Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tom Minton on Jack Ozark

In response to
this post Writer/Producer Tom Minton kindly offered the following anecdotes about Popeye animator Jack Ozark. Thanks Tom!!

I was one of those people who worked with Jack Ozark at Filmation and have at least one story involving the man. Jack was a colorful guy full of boundless energy who seemed ageless, not at all like many of his contemporaries in that place. Jack preferred doing cartoony stuff, but sometimes got stuck on realistic things, and was less happy. Filmation was a factory but on one occasion, during the early sequences of their feature "Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All", they attempted something more difficult than their Saturday morning product. In early 1978 I was hired there to shoot pencil test on one of the first Lyon-Lamb rigs until something better opened up and in that position I got to know the work of every animator and director in the studio. The new video pencil test device was welcomed by some but feared by many - it quickly exposed a given animator's skill levels. Jack's stuff was fun because he really enjoyed animating and that usually came through. However, there was one scene that gave him considerable trouble. It was a pan shot of someone pulling Dale Arden by both arms through what looked like mud and though it involved some rotoscoped reference, it required a great deal of realistic, anatomical animation. Jack wasn't totally comfortable with the results, as he couldn't make the thing the least bit cartoony. Sure enough, the producer looked at it and demanded more realism than Jack was able to impart on that first attempt. Jack reworked the scene again, then again. Jack ended up fighting the work but eventually battled his way out of it. I remember this shot thirty years later because it took at least eight attempts (many more than usual for Filmation) for Jack to get it to where the producer finally approved. Looking at the shot in sequence, none of the pain involved shows. Jack admitted in the aftermath of the scene's final acceptance that realistic anatomy wasn't always fun for him to animate. A few years later, at Ruby-Spears, when I was working with Doug Wildey, he mentioned a "certain animator" on Jonny Quest who had a hell of a time getting that style, due to all of its the anatomical demands. I asked Doug who the animator was. Doug, of course, wouldn't say. But he quoted the animator as telling him that he "was never very good at anatomical stuff." Wildey added "Right then, I knew the guy was a dead pigeon!" I don't know for certain if this had been Jack, but he is credited on the original Jonny Quest as an animator. It's too bad guys like Jack aren't around anymore. Maybe it's because there aren't any guys like Jack.

When it comes to Jack Ozark, his personality comes through stronger than his work. Jack was one of the few older animators at Filmation who heartily welcomed us young people aboard, and shared tidbits of information that, without his memory, would have been completely lost to time. For example, once someone (it may have been Jeff Etter, I recall him being in the room) brought in and showed a super 8mm Fleischer Superman cartoon during a break. It was "The Arctic Giant" from 1942. Jack watched it with us (any snippet from animation's golden age was prized in that pre-video-on-demand era) and immediately recalled how the Fleischer Studio had paid a lot of money to hire ex-Disney effects animator Stan Quackenbush, who apparently was responsible for the tons of melting ice footage in that picture. Jack recalled that Quackenbush was also involved in "The Electric Earthquake" and "Volcano", all released the same year. It's indeed a pity that more guys from the golden age didn't write such things down.