Lögberg-Heimskringla - 06.12.1985, Blaðsíða 3

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 06.12.1985, Blaðsíða 3
WINNIPEG, FOSTUDAGUR 6. DESEMBER 1985-3 Animation Central by Gene Walz The History of Animation in Winnipeg "It's a great talent," according to LaRoche-foucauld, "to be able to con- ceal one's talents." If he's right, then Winnipeg's animators must be among the most talented in the galaxy. Consider the following: — Winnipeg has a longer and steadier 'history' of animation than most other cities in North America, dating back to perhaps 1910; — the designer of one of the most famous creatures in cartoon history, Bugs Bunny, was from Winnipeg; — during the 1950s one Winnipeg company was among the largest animation houses in the world, employing thirty people full-time to create animated commercials; — for the past six years CBC tele- vision has broadcast more examples of animation made in Winnipeg than NHL hockey games; — Winnipeg's current group of animators have won more than a dozen international film awards since 1979. If this is all news to you, you are not alone. Winnipeg animation has to now been, unfortunately, one of the best kept secrets in the movie busi- ness. But this is about to change. Dur- ing 1985 the Prairie production office of the National Film Board will release four short animated movies: Brad Caslor's Get a Job, Richard Con- die's The Big Snit, Alan Pakarnyk’s Carried Away, Cordell Barker’s The Cat Came Back. With luck, the animations, past and present, will finally get the recognition they deserve. Winnipeg, like Kansas City — where Walt Disney got his start — is not as unlikely a place for animation as it might seem. As a transportation centre, it has been directly connected to the latest developments in twenti- eth century culture, yet isolated enough to have to rely on its own re- sources. It has a hardy arts com- munity and a School of Fine Art to supply the talent and training. Its climate (those notorious long, cold, lonely nights) gives people the time and perhaps instills in them the pa- tience to labour over the necessary twelve to twenty-four drawings per second used in animation. And, more importantly for animation than for any other kind of film, it is a centre of commerce; for animators need commercials to sustain themselves. The oldest existing animation made in Winnipeg is ample proof of this commercial connection. It is part of a promotional film entitled The Man Who Woke Up, written by William Ganson Rose and directed by J.A. Norling for the Federated Budget Board of Winnipeg in 1919. The film tells the story of a miser who refuses to give to charities. A visit to a hospital full of small children re- unites him with his lost, orphaned grand-daughter. Back home he falls asleep, and his dream is presented as a blue-tinted cartoon. "In cartoon- ology", according to the National Film Archives catalogue, "he sees the charities closed, the hospital closed, and awakens to the horrible realiza- tion that if he does not give, these terrible things might become a re- ality." Nothing is known about Norl- ing and the making of this film except that he went on to make movies in the United States. If Norling is the grandfather of Winnipeg animation, then Jean Arsin is probably the great-grandfather and Charles Lambly its most illustrious early ancestor. According to film- maker Francis J.S. (Frank) Holmes, sometime around 1910 or 1911 Arsin was making 35mm ani- mated movies featuring articulated puppets in a sandlot and a tarpaper shack on Selkirk Avenue. Unfor- tunately, no evidence of these movies now seems to exist. Lambly created the most ambitious animated movie in the history of Winnipeg animation, a twenty to twenty-five minute film called Romulus and Remus commis- sioned by the Montreal Catholic Diocese. The cartoon figures of this 1926 film were showcard cutouts with movable neck, arm, and leg joints. Romulus and Remus, now lost, was noteworthy for its artwork according to Holmes, who assisted Lambly on the project and who was to animate a section of his own film, Each Year They Come, made for Ducks Unlimited in 1946. The expatriot uncle in the family of Winnipeg animators is Charles G. Thorson. A restless man, Charlie Thorson left his commercial artist's position at the Brigden ad agency to try his fortune in Hollywood. Hired immediately by Disney studios, he worked on many cartoons for them, chiefly on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. His forte was the creation of anthropomorphic cartoon animals; he created over one hundred of them in his career, most notably the in- famous Bugs Bunny. Though he rarely stayed very long at any studio, he worked at all the major 'cartoon factories' of the time — from Disney to MGM to Warner Bros. to Fleischers. The Brigden ad agency was also the launching platform for the most suc- cessful animation venture in the city's history. In 1948 John Phillips and Harry Gutkin split from Brigdens to form their own small company. By the time nationwide television came to Canada, they had several short promotional films and local advertis- ing animation to their credit and thus were able to compete with Toronto for the lucrative television commer- cials market. Their first national ac- count was for Libby's Foods, adver- tising on the first National Movie Night on CBC in 1954. The commer- cial was, in trade parlance, a 'sand- wich' — the opening and closing sec- tions involved animation of "Libby’s Quality-Control Cops" and the mid- dle part was live-action. Within a year or so Phillips Gutkin and Associ- ates were averaging fifteen to thirty commercials per month. Their na- tional accounts included Kellogg's Cereal, Kraft Foods, Chrysler Corporation, Simonize Wax, Blue Ribbon Tea, and the Bank of Canada. To cover their commitments, PGA at one point employed thirty people, several of whom were to gain re- nown on their own (most notably, animators Barrie Nelson and Barrie Helmer, filmmakers Bill Mason, Blake James and Don Campbell, and political cartoonist Jan Kamienski). A typical example of PGA's anima- tion at the time was the Windsor Salt "Wacky Bird". The character was a simple line-drawing caricature of an anthropomorphized creature set on a blank or minimalized background and made to perform basic, set-piece actions. Their success with these commercials led the company to join with the prestigious Halas and Bat- chelor animation house of England to alternate production of a proposed weekly cartoon show entitled T. EddyBear. In 1959 a pilot show was produced in colour and in the UPA (United Productions of America) style popular at the time. The failure of this program to generate any in- terest and a sudden ruling by the CBC to ban animation from adver- tising tor children's-based products led to the deinL^ of the company. The end of this modest "golden age” of Winnipeg animation came in 1966 when Phillips Gutkin and Associates merged back with Brigdens, selling off their film and animation equip- ment and retreating into the safe con- fines of printed advertising and com- mercial art. The final links to the present gen- eration of animators are provided by Kenn Perkins and the CBC. Both Perkins' Border Street studio in St. James and the CBCs Sesame Street shop have been in operation for some time, and both have given most if not Continued on page 6. 111 Bergen ■ Oslo ■ Copenhagen ■ Gothenburg ■ Stockholm — From — Hew York ■ Chicago ■ Detroit ■ Baltimore/Washington This season, Icelandair goes to Scandinavia like never before! With improved direct schedules from New York to Copenhagen on quick same-plane service via Iceland. With flights to Oslo’s close-in Fomebu Airport, most convenient to the city. With the only transatlantic service from the U.S. to Bergen. V/ith special options that permit you to fly to one city and retum from another or from Luxembourg, our chief continental gateway, at no extra cost. With no lower scheduled fares. THE BEST PAfíT 0F YOUfí TRIP T0 SCANDINAVIA COULDBEA FfíEE STOPOVEfí INICELAND. Fly Icelandair roundtrip to Scandinavia and you’ll enjoy a free 48-hour stopover in Reykjavik. 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