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Jules Engel Centennial Celebration Honored Legendary Animator and Founder of CalArts Animation

Jules Engel, Courtesy of Jules Engel Archives

Valencia, April 22, 2009--The legendary Jules Engel (1909-2003) was a pioneer in the art of animation and one of the most influential educators in California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) history. On Saturday, April 18th, CalArts commemorated Engel's 100th birthday with a celebration of his life and work at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater) in Los Angeles’ Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The celebration featured a film screening of a trailer of the upcoming documentary, Jules Engel: An Artist for All Seasons, by Janeann Dill, Ph.D., Engel's official biographer. A panel presentation with prominent animators who studied with Engel followed the screening. Mark Osborne (Kung Fu Panda), Jorge Gutierrez (El Tigre), Steve Hillenburg (SpongeBob SquarePants), Mark Kirkland (The Simpsons), Joanna Priestley (Utopia Parkway) and Henry Selick (Coraline) addressed Engel's influence on contemporary animation with moderator Ramin Zahed, editor of Animation Magazine. The discussion was followed by a cocktail reception and sale of Engel's fine art. Proceeds from the tickets and sale will benefit the Jules Engel Endowed Scholarship Fund which Engel established to support the education of animators at CalArts.

Engel's illustrious career ranged from working on the Walt Disney classics Fantasia and Bambi to creating the characters Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing; from his own internationally celebrated abstract animation, live-action work and fine art. He originated the Character and Experimental Animation Programs at CalArts and was the founding Director of the Experimental Animation program.

"No other school has had the dynamic impact on contemporary animation as CalArts and this is due, in significant measure, to Jules Engel's legacy," said CalArts President Steven Lavine. "Jules was an artist to his core, and that's what he wanted for his students. He would send students away for the summer, with just the right book for inspiration, maybe Cezanne, maybe Matisse. And then he was so proud as they made their way into the world, becoming leaders in contemporary animation. He stands as the model of the artist-teacher which, at its best, is what CalArts is all about."

Director Mark Osborne commented, "Jules Engel was an amazing mentor to me and countless others. His enormous body of personal and professional work not only inspired us to be as prolific as he was, but inspired us to create with personal passion, no matter what the piece. He encouraged us to experiment, to follow our ideas wherever they would take us. Jules set a wonderful example for us to take chances and find our own voices, which is the most valuable thing for a filmmaker to have."

In honor of Engel's centennial, Tobey C. Moss Gallery held a special showing of his fine art. His paintings, drawings and prints embody the gifts that also distinguished his work in animation: clever, lucid composition, inventive use of color, and his trademark elegant dynamism. His fine art is held in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as well as in many private collections.

The most generous of teachers, Engel cherished above all else the personal vision of each individual artist and took great pleasure in how each student developed and refined his or hers. So much so that he gave his parting gift to the next generation of animators--by establishing The Jules Engel Endowed Scholarship Fund at CalArts.

Click here for an interview with Jules Engel.

The event was sponsored in part by Nickelodeon Animation Studios, Inc., Animation Magazine, The iotaCenter, Cartoon Network, and Center for Visual Music.

California Institute of the Arts is recognized internationally as a leading laboratory for the visual, performing, media and literary arts. Housing six schools--Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater--CalArts educates professional artists in an intensive learning environment founded on artmaking excellence, creative experimentation, cross-pollination among diverse artistic disciplines, and a broad context of social and cultural understanding. CalArts also operates the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in the Walt Disney Concert Hall complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Last edited by Smith on Aug 25, 2010
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