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How To Succeed in Animation

Chapter 1: Win Some, Lose Many

This first chapter lists everything the book covers. You can save a lot of time just by reading this chapter. If none of the topics interests you, ya don’t have to read any further!

In the movie business people like to talk about their successes. I have had many, but as I look back, I feel that a recounting of my many failures might well be more instructive to readers wanting helpful truth. I realize and am adjusted to the fact that at 77, I am only a former boy wonder, no longer on the cutting-edge of anything. The failures I have had were all involved in attempts to stretch the envelope.

Before I wallow in my flops, allow me the pleasure of first mentioning some of my successes in the little animated corner of the movie world:

  • One of my short films won me an Oscar. I have had five films nominated. I was the only animation director to have two films nominated in a single year.
  • My films have won over a hundred festival medals of the usual colors, gold, silver, and bronze, - and lots of plaques, statuettes, and certificates.
  • I was the youngest person at the time to become an animation director in a major studio.
  • I have been honored three times with tribute screenings at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
  • I am mentioned fairly positively in nearly every book on the history of animation.
  • I have a bio in the World Encyclopedia of Cartoons.
  • My 1950s CBS-TV series, TOM TERRIFIC has entered the language.
  • I have been interviewed countless times in newspapers, magazines, film documentaries, and on TV talk shows, and have lectured extensively across the USA and Europe, expounding on my animation theories and insights.
  • My children’s films have been shown three times in The White House.
  • I was a member of the original UPA studio, influenced by the masters, and have in turn influenced many rising animators.
  • I am a voting member of the Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Should I rave on? No. Let’s get to the gritty tales I have never yet told, from my animation career. In the pages that follow, I will expound on these topics, and use as illustrations the pits I have personally had to climb out of.

  • I will first lay on your head the benefit of my experience and deep thinking from over 55 years in animation and live-action film work.
  • I will suggest how to think about, understand, and master animation; what is essential to it, regardless of style, content, or technology.
  • How one producer expected me to be a "marxist" and accept a lower salary, and how another shielded me when McCarthyites accused me of actually being a marxist.
  • How, by honestly stating to a new employer that I wasn’t specifically an animator, I nearly nipped my career in the bud.
  • How my intended "renaissance" at Terrytoons was snuffed by a brillo-headed dragon.
  • How a famous personal manager promised to make me a millionaire, and how I avoided that.
  • How I unintentionally helped Hanna-Barbera to become the kings of schlock, and lost my main chance at the Big Time.
  • How I was set up in my own New York studio, with my name on the door, and quickly became miserable.
  • How I was dragooned to communist Prague, my life and career changed forever, but how at least I assured myself that I was not a marxist, and that animation art was global.
  • How one producer intended to, and another did steal an Oscar from me.
  • How Reader’s Digest TV expected me to create a version of THE PIED PIPER without rats.
  • How I was used as a decoy in developing a feature-length animation adaption of E.B.White’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB, working directly with the sainted author, but how the rug was pulled out from under both of us, and Charlotte was sweetened by Hanna-Barbera. (I will print my never before published personal correspondence to and from E.B.White)
  • How I wrote the very first screenplay version of J.R.R.Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT, but was forced to sacrifice it and create a "dummy" 10-minute version within one month, in order to hand the producer a windfall by exploiting a contract loophole.
  • The true TOM & JERRY story — and how many know that TOM & JERRY, POPEYE, and KRAZY KAT cartoons were produced in Prague during the communist era?
  • How my son Kim created a comix legend from my Terrytoons experience.
  • Why teachers, librarians, and traditional jazz fans love me; the very people who have the least money and smallest film budgets.
  • Learn my "Golden Time" theory of animation production.
  • How and why I reverted to advance-mix soundtrack production.
  • What Woody Allen taught me.
  • My interaction with some of the great people in our craft; personal stories, influences and goals in my work.
  • Realistic goals versus the limitations and compromises that are the reality of movie work. How to achieve the maximum.
  • How to survive creatively and economically in the acknowledged jungle that is the movie business.
  • How to make luck happen.
  • How to make a personal services contract to protect and maximize your creative rights and income.

These are some of the topics of this compendium. It is my goal here to lay down some useful insights for you. If you are just entering, already employed in this work, or just interested in what makes animators tick, do read on.

Nudnik ©GD

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