Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Minimum Unit - Animator #69 12/24/1943

Seasons Greetings.

And may tomorrow bring a joyous Independence Day to everyone basking in the light of Liberty.  In England, everything exists at the whim of a monarch, in the New World -all men (and many women) are equal.


MGM: Operating entirely on its own the management promised the inkers a raise.  That was fice months ago.  Operating entirely on their own the disgusted inkers instituted a slow down.  Piqued, the Company was for insisting the Union take up the girls cards for abrogation of contract.  Quimby, tripping westward, happenstanced on Herb Sorrell who assured him that he was without a limb on which to stand.  The Union is bystanding as the Co. carefully maneuvers itself into living up to its promise.

Up too is the question of an earned vacation for a woman who left in June after a six year stretch.  Walsh position that he does not have to arbitrate because the matter is not spelled out in the contract.  If it were spelled out there would be not even a discussion.  Sharp stuff.

SCHLESINGER: The sick leave question is still being bandied about.  The Co. is unwilling to settle on either arbitration or an arbitrator.  But Heffron as apparently bumbled himself into a position where he must accept a third party as an arbitrator and in so doing finds himself in the position of having to call with a hand everyone has seen.

Schlessinger is closing the plant for the entire week before Christmas.  This is a good deal for those who have vacations coming but a poor bet for others.  The BA has insisted that the Co. furnish availability certificates to any non vacationeer desiring to work during the seven days.  Blindly fighting, the Co. started by refusing.  The BA will accompany anyone not getting paid for the time, and who seeks work, to the US Emp. Serv. and see that they get a certificate.

PAL: The classifications have been approved by the unit and the Board.. there are still several classifications yet to be settled.   Set up are three grades of Production Technician....  1. Story and Script, 2. Set-up and Lighting, 3. Staging and Animation.  For the first 90, for the next two 85.  July 1 is the retroactive date.

GENERAL:  The retirement of Fleisher is the beginning of the recognition by the Powers that Be that they cannot any longer afford incompetence and pay decent wages.  It made no difference who ran the studio when animators etc., wage were doing a nose dive.  This brings more sharply the problem of the contribution of the creative artist to our industry.  The meeting of the animators for the contractual purposes brought to the fore an idea that has been fostered for long in many breasts.  Came the union and many of the studios decided on restrictions just to show how lovely things had been before.  Time clocks, footage requirements and etc.  This is all very well for rivet polishing or some similar measurable activity.   But for creative activity (here we take our cue from managements recent antics before the Manpower Commission) scales of production are not really practicable.  There must be some allowance for the intangible but undeniable factor of inspiration.  The creative minds feel that this will be solved by setting up what might be termed Production Units.  As the germ stands now the unit is conceived as a complete entity, story, direction, layout and animation in one tight little group.  The unit would be responsible for, say, five shorts of a minimum of 600 feet per year.  The hours worked, the vacations, etc, are the business of the unit ... if it gets the work.

This, basically, is the idea.  It has been proposed that a committee of animators, story men, directors, layout men and the Executive Board develop this idea.  The goal: to set up minimum units thruout the industry.

The minimum unit, the production unit, is a real answer to the sort of problem which has been posed by the erasure of  Fleisher.... It is interesting to note that at Disneys the citadel of waste and inefficiency, something analogous to the minimum unit was set up to produce their traditional pictures.

The committee of five animators working on the question of a minimum unit have asked all directors of shorts, layout  men and story men and the the Executive Board to a special meeting at the Hall on Tuesday, January 4,  The animators of the committee are each to bring a representative from the Assistants and Inbetweeners.  Unit chairmen are likewise asked to attend.  The purpose is to discuss the minimum unit in relation to the new contract proposals in April.

NEW RELEASES: Fresh from Schless is Wakiki Wabbit. This opus is notable not for its habit-formed story, but for the imaginative experimentation of its layout and background.  Particularly noteworthy was the discovery that a flat tone can carry background movement.  Novel but not so successful was the use of tapa cloth patterns with overlays of stylized foliage plotches as backgrounds for action on a typical tropical isle.  It was only an unfortunate value choice that kept this simple solution from succeeding.  As it is it camouflages rather than clarifies the characters.  Schless is pacing the current background breakaway from the cute.

Also noteworthy from Schlesingers is Hiss and Make Up. The newest Tex Avery job maintains his reputation for race track timing.  Fast and furious and at times very funny is One Hams Family.

Previewed at Disney was the last of his three propaganda films Chicken Little.  It could have been a terrific picture.  The animation is great; the backgrounds are good; the color excellent.  The timing, the staging, and the cutting are the most professional to come out of that studio recently.  But Mr. Disney pulled its punch... In the rough reel the thinly veiled fox refers to Mein Kampf for guidance in his efforts to destroy the chicken yard.  In the finished picture Mein Kampf becomes a book labeled Psychology (an invidious comparison) ... In the rough reel the narrator is horrified when he discovers that the entire populace has been eaten.  "This isn't the way it ends in my book," he falsettos.  The fox leers, "That's the way it does in Mein Kampf." In the finished product the fox merely glibs something about "Don't believe everything you read, bub..."  Puerility has been substituted for power.  It could not be said justly that Mr. Disney lacks courage.  It must be then that he lacks convictions.


socalgal69 said...

I've been enjoying your posts. They are quite entertaining and informative. I was surprised to see these, though. My grandfather was the Karl Van Leuven who edited 'The Animator' and who worked for Disney. I have never seen these! Wherever did you find them? Fascinating.

roconnor said...


These came from Ed Smith who took over editing the NY newsletter in the mid-1950s.

As far as I know, the first year of The Animator isn't available publicly -so if you ever come across them please let us know.