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Nine And A Half Questions With Eric Goldberg

Will Ryan interviews Eric Goldberg regarding his non-influences and just who he considers animation's first, true pioneer.

ryangoldberg01.jpg Eric Goldberg. © Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Eric Goldberg is one of the top animators and animation directors in the world. He was lured from London to Disney's Southern California studio a decade or so ago, and became a major contributor to their animated feature division. Having recently eluded Disney's grasp, he is currently situated at Universal.

I caught up with Eric in the rumpus room of a former Eastern European embassy in the palmy hills of Glendale.

Will Ryan: When Fantasia/2000 was released, how many interviews did you give?

Eric Goldberg: I lost count.

WR: Dozens and dozens?

EG: Yes.

WR: More than a hundred?

EG: Possibly.

WR: And would you say you gave an equal number for Pocahontas and Aladdin?

EG: Yes. A bunch for Hercules, too. What actually gets printed depends on how the movie does. Everybody's perceptions, and things like that.

WR: Since you've done tons of these interviews, I hope you don't mind if we discuss terrain not too well trodden.

EG: Shoot.

WR: Was that an expletive or an imperative verb?

EG: It might have been an imperative sentence, actually.

WR: I shall take it as such, with an understood 'you' on the side.

EG: Which will make for an amiable interview.

WR: Amiable and brief, like a good cartoon.

EG: Definitely brief, we've only got 6 1/2 questions left.

WR: Really?

EG: Actually, 5 1/2 now. But who's counting?

WR: The editor.

EG: Oh.

WR: So, Eric, tell me: What are some of your major non-influences?

EG: My major non-influences? Oh gosh, there are so many.

WR: Let's limit it to animation. Is there some primitive animation you saw as a kid that just chased you away? Was there some insipid drivel that leapt out and yelled, 'This is not what you want to be doing with your life'? An example might be Pow Wow the Indian Boy...

EG: ...or Bucky and Pepito.

WR: Right!

EG: Funny enough, I actually had a voracious appetite for all of that kind of stuff ... including those shows. But I would say, in terms of later career choices, Courageous Cat wasn't high on the list.

WR: Ah-hah.

EG: And there's Winky Dink and You. I don't really reference that a lot.

WR: Although the interactive nature of that particular series blazed the trail for many of today's video games.

EG: True.

WR: How about Clutch Cargo?

EG: That and Space Angel broke me up when I was a kid. You'd look at the stuff and think: I know these are guys, but I swear they're all wearing lipstick. What must the recording sessions of this have looked like?

WR: Moving from the unsublime to the unridiculous, what are your thoughts on Winsor McCay?

EG: He's the real father of animation. As much as Disney had to do with animation, McCay was there first. There's such a sophistication to even his earliest work. I consider him really the pioneer. Disney took up the baton and made it how should I say it?

WR: A viable...?

EG: I don't want to say just 'a viable business' because Disney made it much more than that. I would say that he

WR: is the Henry Ford...?

EG: I don't want to say that either. I don't think it's the assembly line method that will ultimately give Disney his lasting place.

WR: Agreed. But how would you put into words what Walt Disney, animation pioneer, succeeded in doing?

EG: I think he made animation accessible as an entertainment to the mainstream to a certain extent, which is a huge, huge thing. First in the realm of shorts, and then in the realm of features. If you say that Winsor McCay made these great experiments... 'Okay, let's see if I can convince everybody that Gertie is actually on stage with me'... Or, 'Let's see if I can make Little Nemo and his friends move...'

WR: '-- in color!'

EG: Yeah, '-- in hand-painted color!' Well, the stuff that he did was just groundbreaking, absolutely groundbreaking. But for the most part it wasn't narrative.

WR: And so Disney...?

EG: Disney took it and made it narrative so that everybody really could understand story and character. That's where he made his biggest contribution.

WR: Hum.

EG: And we've used up our allotted 9 1/2 questions.

WR: Shoot.

EG: Shot.

WR: Cut.

EG: Wrap.

WR: Thirty.

Eric Goldberg is currently in the early stages of developing Where the Wild Things Are for Vivendi/Universal. Expect to see at least 100 interviews on that project [at the appropriate time].

Will Ryan writes, produces, draws cartoons and plays the ukulele. He also provided the voice of the comic strip character Ziggy for the television pilot Ziggy's Take 30, an early directing job for Eric Goldberg. To date, Eric has given a total of "Let me think ... um ... zero" interviews on this project.

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