Perhaps historical would be a better word. I’m not talking about the winners in the competitive voting for ASIFA-Hollywood‘s Annie Awards proper (listed here), but rather for the juried awards, including the June Foray and Winsor McCay Awards. What was startling was the fact that three of these honors went to animation historians: Jerry Beck (Foray), John Canemaker (McCay) and John Kricfalusi(McCay). (The other McCay Award went to Glen Keane.) I don’t know of any other time so many animation historians have been honored at the same time outside of the Society for Animation Studies.
The Foray Award, given for “significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation,” has been given to important animation historians before, including Leonard Maltin and the late Bill Moritz; so the selection of Beck, who also was a pioneer in the distribution of Japanese theatrical animation in the United States, was really no surprise. What is unusual is the fact that two of the McCay recipients, who are honored for “career contributions to the art of animation,” are also important historians: John Canemaker and John Kricfalusi. (My reaction might be compared to Robert Sherwood’s delight, when he was a film critic for Life in 1926, on discovering that the hero of D.W. Griffith’s The Sorrows of Satan was a critic.)
While Beck’s and Canemaker’s bona fides as historians are rather obvious (one only has to look up their names on Amazon or WorldCat), but one does not usually think of John K. as other than an innovative and opinionated filmmaker. But behind those opinions is a well-thought out approach to animation and animation history. While I don’t always agree with his views, I do think he has provided a salutatory challenge to much conventional wisdom, including that surrounding of Walt Disney. In a way, his thinking on animation and animation history (which can seen on his blog or in his online exchange with Michael Barrier) harkens back to the development of the auteur theory at Cahiers du cinéma in the 1950s by the likes of François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, who later abandoned criticism to help create the French New Wave.
So, congratulations to Beck, Canemaker and Kricfalusi for all their work, including their contributions to animation history and criticism.
Images: Top: Jerry Beck, John Canemaker and Amid Amidi at the 2005 Ottawa International Animation Festival picnic. Left above: John Kricfalusi photo found on his MySpace.com page.
For my undergraduate History of Animation class, I’m obliged to give a pretest to judge my student’s knowledge of the topic. A favorite question is, “Who was the director of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi?” Alas, no one has a clue, even though almost every student has seen these films and director David Hand gets prominent screen credit on both films. My query is meant to be a teaching moment, rather than a trick question, as it brings up a name that tends to be forgotten in animation history.
Now, the Savannah-based Animation Hall of Fame (I’m on their Advisory Board) has announced that David Dodd Hand’s son, David Hale Hand, has donated a collection of “art and artifacts” representing his father’s life’s work. The announcement gives a quick rundown of his career:
First working for Bray Studios; then Fleischer Studios in New York City, [Hand] quickly rose through the ranks at the Disney Studios to become the Supervising Director of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Bambi, and Production Supervisor, answering only to Walt, a stellar achievement. He had his hand in the development of all films at Disney from 1930–1944. Then he impacted Europe by heading the GB Animation Studio with J. Arthur Rank, the major British animation studio and school of the time. Before he retired, he went on to producing and directing for the Alexander Film Company in Colorado.
Vivien Halas has posted this filmic remembrance of her father John Halas (1912-1995), who would have been 100 years old today. Halas, whose studio, Halas & Batchelor, made the first British animated feature, Animal Farm (1954), was obviously a seminal figure in British animation and also served as the founding president of ASIFA-International.
The documentary features a number of interviews with friends and people who worked with him at his studio and ASIFA. It also includes some fascinating clips from his films, including a 1970 experiment with 2D computer animation and a 1930 film he made in his native Hungary.
I never really met Halas, though I did correspond with him when I served as editor of the ASIFA-Hollywood’s Graffiti magazine and The Inbetweener newsletter in the mid-1980s. As ASIFA-International President and President Emeritus, he would send out a column which we and other ASIFA chapters would publish. I still recall a rather prescient piece talking about the growing affinity between visual effects and animation.
Vivien Halas add that, “This short documentary will be available shortly as a bonus on a new DVD specially made for ASIFA of John’s favourite short films from Halas & Batchelor.”