Biography: Clair Weeks

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Birth/Death

Birth: Sept 14 1911 in Mysore, India?Death: Aug 26 1996 in Los Angeles, California.

Occupation/Title

Assistant?Clean- Up Assistant?Consultant/ Advisor?Animator?Character Animator

Bio Summary

Spent 16 years at Disney. ??Sometimes referred to as the “grandfather” of Indian animation.

Early Life/Family

Clair’s father was a methodist missionary in India for roughly 40 years, His family re-located to America in the early 30s.

Education/Training

Studied at Chouinard on a scholarship. As he was about to graduate in 35/36 Disney was hiring, they advertised positions in schools, and sent talent scouts such as George Drake to “beat the bushes” for artists”
Clair Weeks was accepted to a 2 week tryout at Disney based on his Chouinard portfolio. The entire two weeks were spent in Life Drawing sessions.
“Then you were put on a sort of probation, a temporary status; you were hired…put on a payroll for $15… for six months. Johnny Bond and George Goepper were among the trainers at the time, working with George Drake…gradually there was a moving across the street. As you got more proficient, and as you demonstrated your potential, and as you became noticed, what you were demonstrating, and what you were doing in the practical scenes–of course, at first we were given old stuff to practice on. Then you were given production scenes to do, and as you demonstrated your potential, you were moved across…
Also, one of our aims, one of our ambitions or hopes, ass to get with a good animator, one whose work we liked or was the kind we wanted to do.”

Career Outline

Weeks started his full production career at Disney in 1936, on “Snow White” as an assistant for Jack Campbell, a Junior Animator assigned to Grim Natwick, working on the title character.
Weeks’ big step came after Snow White as he was assigned to Milt Kahl.
“I learned everything I know about feature animation from Milt…by example. A feeling for draftsmanship, emphasizing good drawing, and all the marvelous character development…insight into what made a character live on screen”
On ‘Bambi’, Weeks was assigned to the story unit (supervised by Perce Pearce)
and assisted Kahl throughout the production stage.
Weeks got to work very closely with Marc Davis on “Peter Pan”, “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty”
Little by little, Weeks picked up Animation scenes, on “Alice in Wonderland” , He finally got screen credit on “Peter Pan” on which he Primarily Animated ‘Tinkerbell’, he was also assigned to ‘princess Aurora’ in ‘Sleeping Beauty’.

In 1956, Weeks was invited to Films Division of India (FDI) in Bombay, India to establish and train the country’s first animation studio as part of the American Technical Co-Operation Mission, he trained a core group of animators, including Ram Mohan, Bhimsain, Satam, Ezra Mir, A.R. Sen, and Pramod Pati.?During his time in India he made a film called The Banyan Deer, 1956-57.?Weeks spent years of service abroad working for the US Agency for International Development. He toured Southeast Asia and headed up a communitactions office in Katmandu, Nepal. He made films and audio-visual programs that aided in the social development and economic growth of third world countries.
During the late 60’s and early 70’s Weeks taught at the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedebad, India.

Comments On Style

Influences

Personality

Anecdotes

In an interview by Milt Gray, Clair Weeks recalls the Atmosphere of his first years at Disney “There was a great sense of sharing, and that’s one thing I’ve never forgotten about the studio in those early days. Nobody was selfish; everybody was willing to show whatever they had learned, people were generous, and secure…Jack Campell would sit there and show me, very carefully, how to get what he was getting into Snow White, and where I was getting a little off, he would spend hours with me–whatever time was necessary. Milt was the same way, he would analyze my drawings, and correct them and show me things, he wasn’t averse to that, because he wanted a good result, we all thought of the end product, and we were contributing to it.”

Describing his role on the ‘Bambi’ story crew:
“That Whole Period with the BAMBI unit was one of the most pleasant experiences of the studio; We had a very free hand. I think Walt Came over there twice the whole time we were there. And even then under great persuasion, Perce had to beg him to come over and see what we were doing. I think he was very much into Fantasia and Pinocchio, He just left (Bambi) to Perce Pearce. We were in effect independant”

Miscellaneous

During his 16 years at Disney, Weeks participated in the 1941 Strike, and served in World War II.

From the June 10, 1994 issue of the Disney Newsreel:
??”Former Animator Brought Disney Magic Around the Globe”
??The impact of Disney’s animated feature films is felt throughout the world. Adults and children recognize and feel a connection to characters like Bambi, Snow White and Tinkerbell. Many of the animators who helped create this enthusiasm never left the Studio Lot; Clair Weeks , however, did it by actually taking the art of animation to many countries in Southeastern Asia. “Being able to introduce this art form to the developing countries was very challenging and very rewarding,” Clair recently reflected.?Clair was born in India to missionary parents. He spoke Hindi before he spoke English and didn’t come to the United States until he was 17 years old. After graduating from college, Clair headed west to California. “Disney was advertising for people because he (Walt) was getting into making Snow White,” Clair explained. “I thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll get a job, anyway.’”?He was invited to try out, drawing sketches of a model. “When we were told we had made it, we were assigned to In-Betweening,” he remembered. “After a couple of weeks, if we were showing any promise, we went across the street (to the main Hyperion Studio),” said Clair, who was assigned to work on the Snow White character. ?While the animators shared Walt’s belief in Snow White, the times also demanded that they be dedicated for economic reasons as well. “It was a job, there was a depression, we knew our jobs were on the line,” remembered Clair. Despite a brief hiatus during World War II, Clair contributed to several animated feature films, including Peter Pan, Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.?In 1956, the government of India wanted artists to help set up an animation studio to educate their large, mostly peasant population. Clair applied and was accepted. “My colleagues at the Studio thought I was absolutely nuts. Walt told me ‘If it doesn’t work out or you don’t like it, you can always come back,’” Clair remarked. Walt was so supportive that he put Clair in touch with all his suppliers so that he could purchase the same materials the Studio used. Whenever Clair returned to the United States, he would return to Burbank to visit Walt and his former colleagues. “Walt was always very cordial, wanting to know what I was up to,” said Clair.?Clair and his family spent three years in Bombay, where he set up an animation studio that made films for inserts in documentaries. Clair quickly found out that starting an animation studio overseas could be a challenge. Once the animation process was in full swing in India, he discovered the cel paint he had brought from California wouldn’t dry. “I wrote to the Ink and Paint Department and even they couldn’t figure it out!,” he laughed. Clair finally went to a local bazaar and bought some poster paint, which dried.?Clair’s globe trotting career would take him to Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh before he returned home for good to Rossmoor, California. Wherever he went, Clair had to learn the native language, recruit artists from local schools, and settle down to lesson number one: learning how to draw. “I emphasized that this was an art of movement.” he said. “You’ve got to know how people walk and run and get the essence of it.” ?Despite the fame that his former colleagues, the “nine old men,” attained during their long runs at Disney, Clair doesn’t regret leaving at the apex. “I could have stayed on like the rest of them,” he said. “I don’t regret it, because I’ve had a wonderful career beyond it.”
 

Filmography

Honors

Related Links

A-HAA: History: Clair Weeks- Pioneer of Indian Animation
A-HAA: Instruction: Clair Weeks Animal Studies 1940
A-HAA: Another Christmas Gift: Snow White Scrapbook
A-HAA: Biography: Clair Weeks’ Goodbye Book 1952
A-HAA: Illustration: Disney Christmas Cards

Bibliographic References

“An Interview with Clair Weeks” by Milton Gray, May 13 1978, Los Alamitos, California

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Contributors To This Listing

Patricia L. Caplette
Rolf Ericksen
Amir Avni

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