About six months ago, I wrote a blog based on a internationally famous animation film company, that is Walt Disney Pictures. Of course, it’s also produced live-action movies, but many people mainly recognize the company for it’s animated features. So now, I’m going to rank some animated films which was produced by a studio that is very rarely discussed nowadays and hasn’t been in business for some time. This company is called Filmation.
Last year, the last of the founding members of Filmation passed away due to a bladder related issue. Because neither of them are with us no more, I am dedicating the rankings to them guys. For those of you who don’t know, Filmation was a production company which produced television programmes and feature films, mostly animation, from 1963 – 1989. Hal Sutherland (that’s the guy I was talking about) had previously worked with Disney as an animator for films such as Peter Pan, Lady & The Tramp and Sleeping Beauty. After the apparent failure of Sleeping Beauty, some of the staff was laid off and I would presume Hal was one of them. Later, he, Lou Scheimer and Norm Prescott commenced business, thus was born, Filmation. Filmation became famous for producing Saturday morning cartoons such as He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Bravestarr and Fat Albert And The Cosby Kids, plus remakes of Star Trek, Flash Gordon and Ghostbusters. Mainly television, but there were also a few films Filmation produced. Filmation was notable for its limited animation technique and use of rotoscoping. Basically it involved a limited amount of frames per seconds and used less paper, which in a way is economical. Probably the reason why Filmation is one of the least discussed is because after the box office failure of its final three films, it eventually and alas went bankrupt in 1989, so many people would’ve forgotten about it, except for those who grew up in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
I would label Filmation as an ‘okay’ company. Personally I like the majority of its programmes better than its films. But sometimes, Filmation didn’t seem to be very original, considering that it remade such programmes as Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, Superman, Batman and so forth. However, stuff like He-Man, Bravestarr and Fat Albert were actually created by them, so they can be regarded as original. I also quite like the animation. And it did lead the way for certain crew members and actors who would appear in higher profile productions.
So just to keep things short, I will review the features. Here’s what I regard as The Worst-To Best movies produced by Filmation;
6. Journey Back To Oz
Kicking off our list is a film which apparently took twelve years to bring to the silver screen; an ill-fated unofficial sequel to The Wizard Of Oz, one of the best movies ever made. Journey Back To Oz is so bland and forgettable. How many songs can you sing along to? Hint; there’s no Over The Rainbow, or Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead, or even… those were the days! It’s a totally weak sequel to anything whatsoever. Not even Mickey Rooney or Liza Minelli can uplift the spirits. There’s better films you can enjoy.
5. Treasure Island
What a joke! Treasure Island? I’ve seen Walt Disney’s Treasure Planet and it was so much more original compared to this! If you want a movie from 1973 that shows off limited animation techniques, look at Robin Hood or Heavy Traffic. They are much more smoothly animated compared to this!
4. Mighty Mouse: Great Space Chase
Well that’s much more of an improvement. I’ve always loved Mighty Mouse. I, of course, realise that Mighty Mouse: Great Space Chase is an anthology movie, but I ain’t big on anthology movies with the exception of Fantasia, that one’s awesome, but the Many Aventures Of Winnie The Pooh can kiss my butt! In fact, some of Quentin Tarantino’s movies are anthology and they’re awesome! Mighty Mouse: Great Space Chase looks a bit much like a television series. I would’ve preferred it if the segments was separate, because after a viewing of each one, I then forget what’s happened. But the action can still keep us relaxed.
3. Pinocchio & The Emperor Of The Night
We’re half way through and this is another rather unofficial sequel to a legendary film. Pinocchio & The Emperor Of The Night is one of them movies I both really admire and really despise simultaneously. Although I’m glad I saw it, I ain’t sure if it was a good way for Filmation to boost its numbers after the He-Man and She-Ra movie only performed moderately successful at the box office. I admit there is some good stuff in the film, but there are flaws. Okay what’s the story?; the film takes place a year after Pinocchio’s origin. He volunteers to deliver a valuable box to the mayor for his father Gepetto. But he comes across them two thieving creatures, Scalawag and Igor, who trade a phony piece of jewelry for the box. Gepetto is annoyed, so Pinocchio who decides to make amends, plans to apply for a job at a mysterious carnival in order to mature. This leads to an amount of complications, involving a visit to the Land Where Dreams Come True, the reluctant teaming up with Scalawag and Igor, the kidnapping of Gepetto and a final showdown between Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night, hence the title, lol. Let’s start with the good stuff; first of all, the casting. My god, James Earl Jones is fantastic as the Emperor. His voice is kickass. His voice performance as Darth Vader really paid off. The voice of the protagonist is a young Scott Grimes. I ain’t joking. It’s the same guy who voiced Steve Smith in American Dad. There’s also Rickie Lee Jones who voices the fairy and she provides a cool ballad, Love Is The Light Inside Your Heart. Speaking of which, the music is awesome. It ain’t exactly When You Wish Upon A Star or Give A Little Whistle, but the fairy’s song which I just mentioned is so underrated. Even You’re A Star is cool. And that organ music which is played while Pinocchio is transformed back into a puppet. My god, it’s melodic enough to give a viewer nightmares. Also, the animation is truly epic. I know Filmation are well known for their limited animation techniques, but each time we see the Emperor, the scale is much larger and smoother, I dunno how to reword it. The villains including the Emperor and Puppetino are also badass. I love Puppetino’s cockney accent and laugh. Moving on, where does the film fall flat? Some of the animation on the characters ain’t brilliant. To me, the way Pinocchio is designed, he is meant to be a year older than in the Disney version, but I swear he looks a bit younger. He of course has a sidekick, only this time, it’s a glowworm called Gee Wilikers, who, let’s be honest, ain’t much of a replacement to good old Jiminy Cricket. I know Jiminy was created by Disney and Filmation attempted to avoid plagiarizing the Disney version, even though they did get sued at one point, but Gee’s voice irritates me so much. I really hoped for that toad to eat him. And frankly, I ain’t keen on the dialogue. It’s so simplistic and cliched. It’s like “I’m coming to get you” and so forth. And what’s this I hear about the fairy being named The Fairy Godmother. That is so Cinderella, a totally different story to Pinocchio.
Overall, the film isn’t as great as the awesome Disney version, nor will it beat the Two Ronnies parody, but there are worse versions. Is Pinocchio & The Emperor Of The Night corny at times? Of course. Does it have it’s flaws? Sure. But there is some good ingredients to balance the film. I love the soundtrack, I love the villains, the bug characters can kiss my butt. If you’re familiar with the story of Pinocchio, I’d give this film a viewing. If not, I’d start with the Disney version. All I can say at the moment is “Come back, Jiminy Cricket! Come back!”
2. Bravestarr: The Legend
Ah, Bravestarr. One of Filmation’s delightful TV creations transforms into an underrated full length-feature, Bravestarr: The Legend. Alas, Bravestarr was Filmation’s final TV series before they reached their black day. Yet, the movie wasn’t commercially successful. I guess after Pinocchio & The Emperor Of The Night, Filmation was beginning to reach its end. Does that make Bravestarr: The Legend a bad movie? Good God no! It’s so action-packed and will appeal to sci-fi fans and western fans alike. It’s also more original compared to most of Filmation’s other features. Sure, it’s based on a TV programme, but Filmation created Bravestarr in the first place. it’s their project. What do you expect? So the film concerns a planet known as New Texas which of course receives similar consequences to the population of the generic city in the Streets Of Rage games and Bravestarr arrives to put a stop to the corruption.
Yup, that’s good enough for me. In fact, did you know it was one of few cartoons back then to use CGI?
1. He-Man & She-Ra: Secret Of The Sword
‘Ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go! Another TV programme-based feature. Yet, another one of Filmation’s own projects, that is He-Man & She-Ra: Secret Of The Sword. Not many films based on TV programmes are great; however, Thunderbirds Are Go, awesome! Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, awesome! South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut, you guessed it, awesome! But the movies to Garfield and Scooby Doo (blows raspberry!). I’m quite surprised this film only got a moderate amount at the box office, because He-Man & She-Ra: Secret Of The Sword is so unique. Okay, maybe it’s a compilation film of episodes, but no one will notice. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the uniqueness. He-Man and She-Ra fight against Skeletor. They fancy each other, but it is discover later in the film that they are already family. Yes stupid, they’re brother and sister; a bit like the Osirias and Isis story; innit though? And of course we get to know their back-stories. At last, a bit of continuity. He-Man & She-Ra: Secret Of The Sword is an enjoyable fantasy action adventure cartoon.
So that was my ranking of all the movies I’ve ever seen to be produced by the long defunct Filmation. Though I hear Dreamworks has acquired the rights to it recently. Cool stuff.
Thank you for reading this review. I’ve never seen Happily Ever After in case you’re wondering. Moving on. If there are any filmmakers/companies you can recommend me to review, feel free to let me know.