ITVS presents INDEPENDENT SPIRITS
ITVS presents INDEPENDENT SPIRITS: The Faith & John Hubley Story airing
nationally on public television in June 2002 (check local listings)
An inside look into the lives and work of two of the most important
artists in animation, Faith & John Hubley.
"Too often animation is served as mindless, soul-less entertainment
aimed at children. The films of John & Faith Hubley suggest an
inspired (and inspiring) alternate path. Intelligent, mature,
sophisticated in their approach to visuals and content, Hubley films
represent a significant and hopeful development of the communication
potential inherent in the new art of animation."
– Animation Historian John Canemaker
writing on the Hubley retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, "The
Art of the Hubleys," 1998.
(San Francisco, CA)- INDEPENDENT SPIRITS: The Faith & John Hubley
Story is a one-hour documentary about art, commerce and the spirit of
independent filmmaking. Set within the context of six decades of
American cultural history, the film looks at the careers of Academy
Award-winning animators John and Faith Hubley, at their effort to
remain independent in a field that is largely commercial, and at
their unique contributions to the development of animation as an art
form. The film examines John’s role in the 1941 Disney Studio
strike, and the eventual political fallout that participation in the
strike had on the careers of many of the artists who took part in it.
It also chronicles Faith’s struggle as an independent filmmaker
after the loss of her husband and up until her own death.
INDEPENDENT SPIRITS: The Faith & John Hubley Story is about
animation: what it is, how it’s perceived, what it can be. As
animation historian Charles Solomon has written, "the Hubleys did
more to make people aware that animation was a legitimate art form
than anyone…" With their special blend of intelligence, humor and
social commentary, Hubley films were made by animation artists whose
ultimate goal was not to have the mouse escape the cat, but rather,
as John Hubley said, "to increase awareness, to warn, to humanize, to
elevate vision, to suggest goals, to deepen our understanding of
ourselves and our relationship to one another." Their non-traditional
techniques, a blend of watercolor, wax crayons, multiple exposures
and lighting from beneath the camera, give the films a spontaneous
appearance, and emphasize the free-form graphic approach that has
characterized Hubley style animation. As animation historian John
Canemaker has written: "This ‘happy accident’ graphic style forces
audiences to ‘fill in the spaces’ of what is not seen by using their
INDEPENDENT SPIRITS: The Faith & John Hubley Story is also about the
passion, spirit and commitment of independent artists attempting to
exist in a culture of compromise. INDEPENDENT SPIRITS: The Faith &
John Hubley Story looks at the issues that independent filmmakers
confront every day — issues that deal with compromise, commitment
and the temptation of commerce. This film looks at what each of the
Hubley’s brought to their unique collaboration: John (1915-1977), an
artistic brilliance nurtured at the Disney Studio; Faith (1924-2001),
a deep respect for cultural diversity and a rebellious spirit formed
in a tough, NYC neighborhood; both, a commitment to progressive
politics that influenced their belief that animation could deal with
serious subjects and might actually make a difference in the world.
Beginning in the fifties, when they established their independent
animation studio, the Hubleys worked to create alternative approaches
to artistic self-expression. Films such as Moonbird, Cockaboody and
Everybody Rides the Carousel re-defined prior notions of animation in
their break from Disney literalism and linearity. Their pioneering
use of jazz served as an aural equivalent to their alternative style
and speaks directly to their love of avant-garde forms. The Hubleys
worked with some of the greatest composers and musicians in the
history of jazz, including Benny Carter, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella
Fitzgerald and Quincy Jones.
The Hubleys were the first artists to look consistently at the way in
which animated film could confront serious social issues. When John
and Faith began their collaboration in 1955, they committed to making
one independent film a year, in addition to doing work in television
commercials, which, as they often stated, they did in order to "put
food on the table." Some of the socially progressive themes they
dealt with included nuclear arms (The Hole); nationalistic boundaries
and barriers that keep people from communicating with one another
(The Hat and Voyage to Next); the runaway growth of cities
(Urbanissimo); over-population (Eggs) and immigration throughout
America’s history (People, People, People). Faith’s own films have
dealt with such subjects as the changing relationships between men
and women throughout world history (WOW: Women of the World); the
rights of children (Step by Step); the efforts of humankind to leap
out of our limited space and view the world through art and music
(Sky Dance); the destruction of the Amazon rain forest (Amazonia).
Faith’s more recent works have represented her ongoing investigation
into other cultures and her effort to identify the mythological roots
and shared concerns that globally unite us (Witch Madness, Our
Spirited Earth, and Northern Ice, Golden Sun are some of her recent
titles, the latter completed just weeks before her death in December,
2001). Her films are inspired by the myths and legends of other
cultures and her explorations convey the importance of recognizing
diversity while appreciating the shared concerns that unite us.
In an effort to understand why their collaboration was unique, the
film looks at what each of the profiled artists brought to it, as
well as at the personal and professional circumstances that
influenced their individual contributions:
- John’s artistic brilliance, nurtured at the creatively fertile yet stylistically
rigid Disney Studio of the late 1930’s.
- Faith’s formative years growing up in Hell’s Kitchen and the origins of
her awareness of cultural diversity and respect for people of all backgrounds.
- John’s role in the 1941 Disney Studio strike, and the eventual political
fallout that participation in the strike had on the careers of many of the
artists who took part in it.
- John’s work at the Air Force First Motion Picture Unit during the war,
where animators made stylistically innovative training films that prefigured
what would later become known as "UPA style."
- John’s role in the formation of UPA, the studio that directly challenged
Disney realism with its emphasis on social commentary and avant-garde graphics.
Several of their films, e.g., Brotherhood of Man and Hell-Bent for Election,
both made for labor, were among the works that characterized the studio’s
progressive politics and contributed to its being labeled "the reddest
outfit in Hollywood" by the FBI.
- Disney’s role in the animation blacklist; his testimony before HUAC and
his naming of names of several strike leaders who had formed UPA as a rival
- John’s blacklisting and forced anonymity working in the uncredited medium
of television commercials, many of them now classics, such as the campaign
for Maypo cereal ("I want my Maypo!"). It was during this period
that he opened Storyboard Productions, where he worked with a front man and
was able to continue working in areas that were uncredited, such as television
commercials and children’s television (Sesame Street and The Electric Company).
- John’s work on the animated version of Finian’s Rainbow, a project which
was summarily shut down when it was discovered that Hubley was working on
it. Accompanying this section are stills of rarely seen artwork that Hubley
created for the film.
- Faith’s and her friend Dede Allen’s work at Columbia and Republic Studios
as assistant editors, and their impressions of the changing attitudes towards
women during and after the war.
- John and Faith’s twenty-two year collaboration, during which they made
twenty-one independent films, won three Academy Awards (out of seven nominations)
and "violated all the rules," with their alternative style of animation
and innovative use of sound.
- Faith’s search for recognition and her own voice after John’s death, and
her continuing unwillingness to compromise; her ongoing struggle to maintain
her commitment to art rather than commerce and her impressive record of twenty-five
independent solo films made following John’s death. The difficulty of maintaining
an independent vision is complex, and the Hubleys were certainly not without
their commercial choices — their commissioned work covers many areas of popular
culture, and they have left their mark on television advertising, children’s
television and feature films — but always, they returned to what they had
promised each other in their marriage vows, i.e., "to make at least one
independent film a year," a promise that Faith Hubley maintained until
her own death in 2001. As Faith said in one of her on-camera interviews in
our film, "The ability to make what you want to make is so fundamental…I
keep thinking of the parallel of a painter. What would happen if a painter
had to do everything by commission?…We would lose art."
INDEPENDENT SPIRITS: The Faith & John Hubley Story is produced by
Patty Wineapple for the Independent Television Service with funding
provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. INDEPENDENT
SPIRITS is a presentation of the Independent Television Service.
About the Filmmakers
Sybil DelGaudio (Director) directed the four-part series, Animated
Women, produced for ITVS in 1995. The series won recognition at many
festivals and museums, and was honored with an Emmy Award and a CINE
Golden Eagle. The series has aired on many PBS affiliates and on the
BBC as well. DelGaudio teaches film studies and production at Hofstra
University, where she is professor and chair of the Department of
Audio/Video/Film. She is a film historian whose reviews and articles
are published widely, and she is a frequent speaker and panel
moderator on topics relating to film theory and animation.
Patty Wineapple (Producer) is a CLIO Award-winner who has been
working in film and television production since 1967. Currently, she
is Vice-President and Group Executive Producer at Grey Worldwide, New
York, where she specializes in commercials that make use of
animation. In 1980, she produced SPFX-1138, a short film directed by
Bob Balaban. In 1982, she produced Broadway, My Street, a television
special starring Jerry Ohrbach and Florence Henderson. She is also
the series producer for Animated Women.
Unique in American public television, the Independent Television Service (ITVS)
was established by Congress to fund and present programs that "involve
creative risks and address the needs of underserved audiences, especially children
and minorities," while granting artistic control to independent producers.
ITVS has funded more than 350 programs for public television since its inception
in 1991. Critically acclaimed ITVS programs include THE FARMER’S WIFE; AN AMERICAN
LOVE STORY and SCOUT’S HONOR; Emmy Award-winners BLINK; SING FASTER: THE STAGEHANDS’
RING CYCLE; SCHOOL PRAYER: A COMMUNITY AT WAR; GIRLS LIKE US and NOBODY’S BUSINESS;
the Peabody Award-winning documentaries TRAVIS; A HEALTHY BABY GIRL; COMING
OUT UNDER FIRE and THE GATE OF HEAVENLY PEACE, and duPont Award-winners TAKEN
IN: THE LIVES OF AMERICA’S FOSTER CHILDREN and STRUGGLES IN STEEL: A STORY OF
AFRICAN-AMERICAN STEELWORKERS. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. For information,
contact ITVS at 501 York St., First Floor, San Francisco, CA 94110; e-mail:
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Susan Senk, Stephen Schulman
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