Today, I will begin posting, in three parts, the official video of the First Golden Awards Banquet. To recap, the banquet was put on by the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists, IATSE Local 839’s (today’s Animation Guild), at Sorrentino’s Restaurant, in Toluca Lake, California, on January 20, 1984, to honor those who had been in animation for 50 years or more. (They also occasionally honored a comic strip/book artist or two, as some did fall under the union’s jurisdiction.) The first banquet honored 41 people, though only 36 showed up; it was a huge success and is remembered as one of the largest gathering of Golden Age animation artists since Montreal’s Expo ’67.
The idea for the affair came from Local 839’s Executive Board member Dori Littell-Herick (now Chair of the Department of Animation at Woodbury University, in Burbank), who wanted a way to have industry veterans honored by their peers. I also recall that the union also saw it as a way to heal the wounds from the disastrous 1982 strike.
At the time, I was doing my doctoral dissertation on the 1937 Fleischer strike, as well as gathering material on the Disney and Terrytoons strikes. In doing so, Local 839 provided invaluable assistance and I was delighted when they turned to me to do video interviews with the honorees. (I also did a video chat with the union’s Business Representative Bud Hester, who was not one of the honorees.) The interviews weretaped before and after the banquet; unfortunately, no copy of the videotape of the first set of these chats was found in the Guild’s archives. However, brief fragments of the missing interviews were included in the official banquet video, which is one of several reasons for posting it.
I need point out that the quality of the video is subpar and is probably best seen on a computer screen rather than a big screen TV. (The banquet was shot with two cameras and tapes do exist of the A and B rolls exist—the A roll on a good quality VHS tape and the B roll on Beta, which we haven’t viewed yet.)
The first part of the tape is the introductory part of the banquet, with remarks by Harry “Bud” Hester, Local 839 President Karan Storr and voice actor and radio personality Gary Owens, who served as Master of Ceremonies. It also includes a presentation of greetings from New York Local 841 by Golden Award honoree John (“Johnny Gent”) Gentillela. It also includes a fragment of my chat with Hester, where he briefly mentions his work as a key assistant to several of Disney’s Nine Old Men. (Steve Hulett, the current Business Rep, has posted a lengthy podcast of his interview with Hester on the Guild’s website, where he also talks of his experience working with Bob Clampett.) I did not interview Storr, though she will be the subject of a later posting; her election as president was, in part, a reflection of the fact that ink and paint artists like her once made up about half of the union’s membership before their work started to be sent overseas.
The extract from the video for today includes several announcements by former 839 president Tom Yakutis, who notes that one of the roaming cameramen documenting the event was Floyd Norman. And after conveying apologies from Edith Vernick for not attending, and introduces John Gentillela.
Then we are introduced to Gary Owens, best known then for his role in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, but also known as a writer for Jay Ward and as a voice actor (Roger Ramjet, Space Ghost, etc.). Among other things, he reads a poem written for the occasion by Art Scott:
Welcome, one and all, to over 2,000 years of animation
Its simple mathematics based upon the honorees of this celebration
41 men times their 50 years of pencil pushing action,
Multiplies into 2 grand plus 50 of grand cartoon attractions.
Since the turn of the century,
Animation has been on the move up into the 20s,
When it became of age and into the 30s,
When it got into the groove.
Karan Storr then pays homage to the pioneers of animation being honored: “Hurray for the magic, hurray for the kindness you have done to all of us gathered here. Hurray for the convenient time to express my personal gratitude on behalf of myself and my family. And especially hurray for all of you.”
Next week: An Animation Operetta.