Wednesday, January 2, 2008

More Art

Steve Worth from the Asifa Animation Archive left a comment on the Dec.11 Ken and Art post (Thanks Steve!) which I would like to pull up here:

“I worked with Art at FilmFair when he was animating on Thief. Williams had him reworking scenes that Ken Harris had already animated. (I remember some scenes of vultures.) Art was pretty unhappy with the job. He said he didn't see anything wrong with Harris's work, and Williams couldn't articulate to him what he wanted to be done differently. There seemed to be a communication breakdown between Art and Williams, who was working in London.”

The vulture character Phido is Zigzag's pet. Dick designed him as a caricature of Peter Lorre. The model had changed quite a bit from the time when Art had animated him. The scenes with him where redone again in the 90-92 period, some of them by David Byers-Brown and Dean Roberts.
Dick's 2nd studio in LA (he also had a 3rd one in NY for a while) was located in a building at the T-section of Barham Blvd. and Cahuenga Blvd. I'm curious if Art worked there full time and was working freelance at FilmFair. Steve, do you remember the year?


David Nethery said...

I was introduced to Art Babbitt by a friend of mine at Dick Williams's studio at Barham/Cahuenga around 1985 or early 1986 .

Art had his own office there and it was filled with model sheets and art from The Thief . The studio at Barham/Cahuenga was mostly empty at the time , only a few other artists were there finishing up work on some commercials , and it was closed down soon after. I went to the big "going-out-of-business" sale they had , and purchased a few reams of good quality "Disney paper" (the good smooth stuff... long gone now of course ) , and cels, several boxes of Blackwing Pencils (which were not rare or expensive in those days) , boxes of Koh-I-Noor grease pencils, an extra animation disc. It was a nice studio space.

Anyway, it was exciting to meet Art Babbitt. I didn't hang around very long and was of course awed and tongue-tied in his presence (I'm sure he was used to that from young animator geeks) .

So, if my memory is accurate , that would place Art at the Barham/Cahuenga studio in late '85 or early '86 (I arrived in Los Angeles summer of '85 to work on Bluth's 'An American Tail' , so I remember it was not too long after my arrival in L.A. Again, if memory serves, FilmFair was not too far up the road from the Williams studio on Cahuenga. Would Art have had offices at both places ?

Stephen Worth said...

I was a production assistant at FilmFair around 1985-86 or so (?). Williams was closing down the space on the Barham pass, and Art had nowhere to work. So Gus Jeckyl (Freddie Moore's assitant at Disney) who owned FilmFair offered a bungalow in the back to Art to use as his office. I was assigned to helping Art settle in, and I met with him at the Barham studio and he showed me his desk (which had belonged to Ken Harris) and asked me to move it for him. I packed everything up and moved him, and set his office up, so he could walk in and start right back to work the following Monday.

I remember his first day... He walked down the hallway with that distinctive animator's hunch, greeting every one of the pretty receptionists and secretaries. He headed out to his bungalow, and I had left a sign on the door that said "Babbitt Hutch". He got a big kick out of that, and invited me to have lunch with him. We brown bagged it every day. Other people at the studio thought Art was too crusty, but I liked him a lot, and he enjoyed my company too.

I pumped Art for stories of the "old days" every day at lunch. He told me a lot of great stories, including the big secret about Disney that he swore he'd never tell another living soul. (That's a story that you'll have to get me to tell you in person- I won't repeat it on the internet.)

Williams came by a couple of times on trips to LA to meet with Art. Art chewed him out every time for making him redo stuff that didn't need redoing.

See ya

Holger said...

Thanks Steve!

David Nethery said...

"I was a production assistant at FilmFair around 1985-86 or so (?). Williams was closing down the space on the Barham pass, and Art had nowhere to work."

Ok, that fits with what I remember from visiting the Williams' studio at Barham/Cahuenga when it was getting ready to close down , so I'm glad my memory isn't as bad as I thought it might be.

That's a great opportunity you had , Steve, to work around Art on a regular basis there at FilmFair and to get to know him. I was just a tongue-tied fan when I met him .

Tom Roth said...

I worked for Dick from about 1979 to 1985. Art worked at the Barham/Cahuenga studio (and Soho Square) until it closed around 1985.

I also worked on Raggedy Ann and Andy.

If nothing else it gave me endless anecdotes about working for a guy who I considered both a genius and a lunatic. I could write my own book.

If anyone has any questions about this era, please email me.

Tom Roth said...

Sometime back around 1979 I bought a Lyon/Lamb videotape pencil tester. Although a couple of big studios had them at the time I was the first individual animator to get one, the prototype unit.

So I decided to pay a visit to Dick Williams, who I’d worked for on Raggedy Ann and Andy. He had just set up a studio on Hollywood Boulevard. Dick and Art Babbitt shared a room there. Dick was busy animating a commercial as Art worked on the Thief.

Enthusiastically, I told Dick about this wonderful new gadget I’d gotten that you could shoot a test and play it back immediatly. This was back when they had to send scenes out to a camera service, shoot it and then send it to the lab so they could see the dailies the next day.

Of course, Dick was intrigued but Art interjected that he didn’t think it was a good idea because it would “become a crutch”. They certainly didn’t have anything like that when he was at Disney so it couldn’t be of much value.

Dick’s respect for Art was such that Art’s word was law so that was that. They had a complex relationship. Even though Dick was Art’s boss he always deferred to Art’s opinion.

A few weeks later, Dick rang me offering a job, and, eager to escape from the Hanna/Barbera factory where I worked I gladly accepted.

It wasn’t long before Dick started ‘sneaking’ over to my house at night to shoot pencil tests on The Thief. Later, I moved the Lyon/Lamb unit into the studio So, I guess, in a sense Art was right about it becoming a crutch because everyone in the studio became immediately dependent on it, including Dick.

Art never used it until one day in about 1983 he came shuffling into my room saying “Say Tom, mind if I use your infernal machine?” This, to me, was a great personal triumph as I have always considered myself an advocate for new technology.

When I think back today about the technology we used then- before the digital revolution- it seems amazing that Dick accomplished what he did. The technology then was little different than it was 60 years earlier.

Back then, there was talk that someday computers would ‘take over’ animators jobs. Art hated the idea but said if they do, animators would have to operate the computers.

I think time has proven him right.s

Anonymous said...

LOL at Phido's picture! It's like ZigZag's forcing him to watch Nickelodeon today!