John and Faith Hubley

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John and Faith Hubley

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Biography


John and Faith Hubley were both Academy Award winning animators. 

Family and early life


Faith Chestman was born to Russian-Jewish emigrants in New York, on Manhattan’s West Side during the depression. Faith Elliot changed her name and left home at the age of 15.

John Hubley was born in Marinette, Wisconsin to an artistic family. His mother attended the Art Institute of Chicago, and his grandfather worked as a painter, inspiring his own artistic paths. 

Career outline


At 18, Faith left home for Hollywood, landing a job at Columbia Pictures as a messenger, working her way up eventually as a sound and music editor, as well as a script supervisor on sets. 

Hubley got his start as a backgrounds and layout artist for Disney Studios in 1935, at the young age of 22. Hubley was taken on by Disney Studios, which was expanding drastically, taking on the production of feature films, hiring many students. Hubley quickly elevated throughout the ranks at Disney. He contributed to classic films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, Dumbo, Fantasia and Pinocchio, in carious uncredited and credited capacities. He created the memorable “Rite of Spring” sequence in Fantasia, a telling reflection of his work to come. 

During Disney’s strike 1941, off set by organizational chaos and increasing mechanical standardization, Hubley left to first join the Screen Gem’s animation department of Columbia Pictures. Promoted to director in 1942, Hubley led the Phantasies and Rhapsodies cartoon series. Later on during the war, he joined the United States Army Air Force First Motion Picture Unit, creating animations for the state.

Working at this time with the Indudstrial Films and Poster Service Studios, which would later become known as UPA (United Productions of America), Hubley was integral in helping the studio develop its signature and groundbreaking style which radically differed from the other animation studios of the era. Known for its drastic departure from the realism of Disney, UPA produced post-modernist, sparsely decorated animations that were highly stylized in design. Hubley led the creation of Robin Hoodlum in 1948, the first UPA cartoon nominated for an Oscar, as well as The Magic Flute one year later, also nominated. 

In 1949, Hubley created the iconic Mr. Magoo character, based on an uncle. During the red scare of 1952 when House Committee on Un-American Activities was actively targeting Hollywood, Hubley refused to name names and became blacklisted. The last animation he made before becoming blacklisted was 1951′s famous Rooty Toot Toot, a short was later nominated for an Oscar. 

The couple subsequently moved together to New York, establishing careers there, with Faith working on feature films, with screen credits including as an editor Go, Man, Go in 1954, and three years later on the classic film 12 Angry Men, on which she worked as a script supervisor.

It was during the early 50′s that John started working with his wife, Faith where they founded Storyboard Studios. Married in 1955, the couple created the extremely successful Adventures of an * (1956). They created wildly popular animated television commercials such as the 1956 commercial for Maypo, featuring Hubley’s son’s voice,   Often uncredited and under-appreciated in animation history, although John and Faith have stressed that their work is of equal collaboration, John’s name is often written about independently as an auteur, with his wife reduced to the role of a labourer. The couple worked on many short films, creating independent shorts with a focus on emotional realism, using both traditional narrative as well as experimental, non-linear forms for over 20 years as collaborators, showcasing their works at festivals all around the world, and winning many awards. 

In 1967, they released the incredible Urbanissimo, manifesting a subtle critique of capitalism and overdevelopment, the stealing of the worker’s labour by a towering force. This cartoon wonderfully uses jazz music and subtle, shifting marker lines to allegorize capitalist growth sputtering out of control, collapsing in a heap of smoke and ashes.

They made at least one independent animation per year until John’s death in 1977,  with Faith continuing on afterwards in the renamed studio Hubley Studios. Together, Faith and John were nominated and won numerous Oscars, for their shorts including: Moonbird (1959), The Hole (1962) and A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature (1966). 

Along with Mark and Ray Hubley, their children Georgia and Emily also contributed their voices repeatedly to their parents films, a conversation between two girls staging the central theme in Windy Day (1968). Partially illustrated by the girls, Georgia and Emily complain about the lack of female characters they can identify within animation and converse about many realist themes. 

After John’s death in 1977, Faith continued to create, releasing twenty-five more independent animated films, exploring myth and metaphysics. These works include Whither Weather (1977), Step by Step (1978), The Big Bang and Other Creation Myths (1979), Enter Life (1982), The Cosmic Eye (1985), and her last released in 2001 Northern Ice, Golden Sun (2001). 

Faith passed away from cancer at the age of 77 in New Haven, Connecticut in 2001. 

They leave behind an incredible legacy, as their daughter Georgia is a musician playing in Yo La Tengo, while Emily is also an animator and filmmaker who’s works include segments of Blue Vinyl, as well as the film version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  

Personal style


Their work deals with various social political issues, and the couple were a pair of independent spirits whose work is noted for its graphic, free style, and blending of mediums, antithetical to the corporate studio structure of their contemporaries. Cultivated in their inspiration, and referencing a plethora of artists like Picasso, Matisse, as well as movements such as deconstruction, post-modernism, minimalism and surrealism, 

Honors and awards


In 1975, the Hubleys were awarded with a Winsor McCay Lifetime Achievement Award from ASIFA. In 1985, the Hubleys were acknowledged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts with an exhibition of their works, A Salute to the Hubley Studio. 10 years later, there was another retrospective of their work at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. which travelled to New York and displayed at the MoMA which included sketches, storyboards and process images from their works.  

References:


Lenburg, Jeff. Who’s Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film & Television’s Award-Winning and Legendary Animators. New York: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2006. Print

Foster, Gwendolyn A. Women Film Directors: An International Bio-Critical Dictionary. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1995. Print.


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