Q: What do you think of the human characters in the present day Disney films?
MD: Quite frankly, I haven’t seen that much of them. The last animation I did was Cruella de Vil in 101 Dalmatians. After that I began working for Disneyland, designing the three-dimensional animated things, I did the Pirate Ride, I did the County Bear Jamboree, America Sings, lots of them. That was animation too, but in a different form. People say, ‘Do you miss animation?’ No. I don’t miss it. I’ve done that. We go on to do something else. I think as an artist I have that capability.
Q: This may sound very silly, but it is sincere. How does it feel when you watch your earlier work?
MD: When we did those, by the time we got down to the last couple of scenes we realised how we should have done the whole thing, but it is too late to go back. There are things that bother me when I see them and if you could do it over that would be fine. On the other hand when you are with an audience and the audience reacts to the film it is a great thrill. When we finished Bambi, in which I animated the sequence of the two skunks falling in love, it was premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood with over 3,000 people. I sat there and when the crowd laughed at that scene I cried. That’s how you feel.
Q: You must have had a lot more fun with a villainess like Cruella de Vil than with a puritan character like Snow White. Did you feel you were in a straight Iacket with the very goody, goody heroines?
MD: I was new to the studio when Snow White was being made. I came there in the December of 1935 when Snow White was beginning production. Her character was pretty much established by other people. I was an assistant animator on the film and near the finish some of the assistants animated scenes. I animated a scene of Snow White dancing but it was a learning process for the studio at that time. Nobody had made a feature cartoon, nobody knew whether anybody would go to see it. This was a remarkable gamble on the part of Walt Disney. This business needs people who will gamble everything to do something they believe is right.
Each feature gets a little better. I did Cinderella, I did Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty. As a result of having done that I was cast on Cruella. It was automatic – let Marc
do that – so I’m delighted for that reason, because it was fun. Also it was the last film I animated.
At the studio Walt Disney was called Walt, I was called Marc, nobody was Mr So and So. Walt Disney’s greatest accomplishment was to get all of us to work together without killing one another. I think everyone can learn something from this.
Full of Graces (Vol Van Gratie) – Nicole Van Goethem
Two innocent nuns buy some decorative candles from a sex shop. When lit they create a smoke cloud. The nuns return to the shop to complain and discover the “real facts of life.”
The director Nicole Van Goethem was born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1941, studied Fine Arts at the Antwerp Academy, worked as an illustrator on the weekly paper Mimo for 4 years, and participated in advertising and poster design. In 1974 she collaborated on the script, drawings and special effects of Picha’s feature film Tarzoon, Shame of the Jungle, in 1976 on various short films by Tony Cuthbert in London, in 1977 on the storyboard and colour research of Picha’s second feature film The Missing Link, in 1981 on the animation of the pilot film The Snorks (Dupis) and in 1982 on the animation of Jan Zonder Vrees (Pen Film-Ghent). In 1983 she directed A Greek Tragedy which won the Annecy ‘85 Grand Prize and the Audience’s Prize, and in Los Angeles in March 1987 the Oscar for Best Animated Film.
QUESTION: Have you had any reaction from women’s movements because the film suggests women can’t achieve happiness without artificial help?
NICHOL VAN GOETHEM: The film has only been shown in Cannes and at Annecy and has not been shown publicly in Belgium or other countries so there has been no reaction yet. I expect there will be reactions.
Q: But you are not worried?
NVG: I wanted to make a second film that would please the audience for the eight minutes it lasts onscreen. I think I have reached that goal.
Q: Is the animation yours?
NVG: No. Everything else is mine, the idea, backgrounds, colours, storyboard, layouts. The layouts are so detailed that the animation can be done without adding much.
Q: The animation brought out the humour very well but if it had been a little more heavy-handed it could have been offensive.
NVG: But it wasn’t. I had three scripts that I worked on ten years ago. I made the first, A Greek Tragedy, then I made this one, I will make the third in the near future. The production money came from the Belgium government, in fact not even from the Commission but from the Minister of Culture himself. The Commission didn’t agree with it but the Minister liked it. In the first film I used irony to point out the question of old cultural values and in this film I take an ironic view of morals, the church and sex. If you treat it well you can make something that’s nice and inoffensive.
Q: Did winning prizes change your work?
NVG: It has not changed my film-making but it has changed people’s attitude my films. People no longer see my work as me making the film but as an Oscar winner making the film. It is a very heavy responsibility on my shoulders. This is only my second film and people are expecting too much.
Q: I am a little confused by the story, and I think a few other people were as well. The nuns go into a store, buy a dildo and don’t know what it is. Then later they do know what it is but there is no indication as to how they found out. You never see anything, all of a sudden they get excited.
NVG: The shop keeper tells them. I don’t think you have to show everything.
Q: This film is not for babies.
NVG: Oh, kids love it.
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Printed in Animator Issue 21 (Winter 1987)