Independent Animation &John Canemaker &repeated posts &Richard Williams &SpornFilms &Theater 15 Jan 2012 06:02 am

Photo recap – Woman of the Year

Recently, I found myself talking about my work on this show. It made me go back in search of this post from January 2007, and I thought I’d recap today. Hope you don’t mind.

Woman of the Year was a project that came to me in the second year 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. There was no time for pencil tests. I had to run to Boston, where the show was in try-outs, to project different segments weekly; 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, _______(All images enlarge by clicking.)
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.

5 Responses to “Photo recap – Woman of the Year”

  1. on 15 Jan 2012 at 6:19 pm 1.bill said …

    Nice to know you are the animator behind this, Michael. I always wondered. I remember seeing this during its Boston try out when I was young. I thought it was wonderful- Two of my favorite things, Broadway musicals and animation combined.

    A few years later I saw it on tour with Barbara Eden, and instead of animation, the actor sang the song with an actor in a “Katz” costume. Not quite the same…

    Any chance of posting a clip of this, Michael?

  2. on 15 Jan 2012 at 7:06 pm 2.Michael said …

    Bill, the animation is just Katz in a spotlight doing his half of the song (without the orchestra), so the clip isn’t pretty.I’ve never transferred it to DVD.

    I own the rights to the film, so theaters have to rent it from me. Technically, it’s too difficult for most theatrical companies to pull off, so they have to come up with something else. A guy in a suit!

  3. on 16 Jan 2012 at 5:59 pm 3.The Gee said …

    Once I was discussing some sort of experimental animation project for a play. Far away from Broadway; I think it was to be staged in San Francisco.

    I hadn’t seen any place or stage musical which actually incorporated the two before. With musicals, there’s been hybrids in films, of course, but, I wasn’t aware of anything at that time.

    In hindsight, do you feel it worked well and, given that the audience would focus upon the character animation (I assume that was anticipated), was it well received?

  4. on 16 Jan 2012 at 8:37 pm 4.Larry Ruppel said …

    Mike– Thanks so much for sharing the story and wonderful behind-the-scenes photos from this most unique project.

    I’ve always enjoyed the song between Katz and his creator, and would love to see footage, if it exists, of how the whole thing looked as presented on the stage.

    I suppose a creator interacting with his animated creation on stage had been done before– as Winsor McCay’s “wonderfully trained dinosaurus” Gertie!

  5. on 19 Jan 2012 at 6:41 pm 5.The Gee said …

    Where was my mind when I typed that?
    The whole vaudeville start for projected animation involved a stage…

    Other than concerts, I can’t think of instances where I’ve seen animation incorporated on any level.

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