Rabbit Ears Productions in Westport, Connecticut created about sixty videos based on classic stories for children. Their concept was simple: great stories, amazing music, famous actors reading what good writers wrote, and the best illustrators they could get. I was lucky enough to have them call me to do a project I’d always dreamed of doing: the story of Paul Bunyan.
The video would be done in dissolve animation and run about 24 minutes. This meant that I could do each piece of art as a finished illustration which the camera would pan across or swoop into for three or four seconds before dissolving through to the next one. It was thrilling. It allowed me to be the auteur of my own film. I chose whether the camera swooped or panned, and I chose the pace and look of my art. It was heady stuff. I often had to remind myself I was making a video for children, and not “Citizen Kane.”
What I didn’t know was that it would take me eleven months to do the 270 watercolor illustrations for Paul Bunyan. I got to rewrite much of the original script adding events and characters, and making it suit my own take on the Paul Bunyan stories. It was exhausting work, but I loved it.
Leo Kottke composed and performed the terrific score and the inimitable Jonathan Winters read the story. Along with some original art, a few minutes of video are posted here for viewing.