Today we’re going a bit old school as our AI Spotlight shines on some old films that have been restored and brought back to life by my good friend Jimmy Cross, who breathed new life into two of his favorite films from childhood. Interestingly enough the first film “The Gift of Winter” marks SNL Alumni Dan Aykroyd and Gild Radner’s first professional acting gig.
AI: Well let’s start off by having you introduce yourself.
Jimmy: Hi, my name is Jimmy Cross and my partner is the very talented Jonathan Rogers.
AI: So lets talk a little about these two pieces. They truly mark a bit of animation history. Can you tell us a bit of what each film is about?
Jimmy: The first film is called “The Gift of Winter” starring SNL alum Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd and it was made by my partner Jonathan Rogers in 1974. Gift of Winter begins in a place called Anytown and people rise up in protest to stage an exhausting march through sub zero wilderness to confront the Ministry of Winter himself to demand change. Along the way they all learn the true meaning of winter and the gift of winter is born.
Witch’s Night Out is the a continuation of the first film starring Gilda Radner as the Witch and it was made back in 1978. It’s a spooky surprise when a witch’s magic wand falls into the wrong hands in this nostalgic Halloween special! A treat for the whole family, this magical animated adventure returns to you just in time to celebrate this spooktacular season!When a witch hears of a party being held at her haunted mansion, she decides to bring on the fun! Showing off her magical tricks by turning the kids into whatever they want to be for Halloween. However, when her wand disappears the town is turned upside down!
AI: What led you to make it?
Jimmy: I can’t take credit for making these two wonderful cartoons. But it all started back in 1978 when I was 7 years old. I fell in love with the shows and was blessed to one day become partners with the creator.
AI: Who worked on the film?
Jimmy: Both shows were made by John Leach (now known as Joanthan Rogers) and Jean Rankin of Leach/Rankin Productions back in the 70’s. Both films were independent and I guess in a way they still are.
AI: What technology was used in it’s creation?
Jimmy: Traditional animation but with a twist. Both cartoons were animated straight on cels and straight ahead animation.
AI: Wait, wait, animated directly on cells? That’s insane!
Jimmy: Crazy but true. Also no key frames just free straight ahead animation and drawn directly onto the acetate. Witch’s Night Out was filmed on 35mm film and Gift was 16mm.
AI: How was it funded?
Jimmy: The CBC (Canadian Broadcast Company) funded The Gift of Winter and then NBC funded the Witches Night Out. The restoration was independently funded through Semaj Entertainment.
AI: What is the end result for the film?
Jimmy: Well, both films are now for the first time on DVD and digital distribution in North America. They have both been fully restored and we are now looking to do new projects using our casts in both films. Together we have formed Cross/Rogers and are very excited on what the future holds for these stories and where we will take them together. It is truly a wonderful humbling story and a dream come true.
AI: Thanks Jimmy for sharing these truly unique little blasts from the pas. If you’d like to learn more about either of these films there are sites set up for both.
Dale and I remember fondly those early days of Toronto animation. I met John, the painting instructor at Sheridan College, when I was pretending to be the resident animation artist in 1970. He was eager and demonstrative as he splashed his first animation film, “EVOLU” out of an ever changing manipulation of paint. EVOLU was so well received in the international animation community, that it earned a rave review in the first GRAPHIS ANNUAL ANIMATION magazine. Dale worked with John on Witch’s Night Out and I even painted a scene in my spare time to help out near the deadline. Two beautiful films from a beautiful guy. We tried to find John to attend Dale’s retirement party last year, to no avail.
Thanks Jon, Dale and Dave