Week seven: Bob Kurtz

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Bob Kurtz, Peabody Award winning animation director, writer, designer and founder of Kurtz & Friends Animation has created/produced animated theatrical titles for most major studios including the Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios, MGM, Sony Entertainment, Columbia Tri-Star Picture Group and Warner Brothers.

Some of the titles include The Pink Panther, Honeymoon in Vegas, Are We Done Yet?, Four Rooms, Honey I Blew Up the Kid, George of the Jungle, and City Slickers I and II.

Kurtz & Friends also created animated sequences for Jurassic Park, Minority Report, Carlin On Campus and the prime-time Animation Emmy Award winning special, Roman City.  His award winning Edith Ann’s Christmas Special aired on network prime-time.

Bob Kurtz was a recipient of the AFI Grant as well as the Endowment for Humanities Grant.  He is a former Governor of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and Governor of the Television Academy of Arts & Sciences.  Bob was also a recipient of the ASIFA Annie Lifetime Achievement Award and given the honor of Artist of the Year in Japan.

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46 Responses to Week seven: Bob Kurtz

  1. Sometimes I feel that most of us animators chew on the same piece of gum. Disney, Cartoon Network, etc. The most recognizable work tends to be very much alike the one that´s popular at the moment. I think there is a lot of value in studying the narrative language of animation by studying things that are not necessarily animation. This is a thing that we have discussed with my good friend Ryan Gillis who will elaborate this on his comment. http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w82/simonwilchesc/BobKurtz_zpsb8c08667.jpg

  2. Josh Weisbrod says:

    Bob Kurtz gave such a wonderful seminar! I really enjoyed hearing his perspective on comedy, whether in live action or animation, and the difference between timing in animatics, rough animation, and cleaned-up animation. His talk on staging for comedic effect in “The Ladykillers” was especially fascinating! It is so useful to get practical advice such as this in seminar.

    His commercial work was very recognizable to me from my childhood, and the rough quality of it is very refreshing (at least to me), when so many commercial artists show such slick portfolios. I too am enamored of work that shows the hand and the mind of one artist. I only wish there had been time for him to talk about Raising Arizona as well. Thanks, Bob!

  3. Tim says:

    My favorite part of this seminar was seeing Bob dissect “The Ladykillers” sequence, in terms of boarding/layouts. Made me really want to watch the movie. Then my least favorite part of the seminar was when he told us all the ending, having already established that most of us had never watched it. But his whole seminar was interesting, and there is so much to learn from him. I would love for him to come back and talk us through all the footage that we ran out of time to see.

  4. Joseph Yeh says:

    The study of comedy and laughing is very fun subject and makes me laugh. Making people laugh is an intricate and fragile art form down to the single frame and Bob broke it down very well! I also enjoyed his analysis of Ladykillers and Hangover and have gained some perspective on staging efficiently.
    Furthermore, I was grateful to hear Bob’s wise words of maneuvering in the industry.

  5. linhui wang says:

    Thank for Bob Kurtz’s presentation and sharing us so many unique animation styles. I got many inspirations from his analysis of the film clip. I didn’t know the 1955 version was pretty good, until he showed us and pointed out some details hiding in the directing design, like the action pattern and lighting shape. I’m also curious about if any directors here wanna make a version of “Godfather”?

  6. Evan Harbuck says:

    Bob showed a vast collection of work and it was interesting to see the the consistencies as well as the shifts in the style of the work over the years. It was cool to find out he was behind the Jurassic Park animation, I would have loved to hear more about his experience working for a big film like that. Personally, I feel like I missed most of the humor in his presentation and found it to be a long-winded, but otherwise interesting.

  7. Fan Feng says:

    Actually pink panther is one of my most favorite cartoon characters. When I saw pink panther was included in his reel, I was so excited. It is very pity that I went away earlier because of sick.
    I like Bob very much. His big enthusiasm makes him a very respectable person, especially after doing animation for several decades. Animation is very interesting, at the same time, it still costs animators a lot of energy. I like animation, but sometimes I doubt about my love for animation.
    His animation is so amazing. The actions of characters are very funny and rich. His succeed inspired me a lot, beginning doing animation at Disney, then 8-9 years freelances. Then he established his own company. It gives me a lot of power to continue my animation way. It is very hard but no pain no gain.

  8. Joanna Barondess says:

    I generally enjoyed Bob’s presentation, but my favorite point of the seminar was when Bob broke down the frame structure and introduction of characters in “The Ladykillers”. I often hear that it’s a good idea to watch a film, pause the film at a certain point and sketch out what is shown on the screen to get a good grasp on frame construction–character staging, lighting, color, camera position, etc.

    The best references from animation come from live-action or real experiences. I totally agree with Bob’s views on experiencing life. His love for dance showed in his work and I could tell how passionate he was about his work.

    I wish I could have heard more about the kind of work he did in each short/commercial shown, because it wasn’t entirely clear, but other than that, great presentation.

  9. Ruthie Williams says:

    I really admired Bob Kurtz’s commitment to creating work that isn’t mechanical or cliché and pushing the final outcome to be something that respects the audience’s intelligence and attention. It’s a necessity for comedy but also applies to any kind of art form. It was also great that he walked us through the beginning of Ladykillers and pointed out what makes it such a great introduction to the characters and story. I love when people teach this way about film making, I get the most out of it. And he is right, all my favorite movies are awesome within the first few minutes. It is a high bar to set when you expect your own work to compete with your own tastes, but that seems like the best compass to find your way to connecting with the audience.

  10. Maggie Harbaugh says:

    What a great seminar and person! I had the pleasure to talking to him again tonight and he such a genuinely nice, intelligent, and interesting man with an apparent passion for what he does. His presentation was not only entertaining, but also so informative.

    Some of my favorite quotes that I took away:
    “Observe from life for material because as animation students, you are all watching the same films.”
    “Animation is choreography.”
    “I hate to do things over and over, cause that’s a craft. Animation should be an art form.”
    “Your characters don’t have to be likable, but you have to feel for them.”
    “I laugh at what’s funny.”

    The last quote has really stuck with me. If we can’t laugh out loud at our own work, then how can we expect others to? I understand that when working so close with a piece for so long, the joke/gag can get old, but honestly if you can’t laugh at your own work, you shouldn’t expect anyone else to.

    I agree with previous comments that his breakdown of Lady Killers and introducing characters was especially informative. I believe studying cinema/live-action is something every animator should practice.

    All of his advice was practical and useful for a animator/filmmaker in any medium. I took away a lot from this seminar and would love to hear him talk even more (he said he’s willing to come back and reiterated that in our conversation! *hint*hint*) If I could take a class from this man, I would do so in a heart-beat! Great seminar. Thank you!

  11. Ivan Sayon says:

    I enjoyed Bob’s presentation and took quite a bit from it. He made a good point how all other aspiring animators around the world are pretty much looking at the same stuff we are and that the only differences are what our personal experiences can bring to the table. He gave very sound advice about being a director and his dissection of a scene from “The Lady Killers” was incredibly helpful. I would’ve liked to hear him talk about “Raising Arizona,” but unfortunately those projection issues always seem to interfere now and then. I also agree with Bob’s advice on how if we are directing, we owe it to animators not to make them redo scenes too many times and that we should respect others and not waste their time and talent.

  12. Dustin Reno says:

    Mr. Kurtz was a fascinating presenter, and it was a shame we didn’t get to have him keep talking for another two hours! He has a clear understanding of how things operate on screen, and the confidence he displays in his content was very inspiring. The moments he spoke about the power of the difference a change in one or two frames makes was very eye-opening, especially in regards to the different life a work has when it shifts between things like storyboard-drawing or adding color.

    Jurassic Park has long been my favorite film, and seeing the man behind Mr. DNA was one of greatest highlights of the past speakers we have had.

  13. Yizhou Li says:

    He is a great director and he had a really weird way to understand the quality of his work. Laughing to know it works is so strange, but it makes sense. The way he introduced to us how he broke down the movie shot for shot was very useful. His animation reel made me realize how brave you can be when you do 2D animations, how crazy the picture can look, and that there are people in the commercial world that will support it.

    However, it is a different time now, and 2D animation is in a different place. I hope there will still be plenty of room for crazy 2D animation like Mr. Kurtz’s work in the future. He was very interesting!

  14. Ryan Gillis says:

    I looked up Bob Kurtz’s work before seminar, and I remember thinking that it looked incredibly Late 80’s – early 90’s. Then when I saw the breadth of work that he’s participated in, I realized it looked that way because he defined the style of the 80’s and 90’s. I couldn’t believe how many of those PSAs and title sequences had been ingrained in my memory. And the Jurassic Park Dino-DNA sequence?! AGHH!
    After seminar was over, I was thinking I could’ve watched Kurtz breakdown filmic language for another few hours. As I discussed with my good friend Simon Wilches Castro, I’ve always found analyzing live action films more edifying than animated ones. Plus, it’s easier to hide your tracks when you’re pulling inspiration from live-action into animation, rather than animation into animation.

  15. earnason says:

    I loved having the chance to listen to Bob Kurtz. He was a very charismatic speaker and of course, an expert at what he does. My favorite was seeing him analyze The Ladykillers. Such presentations are always extremely useful. I remember going to a similar presentation by Glen Keane who also did not show animation but simply analyzed scenes from Billy Wilder’s The Apartment. I would really like us to have more speakers like this.

  16. Jake Zhang says:

    It was an invaluable experience to listen to Bob Kurtz. Some of keys he mentioned such as “how to set up the situation in first 9 minutes” and “how to grab the audiences” are very useful to me. Using film “Lady Killer” as example to demonstrate how compositions, expressions and timing collaborate to introduce characters effectively is very inspired and useful and it also gave me a good new point of view to watch movie. Generally the Bob’s presentation is more a class, there is a lot of knowledge sharing, rather than showing what he did before.

  17. Jiexi Wang says:

    Bob Kurtz gave a great lecture and I like the way he present – feels really genuine. I am impressed the quantity and quality of his animation show reel. i saw a lot of famous characters and it seems like he always challenge himself when doing next animation. All of his work are in very different styles yet very successful and delightful. Also, I appreciate the cinematography breakdown he gave us on the film ‘Lady Killer’, very useful, I actually learned a new way to watch films. I like his presentation a lot, hope he can come back sometime and share more thoughts with us!

  18. Frederico de Sa Fernandez says:

    Bob Kurtz showed a great perspective on having a personal approach to animation. His career is admirable as a independent director with a very clever style. He portraits human character and humor in very a gentle way, that offers a different perspective over themes that otherwise could be heavy and negative, making jokes about violent characters, for example. He showed some ethics behind the scenes, something that allowed him to work with a great variation of clients.

  19. Amelia says:

    Bob Kurtz was so funny and helpful. His staging lesson went on a little long, but I did like what he was saying. His thoughts on lighting and composition within a scene were really interesting. It was also fun because not two days later Maggie and I saw him again at the Oscars Animated Features Panel party and he was really excited to follow-up on his lesson. He was very inspiring, especially for a girl who loves squiggly animation.

  20. Lanzhu Jian says:

    Thanks Bob Kurtz’s. The Presentation is a bless. Many many funny stuff.I appreciate the great work and the artistic element and spirit in it.

  21. Yawen Zheng says:

    Bob’s presentation is amazing, I like all his work and the unique style. The performance of each character is very good, it also has the sense of humor. He also gives us lots of good advise about career and the opinions about nowadays industry, it’s really helpful.

  22. Andrew Malek says:

    Bob Kurtz gave a really great presentation and he revealed how deeply he thinks about animation and making it work. His devotion to making a piece work throughout all levels of a project (storyboard, pencil test, ink, and final color) seems to be very important and I think is something that is overlooked, especially in CG, where boards are hilarious and simple, but once a sequence is rendered with camera moves and dynamics and everything sometimes a joke can be lost.
    Also I enjoyed the breakdown of Ladykillers, I think that analysis of composition is fascinating and could listen to hours more.

  23. Jason Ronzani says:

    Bob’s presentation was great. I liked how he had a very organic approached to comedy and timing. He said he would just continue to fiddle with the timing and if it made him laugh, it worked. The breakdown of the Lday Killers was really great. When I watched it the first time through, I could feel all the subtle character behaviors, but when we watched it the second time and Bob pointed everything out, it made me consciously aware of the intent behind the choices the director made. Being able to find these things in other work and know how to use them is what makes the difference between a creator and a passive viewer.

  24. Tristan says:

    I thought Bob had a lot of insightful stuff to say. My favorite work of his was the antismoking stuff. That alligator was amazing, and I am exposed to a lot of excellently rendered alligators since coming to school here. I also think it is great that he has been able to do the kinds of things he enjoys and stick with the aesthetic that he likes. I found the film breakdown helpful, but I often wonder why guests do this sort of thing, do they imagine that the teachers we have can’t provide us with this knowledge, or do they just love the idea of teaching something, which is admirable.

    • elisabethmann says:

      Bob knows he has some valuable ideas to impart to students. He taught a workshop on comedic timing at CalArts recently, so I’d say this has nothing to do with the teachers at either school. He just loves funny animation and wants to share that love with you….

  25. Catalina says:

    Bob Kurtz work was impressive. His thoughts about composition and how to set up a scene were very helpful. I enjoy how he explained the beginning of the lady killers. shot by shot. That was very helpful. However I think that although there is universal comedy there’s also a cultural based comedy and what is funny for one culture not necessary has to be funny for another.
    and I also don;t agree that comedy from one culture could be more universal than others.

  26. Christina Brous says:

    Bob was such an interesting presenter. He has a wisdom that you don’t find in people unless they’ve spent decades in the business. The best thing I took away from this was that if the shot makes you laugh, it works. It’s so simple, but perfect. The Ladykillers presentation was great, too bad he ruined the ending 😛

  27. calcagno3 says:

    I really appreciated the fact that Bob Kurtz treated the Seminar as an actual lecture, trying to inform us about certain principles of comedy, cinema, and animation that gives us a better perspective on how he approaches his projects instead of him just telling us about it. Although the more enlightening aspect of the seminar was that his design aesthetic was a staple of my childhood; I must’ve watched one of the PSAs that he animated or produced literally thousands of times on Saturday mornings. And of course the number of times I watched Jurassic Park; I remember the animated segment like the back of my hand.

  28. Sophie Xing says:

    Bob’s lecture is great. I learned a lot from him. He has many good points to show us.

  29. Caress says:

    Bob Kurtz’s lively presentation was great because of the wisdom he departed to us about comedy and animation timing. The fact he can estimate how many frames longer or shorter a joke should be so that it’s funny is a talent I hope I will have in a few decades time. It was also great how he told us to observe and live life so we can pull inspiration from it. It’s so easy to look at amazing animated films and want to just do something as amazing as someone else. But if you make a film about an experience or perspective unique to you, that’s where the magic happens and people become drawn to your work. I liked that Bob focused on this aspect, and it comes through in his unique work as well!

  30. Yifu Zhou says:

    I was more into the content what Bob talked about than his works.

  31. Fernando Rabelo says:

    Bob Kurtz seminar was a very inspirational one. This work as amazing and it as good to see how he evolved from an animator to an animation director who is respect by his now immense crew. By working in a mix of personal talent and accepting what an audience wants to see, he showed us a great way to have your voice heard out there. This seminar was another lesson that hard work pays off. By working hard to polish a talent that you’ve been blessed to possess, you can get to any position you desire in your career. Besides the innumerous awards you might receive in your path to success!

  32. So much of what Mr. Kurtz said rang true to me.
    1.Animation is choreography.
    2. Use a live action editor
    3. Go out into the World and experience it, instead of spending time in theaters. It is real world experiences which will inform our work and help us find our voice. (This was echoing Lewis Carroll wise words “You ca’n’t learn without living” )
    4. If you repeat, then it’s a craft.
    5. Humor is hard to pull-off. After hearing Mr. Kurtz speak I feel more comfortable with the genre knowing that Comedy has comedic rhythms and timing is critical!
    6. But Mr. Kurtz’s words hit home when he compared his approach to that of a Ninja, in that he hijacks his clients projects and makes them his own.

  33. Zheng Kang says:

    Bob Kurtz gave us a great lecture. I think he is a very nice person. His passion and enthusiasm makes him a very respectable person. He also informed us about some principles of animation, comedy and cinema that gives us a better perspective on how he did his works. Bob’s animation is interesting and fantastic. The performance of characters are very funny and colorful. I think his works and experience inspired me a lot.

  34. Eric Cheng says:

    It’s a honor to see a great artist like Bob Kurtz in our seminar. He have so many knowledges and experiences we should study with. And it’s very fun to see so many cool styles.

  35. Li,Xia says:

    ”Observe from life for material because as animation students, you are all watching the same films.“ It makes me recall that Hayao Miyazaki claims that the biggest problem of Japanese animation industry that it is full of animation fans. It leads to the public audience sometimes cannot understand animation very well. Because these animation fans just make animation for themselves.
    I think we should create for this big world, not only creating for animation fans.
    Don’t repeat yourself. It makes you feel boring for your work.

    A picture which really inspired me about who to be happy in business,

  36. Ning Xu says:

    Best seminar ever, I got the opportunity to talk with Bob after the presentation and I got a great opportunity to intern at their company. I hope to grow from learning 🙂

  37. Simo Liu says:

    I appreciate Bob Kurtz’s great presentation and his amazing works. Very inspiring and funny!!

  38. Frank Gu says:

    The presentation is very inspiring and cool. Love Bob Kurtz’s work.

  39. Emily Chung says:

    I thought I had all the comment done. But after I go through all the comment again I realize I had some comment left. Anyway I remember Mr. Kurtz’s speech. Super cool work! What an honor to listen to Mr.Kurtz’s talk.

  40. Chaoqi Zhang says:

    Love his animation, so funny and full of dancing rhythm, very indivisual and original, inspired by his word: experience from the real world instead of theatre, that’s how your original animation can come out.

  41. i found his films entertaining, very pleasing aesthetically, witty and inspiring. his tips about feeling for the character or staging the scene really inspired me. he was also encouraging us to learn from the real life footage which I found fascinating. I am very happy I had a pleasure to listen to him

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