SDCC2012: Panel Report – Filmation and Lou Scheimer: Celebrating a Generation of Animation and TV Heroes
Mangels moved on to the next topic, which was Filmation’s contributions to diversity. He spoke to Flimation’s inclusion of African-American characters in their shows in a more progressive way. They featured Native American characters and they made it a point that all of their series had strong female characters. Darrell McNeil spoke to this point with a story. He had been a “big Saturday morning freak.” He watched shows like Superman and Frankenstein Jr., shows on CBS and ABC, “Everything.” When he saw The Hardy Boys on television, he was that there was a kid who looked like him and they didn’t make a big deal out of it. He was involved in the stories and it wasn’t a big deal that a black character was involved with a group of white kids.
He spoke to the Filmation show, Space Sentinels, where a black woman was the team leader. He briefly mentioned their use of Asian superheroes and went on to tell a story about the effect of the premiere of Space Sentinels. McNeil said that ABC had a fit. They saw that Space Sentinels‘ ratings weren’t all that great against Super Friends, but they noted that the show had things that their show didn’t. They wanted heroes like those found in Space Sentinels. He credited Scheimer with the increased diversity in cartoons following that show.
McNeil said that Lou did it because he wanted to and that it was very difficult for the networks to want to do shows with black characters because they, “couldn’t sell them in the South.” He continued, saying that Scheimer didn’t care and just did it. He pointed to Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids as having knocked a lot of doors down. The characters weren’t treated like they were black. They were treated like they were everyone. People could watch Fat Albert and see kids having fun and “learning on the way,” without it being about the economic status of the kids or living in the ghetto. He said this influenced everything in ways the other studios “didn’t even want to admit.” He ended by telling the audience that Lou deserves a lot of credit for that change.