Monday, December 20, 2010

A Few Words on the Oral Histories

How did these get started?

Back when I was running for re-election, it dawned on my that one of the things I (we) should be doing was sitting down with as many of the pillars of the animation industry as I (we) could and collecting their recollections. And sharing them, since they're no freaking good to anybody if they are recordings gathering dust on a closet shelf ...

I figured there was an inexpensive way to do the work, and I was right.

Me and a hundred-buck digital recorder.

So here we are, recording and recording and recording. The interviews have been a kick and a half to do, although I'm still feeling my way about mic placement and ambient noise. (You charge into oral histories with the talent and equipment you have ... etc., etc.)

How long will they continue?

Until I'm carried out of here on my shield, or leave voluntarily. Or everybody who I ask to do an interview starts turning me down. (No turn-downs yet, thank God.)

You going to interview John Lasseter? Jeffrey Katzenberg?

We've no plans to do that. (Of course, they call up and ask real nice, who knows?)

On the serious side, our purpose here isn't to interview Animation Big Shots, although that might happen from time to time. The main reason we're doing this is to get a perspective on the industry from the people who are down in the trenches, actually performing the work. There are animators ... and assistant animators ... and directors, board artists and designers who have a wealth of knowledge about how the business has been over the last twenty or fifty years. But because their names aren't Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston or Chuck Jones we haven't heard from them.

We're making it our job to give these folks a small megaphone.

And we'll put their interviews up here, mostly unedited, so that you can listen to the stories, and hopefully go away with insights and knowledge you didn't have before.

That's the goal, anyway.

You've been putting up one interview a week. You going to keep doing that?

Not necessarily. They'll go up soon after we do them, whenever we do them. (Might be one a week, might be one a month. Who knows?) Since we don't believe in a lot of tweaks, you'll hear them the way they went down: with the swear words, my high-pitched hyena laughter, and the unvarnished opinions.

Okay, no fixed routine. But when does the next interview go up?

Tomorrow. And there's one scheduled for the week after that. Beyond those two, I have no idea what the calendar might hold.

So don't anybody hold their breath.


Anonymous said...


You and I rarely agree - our views are on opposite ends of the political spectrum but these interviews are one (of a few) exceptions. Having spent 20+ years in the animation biz I had the opportunity to know some very talented artists that worked in the trenches and never got the limelight they deserved. Sadly the obit pages of the Pegboard are becoming a frequent read to see who among the veterans has left us.

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Steve for doing these interviews, I love hearing these things.

Floyd Norman said...

I sat and talked with many of the old timers at Disney whenever I got a chance. Of course, this was decades ago.

The stories they had to tell could easily fill a book. Sadly, so many animation greats were ignored while the media focused on the same few guys.

Thankfully, we finally have a chance to correct that problem.

Steve Hulett said...

You and I rarely agree - our views are on opposite ends of the political spectrum ...


You still hold a grudge because I voted for Dick Nixon?

Would it make you feel better if I said I was drunk at the time?

Mark Mayerson said...

Why aren't you tagging these things so that they're easily accessible?

These are valuable, so why force your readers to dig through the archives looking for them?

Steve Kaplan said...

Mark -

I'm still pretty new to Blogger and find it a bit more difficult to deal with than other blog sites. I know Jeff has used labels in his posts. I'll try to get Steve to doing it. I'll also try to get a label search feature going.

Check back soon as I'll be rummaging through Blogger help pages today.

Steve K

Steve Kaplan said...

Mark and all -

Label tags have been enabled so that all you need to do is click on the TAG Interview label next to the share icons in the post, and a list of all of our interviews will be shown.


Anonymous said...

These oral histories are very interesting to listen to, and I appreciate the effort that goes into producing them. The stories told by the veterans in the business provide a rare peek into the real world and history of animation.

I think it would be educational to hear an interview from someone who works primarily in cg animation as well, and not necessarily as an animator. There are hundreds of people in this guild whose work is not in the traditional end of the spectrum (lighters, riggers, TD's CG supervisors, etc). I'm sure there are some folks who have 10 to 15 years experience in this field, and who would hopefully be willing to give an interview.

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