Filmation was a company that produced cartoons for television during the later half of the 20th century. During a period lasting from the 1960s through the 1980s, the only real competitors to Hanna-Barbera Productions in the field of TV cartoons were Filmation and DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Filmation's founders and principal producers were Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott. (Supposedly, the trademark rotating "Produced by" credit at the beginning of Filmation programs was a clever device to allow them to share equal billing; later Filmation productions credited only Scheimer.)
Filmation has a (suitably deserved) reputation for exploiting the technique of limited animation to produce a number of animated series with a distinct look. They made heavy use of rotoscoping, and they also re-used the same animated sequences over and over, many times, to the point where the Filmation style was instantly recognizable (and often despised by TV critics and animation scholars). The studio is noteworthy for refusing to rely upon animation studios outside the United States for the bulk of its production.
As with other producers of Saturday morning cartoons, Filmation produced a number of series that were of such poor quality as to be nearly unwatchable (such as the Groovie Goolies series); however, they did make a number of attempts to rise above the standard animated fare and produce reasonably well-written cartoons. The best-known example of this is their animated adaptation of the Star Trek series, which included scripts contributed by well-known science fiction writers and starred most of the original cast. Other favorably remembered Filmation series included a 16-part animated serial of Flash Gordon(orginally intended as a movie for theatrical release but shown in its entirety only once on NBC) and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, an animated educational series which starred and was co-produced by Bill Cosby. The animated adapatations of the Archie Comics characters was also noteworthy for the rock music produced for it, particularly the song, "Sugar, Sugar," which was a #1 hit single.
The Filmation studio was owned by Westinghouse during the 1980s, though in 1987 it was purchased by the L'Oreal cosmetics company. L'Oreal promptly closed the studio and ended Filmation's legacy. Animation scholars and fans believe the studio was closed for tax purposes. Filmation's last production was the feature film Happily Ever After (an unofficial sequel to the story of Snow White), released to theaters in 1993.
Since then, most of the Filmation back catalog has come under the ownership of Hallmark Cards, through their Hallmark Entertainment subsidiary; however, since a large amount of Filmation's output was based on characters licensed from other companies, many titles are actually under the control of other studios (notably Paramount and Warner Bros.)
In March 2004, ownership of the Filmation back catalog which was under the ownership of Hallmark was sold to a British company called Entertainment Rights.
Notable TV animated series from Filmation included:
- Batman/Superman Adventure Hour
- Fantastic Voyage
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Lassie's Rescue Rangers
- The Archies
- The Brady Kids
- Star Trek: The Animated Series
- Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
- The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty
- Groovie Goolies
- Shazam! and Isis (Live-action TV series)
- New Adventures of Batman
- Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
- Will the Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down?
- Ark II, Space Academy and Jason of Star Command (Live-action TV series)
- Flash Gordon
- Gilligan's Planet
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
- She-Ra: Princess of Power
- Lou Scheimer Productions