Superman on Television
Exclusive Interview with "Super Friends" Animator Tom Cook[Date: July 22, 2020]
By Michael Moreno
Superman Homepage's Michael Moreno caught up with retired animator Tom Cook, who worked on various incarnations of the 1970s "Super Friends" cartoons.
You had worked on the animated series Super Friends and Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers show. What was it like working on both of these series?
My IMDB page is actually incorrect... I didn't work on "The Legendary Super Powers" it was "Challenge of the Superfriends" and it was the first thing I worked on when I got my job as an assistant animator at Hanna-Barbera in 1978. I also worked on Scooby Doo, Godzilla, The New Fred and Barney Show and The Thing.
Do you have a favorite episode from these series and, if so, which episodes, and why are they your favorite?
I really don't have a favorite episode because I never really watched the show... I was 26 at the time and the cartoons were geared for kids so it really wasn't the kind of thing I would watch beyond checking it out to see how my work looked on occasion.
Were there any challenges in making any of the episodes?
The biggest challenge for me was that I was hired with no experience whatsoever so I had to learn on the job. Thankfully I was the assistant to a nice animator and he helped me learn what my job actually was because as I said... I had zero idea what I was supposed to do. They hired me because I drew well but as for the techniques of drawing animation I had to learn.
It's been some time since Super Friends and Challenge of the Superfriends shows aired. Since then, there have been other interpretations of Superman in animated form. Do you see any similarities or differences between your shows and current interpretations?
After 1981 ALL of the animation for these shows was drawn in Japan or Korea and eventually all over the world EXCEPT in the United States so the entire feel and style of the animation changed for the worse. The studios didn't care because it was all about them saving money. If not for Filmation studios keeping all of their work here in the U.S. I would have had a 3 year career in the animation industry and would have had to go back to driving a transit bus which is what I did before I got the animation job.
Given the opportunity, would you be interested in a revival of Super Friends and Challenge of the Superfriends show?
At this point I am 68 and retired so I am not interested in the revival of any show since I would not be a part of it ;) This is one of the things that people don't realize... all of our jobs were stolen from us and sent overseas so there is no work in animation any longer with very few exceptions. The greed of the heads of the studios ruined the animation industry here in the U.S. We did great work but the equally greedy unions began to demand so much money from the studios that the studios were bound to look for ways to save money and the result was to send everything out of the country. This was known at the time as "runaway animation". I ended up working at Filmation from 1981 until they closed their doors in 1989 so I am very grateful to Lou Scheimer for not being one of the greedy studio heads... without him I would have had a very short career.
Lastly, do you have any advice for those who will be working on animation and on Superman?
Any of these cartoons would be great to work on if I was in the age group looking for work but since I am retired thank goodness I don't have to scramble for work like I had to during my career. As for working on Superman specifically, if I were a studio head I would do a really well written and beautifully animated version but the difficulty back in the 70s was that all of the studio heads were older men with no real clue how to put a good superhero show together. With Super Friends... all of the stories had little to do with what the characters were doing in the comic books that they were taken from so the animated version bore very little resemblance to what us comic book fans wanted to see on screen.
The Superman Homepage would like to thank Tom Cook for agreeing to do this interview, and for fitting it into his schedule.
This interview is Copyright © 2020 by Steven Younis. It is not to be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.