Thursday, July 28, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Super Friends”—Bob Hathcock, animator

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Introduction to subseries "Super Friends" (including a list of interviewees).

How did you get the job on Super Friends?

I was working at Hanna-Barbera as an animator. You worked on whatever shows they had. I learned from my father, Jerry Hathcock, who was a feature animator at Disney and one of the original key animators of all the Hanna-Barbera stuff from Flintstones, Jetsons, Scooby-Doo, and most everything until he retired in 1976. I stayed with him as his assistant and then later as an animator on his teams until he retired.

How familiar with the DC superhero characters were you before you got the job?

I had a subscription to Justice League of America in the early ‘60s and may have read some Dell Comic books, too…but I grew up.

Any funny or unusual anecdotes?

Bill Keil, who was the head of animation, had a small argument with me over whether Wonder Woman would throw her lasso underhanded (the bad guys were going to step into the loop). He didn’t like that I animated her throwing underhand so I asked Bill Hanna if he minded me leaving to work on Captain Caveman with Ron Campbell and he said that was fine. By the way, they ended up using that [underhanded lasso] scene in the main title of Challenge of the Superfriends.

What challenges were involved in animating SF?

The animation budget called for pretty limited animation and I always thought that these somewhat realistic designs were not very appropriate for that kind of animation. These H-B shows were a bit ugly.

Do you still have any SF scripts?

Animators did not get scripts. We worked from storyboard and exposure sheets.

Do you have any other SF memorabilia from the era (i.e. cards signed by cast members, candid photos, etc.)?

The only things I may have would be Xerox copies of model sheets and maybe some storyboards. By the way the model sheets were bad model sheets because they were so taken by Alex Toth’s wonderful drawings that they included them in the models even though they were not all the same. It would have been better if they made better model sheets from his designs. I remember that there seemed to be several versions of Aquaman in the model sheets (not sure if Alex drew those or not).

Are you still in touch with anyone from SF?

We would never think of it as “from SF” because, as I said, we just worked for H-B. Maybe the writers were there solely because of Super Friends, but the artists (other than Mr. Toth) were just employees of H-B.

How aware are you of the influence that SF had on the current generation of comic book writers?

No, I don’t follow comic books. I am surrounded by younger colleagues that grew up on comic books and still read them. I know that there are wonderful artists and some pretty good writing, but, as I said, when I was a kid, you were supposed to grow out of it. It wasn’t considered literature in the States like it was in Europe until much later. I think there was a group of religious people that tried to make comic books some kind of evil. One of my colleagues back then had to read Donald Duck comics behind the backs of his extremely strict Methodist parents. He was in therapy for many years. None of this stuff influenced whether I read comic books or not; I was just interested in other stuff (biology) and other forms of literature.

How do you look back on SF?

I thought [the shows] weren’t very well animated. I became pretty successful in this business after that, but it was actually when I left H-B to work on Captain Caveman that people started liking my animation and I got some breaks. Later I went back to H-B, but as a producer/director.

What are you doing these days?

I am Supervising Director for American Greetings. I am doing Strawberry Shortcake which, I am surprised to say, is beautiful. The acting is brilliant and you could never get the subtleties I get in 2D animation without about 20 pencil tests per scene. Before that I was Supervising Director/Producer on The Boondocks (quite a contrast). I have produced or directed The Smurfs, The New Jetsons, Aladdin, DuckTales, DuckTales The Movie, Jumanji, Stuart Little, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Jackie Chan Adventures, and a lot of others.

Next: Darrell McNeil (animator).

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