Articles on Animation &Hubley 23 Jan 2010 09:05 am

Up from Bugs

- It was definitely a more innocent time back then.
I found this article in the Aug. 5, 1961 issue of the New Yorker,
the Talk of the Town section:

    Up from Bugs

    The film officer of the United Nations Children’s Fund is a buoyant lady named Susan Burnett. Miss Burnett has given a little party at the U.N. to honor Mark and Hampy Hubley, the two very young narrators – Mark is eight and Hampy (short for Hampton) is four – of “Children of the Sun” an animated cartoon produced for UNICEF by the narrstors’ parents, John and Faith Hubley. We were among those present at the party, along with the Hubleys; absent, for reasons ranging from professional engagements elsewhere to afternoon naps, were several other contributors to the film’s sound track, including the narrators’ sister Emily, who is two; their sister Georgia, not yet one; the Budapest String Quartet; the violist Walter Trampler; and Pablo Casals.

    The party began with a showing of the cartoon in the small basement screening room of the Secretariat Building. A charming sketch of important events in the life of a young child – spearing peas on a plate, climbing trees, daydreaming at the shore – it end with a quiet, harrowing comment to the effect that this happy child is fr from being typical of most of the children on earth, three-quarters of whom ar suffering from some degree of hunger. Except for a few concluding words recited in English by Mark Hubley (“For the first time in history, nations are united to rid the world of hunger . . . . The United Nations, through UNICEF, is dedicated to the children of the sun. The future of the earth depends on them.”), the sound track requires no dubbing for use in other countries, since the language it peas is either musical – excerpts from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5, Haydn’s “Sunrise” Quartet, and Mozart’s Quintet in E Flat – or extraverbal, being the crowings and gurglings of various Hubleys, ingeniously synchronized with the action of the cartoon. Hampy identified the family sounds for us. “That’s Georgia,” he said during a bottle-feeding scene, and, during the pea-spearing one, “That’s Emily. She made those noises when we gav her a puzzle to play with.” The sounds of horseplay accompanying the seaside episode were made by Hampy, himself. “Me imitating a orchestra,” he said with pride. “I can do all the instruments, one at a time.”

    When the movie was over, the party adjourned to the Delegates’ South Lounge, where refreshments appropriate to the assorted ages of the guests were served. Miss Burnett proposed a toast to the Hubleys, adding, for our benefit, that UNICEF is happier about “Children of the Sun” than about any other film it has put our. Miss Brunett discovered the Hubleys through their cartoon short “Moonbird,” which won an Academy Award two years ago. When she approached them, the were busy preparing their first feature-length cartoon – an adaptation of Harlow Shapley’s book “Of Stars and Men.” “What Miss Burnett told us about children starving all around the world was so shocking that we had to accept her assignment, which was to state the simple fact that children are hungry and to state it in such a way that it would be instantly comprehensible in any language or culture of locality or political circumstances,” Mr. Hubley said. “To keep matters both interesting and universal in a film is quite a job. Bug cartoons, which are what I started my career in, are easy, because a bug is so specific. Only a Paul Klee could make a bug that was interesting, generalized, and yet true to nature.”

    Mr. Hubley a native of Wisconsin, was once an art director for Walt Disney, drawing not only bugs but such advanced cartoon images as the “Rite of Spring” sequence in “Fantasia.” After the war, in which he helped to make training films for the Army Air Forces, he had a hand in the famous UPA cartoon films, starring the Messrs. Magoo and McBoing-Boing. Five years ago, the Hubleys left Hollywood for New York and formed their own company here under the name of Storyboard, Inc. “We buy the groceries by making a few TV-commercial cartoons every year,” Hubley said. “The rest of the the time, we like to work on our own things, taking the attitude a painter would – making films that are a part of us and express something of us. A film is apt to cost us around twenty-five thousand dollars and, with luck, will pay for itself in ten years’ time.”

Sorry, I don’t have a copy of this film, and there are no stills of it on line so this goes without illustration.

One Response to “Up from Bugs”

  1. on 24 Jan 2010 at 1:40 am 1.Jeremiah said …

    Hi Michael,

    For anyone who’s curious, Children of the Sun was included in its entirety (minus Mark’s closing comments) on a 1973 episode of Screening Room with Robert Gardner, which can be found here:

    The show is truly a rare document – an hour long interview with John & Faith, interspersed with their films Eggs, The Hat, Zuckerkandl, and Children of the Sun – i believe the only instance of this exquisite film ever making it to video.

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