Saturday, September 14, 2013

Short Subject: John Hubley's Films

by F.T. Rea

As a filmmaker, John Hubley (1914-77) was an independent's independent. Influenced by modern art and social causes he took cartoons where they had never been.

Hubley was hired as an apprentice to paint backgrounds for Walt Disney in 1935. The apprentice rapidly advanced but after a labor dispute with the union-despising Disney, Hubley left in 1941.

In 1942 Hubley joined the Army and served in its First Motion Picture Unit, which produced training films. During this stint Hubley refined the lean drawing style he later used when he joined another former Disney animator, Ub Iwerks, at United Productions of America. While at UPA Hubley created the Mr. Magoo character.

In the ‘50s Hubley’s refusal to name names for the House Un-American Activities Committee put him on the blacklist and eventually forced him to leave Southern California and become an independent producer/director.

Hubley married his animation collaborator, Faith Elliot, and they established their Storyboard Studio in New York City. The Hubleys focused on producing offbeat short films and distinctive commercials. They worked together on many projects until John’s death at the age of 62, three of their short films won Oscars.

The two Hubley films offered above should give the reader a bit of a feel for how he influenced a generation of filmmakers/animators. In looking at several of his films to prepare this post, it seemed to me he continued to get more experimental the older he got. Some of the little films he and Faith made at Storyboard still look avant-garde today. At times their work was inspired by their children and they occasionally used their kids' voices in their films.

As a bonus, here are links to two more Hubley shorts, here and here. There are lots of others available on YouTube.

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