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New blog posts will be uploaded at 5:00 PM CST
Every Tuesday & Thursday!
A writer's life during the golden age of television

I’m Jack Olesker, creator, writer, producer and director of more than twelve hundred episodes of television, eighteen motion pictures and seven published novels. I've written and created many animated series during The Golden Age of Television Animation including Care Bears, M.A.S.K., Heroes on Hot Wheels, The New Adventures of He-man, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Hello Kitty’s Furry Tale Theater, Popples, my co-creation of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and many more.

It’s been my joy to have entertained countless millions of viewers who were young fans and stayed fans as they grew up and introduced their own children to many of my series continuing to air worldwide.

And now, through my A Writer’s Life…During the Golden Age of Television Animation blog, I’m going to take all of you on an amazing journey back to those shining years of animated television series. It’s a real-life journey that has everything – history, action, adventure, cliffhangers, comedy and drama, suspense, devastating disappointments and tremendous triumphs.

We who labor – and labored -- in the animation industry are forever indebted to you for being fans. So my A Writer’s Life…During the Golden Age of Television Animation blog is a labor of love dedicated to you. It’s my way of saying “Thank-you.” I promise it will be a fascinating journey.

Let’s go on it together!


Over the next week, story springboards pour in from writers other than Jack Hanrahan and Eleanor Burian-Mohr; writers I hadn’t worked with yet. Durnie King, Jeff Rose, Roger Scott and Mike Moore rounded out my cadre of writers.

As I read each springboard and made notes about the ones I liked, I gave them the respect and time they deserved. I remember when I was a freelance writer chirping to get script assignments. It’s highly competitive and highly stressful. As a freelancer you put your best efforts into it, then sit and wait, totally on edge until you hopefully get the greenlight to move to writing a treatment based on your approved story springboard.

A lot of the story springboards were approved, and writers gleefully moved to writing treatments. Part of the reason for the high approval rate was that most of the writers had

written for Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats during the series’ previous sixty-five episode run. So they were able to submit what Lori and I were looking for.

To be honest, I didn’t know what the process was after I submitted springboards to Lori. For this twenty-one episode run of the series she was serving as ‘Creative Supervisor’. I was sure Lori was in the trenches, on the front line. I doubt Jean Chalopin, Bruno Bianchi or the other top execs had time to read the story springboards that came from Lori. I figured she sat with Jean for a couple hours and gave him one or two sentence pitches for each springboard and he would approve the ones he liked.

Things clicked and clacked along and we had a dozen or so full scripts being written when it occurred to me that this was a different kind of series…at least for me. And the difference was compelling, engaging and ironic, all at the same time.

Not to be outdone by Ray Dryden, a few hours later, Jack Hanrahan and Eleanor Burian-Mohr drop in to deliver Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats' story springboards. Specifically, they deliver twenty-six story springboards which Jack extracts, with exaggerated aplomb, from his weathered and battle-scarred briefcase.

He deposits the stack on my desk with, “Every one a gem!”

I offer, “Why don’t I greenlight you to go to treatment on all of them right now?”

The portly writer suggests, “It’d save a lot of time.”

I put the springboards in my in-box and look to Eleanor standing alongside him, a benign, a long-suffering smile on her lips. As she moves an unruly strand of brunette hair from in front of her eyes, I ask, “Is he always like this?”

Eleanor’s lips purse into a red bow as she softly replies, “Always.”

Jack asks his well-worn, “So when do we hear back from you?”

I turn to Jack with, “You’ll hear from me when you hear from me.”

I’m pretty sure I hear a low growl of protest coming from him.

They’re sandpaper and lace, the textbook definition of yin and yang, interconnected opposing forces. They have a certain talent. But there’s more to it than that. Eleanor knows precisely when to let him run like a marlin on a deep sea fishing line, and, to his credit, Jack knows exactly when to zip it and let her work her charm.

So here I am sitting in my home office thirty-seven years after they dropped in to deliver Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats story springboards, writing about Jack Hanrahan and Eleanor Burian-Mohr…and smiling. Some things never get old.

I’ll let you in on a secret: having writers visit is one of my favorite parts of being a story editor. Even as a story editor/writer, a lot of my time is spent in solitaire – sealed off in my office, either editing a writer’s script or writing one of my own. That’s why you’ll see writers at a studio – much more than artists or most other staffers – periodically coming out of their office or workspace to cruise the floor and bother other staffers.

You have to understand that writers draw their inspiration from human interaction, so being isolated is anathema to all that being a writer is. And that is why I enjoy writers’ visits.

Ray Dryden’s visit on this day was a particular pleasure. Ray and I go way back. I first met him when I was working as an associate editor at Entrepreneur Magazine.

Ray had produced a couple of B-horror films – The Clonus Horror, starring Peter Graves (Mission Impossible) and The Attic, starring Oscar-nominated Carrie Snodgress (Diary of a Mad Housewife) and Oscar-winner Ray Milland (Lost Weekend). We struck up a friendship, so I was happy to give him a shot on Heathcliff.

In my office we chatted for half an hour. I gave him the Series Bible for Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats and said I was open to him submitting story springboards. If I got them approved he could write treatments based on them and if the treatments were approved then he could write scripts based on the treatments. That was the process.

Ray thanked me for the opportunity and left. He came back the next day just before lunch and handed me twenty story springboards. I was glad I’ve given him a shot at the series.

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