- Last week, I posted a stash of photos taken by John Canemaker for the book he wrote called, “The Animated Raggedy Ann and Andy.”
John Canemaker took all the photos, himself, which led to a more intimate look at an animated film. There were no photo decisions by committee; it was decided to use a photo if it told the story John was trying to relay. For that reason, the book really is one of the best “Art of . . .” type books on the market. (I’m not just saying that because there were photos of me in there – though that would be a good reason, too.)
The book was as exciting – in the making – as was the film. Too bad at the last minute the train of a film ran wildly off the tracks. In a way, I wish the book were written after the film was completed so that we could read the true story of what happened in those last six months of chaos.
The decision was slow in growing and fast when it finally fell, that the movie was enormously over budget. I was in on all the morning production meetings where managers and supervisors and directors would all meet. Those had started off nicely, at the beginning of the film, and went insanely wrong before long. There was the time when I was ordered to fire – that day – two inbetweeners. I was told that we had to give the staff a lesson that they had to work harder. (That might have been hard to do since everyone was giving it their all.) It so happened that one new inbetweener, on her first scene, ignored my instructions (and her immediate supervisor’s) by erasing all of Jack Schnerk‘s drawings. She felt she could animate the scene better, and she set out to prove that.
One down. The second person to fire was someone I was told (by Dick Williams, himself,) that I had to fire. It was obvious that there was a personality conflict since the guy was a great artist and definitely someone who should have stayed on. I was able to arrange for him to be switched to the BG department, thus fired by me from doing inbetweens and hired by them, in the same day, to do watercolors. He continues on, even today, working at a top position in design at Blue Sky. I don’t know about the woman, but I hope she gained a little humility that day 30-something years ago. That story didn’t make it into the book.
What there was in the production was a great first year of production where the art of animation was treated in its highest form. We were all out to make the greatest film of all time and bring it to the big screen. We had some of animation’s finest animators gathered to work on it. Assistants and Inbetweeners in New York were offered classes, after hours, which tried to teach animation to the new. With teachers like Tissa David and Art Babbitt and more experienced Assistants; a lot was conveyed. I was usually too busy to make it to many of these classes, but I always kept a close eye on what was taught. It really was fun and incredibly valuable to many of us.
At some point along the way, the LA studio was closed and key people from there came here. All of our space was overcrowded and uncomfortable. The Xeroxing in NY, a sweet grey line that took a while to construct, was replaced by a thick back line, when management sent work to Hanna-Barbera to outsource the xerography and some of the painting. Shadows were eliminated. Color copiers were rented. Scenes that had been animated in a non-photo blue pencil on 16 fld paper were being copied and reduced, at the same time, in B&W so that they could use 12 fld cels to color the art. A penny saved is a penny gained; I guess. This meant that a number of my inbetweeners were used to put 4 sets of crosses on the animation drawings so that there’d be some form of registration on the reduced artwork. Certainly the registration went all to hell in the process, thus allowing the latter half of the film to have a lot of slippage on the big screen. Lots of weaving animation in scenes that were rushed.
Emery Hawkins‘ amazing taffy pit took a big hit when it was animated more like a limited animation movie. All that beautiful rolling motion Emery had created on the cinemascope screen suddenly hits the wall and stasis sets in. The film was never going to be a classic of he silver screen, but it should have been a hell of a lot better.
Here I am doing what I did most of the day.
I talked on the phone. Ennervating stuff.
A young Kevin Petrilak is in the rear left. He was an inbetweener
in the Taffy Pit. Dan Haskett ran that group of people.
Here’s Art Babbitt teaching. He loved doing that. Dick tried to
recreate the classes he’d had in London a couple of years earlier. We – all New York -
sure appreciated the two weeks of lessons. I have Dick’s notes from these sessions.
This is a wall of stats. It represents footage counts produced in
every department working on the film. This hung in Mike Sisson’s office.
He was the production manager who tried to usurp the entire production.
A couple of weeks before everything changed, managerially, on Raggedy, Sissons
approached Cosmo Anzilotti and me at lunch. He saw us at the restaurant and came
over to us. He wanted to lead a take over cutting Dick out of the film and
putting Cosmo in to finish directing the film. I’d be made Cosmo’s assistant.
I had no intentions of being another Iago, and said as much.
I told Cosmo that Dick had brought me onto the film, and I’d do anything for
him. If it meant leading a large group to quit the show, I’d do that. Cosmo
seemed relieved. He wanted to do the same and we both told Sissons how we
felt. He greeted our news with an ass’ smile and thanked us. We were no
longer on the winners’ side, and I watched closely to know when to exit.
This was where the NY headquarters were planted. In the middle of 45th Street.
Most studios in the forties and fifties had places on 45th Street. Paramount,
Hal Seeger’s studio, lots of other smaller studios such as Pablo Ferro or Ray Seti’s.
Didi Conn was the actress who voice Raggedy Ann. When the VOs were coming
to an end, Didi worked late and her mother was with her. They needed help
getting home (Long Island.) The mother was afraid to drive. I volunteered
and drove them home. I took the Long Island Rail Road back to the City.
This is Sue Butterworth with Dick Williams. She was the watercolorist who
led the BG department and designed the wc style of the film. I thought her
work a bit inconsistent and often lacked the dynamic look good BGs require.
Here’s a picture of Dick Williams with his daughter,Claire.
Claire played the part of Marcella, the little girl at the film’s start.
They shot the live action in Boonton, NJ during the first days of the
production. All those hours they were out filming, I watched the shop.
Alone in an enormous darkened most of the time in the enormous office,
I could only spend time reading and rereading the script and sketching
my idea of some of the characters.Infrequently, the financial manager
of Lester Osterman Prods., the production company, would pass through.
George Bakes was a fiercely independent animator who worked a short
while on the film. He must have started at Disney on Sleeping Beauty. He’d often
show a lot of Milt Kahl drawings he’d had from that film.
Gerry Chniquy was a brilliant animator straight out of WB.
He’d done a lot of Yosemite Sam animation for Friz Freleng.
It wasn’t far to go to cast him as the blowhard of a King, King Coo Coo.
Marty Brill voiced the character. Gerry Chiniquy,of course, did a fine job,
John Celestri had a style all his own although he idolized Bill Tytla.
Not a bad person to pick for a role model. John was an Assistant on
the film. Here he’s working with inbetweener, Amanda Wilson. Amanda was
the daughter of the great cartoonist and animation designer, Rowland Wilson.
The last of these photos will come next week. Many thanks to John Canemaker for the loan of the images. Any opinions tossed about here, are all mine and John is not to blame for them.
As you can tell, from some of my recent postings, I have always had a love affair with puppet animation. There’s something extraordinary about that medium that has drawn me in. I’ve always demanded a tactile approach to animation, including all of the 2D work I’ve done.
I remember seeing Lady & The Tramp in 1955, on its first release (I was nine.) It was then that I consciously noted that one of the backgrounds in the “Bella Notte” sequence (I can now see that it was an Eyvind Earle BG) had texture in its paper. The board it was painted on came through the animation photography and reached out to me. The human hand became evident in the film.
Perhaps, this was what I loved so much about animation in the first place. Humans did it, and it was self-evident. Being reminded of it, in the subtlest ways – usually unintentional, added to my joy.
Perhaps this is what brought me to John Hubley’s films. Those films were so obviously painted: characters and BG were both used by the photographer to combine for us, and the unintentional was often caught on screen. (I immediately loved those highlighted rings double-exposed around the characters in Moonbird, the brush strokes of The Hole, the transparency of the characters’ paper in Of Stars and Men.) It added to the experience.
In a sense, I was brought out of the film but held in it and given the opportunity to love it even more.
I’ve had this same sense with the best 3D animation. Though I was always there viewing it, I was also caught up in the emotions of the film. Trnka’s masterful film, The Hand, had my understanding those tears and sweat on the little potter were moistened ink that had been his painted eyes. But the anguish I felt the first time I saw the film and that effect has never left me. The perfections of the Human Hand in that film forced the imperfections of the puppet potter to be revealed until it destroyed him.
Perhaps this is also what keeps me from embracing cgi animation. Despite the faked textures of the computer, it’s so obvious that it is not real. At least not when the characters are cartoons.
A very small example of what I’m trying to communicate stands out for me in Cars. The paint job of newer cars has a flecking/speckling of glitter within the paint. In the right light, the main character, Lightning McQueen, had this paint job. Everytime I saw it, I was distracted and pulled out of the film. Like the real paint on a real car, that flecking was embedded within the paint, itself. It didn’t feel like the byproduct of a human hand; it felt like a computer trick.
I am no more capable of coloring the computer skin of that computer hand than I am of painting a real car. It isn’t tactile for me, it’s just distracting.
It’s just something I never feel I can reach out and touch. This is something that has been overcome, for me, in a couple of films. The Incredibles gets very close often. Moments of Robots, such excellent design for the medium. Some of Toy Story.
(Click on any image to enlarge and enjoy the textures.)
Of course, I recognize that this is my problem. However, I recognize it’s a problem that other people probably have and wonder if there isn’t a solution. In The Iron Giant, the Giant is animated by a computer. I was told that the animation had to be rigged to be animated on “two’s” so that it wouldn’t separate from the rest of the hand-drawn animation. Oddly, it felt totally acceptable to me; I saw no problem and accepted that robot. There has to be, in there, a way to resolve it – I’m just thinking here and don’t expect anyone to try to follow what I’m saying. Perhaps if “human” problems, technical problems, were added to the animation. . . No this is even too stupid for me.
Barry Purves has made a number of absolutely beautiful films and has created in his own studio some masterfully realized pieces. His work has a discriminating taste, graceful and controlled movement with superb acting, and an intelligence that is rarely found in animation today.
He was nominated for the Academy Award for his film Screenplay, a virtuoso work which follows the rules of Kabuki theater and presents a double-layered story of a man watching and revealing a story from his past which eventually rips through the past and tears at the present. It’s a work of animated puppetry, displayed as theater and a stunning film that should have won its Oscar.
Rigoletto presents the opera in a condensed version that has been reduced for television. It’s a packed half-hour which places you into the full opera and allows you to follow it without any confusion. It has a majesty in its sweeping and dynamic camera moves which whisk you along in the luscious music; they carry you along through the depths of the complex story. It’s a wonderful film that certainly grows richer with each viewing.
Other works he’s done include a wonderful film about Gilbert & Sullivan: The Very Models gives us the pair as seen through the eyes of D’Oyle Carte. A rich and entertaining diary into the making of this film can be found on AWN and a short clip of the film is available there as well.
As a matter of fact, I found his diary there so entertaining, I’ve also followed the diary he keeps on his own website.
You can get a small glimpse of Barry Purves‘ craft by viewing the clip reel at Acme Filmworks. But you’re left without the full heft of his work until you’ve seen the complete storytelling ability he presents in the whole films.
Larry Riley, a story writer, gave me these drawings back in 1972, but he never told me the film’s title. Thanks to Thad Komorowski and Bob Jaques – both left comments when I originally posted hese in 2007 – we know the drawings come from Heap Hep Injuns (1950).
______________(Click images to enlarge.)
Larry Riley was a wild guy. On my first commercial job at Phil Kimmelman & Ass. he and I were the inbetweeners working side-by-side on some of the Multiplication Rock series. Larry had had a long and busy career in animation.
He had been an asst. animator at Fleischer‘s, a story writer at Paramount, an animator at many studios. Like many other older animators, he ended up doing anything – including inbetweening at Kimmelman’s for the salary and the u-nion benefits.
The stories Larry told me kept me laughing from start to finish. There was no doubt he had been a writer for years. In a not very exciting job, it made it a pure pleasure for me to go to work every day to hear those hilarious stories. I can’t see Lucky 7 without thinking of laughing. It wasn’t the stories per se that were funny, it was his take on it.
Larry told me of his years at Fleischer’s in Florida where he was an assistant. He and Ellsworth Barthen shared a room, and, according to Larry, had lined one of the walls of their room with empty vodka bottles. Now, I’ve heard of frats doing this with beer cans, but doing it with vodka bottles requires some serious drinking. One of the many times I got to work with Ellsworth, I asked him about the story, and he reluctantly backed it up telling me what a wild guy Larry was.
Ellsworth was an interesting character in his own right. There were a group of lifetime Assistant Animators in New York when I started out. This is what they did and all that they aspired to do. They liked the steady work and didn’t want heavy pressure. Those I can name, off the top of my head, were: Helen Komar, Jim Logan, Gerry Dvorak, Tony Creazzo, Eddie Cerullo, Joe Gray, and Vincent Barbetta. They all have interestng stories I could tell. Maybe another time.
Ellsworth Barthen was one of these permanent Asst. Animators. He had his work life and he had his play life. Ellsworth lived in New Jersey with his brother and spent much of the time in his garden growing orchids. He had specialty breeds of orchids that he’d grow and enter in flower shows. Ellsworth loved it.
The other thing he loved was performing as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Just about everywhere he went, he took his pince-nez and would pop it on his eyes and go into character. Now I was born after Roosevelt had already died, so I couldn’t tell you if Ellsworth had been doing an accurate impersonation, but I saw him do it pretty often.
Ellsworth appearing on the Joe Franklin Show in NY
as Franklin D. Roosevelt. Joe Franklin is bottom left.
At Grim Natwick’s 100th Birthday Party in LA, Ellsworth came in character and stayed there all night. He was basically a big and shy guy, but this Roosevelt impersonation would bring him out and loud. Very curious character.
Back to Larry Riley:
Larry also told of a 3D process he’d developed for Paramount in the 50′s when the movies were all going 3D. I believe there were two Paramount shorts done in this process: Popeye: The Ace of Space and Casper: Boo Man. Larry offered to give me the camera on which he shot these films – he had it stored in his basement. He was afraid it would get thrown out when he died. I didn’t have room for it.
My regret; I still hear the sadness in Larry’s voice.
(When I originally posted this in 2006, Larry’s grandson, John, wrote to tell me that another collector took possession of the camera and kept it from destruction.)
The animator who drew these is Tom Johnson (he signs the second one), and they were approved by the director Isadore (Izzy) Sparber per the first one.
The drawings are deteriorating, obviously. The pan above uses a lot of glue to hold it together, and that’s eating away at the paper.)
– This is the final model I have from Heap Hep Injuns a 1950 Paramount cartoon. Tom Johnson drew this image, prior to animating it, and Izzy Sparber directed the film. I’d heard some stories about I. Klein regarding this film, though he’s not credited, so I suspect he may have had something to do with model approvals, as well. Actually, he may have been the “Izzy” referred to on the pan posted yesterday.
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I was never a big fan of the Paramount cartoons. Growing up in New York, we’d always get Paramount or Terrytoons shorts playing with features in the theaters. Only rarely did a Warners cartoon or a Disney short show up. (I don’t think I saw a Tom & Jerry cartoon until I was 17 when they started jamming the local TV kidshows with them.)
Saturdays there was always the placard outside the theater advertising “Ten Color Cartoons”. A haughty child, I naturally wanted to know why they didn’t show B&W cartoons – that’s what we saw on television, and I usually liked them more. I must have been insufferable for my siblings to put up with me.
The starburst at the beginning of the Mighty Mouse cartoons always got an enormous cheer in the local theaters. I don’t remember ever hearing that for the Popeye or Harveytoons.
(I love that if you go on a “Google search” for images of Larry Riley, you get dozens of title cards from Paramount cartoons. Go, Larry.)
- Here, I continue with the recent outburst of model sheets. The following is a collection of Snow White and all seven dwarfs. I assume some of these can be found in print in one of the many collections of art from the film. I found two of the models in an old, expensive book I have which came via American Express.
The first two beautiful, original models come courtesy of Bill Peckmann‘s collection. The remainder of the group were Xerox copies I made years back. I’ve tried to clean them up a bit (lots of old grit from the ancient copies on glossy paper.)
- It’s not always easy to kill a witch. This sequence from Snow White couldn’t be designed better. It’s short, it’s tense, it’s a tight sequence that handily does its job. The witch is killed in record time. Today, the sequence would be dragged out for half the length of the film.
Some of these drawings are great.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
- Still left in the Vince Cafarelli collection of drawings from commercials he did, most probably, at Goulding-Elliott-Graham (for the moa part) are the drawings below. We know through some small bits and pieces of information what a couple of the sponsors were. (The wording of dialogue the professor speaks that the sponsor is Nabisco Shredded Wheat; the lion and the mouse ad is obviously for Vicks – drops or vap-o-rub.) However, too many other bits leave us empty handed. I can recognize cartoonist, Lou Myers‘ work anywhere, but no clue what they’re for. Candy Kugel and I were also able to delineate Lu Guarnier‘s drawing style (Vinnie was his assistant for years), and I know Jack Schnerk‘s great work. I recognize the brilliant and great hand of George Cannata from similar work that Bill Peckmann had recognized (see here) in a past post. So it is great to learn as much as we can, even though there’s a lot of guesswork in it.
The following are three storyboard drawings by cartoonist Lou Myers for some spot:
The following drawings are for Nabisco Shredded Wheat. They’re animation drawings/ruffs by Lu Guarnier. The delicate pencil lines of these years turned into dark rougher ones in his later years. The timing charts were always the same right out early wB years. You’ll notice a lot of quarters and thirds in the breakdowns. This is something you’d never see from Disney. There, everything is broken into halves and halves again and again.
- The following lion is designed and animated for a Vick’s commercial. (Note the second model sheet.) There were quite a few commercials during the period that reworked this great Aesop tale for the sponsor’s use. The lion obviously has a cold. Rather than pulling out the thorn, the mouse introduces him to Vicks’ cough drops and the lion feels a whole lot better.
What has been left behind of this ad includes a couple of model sheets of the lion as well as a couple of animation drawings. I don’t know who the designer is, but the animation drawings are most definitely the work of Jack Schnerk. I suspect all the drawings here are by Jack. He probably kept reworking the model sheet until he got the character in his hand. I can remember him lecturing me on the quality of my drawings. Unless my drawings became roughs, rather than tight clean ups, he was convinced I couldn’t get good animation in my pencil. Jack’s work was rough. and it became much more rough than this, certainly by the time I knew him and was assisting him. He also had a peculiar style of roughness; very choppy angular lines chiseling out the fine drawings. You can get a good example of that with drawing labeled “2D”.
The last four drawings are all animation drawings. “2D” is a rough, “2E” is a clean-up by Jack. The last drawing is a beauty and probably the final look he hit upon.
Here we have some drawings by a designer. I suspect that it’s the work of George Cannata. I did a couple of posts on a designer at Robert Lawrence Studio a few weeks back. Bill Peckmann identified the primary designer whose work screamed out to me. Since then, I’d recognize that line anywhere, and it’s most definitely below.
The Groundhog below is obviously a character with a southern drawl. The first step was to try the obvious making him a cowboy (“3A”). But that soon changed. and the character got plenty more sophisticated (“3B & C”). After that the line got juicy and the color got bold. There’s really so much to a character like this who just about animates himself.
The following five drawings are for a WISK commercial. There are two model drawings and three animation ruffs. The primary model indicates that the spot is done for Screen Gems which was a viable studio in the early 60s and 70s. However, I don’t know who the animator was. Neither Lu Guarnier nor Jack Schnerk fill the bill.I know that Irv Dressler was at Screen gems for many years, but am not sure about this time especially since IMDB has him free lancing for King Features and other entertainment studios. The drawswing style of these animation drawings is right out of the Paramount/Terrytoons mold. Many animators’ work looked like these. People such as Johnny Gentilella, Marty Taras et alworked in a very similar style, though these are a little harder lines than either of those two.
This is the primary model for the entire family. It’s a
beautiful drawing, and the characters have a lot of play
in them despite being connected so obviously.
Just look at the father’s hair. Beautifully done
The Buffalo Bee for Honey Nut Oats is also a model sheet from Screen Gems. With it come an animation model sheet for the walk cycle of the character. These drawings look like Lu Guarnier’s to me, but there’s no official way I could confirm that, of course.
- Before there was video tape (which means before there were dvds), there was only 16mm film that you could project in your own home. I had (and still have) a nice collection of decaying movies and used to show these often. One of the regulars to show and watch and laugh at was the great Mickey short, The Whoopee Party. Everyone loved this short, no matter how many times we watched it. It’s a great film!
This encouraged me to watch it again on the B&W Mickey dvd I have. So I couldn’t help but jump for joy over the story sketches they include in the extras. Why not post them? So here they are – sketches from the limited storyboard they produced. I’ve also interspersed frame grabs from the film so you can compare images.
- In 1976 at Perpetual Motion Pictures, Len Glasser designed a series of spots for CBS and their weather service. Models and animation was done (Ed Smith did the original animation.) These short spots were obviously funny, but they were killed, just the same. Never completed and never aired. Two segments of these have remained. One, the “Snowman” spot was picked up by Vince Cafarelli a couple of years back and, reworked with Rick Broas assisting him. They extended the piece a bit and made a short short film. The film was colored on cels and a quick soundtrack was put together. There was also another film which didn’t make it quite as far; it dealt with rain. I’ve finished up the art that exists for that one as best I could and have run it through the AfterEffects mill.
This week features that second spot, the one I’ve been calling “Rainman” – really it’s just a short gag that was never completed. Most of it is on cel, though I had to force a Bg out of a layout that I discovered, and I colored it. I’m sure this is not how Mr. Glasser would have seen the color, but I just wanted to highlight the limited bit of animation that is there. The same is true of the rain which he probably would have left black line with black, inked drops. I put some white into the rain to give a bit less of a focus on it.
Two of the animation cels weren’t painted, so I took the drawings that were there, they look like Ed Smith’s drawings, done in ink on animation bond. I painted them for the final QT I produced. As I say this is just an animation fragment with barely a beginning and no end. It’s all middle. However, I thought it interesting.
Even more interesting and very much more complete, is the “Snowman” spot which I will feature next week.
Here are the “Rainman” cels & drawings:
Early model sheet by Len Glasser
The following QT movie was made reworking the art a bit,
coloring some of the artwork that wasn’t completed and
exposing it as I saw fit. There was nothing to go by.
This is just a fragment of a scene.
The rain colors and the BG colors are my choices.
I can’t say Len Glasser would approve. My only
concern was getting all the animation to read – rain & guy.
Next week’s spot is better. It has a laugh to it.
- At Buzzco, they are preparing to send a lot of archival art to the MoMA. I’ve been trying to race through a bunch of it to scan it so that I can present it on this Splog. A folder of drawings by Len Glasser had to be organized so that I could send it out. There are certainly some odd bits in there.
Let’s start with a potpourri of pictures.
This Background stands alone. It’s painted on a cel.
Len Glasser had a unique style – perfect in its time.
Here are a group of drawings that work together. They’re some layouts Len Glasser did for a spot for NBC; it has something to do with the weather. The floating guy makes it look like it may be part of the story of the sun, the wind and the man with a coat. The sun and wind compete to see who can get the guy to remove his coat first. (Spoiler alert: the sun wins.)
This seems to be the layout for the whole piece.
What follows are the layouts for the animation, though I’m not sure what’s going on.
They’re drawings, at this point, for the sake of drawings.
Let’s end on a picture of Santa. . .
. . . an original picture of Santa that only Len Glasser could draw.
- Last Wednesday, I posted a number of models and LOs from this small commercial studio, the Robert Lawrence Studio. The art is quite extraordinary and, in my opinion, is stronger than the work I’d seen from UPA-NY. i’ve been told that George Cannata was the principal designer/layout artist for the studio. Hence, I believe that many of these, certainly the more daring, are his work.
Bill Peckmann told a story of having him as an instructor. One week he took them on a class trip to the Robert Lawrence Studio. This was the first time Bill said he was able to see the inside of an animation studio a life-changing event for a number of them. Wane Becker also talked of this trip. Bill said that George was on a trip to be an artist, and he worked in animation to make a living. Animation profited – commercial animation. It seemed the entire family were artists George Cannata Sr. & Jr. as well as Dolores Cannata.
I’m just going to pick up where I left off last time with more models and pre-production sketches for many commercial spots.
Jell-o is served, Madame.
Another variation of these guys first seen in part 1 of this post.