- Last week, I posted a stash of photos taken by John Canemaker for the book he wrote called, “The Animated Raggedy Ann and Andy.”
John Canemaker took all the photos, himself, which led to a more intimate look at an animated film. There were no photo decisions by committee; it was decided to use a photo if it told the story John was trying to relay. For that reason, the book really is one of the best “Art of . . .” type books on the market. (I’m not just saying that because there were photos of me in there – though that would be a good reason, too.)
The book was as exciting – in the making – as was the film. Too bad at the last minute the train of a film ran wildly off the tracks. In a way, I wish the book were written after the film was completed so that we could read the true story of what happened in those last six months of chaos.
The decision was slow in growing and fast when it finally fell, that the movie was enormously over budget. I was in on all the morning production meetings where managers and supervisors and directors would all meet. Those had started off nicely, at the beginning of the film, and went insanely wrong before long. There was the time when I was ordered to fire – that day – two inbetweeners. I was told that we had to give the staff a lesson that they had to work harder. (That might have been hard to do since everyone was giving it their all.) It so happened that one new inbetweener, on her first scene, ignored my instructions (and her immediate supervisor’s) by erasing all of Jack Schnerk‘s drawings. She felt she could animate the scene better, and she set out to prove that.
One down. The second person to fire was someone I was told (by Dick Williams, himself,) that I had to fire. It was obvious that there was a personality conflict since the guy was a great artist and definitely someone who should have stayed on. I was able to arrange for him to be switched to the BG department, thus fired by me from doing inbetweens and hired by them, in the same day, to do watercolors. He continues on, even today, working at a top position in design at Blue Sky. I don’t know about the woman, but I hope she gained a little humility that day 30-something years ago. That story didn’t make it into the book.
What there was in the production was a great first year of production where the art of animation was treated in its highest form. We were all out to make the greatest film of all time and bring it to the big screen. We had some of animation’s finest animators gathered to work on it. Assistants and Inbetweeners in New York were offered classes, after hours, which tried to teach animation to the new. With teachers like Tissa David and Art Babbitt and more experienced Assistants; a lot was conveyed. I was usually too busy to make it to many of these classes, but I always kept a close eye on what was taught. It really was fun and incredibly valuable to many of us.
At some point along the way, the LA studio was closed and key people from there came here. All of our space was overcrowded and uncomfortable. The Xeroxing in NY, a sweet grey line that took a while to construct, was replaced by a thick back line, when management sent work to Hanna-Barbera to outsource the xerography and some of the painting. Shadows were eliminated. Color copiers were rented. Scenes that had been animated in a non-photo blue pencil on 16 fld paper were being copied and reduced, at the same time, in B&W so that they could use 12 fld cels to color the art. A penny saved is a penny gained; I guess. This meant that a number of my inbetweeners were used to put 4 sets of crosses on the animation drawings so that there’d be some form of registration on the reduced artwork. Certainly the registration went all to hell in the process, thus allowing the latter half of the film to have a lot of slippage on the big screen. Lots of weaving animation in scenes that were rushed.
Emery Hawkins‘ amazing taffy pit took a big hit when it was animated more like a limited animation movie. All that beautiful rolling motion Emery had created on the cinemascope screen suddenly hits the wall and stasis sets in. The film was never going to be a classic of he silver screen, but it should have been a hell of a lot better.
Here I am doing what I did most of the day.
I talked on the phone. Ennervating stuff.
A young Kevin Petrilak is in the rear left. He was an inbetweener
in the Taffy Pit. Dan Haskett ran that group of people.
Here’s Art Babbitt teaching. He loved doing that. Dick tried to
recreate the classes he’d had in London a couple of years earlier. We – all New York -
sure appreciated the two weeks of lessons. I have Dick’s notes from these sessions.
This is a wall of stats. It represents footage counts produced in
every department working on the film. This hung in Mike Sisson’s office.
He was the production manager who tried to usurp the entire production.
A couple of weeks before everything changed, managerially, on Raggedy, Sissons
approached Cosmo Anzilotti and me at lunch. He saw us at the restaurant and came
over to us. He wanted to lead a take over cutting Dick out of the film and
putting Cosmo in to finish directing the film. I’d be made Cosmo’s assistant.
I had no intentions of being another Iago, and said as much.
I told Cosmo that Dick had brought me onto the film, and I’d do anything for
him. If it meant leading a large group to quit the show, I’d do that. Cosmo
seemed relieved. He wanted to do the same and we both told Sissons how we
felt. He greeted our news with an ass’ smile and thanked us. We were no
longer on the winners’ side, and I watched closely to know when to exit.
This was where the NY headquarters were planted. In the middle of 45th Street.
Most studios in the forties and fifties had places on 45th Street. Paramount,
Hal Seeger’s studio, lots of other smaller studios such as Pablo Ferro or Ray Seti’s.
Didi Conn was the actress who voice Raggedy Ann. When the VOs were coming
to an end, Didi worked late and her mother was with her. They needed help
getting home (Long Island.) The mother was afraid to drive. I volunteered
and drove them home. I took the Long Island Rail Road back to the City.
This is Sue Butterworth with Dick Williams. She was the watercolorist who
led the BG department and designed the wc style of the film. I thought her
work a bit inconsistent and often lacked the dynamic look good BGs require.
Here’s a picture of Dick Williams with his daughter,Claire.
Claire played the part of Marcella, the little girl at the film’s start.
They shot the live action in Boonton, NJ during the first days of the
production. All those hours they were out filming, I watched the shop.
Alone in an enormous darkened most of the time in the enormous office,
I could only spend time reading and rereading the script and sketching
my idea of some of the characters.Infrequently, the financial manager
of Lester Osterman Prods., the production company, would pass through.
George Bakes was a fiercely independent animator who worked a short
while on the film. He must have started at Disney on Sleeping Beauty. He’d often
show a lot of Milt Kahl drawings he’d had from that film.
Gerry Chniquy was a brilliant animator straight out of WB.
He’d done a lot of Yosemite Sam animation for Friz Freleng.
It wasn’t far to go to cast him as the blowhard of a King, King Coo Coo.
Marty Brill voiced the character. Gerry Chiniquy,of course, did a fine job,
John Celestri had a style all his own although he idolized Bill Tytla.
Not a bad person to pick for a role model. John was an Assistant on
the film. Here he’s working with inbetweener, Amanda Wilson. Amanda was
the daughter of the great cartoonist and animation designer, Rowland Wilson.
The last of these photos will come next week. Many thanks to John Canemaker for the loan of the images. Any opinions tossed about here, are all mine and John is not to blame for them.