Category ArchiveJohn Canemaker
- 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.
- John Canemaker had loaned me the final sequences of the storyboard to Sleeping Beauty, detailing the dragon fight and climax of the film. I originally posted this in three parts. I’ve combined them all here, making for one long post.
I’m not sure who did the artwork, but there’s a good chance it’s Ken Anderson‘s work.
As with past boards, I’ll post the whole photograph as is, then take it apart row by row so that you can enlarge them as much as possible. Here’s the storyboard sequence #19 from Sleeping Beauty.
The full board follows below:
(Click any image to enlarge.)
The breakdown of that full board follows:
Here’s the next full page of storyboard as is:
(Click any image on the page to enlarge.)
Again, I follow with the board broken up into segments, half a row at a time.
This is this photo of the next page of the board as it came to me:
(Click any image to enlarge.)____________
Here are the rows of the board broken into two so that I can post them a bit larger.
If only he knew what he was going to face next.
I’ve decided to get the frame grabs for the sequence and post them as well. I thought the comparison of board to actual film would be interesting.
These images come from the “Special Edition” of the dvd, not the “Platinum Edition” now on the market. Using Hans Perk‘s posts of the drafts for these scenes, on his blog A Film LA, I was able to identify the animators’ names.
sc 82 (L) Milt Kahl – sc 82.1 (R) Frank Thomas
- Let’s end this post from Sleeping Beauty by posting a couple of drawings I have for the “Skumps” sequence. Again, Hans Perk on his blog A Film LA, posted the animator drafts for this sequence and I was able to I.D. the animators. (I have to say I guessed correctly in three out of four shots, so I’m pleased with myself.)
I’m posting closeups of the drawings. By clicking on any of them you’ll see the full sized animation paper. I’m also posting frame grabs beneath the drawings so you can see how they looked in the film.
This is a Milt Kahl scene, seq 13 sc 8. This drawing is undoubtedly a clean up,
so it’s not one of Kahl’s drawings – just his pose. It’s an extreme.
- John Canemaker recently loaned me a stash of photos of the Raggedy Ann crew. These were pictures that were used in his book on the “making of”. It was a better book than movie (as they often are). There are also some photos that didn’t make it to the book. John Canemaker shot all the photos, himself and all copyright belongs to him.
I thought I’d post the pictures and add some comments that pop off the top of my head. Hopefully, a couple of interesting stories will show up in my memories.
There are enough photos that it’ll probably take about three posts to get them all in. The next two Sundays are booked, I’d guess.
Johnny Gruelle (artist, writer) and William H. Woodin (song writer)
Dec.28, 1930 Indianapolis Star – “Raggedy Ann’s Sunny Songs”
This was apparently a theatrical piece Johnny Gruelle
put together with his very successful characters.
It all started with Joe Raposo, the composer of “Bein’ Green”
and many other hit Sesame Street songs. He wrote a musical for “Raggedy Ann
and Andy” and was made to see that it would make a wonderful animated musical.
He wrote a lot of songs for the slim script and they prerecorded
the songs for the animation. We lived with a soundtrack of about
a dozen musicians playing this very nice score to the delicate voices
that sang the tuneful pieces.
When the final film was released, that 12 person orchestra
became 101 strings and a big over-polished sound track.
No matter where you went the music was there and in the way.
It was too big, and the movie was too small. It was bad.
The track was incredibly amateurish. The composer had too much control.
This was Richard Horner. He was one of the two producers of the film.
Stanley Sills (a Broadway producer and Beverly’s brother) was the
other producer who didn’t know what he was doing.
They represented Bobbs-Merrill who owned the property.
I really liked Mr. Horner. We met again a number of years later
when Raggedy Ann was distantly behind us. I’d offered to take Tissa to church,
one Easter Sunday; Richard Horner and wife were there. He asked to meet with me.
He sought advice on some videos of artists and their work that he was producing,
and hoped I could offer my help in leading him to some distributors.
This is Cosmo Pepe; he was one of the leaders of the Xerox department.
It was Bill Kulhanek‘s department, but Cosmo really did great work.
They had this room-sized machine that they converted drawings into cels.
It was all new to NY, and the whole thing was so experimental.
Especially when Dick decided to do the film with grey toner rather than black.
The film always felt out of focus to me (even though it wasn’t.)
In the end when they rushed out the last half of the film, Hanna Barbera
sub-contracted the Xeroxing, and it was done in a sloppy and poor black line.
This is Corny Cole. He was the designer of the film, and all the great art
emanated out of his Mont Blanc pen nib. Or maybe it was a BIC pen.
Whatever, it was inspirational.
I wrote more about him here.
The gifted and brilliant animator, Hal Ambro. Can you tell that
I admired the man? I wanted badly to meet him during this production,
but that never was to happen. Now, I can only treasure his work.
This is a very rough planning drawing that Grim Natwick did on
the Jack-in-the-Box he animated. See the scene here.
Didi Conn, the voice of Raggedy Ann, with Chrystal Russell, an animator
of Raggedy Ann. She backed up Tissa David who was the primary actor for
that character and did most of the film’s first half. Chrystal did many
scenes in the first half and most of the second.
She had a rich identifiable style all her own.
On the average, I spent about an hour a day down in the Ink & Pt dept.
Often they had problems to resolve with some animator’s work. Either the
exposure sheets were confusing or they didn’t match the artwork, or there
was some question that they found confusing. My being available made it
helpful to them, and I did so without hesitation.
Generally, before a scene left my department for the I&Pt dept., I’d
have studied the exposure sheets and felt I knew the scenes before
they were handed out to the Inbetweener or Assistant. It meant taking
a lot of time with the work in studio so that I was not only prepared
to answer questions of a checker but the Inbetweener as well.
Sorry I don’t know who this is. If you have info,
please leave it for me. For some reason, I’d thought
he was an inbetweener (which would’ve made it odd for
me not to recognize him by name.) Apparently he’s a painter.
Carl Bell was the West Coast Production Coordinator.
We spoke frequently during the making of the show.
When I left the film, I went to LA for a couple of weeks.
Chrystal Russell threw a small party for me, and Carl came.
(I think he might have brought Art Babbitt, who was there.)
The group was small enough that we could have a talk that we all
participated in. We talked for some time (though not about
Raggedy Ann.) It was great for me.
Maxie Fix-it. This was a great doll that wound up to get the legs going.
He rolled around the floor beautifully. The “Twins” in the back were animated
by Dan Haskett. though I’m not sure they gave him credit for it. I was a bit
embarrassed by these characters. They were just a naked bit of racism running
about our cartoon movie for very young children.
Gerry Potterton (left) and John Kimball (right).
Gerry was one wonderful person. I always enjoyed spending time with him.
He produced/directed a number of intelligent, adult animated films.
This includes an animated Harold Pinter‘s Pinter People.
After Raggedy, I tracked Gerry down to get to see Pinter’s People. It was
rather limited but full of character. Gerry knew how to handle the money
he was given, unlike some other directors.
John Kimball was, at the time, not in the caliber of Babbitt or Ambro or
David or Hawkins or Chiniquy. However, he did some imaginative play
on a few scenes which were lifted whole from strong>McCay’s Little Nemo
in Slumberland. One of these scenes I animated but was pulled
from it before I could finish it. I had too much else to do with the
tardy inbetweens of Raggedy Ann (an average of 12 drawings per day)
and the stasis of the taffy pit (an average of 1 inbetween per day).
Too many polka dots on Ann and too much of everything in the pit.
All photos copyright ©1977 John Canemaker
- With all the recent thought and posts on Bill Tytla, I couldn’t resist revisiting this artwork from the Harman-Ising short, The Hungry Wolf. So here it is.
We’ve seen that Tytla veered his animation style completely toward the “Method” and there is no doubt that he carried that with him even after he left the Disney studio. Unfortunately, he went to the lowest of the low and couldn’t survive any longer as an animator. He turned to direction and had to adapt his use of Stanislavsky to his directing technique.
Unfortunately, the “actors” he was given weren’t up to the task. Those “actors” were the least of the animation industry, those who had learned a lot of bad techniques, ways of cheating and a lack of a deep interest in bringing the souls of his characters to life.
I was surprised to learn that Tytla had worked at a studio that was a bit better than Terrytoons or Paramount right after he’d left the haven of Disney. John Canemaker loaned me a cache of drawings for a Hugh Harman film, The Hungry Wolf, made in 1940 at MGM. It’s not a very good film; the drawings are signed by Tytla, but they have no ladder indication for an Assistant to do the inbetweens. Most oddly, the wolves are shaded in by Tytla. Also take note of the table being animated into place. Are these animation drawings? Is it LayOut posing to give to someone else to animate? And greatest of all, what is Tytla doing at MGM?
Since this would have been completed in early 1942, I can only assume that it was during the strike at Disney that Tytla did some work for Harman in mid 1941. Most probably he was acting as an Animation Director and NOT animating the scene. He worked under Harman, who got credit for directing.
There’s no attempt at distorting or stressing the drawings in any way. I assume the character wasn’t designed by Tytla. It’s similar to a character design that was used in other Harman films.
Here are all the drawings given me by John.
The following is a QT of the entire scene with all the drawings included.
Since I didn’t have exposure sheets, I calculated everything on ones
(which seems to reflect the timing in the final film) and left however many drawings to the assistant and inbetweener.
Many thanks to John Canemaker for the loan of the drawings. It was great just touching them.
- Back in Jan 2007, I posted these photos from the animation production of Woman of the Year. I recently was talking about choreography, and I thought that there was one whole style of choreography wrapped up in the work of Tony Charmoli. It made me want to look back on the work I did with him, and I think these pictures are interesting enough that they’re worth revisiting. So here, again, is that post:
– To recap:
Woman of the Year was a project that came to me in the very start of my studio’s life – 1981.
Tony Walton, the enormously talented and fine designer, had gone to Richard Williams in search of a potential animator for WOTY (as we got to call the name of the show.) Dick recommended me. But before doing WOTY, there were some title segments needed for Prince of the City, a Sidney Lumet film. (I discussed that film in this post.)
Tony Walton designed the character, Katz, which would be the alter-ego of the show’s cartoonist hero, played by Harry Guardino. Through Katz, we’d learn about the problems of a relationship with a media star, played by Lauren Bacall.
It turned out to be a very intense production. Three minutes of animation turned into twelve as each segment was more successful than the last.
______________________________________________(All images enlarge by clicking.)
There was no time for pencil tests. I had to run
to Boston weekly, where the show was in try-outs, to project different segments; these went into the show that night – usually Wednesdays. I’d rush to the lab to get the dailies, speed to the editor, Sy Fried, to synch them up to a click track that was pre-recorded, then race to the airport to fly to the show for my first screening. Any animation blips would have to be corrected on Thursdays.
There was a small crew working out of a tiny east 32nd Street apartment. This was Dick Williams’ apartment in NY. He was rarely here, and when he did stay in NY, he didn’t stay at the apartment. He asked me to use it as my studio and to make sure the rent was paid on time and the mail was collected. Since we had to work crazy hours, it was a surprise one Saturday morning to find that I’d awakened elderly Jazz great, Max Kaminsky, who Dick had also loaned the apartment. Embarrassed, I ultimately moved to a larger studio – my own – shortly thereafter.
Here are a couple of photos of some of us working:
Tony Charmoli was the show’s choreographer. He worked with me in plotting out the big dance number – a duet between Harry Guardino and our cartoon character. I think this is the only time on Broadway that a cartoon character spoke and sang with a live actor on stage. John Canemaker is taking this photograph and Phillip Schopper is setting up the 16mm camera.
Here Tony Charmoli shows us how to do a dance step. Phillip Schopper, who is filming Tony, figures out how to set up his camera. We used Tony’s dancing as reference, but our animation moves were too broad for anyone to have thought they might have been rotoscoped.
John Canemaker is working with Sy Fried, our editor. John did principal animation with me on the big number in the big ke segment. Here they’re working with the click track and the live footage of Tony Charmoli to plot out the moves.
Steve Parton supervised the ink and paint. To get the sharpest lines, we inked on cels and didn’t color the drawings. It was B&W with a bright red bowtie. A spotlight matte over the character, bottom-lit on camera by Gary Becker.
8. Harry Guardino on stage with the creation of “Tessie Kat” developing on screen behind him. This was Harry’s first big solo.
9. John Canemaker gets to see some of his animation with Sy Fried, editor.
The success of the animation (including good reviews) posed a small problem for me. The rest of the show was ripped over the coals. When I started using some quotes about me in industrial ads, the producers came down on me for gloating over the others who’d gotten negative reviews.
All the same, it was a real learning experience in a big Broadway kinda way.
- On Dec 16 in Amsterdam there will be a major exhibition of the work of Oskar Fischinger, a pioneer of animation film and abstract cinema. This opening will be an exhibition featuring various items including the films, the animation drawings, process material, the documents, correspondence, clippings, color charts, sketches, diagrams, patent drawings, and some of the sketches done (but not used) for Fantasia. Also exhibited will be notated graphic scores, material from the making of An Optical Poem, unshot animation drawings, and various other materials.
John Canemaker wrote about Fishinger for the New York Times, “Decades before computer graphics, before music videos, even before Fantasia (the 1940 version), there were the abstract animated films of Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967), master of “absolute” or nonobjective filmmaking. He was cinema’s Kandinsky, an animator who, beginning in the 1920′s in Germany, created exquisite “visual music” using geometric patterns and shapes choreographed tightly to classical music and jazz.’
Oskar Fishinger in his Hollywood studio with panels from “Motion Painting”.
This coming week, Wednesday Dec. 12th, Christopher Sullivan’s independent, animated feature will make its New York premiere with a week-long run at the Film Forum.
Described in the Film Forum’s press material: “The animation took 15 years of work… The characters were hand-drawn onto layers of glass which were then moved with needles and pins. The film seamlessly combines cutout animation, pencil drawing, collage, and stop-motion animation to create the haunting atmosphere of a self-contained world… (most of whose) characters walk shakily between self-medication and a bad trip… ugly characters (who) make up the most beautiful spectacle you’ve ever seen.”
I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film for quite some time. Finally, I’ve been able to confirm arrangements to see it, and I will review it. I’m ready, given all the mediocre work I’ve seen lately.
Meet the film maker
Christopher Sullivan will be there IN PERSON! at the following screenings:
December 14 | 6:30pm
December 15 | 6:30pm
MoMA in Europe
This week, upcoming, the Museum of Modern Art will present a program of older European animation, and quite a few great classics will be screened in one very powerful program that will be shown three times. Trust me, if you don’t know these shorts, they are brilliant – all of them – and there is not one you should miss. Here’s a list of the films in the program:
Animation Abroad, 1946–59
A Litte Phantasy on a 19th Century Painting
1946. Canada. Directed by Norman McLaren. 3 min.
1947. Canada. Directed by Norman McLaren. 4 min.
Charley’s March of Time
1948. Great Britain. 1948. Directed by John Halas and Joy Batchelor. 9 min.
1952. Canada. Directed by Norman McLaren. 8 min.
1955. Great Britain. Directed by Lotte Reiniger. 11 min.
Concerto for a Submachine Gun
1958. Yugoslavia. Directed by Dusan Vukotic. 13 min.
1959. France. Directed by Walerian Borowczyk with Chris Marker. 13 min.
Program 87 min.
Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 1:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2
Thursday, December 13, 2012, 1:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2
Friday, December 14, 2012, 1:30 p.m., Theater 2, T2
Nest week, and I’ll post the list next Saturday, there will be a number of Hollywood Cartoons that will be screened. Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson, Hanna & Barbera, Jack Hannah and Ward Kimball. They’re all represented.
Pups for Sale
– As of yesterday, Friday, the Pups of Liberty became available for sale to teachers as well as the public, If you go to izzit.org or Amazon.com, you’ll see the assets that are available; indeed, they both link to an educational video, entitled The Pups of Liberty.
Perhaps you’ll remember the posts I published a while back on this short film produced by Bert and Jennifer Klein. I put those several articles together into one here to best showcase the story of this video. With the help of an all-star animation team (artists including: James Lopez (Hercules, Emperor’s New Groove, Flushed Away and Princess and the Frog), Eric Goldberg (Aladdin, Fantasia 2000, and Princess and the Frog), Barry Atkinson (Prince of Egypt, American Tail and The Lion King), and Mark Henn (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Muland and Princess and the Frog) Jennifer and Bert created this Revolutionary War-based film. It offered history as entertainment and allowed audiences to learn from a very entertaining series.
Now, the Kleins are not only making the video available for sale but have a new activities website which expands on that video.
This is a smart idea as Bert and Jennifer Klein seek to develop a new market and a new way to sell a creative product. If you’d like to learn more, take a look at these few clips of the animation. Here or here or here.
This Week’s Films
The schedule continues with our watching a lot of films on the run up to the Oscar nominations. By “us” I mean the people of the Academy, those who elect to see the films on a big screen before they vote. I’m sure a lot of members take the easy way out and watch DVDs of the current movies. I won’t hear this way out. As a matter of fact, they’ve asked us to accept the films via download. We’d watch the movies – the movies we’re voting for as Oscar contenders – via download over the internet. Sort of like NETFLIX. I still want to think of them as “movies”, I want the burden of going to a theater to watch them in a public place with other differing viewers, all inconvenienced at the same time. That is part of the experience, isn’t it?
So, anyway, this week started off with Zero Dark Thirty. (I guess that’s supposed to mean 12:30 am – or half past midnight, in the dark.) On Tuesday the movie got the NYFilm Critic’s award for Best Film of the Year. I was hot to see the movie.
Turns out, to me, it was just one step above a TV movie version of the raid on Osama Bin Laden campsite to capture the guy. This film had no poetry in it and wasn’t about much other than the raid we watched. I didn’t like it. Dull. I did like Kateryn Bigelow’s last film, The Hurt Locker. But this film wasn’t that. I thought Jessica Chastain was miscast even though I am a big fan of hers. In fact there’s a Thursday luncheon where I’ll meet Ms. Bigelow and Ms. Chastain. I’m looking forward to that but have to lie if they ask what I thought of the film.
top – Dustin Hoffman, Bill Connolly
bot – Maggie Smith, Tom Courtney
On Wednesday, there was the fllm directed by Dustin Hoffman, The Quartet. This one was great. No miscasting here. Maggie Smith and Tom Courtney were brilliant. Billy Connolly couldn’t have been better, and it was easy to love Pauline Collins. She’s always great. The script by Ron Harwood from his own play was sparkling and always alive. The film was funny, warm, about people and always alive. Just great and human. Top drawer work. After the screening there was a penthouse cocktail party with a nice view, good free vodka or wine, and a chance to tell Dustin Hoffman and Billy Connolly about how good they were. Heidi told Mr. connolly how much she hliked his voice work in Brave, I just told him he was great, great, great. If I didn’t realize how stupid I sounded, I probably would have said a couple more “greats”. See this film for all the brilliant talent on display and the fun you’ll have watching it.
– Thursday night, I skipped the screening of Hyde Park to attend the lecture across town. Adam Abraham was speaking on the back of his book, When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA . The book was remarkable to me, and I was looking forward to meeting the author. At first there were very few people in attendance, but it soon filled up. I was happy to see friends, John Canemaker and Amid Amidi there.
Adam’s talk was well done and ended with the screening of five films: Gerald McBoing Boing, Magoo Express, The Tell Tale Heart, Rooty Toot Toot and a rarely seen live action promotion for Magoo’s 1001 Arabian Nights, called: A Princess for Magoo.
I enjoyed the program and was pleased to meet Adam after the talk. Amid Amidi and I walked the few blocks to the subway and went home. A nice evening.
Back to the Routine
– On Friday, I attended a luncheon for the film Argo. Ben Affleck, and several key people from the film attended and answered our questions about the movie while we ate at the Four Seasons Restaurant.
The movie is promoted as some kind of recreation of actual events, and I’m sure it is. However, the film we see on the screen works just too well as a typical action-adventure sort of film, that it’s hard to accept its believability, regardless of how much is true. The climactic scene as the hostages are flying away from the Iranian police is just too Hollywood to be a reality, and Mr. Affleck admitted as much, making a joke of the idea. As an action film it works, but I wished for it to dig a little deeper.
A quick steak lunch and a return home. There was a screening of a documentary called West of Memphis which I was scheduled to attend last night, but I just didn’t feel up to it. So I stayed home. Enough movies for one week.
John Canemaker has an excellent article in the Tuesday edition of the Wall Street Journal. It can be found on line.
- Last Sunday it seemed appropriate to post a past piece for the second time. Heidi and I had our second visit to John Canemaker and Joe Kennedy’s home outside of NY on Eastern Long Island. A comfortable respite from our workaday struggle in the tireless city. The chief overwhelming beauty of the home comes from the extraordinary garden Joe and John have built and cultivated. When we visited last year, it was June and everything was in the first blush of June. I could only compare it to my one visit to Giverny, Monet’s stunning gardens outside of Paris. I happened on to that country home at the perfect time when I visited years ago. The garden was as stunning as a . . . well, Monet painting.
This is my favorite of John’s paintings. A big piece that hangs in the living room
over the mantel. I found myself staring at the delicate washes of colors from
across the room. The wash of color plays nicely against the complicated linear
detail of the flowers. It’s a well planned painting done with a spirited energy.
Last year, John and Joe’s garden was lush and blooming and beautiful. The house was full
of John’s beautiful paintings of the flowers. If I lived near such a garden, that would be what I’d be painting too. These paintings were some of John’s best work; the art here was at least equal to anything he’d done in animation. So on that post, last June, I showed a number of his paintings, too.
Last weekend, Heidi and I arrived with the forecast of rain, but it didn’t seem to come with us. The night was cloudy, but the weather was otherwise pleasant, and we had a delightful chicken dinner outdoors. The garden, in August, wasn’t the same. As Joe had explained the odd weather we’d been having this year – high temperatures, heavy rain in the Spring and drought in the Summer – forced all the flowers to bloom at the same time, and earlier than usual. Once the flowers closed, they remained closed and left the garden very green with the occasional flowering bush.
Saturday was full of rain. To be honest, I enjoyed it. The light to heavy rainfall felt very present and tactile. Things seemed more in deep focus. We went to a local museum and bought some used books at a great, local shop.
Finally, on Sunday we had very nice weather, but Heidi and I had to leave at lunchtime. It was a great break for us and gave us the chance to allow our blood to thin out a bit before heading back to the City.
I took a number of pictures which I expected to post last week, but found that I’d many more than I remembered. So today’s post will cover this year’s bloom.
While the rain came down Saturday morning,
I took a couple of photos outside our guest room door.
This is Joe looking at the photo wall.
We heard about their cat, Lucy, who loved being outdoors
in their garden. Prior to coming out to this house, she had a
tough time getting over the death of another cat in the family.
The Bridgehampton house helped her.
Joe wrote a children’s book about her & John illustrated it:
Lucy Goes to the Country.
These are photos of photos they’d taken.
She found a birdbath that was about to be discarded, and
made it her own place to lie in the sun.
She had a difficult time leaving at the end of the weekend, and
John & Joe had a hard time finding her.
John Canemaker recently completed his latest book about Herman Schultheis and the effects department at Disney’s during the early 40s. It, hopefully, will be published in late 2014. This encouraged me to pull up this piece I posted in Sept/2009. It’s amazing how much information I was able to cull from the photos I found on the DVD.
I’m pleased with this post and am glad to repeat it for those who might not have seen it. John’s book, by the way, is one I’m looking forward to reading. He’s written a bit about it on his website.
- Herman Schultheis was an effects animator who worked on Fantasia. He kept a tight record of the effects they were creating from 1938-1941 and a photo display of how they were done. Schultheis disappeared in 1954 while trekking through Central America, and the notebook was forgotten until his wife’s death in the early 1990s, after which it was discovered by Howard Lowery behind the couple’s bedroom wall.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
Herman Schultheis created the book of charts and photos
which gives us a link to the many creative effects in the film.
The book is on display at the The Walt Disney Family Museum. It’s also been digitized so that visitors are able to go through the book, enlarge photos and view it page by page. An interactive display.
Prior to the discovery of the book we were able to figure out a few of the effects. One Disneyland show, in fact, recreated the bubbling lava scene from the Rite of Spring sequence.
However, the book revealed so much more than we’d understood
about how the superb effects had been crafted.
They then superimpose the “smoke” (or ink) over the volcanoes.
This same effect was used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind
to create clouds when the alien ships were moving in on the
farmhouse where the boy and mother lived.
You can see the highly polished sheet of metal (middle left) which reflected
and distorted the animation drawings. This is what the camera photographed
in some of the scenes during the Night on Bald Mountain sequence.
It was also used for the fire in Bambi.
- Last year at about this time, Heidi and I went to visit John Canemaker and Joe Kennedy at their wonderful Bridgehampton house. That weekend I was so overwhelmed by the flush and beautiful gerden as well as the wonderful floral paintings John had done. I reported it on this blog, and was quite pleased with that post.
This weekend we’re repeating the excursion and have come to a different trip. For one, as Joe told me, the flowers bloomed much sooner this year, including those that usually bloom late, probably because of the peculiar weather we’ve been having. Consequently, the garden looked very different this year. It is now very green without much color.
This year we had more than overcast clouds affecting the weather. Rain stayed with us on much of Saturday. I didn’t mind very much, but there was little opportunity to walk through the garden with the ground so wet.
I’ve taken a few pictures this weekend and will add those later this afternoon once I get home, but for now I’m repeating last year’s post (with some minor changes).
- This past weekend, Heidi and I spent a lovely quiet time in Bridgehampton at the invitation of John Canemaker and his companion, Joe Kennedy. It made for a very restful and enjoyable time despite the grouchy weather.
The garden gives you the illusion that it’s larger than it is.
Even walking in it you feel that you could easily get lost in it.
The first dominant site you take with you as you visit the house is the amazing yard and the enormously colorful and tender care Joe and John have taken to cultivate their garden of a back yard. It’s stunningly beautiful. It feels almost as though these plants grew naturally next to each other and happen to take the shape it’s taken. The amount of weeding and nurturing and debugging is left completely behind as you bask in the warm glow of this garden with its variety of flower and shrub. It’s beautiful and peaceful and inviting. I couldn’t help myself over the course of the weekend; I took many walks in the area and sat and enjoyed it. I loved it.
The second thing that captivated me during the visit was a painting John had done. It sat on the wall of the guest room we stayed in. In the first few hours in the house I kept coming back to the painting. I liked it enough that I took out my camera and photographed it. As I did, I realized that there were other smaller paintings in the room, and I found them almost as lovely. There’s no doubt John has been taken with the amazing garden out back, and this has helped to color these fine watercolors.
This painting obviously is not from the garden (given the road sign).
However, one can’t help but feel that the life in that garden spills over
into this painting – as it does in all the others.
At some point in the weekend, I asked John if he minded my photographing some of the paintings in the house and posting them on the blog. John, as always, was quite open to anything I wanted to do, so I went about quickly taking some photos. I also intended to mix in pictures from the garden. After all, I see these paintings and the flora as intermingling and working together in a lovely way.
There were some problems. The paintings lost some of their verve when photographed. The delicate colors were lost, and the shape of the pictures altered. (The lens of the camera seems to have slightly distorted the frames of the images.) I saw the pictures in some way influenced by Mary Blair’s work, but John took her colors and softened them. (The brashness of Blair’s work has always bothered me.) In the end, I found myself adjusting the pictures slightly to try to give them a bit of the feel of the originals, but I’m not sure I’ve succeeded. However, better you should get to see these images than none. My apologies to John.
So, I hope you enjoy the quick tour.
Many thanks to John Canemaker and Joe Kennedy for a lovely weekend and all the wonderful inspiration, not only in the paintings but in the garden, as well. It was more than a small retreat.
Well, it’s later that afternoon, and we’re home. But I’m beat.
There are too many pictures I’ve taken and the post would be endless if I added them here, so I’ve decided to post a couple of pics of John’s paintings, and I’ll save the remainder for next Sunday. I’m sure you won’t mind. Though they are good pictures. See John, Joe and Heidi sharing a kitchen as they make linguine with clam sauce; see the four of us romping on the beach; see more pictures of the garden sculpture Bill Tytla’s widow gave John and Joe for their garden. And see some great pictures of the garden in the rain. I’m sure you’ll want to return next Sunday for that. (or not!)
Here’s John, Heidi and Joe outside their house.
It looks as though they’re greeting us, but in reality
Heidi and I are about to leave on Sunday afternoon.