Please note: if an earlier link doesn't work, it may have changed following an update! Check the Category Labels in the side-bar on the right! There you can find animator drafts for sixteen complete Disney features and eighty-six shorts,
as well as Action Analysis Classes and many other vintage animation documents!

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Info on Traveling Mattes

The most interesting part of my posting on Traveling Mattes is the Comments section. I received a very interesting new comment that
I would like to draw your attention toward. It's in the very bottom...


Friday, January 08, 2010

A bit more early Børge Ring

Here are a few images of my old mentor, the now 88 year young Børge Ring, whom I visited on New Year's Day, left photo.
The clip in yesterday's posting was recorded with the band that can be seen on the center photo, with a close-up of Børge on the right.
Børge Ring 010110Børge Ring with Leo MathisenBørge Ring in Close Up
How do you pronounce Børge? Take the English word "bird," but do not pronounce the "d" and very little of the "r". Follow this with "wuh," in a way where it all melts into one word. Don't use your lips!
What can I say... Hans Christian Andersen's parents were clever not giving their son any of the "special" Danish characters, Æ, Ø or Å...

I want to remind my readers that I have made corrections to the last couple of postings, especially in the story of A/S Nordisk Tegnefilm (based on new info from Børge and indirectly from the late Arne Rønde via his son-in-law) and in the posting on the Ring & Rønde film Party in the Forest (as Børge sent me a list on who animated what).

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ring pre-Ring & Rønde

If you say the name Børge Ring in Denmark, you have a greater chance of finding that folks know him as 1940s jazz musician than as Academy Award®-winning filmmaker. Before devoting himself to the art of animation, Børge played guitar with the famous Danish band of Niels Foss (1916- ) in 1941 and Leo "The Lion" Mathisen (1906-1969) in 1941-42, and guitar and bass with the even more famous Svend Asmussen (1916- ) from ca. 1942 to ca. 1947. I fear I'm not to clear about those dates. (I'll see if I can find a picture tomorrow.)

Here was a short clip of Børge playing rhythm guitar for Leo Mathisen. I did not think it did Børge justice, so I took it off.
I will see if I can put up something soon that puts a brighter light on Børge's musical talent!

Of course, Børge did not stop playing after going so wholeheartedly into animation - he played a lot, even, and you can hear him play guitar and bass in his own "Oh, My Darling" and "Anna & Bella."
(Both can be found on YouTube).

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Party in the Forest - by Ring & Rønde 1950

The last two days were all about A/S Nordisk Tegnefilm, mainly because their old premises are just outside my window. I also spoke of Ring & Rønde studios, which were situated first in Arne Rønde's apartment on Vesterbrogade 63 (where we also had our studio just before we started A. Film in 1988, it being the apartment of my business partner Karsten Kiilerich who's father-in-law was Arne Rønde), then finally at Fredensvej 3 in Vedbæk.

I thought it would be nice to see an example of Ring & Rønde's production, so here is the 1950 commercial "Fest i Skoven" (Party in the Forest). Animation by my old mentor Børge Ring, Bjørn Frank Jensen and "grand old man of Danish animation" (sadly more old than grand) Jørgen Myller, who was asked to design the characters, set the colors and paint the backgrounds. Ring and Jensen later went to Toonder in Holland, remember? Here is the film, which I blatantly ripped from a 2007 Danish DVD that everyone should own anyway (though I do not right now recall its title), and color-corrected quite a bit - the original was badly interlaced, so my excuses for the quality.

The rhyme tells of a party in the forest that Mr. Eagle throws to please his children. Carpenter Mr. Woodpecker has to build a house. The original song has a fox and a starling as priest and parish clerk, and it ends with a drunk Mrs. Owl complaining that her days are numbered, but though we see her getting tipsy, we instead focus on Miss Field Mouse (who is not in the original song) who has to do - the dishes. "But who would complain if they could use Imi?" she says.

You will notice several things: first, the quality of animation, timing and general entertainment is much more advanced that done for Allan Johnsen's 1946 film Fyrtøjet (The Magic Tinderbox). Clearly the stork-cook was animated by Ring. The characters around the table were animated quite stiffly by Myller.

[Børge Ring adds: "I animated from the beginning of the film with the eagle at his dressing table until the sequence with the woodpecker building the house, which was animated by Bjørn. Then I drew the stork, the horn orchestra and the dansing couples except a scene with two yellow chickens, which was Per Lygum's debut in Vedbæk.
I also animated the Miss Field Mouse.

Jørgen Myller was irritated that the camera was so close to the mouse when she sang. "The scene with the big rat" he called it.
I learned my lesson on that one.
Jørgen drew all layouts and chose the colors, but he also animated the soap bubbles on the packshot using a template with circular holes in many sizes; he also animated the water circles around a pole of the landing.

I had at first animated the dance sequence as a jazzy jitterbug thing like The Cotton Club in Harlem NYC, where young dancers swing the girls around in the air above them. I liked it, but Persil got afraid when they saw the line test."]

Furthermore, it only becomes apparent that this is a commercial for the Persil detergent product imi "Foaming with Energy!" in the end of the film. This is how things used to be, folks. The beautiful Philips films that George Pal made in Holland in the late 1930s are in my opinion the best examples of this. The reason was, as explained to me, that advertising budgets for films were higher, since there were no TV ads to be produced. When TV came, the budgets were basically cut in two, and everyone suffered.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

More on Walt at Nordisk Film

Nordisk Film's Ove Sevel (1922-2006) wrote his memoires in the book "Nordisk Film ...set indefra" ("...seen from within"). Sevel started at Nordisk in 1946 as assistant director, became head of Nordisk Film Junior, then CEO of Nordisk Film from 1971 to 1982, and was chairman of the holding company Nordisk Film Fund until 1990. His book is interesting, though maybe not always completely accurate. In any case it does have some items in it that are worth noting, the following image, on page 74, being one of these:
Nordisk Tegnefilm
We see Sevel with Walt during Walt's visit to Nordisk Film - for the date dilemma and a link to more images of Walt during this visit, see yesterday's posting. What is Walt scrutinizing? It is a relief map of the Nordisk Film premises. It is still there, too, as witnessed by this picture I took today:
Nordisk Tegnefilm
If you want to "Be Like Walt" and scrutinize it for yourself, here it is, and next to it a version with A/S Nordisk Tegnefilm's location outlined and an arrow pointing to where the map itself is located. The map was repainted even since it was pictured in the 100 year anniversary book for Nordisk Film of 2006, for there it is pictured in quite a dilapidated state. Also, no mention of its date!
Nordisk TegnefilmNordisk Tegnefilm
If you look at Nordisk Film from above now, using Google Maps or the Danish Krak, you will find that a lot has changed. Stage 3 was demolished and rebuilt much larger in 1971 - it is now Nordisk Film's largest stage, and stage 5 has disappeared in 2005 to make room for the multi-story "Media House" that houses executive offices, and, more importantly, a new commissary.

I originally thought it was a pity that these ancient wooden buildings, so important in film history, were destroyed, but it turns out that both original stages were already rebuilt completely after the war, as the original buildings from 1912 and 1915 were totaled in explosions in 1944 by the Schalburg corps, a group of Nazi-friendly Danes that destroyed many other famous landmarks in Denmark, like the Tivoli Concert Hall and the then famous Langelinie Pavilion close to the statue of the Little Mermaid.

Other differences: the Nordisk Kortfilm (Shorts) building is no longer there, the "magasiner" (storage) buildings top right have made way for new editing and sound recording facilities, and outside of the map, top right is a new fascility called the Post House, housing Nordisk Film Post Production, as well as most of Egmont IT. The top "Regi Afd." (Direction dept.) is not there anymore either, it must have seen its ending when stage 3 was rebuilt.

A small building, much like a normal little house, was also removed from the area that the new stage 3 covered. As I understand it, it housed the script writers for the feature films, in the beginning including the writer I wrote about earlier, Fleming Lynge.

Currently, only stages 3 and 4 are in use, mainly for TV productions, while feature films and commercials are shot at Nordisk Film's other location in Risby, about 20 minutes away. Nordisk Film acquired Risby studios in 1982. Corporate info about all stages (like rental info etc.) can be found here...

Please note that I have made several additions and corrections to yesterday's posting, so if you are needing this info for your school paper, you had better check it out again!
Also please remember that the picture of Walt and Sevel is Copyright Nordisk Film, so don't go spreading it, now!

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Walt Disney at Nordisk Film

Imagine my surprise when I found out that the photo I had taken of our new studio location as Christmas card, which you can see in my previous posting, was taken on the stairs leading to the personnel entrance of A/S Nordisk Tegnefilm (meaning Nordic Animation, Inc.), visited by Walt Disney in 1959!

Here is that building photographed today:
Nordisk Tegnefilm
The concise history of A/S Nordisk Tegnefilm for the interested:
Former Disney producer/director Dave Hand worked at the Ring, Frank & Rønde studio in Vedbæk in Denmark for a few months starting in January 1950, after the closure of the Rank animation studios at Cookham in England where he produced the Animaland series. He had sent a letter to Ring and the guys in which he wrote
"If you want to know more, it must be now, as I leave England in three weeks." Producer Arne Rønde, who went to school with Børge Ring, suggested that Ring go and ask him to come to Denmark, which he did. The plan was to make a feature, directed by Hand and paid for by Nordisk Film. From the Rank closing sale, Hand had had Ring buy an animation camera stand with Mitchell camera, as well as a 9-head synchronizer/moviola, which cost, including shipping, Nordisk Film credited to Ring, Frank & Rønde. "I bought a camera!" said Ring - "Did you sign for it?" asked Arne Rønde - "Yes" - "Then we are now bancrupt." Hand himself had bought several animation desks, as his agenda was to start a studio in England with Ed Radage, Stan Pearsal and Ralph Ayres "and I wanted Ring and the guys [Bjørn Frank Jensen and Kjeld Simonsen] to come over.")

Hand not only wanted his cost of living reimbursed in cash but wanted a considerable sum for future use, which he then offered to invest in the project. Nordisk Film's revered and feared general manager Holger Brøndum finally decided that he would be too expensive - and he would only deal with "real people money" which sank the investment idea - shelved the project, then offered help to Ring, Frank & Rønde in the shape of 49% of the shares in the new company, A/S Nordisk Tegnefilm against their own company as repayment of their equipment loan, an offer they had to take. As Ring puts it, Brøndum's motive was that he also wanted the animation studio's lab business for all time. The board of the new company existed of Brøndum, lab head Bernhard Petersen and, it seems, Børge Ring. Then, after a year without much success, Nordisk Film took over the entire company, assets and crew (minus Arne Rønde Kristensen - our very own Karsten Kiilerich's late father-in-law - for they did not need another producer) and their own producer Jørgen Bagger demanded the cheapest possible product. In 1952, after demanding and not getting better conditions while the studio was negotiating a production for an American company in Paris, Børge Ring and Bjørn Frank Jensen left Vedbæk for Marten Toonder Studios in Holland, leaving Nordisk Tegnefilm as a paper company until Ib Steinaa and Kaj Pinal took up animation at Nordisk Film Junior in 1954, at the mentioned premises from July 1957, after which the company returned to its paper state at the end of December 1966 when Steinaa decided to leave and start for himself, taking almost all of the staff with him - the remainder went freelance. Pindal had left Nordisk Tegnefilm for the second time in 1958, when he went to Canada to work for The National Film Board.

I presume Nordisk Tegnefilm disappeared with some restructuring, maybe as late as the Egmont merger in 1991, but probably earlier, because I suspect that we would have heard about that after the collapse of Swan Film in 1987 when Nordisk Film Commercial hired a staff of artists who used to be our assistants to produce commercials for the newly started Danish TV2, not long before we ourselves started A. Film, but I admit that I am guessing here. (Around 1990 the Nordisk Film Commercial animation dept. was closed, as well.)

By the way, Hand's camera was housed in a low "temporary" building onto which a turret was built to accommodate its columns. The camera is long gone - some say it followed filmmaker Per Holst, producer of our own Jungle Jack/Jungo/Hugo films, but its turret still exists, as witnessed by this picture I shot out of my window and which fits somewhat to the right of the earlier photo of the 1910 "Stage 2." Also, the ceiling is lowered and windows were added, so inside it's just an office - there is no trace of the camera stand.
Nordisk Tegnefilm turret
From April 1st 1959 until the end of December 1966, Danish animator Harry Rasmussen worked at Nordisk Tegnefilm, and there he met Walt Disney. It was through Harry that I realized that I had taken the Christmas card photo from Nordisk Tegnefilm's stairs. Much of the info above I found on the now 80 year old Harry's fine (but Danish) homepage on Danish animation history found here, where one can also find the details of Ib Steinaa's crew at Nordisk Tegnefilm.
Then, if you go nearly halfway down THIS page, you can see some previously not known photos of Walt visiting Nordisk Tegnefilm! Two-thirds down THIS page, we see Walt signing the Nordisk Tegnefilm guest book. I wonder if that still exists...?

Harry's Danish text explains that Walt was shown around Nordisk Film by Nordisk Film Junior's managing director Ove Sevel (who also corresponded on a personal level with Disney Foreign head Jack Cutting) and by Jørgen Jørgensen, at that time head of the Copenhagen "Metropol" theater (that had shown a Disney Christmas compilation since 1933 and now houses a H&M clothing store) and manager of the Danish "Walt Disney Mickey Mouse Co." Harry tells about Walt greeting all in the room, making some small talk, then when he seemed to get too interested in the current storyboard for a proposed feature film starring a ping-pong ball come alive, Ove Sevel insisted the company move to the next location. But before he left Nordisk Tegnefilm, Disney signed the guest book in the management office in the other end of the building.
Ove Sevel in his memoires tells that when Walt visited Nordisk Film, he found out there was an animation department and spent the rest of the day there. Personally, I am inclined to believe Harry, who tells me that Walt, who looked very tired, spend at most only about half an hour at NT.

I still need to get a good precise date on Walt's visit, though, as Harry in his website tells us it was June 1960, while the late Ove Sevel, who eventually became managing director of the entire Nordisk Film, in his memoires says it was July 1959. I myself previously found that Walt was in Denmark in July 1961, and based on his appearance I would venture to guess that this also was when he visited Nordisk Film...
[In the time since my posting this, Harry has changed his site to mention that Walt visited on July 6th, 1959, and research by Are Myklebyst confirms this. Also, it is no longer possible to go up the stairs that Walt used - they have been removed. Only the stairs for the more "lowly" personnel are left... (HP 20180829)]

Oh, while it is still allowed: Happy New Year!


I write "Ring, Frank & Rønde" though the studio was actually called "Ring & Rønde." It was soon known to friends as "Ring, Frank & Rønde," because the late Bjørn Frank Jensen quickly became an important partner in the studio, alongside my old mentor Børge Ring and Arne Rønde Kristensen. Also at the studio were Dave Hand's favorite artist the late Kjeld Simonsen ("Simon"), in Denmark now mainly known for his intro to the children's TV program "Bamse's Billedbog" and Kaj Pindal, who is widely known for his work at the National Film Board of Canada and as teacher at Sheridan College.

The feature film that Ring, Frank & Rønde wanted to make with Dave Hand through Nordisk Film was "Klods-Hans" (Jack the Dullard) based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, a story that Allan Johnsen, the producer of the very successful "Fyrtøjet" (The Magic Tinderbox, 1946) had intended as its follow-up. The Klods-Hans (non-)production story is a complicated one, found on Harry Rasmussen's site in Danish. It seems that a lot of work had been done on it before Nordisk Film contacted Ring, Frank & Rønde about the picture.

Furthermore, Ove Sevel in his memoires "Nordisk Film ...set indefra" ("...seen from within") mentions that putting Jørgen Bagger in charge of A/S Nordisk Tegnefilm was one of the few mistakes made by Holger Brøndum. Bagger later became equally unloved as stage head of a small film department owned by the publishing house Gutenberghus (that later became Egmont, which merged with Nordisk Film in 1991 and bought 50% in our very own A. Film in 1995!) and he then started his own company, Jørgen Bagger Film, mainly producing slide films with sound.

Finally, one could ask "don't you fear that Nordisk Film will do a similar trick with your own company A. Film as with Ring & Rønde?" to which I answer that Nordisk Film has a vested interest in the continued growth of A. Film. Through Egmont, it represents 50% of the shares in the company - while it owned 51% of Ring & Rønde. Nordisk Film, now an international conglomerate, must have learned from past experience: they would not want another paper company on their hands. Also, with productions like "Terkel in Trouble" and "Journey to Saturn," Nordisk has seen first-hand what we can do together, and is, as we are, proud of being part of A. Film!

[Again, in the time since my posting this - only 8 months later, actually - things changed. Because A. Film had to put its rights into another Egmont company, it was bleeding money profusely without much income, and Nordisk Film decided to close this company (in effect saying "we made more money on you than you lost, so just let's call it quits"), but allowing A. Film to continue as a new company with the proviso that the earlier of any projects continued by the new company (now A. Film Production) were to be re-paid out of new income. Also, A. Film Estonia and A. Film L.A., Inc. were allowed to continue independently, and are now loosely affiliated with A. Film Production on a project-to-project basis. I became sole owner of A. Film L.A., Inc at that point. We have, since leaving Nordisk Film/Egmont in 2010 produced five theatrical feature films and co-produced five more, and are in the middle of our 6th film, this one also made for Nordisk Film, called Checkered Ninja. (HP 20180829)]

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