Friday, January 24, 2014

R.I.P. Hal Sutherland.

It seems quite ironic that, after posting on the unknown whereabouts of the Filmation 1968 BATMAN animated series on authorized DVD, that I must report on the passing of the remaining founder of Filmation Studios, Hal Sutherland.

Mr. Sutherland passed away on January 16, 2014 at either age 84 or 85, depending on his actual date of birth. 

With Hal Sutherland’s passing, the three founders of Filmation have all left us – and “left us” they did, with a substantial legacy of animated programming that stretched from the 1960s thru the 1980s. 

Left: Lou Scheimer.  Right: Norm Prescott.  Middle: Hal Sutherland in the Glory Days of Filmation.

Of Filmation’s founders, Norm Prescott died in 2005, too early for this Blog to report on, though his death was duly noted in the Fanzine and APA “print version” of The Issue At Hand. 

Lou Scheimer passed a mere THREE MONTHS prior to Hal Sutherland’s death, and received TIAH tribute HERE. 
Lou Scheimer.

There’s not much more to add specific to Hal Sutherland that is not found in the Lou Scheimer post, except to say that he began his career as a Disney animator who worked on “Sleeping Beauty” – and, most important to the legacy of Filmation, directed episodes or individual segments of virtually every Filmation series. 

Another of the great sixties cartoon-makers is now gone.  Rest in peace, Hal Sutherland. 

Hal Sutherland's director's credit, from Flimation's STAR TREK THE ANIMATED SERIES.


scarecrow33 said...

I'm glad you have an appreciation for Filmation and their rather prodigious output. So many who write about animation dismiss them as purveyors of schlock. Yet considering the many licensed properties that were entrusted to them--Superman, Batman, Star Trek, Gilligan's Island, etc.--they must have been doing something right. And their animated productions have a certain charm. Granted, the animation often looks cheaper than H-B, but they had good voice talent and good scripts. What is most important is that many kids experienced many hours of entertainment delivered to them by Filmation, and that's really what matters.

I read an interview on Hal Sutherland in the Seattle Times many years ago, and he came across as very passionate about his work and optimistic about the future of Filmation.

Joe Torcivia said...

By the fall season of 1968, Scarecrow, I’d have to rate Filmation as the top studio in Sat AM animation, with both THE ARCHIE SHOW (the original one written by animation and Gold Key Comics writer Bob Ogle) and THE BATMAN SUPERMAN HOUR.

Sure their animation was not up to even the standards of contemporary Hanna-Barbera – WACKY RACES; H-B’s featured series for fall ’68, was clearly better animated – but there was something I really liked about Filmation’s character designs! Especially as they were dealing in pre-existing, licensed characters, the looks of whom were already cemented in the public’s consciousness.

Look at the illustration of Batman and Robin, heading up the previous post… or at Superman, Aquaman, and the Archie characters, and especially STAR TREK!

I don’t often concede this, but animation in the SECOND HALF of my sainted Sixties, took a serious downward dip, vs. the earlier part of the decade, when most of my TV cartoon favorites originated. Also look at the remaining theatrical product of Warner Bros. and Walter Lantz. Chuck Jones’ MGM cartoons were an exception, as were the DePatie Freleng series.

But nothing was “as it was” even just a few years earlier – and it would get FAR WORSE into the seventies and eighties! By that standard, even if they were lesser than contemporary Hanna-Barbera, should we judge Filmnation so harshly? I think not.

Never mind that their writing was the best in the animation business at the time, considering they employed Bob Ogle, and writers who had worked for DC Comics, and the original STAR TREK!

And a voice roster that included Ted Knight, Bud Collyer, Bob Hastings, Marvin Miller, Dal McKennon, Howard Morris, Olan Soule, Casey Kasem (before he was “Shaggy”) and the cast of Star Trek, sans Walter Koeing!

Indeed, Filmation’s STAR TREK was unquestionably the finest television animation product of its time!

They merely followed all that up with the ground breaking FAT ALBERT series – and pretty much originated the “daily first run afternoon syndication” concept with HE MAN and SHE RA that gave birth to DUCKTALES and TINY TOON ADVENTURES, and the whole Disney and Warner TV animation renaissance of the ‘80s and ‘90s!

And that is why we should ALL have an appreciation for Filmation – and the work of Messrs. Prescott, Scheimer, and Sutherland!