Michael Ashley

Michael Ashley ’07

As a six-year-old sitting on a couch with cookies disguised as cereal, entranced by the adventures of a real American hero, I never would have dreamed the creator of the most seminal show of my childhood would one day become my mentor. Ron Friedman, the mastermind behind G.I Joe, A Real American Hero, not only assisted in molding my young imagination, he helped shape the screenplays and stories I would later come to write when I joined the Chapman Screenwriting MFA program in 2005.

Ron Friedman is an American hero himself, responsible for writing over 700 hours of primetime television. His journey to success is the basis for his upcoming semi-autobiographical memoir, I Killed Optimus Prime, chronicling his path from Pittsburgh architect to a breakthrough New York writer. Fortunately for my peers and me, he shared his wisdom, creativity, and career advice every week in our graduate Television Screenwriting class.

During my time at Chapman, Ron’s mentorship proved invaluable. Whether I was writing a spec for The Office or The Sopranos, Ron guided me through each world, helping to identify the show’s nucleus and the purpose behind each scene. Outside the classroom, even after I received my degree, Ron continued to make himself available as a mentor. Throughout the years, I have received an abundance of Ron’s indispensable advice, pushing me to succeed in the entertainment industry.

Ron Friedman

Ron Friedman

So, when my co-author and I had the opportunity to professionally collaborate with Ron for It’s Saturday Morning!, I knew this was a rare, full circle moment. As a kid obsessed with Saturday morning cartoons G.I. Joe exercised my storytelling muscles early on. The ideas, stories, and characters sparked my imagination, influencing me to pursue a writing career.

After professionally reading for CAA and serving as a creative consultant for Disney, I started my own creative content agency, Ink Wordsmiths in Orange County. Additionally, after writing and publishing Amazon #1 bestsellers, I partnered with 6-time New York Times bestselling author Joe Garner to travel back in time to the golden age of cartoons. Featuring original artwork, photos, origin stories of  Saturday morning cartoons, and a foreword by the legendary Howie Mandel, we shed a light on a once-in-a-forever phenomenon.

When writing It’s Saturday Morning!, I tapped into those formative moments from my childhood: the ritual of Saturday mornings, the anticipation of the next episode, the ensuing action-figure fights with my little brother. When I began researching the G.I Joe chapter, I knew I had to reach back out to one of the most influential professors at Dodge College. Ron provided an exclusive interview for the book detailing the show’s creation, characters, and legacy. Having the privilege to write about someone who inspired me as a child was incredibly gratifying. It was wonderful to re-immerse myself in the world of G.I. Joe, as well as The Transformers, another cartoon series Ron had a hand in. (Ron wrote the controversial cartoon feature in which Optimus Prime is killed off.)

Saturday morning cartoons will always remain a crucial part of my childhood, impacting my work for years to come. (As well as my peers who grew up with the same magic.) They are a uniquely American art form, and I am grateful to have had the chance to recapture their magnificence, not just for people like myself who grew up loving them, but for future generations.

It’s Saturday Morning! is co-authored by Michael Ashley and Joe Garner, published by becker&mayer. Grab your copy at your nearest bookstore this fall!