Jazz in Animation – Experimental

Jazz in Animation – Experimental

By Antoinette Moses.

The Cambridge Animation Festival is held every two years and the next one is in September. This article was printed in the 1981 programme.

Even more than mainstream animation, the experimental animators have been influenced by jazz. One can trace its fusion back to Guillaume Apollinaire who wrote in the Paris Journal in 1914: “One can compare coloured rhythm to music… We thus will have beyond static painting, beyond cinematographic representation, an art to which one will quickly accustom oneself and which will render its followers infinitely sensitive to the movement of colours, to their interpenetration, to their fast and slow changes, to their convergence, to their flight etc.”

Many animators have bee

n influenced by Apollinaire’s words and many others have followed along these lines even though they may never have read the words of the French poet. Harry Smith, for example, is such an animator. He regards himself as primarily a painter and his films as “minor accessories” and yet he was one of the first to experiment with film as film. In an interview with P. Adams Sitney, he describes his early films: “My first film was made by imprinting of the cork of an ink bottle and all that sort of thing, as I said before. The second one was made with Come-Clean gum dots, automatic adhesive dots that Dick Foster got for me. It’s like a paper dot with gum on the back. The film was painted over with a brush to make it wet, then with a mouth-type spray gun, dye was sprayed onto the film. When that dried the whole film was greased with Vaseline. Of course this was in short sections – maybe six foot long sections. Anyway they would be tacked down. With a pair of tweezers, the dots were pulled off. That’s where those colored balls drop and that sort of stuff. Being as it was pulled off, it was naturally dry where the dot had been and that part which had been colored was protected by the Vaseline coating at this point. Then color was sprayed into where the dot had been. After that dried, the whole film was cleaned with carbon tetrachloride.


The next one was made by putting masking tape onto the film and slitting the tape lightly with a razor blade and a ruler, and then picking off all those little squares that are revolving around. I worked off and on, on that film for about five years pretty consistently; I worked on it every day at least. I may have abandoned it at one point for three months or six months at the most. Number 1 took a very long time, either a day or a week. Then number 2 – which was much longer than the form it is in now. It was actually at least half an hour long. It was cut down to match a recording by Dizzy Gillespie, which I believe is called ‘Auacha Guero’. It took maybe a year to make. Then on the next one I worked on about five years, and then I gave up that particular style. There were maybe eight years of it. I developed certain really complicated hand-painting techniques of which I made only short versions. For example, painting the whole film a certain colour and then smearing Vaseline on it; and then raking a stylus and scraping designs off.

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