ASIFA-Hollywood: The International Animated Film Society
Friday, October 14, 2005
Esopus: John Canemaker on a Single Frame

I love getting packages in the mail. Thursday I got a great package. Two copies of Esopus #5 (a reading copy and an archive copy) with the rich smell of printers ink that always takes me right back to my childhood days of hand setting type. (so I had a weird childhood)

The printing on this periodical is art to someone that knows about printing, square blocked glue bound non-standard signatures with single page inserts of special papers. It is like one of the works I use to get at the Gutenberg Show where every printer set up their press on the floor and tries to out do every other printer on the convention floor with quality they could not afford in real print runs. And the papers in this volume, each paper choice is driven by the article need not by cost or ease of signature assembly.

Esopus, as a publication just blows me away. It even comes with a CD of original commissioned music specially composed for this publication. I think the word I am looking for is cutting edge or maybe avant-garde kind of mixed with craftsmanship and something that means highest quality all at the same time. Maybe that is what Esopus means?

The content is all over the map of the arts world. But in a good way. I haven`t had time to give it a comprehensive read but I did get off on the letter to a lost love typed on two sides of a white paper bag. There was even a printed receipt inside the bag for 65 cents, no tax (food item) that is dated December 1977.

I did read, with great joy, Let a Thousand Drawing Bloom by John Canemaker. That is the reason I got this early Christmas package in the first place.

John takes one frame from Walt Disney`s 1940 Fantasia and gives us a trip through the hand drawn animation process complete with reproductions of every piece of artwork used to create that single frame. Everything is printed to look as close to the original as humanly possible. That means transparencies printed on vellum to give the see through quality of animation bond and production sketches first done on black paper printed on black paper so that the look of the work is as close as can be to pastels on black paper. As someone that spent a lot of my teen years running a printing press this has a richness that is true love of craft. Esopus would surely have please William Morris.

The strange thing for me was seeing one sentence (His boss, William Randolph Heart, once requested that he draw a portrait of Heart`s mistress, the actress Marion Davies) that I first read in a student`s paper five years ago quoted here in John`s article.

It got me to thinking about just how much research John was putting into this simple little article. He had to jump through some hoops to get access to Al Zinnen`s great nephew (privacy regulations at my college being what they are) and all that work was reduced to less than two paragraphs. How much more research is there lurking out there behind every other sentence on the page?

So I`m think John, the original release of Fantasia was 125 minutes or 7500 seconds. Take that at 24 frames Per Second for about 180,000 frames. If we go easy on you and average it out on 2s then that leaves just 89,999 more frames you have to analyze. That is going to make you a very busy man. Hope to see you at the Annies, anyway.

For info on Esopus:

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