I am a fan of the work of John Ford. If I’m caught catching a minute of one of his films, you’ll see me stay through to the end. Likewise I have almost as great a respect for the animation design work of Maurice Noble.
It never fails. I get to the point where I’ve just about run out of hope for animation, and I feel like the greatest pessimist in the world. When I say “animation,” I mean 2D. Every frame is controlled by one person. The rest – cgi – is, to me a graphic effect, electronic puppetry. I’m certainly not talking about the overacted cg action you see in most films done today. Most animation to me, these days, is something that’s done in a computer by teams of people, and isn’t wholly designed as “personal.” There are, of course, the exceptions. When something like THE LIFE OF PI shows up, it feels like magic; the magic you expect of great animation.
There’s just too much of everything in most current animation; even the flash Mickey Mouse spots go too fast with their Zips, Pans, Takes; the simplest move seems to go over the edge. Gestures are bigger than they need be, actions are over the top, dialogue is too loud and frenzied unless it wants to be quiet – then, it really is dead. The animator became that big red button they have at “Staples.” You press it and the client can fix what he has to – his way. The poetry has vanished from the art form when this animation begins. Too bad there’s no personality in those big red buttons.
John Ford made some of the most beautiful movies we have on film. Many of these are Westerns, Westerns which notably featured some of the most extraordinary, natural land masses photographed. The incredible buttes and sights appear in the Arizona Desert, called “The Painted Desert”, and whether they were shot in the glorious golds, violets and other colors or even shot in B&W they add extraordinary sights to these films. If they weren’t already there, constructed and painted by some god, Ford would have had to have a mass of people construct these images.
Working to a better advantage is the art director Maurice Noble who created his original version of the “Painted Desert” mostly out of his own imagination. I suspect he and a couple of other artists were all it took to develop these animated scenics: far fewer people and a lot less time.
As I said, Noble’s desert was original, a recreation of the actual “Painted Dessert” but one that developed out of Noble’s imagination. These are almost as beautiful as the real thing, in that “design-y” way Noble’s art had.
So here we have two film plans. Elaborate impersonal scenery that was designed by Mother Nature, vs the personal designs delicately designed by Maurice Noble. Both are very different but have similar effects on the films they inhabited. A personal world Ford shares with us and another that Noble constructs for the backdrops of the Coyote and Road Runner. Both set designs are larger than life and full of that very-same-life. It’s in gloriously wonderful color (even thoughmany of these sets were shot in B&W) it’s just the beginning of the strength of these films. We’ll look further to see what more has been offerred to us in their films.
– I’ve posted many of Errol Le Cain‘s illustrations for his children’s books. Ever since coming across that very first paper-bound book, about Briar Rose, (meaning it was the very first I’d seen for sale) I’ve been an avid collector searching out any of the many books he created.
Le Cain was my hero for quite some time. He was a student of Dick Williams’ studio, had learned to animate there and was doing the backgrounds for Dick’s feature The Thief and the Cobbler. Dick pushed him, at one time, to do a film on his own, The Sailor and the Devil, with, of course, Dick’s harsh scrutiny.
I present here his illustrations for the first half of the book, Mr. Mistoffelees with Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer. The latter half of the book included the Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer part which we’ll save for another time.
This story is part of the Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot.
That was, of course, the source material on which Webber and Nunn based their show CATS. These images are so attractive and stylish, I was quite curious to know whether Andrew Lloyd Webber had seen the books. Especially when he was about to put CATS onto the screen as an animated film.
Here are the illustrations by Le Cain:
________ (Click any image you’d like to enlarge.)
___________You ought to know Mr. Mistoffelees !
___________The Original Conjuring Cat -
___________(There can be no doubt about that).
___________Please listen to me and don’t scoff All his
___________Inventions are off his own bat.
Festivals 04 Jun 2013 04:24 am
The Zagreb Animation Festival, now called Animafest, the 23rd World Festival of Animated Film, starts June 4th through 9th.
One of the last artifacts Tissa David gave me was an invitation poster from the 1st Zagreb Festival. I thought it’d be a good idea to post that today to coincide with the Festivl’s opening. All those going there, have fun and good luck.
The initial poster for the first Zagreb poster.
The nose is taped on and stands up, as in a pop-up book.
The tag is connected by thin, light string.
- Today I’m posting a special issue of Top Cel, the NY animation guild’s newspaper. Dated August 1967, it celebrates the Montreal Expo animation conference and exhibition held that summer. Obviously, this was the place to be that year if you were an animation lover.
Just take a look at that list of signatures of attendees. Some of them are:
Chuck Jones, Peter Foldes, Manuel Otero, Edith Vernick, Abe Levitow, Don Bajus, Bill & Fini Littlejohn, John Halas, Ward Kimball, Ken Peterson, Shamus Culhane, Carl Bell, Pete Burness, Ub Iwerks, Gerald Baldwin, I. Klein, Gene Plotnick, Ian Popesco-Gopo, Carmen d’Avino, Bill Mathews, Len Lye, June Foray, Bill Hurtz, Spence Peel, Paul Frees, Steve Bosustow, Dave Hilberman, Stan Van der Beek, Les Goldman, Jimmy Murakami, Mike Lah, Robert Breer, Tom Roth, Art Babbitt, Feodor Khitruk, Fred Wolf, Ivan Ivanov-Vano, Paul Terry, J.R. Bray, Walter Lantz, Otto Messmer, Dave Fleischer, Ruth Kneitel, Bruno Bozzetto, Bob Clampett, Karel Zeman, Dusn Vukotic, Bretislav Pojar, Jean Image, Grim Natwick, Tissa David, Barrie Nelson, Andre Martin, Ed Smith, Dick Rauh, and John Whitney.
I guess they don’t make Festivals like they used to. There doesn’t seem to be much written about this event, and I wish some of those in attendance would write about it.
From the Wikepedia entry for Bill Tytla, there’s the John Culhane quote: On August 13, 1967, the opening night of the Montreal Expo’s World Exhibition of Animation Cinema, featured a screening of Dumbo as part of an Hommage Aux Pionniers. Tytla was invited, but worried if anyone would remember him. When the film finished, they announced the presence of “The Great Animator.” When the spotlight finally found him, the audience erupted in “a huge outpouring of love. It may have been one of the great moments of his life,” recalled John Culhane. I’m sure there were many such moments.
Pepe Ruiz was the u-nion’s business manager. In 1966 – the year prior to this expo – I was a junior in college, determined to break into the animation industry. Of course, I knew the military was coming as soon as I graduated, but I called the u-nion to have a meeting with Pepe. I wanted to see what the likelihood of a “part time job” would be in animation. This took a lot of courage on my part to see what the u-nion was about. I pretty well knew part time jobs didn’t exist. There was no such thing as interns back then.
Pepe was an odd guy who kept calling me “sweetheart” and “darling” and he told me that it was unlikely that I could get something part time in an animation studio.
However he did send me to Terrytoons to check it out.
I met with the production manager, at the time, Nick Alberti. It was obvious I was holding up Mr. Alberti’s exit for a game of golf, but he was kind and said that part time work wasn’t something they did. (He moved on to Technicolor film lab as an expediter after Terry‘s closed. I had contact with him frequently for years later, though I never brought up our meeting and doubt he would have remembered it.) Ultimately, I was pleased to have been inside Terrytoons‘ studio before it shut down shortly thereafter. A little adventure that let me feel as though I was getting closer to the world of animation.
The photos of the Expo are worth a good look. I’ve singled out those above to place around my text. The picture of Tissa and Grim is a nice one of the two of them together.
Ed Smith was the Top Cel editor at the time, and he put together a creative publication.
- Howard Beckerman brought a DVD of his home movies of he ASIFA East Animation Festival of 1980. (Actually, I think there are two separate years on this video. People are wearing different clothes in the latter half. However, I can’t be sure.) These are the faces of the crowd who came to those wine and cheese gatherings before the awards. Now, you have sandwiches, wine, beer and soda AFTER the awards. It’s still the place to see a large group of the animation cognoscenti in NY.
I’ve tried to identify as many people as I can and have printed out some stills to do just that. Here are some people to look for.
(L) Candy Kugel / (R) John Canemaker
Here’s the silent video of the Festival celebrities.
See if you can identify any of those I missed
(and let us know in the comments.)
- Jake Friedman has a blog that’s nothing short of sensational. His entire focus is on the history of Art Babbitt, making the blog’s title, The Art Babbitt Blog, quite appropriate. Having spent some time with Babbitt, it’s interesting to see the picture of the man on this blog.
The material is very meticulous, but there are some really precious pieces on display. I particularly like the drawings displayed from the silent Terry cartoon, “Scene 30″ of the Terrytoon short Chop Suey.
Bill Plympton and Biljana Labovic during the Deauville, Film Festival in France.
- Bill Plympton called to say that he finally has a NY theater date for his feature Angels and Idiots. This film has played the Festival circuit and is now about to make its theatrical presence felt.
The IFC theater in NY will screen the film beginning the week of October 6th. We have to turn out for the film to make sure that the IFC will extend the run. (They usually do that if they sense there’s an audience. We know there’s an audience – we just have to turn out.)
The film will also open in LA at the Laemmle Sunset 5 – Opening October 26th, 2010.
I hope to have an extended interview with Bill, soon, about the making of this feature. Keep watch. Meanwhile AWN features Idiots’ Diary. This is a diary Bill is keeping about the distribution of the film.
- Sue and I have put together a website for my father’s books: pdeastmanbooks.com
Its purpose is to entertain/inform, and at the same time sell books. There really wasn’t a place where you could see all of his books together, plus we thought a short biography (appropriate for children) and a way to get in touch with his family would be useful. I put together the P. D. caricature on the home page from two self portraits he had done.
In case you don’t know who P.D. Eastman was, I suggest you take a look at his film resume at IMDB. After working at Warners cartoons, he became integral in the start of UPA and the story writing of many of their best films. Oh, and he competed mightily with Dr. Seuss in writing MANY best selling children’s books.
- Katrina Gregorius, an animator and artist in my studio, helped out her friend, Theresa Loong, a member of the Film Shop in Brooklyn, in making a music video. The video is mostly live action with animated bits to spark it up – and believe me it does. The song is Robert Preston singing Chicken Fat “The Youth Fitness Song” by Meredith Willson of “The Music Man” fame. The song was commissioned by President John F. Kennedy for the newly formed President’s Council On Physical Fitness in 1962. A copy was sent to every school in the United States to be played over the intercom so students could do calisthenics to it.
You can see the video here.
- I thought today that I’d post a bunch of photos of things I love in my studio. If you’ve ever seen my office, in the studio, you’ll see that it’s a warren of a mess of things. Lots of books, paper, awards, and other crap.
I’ve always been a puppet fan and as a result people have sent me and given me gifts of a lot of puppets. Most of them are gems that hang from shelves and cover books and tapes.
These first four are puppets that were gifted to me.
The engraving: to MS (Michael Sporn) love BB (Betty Bacall).
Festivals 01 Dec 2009 09:43 am
- Last reminders for those in the New York area that tonight at 6pm there will be a celebration of the first animated Christmas Special on tv – Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol. The film will be screened at 6pm and will be followed by a panel that includes Marie Matthews, the voice of “young Scrooge,” the director’s daughters, Roberta and Judy Levitow, as well as animator Darrell Van Citters, who recently wrote and published the extraordinary book Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, The Making of . . ..
The event will be held at the Paley Center. (Follow that last link for further information.)
DVDs of the show will be given free to anyone who attends.
- Back in 1972 I entered the NY animation industry. I’d been out of the Navy for a year and had worked for six or seven months at Hal Seeger’s company, Channel Films, as a messenger who’d worked his way up to Film Editor on Wide World of Sports segments for ABC. The day I was offered the official raise to that position was the day I quit. I wanted animation and didn’t want to go down any alluring wrong roads.
The Hubley Studio had hired me for two days to help finish a commercial, and that had extended to several months of steady employment. I was totally green about the animation industry, though I thought I knew a lot – learned from books. (Unfortunately, they don’t teach you how to punch paper in books – nor do they properly train in most places.)
I was a sponge and tried to soak up anything I could learn about animation. I saw all the films I could and listened to anything any professional told me.
One day John Hubley, in passing, asked me if I was going to the NY Animation Festival. I didn’t know what that was, but found out immediately and went to every show I could – around my work schedule.
I once posted an article from Backstage Magazine that wrote about the 1st USA International Film Festival. This was a Festival founded by on Fred Mintz. I don’t quite know what his history was, but he had put together a Festival which ran at the New York Hilton Hotel on 54th Street.
Ultimately, there were three annual Festivals hosted by Mintz, and they were all a bit different from each other. I attended 1 & 2 and missed the tiny third (and last) edition which had moved to NYU.
I just recently found the programs for these, so here’s the one for the original, first “USA” International Film Festival.
(Click any image to enlarge and read.)
When you opened the yellow cover of the magazine,
a blue hand out fell out. This corrected changes in the program.
An auspicious start.
More articles by Peter Cowie (he’d written a couple of books I’d owned -
I knew who he was) Ken Knowlton (more computer animation – there
wasn’t much computer animation visible to the general public back then.)
Back cover – WOODY ALLEN talks about DICK WILLIAMS
I have the program for the 2nd Festival. It’s a bit slicker. I’ll post that someday as well.
- Back in 1972, a month after I first started my initial job in animation, New York hosted the First NY World Animation Festival.
I had never been to a Festival of any kind before, and it intrigues me, as you might imagine. There were quite a few world famous animation figures that actually came to town to present their films, talk to other animators and shine.
This was an event that was created by the entrepeneur, Fred Mintz. All I knew of him was a joke Tissa told me. She, a Hungarian, said that Fred was a Roumanian, and the old story was true: if you went into a revolving door behind a Roumanian, you should check your wallet when you come out. Of course, this was a joke, and Fred turned out to be a nice guy who put a lot on the line to get this notion of a NY Animation Festival up and running.
In fact, there were three annual editions of this fest, and I went to all. I met quite a few famous International animators by just showing up.
For some reason, I haven’t been able to locate the program for this first festival (I do have those for 2 & 3), but I found this article in Backstage, which was a commercial Industry newspaper. I’m posting the cover story from this issue and hope it will be a some interest.
(Click any image to enlarge.)
This was the first time I met Bruno Bozzetto, Yoji Kuri, Millie Goldscholl, and many others. I have to say that I didn’t meet a lot of New York animators. At the time, people in the industry stayed away from such events. The older Paramount/Terrytoons crowd wasn’t interested in animation outside of work.
I did meet up with a few of the more art-interested people like Tissa David (who I had just met at Hubley’s), Lu Guarnier, John Gati and a few others.
The events were well attended. Not as many students as there are today, but there were some.
- Last night the 40th annual ASIFA East Festival took place in a rainy NYC at the New School auditorium. There were about 2 hours of award winners to be screened after which everyone moved to the fifth floor to attend an after-party.
The place was packed. I wasn’t able to get anywhere near the food table so I had a few glasses of wine and raced about snapping pictures. Unfortunately, I’m a horrible photographer, so I apologize to all those here for the bad representation I’m giving you. for all the rest of you, these are just some of those I bumped into or who bumped into me. It was fun.
John Canemaker and Irra Verbitsky at the beginning of the night.
Amid Amidi and Celia Bullwinkle got to the food pretty quickly.
You can see what I mean about the bad photography. Sorry guys.
It was just about this time that the battery in my camera died.
Time for me to leave, anyway. I had a busy morning to face on Monday.