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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 -- – the 1980s through the 1990s – 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!


I love doing research. For my historical novel, The Young Dragons, published in 1982 by Signet, I did seven months of deep research. With my novel to be set in 1800s China and California, I learned about China’s Szechwan province, the history and culture of China, San Francisco, the history and culture of California, the construction of the transcontinental railroad and The Gold Rush that brought over three hundred thousand people from across America and abroad to the Golden State.

When the dust cleared I had nearly five hundred pages of research and character descriptions. I used a lot of it in my novel.

The research job I was presently on wouldn’t take nearly so long because I was hot on the trail of what I was looking for. Lori had given me clues: American Greetings and Those Characters From Cleveland. Lori worked very hard at the studio. But I knew she also liked to have fun, and I had a hunch seeing a newbie sniffing around a mystery was fun for her. I also had a hunch she wanted me to solve this mystery.

At the library I read articles about American Greetings. I knew they made greeting cards and that they started Those Characters From Cleveland to handle merchandise tie-ins for their original greeting cards characters. This led to television series. Their Strawberry Shortcake character, starting in 1981, would generate $500 million in revenues. But legal entanglements stopped Those Characters From Cleveland from developing a series around her for decades. They were doing okay with The Get Along Gang. But I knew they wanted a hit and The Get Along Gang wasn’t it.

Then, in a trade magazine, I saw two magical words: Care Bears.

Time marched on. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and I kept writing. I finished my Get Along Gang script. I wrote two more scripts for The Littles. I still wasn’t getting any accolades or even an “Atta boy” from Jean.

It would take another fifteen years until he’d explain why. It didn’t matter. I accepted it was his way. I was in the entertainment business now, so I thought I should learn how itworked. The first thing I learned was that anew engine was starting to drive children’s television–toy, product and licensing revenues. For sure there were merchandise tie-ins all the way back to Mickey Mouse in 1928. But now merchandise tie-ins were coming in to their own.

Toys, product and merchandise sales generated revenues, providing production funds for television series. In turn, television series created exposure that generated more toy sales which, in return, generated still more revenues that funded the production of new episodes and new seasons of series.

I did my research and learned the two series DIC was producing–The Littles and The Get Along Gang–didn’t have much in the way of merchandise tie-ins. That worried me. What would I do if the production funds for the shows weren’t there and they didn’t get picked up for another season? Something nagged at me; something Lori said about how The Get Along Gang was owned by Those Characters from Cleveland, which was, in turn, owned by American Greetings. I wondered why she said that. This was long before the internet, so I headed to the library.

I threw myself into my work.

Once, many years later, before Kim and I were married, I would visited her in Kansas City. A first grade teacher who was renting a bedroom in Kim’s home knew I wrote for children’s television and asked me to come speak to her class.

I told the children what it took to write for television and how much I loved it. At the end of my lecture I asked if there were questions. A six-year-old girl named Rachel asked, “Is writing hard work?”

I answered, “Well, there are times when I write for ten, twelve, fourteen hours a day; sometimes more. At the end of the day, I’m not tired like this…” I pointed to my bicep. “But I’m tired like this…” I said, pointing to my left temple.

Rachel thought about this, then said, “I get it.”

Now, after hours of reading and rereading and re-rereading the Series Bible for The Get Along Gang and making copious notes, this was one of those fourteen-hour days. I was exhausted, drenched in sweat. I hit the shower, cold water washing over me.

I’d gotten too full of myself. Jean, Andy and Lori weren’t having meetings about how I “had potential and could be of benefit to them.” And it was a stretch to think they were “grooming me for something”. But I was thirty-four. I’d had three novels published and written, three television scripts, with more on the horizon. I might not be vital to the studio’s growth...yet. I wasn’t just a ‘cog’. I was in a good place. I decided to enjoy it…and to be thankful for it.

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