Thursday, April 16, 2009

I love you Jules Engel!

Back in my CalArts days (Experimental Animation BFA 97 & MFA 00), I had the spectacular honor of having legendary Disney & UPA artist Jules Engel as one of my favorite and most inspiring teachers. He was the first true animation artist I ever met. He reviewed my portfolio when I was 17 and told me, while looking through my soul, that my artwork was "krap!" He accepted me into the program but made me promise to create honest work that came from within. He completely changed the way I thought about art, film and animation. As a foreign artist (when I asked him where he was from, he said "Like you, I'm not from here.") who had worked in the American animation studios, Jules managed to keep his artistic identity and voice intact. To me, that was super macho and made me idolize him. And he had a mustache!

Experimental Animation Bad Ass JULES ENGEL

I would always get up really early to try to have breakfast with him in the school cafeteria. Sometimes he would tell me stories from his incredible & heartbreaking past, sometimes we talked about the Lakers (like me, he was a huge fan) and sometimes we would even talk about animation. Color was a huge topic we often discussed and fought over. I lost every single time. He really encouraged me to look at my favorite Mexican painters for inspiration (he loved Miguel Covarrubias & Rivera) and made me fall in love with Picasso. He watched tons of films (and for some reason he LOVED Ron Howard) and he would always dissect what made them special. Or "krap!"

Check out some of his amazing UPA art from Amid Amidi's must have book Cartoon Modern:

You can feel Jule's love for Miro and Kandinsky in this one.

And Picasso in this one!

When I was trying to come up with my thesis film idea I pitched him tons of stories where I learned he did not enjoy "funny but inconsequential" student short ideas and he HATED depressing & violent endings. I think he had seen so much pain in his life that he wanted our films to inspire and reflect the best in all of us. "It's your film..." he would say but I could tell how he really felt.

Eventually my thesis film "Carmelo" became about a little boy who runs away in the middle of the night and dies bullfighting a massive bull to make his father proud. Jules was not crazy about the story ("you kill a child!"). He was also very disappointed when I told him I was doing it in CG. He warned me about how cold and soulless computer art could be and every time things weren't going well his words rang heavy in my heart. When I finally showed him the finished version he slapped me in the face and said, "You son of a bitch! You did it." He then stood up smiling, put his hat on and walked away. I will never forget that day. I love you Jules!

Please join me and some truly incredible and world renowned artists filmmakers for the following event honoring the legacy of Jules. And a special GRACIAS to Courtney McIntyre for allowing me to be a part of this event:

Saturday, April 18, 2009
Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater

5 pm “The Influence of Jules Engel on Contemporary Animation”
7 pm Cocktail Reception and Exhibition of Fine Art by Jules Engel

To purchase tickets or make a donation to support The Jules Engel Endowed Scholarship Fund, please go to the secure Jules Engel Centennial Celebration ticket page.

Some of today’s most inventive practitioners in the art of animation come together to honor the far-reaching legacy of Jules Engel (1909–2003)—animation pioneer, fine artist, and one of the most beloved educators in CalArts history.

The Jules Engel Centennial Celebration begins with a roundtable discussion entitled “The Influence of Jules Engel on Contemporary Animation.” The distinguished panelists are all former students of Jules at CalArts:

Jorge Gutierrez, creator of El Tigre
Steve Hillenburg, creator of SpongeBob SquarePants
Mark Kirkland, director on The Simpsons
Mark Osborne, director of Kung Fu Panda
Joanna Priestley, independent animator
Henry Selick, director of Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas

The roundtable is followed by a cocktail reception and an exhibition of fine art by Jules Engel, now available for purchase.