Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Faith and John Hubley "The Hole"

The Hole, directed by husband and wife team, John and Faith Hubley, was awarded the Academy Award for Animated Short Film in 1962. Take two guys working in a hole down below 3rd Avenue, musing on matters mundane or profound: dancing the St Bernard’s Waltz, breaking a glass whilst washing up, confronting the possibility of a crane dropping its contents in the hole, or contemplating an accidental nuclear calamity - a consequence of a piece of Venus being dislodged and falling to earth then being mistaken for an enemy strike, and triggering the nuclear retaliation. It could happen. With all their intuition of nuclear fission, to slightly misquote John Betjeman, the two workers tease out the problems of life whilst continuing to drill and send up the buckets to their colleagues at ground level. When a rat triggers a siren and there is a calamity on the construction site, the reactions of the two men emerging at the surface to a supposed Armageddon makes for a great finale. There are two locations: the hole itself and the bunker in which are computers making ticker-tape printouts, missiles and pouting general. I have difficulty declaring The Hole a modern movie, they just are not made like this any more (or then, for that matter though the 1960s was a great time for avant-garde experimentation.) So improvisation between Dizzy Gillespie and George Mathews established the dialogue, whilst the Hubleys, habitual innovators, used a mixture of techniques ranging from water colour to wax resistant material to define their antidote to the more precise style of Disney. The result? Transparent characters, impressionistic shapes and dabs of pink and black. The dialogue was worth a gong in itself, recording the meanderings and irrelevances of casual conversation quite beautifully. A great movie from two animation pioneers. The YouTube link is in two sections: The Hole Part 1 & The Hole Part 2.


Michael Sporn said...

The backgrounds were done in oil paint.
They painted over the original animation drawings. The characters were done with a clear wax crayon over the characters, then coloring with watercolor that resists where the wax has landed. The area of the drawing outside the characters was painted solid black with oil paint.
Then the characters were double-exposed over the backgrounds, giving them the transparency.

This technique, or a similar one, was used in Moonbird, The Hat and Of Stars & Men.

Ian Lumsden said...

Thank you for the insight, Michael. I know you worked with the Hubleys in the 1970s and value your inside knowledg, not to say wisdom. Hand worked animation imposes a certain quality, a patina or texture, that is missing from so much animation created purely using computers. The pioneering quality in this and other animation work created all those years ago excites me still.