A few days ago, I posted about the early days of developing Bill Cosby’s “Fat Albert” for television. I soon received a letter scolding me for slamming the Filmation studio and studio boss, Lou Scheimer. While it’s true I did say the Fat Albert Show simply became another lackluster Saturday Morning television show, that was never meant as a slam against Lou Scheimer. If I had complaint with anyone it would have been Mr. Cosby. While some think I should be grateful that a show featuring AfricanAmericans could be on network television and providing positive lessons for black youngsters, I’m afraid that’s not going to cut it.
First of all, let’s admit Saturday Morning Television is lackluster. It’s purpose is to sell toys and sugared cereal to kids. That’s not a slam at Filmation. All the studios produced that crap for years. Heck, I did over seven years of that junk myself because I needed the work. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the Fat Albert accolaids. All the, Bill Cosby consulted on the show and positive images were shown, ect. However, when you consider the show took place in the AfricanAmerican community and featured characters of color providing (here we go again) positive images - lets also consider who produced, wrote and directed the shows. I was informed that my friend and colleauge, Leo Sullivan animated on the show. Big effin’ deal. One black animator? This old veteran ain’t satisfied.
I’ve refrained from speaking about this for over forty years - but it’s always been a sore point with me. You see, when the Fat Albert team was assembled back in the sixties, my pal, Leo Sullivan was lucky enough to make the cut. Having done early development on Fat Albert I would have loved being part of the team but no positions were available. No problem. I had already secured a job on the writing staff of an ABC comedy show. However, it did strike me as somewhat odd that only one - I say again - one black artist was qualified to work on a black show. Was it only a concidence the one black artist was also the lowest paid member of the team? I’m just sayin’…
With all the stuff surrounding Bill Cosby these days I can’t help but think back to our many meetings in the sixties and the positive feelings we had concerning animated projects that would be driven by artists of color. It would have been opportunites for AfricanAmerican artists and writers instead of business as usual. However, Mr. Cosby went for business as usual and to be fair, that was his choice to make. I can’t tell you how many times we sat in Bill’s dressing room breathing that damn cigar smoke. Cosby was on top of the world and his career was soaring. I didn’t like him very much back then. I’m afraid I still don’t.