Annie Awards Make History

Jerry Beck, John Canemaker and friend at 2005 Ottawa Animation Festival picnic.

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.)

John Kricfalusi MySpace.com photo. 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.

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?