Art Babbitt’s animation seminar

Ken Clark went along to Art Babbitt’s seminar on animation held in London and organized by the Richard Williams Studio. Dateline Tuesday August 28th 1984.

I arrived outside the Richard Williams Studios as Art Babbitt was leaving for the preview studio where he was holding his third seminar on the art of animation. At first glance, Art appeared to be a rather frail old gentleman, but the moment he spoke it was apparent that inside was an acute brain filled with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the genre, and his command of the medium gave him great dignity and sense of purpose. Animators here and in America were having given the opportunity to learn from a master, thanks to the foresight and generosity of Richard Williams.

As we left Soho Square and threaded our way through the narrow street and alleys heading towards Charing Cross Road, Art told me that in their Hollywood studio he taught groups of five people at a time, he preferred it that way. Here, in London, his classes are much larger and this made it difficult to establish a rapport with each individual.

The class today proved to be no exception. Twenty young people in their late teens and early 20’s stood in small groups or lounged in the comfortably upholstered chairs. I could have felt very out of place in these surroundings, but for the fact Art Babbitt and I have something in common – we both have white hair!

Behind the glass wall I could see Alan Dewhurst, Richard’s P.R. man, adjusting his headphones, preparing to tape-record the session. Unobtrusive in a darkened corner, a video-cameraman checked the light level in front of the screen and quickly pulled focus as someone moved into the stronger light. This time, Art’s seminar was being preserved on tape for future use, 3 hours each day for one month. What a priceless legacy to future generations of animators THAT will be!

Art rose to his feet and moved into the spotlights:
“The desire to make things move has fascinated people for many years. Why! – about two years ago I read that Voltaire was experimenting with drawings which simulated movement. He was curious about simulated movement – if only he had flipped the pages.

Sketches from Richard Williams’ personal notebook done during the 1973 Art Babbitt animation course.

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