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Animators Are My Peeps
This hub is about my life in animation. (Historical figures' names are in capital letters. Disney fans, please scroll to the bottom to see that work.)
From the time I began animation school in Canada, I realized that other animators were "my peeps," people who "got" me, people with whom I'm still in touch to this day. To paraphrase Charlie the Dog from Chuck Jones' cartoon Often an Orphan, we are fifty percent draftsmen, fifty percent actor, fifty percent child, fifty percent geek, but mostly we're all looney.
I attended a diploma program at Sheridan College's International Summer School of Animation. There I met ZLATKO GRGIC, a well-known animator from Zagreb, Yugoslavia. That's him in the black-and-white photo, back row, far right. Later I was taught by ZACK SCHWARTZ, one of the guys who started UPA, and CHUCK JONES once came for a weekend visit.
Zack, Zlatko, and Kaj Pindal
The Sheridan Program
The program at Sheridan was set up like this: first quarter we animated a bouncing ball, waving flag, two-legged walk across, two legged walk cycle, and a four legged walk across. Second quarter we did a sound sync exercise where we were provided with sound effects and had to match our animation to them, then a lip sync exercise where we made a small film of characters talking. We had to cast our own actors and record them in the recording studio there at the school, with the help of an on-staff sound engineer.
Third quarter we were to make a completed short film. (Images from that to come later!) Of course, it was all hand-drawn on paper and shot on film.
Because it was a summer diploma program, most of the students were older and already had their BAs. This created a slightly more disciplined atmosphere than there had been at my undergraduate college.
The Early Eighties
The first place I ever worked was a studio called Carter/Mendez and later Tom Carter Productions. I'll tell you more about that later. The job at Carter lasted only a few months, and then, and I got by for a couple of years by working freelance at various commercial studios, along with having to work at the mall. It was during this time that I briefly worked at Richard Williams' Studio and was fortunate enough to sit in on ART BABBIT'S animation classes there.
Art was one of the early Disney animators who helped define that classical style of animation, taking character animation from silly rubber-hose characters to characters who had solid anatomy, had a character background, and seemed to think. Art also led the 1941 animators strike, creating the first animator's union.
A little while later, I was hired as Production Assistant at the new Film Roman studio. We did Garfield specials. I was later promoted to Assistant Animator, and then left there to work at Filmation. Clips from those projects can be viewed below.
Credits to "Garfield's Halloween Adventure"
My Big Fat Garfield Screen Credit
My first screen credit was for Garfield in the Rough where Garfield, Jon and Odie go camping. I was the Production Assistant, which meant I did administrative duties, ran errands, made coffee and copies, answered phones, etc. The company was new so I learned all about how to set up an animation studio and I learned all about the traditional production pipeline. The studio was headed by Phil Roman who had worked with Chuck Jones, Ralph Bakshi, and Bill Melendez. Bill Littlejohn, Lloyd Vaughn and Bob Carlson were animators on the project.
Here's my very SECOND screen credit, from Garfield's Halloween Adventure . I think it still airs on TV every Halloween, and you can find clips from it on YouTube. I love this little Garfield pirate song: "Sixty men all lost at sea, all of 'em drunk except for me...".
BTW, here is my favorite site about Garfield: http://garfieldminusgarfield.net/
So Bad It's Good: '80's Pinocchio Movie
"Pinocchio & Emperor" Screen Credit
This is my third screen credit for a rather bad movie called "Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night." How NOT to make a movie. Yikes. Nevertheless, I like to give props to Lou Scheimer of Filmation for keeping so many animators employed for so many years. Scan these credits for well-known animators like Mark Dindal, Randy Fullmer, and Bruce Smith.
"Emperor of the Night" voiced by James Earle Jones
The Somewhat Cool Villain and Cheesy Story Twist
...OK, I did work on The Emperor, who was kinda cool and voiced by none other than Darth Vader himself, James Earle Jones. But later in this clip is the most contrived story bit EVER. Pinocchio uses his "when I lie my nose grows" powers for good...*cringe*...
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfelles
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfelles
This was my fourth screen credit (as "Lee Crowe Sperling"; I was married at the time...) and my second feature with Filmation. OK, it's also kinda funky looking but as I recall had a little better story than the Pinocchio sequel that we did there. I worked mostly on Snow herself with Philo Barnhardt and Bronnie Barry. It was a fun place to work!
Check out some of the voice talent: Ed Asner, Phyllis Diller, Dom Deluise, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Carole Channing, Malcom McDowell, and Jonathon Harris as Sunflower. ("Oh Will, the pain, the pain...")
Also DAVE HILBERMAN worked on the storyboards. This is a guy who helped start UPA and had trouble getting work after the communist witch hunts of the '50s.
I did not meet any of these famous people but had a good time with the animation crew. Lifelong friendships were formed.
Disney World's Animation Studio Tour
Back To Neverland!
This very special project was made in 1988, just after the closing of Filmation.
Great project, great company (BRC), great artists, great director (Jerry Rees). I was the key assistant on Captain Hook and worked with Bruce Smith and Mark Kausler. Hopefully Disney will let it stay on Youtube for a while. Here's some trivia: Bruce is the animator in the live action part of the film that says to Robin "OK, lets go." He created Proud Family and recently animated the Shadow Man in The Princess and the Frog.
BRC is a fabulous company in Burbank, CA, that specializes in setting up theme park attractions, and subcontracted this project from Disney. Disney liked our work so much that they hired most of us on The Little Mermaid.
Finally Hired at Disney
...So as a result of working on Back To Neverland, I finally got my dream job at Disney to work on The Little Mermaid. Over the years I had submitted my portfolio to Disney five times before being hired there. I got to work, not on Ariel, mind you, but on her father King Triton. What can I say, I love big bellowing long-haired angry men. In cartoons, not in real life.
Andreas Deja was the principle animator. This clip is what they call "fan-dub ready"; it's the only way Disney will allow stuff on YouTube lately -- so Ariel's voice is missing. Who cares; it's missing for a big chunk of the movie too (no offense, Jody B.; I'm actually a huge fan...). This is the sequence where I have the most work.
Nazis in The Little Mermaid??? Yes, it's true. OK; actors who had other roles as Nazis. Kenneth Mars, the voice of Triton, also played Franz Liebkind, the writer of "Springtime for Hitler" in the original version of Mel Brooks' The Producers, as well as Wilhelm Friedrich Kemp (a Nazi-like guy if not a genuine Nazi) in Young Frankenstein. Ben Wright ("Grimsby") also played "Herr Zeller", that Nazi from The Sound of Music who tries to make Captain Von Trapp serve the third reich.