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Tribute to Wendy Jackson Hall

Greg Singer sat down with Drew Carey in October of last year to discuss his experience of creating Drew Careys Green Screen Show.

Wendy Jackson Hall.

This November, Animation World Network learned of the sad news of the passing of Wendy Jackson Hall. As a tribute to her, we have collected some thoughts of the animation community and honor her deep commitment to the art of animation.

Karl Cohen

ASIFA-San Francisco

I've known Wendy since the early 1990s when she programmed films at Rhode Island School of Design. We used to have long phone discussions about experimental works. She was a bright, cheerful student and it was a pleasure talking with her. After she graduated in 1995, she visited San Francisco and we met for the first time. She was on her way to Los Angeles where she found work with ASIFA-Hollywood as its general manager. She also found work as an animation teacher at Santa Monica College.

In 1996, she joined a young start up Internet firm called AWN.COM. She was involved with them as a writer, in sales, as an associate editor, etc. At the end of 1998 she left awn.com to become a freelance writer. Within a short period of time The Hollywood Reporter, Wired Magazine, Variety, AWN and others were publishing her.

The following year Wendy Jackson married Porter Hall. The couple moved to Seattle where she continued work as an animation teacher. She also started a community puppet project, ran ASIFA-NW, served as a consultant to Atom Films and Nicktoons, served on juries at Ottawa and Annecy and did dozens of other civic activities. We kept in touch by e-mail and exchanged monthly newsletters. Most of the animation news from the Seattle area that I've mentioned in recent years in the ASIFA-SF newsletter was thanks in some way to Wendy. She was only 32 when complications from clots silenced her on Nov. 14, 2005.

One of Wendy's accomplishments was starting Animated Adventures (www.animatedadventures.com), a firm that helped people of all ages express themselves though the art of animation. She blended media literacy, visual arts and technology in hands-on animation production workshops all over the world. She held programs in schools, ran summer camps and did special events that ranged from birthday parties to building giant puppets that marched in civic parades. She was a dynamo of energy.

In 2001 the Halls moved to Bainbridge Island near Seattle. An obituary by her husband, Porter, released by the funeral home on the island said in part, "Wendy shared her love of animation with the children of Bainbridge Island and other communities through her business, Animated Adventures. She taught workshops and served as artist in residence in schools throughout the Seattle area, enabling children to create their own animated films. On Bainbridge Island, Wendy also became known as the puppet lady, responsible for creating the Puppets on Parade workshops, at which she inspired community residents of all ages to create art for the 2004 and 2005 Fourth of July parades.

"In addition to her work as a teacher and artist, Wendy was the current president of the Pacific NW Chapter of ASIFA (International Animated Film Association), a board member of ASIFA International, and a member of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce. More than anything else, Wendy loved children and sharing her love of animation with them. She also enjoyed spending time with her family, friends, and her dog Cinder."

On Nov. 19 Ron Diamond [Acme Filmworks and AWN president] dedicated the screening of the Animation Show of Shows in Portland to Wendy. He introduced the show as he did here and then invited people in the audience to share their recollections of Wendy.

Deanna Morse

ASIFA-Central (Midwest USA)

It was at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, sometime in the mid-1990s and I was waiting for that double-decker picnic bus. Wendy Jackson Hall bounded up to me, all smiles, hand extended to greet me. I remember being struck by her open friendliness and positive energy, a characteristic I saw every time we met.

Later, we found we shared a common interest in animation education. I casually gave her my Move Click Move DVD at a festival. She called me two days later and told me she had watched every frame, and would it be OK if she wrote a review of it? I was deeply honored. She was so matter-of-fact about her approach to this project, and her work in general. Positive, upbeat, straightforward and a real joy to work with.

Over the years Wendy became a dear festival friend. She was someone special when we sat down together it only took a few moments to continue the conversation we started months ago. I will miss picking up those conversational threads with her.

Wendy and her husband Porter.

Maureen Furniss

Editor of Animation Journal and a teacher at CalArts

Like so many others, I was terribly saddened to hear of Wendy's passing. It took me awhile to compose my thoughts, in part because I had mixed feelings about what to write. Wendy had written for the journal that I publish. I had worked with her while she was at Animation World Magazine, and we had seen each other occasionally at festivals. But despite these encounters, my first impulse was to say that I didn't know Wendy all that well. Still, when I thought of her, I got a strong impression a huge beaming smile and the sound of her voice saying, how are you?" in a deeply friendly way.

I read some messages about Wendy and realized that I share the same sense of her that others have, and yet I still wondered if I really knew her all that well. Then I looked at her website and saw the many pictures of Wendy, Porter, her dog, friends, festival gatherings, and people and places I didn't even know. In photo after photo, I saw the same Wendy I had pictured in my mind, as though I had shared these memories with her in some way. At that point, I realized I probably did know Wendy a lot better than I had thought at first.

I think that the impression I have of her energy and happiness were and continue to be such defining qualities of her personality that even though we didn't see each other all that much, I really do know a lot about her. Thinking about Wendy this week has made me reflect about the things that are important to me, and ask myself how I can carry on some of her positive life force.

Noureddin Zarrinkelk

President of ASIFA based in Iran

What sad, sad, sad news This is the second loss on the ASIFA Board. Lou [Hertz] and now Wendy. She is still smiling at me every day and I can't believe the truth yet. She disappeared so fast so unbelievable.

Yvonne Andersen

Rhode Island School of Design

During a time when I was head of the Film/Animation/Video Dept. Rhode Island School of Design, I noticed something unusual going on in the Auditorium. Film programs were being presented by someone who was not our faculty.

Asking around, I discovered the shows were presented by a freshman. Her name was Wendy Jackson and she would be a major in our dept. the next year. I had been at RISD about 15 years by that time and noticed that our incoming students had talent in many areas, but this didn't seem to include producers or presenters, the very important people who bring the work of everyone else before the public. I thought, oh great! Finally we've got our first impresario!

Soon thereafter, Wendy showed up at my office door to tell me she was scheduled to present a traveling Film Festival in the auditorium on the same night and hour our Department was scheduled for our yearly program for Freshmen in the school who were selecting their major.

We still had a few days time to work out the publicity for this, so we decided together that her show would go on 30 minutes earlier than scheduled and our dept. show could go on 30 minutes later than scheduled. It all worked out fine.

The next few years, Wendy was in my beginning animation classes. She was an excellent student, but I most remember her in the Film Special Effects class. The students were divided into groups for projects, which included mat box, inserting an animated character into a live-action background, etc. Her group of four students was always laughing. They loved their projects, which turned out entertaining.

Amy Kravitz, in charge of the junior and senior animation projects takes all the animation seniors to the Ottawa Festival every year. Wendy went on this trip in both her junior and senior year and set up private interviews with some of the world's most famous animators. These later appeared in various film publications.

During the summers, Wendy worked for Gail Banker in her animation workshop for children in Vermont. She enjoyed this a lot, so, after she graduated from RISD, Wendy decided to interview me about my work at the Yellow Ball Workshop. Wendy recorded me on tape at school for about an hour. Later she would call me from California or send me an e-mail with further questions. Wendy interviewed me within an inch of my life! It was intensive!

In 2000, Chris Robinson invited me to be honorary president of the Ottawa Animation Festival. Wendy was on the jury, and had been presenting some programs for the festival. She asked me to present a program of Yellow Ball Workshop films including my personal films, and also another program of RISD Student films. She would print part of her interview with me in the program for the festival.

Wendy moved to Seattle with her husband, Porter Hall, and started doing her "Animation Adventures" program for children. I shipped her a few cases of 16mm used prints from the Yellow Ball Workshop to use with her classes. Wendy was always working on different projects. Her abundant energy, hard work and joy in life, made it seem that she was capable of pulling off any project wonderfully. Her loss at such a young age is a shocking and sad event for her family, friends and the whole animation community. We can hardly believe it. We will all miss her, and know that someone special is gone.

Katherine Mervine Humphreys

St. Pete Beach, Florida

I first met Wendy years ago when I was working as an intern at Acme Filmworks. She worked as an editor for awn.com in the same building. We had a lot in common: we had both gone to art school, we were both from the east coast and we both loved animation. I remember thinking it was pretty amazing that this young person had left her comfort zone in Massachusetts, moved to Hollywood, and was in a leadership position, all before the age of 25.

We became close friends, and it was also around this time that Wendy met Porter, the love of her life. I remember her sitting in my living room and telling me how much she loved him.

When Wendy left awn to start her own business, I came along and helped with the post-production and publicity for the stop motion film, More. I was lucky to be a part of her life then.

Despite being younger than I am, Wendy was my mentor. She was my inspiration to start my own business, to leave the corporate world and to teach. When she left the 9-to-5-work world, so did I. I was so impressed by her bravery in everything every thing she did.

We both moved, and both got married. Although years went by, I always caught up with her. I attended her wedding, and met up with her at the Annecy film festival. And every time, we could always pick up right where we left off. I only regret that I turned down her invitation to meet up this past summer. I was busy, and I always thought there'd be another opportunity. I should have learned from Wendy not to get trapped in my routine, and to take every chance that came my way.

Pamela Thompson

Recruiter/Career Coach

Ideas to Go

I was notified that Wendy was sick just two days before she passed away. I was in shock as I remember her as a vibrant, personable artist. I think I met Wendy first through Women in Animation and then worked with her when she worked at Animation World Network. I remember when she drove me down to Orange County so we could visit The Neverhood, Doug Tenappel's company, which was working on a stop-motion videogame. After I interviewed Doug and the team and Wendy snapped photos of everything in the studio, she drove back towards L.A., but we took a slight detour off the 5 fwy. and ended up crossing over town on another freeway, adding quite a bit of time to our commute. But this gave me an opportunity to spend some extra time with her. We had a lengthy conversation about what we had seen, what would be most interesting to readers of AWN, and the slant of the story.

We also spoke about the state of experimental animation and our career aspirations. Wendy enjoyed experimental animation and was intrigued by the pioneers of the animation industry. She was actively involved in trying to record veterans of the animation field before they passed away. She felt their contributions are a legacy that should be captured and treasured. Wendy's enthusiasm was contagious. She was interested in everything to do with animation and I believe she taught animation to young kids. I'm sure her students will carry the legacy of her enthusiasm and love for animation as I do.

Pierre Courtet-Cohl

Emile Cohls grandson

I met Wendy Jackson only once 10 years ago. She was in a period between end of studies and searching a job. Before returning to the States, she wanted to have some precise information on the life and works of Emile Cohl, what was greatly to her credit. She called me and came to my home, where we spent a complete afternoon speaking about the beginning of animated cartoons, Emile Cohl and his stay in Fort-Lee between 1912 and 1914. I keep the memory of a young woman very intelligent, active and sprightly.

I offer my most sincere condolences to the family of Wendy Jackson.

Candy Kugel

Buzzco Associates Inc.

I remember Wendy from her enthusiastic presence at film festivals and her incredible curiosity. She also encouraged me to write the animation disk-side version of the creation of the MTV top of the hour for Animation World News. I saw Wendy only a few weeks ago when I ran into her at the RISD bookstore during the Alumni Reunion Weekend. We hadn't remembered that we had both attended the school and we promised to keep in touch. What a shock her passing has been and such a loss for our community.

Robby London

DIC Entertainment

When it comes to the kind of tragic and wholly unexpected loss with which we in the animation community have suffered owing to the sudden death of Wendy Jackson Hall, I find myself at a loss for words. There was simply no time to prepare for something like this.

I will remember Wendy as a friend to animation, a friend to artists, a friend to students, a friend to the community. But to me, simply a friend. I associate her with warmth and kindness and humor and a genuine joie de vivre. Her dedication to the craft and the community of animation was profound - her affection for the medium was evident in her work. It was always an unexpected treat to run into Wendy around town which I seemed uncannily to do on several occasions here in Seattle. And it was even more fun to hang out with her on the few occasions for which we actually made plans.

While I'm saddened and angry that she has been taken from us in her prime by the same token, I'm grateful that she didn't have to suffer over a protracted period. Perhaps that is scant solace, but I'll take what I can.

I subscribe to the belief that one continues to live for as long they inspire meaningful thoughts, memories and actions in others and by that definition, Wendy will be with us for a long, long time indeed.

Kellie-Bea Cooper

Director, The Better Mouse Trap Prod. Co.

Many of you who know me find me to be an infectious upbeat and cheerful person. The truth is when I first heard about Wendy's passing, I was dumbfounded, like most of you were I'm sure. It was impossible to comprehend, I just talked to her on the phone a few weeks ago and, like always, she was full of life and energy. When it finally sunk in that she was indeed gone my attitude turned to anger. I was so angry that I wanted to tear the stars from the sky and live in darkness to accompany and commiserate my sorrow. Though I would still like to linger in this dark place I know Wendy would never wish it. In knowing this, I dug into my heart, bypassing my gut reactions, and found some very beautiful sentiments to share with you all.

As you all may well know the most sincere and genuine gifts you can share with a friend are unspoken and unseen. These are the gifts for internal growth; the things you carry with you each and everyday. These gifts are often taken for granted until a solemn or quiet time allows for reflection. It's my time to reflect on the gifts I carry from Wendy Jackson Hall.

Wendy, a contemporary mover and shaker of my time, was one of the few people whom I shared many similar goals and interests: Animation History, Current Industry News, Writing, Teaching, and the Animation Community as a whole (the studios, the independent, the special interest groups, and most of all the people).

The gifts I shared with Wendy:

  • Determination and Self-Motivation. Wendy was a self-made investigator on life. When she wanted to know something or get something done she always got it done. I said she was a mover and shaker and I meant that literally. She moved herself and built her own niche within the industry; creating jobs and adventures even if they didn't exists. I carry with me her, "Wear there's a will there's a way" attitude.

  • Thirst for Knowledge Wendy walked into the industry with a thirst to know more. Being that it's not that easy to find answers in a small, tight knit, craft community, Wendy found avenues to quench her thirst by asking questions of people. She was an exceptional people person in this regard. I carry with me her, "No question is a stupid question" and her, "Treat people in a genuine way and you will find respect" approach to people.

  • A Passion for Sharing Wendy was the consummate student it was in her soul. No wonder she enjoyed sharing knowledge with others, especially inquisitive students. This recipe for learning and teaching was the nourishment that kept her strong and happy. Heck, it's what kept everyone around her strong and healthy too (her husband, her co-workers, her family, her friends, and her students). I carry with me her passion to learn and share with others. In my experience I have found this to be the most enjoyable career and leisure choice.

I will always feel that Wendy's passing happened too young and unfair and I will mourn for her forever, but I will also stay strong and happy within the gifts we share. I suspect those whom I touch will carry these gifts within themselves; silently fostering Wendy's spirit all throughout the industry forever more. Now that's a much more positive and wonderfully way to remember a gift from a friend.

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