Richard Williams’ and John Canemaker Pordenone Trailers

Charlie Chaplin caricature from Richard Williams Pordenone 2011 trailerGreta Garbo caricature from Richard Williams Pordenone 2011 trailer 02Stan Laurel caricature from Richard Williams Pordenone 2011 trailer 03Oliver Hardy caricature from Richard Williams Pordenone 2011 trailer 04

(Copyright: Richard Williams)

Last year, I blogged about the premiere of Richard Williams’ short film Circus Drawing at the opening night of the Le Giornate del Cinema Muto (The Pordenone Silent Film Festival), in Italy, and his long-standing relationship with the festival.

In reading about this year’s Pordenone Silent Film Festival on The Bioscope blog here I came across an image from a trailer he apparently did for this year’s festival. However, the festival site says it was made for last year’s event, but was interesting enough to post some images from same. The festival site notes:

The trailer is a small monument of traditional animation: Richard Williams has gone back to the technique of 1905, with every frame a drawing on paper (no cels, no computers). On June 13[, 2011] the logo was shown at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater, before the screening of Frank Borzage’s Humoresque.

John Canemaker Pordenone TrailerThe 1905 date is a bit facetious, since the first animation using drawings is usually considered to be J. Stuart Blackton’s Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906), which used a combination of chalk on blackboard and cutout animation.

I also noticed an image from the trailer that John Canemaker did for the 2009 festival. The festival site reports that,

This 35-second film, in b&w and colour, is … a tribute to three pioneers of silent animation. First we see the artist’s hand draw Fantoche on a black sheet of paper. This character, created just 100 years ago by Emile Cohl, then changes into Winsor McCay’s colourful Little Nemo, who pirouettes and bows to the audience, to be replaced in turn by Felix the Cat. Otto Messmer’s famous feline has an idea, which makes him grin in satisfaction, showing four pointed teeth. The idea? To use his tail as a lasso, to rope the Giornate logo, and drag it onscreen.

Walter Veltrone, Richard Williams and John Canemaker at 2007 Pordenone Silent Film FestivalBoth trailers (aka signal films by some festivals) were shown silent with live musical accompaniment. Williams’ love of silent film may possibly explain the fact that the two title characters in his unfinished The Thief and the Cobbler never spoke. And Canemaker, of course, wrote the definitive books on both McCay and Messmer.

Finally, I couldn’t resist posting this 2007 photo of Williams (center) and Canemaker (right) posing with Rome mayor Walter Veltrone which I grabbed from Canemaker’s website.

P.S.: Perhaps it’s about time someone put together a program of some of these animated festival trailers/signal films which have been produced by leading filmmakers and studios around the world?

Richard Williams’ Circus Drawings’ Silent Premiere

Richard Williams at Pordenone 2010

I must admit to being a bit surprised when I discovered that Richard Williams just premiered his long-dormant short, Circus Drawings on the opening night of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto,  XXX ed. (The 30th Pordenone Silent Film Festival) held October 1-8. Pordenone has long ranked as the world’s preeminent silent film event and Williams seems to have a long-standing relationship with it. For instance, in 2003, he gave their Jonathan Dennis Memorial Lecture, a talk by “people who are pre-eminent in some field of work associated with the conservation or appreciation of silent cinema.”

According to the catalog,

[Williams] has always insisted that the silent cinema is a profound influence on the animator’s work, and it is gratifying to think that the Giornate experience may in some small degree have stirred his decision to return to Circus Drawings.

“In 1953 I was a young artist of twenty, living in Spain near a village circus, where I drew the acrobats, clowns and onlookers.

“Twelve years later I filmed my drawings to an original score but didn’t complete the film.

“Now that I’m 77, I’ve finished the film by animating my original drawings.” …

On release, the film will be shown with sound, with Richard Rodney Bennett’s 1965 score. However, uniquely for this performance, Richard Williams wishes to screen the film as a “silent”, with live piano accompaniment by Maud Nelissen.

As far as I can tell, the only online review of the film has been by Antti Alanen here, which is mostly devoted to quoting the catalog’s description, adding:

First the camera moves inside the 1950s drawings, then the drawings get animated, moving from black and white to colour. A fine animation.

Actually, the festival debuted two Williams films, the second being this year’s signal (“logo-trailer”) film.  Williams also got to play trumpet in the pit band opening night for Buster Keaton’s The Navigator.

Speaking of contemporary animators at Pordenone, Peter Lord gave the  2004 Jonathan Dennis Lecture, while John Canemaker, who is something of a scholar, did the honors in 2007, when he also received their Jean Mitry Award for his “contribution to the reclamation and appreciation of silent cinema.”

The photo of Williams is from the festival website.