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New blog posts will be uploaded at 5:00 PM CST
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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!

- JACK OLESKER

Now, looking back from the top of highground, I can say “Oh the things I learned from all those years in the children’s entertainment business and observing my clients"...”Fast forward nineteen years since my 1984-first-year working at DIC. It’s 2003 and Kim and I are living in a penthouse on the top floor of Dunleith Towers in Kansas City’s wonderful Plaza district.

Alex, our first born child, is four years old–a joy to be hold. He loves toys; all kinds of toys–race cars, dinosaurs, stuffed animals and, most of all, knights. He has a collection of action figure knights he loves to play with. One night, as it nears nine o’clock, I walk along the hallway from my home office to check on Alex in his nursery.

It’s a cheerful nursery with a rocker, a sturdy dresser, and a firetruck bed that Alex sleeps in. As I near his bedroom, I’m surprised to hear his emphatic, whispering voice. It’s way past bedtime for him. As I draw closer to his open door, I hear him having a conversation, two knights in battle: “Get out of my way! I’m going into the castle!” “Never!

I’ll protect my queen!” “I’ll show you!” “No, I’ll show you!” I linger near the doorway to the darkened room, hearing Alex mimicking clanging swords. I peer around the corner, into the room to see him in his bed, arms outstretched high, index fingers on each hand extended like swords, Alex’s muted shouts providing dialog to the battle.

There are only a few critical, pivotal moments in a child’s life when a parent finds himself at a crossroad. Which road a parent decides to take can have a huge influence on a child’s development. I find myself at such a crossroad on this night. It occurs to me that I could snap, “Stop that playing and go to sleep!”


My body convulses, thinking of the damage that would do to his creativity and the embarrassment the invasion of privacy could do to his psyche. Instead, I step into the room and softly say, “Alex...?” Alex whirls to look at me, quickly lowering his hands. I gently approach his fire truck bed and say “Don’t stop.” When he tilts his head in question, I lower to him and whisper, “I played the same way when I was a boy.” I can feel my throat tightening, the words coming with difficulty. “Play-acting is so good for you. It helps your brain to grow in amazing ways.” I reach out and stroke his impossibly soft flaxen hair. In the darkness I have to force my choked words to come out. “Don’t...ever...stop.” His own voice quivering, Alex says, “Oh...Daddy...” He sits up and reaches out to me. I reach out to him. We embrace and hold each other for a long time, tears of joy and gratitude and love flowing from both of us...and I thank my Godin Heaven for letting me learn about ‘play patterns’ and their importance, so many years ago in Toys R Us.

As the postponed trip to Cleveland loomed closer, all my hard work paid off. I’d written two of my own Care Bears scripts that were approved and put into production. Five scripts -- two from Howard and three from outside writers -- had been completed, story-edited and were under review. Everything was moving along on greased rails.


But something was troubling me. It hit me as I was driving to work on a Monday morning. I stopped at a red light alongside a woman in a minivan. The passenger seat and two back rows were packed with happy children on their way to school. As the light changed and the woman turned left and I turned right, the problem dawned on me.


I was writing scripts, story editing, building a career. But I’d been building my house on sand. I’d watched my share of cartoons over the years and done research on how the children’s television business operates, including the impact of toy manufacturers. But I had a gap – actually, a gaping void. I didn’t know my clients, my ‘end users’ well enough, and I don’t mean the toy manufacturers.

I was producing fruit without having gone to the root.


I walked into Lori’s office. It was late in the afternoon and I said I needed to leave early. She looked up from a script and asked, “Where are you headed?”


I answered, “Toys R Us.”


She nodded and as I started from her office, she added, “What took so you long?”


I turned to look at her. She was smiling a small smile, already back to the script.

I stood by the open door to Jean’s office, watching him try to stop laughing. It was a losing battle. He was just about to get it under control when the thought of an engine falling off a plane Andy was going to fly on forced more laughter from him.


I was glad to see this because it humanized Jean for me. Jean was and is very human, warm and genuine, but in a kind of always-under-control sort of way. His style was to show his warmth and genuineness through actions rather than words. So to see him laughing out of control because of something so amusing was, to me, very amusing in itself.


Finally, his business side regained control, his laughter subsided and he said, “Don’t tell me the story. I know it...”

I said, “Obviously.”


He asked, “Is there another reason you’re here?”


Guiding us back to business, I said, “Lori suggested I ask you what to do about the meeting with Those Characters From Cleveland.”


Jean said, “I’ll call them and postpone it.”


He closed his eyes, no doubt thinking about Andy, and shook his head about the peculiar foibles of Americans. As I started from his office, Jean held out some papers to me with, “Here. I approved two of your Care Bears treatments. You can go to script.”


When I said, “Shouldn’t Lori get them first so she can put them in her chart?”


He nodded, impressed, I’d like to think, that, foibles and all, I knew how to do things by the book.

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VIEW JACK'S BODY OF WORK 

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