Animation &Commentary 05 Apr 2007 07:58 am


- I was reading the 1957 Disney Studio Directory posted on Joe Campana‘s site, Animation – Who & Where. when I came upon the name of Howard Diettrich. This threw me back to 1973 and Tubby The Tuba.

I’d just been layed off at the Hubley Studio, after completing the first 20 (of 60) episodes of Letterman. Officially, I had been categorized as an “inbetweener” in the Union. I’d done everything from animate to ink at Hubley’s, but that was my category. I received a call from Johnny Gentilella. We’d met through Hubley, and he was now working for NY Institute of Technology. They were in the early stages of production on their feature, Tubby The Tuba, and I was offered the job of Assistant Animator, a categorical promotion.

NYIT was the school I’d graduated from and received my BFA; it was located in Old Westbury, Long Island – about an hour’s drive from Manhattan. It’d be interesting, returning to my old school just to see how it had changed. By taking the Long Island Rail Road, I was able to cut down that ride by a few minutes and leave the driving to someone else. I was picked up at the station and driven to the animation building, a small cottage on the campus. Everyone was out to lunch except for Johnny Gent, and he drove me (about a couple hundred yards) to meet Sam Singer, the producer recently hired to do the film.

Singer had done all those Courageous Cat cartoons that had infested children’s programming back in the late 60s/early 70s. Oddly, I enjoyed them; I always was a glutton for bad animation. Love those cel flares, shadows, scratches and cel edges.

I was directed to his office. In there was another producer (I’ll hold back his name) who had broken his ankle and was on crutches. I got to meet the two of them and listen to them kibbitz around me, virtually ignoring me for a few minutes. Singer was chewing on a cigar, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the spittle that seemed to be moving down the cigar in his mouth. When I finally left to return to the animation building, I saw that Singer was also on crutches. He had a clubbed foot.

I sort of remembered that meeting as an omen of things to come. The entire place, while I was there, felt like it was on crutches.

I liked Johnny Gent a lot; we got along well at Hubley’s; on Letterman I got to mangle quite a few scenes by him as I learned how to inbetween properly.

There were only about 8 others at NYIT at the time. Other people I met included Walt Kubiak, another assistant who I enjoyed talking to; animator, Chuck Harriton, who I’d met at Hubley’s (and never really was crazy about); Lou Marcus who was filming the work on an Oxberry. Lou had gone back in animation for many years and had plenty of stories to tell. (See Andrew Marcus’ comment below.)

The person I most associated with was the editor of the film, Phillip Schopper. He was a young guy who took the LIRR everyday from Brooklyn to Old Westbury. We’d meet daily on the train and laugh over the events of the days out there. I’ve stayed friends with Phillip, who has become a first-rate filmmaker; we rarely talk about those days at NYIT.

It was not a fun place to work. At the time, everyone chatted over their cubicle walls. I was in the front of the studio with full view of the front door. I was constantly getting notes from Chuck Harriton who persistently altered the models of the characters in ways that no one else was drawing. I was forced to work his scenes off-model. Johnny Gent always had a beautiful drawing style and made it easy for assistants to follow and inbetween. He and I spent most of our lunch hours alone together in the studio. We were able to have quite a few conversations; I loved that part.

Everyone seemed to back talk everyone else as they walked out the front door. I couldn’t help wondering what they said about me when I left. Too much swiping makes for an unpleasant working condition.

At one point, Sam Singer brought in a number of his people from California. I’d already been there about four weeks so was glad to see some new blood. Many of the few people were ex-Disney people, so there was a lot for me to learn. Nino Carbe, was a good example of this. He had done some incredible work at Disney’s on Fantasia and other films. He was an artistic force and a nice guy to meet.

Howard Diettrich was a virtuoso assistant who had worked on Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately, he was an alcoholic who had a big problem. Sam Singer took him under his wing and had decided to cure him. Hypnotherapy came in, and Howard went through the mill for Singer. It made a soap opera of a story for all of us working there, and it was hard for me to watch.

I decided to leave. They wouldn’t allow me to quit without going to Alexander Schure. He was the President of the school – yes, NYIT was still predominantly a school – and he was financing the whole thing. His idea, ultimately, was to introduce computer animation to the world, and he invested heavily there. Some of the brilliant people who grew out of this department moved on to develop Lucas and Pixar.

So I went to Alexander Schure, and he argued with me for about 30 minutes. I told him that the travel time was too much. He didn’t accept that. He liked the fact that I was an art school grad from his school and was working there. He offered to have his son pick me up and drive me.
I knew that there was no solid directorial voice coming from the top, and the film could never be good. My artless tactic was to say as much. He told me that he was going to take over from Sam Singer, and he would be the voice of clarity. Now I knew I really had to get out. He finally surrendered, and I left. Happily.

I was back with Hubley within two weeks. Even better.

I didn’t get to see the film until I borrowed a vhs copy from Dante Barbetta, who eventually joined their staff to animate when it got significantly larger.
That was not a good film, as a matter of fact it was incredibly bad. I’m not sorry I left, though I would have enjoyed more time with Johnny Gent; it was the last time I worked with him. I also still wonder what happened to Howard Diettrich.

Note: Last year, John Celestri wrote about the later period in the making of this film on Mark Mayerson‘s site. Part I and Part 2.

23 Responses to “Tubby”

  1. on 05 Apr 2007 at 12:29 pm 1.Mark Mayerson said …

    You’re very lucky that you got to spend so much time with Johnny Gent. I wish that when I was working in New York I was smart enough (and educated enough) to realize what an important person he was. I consider that a very big missed opportunity.

  2. on 05 Apr 2007 at 3:15 pm 2.Tom Sito said …

    Nice reminiscence Mike. I know at the same time you left Tubby, Schure had hired Ed Catmul and Alvy Ray Smith from Evans/Sutherland to try and create the first 3D animation, twenty years ahead of time. Many writers wondered how Dr Schure made his fortune? I heard from some he was a friend of Dr Alexander Seversky, the Victory Through Air Power theorist. Another account said he owned much of the land that Lincoln Center was built on.

  3. on 09 Jul 2007 at 3:07 pm 3.Ashley Diettrich said …

    I was doing a search on the name DIETTRICH, and stumbled upon this. Howard was my grandfather. He passed away recently. It is very unfortunate that alcholism took over his life. I wondered of him often myself and only met him a few times. Thanks for a short memory of him.

  4. on 10 Jul 2007 at 10:09 pm 4.Robert H. Diettrich said …

    Hello Michael. I am Robert Howard Dieetrich. I am Howards son. i also have two sisters. Susan and Debbie. My daughter Ashly have also e-mailed you. My dad couldn’t take care of us and sent us to Kansas City to live with my uncle. I don’t know too much about him. He died a few years ago. as a kid I was always at the apartment of Sam and Bobby Singer. She kinda of treated us like our Mom. I wish I knew more of what was hppening then. I rember Tuby the Tuba. Did not know it was animated. Did he work on it? Thanks for your comments on dad. If you can tell me more please do. Thanks Bob

  5. on 16 Jan 2009 at 5:08 am 5.Andrew said …

    Hi Michael. Thanks so much for this post. One of my earliest memories is visiting my grandfather, Lou Marcus, at NYIT while he was working on the Tubby feature. You’re right that he went way back in animation. He and my grandmother, Selma, met at the Fleischer Brothers’ original location at 1600 Broadway. She was what was then called an “ink and paint girl,” I believe. Lou died in November of ’07, and while he wasn’t too pleased with implications of living past 90, he still had great stories. (These included serving in the Army Signal Corps with people like William Saroyan and Charles Adams, who became a friend.) Sadly, I wasn’t well versed enough in animation to deeply probe into his work, but when I introduced him to my friends who run the LA stop-motion studio Screen Novelties, his face lit up at the mention of luminaries like Myron Waldman. I’m not sure how he felt about the Tubby film, but I think it was sort of his final hurrah in that industry. Thanks again–Andrew Marcus

  6. on 16 Jan 2009 at 10:07 am 6.Michael said …

    Thanks for the information, Andrew. Lou was one of the few highlights for me at NYIT. He welcomed my questions and was very suportive of the young animation people on staff. He was always open and gave me copies of a number of beautiful Disney model sheets.

  7. on 05 Oct 2009 at 7:16 pm 7.Bob Stuhmer said …

    I began freelancing as a background artist at NYIT in 1978, after “Tubby The Tuba” (on which many of my friends, like Nancy Marshall, had worked). Dr. Shure had begun production on “Puss In Boots” and the half hour educational film on the metric system, “Measure For Measure”, also designed to promote his “Images” system. Johnny Gent and the other animators were working in the basement of a closed public school which Dr. Schure had purchased, and I worked in the computer lab under the direction of Paul Xander, former background painter from Filmation, who the good Dr. had imported from California and set up in his own mansion. I painted traditional backgrounds for “Measure For Measure”, and worked digitally along side Paul, with Alvy III close by in case we needed a digital effect or tool whipped up at a moment’s notice. Each work station used three frame buffers, and with a full room devoted just for memory, Paul’s scene would still occassionally spill over onto my monitor and permantly ruin the scene I was rendering. I still have a photocopy of one of Johnny Gent’s beautiful pencil renderings of the treasure cave from “Puss In Boots.”

  8. on 06 Oct 2009 at 3:07 pm 8.Michael said …

    Bob, thanks for the info. That obviously was long past I’d left Tubby. The crew, while I was there, was so small, and there were no computers connected to the show. It was so long ago.
    Glad to hear your background. It’s great that NYIT was able to get you started in this business and even greater that you held on.

  9. on 06 Oct 2009 at 7:40 pm 9.Bob Stuhmer said …

    Actually, Kim Miskoe and I graduated together from Pratt Institute in 1970. I began as a cel painter, working for Cel Art, Marty Friedman, and Zephyr Productions, and finally as a background artist working for Zander, Ovation, JC Productions, Wantu, Prism, and Barbara Swallow. From 80-83 I worked full time at I.F. Studios, designing motion graphics and animatics under Lew Cohen. My own studio was adjacent to Roger Mejia’s, and I also freelanced for an illustrator who shared space with Howard Beckerman. When designing my own stuff, I hired Larry Quarteraro to shoot it, or rented his Oxbury and shot it myself.

  10. on 04 Feb 2010 at 11:01 pm 10.Marc Wortsman said …

    I’m sitting here looking at a drawing Johnny Gentilella drew for me when I got married. It’s signed by Johnny, Lou Marcus, Dante Barbetta and more. The artists I worked with for 3 years at NYIT. My role, assitant camera operator to Lou Marcus. At night, I worked at the computer graphics lab with Ed Catmul. What an experience!

  11. on 05 Feb 2010 at 1:41 am 11.Michael said …

    You’re a lucky guy, Marc. Treasure the drawing (which you obviously do.)

  12. on 14 Dec 2010 at 6:10 pm 12.Damon Agapiou said …

    Hello Michael, I tried emailing you last week or so, but I am not sure if you got it. I was an animation student of Sam Singer during the last 4 years of his life. We had a grandfather/grandson type relationship during that time. He was quite the character! After he passed, his nephew left me most, if not all, of his drawings, paintings and animation reels. I am currently working on a documentary about him and would like to ask you a few questions. Please refer to the email I had sent if you have it. If not, send me one so I know you have gotten this post and I will tell you more about the project. Thanks for having this site!

  13. on 29 Jul 2011 at 2:05 am 13.Jim Edighoffer said …

    Hi, I was a friend of Sam Singer much of my life as a boy and a young adult. My aunt Anna Maltais,(Aunti Shatzi) and Sam lived together at her apartment on E 57th street in Manhatten. I lived there with him in 1973 while going to AMDA in the village.He was a nice man, and seemed to draw real good. I enjoyed Couragous Cat very much. Sorry to hear of his passing

  14. on 04 Feb 2012 at 8:54 pm 14.Mike Glaser said …

    I worked with the guys on tubby the tuba. It was great fun…. Just wish the IVC-9000 1″ video machines for frame rendering to tape worked for more then 5 minutes in a row!
    I also built the synchronizer system that we used to sync the apex mm-1000 audio to video.

    Anybody reading this who’s now at pixar?

    Mike Glaser

  15. on 04 Feb 2012 at 8:55 pm 15.Mike Glaser said …

    Anyone want the audio and video renderings from tubby?

  16. on 10 Jul 2013 at 3:57 pm 16.scooby doo on zombie island said …

    Sweet site, super layout, very clean and utilise friendly.

  17. on 07 Jul 2014 at 2:48 pm 17.after umbilical cord falls off said …

    Hi to every , as I am in fact eager of reading this weblog’s post to
    be updated regularly. It carries good data.

  18. on 15 Jul 2014 at 5:03 am 18.larp waffen said …

    You made some really good points there. I checked on the web to learn more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

  19. on 09 Aug 2014 at 7:43 pm 19.pĹ‚oty ogrodowe said …

    Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my myspace group? There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content. Please let me know. Thank you

  20. on 02 Mar 2015 at 11:20 pm said …

    Coinbase is the globe’s biggest platform for dealing bitcoin for US dollars
    at the current market price.

  21. on 30 Mar 2015 at 10:58 pm 21.comment pirater un compte facebook said …

    Awesome blog you have here but I was curious if you knew of any
    message boards that cover the same topics talked about in this
    article? I’d really love to be a part of online community where
    I can get comments from other experienced individuals
    that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.


  22. on 08 Apr 2015 at 2:04 pm said …

    You can share tthe tunes you create with people around the globe.
    When a client confirms the appointment, the event appears
    in your Googlke Calehdar and you gget an e-mail alert.
    Consider tthe all adcvantages and disqdvantages
    of both of them and choose the choice that is going too be
    bedst for youu to understand this application.

  23. on 14 Sep 2015 at 4:27 am 23.Cvecara Online said …

    Hello there! Very good post! Please inform us when I will see a follow up!

Subscribe to the comments through RSS Feed

Leave a Reply

eXTReMe Tracker
click for free hit counter

hit counter