Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Top 10 Pioneers of Animation!

"We are the music makers...and we are the dreamers of dreams." - Willy Wonka

In my last Top 10 blog, I talked about those who ruined our childhood, our dreams, the networks and threatened to destroy animation as a whole forever. Speaking of which, this one I will talk about will feature the exact opposite. Those who worked to the bone to give kids AND adults the best animation ever created and believe that animation still have a place in this world. While some gave up on that notion, while others still continue to believe in it to this day, I will give you my top 10 pioneers of animation. Shall we? ;)

10. Haim Saban - When we think of the name, Haim Saban, what thought comes in your head? A man who not only brought Super Sentai to the states, but also some of the anime we saw at the time. Throughout the 80s and 90s, Saban was one of the most powerful names in Children's TV, not just in cable, but also regular TV, too. His company, Saban Entertainment, was once struggling with some of its early shows which they collaborated with DIC at the time like The New Archies and Kidd Video. But by the late 80s and into the early 90s, Saban became a force to be reckon with. Although they did dubs of children's anime like Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics, Noozles and The Mysterious Cities of Gold, but they also did the action ones like Samurai Pizza Cats, Flint the Time Detective, Mon Colle Knights, Transformers: Robots in Disguise (aka Transformers: Car Robots, the original anime, not the current show on Cartoon Network) and of course, our personal favorite, Digimon. And even though we got multiple universes, the ones from Digimon Adventure 1 & 2 are my personal favorites.  Also, as an added bonus, and though it's not animated related, Saban was also responsible for bringing Super Sentai to the states in the form of Power Rangers. Even though they did the same to the Metal Heroes and the other Tokasatsu shows with VR Troopers, Masked Rider (aka Kamen Rider) and Big Bad Beetleborgs, they didn't have the same success as Power Rangers did. Not only he helped created Power Rangers and dubbed the animes, but he also did, without the shadow of a doubt, the most recognizable tunes in all of animation. Saban, along with Shuki Levy, did most of the iconic tunes from the 80s and 90s shows that we still hear today, such as Inspector Gadget, The Littles, M.A.S.K., He-Man, She-Ra, Heathcliff, The Real Ghostbusters and even Power Rangers to name a dozen. By the beginning of the new millennium, Saban itself was struggling so bad, that they sold Power Rangers and most of their library to Disney. And it's been like this until Saban brought most of their properties back and reformat the company as Saban Brands, starting with rebooting Power Rangers with Power Rangers Samurai. Then, by the last year of Saturday Morning Cartoons, Saban created the Vortexx block, where Toonzai, which was owned by 4Kids, left behind. We was hoping that this block was going to be this era's saving grace. Boy, we were wrong. By the time I saw the edited version of the first episode of Justice League Unlimited with Green Arrow, I figured that Vortexx wasn't going to last long. Because of the Children's Television Act of 1990 by the FCC, combined with the changing of viewing by means of cable, satellite, DVR and the internet, most of the shows we like to see were edited for time AND content. To make matters worse, although he saved Power Rangers and most of the animes we like to see, Saban didn't have what it takes to stand up for the little guy and tell corporations to "SIT ON IT! ,when it comes to bringing cartoon blocks on regular TV and have them uncut and uncensored, not anymore. He was awesome back then, but now, he didn't have what it takes to make a decent cartoon block on regular TV no more. And because of that, Vortexx, the last of its kind as TV Tropes once referred to as, has ended its run and was replaced by the so-called "One Magnificent Saturday" live action "Edutainment" block by Litton Entertainment, who doesn't understand what true quality Children's TV is all about. The last glimmer of hope for Saturday Mornings was no more and Saban was a shell of his former self. Still, let us not remember Saban for what he has done today, selling us out for greed and all that, just to appease the FCC and those blasted Moral Guardians. Let us remember him for he once was: one of the many people who made the 80s and 90s awesome with not only with the anime dubs, Power Rangers and not to mention all the awesome music they made for the cartoons we grew up watching, and that's saying something.

9. Margaret Loesch - Despite having the same last name as Dana Loesch from the TV News channel, The Blaze, Margaret Loesch is anything but a news reporter. In the 80s, she was one of many people who helped Sunbow and Marvel Productions create such shows like G.I. Joe, Transformers, Jem, and My Little Pony 'n' Friends. But, it was not until the early 90s when she hit paydirt with the creation of the cartoon block known as Fox Kids. Like Saban, Ms. Loech understood the quality of children's TV, as long as we have action and adventure in our cartoons.  After Fox Kids closed down in the beginning of the new millennium, she was never heard from again...until October 10th, 2010, when she, along with Donna Epps, helped bridged the 50/50 partnership between Discovery and Hasbro, with the creation of the Hub Network. Ms. Loech still believed in the best of two worlds, the past and the future, when the Hub was created. During its initial run, the Hub was a success with not only shows from yesteryear, but also shows in our modern times like Transformers Prime and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  However, by 2013, Donna Epps was replaced by Nikki Reed and the Hub was starting to fall apart, by removing all action cartoons permanently. And by the time Discovery, under Henry "Tirek" Schleiff's command, decided to take 10% from Hasbro and announced that the Hub was going to be shutdown, Loesch's dream of a well-balanced network, where everything comes together, was dead and so was her career working with the Hub and Discovery in general. Loesch left her position as the Hub's general manager when the Hub was going to be rebranded as Discovery Family on October 13th, 2014, only a few days after the Hub celebrated its 4th AND last celebration. Like Haim Saban, Loesch's heart was in the right place. But as long as greed, deception and abuse of power is the law of the land, she will never make another well-balanced network like the Hub. And even if she does, like all the networks before it, in the hands of a corrupt exec, they will all suffer the same fate as the Hub. So don't blame Ms. Loesch for her failures. The execs made her succumb to their greed and corruption. They are the ones responsible for the Hub's destruction and the birth of Discovery Family...not her.

8. Gen Fukunaga - This is one of the few guys who has done justice for anime when it come to distribution. But it didn't happen over night. Before FUNimation became the famed anime distributor that we know today, Gen Fukunaga use to play second fiddle to other companies like Saban and the dubbing company from Canada, Ocean Group, especially doing the first English dub of Dragon Ball Z (bringing and licensing DBZ to the states was Fukunaga's uncle's idea, who, at the time, was one of the producers at Toei). But, when the first dub ended in a cliffhanger in the middle of the Namekian saga, Fukunaga-san's people left Saban and Ocean Group and continue to distribute the remaining DBZ episodes and the rest was history. Since then, under Fukunaga-san's leadership, FUNimation has become one of the greatest distributors for all anime. Aside from the Dragon Ball series, they also distributed  Kodocha, Fruits Basket, Case Closed (aka Detective Conan), Sprial, Yu Yu Hakusho, Negima, Baki the Grappler, Kiddy Grade, Blue Gender and so on and so forth. And after all this, FUNimation is still going strong, rivalling other distributors like Viz Media. Speaking of which, too bad FUNi missed out on redubbing Sailor Moon and have Viz Media redub it instead. But that's another story.

7. Michael Eisner - From 1984 to 2005, Michael Eisner was once the head of the Walt Disney Company. Eisner, after his time with Paramount, came to Disney around its darkest time in the 1980s. And by the late 80s and into the early 90s, he helped saved Disney from certain doom and uncertainty. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't gotten not only Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but also the very movie that brought back its magic in the first place, The Little Mermaid. He revived Disney from a fate that is worse than death. For the next decade, under Eisner's leadership, Disney has enjoyed relative peace, not only with the movies, but also with television and with the theme parks, too. To show that he was one of us, he use to appear in those anthology movie blocks like The Magical World of Disney and The Disney Sunday Movie, appearing with the other Disney characters when they introduce tonight's feature movie. By the time the new millennium came, everything changed. Fearing that he has abused his power too much (not to mention wanting to put PIXAR out of business), by 2005, Eisner resigned as the head of the Walt Disney Company and gave that position to his successor, Robert Iger and...well, you know the rest. Despite his shortcomings in his last years, we cannot forget what Michael Eisner has accomplished. In short, No Eisner, no Little Mermaid, no Disney, period. Other than wanting to put PIXAR out of business, I got no grudge against Mr. Eisner. My grudge is against those who are not dreamers, and Eisner is not one of them (at least to the best of my knowledge).

6. Rankin/Bass Productions - Whenever we think of Christmas specials every year, it's the very company, founded by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. From 1960 to 1987, Rankin/Bass was one of the very companies that given us animated magic every Christmas. But they come in 2 varieties, hand drawn animation and stop motion animation (mostly stop motion), especially with specials like Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, A Year Without Santa Claus, The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, Little Drummer Boy and of course, our personal favorite, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (which to this date, CBS can't make up their minds on what version to show and didn't bother to fix the audio and video synch up near the end). But, it is not just Christmas specials they have made, they also made other shows and specials that we also like, including The Hobbit, The Flight of Dragons and of course, one of the most popular cartoons in the 80s, Thundercats. Rankin/Bass' main people includes, Maury Laws, who is the musical director on most of the animated special, screenwriter Romeo Muller and some of the voice actors such as veteran voice actor Paul Frees and people like Paul Newman, Lynne Lipton and most of all, Larry Kenney, who all 3 did voicework for Thundercats, Silverhawks and Comic Strip. Although debunked in 1987, we will never forget all the nostalgia Rankin/Bass has left behind, not just with Christmas, but with everything awesome in animation. And it's moreso after all these years, especially getting an autograph from the voice of Lion-O himself.

Thank you, Mr. Kenny! I hope, for your sake, that we will have a future for action cartoons. Here's to hopin'. Until then, the Code of Thundera, Justice, Truth, Honor, and Loyalty, will live on in all of us Animation Crusaders everywhere until justice is done. Thundercats, HOOOOOO!!!

5. Hayao Miyazaki: For 5 decades, Hayao Miyazaki, the co-founder of Studio Ghibli, is one of the most created storytellers in the history of anime. Although they have action, most of the anime movies Miyazaki-san was involve in has a strong, moral outlook in life, from environmentalism to pacifism. Just like Ishiro Honda, Miyazaki-san is a sensitive man with a humanist streak who sees a world with no pollution, no bigotry and no war, only peace and unity. With movies like NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind, Kiki's Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, Miyazaki-san is to anime like Walt Disney is to Western Animation. And a added note, he was also responsible for help create the Lupin III movie, The Castle of Cagliostro. Miyazaki-san is one of the few pioneers of animation is a dreamer, in more ways than one, just the next pioneer I know all too well...

4. John Lasseter: The founder of the once fledgling, now one of the most popular animation studios, PIXAR, John Lasseter started his career working for Disney in the early days. Around that time, Lasseter, after seeing the Lightcycle scenes from Tron, realized that computer graphics would be great for traditional animation. He was fired from Disney after he helped with the creation of The Brave Little Toaster, but he ended up working with George Lucas' people at Lucasfilm (before Disney bought it all those years ago). At Lucasfilm, Lasseter worked at its computer division, working on his first short, The Adventures of Andre and Wally B. But, when Lucas sold the computer division, it was renamed PIXAR and became a separate company with Steve Jobs as the majority shareholder, the rest, as the say, was history. From Toy Story to A Bug's Life, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Cars, Wall-E and many more (man oh man, it's a long list), PIXAR became a successful animation company like Disney itself. Speaking of which, Lasseter later became the chief creative officer for Walt Disney Animation Studios after Disney bought PIXAR on January 24th, 2006, working on not just the animation here, but also helping out the imagineers at the Disney Parks. Although I got admiration and respect to towards the guy, there was one pet peeve I got, and it's has nothing to do with his work with Disney or PIXAR, but it has something to do with my fandom towards him. Like with Glen Keane, I wrote a fan letter to him, and drew a fan art of Buzz Lightyear for him, telling him how I was impressed with his work and talking about Disney's current state and so forth. When I got a reply, It wasn't the reply I was hoping for. I ended up with a type of reply, only a teleprompter can write, rather a handwritten letter from Mr. Lasseter himself. And although I got a picture of Woody and Buzz with Lasseter's name on it, I felt cheated. So, in an act of honor, I send it back cause I rather get a response from an actual person and an autographed picture, SIGNED, than to get it from a teleprompter. Despite that, I still respect Mr. Lasseter for what he has accomplished. And he was right about one thing, if it wasn't for Tron, there wouldn't be a Toy Story. And like I said before, my biggest wish of for him to run the Walt Disney Company, not Robert Iger.

Mr. Lasseter, sir, if you are reading this, please give me a real response. No computers, no teleprompters, just an old fashion letter and a signed picture from your own hand. I want to know if you liked my fanart of Buzz Lightyear. You are a great man, sir, but it would be a shame if you don't respond to me the old fashioned way. But, I still respect you and hope and pray you do well with both Disney and PIXAR. To Infinity...AND BEYOND!!

3. Ozamu Tezuka: If Hayao Miyazaki is the king, then this guy is the "God of Anime and Manga." Tezuka-san was the man responsible for the creation of one of the greatest icons of all anime, Tetsuwan Atom (roughly translation: The Mighty Atom), better known to us westerners as Astro Boy. Tezuka-san is to Astro as Disney is to Mickey Mouse. Winsor McCay may have created the first animated character, Gertie the Dinosaur, but Tezuka-san created the first anime character in Astro Boy. If it wasn't for Astro, we wouldn't got other icons in anime and manga like Gigantor (Tetsuijin-28-go), Speed Racer (Mach GO GO GO!), Kimba the White Lion, Voltron (Beast King GoLion) and of course Sailor Moon and Goku (Dragon Ball series). His legend will never be truly forgotten. Speaking of Disney...

2. Walt Disney: You know the old saying, "It all began with a mouse." And that was the case with the man himself, Walt Disney. Disney was one of many pioneers responsible for making western animation awesome and memorable. First, the creation of iconic character and this company's famed mascot, Mickey Mouse. Although he first appeared in Plane Crazy, it was Steamboat Willie that made Mickey a household name, along with his friends, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, Chip & Dale and many more. Uncle Walt, as we fans like to affectingly call him, not just created Mickey Mouse, but also created not just the first Disney animated movie, but the first animated movie, period, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Because of that, Disney became one of the most popular animated companies in the world, alongside Warner Bros. with Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny and MGM with Tom & Jerry and Droopy. Disney wasn't done yet after accomplishing these two goals. He was also responsible for the creation of not only Disneyland, but also Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, Disney didn't live to see his famed theme parks in their completion, as he died before the release of The Jungle Book. Although he died, Disney's legacy lived on. After the 70s and into the dark, dismal 80s, Michael Eisner took over and save the company from certain doom and by the late 80s and into the 90s, starting with The Little Mermaid, Disney enjoyed relative peace with not just the Disney Renaissance, but also Disney cartoons on TV, especially in the block called the Disney Afternoon. But, when Eisner resigned and Robert Iger took over, with the exception of Tangled, Wreck-It-Ralph, Frozen and the purchase of PIXAR, Marvel and Lucasfilm, Disney has fallen into a dark, dank abyss, from which it will never come out unless someone who is Disney, Michael Eisner and John Lasseter rolled into one who can bring it to its third golden age. But for now, let us remember the visionary and the pioneer, who, just like me and Stefan, understands that both the past and future are united as one. Here is two you, Uncle Walt. In these dark times, I just hope your company find some light at the end of the tunnel. Godspeed.

Before I get to my number one favorite pioneer of animation, here some of my honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

Hanna-Barbera: The famed cartoon studio from the mind of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. From the 60s and into its end in the new millennium, when it phased out by Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera was one of the greatest cartoon studios of all time, next to those of Fletcher Studios, the MGM cartoons with Tom & Jerry and Droopy and the Looney Tunes. From the likes of Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Quick Draw McGraw, Auggie Doggie and Doggie Daddy, The Flintstones, The Jetsons and action cartoons like Space Ghost, Birdman, Mightor, The Herculoids, Shazzan, Jonny Quest and Swat Kats, Hanna-Barbera's library was so big it was FUNtastic. So much so, they use to call the cartoon block at the time, which should be the name of an actual world, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera. Not only that, but they are also responsible for the creation of Cartoon Network, which to this day, is not as popular as it first appeared in the early 90s. This would've been in the list, if not for one main reason, Scooby-Doo. Most of Hanna-Barbera's line up have pushed aside into obscurity, in favor for more Scooby-Doo. It's like the WB made a god out of Scooby. Nothing against the Scoob, but I think he is milked enough. Not just Scooby, but Tom & Jerry as well, though originally an MGM franchise. If they didn't milked these overrated franchise, Hanna-Barbera would be on the list. Bill and Joe are rolling over in their graves over this. For Shame!

Glen Keane: The son of Bil Keane, the creator of Family Circus. Glen Keane is one of the greatest artists in the history of animation. Most of his work has been done at Disney until he left after he helped on Tangled. Keane was best known for creating such iconic characters such as Elliot from Pete's Dragon, The Beast from Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Rapunzel, and my personal favorite, Ariel the Little Mermaid. On a added note: while involved in The Little Mermaid, Keane was one of the people who wanted the song, Part of Your World, to stay in the movie after that debacle at dailies involving kids, including one kid dropping a container of popcorn. Keane won his pleas and the producers kept the song in the movie and the rest was history. Long ago, I wrote a fan letter to Glen Keane and send it, along with a fanart of Ariel, to him. After that, I got a response from him and he was wonderful. It's a wonder why he is not just a great artist, but a great man.


Thank you, Mr. Keane. You have made my day. In your honor, I will keep on drawing! A first step of making my dreams come true. Wait for me, Jodi. My dream will be realized, as long as I believe in myself.

And that leaves:

1. Lou Scheimer: The true face of quality Children's TV, especially here in the good ol' U.S. of A.. Along with Norm Prescott and Hal Sutherland, Lou Scheimer founded the famed American cartoon studio known as Filmation. From 1962 to 1989, Filmation was one of the most popular cartoon studios in all the world. Not as popular as those of MGM, Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros., Filmation is what I like to call "The Little Studio that Could." Their list of shows were otherwise legendary, like the cartoons featuring the DC Superheroes like Superman and Batman, comic strip hero Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek the Animated Series, Blackstar, BraveStarr, Ghostbusters (the OTHER Ghostbusters, not the Real Ghostbusters) and of course, their big 3, He-Man, She-Ra and Fat Albert. Although their cartoons are full of action, adventure, comedy, romance and so forth, Scheimer made sure that their shows have life lessons either within the show like Fat Albert or after the episode like those from He-Man and She-Ra. The morals and life lessons were added to help kids be better people when they grow up and those same kids are not adults and they thank those cartoons and the people behind them for getting their lives straight and on the right path. Filmation closed their doors in 1989 after making their final production, Happily Ever After (an unofficial sequel to Snow White), which was released a year after. As for the Filmation library itself, they were sent to many distributors from the famed makeup company L'Oreal to the famed greeting card company, Hallmark. Nothing against them personally, especially with their creative cards for many occasions, and with the exception of Ghostbusters, Star Trek and the DC Superhero cartoons, what Hallmark did was unforgivable. I mean, throwing away the original negatives after converting them to PAL with the infamous 4% speed up treatment, NOT...COOL. When I saw them on either DVD or on the Internet, there are not how they sounded when I first saw them as a kid. We are stuck with those versions and it has been ever since, even after most of their library is now owned by DreamWorks under their classics division. As for Scheimer, he wanted to make a comeback with more action cartoons in the later years. But, with the way executives, the FCC and those moral guardians think of animation these days, they shot him down. He died a broken man, that and suffering from health problems, including Alzheimer's Disease. In the end, you stood up for what's right, Lou.  Now I have to do the same.  But, there is still hope for restore Mr. Scheimer's legacy. You see, I have noticed about the PAL speed up treatment and I want to fix the problem. Although I am not good with the picture quality, but the audio is my cup of tea. Thanks to the program called Audacity, I have the technology, the capability to fix the audio on most of the Filmation library. By changing the pitch to -5.000, I can restore the audio back to how it sounded when it first came out.  I haven't talked to DreamWorks about this, but one day, I will. Precious cartoons must be preserved.  As for everything else, I've been keep tabs on the Lou Scheimer Filmation Generation Facebook page, looking back on what Mr. Scheimer and what Filmation has accomplished.  It all start with this. Before they disabling their messaging feature, I wrote a message to Erika Scheimer herself about her father himself:

"To Erika Scheimer,

Your father was a great man. Compared to the "Edutainment" programs we see today, he was one of a few people who truly understands quality children's TV. In otherwords, action cartoons with life lessons and morals mixed in that are awesome, especially with He-Man and She-Ra. If there were more people like Lou Scheimer, television would've be more exciting to watch. I just hope and pray action cartoons will make a comeback someday. Until then, let's keep hoping. Thank you for your time.

Jason Andrew Ayala (aka Anime Jason)"

When the moderators of the page posted it and showed it to Ms. Scheimer, she broke into tears because what I said about Lou was true. Lou Scheimer is to Filmation like Walt Disney is to Disney. Unlike Discovery and Litton Entertainment, he TRULY understood what quality children's TV is all about. It can be educational, as long as we have action, adventure, and comedy mixed in. Without those other elements, then the show is completely boring. Those shows that have no action whatsoever belong in the "Edutainment" list.  Bottom line, if there were more people like him, animation would be mainstream moreso than ever. And even in this insane world, this would be the sanest choice. This is why Lou Scheimer is the number one pioneer of all animation.

And that's the way it is. I hope you enjoyed my list. If we had more people like them, animation will finally have the same rights as us. But let's keep hoping. Until next time, stay frosty, my friends. Now, if you'll excuse me, I got some audio to fix on those Filmation shows!

"Like the song says, we have the power...and so do you!"

1 comment:

Stefan said...

I'm surprised you didn't put Ruby-Spears and DiC on this list.

Anyway,cool list. What Should Have Been:Cartoon Network will be up this sunday.