New Yorker Profiles A Cartoon Schlepper

Haim Saban

This week’s New Yorker offers a towering 11,000-plus word profile of self-described “cartoon schlepper” Haim Saban, who made his money composing the music to dozens of Eighties animated TV series before becoming a producer of children’s TV series. Animation buffs will run across many familiar names in this unflattering portrait of billionaire Saban including DiC’s Andy Heyward and Michael Eisner.

The most disturbing passages in the New Yorker piece describe how Saban enlisted former president Bill Clinton’s help to complete his sale of Fox Family Channel to the Walt Disney Company which netted him one-and-a-half billion dollars, and the lengths he went to to avoid paying taxes on the money he earned from the deal (naturally he blames his accountant). Understandably, there’s controversy surrounding the criminal aspects of this story, and Sharon Waxman at The Wrap has a detailed blog post about how Saban and his lawyers have been dealing with the New Yorker. The business of children’s TV entertainment can be dirty and corrupt as this piece makes quite clear, but what is most disheartening, to me at least, is that so many animation artists have to rely on individuals of questionable character like Saban for their financial livelihoods.


  • Isaac

    “Saban” in synonymous with “garbage” when it comes to children’s television. His music, his shows, everything he did in entertainment, always has an air of cheapness and tackiness to it. Add to that his ruthless business tactics: “One of the composers, Ron Wasserman, said that he wrote the original Power Rangers theme as well as hundreds of hours of other music, but for years got no writing credit. It was no secret; the no-credit clause was clearly set forth in his and other writers’ contracts with Saban.”

    Buy other people’s work, sell it as your own, collect the royalties indefinitely.

  • http://www.pitchbibles.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    Not to disagree with Isaac – but that’s the way it is in many “music factories”. The composers earn a steady income, but receive no credit for their work. Of course, this is their choice.

  • Scarabim

    Disney bought Fox Family Channel? WHY??? I still don’t understand why Disney buys junk instead of using that cash to develop its own projects.

    I swear, if it weren’t for Pixar, Disney would BE Saban right now.

  • Bill Field

    Honestly, after racking my brain, I can’t think of ONE decent thing Saban ever produced.

  • http://www.pitchbibles.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    “The business of children’s TV entertainment can be dirty and corrupt as this piece makes quite clear, but what is most disheartening, to me at least, is that so many animation artists have to rely on individuals of questionable character like Saban for their financial livelihoods.”

    Not to defend Saban – but any industry with the potential to generate huge amounts of money attracts businessmen of questionable morals. This isn’t limited to animation by any means. The top people in Savings, Loans and Mortgages – the big three auto makers – the oil business – health insurance – you name it – are hardly candidates for sainthood.

  • http://www.TVsKyle.net TV’s Kyle

    I won’t deny that the vast majority of the Saban catalogue was awful, but I really enjoyed Bill Kopp’s “Mad Jack the Pirate” and the funny anime dub “Samurai Pizza Cats”. I’ve wondered if he was the reason the SPC didn’t appear in the recent Wii game “Tatsunoko vs Capcom”, however…

  • B.

    @Scarabim Disney’s no different than any other multinational media company: they acquire smaller ones and new properties as they see fit if they think it’ll be a profitable expansion of their business.

  • Mark

    “Disney bought Fox Family Channel?”

    Not only that, but the contract between Disney and fox states they must keep facist cultist pat robertson and his “700 club” on the air.

  • http://www.oddballcomics.com Scott Shaw!

    When I was producing CAMP CANDY, a co-production between Saban and DIC, I sat in quite a few meetings with Haim Saban. He was possibly the coldest, most ruthless man I’ve ever had to deal with, one who radiated arrogance and would go out of his way to intimidate everyone around him. He always reminded me of the James Bond villain, Emilio Largo, in THUNDERBALL, in terms of his attitude and demeanor. Between Saban, DIC and NBC, CAMP CANDY didn’t have a chance of being very good, but in its third and final season — completely produced by Saban with almost NO pre-production in this country — his indifference made those earlier episodes look like classics by comparison.

    But years later, I drew storyboards on a Saban show that I thought — and still think — was probably the ONLY Saban cartoon of worth. It was called THE SECRET FILES OF THE SPY DOGS, created by cartoonist Jim Benton and produced by Will Meugniot. I dunno how, but it was fresh and clever and funny…and other than being completely ripped off for the 2001 movie CATS AND DOGS, only lasted for most of two seasons on Fox before disappearing from the face of entertainment.

  • http://www.oddballcomics.com Scott Shaw!

    Having written all of that, don’t be surprised if *I* suddenly disappear from the face of entertainment — and the world in general — if Haim Saban reads my post and decides his finny pets need fresh shark-food.

  • pizzaforeveryone

    my favorite part in the article is when saban is giving a tour of his house, and it’s so big he gets a little lost, and he turns to his attorney/advisor and shrugs, “Five retards in spandex.” (in reference to the power rangers).

    big props to the nyer

  • http://Mr.FunsBlog Floyd Norman

    “You’ve failed me for the last time, Mr. Shaw!”

    Then, Saban’s henchmen throw Scott into the pool filled with sharks. Horrific.

  • http://www.pitchbibles.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    “Five retards in spandex.”

    At least he’s honest about his product.
    And has a sense of humour.

  • http://www.oddballcomics.com Scott Shaw!

    Fortunately, Saban underestimated the fat man’s ravenous appetite. After being dragged under the blood-drenched water of the shark pool, Shaw! emerged unfazed, but decidedly even fatter. He’d consumed every one of the finned predators. “Did you expect me to be eaten, Saban?”, he demanded. “No, Mr. Shaw!”, Saban replied. “I expect you to draw.”

  • Scarabim

    **Disney’s no different than any other multinational media company: they acquire smaller ones and new properties as they see fit if they think it’ll be a profitable expansion of their business.**

    Yeah, naive little me. Disney used to be something special. Not anymore…

  • Mike

    Issac is correct. Haim did not make his money composing music for animation. He made his money by taking other composer’s residuals for the work they did. Haim was smart in forseeing just how much money can be had in keeping music publishing rights.

  • Austin Papageorge

    @Kyle

    I highly doubt that Saban is the reason that the Samurai Pizza Cats aren’t in Tatsunoko vs Capcom, as they aren’t in the Japanese version either.

  • http://www.rickcortes.com Rick.

    I worked on Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers back in the 90′s, one of my first jobs in the biz. During the first season, Haim was very hands-on with all aspects of the show. Of course being the character that he is, we all did impressions of him. My buddy Trent did a particularly comical version.

    One day, Haim was in-house checking out the fx work. My boss at the time put Trent on the spot: “Hey Haim, Trent does a great impression of you.”

    Trent reluctantly does it. Haim LAUGHS. (Then his cronies laughed a beat later, just like in the movies.) Haim walks over to Trent, pulls out a giant wad of hundred dollar bills, gives one to Trent and says, “Here…never do that again.”

    We couldn’t believe we were seeing actual movie-rich-guy behavior right in front of us.

  • http://www.pitchbibles.blogspot.com Steve Schnier

    Regarding Isaac and Mike – Hiam didn’t TAKE the other composers residuals. He provided them with a steady income – even in down times – in EXCHANGE for their residuals. He provided that option. Those who didn’t want to do things his way were free to work elsewhere.

    I don’t know Saban and aside from some work on some early DIC projects, have never worked with him directly. But fair is fair guys.

  • http://www.oddballcomics.com Scott Shaw!

    Long after they had sold Hanna-Barbera, Bill and Joe retained the rights to all of the music done through the studio, no matter how incidental it may have been…and, of course, they hadn’t written it, either. They were not only the animation equivalent of the Native American — they didn’t waste a single part of the “buffalo” — they were damn smart, too.

  • Zach Cole

    The root of the problem here is that since Saban produced children’s shows and animation, no one paid too much attention to his corrupt way of doing business. He probably knew that. “Kids will watch anything, and no one cares how I produce this stuff.”

    I’d like to say he didn’t get in trouble because his shows were crap and no one paid attention, but then I remember how popular Power Rangers was at the time. Why didn’t this guy get in trouble before?

    I don’t feel uplifted right now.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    “The root of the problem here is that since Saban produced children’s shows and animation, no one paid too much attention to his corrupt way of doing business. He probably knew that. “Kids will watch anything, and no one cares how I produce this stuff.” ”

    It was a clever trick indeed, and one you only really think about once you’re older and figured out the ways of the world and how sneaky all that was.

    He deserves to be picked on!

  • http://www.TVsKyle.net TV’s Kyle

    @Austin: The American version of TvC had lots of additional characters not found in the Japanese version, but the characters they did add were, of course, subject to the American licensees.

    It always helps to research before posting.

  • Jeffrey Gray

    Scott Shaw!: But at least Bill and Joe didn’t credit themselves as composers of the music. And yes, Hoyt Curtin didn’t write every note, but he was usually credited as “musical DIRECTOR”.

  • Matt

    Hey. I loved the power rangers. Still have all the toys. Good times.

  • http://www.cartoonreviewsite.com Garrett

    I obviously need to visit this site more frequently.

    Haim Saban literally owes his fortune to the best of his composers, Shuki Levy. Levy had his hands in practically every bit of music DiC used in their cartoons until 1990, *and* he was responsible for the lion’s share of the music in He-Man and She-Ra. For my generation, he’s on near-equal footing with Stalling, Franklyn, and Curtin in terms of sheer output.

    @Jeffrey Gray: Actually, I have a H-B soundtrack CD set that Rhino put out in the late ’90s, and Hanna and Barbera share the writing credits for practically all of the music, and in many cases are the only credited writers (including a good deal of the *background music*). So, while Curtin was the only writer credited on-screen, Hanna and Barbera pulled a Gene Roddenberry and got their names credited with the publishing companies, ensuring that they would get the royalties.

    However, this is common in TV animation. the Saban/Levy music for Filmation carries an additional “Erika Lane” writing credit-the name of Lou Scheimer’s two children, a practice which Norm Prescott had done prior to his leaving the studio (though the composer of that music, Ray Ellis, typically used *two* pseudonyms *at once* in addition to the credit reserved for Prescott).