The Fred Crippen Retrospective

I’m really excited about this year’s Ottawa Animation Festival (September 22-26) and even more excited about the Fred Crippen retrospective, which (thanks to the festival’s artistic director, the Animation Pimp himself) I have the privilege of programming for Ottawa. After many months of working with Fred Crippen, he and I have managed to compile an 80-minute program of his work which will be screened twice at the festival (September 23 and 26). The idea of compiling such a retrospective can be deceptively simple. After all, how difficult can it be to put together the films of one artist? But when somebody has been working in animation as long as Fred, and whose resume includes animation for SESAME STREET, The Playboy Channel and everything in between, the process of compressing that career into eighty short minutes becomes a monumental undertaking. For instance, Fred directed over a dozen shorts at UPA, but because of the screening time, we’re only able to show one of those films. The film we ended up choosing was TREES & JAMAICA DADDY, which is not only quite entertaining, but a nice representation of the type of films he was producing at UPA. Fortunately during the BOING BOING SHOW retrospective at the last Ottawa festival, a few other films that he’d directed at UPA were also screened.

Then there’s the stuff you’d like to show but can’t, like a commercial for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign that Fred made in 1960. In this case, the only print we found at Pantomime Pictures was incomplete, though luckily this particular ad can be seen online HERE. A less fortunate circumstance is a Coors Beer ad that Fred directed at UPA (image at right); nobody we know of has a copy of it and it’s completely lost at this time. Then there’s Fred’s “art” film METROPOLIS PER DIEM. We had a beautiful print of that until we ran it in the projector and the print got completely scratched up. Thankfully, after weeks of searching, Fred’s wife Julie discovered a clean copy of the film in their house. Another challenging part of compiling retrospectives is figuring out exactly what the artist has produced over the course of their career. Just last week Fred called me up and said that while he was looking around the studio he discovered a film called CRIME DOESN’T PAY. He’d made this two-minute short independently in the early-’60s. The funny thing is not only had I never heard of it, but Fred doesn’t even remember making the film. The tiny 16mm film stills we’ve looked at are hilarious and we can’t wait to transfer the print to video so we can finally see this long forgotten cartoon.

The contents of the Crippen retrospective can be previewed HERE. I’ll also be moderating a “Meet the Master” panel with Fred where we’ll try to figure out how he’s managed to survive as an independent animator in Hollywood for so many decades. And perhaps the biggest Fred Crippen-related treat at Ottawa will be the debut of his latest short film IMPROVING COMMUNICATIONS which he’s finishing up as I write this. The educational film (well, educational if you happen to be Dick Cheney) made it into the Ottawa film competition and will screen in Competition Program #1 (right before LORENZO no less) as well as in the retrospective screening.