Friday, April 25, 2008

William Bernal

Producer/writer Bill Bernal was a dear friend of Jim Flora. In an autobiographical reminiscence penned in 1987, Flora recalled an intercession by Bernal that upscaled one of the artist's less successful children's books:
In 1961 Leopold, the See-through Crumbpicker was published. It did not make much of a splash. It was illustrated differently than my other books and that may have been a mistake. I tried to see and do the illustrations as a child would see and do them. The story is about Leopold, an invisible animal, who likes Minerva, a little girl who has lost her two front teeth. When she eats cookies, she makes a lot of crumbs and Leopold loves crumbs. He follows Minerva to school one day and proceeds to get into a lot of trouble. This is followed by a mad chase through town until he is arrested and finally made visible. I thought it was a good story even though it didn't sell well. Once again, good fortune intervened in the shape of Bill Bernal, an independent film producer. He liked Leopold very much and thought it would make a fine short film. He, too, knew Gene Deitch who had made my first film [ed.: The Fabulous Firework Family] and who now lived in Czechoslovakia where he was in charge of the government's animation studios. Bill commissioned Gene to make the film and he turned out a very smart and lively seven-minute film. Book sales picked up and the film is still available from Weston Woods, who distributes it to schools and libraries.
Deitch dropped us a note and three jpgs in July 2006:
I recently came across my original storyboard plus three original color studies [see above] for our production of Leopold, The See-Through Crumbpicker. The color studies were made by Jim personally. They are not actual illustrations from the book. Jim made them as guides for our animators.

Now gawk at this safe-driving cartoon from the 1950s, Stop Driving Us Crazy!, written by Bernal, animated in classic UPA style, and starring — Martians.

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