The Creation of an Icon: MTV
Editor's Note: When our September television issue took a special focus on MTV, we were surprised how often the MTV logo was mentioned. It was on this note that Candy Kugel felt inspired to write her memoirs on directing the first "Top of the Hour" and subsequent campaigns that opened the door for many independent animators.
On Friday, July 17th, 1981 at 10:30 a.m., I attended a meeting at our Perpetual Motion Pictures offices with prospective clients from a place called Warner AmEx who were going to start a Music Television channel. They needed a network id; something to identify their network from others, sort of like a modern CBS "eye." They had a half dozen chromes from NASA of the original walk on the moon, a logo designed by Frank Olinsky of Manhattan Design, a promise for a sound track the following week, and one week in which to complete it. I remember looking at the final logo design, the chunky, baby block `M' and the dripping `TV,' and feeling how great it was. Graffiti art had been celebrated for the previous decade, yet this was the first type treatment I'd seen that screamed, "Spray paint on a wall." It was totally asymmetrical, as far away from the peacock or an eye as you could get; a design that made the `M' be off center, to allow for the `TV' to be on screen. It was also MTV's intention of changing the look of the logo every time the viewer saw it. All that was constant, were the proportions and the desire for it to look as "hands on" as possible.
This was a time when everything was shot on film, and since this was to be some sort of double run, I needed to mat in the MTV logo which would be shot with top lights onto the NASA chromes (shot bottom). Please remember that this was before HARRY, Flame or even good video compositing. I needed to do daily tests which were then processed overnight at labs. In the end, I had less than three days to produce all the hand-colored, purposely made to look "funky" flags which were done on tissue paper with watercolor markers.
But, let's step back for a minute. How did this come about and why was I doing this seminal work at MTV?
The New York Dichotomy
In the late 1970s there were two distinct groups doing animation in New York: the studios who were primarily doing television commercials and the independents who were making films from grant money. The independents generally came from art schools and film schools that had animation departments which propelled them into the world of film grants and teaching. The studio animators generally came from a tradition of apprenticeship. From the beginning I straddled both worlds. I had been a student at Rhode Island School of Design, heard a lecture by Jack Zander at Brown University and asked him for a job. During art school, I worked as an intern over summers and vacations at Perpetual Motion Pictures, a commercial studio owned by Buzz Potamkin and Hal Silvermintz. Therefore, I could learn my craft on the job, while having enough time to experiment independently while at school. RISD gave me a janitorial closet as my "room" and paid for their first animation disk and pegs which I bought before the film/animation/video department existed as it does today. I always wanted to do my own work, but the economics made it necessary for me to work commercially. I was very lucky. The first five years that I worked at Perpetual Motion Pictures, I had the opportunity to make dozens of one minute "editorial cartoons" for the monthly NBC news show, Weekend. I've always said that NBC paid for my animation education. As the pieces got more involved and complicated, the more experience I gained.