A master of character animation, Art Babbitt's career spanned the early days of sound animation at Terrytoons and Disney; the glory days of the lavish pre-war Disney features; the 1950s innovations of...
Brace yourself Dr. Laura. This clueless teen queen (Natasha Lyonne) has it all: good looks a football captain boyfriend and a popular pair of pom-poms. But her candy-colored world crumbles when her panicked parents stage an intervention after finding a Melissa Etheridge poster that leads them to conclude she's a friend of Ellen. After being carted off to an anti-gay rehab camp for teens the perky princess must choose between the straight and narrow-minded or the love that dare not speak its name.
The quirky ensemble casting is half this film's fun. Lyonne is charming as the pepster tempted by T&A and she sparks onscreen with swanky and sexy co-star Clea DuVall who plays the butch femme fatale suitor (alarmingly reminiscent of Nancy McKeon's Jo from "The Facts of Life.") Drag queen supreme RuPaul is unrecognizable out of his high heels and even higher blond wig wearing a "Straight is Great" T-shirt as a macho militant ex-gay counselor. Cathy Moriaty is sweetly sinister as the homophobic headmistress and Mink Stole steals scenes as the uptight upright meddling mom.
Kudos to Jamie Babbit for tackling this hot-potato topic but this well-intentioned film too often misses its mark turning potentially comical scenes into unbearably awkward moments. Babbit fouls when tugging at the heartstrings but hits home runs when the humor is at its broadest.
Assisted on the first Mr. Magoo cartoon, "Ragtime Bear"
Became active in new Screen Cartoonists Guild, recognized as the studio's bargaining agent following federal mediation
Was active as a leader in the company union at the Disney studio.
Studied the writings of Freud as a youth in hopes of becoming a psychiatrist
Worked on "The Thief and the Cobbler", scheduled for release in late 1992
Filed suit against Disney with the National Labor Relations Board, which subsequently ordered the studio to reinstate him
Taught animation at the University of Southern California
Worked on John and Faith Hubley's TV special "Everybody Rides the Carousel"
Confronted Walt Disney over a wage differential between himself and his assistant
Worked for the Warner Brothers animation unit
Fired by Disney in direct violation of the Wagner Labor Relations Act thereby prompting the union to go out on strike (May 29)
Served as director of the commercial department at Hanna-Barbera
Animated the character of Gepetto in "Pinocchio"
Left the Disney studio
Wrote "Character Analysis of the Goof", an essay used as a guide by his fellow animators when working on Goofy (now regarded as a classic text on character animation)
Worked on some of the earliest sound cartoons at Paul Terry's Terrytoons studio in Long Island NY
Helped animate the Practical Pig and the Big Bad Wolf in Disney's classic Oscar-winning cartoon short, "The Three Little Pigs"
Turned to commercial art at age 17 when his parents were unable to afford medical school 9date approximate)
Served in the US Marines as an animator on training films during World War II
Worked at the innovative UPA (United Productions of America) studio
Contributed to several sequences in "Fantasia", most notably animating the dance of the mushrooms sequence to the music of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite"
Assigned to a Mickey Mouse short, "Mickey's Service Station", to animate "The Goof", a previously undeveloped character that soon become known as "Goofy"
Brought to England by animator Richard Williams for master classes in animation at Williams' London studio
Went to California to work for Walt Disney for $35 a week
Returned to Disney studio after the war but no longer received interesting assignments; snubbed by Walt and some other animators
Animated the Wicked Queen in "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs", the first Disney feature
Won more than 80 awards for independent TV commercials in the 1950s and 1960s
A master of character animation, Art Babbitt's career spanned the early days of sound animation at Terrytoons and Disney; the glory days of the lavish pre-war Disney features; the 1950s innovations of UPA; the limited commercial animation of Hanna-Barbera in the 60s; and the big-budget animated features of the late 80s and 90s. He was significant both for his extraordinary artistic achievements and for his central role in the fateful Disney animators' strike of 1941. As a leader in the cartoonists' union which clashed with management over wages and working conditions, Babbitt gained the lasting enmity of the paternalistic Walt Disney, with whom he nearly came to blows on the picket line during the height of the strike. Legend has it that Walt's bitterness over the strike motivated the waning of his interest in animated features in the 1940s and forever changed his attitude toward his staff.
As an animator, Babbitt is best known for developing the personality of Goofy, one of the most beloved Disney characters. He also animated the Big Bad Wolf for the classic 1933 short, "The Three Little Pigs" and worked on such landmark Disney features as "Snow White", "Pinocchio", and "Dumbo". Perhaps his most celebrated work at Disney was his animation of the dancing mushrooms in the "Nutcracker Suite" sequence of "Fantasia".
Babbitt also did memorable work for Warner Brothers, UPA, and Hanna-Barbera. He won more than 80 awards for independent TV commercials in the 1950s and 60s, including spots for the Ajax Cleanser elves and a popular ad involving a man who could not pronounce "Worcestershire Sauce". Babbitt headed the commercial department of Hanna-Barbera from 1966 to 1975 and taught master classes in animation at Richard Williams' London studio beginning in 1973. Babbitt's last work was on "The Thief and the Cobbler", a major animated feature not yet released.
Babbitt's approach to character animation can be found in his classic essay, "Character Analysis of the Goof": "In my opinion the Goof, hitherto, has been a weak cartoon because both his physical and mental makeup were indefinite and intangible. His figure was a distortion, not a caricature, and if he was supposed to have a mind or a personality, he was certainly never given sufficient opportunity to display it. Just as any actor must thoroughly analyze the character he is interpreting, to know the special way that character would walk, wiggle his fingers, frown, or break into a laugh, just so must the animator know the character he is putting through the paces. In the case of the Goof, the only characteristic that formerly identified itself with him was his voice. No effort was made to endow him with appropriate business to do, a set of mannerisms, or a mental attitude..." (From "The American Animated Cartoon" edited by Gerald Peary and Danny Peary.)