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Note: The following story was written several years ago -- long before the 2015 scandal of revelations and allegations about Bill Cosby drugging women with Quaaludes -- and raping them.  I am leaving the story intact as originally written in my blog....

Fat Albert was the first cartoon series I wrote. My background was in sitcoms, music shows, even game shows.  Cartoons were something beyond me.  For one thing, animation writers not only write the dialogue, they also "call the shots".  In other words, they include camera angles, wide shots, close ups -- everything that TV directors do. Animation writers even suggest "blocking" and "business", which is positioning of the characters on the screen as well as their movement in the shot and in relation to each other. These are things, in "live action" that the Director usually does.  (Animation certainly includes the important creative position of Director, but even animation directors expect the writer to include camera directions in their scripts).

I got a call from my agent who told me that Filmation (the production company that produced the Fat Albert animation series) had asked if I would be interested in writing an episode. I told my agent to turn them down because I didn't think I could write animation -- and I didn't think I could write the so-called "Fat Albert" pseudo "street dialect'. 

But Filmation was persistent. They really wanted me.  So I met with the producers at their studio in the San Fernando Valley. Somehow they talked me into writing a script -- which they loved -- and before I knew it I was on the Fat Albert writing staff.  

It turned out that I enjoyed writing the "camera shots" and the "blocking", etc.  It was like being a director and it all came very naturally to me. Filmation's extremely talented Storyboard department liked my scripts and the way I "directed" the action.

Filmation was one of the last studios that did every aspect of animation in house -- rather than farming it out to animation houses in Asia. Packed into the two story building was everything needed to completely produce a cartoon -- from the writing, voice recording, storyboard, animation, ink and paint, as well as the actual shooting of the thousands of animation cells using an ancient animation rostrum camera. While the writers and many of the story boarders were "newcomers", they had some classic animation artists from Disney and other studios hard at work. It was quite an education!

Bill Cosby - All Smiles on the Fat Albert Cartoon setWhere was Bill Cosby in relation to the series?  Well, this was about the 3rd or 4th season of the series and so far as I was concerned he wasn't much involved at all -- except for recording some of the Cosby kids voices -- which he did at a location away from the studio. (Mr. Cosby had a busy Vegas nightclub career at the time, and he would do some of his recordings in his dressing rooms. We used to joke that occasionally you could hear cocktail glasses tinkling in the background of the voice tracks.)  I certainly never received any notes from Mr. Cosby -- he appeared to trust the Filmation Team to take good care of his Fat Albert franchise. 

Every six weeks or so Bill would show up and film his live on-camera segments. I remember getting ready for the first shoot of the new season. I was looking forward to meeting Mr. Cosby -- I was a fan of his from the beginning of his career -- I owned several of his early comedy records.  To my surprise the Filmation staff was dreading the shoot, and I couldn't understand why. They told me to come to the filming and I'd find out!

The day of the shoot Mr. Cosby and his entourage arrived for the filming. I quickly found him to be a prima dona during those film sessions. He was not friendly to the staff and crew.  He seemed to just want to get the segments shot and to get out of the place ASAP.  There is no question that Bill Cosby was and is an enormous talent. But off camera, at those filming sessions, he wasn't the big friendly guy he portrayed during the "live segments" in the Fat Albert series. I am trying to be diplomatic, here, but Mr. Cosby seemed to go out of his way to be arrogant , mean and rude to those of us who were on the set. I am used to working on sets where the actors and production team work hard and have a good time. There were no "good times" on the Fat Albert Cosby set. The only time Mr. Cosby would smile was when the director called "Action".  At "Cut" Mr. Cosby instantly returned to his sour demeanor. Again I am a big fan of Bill Cosby the artist -- I just felt he could have been more friendly to the team who worked so hard to bring Fat Albert to his fanbase.

I wrote 13 episodes of Fat Albert, including the last Filmation version of Fat Albert.  I fondly remember the Filmation crew who helped start my animation career.

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