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Animator Jan Svochak Passes on at 80

Animator Jan Svochak died of lung cancer Sept. 6, 2006, in Florida at the age of 80. J. J. Sedelmaier (J.J. Sedelmaier Prods.) relates, "Most people know Jan's work from the years he put in on the Hawaiian Punch campaign. He was the head animator from the '60s up to the early '90s.

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1926, Svochak moved to the U.S. in the '30s and then returned to Europe to fight in WWII (he was in the tank corps that liberated Dachau), reports Sedelmaier. "After the war, Svochak worked at Famous Studios in New York City where he assisted Marty Taras on series, including BABY HUEY, LITTLE AUDREY and HERMAN & KATNIP. He also freelanced for Pelican Films, Byron Rabbitt, Zanders, Perpetual Motion Pictures, Buzzco, Ink Tank, Jumbo and here at JJSP," said Sedelmaier.

While at Perpetual Motion Pictures, Svochak Candy Kugel, Vinnie Caffarelli and Russel Calabrese did the MR. HIPP animated series for NBC's Saturday evening WEEKEND program in the early '70s, a precursor to SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, according to Sedelmaier.

"He, his wife, Cheryl, and their two sons had recently moved to Florida," said Sedelmaier "He'll be terribly missed."

Kugel, co-owner of Buzzco Assoc. in NYC, tells AWN, "I started as an intern at Perpetual Motion Pictures in the early 1970s. Jan Svochak came to Perpetual Motion Pictures around the time it was expanding its offices on E. 48th Street in 1976. By the time the office space and personnel doubled, he was put on permanent staff, and he and I were placed in adjacent cubicles behind the ink-and-paint department. We had to share a telephone, so there was a little window cut into the plasterboard where we could pass the receiver from desk to desk.

"I was the youngest (and only female) animator there Jan was a veteran," she continues. "To say we had different outlooks on life would be an understatement. His favorite story, usually repeated when I brought tour groups of young students around, was his beginning at the inbetween department of Famous Studios. He said that on that first day, he started with another young man. They sat next to each other and, sweating bullets, attempted to make the inbetweens of a seemingly endless folder of extreme drawings. Came lunchtime, this other young man adjusted his necktie, put on his jacket, wiped his brow and said, 'I'm leaving.' Jan imagined that he became a great success in some other field. And he would end with this piece of advice: 'Get out of this racket!'

"But despite his gruff manner, we became good friends. He taught me about physics (watch the weight!) and, through his listening to Danny Stiles (we also shared the radio), I was introduced to standards of the '40s and '50s, including our favorite, Spike Jones. We were both working on the WEEKEND pieces Buzz was right, I generally did not work on the MR. HIPPS (there were a couple of exceptions when deadlines were tight), but was responsible for the 'other' one-minute piece for the month but as we both had the same rhythm of work due, found camaraderie in that.

"After Perpetual was no longer 'perpetual' and we formed Buzzco Assoc., Jan continued to work with us until poor health made that impossible. After that, he and I found ourselves on the Annuity and Welfare Board of Local 644 (who took over the animation union after Screen Cartoonists 841 folded). No matter how frail, Jan was always in there kicking his keen mind never losing focus. His memory never failed him. He came to many of our Christmas parties and continued to talk to Vinny and me by telephone. I find it hard to believe that these calls won't happen again. My heart goes out to Cherie and the kids," said Kugel.