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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!


Each episode of Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats was comprised of two separate eleven-minute stories – one starring famous Heathcliff and his buddies, and the other with newcomers The Catillac Cats, featuring their leader, Riff Riff.

I barely knew Heathcliff and I knew nothing about The Catillac Cats until Lori dumped four floppy discs and four videocassettes with series episodes on my desk just before telling me I was to be Heathcliff and The Catillac Cats' new story editor.

My initial reading of Heathcliff scripts and episodes featuring the lovable ne’er-do-well, was a delight. What was a total surprise The Catillac Cats were! I raced through reading all four scripts from Season One’s sixty-five episode run. Then viewed videocassettes of The Catillac Cats stories. They had me at hello.

I loved The Catillac Cats. I loved Riff Raff, their leader. I love Wordsworth, who roller skates around the neighborhood with headphones on and speaks in rhyme. Muscled Mungo and Hector – a tough-talking street-smart cat with a New Jersey accent, convinced he should be the gang’s leader – rounds out the irresistible group.

Then there was Cleo. Heathcliff’s girlfriend, Sonja, was cute. But Cleo was in a whole different league. If I was a cat, I guarantee I’d be dating Cleo. Add in all of them living in a junkyard kingdom and it’s a can’t miss concept.

I learned Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats was created by Jean Chalopin and the French cartoonist Bruno Bianchi. But the series had Jean written all over it. Riff Raff’s a whimsically romantic character, a creative genius who aspires to greatness and leads all who follow his siren’s song. This was Jean’s baby, all right, and I was loving it.

Lori was, of course, right about Heathcliff and Garfield: two entirely different cats – different in mindsets, attitudes and personalities. She’d done her homework, early on investigating Garfield because she knew comparisons were likely to come up, and then she leaped into the deep end with Heathcliff.

I was coming into Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats a lot later than her, so I had to do the same...and fast! Fortunately, I love doing research. And so I, too, jumped into the deep end of Heathcliff.

I came to understand how, to the casual observer, Heathcliff and Garfield could be mixed up, even interchangeable. They’re both orange tabbies and both have big bellies. But as I dug, read scripts, and did research, I found that was where the similarities ended. In fact, they were diametric opposites. Yeah, both had owners and lived in a house. But Garfield was a house cat. Heathcliff was definitely the outdoor type. He loved to roam the neighborhood and get into all sorts of wonderful trouble!

And where Garfield’s a lazy slug, Heathcliff is an energetic entrepreneur/ rapscallion/scam artist. And I say “artist” because Heathcliff is unquestioningly artful in all that he does. As I viewed the videocassette episodes of Heathcliff, I found a cat who loves to pull off schemes that will net him ever-increasing amounts of fish. He’s tough – surely the toughest cat in the neighborhood. But I also find he’s a true romantic.

A schemer and rapscallion, an entrepreneur, a tough dude, and a romantic at heart. Hmmmm… Sounds like someone I know. I have a feeling Lori knew what she was doing when she put me on this series. This is my kind of series, my kind of cat.

As I stare at the floppies and videocassettes, Lori explains, “Specifically, he’s Heathcliff the Cat.”

I charge headlong into a morass of my own making. “Fat cat, a gourmand, lazy, sarcastic.”

Unimpressed, Lori observes, “That’s Garfield. Very different from Heathcliff.”

I sigh, feeling like a dolt. Lori picks up on this. She sits in a chair opposite me, her tone softening. “Don’t beat yourself up. You’re still new to children’s television.”

She’s right. Plus Lori’s been around a long time and she knows the business. She says, “We’ve already produced sixty-five episodes of Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats.”

I know better than to ask who the Catillac Cats are, figuring I’ll find out in due time. As I relax, Lori shifts and says, “But you should have known about Heathcliff. The first thing you should have done when you came on staff was research all the series we’ve produced.” Showing me she’s not saying this just to make me feel bad, Lori adds “If Jean or Andy ask you something about Pole Position or Inspector Gadget or Rainbow Brite you want to know about it in advance.”

“Got it,” I say, determined to start my research on all the DIC series tonight.

“And,” she adds, pushing the floppy discs and videocassettes across my desk to me, “since you’re going to be story editing the next twenty-one episodes of Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats, you might as well start with this.”

The words are stuck in my throat but she knows how I feel.

She stands, says, “Get to work” and leaves. I’m pretty sure I see a faint glint of fairy dust in her wake.

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