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Monday, December 31, 2018

Børge Ring - mentor and playmate.

Working with Børge was fun, hard, boring, exciting, unusual, normal, and most of all educational.
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Over a year before leaving high school, in March 1978 I found out he lived in my neighborhood from a tv program about him and his wife Joanika. So I found him in the phone book (remember those?) and called him up. While studying art history, for a year I was his "pupil" doing animation tests, dropping by and having him correct them. Then, fed up with my art history professors, I moved my animation desk with my Neilson-Hordell disc into his Blaricum attic!
(I am pointing at it in this photo taken last year:)
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Here, for almost four years, from March 1980 to November 1983 I smelled of his Douwe Egberts Red Amphora pipe tobacco and every day incl. weekends, Christmas and New Year from 10 to 6 we worked to the sound of BBC World Service if there were no jazz songs he had to listen to over and over again for an upcoming gig.

I started doing simple non-production tests from his animation for The Big Bang and a few other things, then my first production work was for his part of the "So Beautiful, So Dangerous" in "Heavy Metal:" stacks of inbetweens and some effects. I also shot linetests of this on my 16mm camera--some of the hardest things to shoot! Five levels on ones with differently staggered cycles...
After this came several commercials (Asterix, Miaouw Mix) and features ("Mr. Bumble" and "Jean Sans Peur).

Mr. Bumble was exciting on many levels, being the first Dutch animated feature. Visiting Toonder Studios with Børge was always a treat, and often led to fun lunches with Bjørn Frank Jensen and Bob Maxfield, and even one with Dutch music legend Joop Stokkermans.
I had already been to the studio with Børge a few times before the feature, like when we saw The Fox and the Hound largely in pencil test, as Toonder was dubbing it to Dutch. Glen Keane's rough animation of the bear fight made a great impression on everyone!

During and in between all this, we worked whenever we could on Anna & Bella. Børge had gotten approval for his storyboard around the time I entered the picture, but hadn't started production yet. So I asked to take the storyboard home and shoot it on my 16mm. Next day I found Børge uninterested in this ("I know what works!") so I projected the storyboard frame by frame for myself on a sheet of paper using my old toy 16mm hand-crank projector. After a few minutes I heard from behind me "That doesn't work, now, does it..." The next three days we sat together and took the storyboard apart to put it back together, with me shooting a new reel every night, until the film became what it is today. Those days were some of the most fun and exciting days I've ever experienced! I did get a chance to get my feet wet on this production: I did the scene planning, assistant work (breakdowns and inbetweens), some animation and effects, drawing (incl. close inbetweens) onto cels with grease pencil, painted cels, did the editing (with Børge looking over my shoulder) and did all assistant director chores like preparing bar sheets, ex-sheets, sound mix lists and the like. We decided to pretend this was a Disney short from the 30's and work at it accordingly. Within the budget, of course - of which I, due to the producer's incompetence, saw nothing.
I decided to chalk it up as tuition fees...

During all those days, Børge told me no end of anecdotes from his and the Disney studios' past, and he introduced me to animation drafts and Mike Barrier's Funnyworld where for the first time I really learned about Disney's Hyperion Ave. studios. We made trips to festivals together like above and here in Annecy in 1981.
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(Astute readers will find producer Svend Johansen in the top image, Bob Maxfield (at Disney's in the 40s, animation director on Mr. Bumble) and director Jannik Hastrup in the lower one, with me between Bob and Jannik, Bob far right front. This bottom image was taken with my camera by John van der Meulen, a highly regarded cameraman for Toonder in the 40s and 50s but who became an executive and thus, to Børge a "bookkeeper" to be avoided).

Towards the end of 1983, with Anna & Bella basically painted and delivered to our outstanding cameraman Rem Laan, Børge mentioned that he thought I should probably seek employment somewhere as he felt, he said, that he didn't know what else to teach me. From now on, what I needed was "studio experience." I spent December somewhat desolate, worked a few freelance jobs. About once a week there was more Anna & Bella to work on (editing, final mix, then color timing), so I didn't feel like completely abandoning the area. After discussions with aforementioned Rem Laan I decided to produce the best animation discs I could design based on what came before. I produced, sold and delivered thirty 12 and 16 Field discs, which took me through July 1984, when Børge called and asked me to keep him company on his trip to Copenhagen to deliver scenes for a Danish feature film called Valhalla. Two days later I was offered a job as supervising animator at the studio, and I have been in Denmark since. During two weeks in September I had pre-arranged for Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston to lecture in Holland, we premiered Anna & Bella unofficially for the crowd attending the lecture.

Since then, Børge and I were in relatively constant contact. For years I begged him to write his memoirs. In 2005 he sent me the first 70 pages, about his time in Holland. I was glad to see it edited and published in 2010! Børge sent me a copy and inscribed it "For Hans, who ignited the start of this book." Am I glad I kept insisting!

The past years he especially valued the early Mickey drafts on this blog, and I am proud I was able to show these to him. His last message, on the previous posting: "This posting was a blessed gesture. It allows access to a lot on Dave and Fergie's animation."

To say that Børge had an influence on my life would be a gross understatement! He left us four days ago - and I will miss him...
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(Holland, April 2017: Børge, his wife Joanika and me)

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1 Comments:

Anonymous David says...

Hans , thank you for sharing this wonderful memoir of your mentor and playmate, the amazing Børge Ring. This is a post I have read several times over the pats couple of weeks.

-David

Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 3:04:00 PM PST  

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