Archive for the ‘exhibit’ Category

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Exhibit: Grim Natwick In New York

PART ONE: GRIM NATWICK’S EARLY YEARS

Grim Natwick

Grim Natwick’s career in animation began in 1917 at International Film Service Productions, managed by Gregory LaCava. The studio was owned by William Randolph Hearst, who wanted to exploit his comic strip characters in the new medium of the animated cartoon. LaCava had been lured away from Raoul Barre’s studio where he had been working as an animator. His organizational skills were put to good use setting the studio on the right track, but he was having trouble finding experienced animators. He did however, know of a great draftsman who was working as a sheet music illustrator- a classmate from art school…

Grim NatwickGrim NatwickLaCava enlisted Grim to help out for "for two weeks or so" until he could locate experienced animators. Grim’s first task was to animate a racehorse in a Happy Hooligan cartoon. He spent more than a week on the sequence experimenting and struggling, and at the end of the two weeks, he was ready to quit. But LaCava told him that Hearst would pay him the unheard of amount of $100 a week if he would stay on. Money talked, and ultimately, Grim took to animation like a duck to water. The two weeks ended up stretching into over seven decades.

Click to see Grim's anatomy studiesClick to see Grim's anatomy studiesAround 1920, Grim took a few years off to study art in Vienna- drawing from life, landscape painting, portraiture- a full classical art education. He returned to New York a much stronger artist than he had left. International Film Service no longer existed, but Bill Nolan had organized a studio to produce Krazy Kat cartoons. The series bore little resemblence to George Herriman’s classic comic strip. The animation was done using the "slash system" and animators were expected to not only assist their own scenes, but to ink them as well. The artists at the Krazy Kat Studio at this time included some of the best in New York, two of whom- Walter Lantz and Jimmie (Shamus) Culhane- would work with Grim again much later in his career.

Grim NatwickGrim NatwickIn 1929, Grim joined the Fleischer Studios. Fleischer had just made the transition from silent films to sound, and was abandoning the high contrast inked look of the Out of the Inkwell cartoons for a more rounded style with a full range of gray tones. Disney had just raided the studio for talent, taking several key animators, including Dick Huemer, back to California with him. A few months later Ted Sears headed West. Grim was left with a group of inexperienced, but enthusiastic and talented young artists. He quickly whipped the crew into shape and provided the Fleischers with some of the most imaginitive animation ever produced at the studio. We’ve featured two cartoons from this period here in the past… Swing, You Sinners and Mariutch, both from 1930.

Grim NatwickGrim NatwickOne day, Dave Fleischer handed Grim a photograph of singer, Helen Kane and asked him to design a caricature. Fleischer had found a sound-alike, and planned to use her in the upcoming Talkartoon, "Dizzy Dishes". Grim exaggerated Kane’s wide eyes and rosebud mouth, creating a slightly coarse, but strikingly original design. A few weeks later, Dave asked Grim to design a girlfriend for Bimbo to star as the "fair young maiden" in a cartoon adaptation of the popular song, "Barnacle Bill the Sailor". Grim streamlined and refined his caricature of Kane for the part. But Dave Fleischer objected, insisting that since Bimbo was a dog, his girlfriend should also be a dog. Grim quickly sketched Betty Boop’s head on a four legged canine body. He held up the drawing next to the pretty girl design, and asked, "Which would you rather have as your girlfriend? A girl? Or a dog?" Dave laughed and agreed that the pretty girl was the right choice.

Grim Natwick

EXHIBIT CATALOG: GRIM’S EARLY YEARS

Grim Natwick

Top Row: Animation From Hearst & The Krazy Kat Studio (left to right) Drawing from "Judge Rummy" cartoon* (ca. 1918) / Concept sketch for unproduced series based on Cliff Sterrett’s "Polly & her Pals"* (ca. 1926) / ibid* / ibid* / Self portrait of Grim Natwick* (ca. 1926)

Middle Row: Animation From Fleischer (left to right) Animation drawings from "Mariutch"* (1930) / Animation drawing from unknown film* – Animation drawing from "Mariutch"* / Animation drawings from "Swing, You Sinners"* (1930) bottom dwg- collection of Kent Butterworth / Character designs for Bimbo* (ca. 1930) / Character designs for Bimbo in "Barnacle Bill The Sailor"* (1930) / Caricature of Grim Natwick by Rudy Zamora – Self portrait of Grim Natwick* (ca. 1930)

Bottom Row: Anatomy Studies After Bridgeman* (ca. 1920)

* denotes a drawing by Grim Natwick

Next Chapter: GRIM NATWICK, GOLDEN AGE ANIMATOR (Iwerks, Disney, Lantz)


Grim Natwick Exhibit
Assistant Archivist, Joseph Baptista views the exhibit.

GRIM NATWICK’S SCRAPBOOK

This travelling exhibit has appeared at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive in Burbank, CA and at the South Wood Historical Society Museum in Wisconsin Rapids, WI, birthplace of Grim Natwick.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

TheoryGrim Natwick

This posting is part of an online exhibit entitled Grim Natwick’s Scrapbook.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Music: Coda- Remembering The Past

Adventures in Music

Count Basie

It’s strange how simple, off-the-cuff stuff can be so beautiful, it makes you cry.

Here’s Count Basie on the Jazz Casual TV program from 1968. Basie paints a picture of Kansas City and Harlem in the golden age, then dispels it with a laugh like the smoke from his cigarette. “So, uh… Where were we?”

Count Basie on “Jazz Casual” 1958

If you are under 30 and you’ve followed through this whole series of posts, odds are you have heard music you have never heard before and you’ve seen performers you’ve never seen before. But my purpose here isn’t to generate nostalgia for the past. My eyes are on the future.

We like to think that the world is progressing and getting a little bit better every day, and in the case of some things, (like science and technology) that is undeniably true. But when it comes to creative popular culture- music, dance, art, theater, cinema- the sad truth is that today’s world is a pale shadow of what went on in the first half of the 20th century. What do we have today to compare with the birth of Jazz, illustrators like N. C. Wyeth, singers like Ella Fitzgerald, or composers like Gershwin or Stravinsky?

Our culture doesn’t value creativity like it used to, and performances full of amazing skill and expressiveness are the exception not the rule. We see the “real life” of teenage know-nothings on TV, watch computerized explosions at the movies, and stream clips of kids falling off skateboards on YouTube. Music isn’t coming out of every door and window like Kansas City in Basie’s memories.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have computers and the internet providing us the tools to create and distribute our work like never before. But technology isn’t enough. We need a collective cultural memory of the past to build on if we want to move forward. Today’s world isn’t that different in the ways that count. Audiences still want to be entertained, and they still respond to skilled performers. They want to be dazzled and impressed and see something they’ve never seen before. Let’s give them that.

Whatever art form you practice, develop the fundamental skills, think about what you are saying, create something new, and never ever cheat the audience. If you are an animator, use every aspect of filmmaking to put across your message. Music can be one of the most powerful elements of an animated film. Learn about music. You’ll be a better artist and make better films.

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Adventures in MusicAdventures in Music

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Adventures in Music.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Music: 15 The Boffo Finish

Adventures in Music

Cab Calloway

Any performer will tell you, the way you leave the audience is the way they’ll remember your act. There’s no finale more unforgettable than the one in Stormy Weather.

Finale to “Stormy Weather” 1943 with Cab Calloway, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers

I’m constantly amazed at the “pop culture amnesia” that seems to be an epidemic today. People have forgotten some of the greatest achievements of mankind… and what have they replaced it with? Infomercials, current events clowns, celebrity gossip and patently phony reality shows. Now, I can already hear you saying… “Well. me and all my friends know about important stuff… all kinds of stuff!” Whenever I ask one of my archive interns what kind of music they listen to, I always get the same answer- “All kinds of music!” Then I ask, “Who’s your favorite country and western artist?” or “What’s your favorite opera?” and I get blank stares. It turns out that “all kinds of music” means “acid house, electronica, trance, darkwave, eurobeat, speedcore, etc.”- a million different names for basically the same kind of music. It isn’t their fault that they’re ignorant of the cultural riches of the 20th century. Big media has kept them in the dark so they can spoon feed them “pre-packaged, pasteurized entertainment product”.

The “good stuff” is all out there. You don’t need a fancy shmancy archive. All it takes is a “breadcrumb”, a clue, a YouTube video clip, an MP3, a name to Google- and this wonderful world opens up like a flower. It turns out that the world we live in really isn’t such a drab and dreary place after all!

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Adventures in MusicAdventures in Music

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit entitled Adventures in Music.