I posted this in the summer of 2008. I’ve ganged two parts together to make one read.
- Back in 1976, I was working on John Hubley‘s Bicentennial flm, PEOPLE PEOPLE PEOPLE. This was a short film, four minutes long, that had about a million scenes. It told the history of the US (from the standpoint of populating and overpopulating) beginning 17760 BC and ending in 1976 AD.
It started with some lengthy scenes. As the film moved on, the cuts came faster, until they hit about 6 frames apiece toward the film’s end. The final scene, from space, was the longest in the film.
There were no characters that appeared in any more than one scene. That meant that with each scene, there were new setups, new characters, new colors, new everything. As a result, it took much longer than other films and was a difficult one to pull off. But like all other Hubley efforts, it was fun. Tissa David, Jack Schnerk, Lu Guarnier, Phil Duncan and Bill Littlejohn animated it. I colored about 2/3 of the film and animated at least a dozen or two scenes (some really were only 6 frames – like that auto shot posted). I also assisted/inbetweened all of the animators.
Swedes cut down all the trees in PEOPLE PEOPLE PEOPLE.
The studio, at the time, was buzzing because John and Faith had just sold a dream project to CBS. EVERYBODY RIDES THE CCAROUSEL was an adaptation of Erik Erikson‘ 1956 book, Eight Stages of Development. Erikson was a psychologist who theorized that man goes through eight stages of development from birth to death, and he proceeds to break them down. The Hubleys took this book and broke these eight stages into horses on a carousel.
The three half hour Special shows for CBS would be about these carousel horses and the ride.
Each of the stages would be broken into two different subsets, and these would be depicted through stories which were roughly developed visually by John and Faith. Once the funding started to tricle in (about $450,000 for all three shows) they would cast their many actors and have them improvise in the recording studios to the storyboarded set pieces.
While those recordings progressed, the small studio staff was busied in completing animation, artwork and rendering of PEOPLE PEOPLE PEOPLE.
The man on the moon and the Irish immigrants.
He’d done two drawings of snow for the blizzard. Both wildly different from each other.
He asked me to ink them, then flop the drawings and ink them again.
He’d exposed the four drawings on fours. He also had the trapper with
snowshoes walking on fours. He felt it would help us feel a struggle in his
walking through the snowstorm. He felt the fours might add weight.
The scene worked beautifully, and was excellent the first time out.
Not quite the way they’d have done it at Disney. Tricks of the trade.
– We started slowly on Everybody Rides the Carousel. There was a six month schedule for about 72 mins of animation. Three half-hour original tv shows for CBS about 24 mins each. They’d air in the late summer of 1975 just prior to the start of the new tv season. Each show would air a day apart from the others – three nights in a row.
John and Faith spent a lot of time – a lot of time – at RCA studios on 45th Street. (It’s
____ The carousel was bottom lit & became soft focus.____-_ now an IRS office.) They recorded many of the voices playing the numerous parts in their show. I tried to time meeting them there a couple of times hoping to meet some of the actors (I particularly wanted to see Jack Gilford in action. He was doing an hilarious part with his wife, playing a couple of cranky old people in a diner.) It didn’t work out that way, but I did see the facility and heard parts in process.
The key staff working IN the studio (not counting animators who would, for the most part, work freelance) included Ida Greenberg. Ida was a brilliant checker / coordinator who’d started back in the Florida days of the Fleischer studio. (She told me a few great stories about Gulliver’s Travels.) Ida was a great woman, with the thickest New Yowk accent, who never seemed to buckle under pressure. I grew very close to her. I tried after that to have Ida everywhere I worked. She led Raggedy Ann’s I&Pt and R.O.Blechman’s special.
Kate Wodell was a student of the Hubleys at Yale. She was a talented artist who’d moved into production during the making of Cockaboody and continued on staff there. Sometimes she colored, sometimes she animated, sometimes she did whatever was necessary. This was exactly how I moved into the studio and loved the experience. She worked with Faith for many years after John died.
Earl was given the carousel to animate. This came from a couple of elaborate drawings John did. Earl worked 16 fld. using a 96 drawing cycle. It gave us a lot of opportunity to move in tight or stay wide. However, it was a nightmare that took forever. Joe Gray was hired to assist Earl. (Joe started during the Terrytoons strike and never left. Many of those who knew him as a “scab” never forgave him and had only horrid things to say about him to me some thirty years later. He was a lifetime assistant like a handful of other noted names in NY.)
This scene moved so slowly through production that I kept jumping in to assist as well. I was a fast assistant, but that carousel slowed even me down. 8 horses moved in perspective in a circle; there were 96 different rotating views of all the horses. I’d guess the scene took about 10 weeks to complete.
I was also doing layout and animation of a lot of connecting scenes throughout the production. These were scenes that would have to blend from one animator to another, or John had decided to go in tight for a closeup. In one case with Art Babbitt’s mime character, I was asked to change it from two’s to four’s with a dissolve technique John taught me (he said they’d used it on Fantasia.)
There were four people in my room, Earl, Joe, me and Mark Hubley. He worked alongside me for most of the film. He colored artwork given him by Ida, who was working in the larger room next door. Mark and I had a good releationship going back the many years I worked there. He joined the studio once he completed college. Emily Hubley worked alongside Kate and Ida.
Two younger, more experimental animators were brought in by John. Adam Beckett had made a name for himself with the films he was doing at CalArts.
Fred Burns was doing some incredible work at UCLA. They both were very different and added their unique touch.
Adam did a scene a couple of scenes wherein office furniture floated about in a very complicated surreal cycle. Fred did this amazing scene of a roller coaster from the POV of the rider. He and I worked together a number of times after that, and we’ve stayed friends.
I hope to have more to say about some of these films I worked on.