This one goes back to the very first job I had in animation. Not even a "drawing" job but a Production Assistant, non creative job. It was back in the summer of 1989, which was the summer between my first and second year at California Institue of the Arts where my twin brother Tony and I were studying animation with the hopes of breaking into "the biz". Our goal was to make some money during the summer so we could help afford the very expensive tuition we needed to stay at CalArts for the next year (we only ended up going for one more semester, but that's another story). Besides money, though, we really wanted to work at an animation studio to get some experience. Unfortunetly, we were only Freshmen, "newbies", in animation and all the upper classman were getting the real animation industry jobs. (This was the summer that "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" came out, so the industry was still dry but about to ignite.)
Or so we thought. After making a few calls, and a little help from an upper classman (probably a senior like Jim Reardon) who gave us a phone number ans someone to talk to, we both got jobs at Bakshi Animation for the summer as production assistants. Ralph Bakshi, an animation legend, at that time, was working on the second season of "The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse" which was a very popular Saturday Morning cartoon at that time (and just came out on DVD, by the way). As I said, as production assistants Tony and I were "grunts". We would do whatever the producer, Ralph, or any of the production staff needed done that day. Things like making photocopies of all the artwork the artists were doing to send over to Korea or Japan (where the show was getting animated), drive around LA delivering checks to people, picking up things, getting Ralph's cigerattes or dry cleaning done, you name it! What we really wanted to do was animate/do layout like the other upper classman from Calarts were doing but it didn't happen during the 3 months we were there that summer.
What did happen was one of the strangest moments I've had in my animation career.
If you've heard anything about Ralph Bakshi, I'm sure its a crazy story about him peeing in a corporate meeting at a executive meeting at a TV network, him gettng in a bad mood and firing someone (or everyone), hiring them back the next day like he never did it, or something like that. And you know what? It's probably pretty close to what happened. Ralph goes way back in animation history to the Terrytoon days and "Heckle and Jeckle" cartoons. But as the head of his own animation studio, he produced "The Lord of the Rings", "The Hobbit", and newerous "adult" animated cartoons including the first X rated one: "Fritz the Cat". He was a huge guy (he used to be a boxer in NY when he was younger) but talked with a lisp that made him sound kind of funny. And he'd yell alot. I still remember hearing him yell through the halls: "Bancroff! Bancroff!" (That was the best he could say "Bancroft") It was whenever he wanted me or Tony (no one could tell us apart so they called us both "Bancroft".) to get him something.
So here's the set up:
One day, Ralph decided that his office was kind of bare and he was going to have some TV executives over for a meeting so he wanted it decorated a bit. Ralph never gave away any of this artwork from his feature films or TV shows so when the boxes of animation cels and backgrounds would come back from the overseas animation studios, he had a big room he would have Tony and I stack the boxes in. Probably 50 boxes all full of the first season of "Mighty Mouse" cels and background paintings. (Most of which were desolving and melting together being squashed by the weight of the boxes on top of them as well as the California heat (I don't think the room was air conditioned.) At any rate, Ralph wanted Tony and I to go through the boxes and pick out "the best" background paintings and staple them up to the walls of his office for decoration. Ralph (who was a good cartoonist still) liked to doodle when he was on the phone or just as he was at his desk thinking. This was one of those days. He sat at his desk quitely doodling while Tony and I came in and out stapling original background paintings to his walls. At one point, Tony was in the "hot room" picking out more backgrounds and going through the boxes and I was in Ralph's office (while he doodled) stapling backgrounds. It was quite with just me and Ralph (who I was a bit afraid of) in the room for awhile. Then I heard a quite murmer that was slightly slured: "Do you love me?" I froze. Did I just hear that? Nah..it couldn't have been. It couldn't have been Ralph and he couldn't have been talking to me either. I heard him humming a little and I just got back to stapling. Then a I heard it again: "Do you love me?" I had my back to Ralph who was at his desk. This time, I knew it was him. RALPH BAKSHI IS ASKING ME IF I LOVE HIM?!?! I froze again, not wanting to look at him but also not knowing what to say. I quickly stapled the last background, and coughed out a "yeah". Hoping he didn't hear me and if he did, its what he wanted to hear. And I left quick. I joined Tony in the storeage room and told hime what happend. From that point forward, I made sure (and Tony did also) that I wasn't ever in a room alone with Ralph!
Was he talking to me or just talking to himself? I'll never know. I assume he was just talking to himself or to his little doodle characters he was drawing. He was- well- a bit of a manic depressive personality- so maybe he just needed to hear it. Man, I don't know.
I don't know if there is a moral to this story, but I learned one thing that day: even as a young "newbie" just breaking into the industry, you have to decide how far you'll go to keep a job. For me, I guess it was saying that I love Ralph Bakshi. That's my line and I've never gone past it.
Listening to: pandora
Reading: blogs, well, looking at pictures.
Watching: Foresst Gump
Playing: on the computer
Eating: Indian food
Drinking: Hot tea with cream and sugar