The Psuedo-Producers

At the same time that Filmation was getting under way with a monumental volume of production work, another studio was doing the same.

A newcomer to the American animation scene, DIC Enterprises opened up shop. It was a studio that had been in existence in France since 1968 and had successfully produced animation for European television, effectively utilizing Asian studios which provided for low cost animation labor. In 1982, they pulled the rug out from Hanna Barbera, the traditional Saturday morning powerhouse, by drastically underbidding them and winning several network contracts. More importantly, they were in production with 65 half hours of "Inspector Gadget", another first run syndicated series which would go head to head against Filmation's "He-Man".

The difference between Filmation Studios and DIC, (pronounced "deek"), was that Filmation produced all of their animation, every aspect of every foot of celluloid, in house.

DIC on the other hand, was the new wave. Animation producers who weren't really producers at all.

In the old days, the non-creative animation executive was always around. Fred Quimby and Leon Schlesinger for example from MGM and Warner Brothers in the heyday of theatrical shorts. Men who didn't have anything to do with the production, but made sure that their names were clearly visible when the films were finished. These gentlemen had one thing in common that separated them from their latter day counterparts. They left their great animation artists alone to do their thing. Thus, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Joe Barbera and others were free to create their masterpieces. Additionally, there were plenty of animation studios owned and operated by animation talent. Walt Disney started out as an animator and cleaned his own cels at the beginning. So did Walter Lantz. Paul Terry of "Heckle and Jeckle" and "Mighty Mouse" fame was an animator at the beginning of his career, and who can forget the artists who founded UPA in the early 1940s - a studio that went on to profoundly influence the art form and completely redefine the look and feel of animation.

In the modern, post 1982 animation industry, it was a different story. Not realizing that Walt Disney was once one of us, the new breed quickly became caught up with their supposed animation expertise. A convenient little situation was spun. One that allowed these "psuedo-producers" to live their lie. The entire industry went right along with it, playing the game and falling for the illusion, cheering the emperor as he cavorted down the street in his new clothes.

The new "producer" was in fact, no producer at all. He or she claimed the title by virtue of the following circumstances.

First, access to production capital. With the phenomenal success of toy based animated shows and the deregulation of the limits on advertising permitted with respect to children's' programming, animation studios found it very convenient to patronize a new clientele. Toy manufacturers and greeting card companies, traditionally the licensees of animated properties, now became the creators. Animation studios went from a creative source to a service, catering to a corporate marketing mentality that couldn't tell the difference between a purple sky and pink grass and whose main concern was the exposition of as many of their action figures and accessories as was humanly possible within a half hour format.

Second, their connections to overseas production facilities that allowed them to "produce" hundreds of half hour episodes per season of animation at significantly lower prices and acceptable quality. Their clients, happy to see their properties moving about as a cartoon, were ecstatic with the results. Their toys were selling like hot cakes and a new era in animation was born, much to the detriment of the hundreds of American animation artists who were longing to initiate a second golden age.

The propaganda machine went to work. The toy industry was heralded as the savior of animation when in fact, all they did was temporarily bury the burgeoning animation talent that was working here in Los Angeles. They and the pseudo-producers preened as their shows saturated the airwaves. Even Disney got into the game, producing toy based cartoons through overseas studios for broadcast on Saturday mornings and soon thereafter, weekday afternoons.

Then, in 1987, the house of cards started to fall apart for toy based animated production.

Charles Zembillas © 1999
No commercial distribution of this material is permitted
without the expressed written consent of the author.