Faculty Spotlight: Legendary 2D Animator, Marv Newland

By VFS Web Team, on March 23, 2011

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The long-time Classical Animation instructor's career kicked off with the 1969 short, Bambi Meets Godzilla, which was recognized as one of The 50 Greatest Cartoons.
He animated commercials for Sesame Street in the '70s. He made storyboards for Barbapapain Holland. And he's never slowed down his creative drive for making innovative, hilariously weird animated films - like the 2005 National Film Board (NFB) short, Tête à Tête à Tête.
Students and grads alike praise Marv for his mentorship and expertise. We're very lucky to have him here, day after day. Looking back on his career, Marv offered some thoughts on what keeps him coming back to VFS.
What do you teach in the Classical Animation program?
Marv: You would have to ask the students this question. They may have a different answer. My theory is that I work with students on their story and motion picture concepts. The students present ideas for 2-minute long, hand-drawn 2D-animated pictures. These ideas are presented as mumbled conversation, written notes, a series of drawings from sketchbooks, or thumbnail storyboards. Sometimes fully drawn and timed-out storyboards are presented by more passionate students.
We work together to move the production along through to digitizing the final storyboard, layout, animation, and some colour and soundtrack work. The aim is to have each student finish a 2D hand-drawn animated digital motion picture, with the minimum amount of suffering.
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How did you break into the industry?
Marv: In art school I made two live action films and one animated film. When I graduated from art school, I luckily had three finished films. Lucky, because I graduated in a gentle mist of ignorance concerning the real world of moviemaking. This is all back in the 20th Century.
I knocked on film production company doors asking for work as a film director. One very nice producer/director looked at my films and sent me to another production company specializing in animation. This served 2 important purposes: it got me out of the producer/director's office and got me a job at an animation studio designing posters and characters for animated television commercials.  A major lesson was also learned: no matter how much of a fool you appear to those from whom you seek work, if you have a good, finished film your chances of a job, or success in the animation industry are improved.
At the animation company I learned more lessons about making animated films and added professional animation work to my demo reel. Five years later I started up my own animation company where, despite my skills, I always had a job.
Looking back on your career so far, are there certain projects you're especially proud of? Any highlights you'd like to share?
Marv: Sing Beast Sing (1980), my first, full colour, 9-minute-long animated cartoon as a director. This picture was made with the collaboration of talented animators such as Mark Kausler and [Classical Animation Senior Instructor] Dieter Mueller. It won film festival prizes in France and the USA.
The film was made at my studio, International Rocketship Limited, and all other highlights stem from this event. These would include: producing films for other directors, working for big time commercial clients like Earls Restaurants, YTV, MTV, Nickelodeon, Levi's, The National Film Board of Canada, and many others.
Making the first Gary Larson's Tales from the Far Side (1994) film and television special was a highlight. Having the support of the National Film Board in the production of my most recent picture, CMYK (2010), is definitely a highlight, as this production is a complete departure in design and approach from any of my prior motion pictures.
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What excites you most about teaching at VFS?
Marv: Working with students on their concepts and bringing these ideas to life. Vancouver Film School seems to attract students from all over the world. The interaction of these multilingual students with each other, with Vancouver, and in the making of their motion pictures vitalizes me -- in positive ways and in confounding ways.
Messages from graduated students telling of their success in a festival, or in a Vancouver studio, or studios in another country make me happy. Happier if the messages are sent in the snail mail with exotic postage stamps. In the classrooms there is also excitement in the form of personal drawings, photos and poetry stuck to the desk cubicle walls. Finally, I like the exhilaration when a student shows up with a particularly interesting haircut.
Thanks for your time, Marv!