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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!


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.

A few days later, after I’d put the word out to current and wanna-be Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats writers that I’m the series’ new story editor and am open for story springboard submissions, I walk into Lori’s office. Lori picks up a sheet of paper with the writers’ names I’d submitted to her, glances at it and looks at me with, “Looks like you’ve got a good crew.”

“Yeah. A lot of them have written Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats episodes. I think the series will go smoothly; by the numbers.”

She nods. “I’m sure it will, Jack.”

When I look away, she senses something’s on my mind. Consummate professional that she is, Lori gives me some space. I look back to her and say, “With all these writers already familiar with the series, I think this is going to be an administrative job for me – editing, polishing, keeping everyone on schedule.”

She nods again. “That’s what a story editor does. What’s your point?”

“Twenty-one episodes. Heathcliff and a Catillac Cats story for each episode. That means we’ll have forty-two stories. I appreciate that it’s okay for me to write some of my own scripts. But for this series I’d like to just focus on story editing.”

“That’s your call.”

I know there’s something unspoken here, but I let it lie. Lori’s phone buzzes. She answers it, listens, then hangs up and say, “Ray Dryden’s here to see you.”

I give her a half-hearted “Thanks” and leave, wishing I knew what her ‘something unspoken’ was.

That day in 1984, after Lori Crawford told me I was going to be the story editor for twenty-one episodes of Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats, which would air on television in 1985, and after I had read four scripts and viewed episodes from the series, I had mixed emotions. I sat in my DIC Entertainment office and took stock. I’d been a professional writer for nine years. It was how I earned my living. Through good years, lean years and in between years, writing was what I did; it was all I did.

I’m a fast writer and I like to think I’m a really good writer. But writing non-stop, literally seven days a week for almost a decade is a challenge. I’d written and published five novels. The first draft of my historical saga, The Young Dragons, was eleven hundred pages.

Signet, my publisher, made me cut it to six hundred pages. It was like performing surgery on myself, but it taught me a lot about editing.

I’d written business manuals for Entrepreneur Magazine and over a hundred commercials for the Armed Forces Radio & Television Service. Now I am writing as many scripts as I can handle, in addition to story editing outside writers’ scripts.

I’d never tell anyone that I was tired. But the truth is this television business can eat you up, and after all those novels I’d published, all those commercials I’d written, the scripts I’d written for The Littles and The Care Bears, flying off to Cleveland to meet with television execs and handling DIC studio politics, it was starting to be a bit much.

I wanted a break; not a complete pause, but just to be able to back off a little and catch my breath. I came to the conclusion that being the story editor of Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats but not also writing original episodes for the series, was the answer.

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