The Believer is one of the magazines in McSweeney’s indie publishing empire. Published nine times a year, it focuses primarily on books, but occasionally devotes an issue to another topic. This year, the March/April film issue includes a DVD of shorts by John and Faith Hubley, in tribute to John Hubley’s centennial, which happens on May 21st.
The disc covers seventeen years of the Hubley’s work together, almost their entire career as a couple. John Hubley died in 1977, and Faith in 2001, and in lieu of any essential DVD releases of their work, this DVD serves as a fantastic introduction to their work.
The Hubley’s Oscar-winning short Moonbird (1959) has lately been available as a scratchy public domain print on cheap truck-stop DVD collections of random cartoons. It’s an entirely different experience to see this recently restored print, preserved by the Academy Film Archive. Other restored prints are Tender Game, The Hole and Adventures of an * (1957).
And the music scores for these films, from Benny Carter and Lionel Hampton, to Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and the Oscar Peterson Trio, comprise a who’s who of jazz in the late 1950s. Moonbird and Cockaboody (1973) feature improvised dialogue by the Hubley children, providing an extra free-form quality that is jazz-like in its own way.
There are seven shorts in all on the DVD, including the rare mockumentary Date with Dizzy, as well as Cartoon Modern-era TV commercials directed by Hubley and home movie footage. Plus, the accopanying print magazine includes storyboard panels from the Hubleys’ feature-length documentary Of Stars and Men (1964). The DVD was supervised by the Hubley family and Jacob Perlin of Artists Public Domain/Cinema Conservancy. For a full list of the DVDs contents, visit The Believer website.
If you’re new to the Hubleys, there are plenty of articles and comments on the web, but I would recommend the late Michael Sporn’s post on Moonbird as a good place to start. The Believer may be ordered from its website if your local bookstore doesn’t carry it.