George (nee György Pál Marczincsak) PalOccupation / Title:
01/02/1908Date of death:
George Pal was an Oscar-winning, Hungarian-born animator, director and producer, and the creator of the Paramount Puppetoons stop-motion theatrical series, as well as many celebrated science-fiction films that combined Pal’s expertise in special effects with live-action.
In 1931, Pal went to Germany to work for UFA Studios in Berlin, where 60 days later after being hired, was promoted to head the cartoon department. After the Nazis assumed political control, Pal and his family fled first to Prague, only to move a year later to Paris, and later on Holland in 1935. There, Pal set up one of the largest animation production studios in Europe before WWII, and developed special-effects animation techniques with financial backing from commercial advertisers.
He developed a system of ingenious, wire-puppets that were animated with the stop-motion animation process, and named the stylized puppets Puppetoons. He produced over 200 of these films in Europe, mostly for animated commercials before taking the series to America.
When Pal was 32, he emigrated from Europe due to the growing concern with oncoming Nazi invasion, and in 1939, moved his family to New York with the help of Paramount Pictures and his friend Walter Lantz. Pal filed for a visa after producing a commercial that received considerable attention in the States, and Paramount Pictures offered him a long-term contract to produce and direct Puppetoons theatrical shorts for them. Pal created the inventive “Do the Conga” animated sequence for the MGM musical with Busby Berkeley co-starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, and soon after, he moved to Hollywood to head his animation studio under Paramount.
From 1941-1947, Pal created for Paramount fourty-two eight-minute long shorts of Puppetoons. requiring a lot of work to put together. Each one cost from $15,000 to $30,000 to produce, and required 30, 000 single frames of animated movement, as well as 9,000 individual puppet characters, all hand-carved. These films took about six weeks of preproduction, six weeks in order to film, and then another six weeks of post-production in order to edit all together the sequence. Pal worked with a dedicated team of ingenious animators which included Willis O’Brien, Gene Warren, and a young Ray Harryhausen. Pal had a lot of freedom with Paramount, as he oversaw his own production and they ran with the ideas he pitched, allowing total creative control.
During the long and successful theatrical runs of Puppetoons, Pal’s series was nominated for six Academy Awards, and in 1943 the Academy of Motion Pictures Art and Sciences recognized him for his unique production methods, presenting him with a special award of distinction. Shorts in the seires included Tulips Shall Grow (1942), Jasper and the Beanstalk (1945), John Henry and the Inky Poo (1946) and Tubby the Tuba (1947). Pal also contributed a unique sequence featuring animal puppet versions of Romeo and Juliet to the live-action film Variety Girl (1947).
Paramount was exceedingly happy with Pal’s work on his series of films, and allowed him to foray into live-action filmmaking, as Pal wanted to experiment and try out new things. From 1948 to 1949, Pal produced two feature films, one The Great Rupert (1949), featuring an animated squirrel which helps a family through their obstacles, and the second a futuristic science fiction film which used his special photo and sound effects, Destination Moon (1950).
Pal wong through the 50′s and 60′s six Oscars for his work in special effects, and produced a second sci-fi feature When Worlds Collide (1951). After this feature, Pal continued his work and focused soley on feature films, producing and directing wondrous fantasy and science-fiction films, including the original War of the Worlds (1953), Conquest of Space (1955), The Time Machine (1960), Atlantis, The Lost Continent (1951), The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), 7 faces of Dr. Lao (1964) and in 1975, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.
In 1971, Pal started up his famous stop-motion animation series Puppetoons when Chuck Jones asked him to contribute work to his educational television series Curiosity Shop, mixing live-action interviews with characters and animated material. For this show, Pal produced a series called Tool Box, featuring tools that were anthropomorphic.
In 1975, ASIFA honored Pal with the Winsor McCay Lifetime Achivement award. Pal died in 1980 unexpectedly due to a heart attack, while working on The Voyage of Berg for API Filmways at his southern California home.
Honors and awards
- Winsor McCay Award for Lifetime Achievement (ASIFA)