Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Super Friends”—Mark Jones, writer

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

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

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

I started working in animation studios right out of high school, first at De-Patie Freleng as a Xerox processor, transferring the animation drawings onto the cels. From there I managed to get a script assignment for What’s New Mister Magoo and went on staff on that CBS saturday morning show. After the season was over, I hit all the animation studios for freelance writing assignments. I submitted story premises at Hanna-Barbera for all their Saturday morning shows and managed to get a story assignment for Dynomutt: Dog Wonder for ABC. I wrote the story outline but it was never put into a script because the series was cancelled.

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.)?

The two ABC executives, Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, liked my story and felt that they kinda owed me a writing assignment. Joe and Ken were in charge of Super Friends and they were writing the story outlines for all the episodes and giving then to the writers to turn into scripts.

At the time, Jeffrey Scott was the story editor and was doing most of the scripts from Joe and Ken outlines.

The first outline I was given to write a script for was “The Lionmen” and I guess I did a pretty good job because after that I was given outlines to write scripts for four or five other half-hour Super Friends and a half a dozen short episodes to write scripts for.

At the time, Hanna-Barbera paid $750 for a half-hour outline and $1,750 for a script. It was a great gig because I was given the complete outlines and was able to write the scripts in about a week and was paid the $1,750. That was in 1977.

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

I think my favorite episode was “Tiny World of Terror” which had the Super Friends being shrunk down and placed in a swamp where they had to battle off the creatures and dangers there. The story outline was from Joe and Ken and that preceded Honey, I Shrunk The Kids; I always thought maybe the writer [of that movie had seen] the Super Friends episode.

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

I’d come in to the studio and pick up the outlines and go home and write on an IBM Selectric typewriter.

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

I didn’t work with the voice actors but at times was allowed to watch the recording.

What have you written since Super Friends?

After that Super Friends season, Joe and Ken left to open up their animated studio Ruby-Spears and they asked me to write a pilot for a series called Fangface. ABC bought the show and that was Ruby-Spears’s first animated series.

That year Joe Barbera made me an offer to work as a story editor at Hanna-Barbera and I went on staff for a year and worked on Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels along with other shows.

After that year I went to Ruby-Spears as head of development and wrote the pilots for their second season shows Rickety Rocket and Mighty-Man and Yukk. Also wrote many episodes for Plastic Man.

I wrote the pilots for Rubik, The Amazing Cube and Mr. T, among others.

Around 1984, I went to write primetime shows such as The A-Team, Hunter, Riptide, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider, etc.

My Super Friends experience probably helped when I went on to be the showrunner for the live-action syndicated series The New Adventures of Superboy.

After that, in the early ‘90s, I actually wrote the first script with Cary Bates (a Superman comic book writer) for [what was to be] the new Superman movie when the Salkinds were involved.

They ended up selling the rights for the Superman movies back to Warner Brothers and [WB] developed the movie that came out.

After primetime, I wrote Leprechaun to direct and that became a successful horror franchise. My last movie was Triloquist about a demented ventriloquist dummy and a crazy brother and sister. I wrote and directed.

I’m currently writing and directing independent moves. One called Scorned is about a crazy female who seeks revenge against her cheating boyfriend. Kind of a Misery with young people.

Has anyone else interviewed you about SF? Have you ever participated (i.e. signed autographs) at a comic convention? If not, would you be willing to (if the convention paid your way)?

I loved working on Super Friends and have always liked superheroes and sci-fi. I’ve never talked to anyone about the Super Friends show but would be willing to talk to fans and go to conventions, etc.

Next: Bob Hathcock (animator).

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