Animation &Frame Grabs &Hubley 26 Mar 2008 08:23 am

Hubley Bumper

- One of my all time favorite pieces of Hubley animation was a station ID for WNDT-TV, New York’s public service station back in the 60′s. I thought of this spot last week when I posted the piece about Stanley Kaufman’s Art of Film for that station. It ultimately became WNET, NY’s PBS channel 13.

This spot was undoubtedly animated by Bill Littlejohn, and I think it’s one of his finest pieces. The timing is excellent. He obviously animated straight ahead; the characters distort and morph to the needs of the animation. It’s a full 2mins: 40 secs, so it would qualify as a short film these days,

The piece ran in B&W. It employed the multiple exposure technique. The characters had black paint filling everything bu the animation drawing. This was double exposed over the BG, hence a see-through quality to the characters. This techniques was used on Moonbird, The Hole, Of Stars and Men and several other Hubley shorts.

Here are some frame grabs of the spot.

The two guys come out on to the stage and take a bow.

They greet each other, light up and sit down.

A little bored, they both turn on TV’s. The little guy gets involved.

He takes out a book and takes notes comparing it with what’s going on his TV.

He goes back to watching. The big guy laughs at something until he gets bored again.

The big guy practices some wrestling moves until that gets dull.

Little guy does some brush painting. Big guy laughs again.

Little guy practices Russian. The big guy gets annoyed.

The big guy takes out a comb and starts combing until . . .

.. he has grease all over his head. The little guy grows a plant.

The little guy takes out a cello and starts to play. This annoys the big guy.

He pulls up the little guys screen. Public Television !

Embarrassed, he bows to the “Arts” station.

He turns to it on his own TV. He’s planning for something great.

They watch intently until the big guy makes sure little guy knows he’s still watching.

“Brain food” They watch intently.

The big guy falls asleep while the little guy goes back to his book. Dissolve to station card.

I love how the shapes of the characters shift and distort and change throughout the piece always coming back to the original models. This is a sure sign of straight ahead animation, and it almost makes the acting feel like an improvisation exercise by two actors. It supercedes animation and becomes acting.

The obviously loose time of the piece shows that the animator was probably given a lot of leeway with his timing, and he took it. As I said, I have no proof that Bill Littlejohn animated it, but I’ve never doubted it for a moment. It’s certainly as much his style as it is Hubley’s.

That is the odd thing about working for a director with a strong personality. I remember the day that I looked at one of my drawings and realized that it looked like one of my drawings, but there was no doubt it was a Hubley. Something happens, and you just end up drawing in their style.

6 Responses to “Hubley Bumper”

  1. on 26 Mar 2008 at 8:46 am 1.Tim Rauch said …

    Wow, this stuff is just superb. The poses are all popping with information, especially the section where the little guy pulls out a cello. The way he hooks his nose over the instrument, the glide of his hand against the bow, and the gestures of the big guy, from recoiling to arcing his body across the screen create an incredible dynamic and really tell the story. I always admired the animation Bill did in those Hubley films. His stuff worked on such a relatively low frame rate because he could juice a drawing for emotion with the best of ‘em. Another textbook post Michael, thanks!

  2. on 26 Mar 2008 at 11:06 am 2.Michael J. Ruocco said …

    Howard Beckerman showed us this in one of our ‘History of Animation’ classes not too long ago. It’s a awesome commercial with some awesome animation. That’s the kind of stuff I like to see in animation!

  3. on 26 Mar 2008 at 9:10 pm 3.Tom Sito said …

    Oh my God, Mike! I remember these spots when they ran the first time! Thanks for making me feel oldie and mouldy!

  4. on 27 Mar 2008 at 12:05 am 4.Marc Deckter said …

    Great post! I’ll have to seek this commercial out – I love straight ahead animation.

  5. on 01 Apr 2008 at 2:45 am 5.Eddie Fitzgerald said …

    Genius!!!! I can’t wait to see the whole film!

  6. on 04 Apr 2008 at 1:19 pm 6.Brooke Keesling said …

    Wow- such great shapes…I really love this stuff- thanks so much for posting. It makes me want to go watch my favorite Hubley film, ‘The Tender Game’.

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