Long Drawn-Out Trip by Gerald Scarfe

Long Drawn-out Trip by Gerald Scarfe

The Lost Continent is a real treasure of a blog and has introduced me to lots of great British animation over the past few months, some of which I should have already known about. One such film is Long Drawn-Out Trip: Sketches from Los Angeles by Gerald Scarfe. The eighteen-minute film was shown on TV only once in its entirety and that occurred 1973 on the BBC. It has a stream-of-conscious flavor as evidenced by this tantalizing four-minute clip.

The film’s lack of distribution is largely due to the fact that Scarfe didn’t obtain clearances to the music he used, which included everything from Jimi Hendrix to Neil Diamond. (Shades of Nina Paley’s problems with Sita Sings the Blues). It’s unlikely he would have ever been able to make the film either had he pursued legitimate channels. Try asking Disney for permission to use “When You Wish upon a Star” when your film has an extended sequence of Mickey smoking a spliff.

In this interview, Scarfe spoke about how the film came about:

Well the BBC in London sent me to Los Angeles, to work on what they thought was a new animation system. It was something called the de joux (ju) system which is spelled dejoux. That was a system started by a Frenchman which was supposed to make animation an easier experience. When I got there I found that it wasn’t a computerized system at all. It was just a system whereby between shall we say frame a and frame e, it kind of mixed through b, c, d, into e. It kind of dissolved from one picture to another. So if one drew a picture it would then dissolve through, or mix through, to the next picture.

Where as in animation you have to kind of do a series of drawings in between to complete the movement. But it wasn’t a very successful system in that way. But since I was in Los Angeles, I decided to make the best of it, and I did a kind of stream of consciousness drawing everything I could think of about America at that time. Like, the Statue of Liberty, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Black Power, Mickey Mouse, Coca Cola, Playboy Magazine, sort of a million images all melting one into the other. I was supposed to be there for 10 days, but I stayed for about 6 or 7 weeks. Hence the title, Long Drawn Out Trip. And it was also a kind of a trip, cause it was very much the drug era. And it was a kind of a hallucinatory trip too.

The entire film doesn’t appear to be online, but there are plenty of frame grabs available on the Lost Continent blog.

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