#8. A Conversation with Eddie Fitzgerald

JA: So Eddie, let's jump right into the fun stuff; you have been working in the animation industry for a long time now, do you remember the first cartoon that you were obsessed with as a child?

EF: My favorite cartoon show when I was a kid? That's easy. When I was a little kid I was obsessed with the black and white Disneyland show on television, my guess is that the show was especially targeted to little boys who were exactly my age. I'm guessing that because they seemed to go out of their way to put on the kind of stuff we liked: Donald and Goofy cartoons, Alice in Wonderland, Davy Crockett, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Man into Space, etc...you know, manly stuff. Years later, the show morphed into the Wonderful World of Color and and I felt betrayed. A typical Wonderful World episode would be about an Indian boy who nursed a hawk back to health or a kid in a wheelchair who won the special Olympics. I heard that Disney had this dumbed-down version forced on him by the network.

Memories of this black and white show continue to influence me, even now. Walt seemed to enjoy blowing peoples' minds, and thanks to him, so do I. He had a wide range of interests, and I picked that up from him too. My blog (Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner) is thematically all over the place, even though the main focus is on animation.

JA: Do you have an all-time favorite cartoon short; and if so, what is it that makes it your favorite?

EF: My all-time favorite cartoon? Haw! That would be The Great Piggy Bank Robbery by Bob Clampett. It changed my life! I'd just gotten my first animation job at Filmation in 1979. A friend there announced that he was going to show some Bob Clampett cartoons in the corridor that night, and I had no idea who Clampett was. My heroes were Chuck Jones, Avery, and classic Disney. With a haughty attitude, I figured I'd check out this upstart Clampett guy, just to see what the fuss was about. Well, the projector turned on, and by the time it turned off I was a palpitating mass of flesh on the floor. I had no idea that cartoons were capable of that sort of thing! Once again my life was changed forever, and it happened in a single night.

But I strayed from the point, which was The Great Piggy Bank Robbery. Beside the imagination and the sheer love of cartooning that you see in that film, it's completely visceral and musical in its structure. Whatever it is that's unique to the medium of film, cartooning, and funny animation is in that film in abundance. It's got charisma and magic. Those were words I never thought of applying to animation before I saw Bob's work, now I can't bear to see films that don't have them.

JA: How about current animation on television; what are your thoughts on today's shows, and is there anything on the air we should be tuning in for?

EF: Current television? We're lucky that we have John Kricfalusi, who's an amazing talent. Imagine what he could have done if he'd been around in the full animation era!

JA: What are your thoughts on current theatrical animation; has anything stood out to you recently as being worth seeing?

EF: Current theatrical animation? Hmm...well, 3-D isn't congenial to cartooning yet, and most computer artists aren't even trying to do funny acting. America was foolish to put so much emphasis on 3-D before the medium was ready. It'll be great down the line, but right now it's expensive and clunky. Expensive means no risk-taking. I'd like to work on a funny 3-D feature, but I'm not aware that anybody is even attempting it...I mean funny in the sense of going for out-loud laughs and funny, one-of-a-kind expressions, and acting...something where the comedy is central to the film, and not something that's squeezed in as an afterthought. My prediction is that the first studio that attempts this will kill at the box office.