Animation Artifacts &Photos &SpornFilms &Theater 01 Jun 2008 08:59 am

PhotoSunday Recap – WOTY

- Back in Jan 2007, I posted these photos from the animation production of Woman of the Year. I think these 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’ll discuss that film work some other day.)

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. 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.

5 6
5. Steve Parton works with painter Barbara Samuels
6. Joey Epstein paints with fire in her eyes.

Joey Epstein paints “Katz.”

8 9
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.

One of my quick stops from the lab on the way to Boston? No, I think this is a posed photo.

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.

4 Responses to “PhotoSunday Recap – WOTY”

  1. on 01 Jun 2008 at 1:15 pm 1.Bob Cowan said …

    Fantastic background piece! It’s great to see the others that put time and energy into the production receiving some much deserved credit…

  2. on 01 Jun 2008 at 8:02 pm 2.Tom Minton said …

    I recall a lengthy piece in the Los Angeles Times about your animated segments in “Woman of the Year” that ran back when it appeared on Broadway. I think Charles Solomon wrote it.

  3. on 02 Jun 2008 at 3:20 am 3.Jenny said …

    I remember the show opening, I remember reading the reviews-and I especially remember how much positive attention and outright hosannas your work got. I can just imagine the sort of phrases that you had to pull from “lone bright spot” etc.–that kind of thing, yes? Oh well!
    But what a thrill, to see your work in that context! A Broadway show! Pretty damn amazing. And so that was the very start of your studio as such? Wow.

  4. on 02 Jun 2008 at 7:42 am 4.Bill said …


    I remember seeing this as a kid in Boston and thinking how cool it was, Animation & Broadway musicals! The perfect combo for me back then. A few years ago, I saw this in regional theatre. They did that number with a guy in a suit. Not quite as effective.

    Michael, is there any chance you could show us the footage of this sequence?

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