorescent orange crystal more valuable than gold that becomes the focus of conflict between BraveStarr and Tex Hex. “It was the appropriate type of background to show that power or strength — good or bad – prevails,” said Nadel.


Wholesome Role Models. From the Los Angeles Times Calendar section December 21, 1986, Ritch Colbert, president of Access Syndicate (partnered with DIC Enterprises), stated, “Children’s programming these days is dominated by neo-militaristic, boy-toy animation. Just look at the things being offered – Silverhawks, Thundercats, G.I. Joe, the list is endless. Where are the Tom and Jerrys, the Flintstones, the rich characters for children to nurture and develop and identify with?”

When asked about his animated package that included Beverly Hills Teens (who attend classes with Louis XIV antique desks), Tiffany Blake (a glamorous fashion model who is also an international spy) and U.S. Space Force (defending the galaxy with deadly weapons), Colbert replied, “(Beverly Hills Teens) may be rather more wealthy than most teenagers but they have typical teenager problems and the important thing is they are fully realized personalities.” He added that Tiffany Blake is “no bimbo” and that the deadly astro-marines “don’t kill other people – just aliens. There is a difference, you know.”


The Future of Animation. In the April 12, 1962 issue of Television Age magazine, Leon H. Maurer, president of Westworld Artists Productions Inc. announced “Colormation”, a modification of his previous Animascope process that “produces full animation at ten percent of the cost of a Disney effort and fifty percent of the cost of a Flintstones-like limited animation technique… and it’s 85-90 percent faster than conventional full animation.”

Actors are made up and costumed to resemble cartoon characters, and are photographed in color on a special set that permits the film to capture only the performers and the hard-line details of their features and costumes. The live-action is printed against hand-drawn and photographed backgrounds, with props, models and other details also added optically.

Mr. Maurer noted that “new methods of costuming with foam rubber molding can turn any actor into a cartoon cat or mouse, or into Steve Canyon or Dick Tracy. Through conventional optical methods, characters can be made to fly, grow, diminish and do the usual tricks associated with cartoons. Mr. Maurer stated that residual talent payments would go only to the performers used on the voice track as the costumed actors are completely unrecognizable when turned into cats or dogs, dwarfs or giants. Using a small crew of talented actors, and three technicians, enough finished film to supply material for two half-hour TV series can be turned out in several days.”


Wisdom of Groening. In 1989, cartoonist Matt Groening talked to the Los Angeles Times about the launch of The Simpsons television series: “My understanding is that the TV executives who are in power are young enough to remember cartoons as being funny. They have children of their own now, and they want to give them something to watch. Part of the reason I’m doing this is that I’m so unhappy with what has been done – animation for TV is about the lowest form of entertainment in existence. There’s been an outcry about violence on TV affecting children adversely. What really affects them adversely is bad animation.

“The Simpsons are lovable – in a mutant sort of way. We like to think of this as a celebration of the American family at its wildest. There are exaggerated things you can do visually which are hilarious in animation but would be appalling in live action. In addition to the visual humor, we hope to introduce a level of sophistication in the writing that’s rare on TV.”


New Paramount 1960. In the Motion Picture Herald for November 28, 1959, Paramount tried to promote itself to theater distributors as being “new”. “In the coming months, and years, Paramount shorts will be ‘new’. Soon to be introduced are such assorted characters as Sheriff Quiet Burp who keeps law and order by snorting at badmen; Mike the Masquerader, a new whodunit hero; and Professor Schmaltz, teller of tall tales.

“These and other new characters will bring Paramount cartoons ‘up to date’ as far as subject matter is concerned. In general, they will spoof current trends in manners and culture. During 1960, Paramount Cartoon Studio will produce 20 new cartoons – eight Noveltoons, eight Modern Madcaps and four Jeepers and Creepers. All will be in color. In addition, because of numerous requests on the part of exhibitors for ‘familiar faces’, Paramount will re-release during 1960, 20 of its best cartoon champions, featuring such ‘stars’ as Popeye, Casper Ghost and Herman and Katnip.”

Mike the Masquerader was a disguise wearing thief and appeared in two cartoons. Professor Schmaltz was a bespectacled, top-hatted, bulbous nose “expert” with a thick German accent. They both appeared in the Modern Madcaps.

Irv Spector model sheet for “Mike The Masquerader” (1960)


Alice’s Adventures. Paramount released a star-studded live action version of Alice in Wonderland in 1933. It featured an animated segment of the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter done by Harman-Ising. The animation was done just after they had left Warner Brothers and before they found a home elsewhere. Paramount was distributing cartoons by the Fleischers at this time and it always seemed curious that studio was not involved. However in 1934, Fleischer released Betty in Blunderland. Some animation scholars have wondered if it was an attempt to reuse design elements that might have been rejected by Paramount for the live action film or perhaps just to show they could have done a better job.

21 Comments

  • The darkest episode of Bravestarr that I ever seen was a episode about the older son of a widow who moved to New Texas and met up with a coyote salesman who sold a type of crystal type drug which the older son got addicted to it and by the time Bravestarr found him he was dead of a overdose and the coyote salesman who sold him that was arrested for his murder.

    Another thing that I wonder was the two part episode that aired on Bravestarr called Sherlock Holmes in the 23rd Century was to be a spinoff of the Bravestarr series before the demise of Flimation and when DiC took over they gave Sherlock Holmes in the 23rd Century a complete overhaul by changing several characters, adding new characters never seen in the Filmation version and eliminated other characters including the two English orphans and thier pet Shar Pei dog from the original series pilot?

    • A few years back found DVDs of the Bravestarr movie and a few episodes, with a bunch of bonus features.

      It’s not a deathless classic, but in my view it was better than He-Man. There was a sense of everybody trying — if not quite succeeding — to go well above and beyond what Filmation had done before. The western / steampunk approach was fresh, and now and again the stories would show unexpected ambition.

      Budget, standards & practices, and the usual Filmation weaknesses (the obvious toy-line characters and vehicles; the passion for a handful of flashy stock shots; little comedy relief guys) capped how far they could go, but my own feeling is it could have been a hit but for the timing issues (movie, toys and series didn’t go out together as planned).

    • Budget, standards & practices, and the usual Filmation weaknesses (the obvious toy-line characters and vehicles; the passion for a handful of flashy stock shots; little comedy relief guys) capped how far they could go, but my own feeling is it could have been a hit but for the timing issues (movie, toys and series didn’t go out together as planned).

      In some way, you do sorta wonder how far could they have gone had they not had to deal with budget, S&P and other trivial matters that were in place at the time. I suppose Bravestarr could’ve been as close to what Japanese anime was doing at the time, where stories and definite characters far outweighed the limitations of a TV budget, and the budding OVA market opened up a new avenue to explore in providing animated content to a new audience for it. A cartoon with an anti-drug episode aimed at children via syndication (as opposed to network TV) was about as ballsy as the mid 80’s could do for us.

    • Now I wonder who was “Raymond Hamada”, one of the staffers or a friend of? I guess we’ll never know, but whenever they did stuff like this in shows, I was always left wondering who they were. The pre-internet certainly didn’t help out!

    • A previous post that profiled an attempt at a BraveStarr spinoff called “Bravo!”:
      http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/animation-anecdotes-299/

  • Never heard of Colormation before this article. Clearly, it didn’t take off.

    • It figures very briefly in “The Three Stooges in Orbit”. Guessing a connection with Norman Maurer.

    • Norman Maurer co-produced “The Angry Red Planet,” which featured the process, there called “Cinemagic.”

    • Didn’t Ralph Bakshi use a process similar to colormation in his adaption of Lord of the Rings?

      I also remember an Animation Anecdotes column from a year or two ago which said Filmation used a similar process to create Flash Gordon’s space ship.

    • Bakshi used rotoscoping by hand for LOTR.

  • I don’t know what part of the quote from the guy from Dic I found most hilarious. Maybe the part where he implied that Beverly Hills Teens was going to be a timeless classic on par with Tom Jerry. Or no, the part where he said Tom and Jerry were “rich characters” whom you could “grow and develop with? ” (They were a cat and mouse who wordlessly chased each other around. Tom and Jerry makes the depth of character in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe look Shakespearean by contrast!) No, it has to be the part where he accused Thundercats and Silverhawks of killing people and promoting the military!(None of the good guys EVER killed any of the bad guys on those shows and even if they HAD, contrary to his belief, the bad guys were NOT humans! The G.I Joe military connection I’ll give him but it would have been kinda hard to remake G.I Joe without referencing the military at all. ) No, I know! It was the part where he seemed to be operating under the misconception that Dic’s cartoons were superior in some way to other TV cartoons of the time! Now that was funny!

    • Tom and Jerry were also human toon characters that were released by the Van Buren studios about a decade before the Cat and mouse duo appeared thus changing their name to Dick and Harry..

      And on DiC’s Beverly Hills Teens to me it look like a cross between the Archies and the popular teen drama Beverly Hills 90210 in which Beverly Hills Teens was a parody of Beverly Hills 90210.

      The only real good cartoons that DiC had produced were Ulysses 31 (the first animated series created by DiC), Inspector Gadget, The Real Ghostbusters,ALF/ALFtales, Alvin and the Chipmunks (after receiving the redone MWS version that they reanimated and redone for Ruby-Spears) and Horseland. Unfortunately the rest of thier cartoons that DiC produced were literally train wreccks including The Get Along Gang,Dennis the Menace Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats , Sylvainian Families and others.

    • Ritch Colbert must have been either high, or out of touch. (Possibly the latter.)

    • And on DiC’s Beverly Hills Teens to me it look like a cross between the Archies and the popular teen drama Beverly Hills 90210 in which Beverly Hills Teens was a parody of Beverly Hills 90210.

      The irony of this statement is that 90210 wouldn’t start airing for another three years after Beverly Hills Teens was out and done with. I would say BHT got its calling from the 80’s Valley Girl image that was everywhere at the time.

    • @Bigg: Actually, Van Beuren’s Tom & Jerry were renamed “Dick & Larry” by Official FIlms.
      I used to confuse “Sylvanian Families” with “Maple Town” – both were toy-based and had little animal characters.

      Ritch sounds a bit like Hank Saperstein defending the UPA Dick Tracy characters.

  • Ritch Colbert must have been either high, or out of touch. (Possibly the latter.)

    I often felt like a lot of TV execs. were this way when they want to talk a boatload of what they're peddling.

  • 1960 must have been a hard year for Paramount Pictures Cartoon Studios, but also a New era in many ways. Only Seymour Kneitel was left in charge. They had lost all their starring characters and had to try to come up with New ones, Sadly the animation quality in the New attempts look flat and uninspired. They still had Irving Spector and if they had been able to keep the 1959 budgets (I wonder what the difference was) They would have fared much better. There also must have been a an enormous amount of work going on with the New King Features contract for cartoons.

    ********

    Off Topic and don’t add if I’m inappropriate to ask here…

    I wondered if anyone would get for me Please a set of pressed (if still available) Porky 101 dvd’s and send to me in Australia. I would reimburse funds for disc’s and postage via PayPal.

  • @ RNIGMA here’s a little history on both Maple Town and Sylvainian Families whose origins are Japanese.

    First Sylvainian Families the first animated version of Sylvainian Families was a Stop motion animated series of commercials that aired on tv followed by DiC’s animated nightmare Sylvainian Families (1987) that included a woodcarver type character known as The Woodkeeper who bring a selected child to the forest where the Sylvainian Families live, it included two very forgettable villains Packbat a weird looking Possum dressed like a vampire and Gatorpossum who looks like a cross of a gator and some kind of swamp creature from a Z-grade horror movie.

    The British came out in 1988 Stories of the Sylvainian Families returning them in their original Stop motion animation style.

    Nine years later in 2007 Epoch came out with a OVA series of The Sylvainian Families on DVD entitled The Sylvainian Families.

    Interesting to note that The Sylvainian Families are now known as Calico Critters.

    Maple Town came out a year in 1986 before Sylvainian Families was animated by Toei Animation of Japan.

    Later that year Saban Entertainment and Tonka brought Maple Town to the US and Latin America by retooling it by creating a new intro which included the Tonka commercial opening along with the original opening credits and adding a Live Face human character named Miss Maple for the intro and epilogue of the series which was confusing due to Japan and other countries that didn’t broadcasted the Saban version and aired the original opening and closing credits of Maple Town (with the exception of the French speaking countries who aired the opening and closing credits of Palm Town the sequel to Maple Town.

    Saban only aired one season of Maple Town while Japanese the other countries which didn’t broadcast the Saban version aired the final season of Maple and its sequel Palm Town where Patty moved from rural Maple Town to Big City Palm Town and finding new friends and adventures there.

    • Interesting to note that The Sylvainian Families are now known as Calico Critters.

      Only in North America, everywhere else still calls them the former namesake.

      It’s only a shame that “Palm Town” didn’t make its way over to the US, as I’m sure that’ll be an other “what-if” for a toy market that was already becoming fickle with all these different trends that took shape by the end of the 80’s.

  • That Colormation screen test was awesome, like a comic book come to life! I’ll bet a really young Richard Linklater saw this once and became so impressed by it that it inspired him to become an animator and tried to duplicate the process, apparently succeeding beyond even his own expectations.

  • I liked the BraveStarr episode “The Price” where the young kid overdoses after he takes the drug “spin.” I think the story was inspired by the growing crack epidemic sweeping the country at the time. While I agree that Filmation used cost cutting measures by using stock footage, I love the fact that the studio was also experimenting with computer animation effects in BraveStarr (“Eye of the Beholder” and the BraveStarr Theatrical movie). There was also good animation and effects used in the Flash Gordon Movie as someone posted earlier specifically, the animation for the Zeppelin type aircraft stands out. On the subject of DIC, I wanted to hate Beverly Hills Teens, but to my surprise, the series was funny and well written. DIC’s Real Ghostbusters and Jayce & the Wheeled Warriors were also standouts.

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