Monday, August 20, 2007

Newland of Animation

Time to say a few words about my good friend Marv Newland, animator extraordinaire, known around the world for his quirky cartoon works and illustrations and his production company International Rocketship. The U.S. pathetically remembers Marv best only for his student-days phenomenon, Bambi Meets Godzilla, but he has created or produced a host of others in the decades since.

Marv is California-born--a used-to-be surfer dude who still catches a few waves every year (even as he turns 60)--but due to his total opposition to the Vietnam War and our government policies back then, he left the U.S. for Canada way back in the Sixties, stopping off first in Toronto but then settling out West again in Vancouver, where he eventually became a landed immigrant. (About the only thing American he says he still misses is our craze for basketball, both College and Pro, but Marv and a small group of other ex-pat Yanks do gather regularly to play and occasionally to watch televised games.)

He has been loosely affiliated with some National Film Board of Canada projects over the years, and from time to time he takes on an animation job for some another company (or country!), but Marv and Rocketship mostly have gone their own way, creating internationally sought shorts like Sing Beast Sing, the amazing worldwide collaboration known as Anijam, Black Hula, and the very adult Pink Komkommer (Marv's own works), plus Lupo the Butcher, Dog Brain, and My Friend Max (among those produced by Marv but directed by other animators).

Marv and I can't quite remember how or where we met back in the early Seventies, but the proximity of Vancouver and Seattle has allowed us to become friends over the many years since, hanging out at each other's houses whenever some job or vacation takes one of us North or South (I used to commute to Vancouver regularly to do work for Eaton's Department Stores, for example). And I was able to hire him for at least one Rainier Beer project, when the company I worked for used Marv to create a TV commercial resembling several mock videogames squashed together. The nice irony was that back then he did all animation by hand rather than computer (think handdrawn video games), and this in the very city where fellow ex-pat William Gibson was inventing future-of-computers science fiction novels in the new genre he named cyberpunk!

We also discovered that we share a mutual craving for Mexican food and for hardboiled fiction (he collects books by Charles Willeford and Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, for example) as well as the great detective novels of Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald. I've turned him onto some newer authors (Michael Connelly maybe?), he got me into the Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian, and we regularly compete to see who can be first to find and read the latest Paul Christopher spy novel by Charles McCarry .

These days Marv does some teaching, travels the world as an honored guest or judge at several animation festivals, and still cranks out a new short every few years; the current project underway had (may still have) the name of Scratchy. And--this may be a separate venture--he has an intriguing, on-going conceptual piece involving handdrawn postcards that are dispersed by Marv to spots around the globe, then returned to him by mail, with each set of stamps being of some interest too. (I don't ask much more about these things than "How are the latest projects going?"; we are both old enough to be a bit cranky about, and protective of, any works-in-progress!)

I just wish we both got across that damn U.S./Canada border more often, but Homeland Security has made a mockery of "give us your tired, your weary... and your own returning citizens" as a precept of democracy--even as our shameful Fundamentalist/Right Wing administration on too many occasions has made me contemplate moving North!

But enough. I commend to all... Marvelous Marv, adamant animator in an admirable New Land.

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