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In Collaboration | Creative Partnerships

John and Faith Hubley at their moviola
Everything is completely changed as a result of these two people and the creativity that they've brought to animation.... They've changed my life and they've changed the lives of all of the other animators that are out there doing Courage the Cowardly Dog or Beavis and Butthead or The Simpsons. [Without the Hubleys] these characters could not have existed. - Michael Sporn, animation filmmaker

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"The Hole"
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character from The Hole

"Windy Day"
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characters from Windy Day

"Of Stars and Men"
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still from Of Stars and Men

Faith and John at work on "Cockaboody"
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In Collaboration | Collaborative Partnerships

"Letterman" from
The Electric Company
In 1955, the Hubleys opened an independent animation studio in New York City called Storyboard (the studio couldn't bear John Hubley's name because he had been blacklisted). Their commercials for clients like Easy Pop and Maypo became hits. When Sesame Street came to television, the Children's Television Workshop commissioned the Hubleys to create animated shorts, which gave them the financial freedom to work on their own independent films.

Even though there is virtually no market for independent animated films, the Hubleys made a pact to make an independent film every year, and completed 21 films together. Seven of their films were nominated for Academy Awards, and three - "Moonbird" (1959), "The Hole" (1962) and "Tijuana Brass Double Feature" (1965) - won Oscars.

Outside the Lines

The Hubleys could take on anything in terms of subject matter: nuclear annihilation, the Cold War, overpopulation, the death and rebirth of creativity. They seemed to be limitless, in terms of their daring, and what they wanted to put into animation - what they felt animation could handle. - John Canemaker, animation historian / filmmaker

Artist and activist John Hubley was transformed as a filmmaker when he married Faith. Scholars describe his drawings before their collaboration as graphically brilliant but cold. "Once they began to work together, there's a warmth that's very obviously her contribution and influence on him and their shared vision," says animation historian Charles Solomon.

The Hubleys' aesthetic was the antithesis of the big studio style. Whereas Disney artists were creating animated characters on cellular pages, drawing hard lines filled in with opaque paint, the Hubleys drew on paper and painted with watercolors, often not staying within the lines. "They came up with techniques that you could see the hand of the artist - in that the lines shimmer and bubble," said Canemaker. Their work had a free form, impressionistic quality where characters could metamorphose into anything, a style influenced by modern painters such as Picasso and Matisse.

They violated all the rules. They threw dust on the cels, and they worked with grease so the paint would run. It came out beautifully; everybody was awestruck that such a thing would work. - Bill Littlejohn, animator

The Hubleys were dynamic innovators in the animation field. They were among the first to bring jazz and animation together, working with jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Benny Carter and Quincy Jones. They were also the first animators to use real children's voices instead of actors' voices, animating the improvised dialogue of their children at play. "Moonbird" (1959) is based on the tape-recorded ramblings of their two sons, "Windy Day" (1967) and "Cockaboody" (1973) uses the musings of John and Faith's daughters. "This was a real innovation in terms of characterization and in terms of trying to capture the real world of children on film rather than what children do that adults think is cute," says Solomon.

Their decision to draw human (versus animal) characters accompanied with voices of different racial and ethnic qualities were another first in animation. The Hubleys also tackled important social issues in their films: investigating the frontiers of philosophy and science ("Of Stars and Men," 1961); depicting the arms race and the absurdity of war ("The Hat" 1964); warning against nuclear destruction ("The Hole," 1962); questioning overpopulation ("Eggs," 1970) and urban development ("Urbanissimo," 1966); exploring the eight stages of Man ("Everyone Rides the Carousel," 1976); and defending children's rights ("Step by Step," 1979).

Working Together

Working closely together on every aspect of the film, from the design to the schedule to the artwork, they complemented each other's strengths, and fought it out when they disagreed.

The Hubley Family in the studio
The Hubley Family in the studio

Another joint venture in the Hubley partnership was their children, Emily, Georgia, Ray and Mark, all of whom have pursued creative occupations. Emily Hubley shares her parents' passion for animation; she animated many of her mother's films and is an accomplished filmmaker in her own right. Georgia Hubley is the drummer for the band Yo La Tengo. Ray Hubley is a film editor and Mark Hubley is a horse trainer.

Learn about other Creative Partnerships in animation.

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