This column, and, honeslty, *every* participation I have related to animation was, in some way, at least partially the fault of a few films. These productions tipped my interest beyond just watching; I wanted to both share animation I liked and make it as well. The ‘making it’ part has been, for the most part, animating on games and commercials (and some animation in a feature as well as storyboarding). The ‘sharing’ part is this column and the Thunderbean videos.
This sharing probably really started in late 1977, when my brother and I put on a puppet show at the Ann Arbor Public Library based on the animated feature Raggedy Ann and Andy. Even as an enthusiastic 9 year old, I wanted to share the film with people, and a puppet show seemed like the best way at that time to do so. My brother, a year older than me, went along willingly.
Above: I’m at the left here, with my brother Scott to the right. Our version of Gadzooks, one of the characters in the film, was made from a green garbage bag.
Below: Here’s me as the Greedy, in a Hefty bag. I wonder if they’d still let kids do stuff like this, risking suffocation for a kids puppet show. I wish my memory was better on how many kids showed up that night; the Ann Arbor News was there to take pictures though.
Of course, what I *really* wanted to do is show the Greedy sequence rather than be dressed up in a garbage bag. So, here, nearly 40 years later, I get that opportunity. Its the films 40th Anniversary, and its a shame its not out on Blu-ray yet. It’s not for a lack of trying though! This year, the film will be shown at the New York Animation Block Party, in 35mm. Ill be out there for the showing.The Greedy sequence was largely the work of genius animator Emery Hawkins, and its a marvel of interesting timing, funny visual ideas and funny drawing. Hawkins, of course, did beautiful animation at more studios than you can count. The extensiveness of the animation in this sequence probably would not exist – at least to this level – if Dick Williams wasn’t directing. What I like best about the scene is the creepiness of some of the drawing and ideas. The drawings of the Camel still make me laugh, especially how Emery loves to play around with his neck and rag doll-esque body throughout.
There’s one shot where he ducks down, exposing his large rear end right to the camera before slipping like jello into the cupcake carrying him and the dolls. One could watch this scene over and over and catch entirely different things each time.
Hawkins career included working for Disney, Mintz, Warner Brothers, MGM, Lantz, UPA, various spot studios and many of the Bill Melendez Peanuts specials. His invention in the simplest of scenes is almost always noticeable within moments. I especially loved his animation in Disney’s Donald’s Dream Voice and the Lantz Swing Symphony The Greatest Man in Siam, and so many other films.
Thad Komorowski shared an interview with Hawkins, originally conducted by John Canemaker for his excellent book The Animated Raggedy Ann and Andy. My copy of this book was dog eared and nearly destroyed within the first few years of ownership. It was the only book I could find as a kid that didn’t concentrate on Disney.
Young animator Dan Haskett was one of the main assistant animators on the sequence, keeping volumes and clarity working very well throughout these enormously detailed and complicated 16 field drawings. Heres a gag drawing, by Eric Goldberg, reprinted in Canemakers book:
I had a brief conversation with Dick Williams about Emery one year at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. Seeing the little smile come across his face when he started talking about Emery’s drawings was a tiny magic moment for me personally. He clearly loved thinking back on the talents of people that he employed.
There’s much more I’d like to say about this stuff of course… but instead of all of that, just enjoy the animation in this sequence, with a song by Sesame Street composer Joe Raposo. Scanned last year from a 35mm print. Make sure to watch it in HD if your computer will allow. Have a good week everyone!