Animation B.C. (Before Computers) – Page 4

My last animation work on a feature film was on the sequel, Gate II released in 1990 for which I contributed about half of the animation for special effects director Randy Cook (of Ghostbusters fame) at his Ruckus Studio. For Gate II (which went straight to video in this country and isn’t even available in Barnes) I animated the “Minion” – a small humanoid figure seen in the first film – and “John Demon”- a large deformed human character. The majority of animation shots done for the film were photographed in long exposure times – this ranged from the regular half a second to sixteen seconds.

For the last few years I have been in what could technically be called a state of suspended animation. During that time I have been writing two books. One on Willis O’Brien and one on Errol Flynn’s unfinished film William Tell (Filmfax magazine has just published my article on the film).

Willis O’Brien’s watercolour design for his unmade Last of the Oso Si-Papu project.
Willis O’Brien’s watercolour design for The Elephant Rustlers. Designs for both projects appear in Willis O’brien: Special Effects Genius.

Willis O’Brien: Special Effects Genius has just been published and includes the many story ideas and preproduction art created by O’Brien. During his later years, Obie found work difficult to locate and so turned his hand to writing, and designed story ideas which could be developed into films. Some he sold, a few actually made it to the screen. The Beast of Hollow Mountain being the only one that gave him credit. Obie died in 1962. Through the kind help of my friend Steve Pickard I met Obie’s widow, Darlyne and knew her for the last few years of her life. She was a very generous and kind-hearted lady and I enjoyed immensely the times I came to visit her. When she died I found out from her nephew that she had left Obie’s remaining story ideas to me. After several attempts to revive them as feature films, I eventually decided to publish them in book form together with his many storyboards and an account of his life and films.

Since completing that book, I have embarked on another little project. I am currently awaiting news of a puppet animation idea which I have submitted to the Arts council based on Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart. Later, I hope to make other puppet animation films based on fairy tales.

Now I started this article with westerns and computers. You know where westerns fit in, but what about computers? There is great debate concerning the future of traditional methods of animation (cel, puppet etc.) and the current trend of computers. At this point in time it looks like computer images will continue to be used for special effects work. For the public, this will enhance realism in films and make what could have been impossible years ago now well within the reach of the wildest imagination. For the artist it presents an interesting problem: do we all jump on the bandwagon and create work using the same methods or do we use are own ways and remain individuals?

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Printed in Animator Issue 31 (Spring 1994)