I was standing awkwardly in my little cockpit leaning across because I could not get any closer, drawing off the surface of the screen. I suffered febricities in my left shoulder you wouldn’t believe. Our producer Doug Wilcox stayed behind too, and painted the backs of all the cels so that the detail reflected in the mirror would not show through the traced character.
We were both utterly zonked the next day – wiped out. Then we put the evenings work on the line tester and ran it as a cycle, and I noticed there were bits I had missed out such as one frame of the girls shadow. In two other frames there were the arms, the shoulders – but no head! I groaned. How could I have left it all out? How could I have missed the obvious?
You know, all the time I am looking for mistakes in early cartoons. The very first time, Daffy Duck appears in a Porky Pig film called Porky’s Duck Hunt, he flies into the picture to land on the lake, he goes ‘Quack’ and promptly disappears for two frames, then Wham! he reappears as if nothing has happened. There are some fish who get very drunk. They are rowing along singing, “Oh, we’re sailing along… “and all of a sudden the two fish in the middle pulling the oars freeze absolutely motionless while the other two continue singing On moonlight bay.” Another fish upfront is playing a ukulele and singing, suddenly he freezes while a ukulele continues playing on the soundtrack. You think to yourself: How could they have missed all that. Now I know!! I know how they missed it, because I did the selfsame thing. I could have kicked myself.
What a thrilling game it is, I only wish I could have learned about it years ago. The thrill for me now is coming in here, doing my drawings and some animation. The night we worked late I said to my producer: the average bloke would probably go on strike if he had to work these hours. We do it because we love to do it – who cares about the hours?
That is what I think is wrong with the world – there are too many people doing jobs they hate. Maybe I am living in a fool’s paradise to say such things but if everyone could earn a living wage doing the things they do best, I’m sure the world would be a happier place.
Never a truer word Rolf, I agreed and we shook hands on it. Then he grinned his farewell and returned to the set, slipping easily into the world of children. As I observed their instant rapport I knew that for as long as HTV West, Bristol continues to have a constructive attitude to youth programming and supportive budgeting -not the case in every part of the world today – we can be certain of the continuing success of Rolfs Cartoon Club, and the ever-increasing popularity of the once humble video line tester.
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Printed in Animator Issue 27 (Summer 1990)