jules engel oral history
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DESCRIPTIONA portrait of artist Jules Engel
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LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT
Interviewed by Lawrence Weschler and Milton Zolotow
Completed under the auspicesof the
Oral History ProgramUniversity of California
Copyright 1985The Regents of the University of California
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LITERARY RIGHTS AND QUOTATION
This manuscript is hereby made available for researchpurposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript,including the right to publication, are reserved to theUniversity Library of the University of California,Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quotedfor publication without the written permission of theUniversity Librarian of the University of California,Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES ART COMMUNITY: GROUP PORTRAIT
This interview is one of a series, entitled "LosAngeles Art Community: Group Portrait," funded by theNational Endowment for the Humanities and conductedfrom July 1, 1975 to March 31, 1977 by the UCLA OralHistory Program. The project was directed jointly byPage Ackerman, University Librarian, and GeraldNordland, Director UCLA Art Galleries, and administeredby Bernard Galm, Director, Oral History Program. Afterselection of interview candidates and interviewers, theProgram assumed responsibility for the conduct of allinterviews and their processing.
Interview History xiii
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (December 29, 1975) 1
Childhood in Budapest, Hungary--Arr ives inEvanston, Illinois, at age of 13--An affinity fornonf igurative des ign--Moves to Los Angeles--Apprentice animator at Charles Mintz Studio--Interest in movement and rhythm grows out ofearly exposure to ballet--Kandinsky exhibit--Workat Walt Disney Studios-- FantasiaProfessionalconflictsA lack of sympathy for experimentationat Disney.
TAPE NUMBER:' I, Side Two (December 29, 1975) 25
Recollections of Walt Disney--Disney as aninstinctive entertainer--Limits of Disney'sapproach to animation--Work at the Air Forceanimation unit--Herb Klynn, an exceptional talentin graphic art3--United Productions of America(UPA)More on the limits of Disney's approach toanimation--Personalities are the merchandise ofHollywood
TAPE NUMBER: II, Video Session (January 23, 1976) 45
Los Angeles' shortcomings as an art center
Comparisons with New York--More on work onFantasia- -Discusses his drawings for Fantasia- -
Rico Lebrun's work at Disney--Animators in the1950s--Exhibits of animators' paintingsThehard-edge geometrical style of Engel'spaintingsA desire to translate qualities ofsimplicity and directness from painting intofilm Film as a developing art formMore on workat UPA--An emphasis on flat, two-dimensionaldesign at UPAThe UPA look influenced bycontemporary paintersRaoul Dufy and thedivorced lineThe use of color as aspect ofdramatic intent--Economy of gesture in UPAfilmsRobert Cannon, the greatest animator inthe business.
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (May 19, 1976) 79
On present position as chairman of film graphicsdepartment at California Institute of the Arts(Cal Arts) Interrelationship of film and otherart forms at Cal ArtsEarly history of Cal Arts
Future trends in the arts--The live-action cameradepartment at Cal Arts--Cal Arts as a reservoirof young talent--A positive working environmentat Cal Arts.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (December 16, 1977) 105
Viewing Engel's experimental animation films--Train Landscape , a painterly approach tof ilmmaking--Engel ' s methods of conception andexecution- -AccidentShapes and Gesture s, theinfluence of dance- - Land scape , a color-fieldpainting in time- -Wet Paint--Fragments .
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (December 16, 1977) 121
More on FragmentsRumble--Engel ' s workingmethods--v7orki ng through instincts rather thanformulas- -SwanThe hazards of the computer film--Three Arctic Flowers- -Engel ' s work with computergraph ics--Coaraze_, a live-action film--Use ofstill photography in Coaraze- -Coara2e wins PrixVigo and numerous other awards--No commercialdistributor opts to handle Coaraze .
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (December 22, 1977) 138
Oskar Fischinger--Fischinger ' s isolation withinthe Disney Studios--Los Angeles avant-gardepainters and animators in 1940s--Fischinger '
last years at Disney--More on Engel's teaching atCal Arts Disney trustees and the founding of CalArts--The evolution and success of the Cal Artsanimation program--Engel ' s teaching methods.
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side Two (December 22, 1977) 163
More on teaching at Cal Arts--Student interactionat Cal Arts--Teaching approaches--Kathy Rose,Dennis Pies, and Adam Beckett--On establishingrapport with students--Women in animation.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side One (December 30, 1977) 191
Preparation for work on live-action films
TheIvory Knife , capturing the environment of thepainter Paul Jenkins--Colla'oorat ion with IrvingBazilon on film score--Interaction with Jenkins
The Torch and the Torso- -Working with MiguelBerrocal--Structural and thematic relationsbetween drama and painting- -Mew York 100 , thework of John Hultberg
Light MotionMax Bill- -Technical considerations in live-action film--June Wayne and the Tamarind workshop--Engel '
introduction to li thography--Working environmentat Tamarind.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side Two (December 30, 1977) 219
More on June Wayne and Tamarind V7orkshop
TheLook of a Lithographer- -Ken Tyler and GeminiEditions, Ltd. --Robert Rauschenberg , JasperJohns, Claes Oldenburg, and Frank Stella work atGemini--Cirrus Editions--Engel ' s lithographicwork--Engel on the status of film as an artform--Is film a "medium of consequence"?
TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side One (February 16, 1978) 246
Childhood interest in abstraction FamilybackgroundFirst encounters with the work ofKandinsky Engel's working methods--Connect ionsbetween the mediums in which Engel works--Sngel '
relations with dealers: Paul Kantor, EstherRobles, Felix Landau, and Irving BlumMore onlimits of Los Angeles as an art center
Comparisons with New York.
TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side Two, (April 1, 1978) .....273
More on interest in abstractionThe "FourAbstract Classicists" show at Los Angeles CountyMuseum--A developmental survey of the phases ofEngel's artistic career--Establishing depth withcolorThe straight line Engel's love of urbanlife--Living and working in Los Angeles
Animation, painting, lithography, and film
Future directions for EngelFuture trends foryoung artists and filmmakersThe bankruptcy ofmagic realism.
Jules Engel (born in Budapest, Hungary, 1913) came to
the United States when he was thirteen years old. He began
painting in a hard-edged geometrical style while a high
school student in Evanston, Illinois. "I already had a
very definite idea," Engel states in the following
interview, "that, for me, going out and drawing landscapes
or still lifes was not quite the idea what drawing or
painting should be. Now, if you ask me where this idea
comes from, I have no idea. But my feeling was then that
if I would take an empty piece of paper and draw a line or
two on it, even if I put a circle in a square on the paper,
that that could be a drawing, and that could be enough.
And that should be enough." (p. 7)
Immediately after graduating from high school in 1937,
Engel came to Los Angeles. He worked briefly for Charles
Mintz Studios, then Engel apprenticed at Walt Disney
Studios. The studio assigned him to work on Fantasia , and
he choreographed the Chinese and Russian dance sequences
for the Nutcra cker Suite section of that film. In these
two sequences, Engel innovated the use of black-background
animation. He v/as then selected to do color continuity and
color keying on Bambi. Engel, however, was not happy with
VI 1 1
what he considered the restrictive creative environment at
Disney and left to join the armed services after the United
States entered World War II. Engel spent the war years
assigned to Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, making
training and educational films for the Air Force Motion
After the war Engel went to work for the newly formed
United Productions of America (UPA). He began as a
designer but by 1950 he had become art director for all UPA
productions. He teamed up with the late Robert Cannon to
create Gerald McBoing-Boing , Madeline , Christopher Crumpet ,