Friday, December 31, 2010

By the Power of Grayskull!!!

-By Dan dos Santos



Between 1983 and 1984, an amazing thing happened to U.S. television. Programs such as Transformers, Thundercats, Dungeons & Dragons, and Voltron were all released within 18 months of one another, forever changing the way a whole generation would think of cartoons.

Being a child at the time, these cartoons had a major influence on me, and I have no doubt that they helped spawn my interest in Fantasy Art.

All of the above mentioned titles were amazing.... but the king of them all had to be He-Man.

With 130 episodes, and an extensive line of toys that held as much importance as the cartoon itself, it's not surprising that this icon has lived on to spawn numerous movie remakes, and countless amounts of fan art.

Robert Lamb, who served as a writer and storyboard artist for the He-Man cartoon, has recently posted some wonderful scans of the original concept art for the show on his website. Now, as far as I know, these scans are not of Robert's work. He did storyboards. These images are scans of preliminary layouts that he found in the DUMPSTER behind Filmation Studios!!! Thank God someone had the sense to save these beautiful drawings.






Take a look at the numbers in the corner. The MU (Master of the Universe) stands for the episode in which the painted background would appear. The BG (background), denotes the number of the painting. By episode 24 (boarded out of sequence), they had already painted 241 different backgrounds! That's an amazing amount of work, especially since He-Man was one of the first cartoons to be produced directly for syndication, and required 65 completed episodes before even airing.

Being a Father of two boys, I still watch a lot of children's programming. I would conservatively estimate that about 75% of cartoons today aimed at children younger than 7 years old, are produced entirely digitally. Obviously, this has it's own merits, most notably efficiency. But it does instill in me a longing for hand-drawn animation, and new found appreciation for the massive amount of work that went into those old cartoons I loved so much.

You can see these pictures, and a bunch of others, including Robert's storyboard work at:
http://www.robertartwriter.com/Home.html

For those interested, all 33 episodes of Season 1 can be viewed for free on both YouTube and Hulu.

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