EDITORS NOTE: Today I am particularly proud to welcome my friend and colleague Harvey Deneroff to Cartoon Research for the first in a series of weekly posts. Harvey and I go way way back – in fact, we go back so far I cannot recall how or where we met, though I believe it was back in New York several decades ago. In the late 1980s I wrote for Harvey when he was editing Animation Magazine and again in the mid-1990s when he was editing AWN – and we’ve stayed in touch all throughout the years.
Harvey has spent the last ten and a 1/2 years teaching animation history, film studies and the story of visual effects at SCAD in Savannah and Atlanta Georgia. Upon his return to Southern California, he decided to visit the Animation Guild in search of a group of VHS tapes holding long ago on-camera interviews he had done on behalf of the union, at their Golden Award Banquets. To his surprise the material was found untouched, unwatched in over 25 years. He brought them to my office to review, and for help to preserve them.
What I saw on these tapes blew my mind. Here was Harvey and UCLA’s Dan McLaughlin doing a series of brief chats (some lasting only a minute, others up to four minutes or so) with veteran animators, inbetweeners, assistants, inkers and painters – some of the most important and unheralded members of the golden age of animation.
I knew we had to share these with the readers of Cartoon Research. Essentially Harvey and Dan asked each person to recount where they had worked during their long careers. Not very in-depth, but have you ever seen (or heard) the likes of Paul Fennell, Lloyd Vaughn or Al Bertino on camera? I hadn’t. This was “pure gold” to the likes of me.
I shan’t give away anymore names. I want you to be just as surprised as I was. Each Monday, Harvey will introduce another clip (or some weeks, two clips) here on Cartoon Research. Get ready – you are in for a real treat.
I want to thank The Animation Guild’s Business Representative, Steve Hulett – and especially Lyn Mantta, their Office Manager (the one who actually found the tapes) – as well as the entire Board of The Animation Guild for allowing us to debut this material here. – Jerry Beck
I will begin this series of brief video interviews – ones that Dan McLaughlin and I did for the 1984, 1986 and 1987 Cartoonist Union Golden Awards Banquets – with one I did with Carlo Anthony Vinci (née Carlo Antonio Vinciguerra) on Friday evening, January 20, 1984, at Sorrentino’s Restaurant, in Toluca Lake (in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley). There’s no rhyme or reason why we’re starting with Vinci, other than his was the first interview from that inaugural banquet digitized for this series. The tapes were produced by Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, IATSE Local 839 (now The Animation Guild), who put on the banquets from 1984 through 2005, though not for every year, and had been kept in their archives ever since. Before we get to my chat with Vinci, I thought I should provide some background.
In 1979, I did a series of oral history interviews for what is now the American Museum of the Moving Image, in New York, on the history of animation unions. I did this partly as a way to meet some of the friends and colleagues of my father, Joe Deneroff, who worked at Fleischer Studios, the Army Air Force’s First Motion Picture Unit (in Manhattan and Culver City), and Famous Studios before he died. However, I soon got caught up with the history of animation unions, especially the circumstances surrounding the Fleischer, Disney and Terrytoons strikes, and when I returned to the University of Southern California later that year to finish my PhD, the research became the basis of my dissertation (Popeye the Union Man), which I still hope to turn into a book.
Along the way, I got considerable help from the Cartoonists’ locals in both New York and Los Angeles, In the process, I became something of an unofficial historian for Local 839; this seems have been one of the reasons I was called upon to do a series of brief video interviews. The event was The First Annual Golden Awards Banquet honoring those who had been in the industry for 50 or more years. Dan McLaughlin, then head of the UCLA’s Animation Workshop, took on the task in 1986, while I returned in 1987. With the kind permission of The Animation Guild, Cartoon Research will be posting these interviews with my commentaries more or less weekly over the coming year or so.
The first banquet, as I recall, was part of the union’s efforts to improve morale after its disastrous 1982 strike against runaway production. Whether or not it accomplished this goal is something I can’t say, but the banquet itself, with 41 honorees, was a huge success, and was followed by others in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1992 and 2005.
It’s important to point out that the honorees came from a wide range of categories, from ink and paint to directors and producers, from the famous to the obscure. A number of important figures, such as Bob Clampett, for whatever reason, were not among the initial honorees; however, Clampett, for one, obviously couldn’t stay away and he clearly shows up in the background of today’s video. There was also a paucity of women that first night, the lack of which was rectified in later ceremonies.
What you’re going to see are the records of some rather brief (sometimes much too brief) encounters. Dan and I already knew some of those we talked to (a few also worked with my father); and there were some whom we had both met for the first time. Whether we knew them or not, we tried to get each to talk a little about themselves and to relate some of their fondest memories. While the interviews were not intended to be in-depth, they still seem to reveal aspects of the honorees I trust you will find interesting.
So, I begin with Carlo Vinci, who I talked to after the festivities proper were over and people were still schmoozing. The setup was a bit impromptu, with partygoers floating around in the background.
Some readers will recognize Vinci as one of John Kricfalusi’s heroes, especially for his work at Terrytoons (that’s his now-classic Krakatoa Katie animation at left) and Hanna-Barbera, where with Ed Benedict he helped create the studio’s style and look. He was especially important in the development of the The Flinstones, having animated the show’s first episode all by himself. Back in the 1930s, after Joe Barbera bluffed his way into a job at Van Beuren, Vinci quickly realized the novice didn’t know what he was doing and helped him out.
No wonder Barbera treated him so well when he left Terrytoons in 1955 for MGM and later found him work at Disney after that studio’s cartoon operation shut down; and it was his stay at MGM that seems to have provided Vinci with his some of fondest memories in the business. He also briefly talks a bit about his work as a painter and sculptor.
One wonders how Vinci’s Italian heritage influenced his work as an animator. It’s something of a cliché that Disney reflected an American Mid-Western sensibility, while Fleischer reflected New York’s ethnic melting pot. This milieu might also shed light on what was happening at the other major New York studios — Van Beuren and Terrytoons. After all, Italian-Americans played a key role in New York animation, including, among many others, Walter Lantz (who began in New York), Joe Oriolo and Nick Tafuri. And it was Vinci, among others, who helped create the ethnic stew at Terrytoons that helped nurture the likes of Ralph Bakshi.
For more on Vinci, Stephen Worth’s Animation Resources blog is a good place to start, including its biographical post here, which includes some of John Kricfalusi’s ruminations on Carlo Vinci’s animated dancing and animating The Flintstones, as well as links to other of John K.’s writings; then there is “Animation: Carlo Vinci Notes From Terry-Toons,” which reports on a visit by Worth and John K. to Vinci’s family, including his widow Margaret.
For now, here is my chat with Mr. Vinci in 1984:
NEXT WEEK: Rudy Zamora