Marv (Bambi Meets Godzilla) Newland to hold animation master class

In the beginning, there were cartoons. Charles-Émile Reynaud was publicly showing hand drawn moving images at his Théâtre Optique in Paris in 1892, three years before the Lumières brothers presented motion pictures to an audience for the first time.

In 2011, there are more animated films being made than ever before, and the NFB is celebrating International Animation Day (October 28) with Get Animated!, a series of workshops and screenings across Canada. Here in the Lower Mainland, Marv Newland—the man responsible for the cult classic Bambi Meets Godzilla, along with a number of other acclaimed works—presents a master class at Emily Carr on Wednesday (October 26, starting at 11:30 AM).

Newland has been working in the field since the late ‘60s, founding International Rocketship along the way and seeing his work celebrated internationally. His beautiful 1988 piece, Black Hula, was included as part of the VAG’s Krazy! exhibition in 2008.

Newland called the Straight to talk about animation’s enduring appeal. “I once went to the Telluride film festival in Colorado,” he begins, “they showed a bunch of my films back in the ‘80s, and I met Ry Cooder. His son was a big fan of one of my early pictures called Sing Beast Sing, and in our discussion he was saying that he loved animation because it’s something that people can watch over and over again. He said animation and porn seem to be able to stand up to repeated viewings.”

Newland’s latest work, CMYK, is included in the NFB’s program, and it’ll be the subject of his master class on Wednesday. The non-narrative short is a dazzling riot of colour and movement set to an antic score by composer Lisa Kay Miller. If anything, it resembles the playfully abstract work that Newland was likely providing to Sesame Street much earlier in his career.

“What you’re seeing is an experimental animated movie made using CMYK symbols that I collected for a 10 year period, and didn’t know why I was doing it,” he explains. "It's compulsive behaviour. If the province still had places for people like me, they would have thrown me there. Instead I went to the film board and they gave me a green light on making a movie out of all this stuff.”

As with much of the work commissioned by the NFB, CMYK is the kind of strongly individual effort that appeals to purists as much as it entertains the rest of us.

“You start out with a blank screen and you fill it up,” says Newland. “You create the whole darn world. So you’re like a little god. In the case of the National Film Board, only one or two people make an entire picture. It isn’t like cartoons made in animation studios where hundreds of people are involved. So the pictures come out very pure, and quizzical, with little mistakes and idiosyncrasies throughout that otherwise get cleaned up. I think that’s one of the cool things about the NFB’s pictures, and you’ll see a whole bunch of them in their new releases program, which is part of this Get Animated! thing.”

Those idiosyncrasies certainly make their impression, which perhaps explains why a film like Life with Tulip is so much more indelible than the last Dreamworks bonanza. It’s certainly true for Newland, who is still most strongly associated with his first work. “Well, Bambi Meets Godzilla is the one I always have to fight off with the crowds,” he says, chuckling. “That’s 90 seconds of mistakes. It’s so badly made, but people still want to see it.“

For more on the NFB’s Get Animated! series, go here

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