Film Roman

Film Roman, LLC
Subsidiary of Waterman Entertainment
Industry Animation, motion pictures, television
Founded 1984 (1984)
Headquarters Woodland Hills, California, United States
Key people
Phil Roman (founder)
Parent Independent (1984–2003)
IDT Entertainment (2003–2006)
Starz (2006–2016)
Waterman Entertainment (2015–present)
Divisions Film Roman Baja Productions
Phil Roman Entertainment
Film Roman's former headquarters in Burbank

Film Roman is an American animation studio owned by Waterman Entertainment, the production company of producer Steve Waterman.[1] Founded by veteran animator and director Phil Roman in 1984, it is best known for producing source animation for series such as The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Family Guy for 20th Century Fox Animation, as well as Garfield and Friends and various Garfield animated television specials.[2]



Phil Roman, veteran alumnus of MGM Animation/Visual Arts and Bill Melendez Productions, originally founded Film Roman in 1984 as a means to continue the production of the Garfield series of animated prime time television specials, since Melendez's own studio was unable to work on both the Garfield and Peanuts series of specials. Peanuts executive producers Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez and their aforementioned studio had produced the first two Garfield specials (Here Comes Garfield (1982) and Garfield on the Town (1983) respectively, both specials directed by Roman), but due to the wishes of both Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz and Garfield creator Jim Davis' concerns about conflicting interests in allocating production priority at Melendez's boutique studio, the production had to be moved. While he was leaving him and Melendez for his already-established studio, Roman was offered the opportunity to produce the next Garfield prime time special, Garfield in the Rough (1984), for CBS by Mendelson, which he accepted and went on to produce and direct all by himself, winning an Emmy in the process.


In 1985, CBS' head of children's programming Judy Price had commissioned an animated television series based on the Garfield prime time special series, later ultimately titled Garfield and Friends, which took three years for Roman to decide developing and producing the program before it eventually aired on the network's Saturday morning time slot, premiering on September 17, 1988. The aforementioned show was Film Roman's first regular series. In 1986, in an effort to expand and diversify the studio, Roman hired Marvel Productions VP of Business Affairs and his own personal attorney, Michael Wahl, as President and Bill Schultz, Marvel's Director of Development, to join in the company as the fledgling studio's VP of Production and Development. Garfield and Friends was expanded to an hour on CBS' number one rated Saturday Morning block and the studio grew to increase its capacity.

In 1988, the new management team developed, sold and produced a new series, Bobby's World, to the brand new Fox Kids Network, headed up by former Marvel Productions executive producer Margaret Loesch. In 1992, Film Roman took over the source production of 20th Century Fox's The Simpsons from Klasky-Csupo who had produced the one-minute teaser cartoon shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show as well as the animation for the first three seasons and the first two episodes of the fourth season (in total 61 episodes).[3][4] The studio went on to grow and produce many popular animated series now seen all around the world.

Film Roman was built on the success of its contributions to Garfield, giving the studio the financial ability to expand and diversify its operations. By the time Film Roman celebrated its tenth anniversary, the studio had established its own distribution division. The studio was licensing its own characters through its own licensing and merchandising division, drawing from its animation portfolio that included primetime series, theatrical features and shorts, daytime network series, first-run syndication programming, television specials, and commercials. Film Roman also had expanded into the international market, endeavoring to fulfill global needs for animation. By entering into co-development, co-financing, and co-production arrangements, the studio succeeded in overcoming its relatively small stature by forging business relationships in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia. Physical and financial growth occurred as a result of the studio's efforts to broaden its horizons, turning the three-employee, $300,000-in-sales studio into a 50-employee enterprise that generated more than $7 million in revenue by the beginning of the 1990s. The pace of growth accelerated decidedly from there, making Film Roman a 250-employee studio by 1993, a year in which the firm collected $27 million in sales. Although there were numerous factors contributing to the company's enlarged stature by the time it prepared for its tenth anniversary, one addition to its portfolio stood out. During the 1990s, Film Roman was perhaps best known as the producer of television's most well known animated television series, The Simpsons, a contract the company secured in 1992.

The strength of Film Roman after its first decade promised much for the decade ahead, but 1994 would be followed by several difficult and unprofitable years. The turning point in the studio's fortunes could be traced to Roman's October 17, 1994, interview with the Los Angeles Business Journal. "I don't want to be the biggest studio in town, or even the busiest," he said. The efforts of the studio to expand and diversify in subsequent years suggested differently, however, as the studio moved beyond its core animation business and lost itself in the rush. Perhaps more portentously, Roman declared his desire to develop properties that he completely owned and controlled, rather than the percentage control that described the company's contracts. Before 1994, Film Roman operated as a "fee-for-services" animator, meaning that the studio contracted out its work and, consequently, surrendered the rights to its work. Roman wanted to own and control the content his studio produced, a logical, astute business decision, but the transformation was not smooth. For much of the second half of the 1990s, Film Roman floundered, beset by difficulties in obtaining control over its content and hamstrung by its efforts to evolve into a much bigger, much more diverse media company.

1996 IPO and the Beginning of Trouble

To get the money to own the characters it created, Film Roman filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering (IPO) of stock. The company started trading in October 1996, when its stock debuted at $10 per share, enabling the studio to raise $33 million. With the proceeds from the IPO, the company entered the lucrative market of character merchandising, valued as a $7 billion market at the time of the IPO. However, Film Roman quickly began losing money. Its properties were not able to command high enough prices to compensate for production costs and losses were incurred, beginning in 1995 when the studio recorded a net loss of $1.7 million. The losses continued in 1996, and by the spring of 1997 Film Roman's stock was trading a $2.25 per share.

Film Roman's profitability problems emerged just as the company entered the public spotlight, tarnishing the company's reputation and investors was starting to lose confidence. Roughly one year after the IPO, Roman stepped down as president and chief executive officer, appointing David B. Pritchard as his replacement. Pritchard, who had co-founded a live action and animation television and film production company, assumed responsibility for the business side of the studio's operation, particularly the task of restoring profitability. Roman, presiding as chairman, concentrated on the creative aspects of development. Under this leadership arrangement, Film Roman expanded its operations, seeking to evolve into a larger, more diverse studio while also attempting to arrest its financial slide. In the fall of 1998, the studio hired Mark Leiber, previously senior vice-president of children's programming at Polygram Television, to serve as president of Film Roman's new domestic television and distribution division. Under Leiber's direction, the studio planned to create, develop, produce, and maintain proprietary control of its own animated series, which was to be sold in domestic syndication as well as to broadcast and cable networks. "We are continuing to transform this company from an animation house into a broad-based entertainment and new media company," Pritchard declared in a November 30, 1998, interview with Electronic Media.

As Film Roman sought to transform itself amid a wash of financial losses, its leadership underwent significant changes. In February 1999, Roman left the company he had founded. The six-time Emmy Award winner resigned as chairman to start a new studio, Phil Roman Entertainment. Pritchard stayed on, but only until October 1999. In December 1999, John Hyde was named the new president and chief executive officer of Film Roman. To Hyde, a 30-year entertainment industry veteran, fell the responsibility of restoring profitability.

The process of recovery was slow and painful, as Film Roman entered the 21st century at a limp. Between 1998 and 2000, the company lost more than $16 million. In 2001, when the company generated $44.1 million in sales, its net loss nearly reached $6 million. Hyde blamed the company's ill-fated foray into features for the financial collapse and redirected the studio's attention squarely on animation. As Hyde struggled to correct the studio's ills, it appeared the company would be sold to an interested suitor. In January 2001, Film Roman executed a definitive stock agreement with Pentamedia Graphics Ltd., India's largest multimedia production company. The deal, which would have given Pentamedia a controlling interest in Film Roman, collapsed in mid-2001, however. Meanwhile, Hyde tried to persuade Roman to return to the company he had founded. In early 2002, Hyde succeeded. In March 2002, Roman moved Phil Roman Entertainment into the Hollywood studios occupied by Film Roman. Although the two enterprises remained separate entities, they entered an agreement that provided for their partnership in developing new and existing projects. "My troops and I are glad to be back where all the action is," Roman was quoted as saying in the February 2002 issue of Market News Publishing. "We're eager to start creating exciting new projects together, and to top it off, it will be really nice to be with all of my old friends at Film Roman again."

Roman's mood was celebratory, but there was little cause for excitement among the studio's shareholders. When Roman returned to his old offices, Film Roman's stock was trading at $.18 per share, a steep plunge from the trading price of $10 six years earlier. Although the company held sway as the leading U.S. producer of primetime television animation, the dire performance of its stock represented a glaring blemish on the company's operations. By April 2003, Film Roman's stock had dropped to $.03 per share, continuing its numbing free fall. The following month, Newark, New Jersey-based IDT Corporation acquired a 51 percent interest in Film Roman, causing the studio's stock to increase more than 300 percent to $.33 per share. With approximately $1 billion cash in the bank, IDT offered hope for a turnaround in Film Roman's financial performance, but much remained to be done. Film Roman, with an impressive portfolio of content, continued to wait for the day when Wall Street embraced its contributions to the creation and production of animation.


The original studio was located on Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake, California, where Roman was also joined by Melendez producer Lee Mendelson. Years later, the studio moved to a new location on Chandler Blvd. in Studio City, before settling into another location at Starz Plaza on Hollywood Way in Burbank, which it shares with the former Hub Network and Hasbro Studios, and finally settling into its present location in Woodland Hills.

Television series

Subcontracted from others:

for 20th Century Fox Television:

for Marvel Animation:

various other studios:

Puppet/CGI shows:

Television specials

Garfield specials

Other specials



Theatrical features

Special effects for other movies


Web series


  1. McNary, Dave (12 November 2015). "'Simpsons' Animator Film Roman Bought by Waterman Entertainment". Variety. Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  2. Hofmeister, Sallie (April 2, 1998). "COMPANY TOWN; Drawing on Creativity; A Struggling Film Roman Tries to Reanimate Itself". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-23.
  3. Kirkland, Mark (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Kamp Krusty" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  4. Bernstein, Sharon (1992-01-21). "'The Simpsons' Producer Changes Animation Firms". The Los Angeles Times. p. 18. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
  5. WWE Studios and Film Roman announce 'Camp WWE' irreverent animated web series

External links

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