Friday, July 22, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Super Friends”—Duane Poole, writer

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

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

How did you get the job to write for
Super Friends?

My then-writing-partner Dick Robbins and I were on staff as writers and producers. We’d just finished some live-action series for Sid and Marty Krofft and Hanna-Barbera hired us back on staff. I say “back” because working at H-B was my first job in Hollywood. I’d been writing and performing in a children’s series in Seattle, hoping to eventually make it as a film and theatre writer. One of my stage musicals was seen by Harvey Bullock and Ray Allen at H-B. A musical update of Alice in Wonderland. They thought it had a certain charm and asked me to come to California and try animation. Long story short, I did…I met Dick Robbins at the studio and we teamed up and were pretty successful for a few years.

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

I grew up on comics. So I knew the characters inside and out, just from being the most rabid of fans.

Did you come up with the stories on your own or did producers guide you in any way (i.e. “we want a story with dinosaurs,” etc.)?

We came up with our own stories. The producers on these shows were always busy enough shepherding things through the elaborate pipeline that is the animation process. Having produced a number of those series myself, I can say the best plan is to work with writers you trust to deliver. Takes so much pressure off. Sure, there are the occasional misfires and the need for redirecting a storyline or character, but the stories themselves are usually put into work from a pitch session—from the writer(s) to the producer(s).

How long did it take you to write one episode?

Don’t go by me because I’ve always been a fast writer. When I came to H-B as a newbie, I was writing a half-hour animation script every day...until a group of writers showed up at my door, took me to lunch, and explained the studio was taking advantage of me. I was on a flat salary at that time of something like $300 a week, yet submitting five scripts a week. They suggested I go freelance. And slow down.

What challenges were involved in writing SF?

It’s always a challenge to write a heavily-populated show and still service each character, give each character something to do and say. You usually wind up swinging the spotlight around, focusing on a couple characters in one episode and others in the next. The fun was to pair characters in fresh ways so their superpowers could combine in surprising ways and their character interactions could make the dialogue more enjoyable.

The show (like many of the era) didn’t allow for much characterization. Did that make the job easier or harder?

You’re right. Characters back then—especially in Saturday norning television—were pretty much limited to a couple of characteristics, but not much character. She’s a hothead. He’s a klutz. He’s fearless. She’s humorless. Whatever. Since Super Friends was mostly plot-oriented, the lack of elaborate characterization really wasn’t much of an issue.

How did writing SF compare to writing other animated series? (Related: what has been your favorite series to write for?)

SF was probably the most purely action-oriented series I wrote for. Frankly, I much preferred the comedy-action series like Captain Caveman or Dynomutt…which was my all-time favorite to write.

Of the episodes you wrote, do you have a favorite?

If I remembered them, I could probably come up with a favorite.

Where did you write—at home, on site at Hanna-Barbera, or a combination?

Most of the writing was done on site at H-B in that wonderful old office complex on Cahuenga that’s now a gym or something. There was a great camaraderie with the other writers. The office doors were usually open so we could drop in and catch up or kick story ideas and gags around.

How much interaction, if any, did you have with the voice actors? Were you there when they recorded?

On series I produced, there was plenty of interaction. (Most memorably with Mel Blanc and Frank Welker.) With SF, we were strictly writers and while we might have dropped by now and then, it wasn’t a usual thing.

Would you have liked to write for any of the subsequent superhero animated series such as Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League?


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

Not at all.

Have you heard from any current comic book writers?


Has anyone else interviewed you about SF?


When was the last time you watched one of your SF episodes?

Thirty years ago, I guess—though I’d love to see one now.

How do you look back on your time writing SF?

Through a great fog.

What are you doing these days?

I went off into live-action, primetime series. Produced for Aaron Spelling for about seven years, then moved on to movies for television. Forty or 50 of those at this point. A couple features. Now my focus is back on live theatre where my interests began.

Anything else about the experience I didn’t cover that you’d like to add?

Only that I’m eager to read your book.

4/1/23 addendum: Duane passed away today.

Next: Michael Reaves (writer).

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