April 15, 2002

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.

About ITVS

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



the Peabody Award-winning documentaries TRAVIS; A HEALTHY BABY GIRL; COMING



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: or visit the ITVS website at


Susan Senk, Stephen Schulman

(212) 206-8974

Nancy Fishman

(415) 356-8383 x231