AN EMPIRE OF ONE

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Terry Gilliam: Animations of Mortality

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Before Terry Gilliam became the Terry Gilliam we all know and love, the director of Brazil, Time Bandits, etc., he did animation for the British TV show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Below is a how-to video that he did while Monty Python was in production. Besides demonstrating his technique, this film  includes several examples of his animation for the show (including a few right at the start).

Gilliam also did a couple of animated shorts independent of Monty Python. Here’s one:

It’s great stuff. Doesn’t seeing this make you wish that Gilliam had not abandoned animation? Yes, it’s true he brought his animation sensibility to the live-action films, but his imagination never had as much freedom to roam in the live-action world as it did in the world of animation. Just think of the trouble he’s had with money men, and the many projects that have remained unproduced. Think of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote which is still unfinished. Think of the trouble he had just getting Brazil released to the public. Would he have had this much trouble had he stuck by animation?

In 1979, Gilliam published Animations of Mortality, a book about his animation technique. At least it’s supposedly about animation. Anyone who bought this book thinking that they would learn how to animate must have experienced extreme buyer’s remorse.

Before he worked with the Pythons, Gilliam worked for Harvey Kurtzman, the original editor of Mad Magazine. Am I wrong to detect Kurtzman’s influence in these pages?

Here’s some pre-Brazil duct work

Gilliam reveals the source of the famous Monty Python giant foot
The old man at the top also appears in the How To video above

This is just one of several pages of Gilliam sketches in the book

BONUS. Gilliam’s spot on in this video clip in which he explains why Kubrick is a great filmmaker, but Spielberg (and by implication, most Hollywood filmmakers) are not. He only needs a few seconds to do it.

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Written by David Kilmer

August 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm

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