What is your name and your current occupation?
Hans Perk, director, editor, compositor, head of IT at A. Film, Denmark, and CEO and producer for A. Film L.A., Inc.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
I have never done an honest day’s work, sorry. I started studying Art History at the University of Amsterdam, but found that I was itching to put my pencil to the paper myself, and as such I have only worked in animation since 1979.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I was proud to work on the 1986 Academy Award winning short film Anna & Bella, as assistant director, animator and editor. The director and head animator, legendary Börge Ring and myself were the only two people working on that film on a daily basis. After that, basically all of A. Film’s output since 1988, in most capabilities, but especially Miffy the Movie – which I directed.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Amsterdam, Holland, and started my interest in high school as collector of Disneyana, which soon made me wonder “what made them move.” That’s where I got hooked… I got a great tour of the Disney studios in 1978 where I met Woolie Reitherman, was shown a sequence of the Fox and the Hound on a Moviola by Art Stevens and was shown the Archives by Dave Smith. This last visit impressed upon me the need to curb my collecting and concentrate on what I found most interesting: animation – and mainly books and documents. No more Mickey coat hangers for me!
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
There are few typical days, it depends fully on what function I am working in at the time. As director my day looks very different from when I am editing someone else’s movie. Luckily there are many different days, though in some less meaningful functions it can be quite like being in Groundhog Day.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Telling a convincing story that has the audience identify and feel with the characters is very satisfying. Generally making things work is a great feeling.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Drudgery jobs. Identical from day to day jobs without artistic input. These are just not challenging, unless they give me the chance to write some software to make things flow more easily and allow me to concentrate on the more interesting bits. You could never get me to sit all day putting pickles in jars…
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis, how has technology changed in the last few years in your field and how has that impacted you in your job?
I spent quite some time taking care of the computers at the studio, something I still help doing at A. Film. Basically Windows, but I have had to be able to manage Macs, Unix, Linux, Amiga etc. Plus everyone asks for help with their telephones and small appliances… Of course, the computers have changed our lives. Before them we made what is now called hand-drawn animated films, and we were one of maybe four or five independent studios in the world that could deliver high quality material for big budget American feature films. The computer has become The Great Leveler, so now we are in a HUGE pool of animation studios, and can only compete on our track record at telling stories – as we produced 13 animated features and worked on 28 more as subcontractors (and a lot of tv, shorts, commercials, dark rides, computer game interstitials etc…).
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
There are always days with long hours, and there often is little money (when making movies targeted at a little country) and it doesn’t help that I feel I am on the wrong continent. I would love to be able to work in Southern California. Possibly as liaison between the L.A. community and A. Film in Denmark, which is a great little studio with more experience than you can shake a stick at. For interested parties, look at the reels, think how much the film must have cost and divide it by six or so – that’s probably what we made thing for. I’d say it’s an incentive to get in contact. This is why we made A. Film L.A., Inc. in the first place.
If you could change the way the business works and is run how would you do it?
I very much would like to see the return of hand-drawn animated films, but that demands GREAT stories and fearless producers/investors. Everyone seems to be so scared nowadays. It is nearly impossible to make anything unless it is a well-established property…
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Early on, I got in touch with Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, who both became good friends of mine. Stayed at my parent’s house in Holland. Later I worked with them on a story we at A. Film were working on, and they brought in Ken Anderson as sketch artist, as well. But just meetings, gee, in the 18 times I was in Annecy I walked into lots of well-known animation people, often only for seconds. Like Marc Davis, Bill Littlejohn, Yuri Norstein etc. etc… Mr. Osamu Tezuka even asked me to work for him at an Annecy luncheon one day back in 1983 or 1985. I still have his card. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had done that.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
I have a hard time doing that. Somehow I have always considered myself lucky that I never had a REALLY tough time. But then, many really great artists just had a miserable, rotten life…
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Hmmm… I don’t know that I can talk about what I am doing. Maybe just that I work with a little (so far non-profit) group that tries to unravel all the secrets of Walt Disney’s Hyperion Avenue studio. Anyone with special interesting info on this is very welcome to contact me! Of course I need to also mention that my animation history blog is something I have spent a lot of time on. There aren’t many places where you can read for many Disney features who animated what based on original documents, or how the short films were timed to a musical beat. I explain it all and more on http://afilmla.blogspot.com.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Well, now you mention it, I can tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue. I thought everyone could! Besides that, my hobby is animation history, and next to that I am much to interested for my own good in diverse things in Science and Art. I enjoy free lectures from YouTube, which have given me more insight in cosmology, the genome and cheese making than I would ever have dreamt of 15 years ago. Not that I want to make my own cheese, of course…
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Yes! Get out as soon as you can and then stay out! Well, maybe that’s a bit much… It depends largely on whose business they are trying to break into. There are a few things that are really good to know. First: learn to draw. Draw three-dimensionally. Know where every part of your drawing is, also the parts you can’t normally see. Whatever you will be doing, being able to draw will come in handy. Then, learn about entertainment. Don’t be satisfied with flying logos (as we used to call ‘em). Get some fun in there! Tell a story! Get the audience involved. The number one book to get is still Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston’s Disney Animation: The illusion of Life. Read it and understand it. Never be satisfied by “good enough,” it’s not good enough. Study everything, and question everything. Why are things the way they are? And, of course, never give up. As Woolie Reitherman wrote in my autograph book in 1978: Best of luck and Most important: Believe in yourself!