The making of Izzi Knott Cocky

John Guthrie started work painting cinema foyer displays and now designs labels for Scotch whisky bottles. Both jobs have set him in good stead when it comes to his hobby of cartoon animation.

My interest in making animated films was first aroused when I went to see “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” as a boy of eleven. Prior to the showing of the feature film there was an explanatory film about the Disney Studios showing the animators at work and the equipment being used. That Christmas I pleaded with my mother to buy me a large box marked “Make your own movies”, which I had seen in a Glasgow shop window. I can still remember the disappointment when “Santa” left a blackboard and chalk instead.

Cels from Izzi Knot Cocky with lines inked by brush. Eyes on separate layers offset as a demonstration.

I served a seven year apprenticeship with The Gaumont British Picture Corporation doing Foyer displays of forthcoming attractions, which also brought me in contact with Disney characters. I am going back now to the “forties”. Literature and still photographs were received from the film distributor giving synopsis of the films. Plywood and hardboard were the materials used, because many of the free standing displays had to be returned, distempered and reused, due to the paper shortage. We were given a free hand as to the content of the display but this does not mean that standards dropped because there was no work put on public display without expert scrutinisation. We had Publicity Directors – Advertising Managers and workshop foremen even in those dark days, and the brush work had to come up to the standard expected. Posters were supplied by the film distributors and occasionally we could take ideas from them.

In 1959 1 saw an article about TV animation in Australian Pix magazine and this rekindled my interest, however it was 1963 before I started to make my own movies. I had a Bolex P.1 standard 8 clockwork camera and I added animated titles to my live action films using cels.
I have built two rostrums. The first one was a shocking disaster when my crawling son stuck his small fingers into the live terminals of my lighting unit. I decided to give him the room and I have taken over the loft.

“Loose Ends” was made in 1975 on Standard 8. My first and only attempt in 16mm, “Izzi Knott Cocky”, was made in 1980 in rather a hurry without tests.

I can actually handle a brush better than a pen as I find the brush much more flexible and gives me more control i.e. instant line changes – from fine line to bold line without changing pens. I doubt if any pen loving artist could write smaller than the brush – hence my present – occupation designing miniature Scotch Whisky labels, but it does not end there – what could be more delicate than a brush painted cel leaving the surface free for washing. To be honest not all the cels can be cleaned for reuse as some of the pigments or dyes tend to stain the cel.

Do you want my method of cleaning? Why not, perhaps if fellow animators hear my views they will not be so reluctant to purchase more cels. I use two basins, one half filled with lukewarm water. Soaking about 25 cels in the first basin for about 10 minutes, I then proceed to wash each cel under the tap, again the water should be warm but not boiling. I place the cel into a laminated board, white or light coloured to show up any remaining paint, and if clean, squeegee the cel on both sides. Having completed this I just hang them up to dry – clothes pegs – film clips – paper clips – suit yourself.

Well there it is, this could save you at least 50% of your precious cels. Of course this method only works on water soluble paint and ink.

After the ANIMA animation festival I came home so determined to make another film I washed the “Izzi Knott Cocky” cels. Incidentally I am not an “Aberdonian” being born in Pittsburg U.S.A.

Cel from Izzi Knot Cocky.

Printed in Animator Issue 12 (Spring 1985)