In part two David Jefferson reports on more of the film-makers who attended the biannual International Animated Film Festival held in Annecy, France.
This year, two Selection Committees screened 695 films coming from 39 countries. Kathleen Houston, Istvan Antal, and Thierry Steff selected short films. Robert Balser, Joachim Kreck and Francis Nielsen selected video shorts and feature films. The final selection contained 105 short films in Competition, 5 feature films, 81 short films in Panorama.
Committee member Kathleen Huston
Kathleen “Spud” Houston was all set to become a dress designer following a five year Fine Arts course in Edinburgh. Then by chance she took a job at London Films in 1935 where Foxhunt by Hoppin and Gross was in production. There she discovered painting, tracing and animation. In 1936 she moved to British Animated Pictures working with Henry Elwiss, then to Anglia in 1937, working with Anson Dyer on various advertising and information films. She continued these activities at Halas & Batchelor from 1942 to 1944 when she went to Gaunwnt British Industrial. She was seconded to Information Films of India in Bombay from 1944 to 1946. Returning to England in 1948 she worked for Larkins on The Potter and his Daughter.
Then she went to New Zealand where she spent the next twenty years with her husband, Ian, and their children. She helped her husband with his one-man film unit by animating diagrams. In 1968 she made her first film Petunia.
She returned to England, and during the next ten years worked for Bob Godfrey, Larkins, Dragon Films, Halas & Batchelor, Anglo Dutch Films and others.
In 1976 she started work on How the Kiwi Lost His Wings based on a New Zealand stoiy. Completed in 1980, it won several awards in the United States. In 1984 she started work on Children of Wax which is still in production. The 1985 Cambridge Animation Festival celebrated her 50th year in animation. She also works with Marjut Rimminen whose film I’m Not a Feminist But… was a prize winner at the Espinho Festival 1986.
QUESTION: There is a general complaint that some of the films in competition are of a lower standard than others that did not get selected.
SPUD HUSTON: Having invited two new categories into the festival there was a deluge of “computer animation” and “video material”. You have to accommodate the things you have invited to apply. Although it wasn’t my committee that had to select the video entries a proportion had to be included. We also had to make way for the third world countries, some were applying for the first time and we felt we had to accommodate them, even at the expense of our favourites, and it was a very hard decision to make. You have to spread out but the time available remains the same.
Q: The main complaint concerns the video entries, which suffer in quality on the big screen.
SH: I think the problem is more with the programming. People do not know what they are seeing. I do not know why the video entries should have got onto the big screen. I think that is something that must be subject to an enquiry.
Q: Perhaps the videos should be shown in a small room on a TV screen.
SH: That’s what we thought would happen because they are so short in duration.
Marc Davis – Disney animator
Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times paid tribute to Marc Davis, one of Disney’s ‘nine old men’, who joined the studio during the late ‘30s and went on to specialise in the animation of female characters appearing in the classic Disney features; Snow
White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians.
Solomon observed that in the early days of animation all characters were essentially male in concept. Minnie Mouse was drawn just Mickey with the addition of a skirt, high heels and long eyelashes and although Betty Boop was deliberately female she was drawn in a very comic-like manner.
But Marc Davis proved to be an exceptional draughtsman and a review of his work reveals the development and mastery of a genuinely human-female animated characterisation. The change was first seen when Snow White appeared onscreen. Davis was one of many, including Grim Natwick, who animated the little princess. Snow White and the Queen were truly feminine, not only in their dress, but in anatomical structure, style and movement, and even in the depiction of their processes. A far cry indeed, from the pseudo-female characters seen in earlier films.
QUESTION: Was your animation limited to human characters?
MARC DAVIS: No, I animated many other things, but primarily I animated the human figure. To make these films believable you had to believe in the characters that carried the story. If you do not believe in the female characters in the Disney films you can forget the rest of the story, no matter how funny the mice are. Basically we were story tellers and I got to tell one side. It is a little bit of a penalty for being able to do something better than somebody else. It is a lot more fun to do broad comedy and comic things, which I did in many films. However, somebody has to do the human characters.
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