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Encyclopedia > Jules Engel

Jules Engel (11 March 19096 September 2003) was a Jewish-Hungarian American filmmaker, animator, painter,sculptor, and teacher. He is most remembered as the founding director of the Experimental Animation Program at the California Institute of the Arts, where he taught until his death, serving as mentor to several generations of animators. is the 70th day of the year (71st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1909 (MCMIX) was a common year starting on Friday (link will display full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Thursday of the 13-day-slower Julian calendar). ... is the 249th day of the year (250th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... The word Jew ( Hebrew: יהודי) is used in a wide number of ways, but generally refers to a follower of the Jewish faith, a child of a Jewish mother, or someone of Jewish descent with a connection to Jewish culture or ethnicity and often a combination... Hungarian-American refers to American citizens with Hungarian ethnicity. ... Entrance to CalArts on McBean Parkway The California Institute of the Arts is commonly referred to as CalArts. ...


Early life

Engel was born in Budapest, Hungary where as a baby his mother would cover him with a baby blanket when carrying him in a stroller. This was largely due to the shape of Engel's head (he once commented in an interview) that was similar to a hexagon. The family story is that people would stop his mother to inquistively ask what she was carrying in the stroller. Engel goes on to explain that this incident might have been a foretelling of his career in art and animation! [1].

Engel immigrated to Chicago at the age of thirteen, where he grew up in Oak Park, Illinois and attended Evanston Township High School. During his high school years, he became the best runner in his track team, and was already showing signs of early abstract work in his art classes. One teacher, who was understanding of Engel's peculiar taste, would make the rest of the class go out, and do observational drawing of people and nature, while she let him stay in class and work with different collages of paper shapes. He remarked in his later years,"If you are good as an athlete there something in you that has that sense of rhythm that going to show itself on a canvas or a drawing. It gong to be there to a degree." Also, while in highschool, he was invited by a classmate he never talked to before to go see a performance of Swan Lake by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which would serve as an inspiration for his artwork the rest of his life. Evanston Township High School, or ETHS, is a public four-year high school located in Evanston, Illinois, a North Shore suburb of Chicago, in the United States. ... The Valse des cygnes from Act II of the Ivanov/Petipa edition of Swan Lake. ... Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo was an influential ballet company that existed from 1932 to 1963. ...

Arriving in Los Angeles

In 1937, Engel traveled to Los Angeles originally to gain athletic scholarship to either USC, or UCLA, as he was in the track team while in high school . He would eventually settle in Hollywood, while at the same time studying at the Chouinard Art Institute in downtown Los Angeles. It was during his studies at Chouinard, he met many artists who would go on to work for Disney Studios, and later recommend him to Walt Disney Studios. in the meantime, he work under Charles Mintz Studios as an inbetweener. The Trojan Shrine, better known as Tommy Trojan located in the center of University of Southern California campus. ... The University of California, Los Angeles (generally known as UCLA) is a public university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. ... The California Institute of the Arts, commonly known as CalArts, and located in Valencia, California, grants degrees in visual and performing arts. ...

Disney Period, Fantasia and Bambi (1938-1941)

A year later, he was asked by Walt Disney Studios to work on the now Disney classic film Fantasia. At the time, Disney Studios was doing something innovative, integrating "low" (animation) and "high" (classical music) art, and the studio needed someone who was familiar with the timing of dance. It was because of his drawing talent and his growing knowledge of dance, Engel was assigned to storyboard the Russian spites and Chinese mushrooms dance sequences of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Fantasia is a 1940 motion picture, produced by Walt Disney and first released on November 13, 1940 in the United States. ...

Fantasia Trademark

For the Russian sprite sequence, Engel inventively placed the dancing sprites against the stark black ground. And by bolding the simplified setting, he intensified the contrast of the figure and the ground. (It should be noted that during this time he was most inspired by the paintings of Kandinsky and Klee). The latter sequence, Chinese Mushrooms, has brought much debate in the animation community surrounding Engel himself, Art Babbit, and Elmer Pummer over who got to claim responsibility for the sequence. As former CalArts student Mark Kirkland revealed, Engel was upset about Plummer censoring his concepts from reaching the hands of Walt Disney, and later putting the final 'correctional touches' of both his and Babbit's work. Overall, Engel could claim responsibility for the choreography (timing) for the final sequence, but to this day, animation scholars and former students alike continue to debate about it from all sides. On White II (Kandinsky 1923) Wassily Kandinsky (Russian: Василий Кандинский, first name sometimes spelled as Vasily, Vassily or Vasilii) (December 16, 1866 - December 13, 1944) was a Russian-born painter and art theorist. ... Klee redirects here. ... Mark Kirkland is a director of episodes of The Simpsons. ...

Contributions to Bambi

He work on Fantasia didn't go unnoticed by the studio, as the director of Bambi, David Hand, asked Jules to work do color work for the film. Originally, Engel was unhappy about it because he had no interest working on a film focused on animals. However, word got out to director about his attitude towards the project, and he was then re-approached to work on the timing for the sequence where Bambi first encounters his childhood playmate, Faline, which required a lot of movement analysis. After completing the sequence, he became committed to the entirety of the project after hearing the score for the film, which he thought had lot of abstraction and movement. He began doing color sketches because he felt that the color schemes they were using during production was too naturalistic. Hand, who liked Engel's approach, green-lighted his color contributions to the film's traumatizing momma deer death scene, and where the clan of pink and red deers ran away from firing gunshots. He expressed to his colleagues, "You should emphasize, you should push, you should be more inventive.[...] There's nothing 'normal' about animated film, it's all invention." Basically, making them more aware of their color choices in relationship to the aesthetics of animation.

Engel's time at Disney would come to an end with the development of the Disney animators' strike. While the union won the case over the studio,, Engel didn't go back, largely because while he enjoyed the place, he felt uncomfortable being surrounded by colleagues that he felt didn't share his passion for the aesthetics of animation as he did. However, the time he spent didn't go to waste, as met avant-garde filmmaker Oskar Fischinger during Fantasia, who encouraged Engel in both his abstract animation and painting. The bitter animators strike of 1941 at Walt Disney Studios was a psychological turning point within the company. ... Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967) was an abstract animator, filmmaker, and painter. ...

Motion Picture Unit (1942-1944)

During World War II, he was in the service alongside the likes of actor Ronald Reagan, and and famed children's book writer Theodor Geisel( Dr. Seuss) in the First Motion Picture Unit as an animator. Originally, Engel was waiting to be drafted in the U.S. Army, but was rejected because of his poor eyesight (indicated by his glasses), and a bad shoulder. He was adamant in joining the war cause because he did not will to deal with the embarrassment of facing up to his friends who were already drafted. The Air Force would eventually recruit Engel in the Motion Picture Unit to work on training videos and war bond advertisements. he would eventual work on drawing instructions for the newer models of the weapons being produced, and maps based from looking above from an airplane, where he infused his earlier practice of abstraction. Ronald Wilson Reagan (February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was the 40th President of the United States (1981–1989) and the 33rd Governor of California (1967–1975). ... Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991) was an American writer and cartoonist best known for his classic childrens books under the pen name Dr. Seuss, including The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and One Fish Two Fish Red... The First Motion Picture Unit was the first unit of the United States Military to be made entirely of motion picture personnel. ...

UPA Days (1944-1959)

Engel was one of a group of animators (himself, William Hurtz, John Hubley, and Herbert Klynn) who later left Disney to found the United Productions of America studio. At UPA, Engel worked as a background artist on cartoons like Gerald McBoing Boing, Madeline, and Mr. Magoo. The environment at UPA was much more open-minded to change, unlike his former employer, Disney.It was during this period where Engel was not only inspired from paintings by Kandinsky, Klee, but Miro, Matisse, and Duly, as well as the Bauhaus book "Language of Vision". Engel would later claim responsibility for discovering the children's book Madeline, and suggesting to Stephen Bosustow to buy and copyrights and develop the series. John Hubley (May 21, 1914 – February 21, 1977) was an animator and animation director known for both his formal experimentation and for his emotional realism which stemmed from his tendency to cast his own children as voice actors in his films. ... Herbert Klynn (born November 11, 1917 in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. – died February 3, 1999 in Tarzana, California, U.S.), was the founder of television animation studio Format Films, best-known for producing The Alvin Show, The Lone Ranger, and other films and series in animation mostly during the 1960s. ... United Productions of America, better known as UPA, was an animation studio of the 1940s through 1970s, and a distributor of Japanese films from Toho Studios from the 1970s onward. ... A background artist or sometimes called a background stylist or background painter is one who is involved in the process of animation who establishes the color, style, and mood of a scene drawn by an animation layout artist. ... Gerald McBoing-Boing is a 1951 animated short film about a little boy who can only speak in sound effects. ... For other uses, see Madeleine (disambiguation). ... Mr. ... On White II (Kandinsky 1923) Wassily Kandinsky (Russian: Василий Кандинский, first name sometimes spelled as Vasily, Vassily or Vasilii) (December 16, 1866 - December 13, 1944) was a Russian-born painter and art theorist. ... Klee redirects here. ... Miro may refer to: Prumnopitys ferruginea, or Miro, an evergreen coniferous tree endemic to New Zealand Miro, electronic dance band original from Denmark see Miromusic Portia tree, sometimes known as Miro, a small tree or arborescent shrub Miro (Enders Game), a character in the Enders Game series by... Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt (1906). ... Stephen Bosustow (1911 - 1981) was an American cartoonist from 1944 until his retirement in 1959. ...

In 1945, Hazel Guggenheim (of the art patronage family) arranged for Engel to have first exhibition of painting at the Frederick Kahn Gallery in Los Angeles. As the story goes, Engel and Guggenheim were visiting the gallery when Ms. Guggenheim suggested Mr. Kahn that he should give Jules an exhibition. Taken by surprise, Engel agreed to have an exhibition if Kahn would agree not to sell anything.

Format Films (1959-1962)

With former UPA colleagues Herbert Klynn and Buddy Getzler, he then launched Format Films, and produced several popular US television series, including The Alvin Show (1961-62) and The Lone Ranger (1966-67), as well as one-off animated shorts, among them the Ray Bradbury-scripted, and Oscar-nominated, Icarus Montgolfier Wright (1962). Herbert Klynn (born November 11, 1917 in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. – died February 3, 1999 in Tarzana, California, U.S.), was the founder of television animation studio Format Films, best-known for producing The Alvin Show, The Lone Ranger, and other films and series in animation mostly during the 1960s. ... Format Films was a television animation studio, most active during the 1960s, when they produced shows such as The Alvin Show and Underdog. ... The tone or style of this article or section may not be appropriate for Wikipedia. ... The Lone Ranger. ...

Live-Action in Paris

In 1962, Engel moved to Paris to direct the animated The World Of Sine, which would go on win the La Belle Qualité award. He then co-directed The Little Prince, a theatrical production combining animation and live performance. While he was in Paris, he came to the attention of renowned comedian Jacques Tati, who was a fan of the UPA work. And later, his first short live action film, Coaraze, which won the Prix Jean Vigo. During his stay in Paris, his was friendly with other artists at the time, including Man Ray. In the late 1960s he began making his own personal fine art animation. He also made several documentaries on other artists. Jacques Tati as Monsieur Hulot. ...

"To CalArts and Beyond!"

In 1970, Engel founded CalArts' Program in Experimental Animation, widely recognized as one of the world's foremost centers for animation arts.

In 1997, Animation World Magazine, asked Engel, along with two other animation prfoessors: "If you were stranded on a desert island with only ten films to screen to your students, to teach them the principles, techniques and concepts of the art of animation, what would they be?" Engel chose the following:

  • 1. Band Concert by Walt Disney.
  • 2. The Nose by Alexander Alexeieff and Claire Parker.
  • 3. Two Sisters by Caroline Leaf.
  • 4. Study no. 6 by Oskar Fischinger.
  • 5. Study no. 8 by Oskar Fischinger.
  • 6. Filter Gallery by Eric Darnell.
  • 7. Tenderly by John Hubley.
  • 8. The Trap by Amy Kravitz.
  • 9. The Demon by Kihachiro Kawamoto.
  • 10. Game of Angels by Walerian Borowczyck.

In 2001, Engel kept himself busy by selecting the color design of each frame for The 1 Second Film. This was an interdisciplinary project that was conspired by Nirvan Mullick, an Experimental Animation student of his at the time. In that same year, CalArts hailed his indelible contribution to the arts by conferring on him the title of Institute Fellow, the highest honor it awards to faculty. The Fellowship has only be given to two other faculty to date, Alexander Mackendrick, and Mel Powell. The 1 Second Film is a non-profit collaborative animation project that brings together thousands of people around the world as supporters in the hopes to raise money for the Global Fund for Women. ... Alexander Mackendrick (September 8, 1912 - December 22, 1993) was a Scottish-American film director. ... Mel Powell (born Melvin Epstein, February 12, 1923 in New York City - April 24, 1998 in Valencia, California) was a jazz pianist and serial composer. ...

Continuing His Legacy

In one of his final major acts, in May 2003, Jules established the Jules Engel Scholarship Fund. The recipients of the awards are those students who have carried out their work at CalArts in Jules’ name have all demonstrated rigor, daring imagination and great curiosity about the world, leading into inventive interdisciplinary projects.

Engel was also a painter, and produced a prolific body of oil paintings, lithographs and other graphic artworks. His paintings are in the collections of major museums, and recently there have been exhibits of his work at Tobey C. Moss Gallery in Los Angeles. He was still working on a new series of lithographs just before his death.

Today, many of his students carry out his influence through their work, which include John Lasseter, Henry Selick, Tim Burton, Stephen Hillenburg, Joanna Priestley, Christine Panushka,Peter Chung,Glen Keane, Ellen Woodbury, Paul Demeyer, Eric Darnell, Kathy Rose, Joyce Borenstein, Mark Osborne, Fern Seiden, Steven Subotnick, Patrice Stellest, Amy Kravitz, Vanessa Schwartz, Mark Kirkland, and Janeann Dill among others. John A. Lasseter (born January 12, 1957 in Hollywood, California) is an Academy Award-winning American animator and the chief creative officer at Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Feature Animation. ... Henry Selick (November 30 1952 - ), is an American stop motion animation director who directed both The Nightmare Before Christmas, and James and the Giant Peach. ... Timothy Tim William Burton (born August 25, 1958) is an Academy Award-nominated American film director, writer and designer. ... Stephen Hillenburg (born August 21, 1961, in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA) is an American animator and is best known as the creator of Nickelodeons SpongeBob SquarePants. ... Joanna Priestley is an independent animator and teacher. ... Christine Panushka is an independent filmmaker, freelance animator, and teacher. ... Peter Chung Peter Kunshik Chung (born April 19, 1961 in Seoul, South Korea, as 정근식 (Cheong Geun-Sik)[1]) is a Korean American animator. ... Glen Keane (born on 1954) is the son of Bil Keane (an illustrator best known for the daily comic strip The Family Circus) and Thelma Thel Carne Keane [1]. He is perhaps the most famous traditional (2D) lead character animator in recent history. ... Ellen Woodbury is a Disney Animator, and sculptor. ... Eric Darnell is the co-diriector of Antz and Madagascar, and is set to direct Madagascar 2. ... Mark Anatole Osborne (Born August 13, 1961 in Toronto, Ontario) is a Canadian hockey player, who played in the NHL as a checking winger between 1982 and 1995, playing in 919 games, tallying 212 goals and 531 points. ... Steven Subotnik is an animation teacher and award-winning independent animator. ... Patrice Stellest (born May 23. ... Mark Kirkland is a director of episodes of The Simpsons. ...

The Engel Animation Advancement Research Center (EAARC) offers a slate of animated shorts drawn from leading international festivals. The program is structured around the themes of personal struggle and forbidden desire in the context of a polarized, conflicted world.

Former students of Engel,Christine Panushka and Janeann Dill, are currently act as representatives of him. Panushka, serves as the executor as Engel's estate, while, Dill, is his biographer.


  • The first animation he ever saw was Three Little Pigs, from Disney.
  • The makers of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, graduates of Engel's Experimental Animation program, dedicated the film to him.
  • The shriveled docter in Suzan Pitt's El Doctor is rumored to be based on Jules.
  • While at Disney, he grew great admiration and friendship Disney animator Ward Kimball, he who felt was mistreated by Disney Studios. Ward eventually made Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, inspired by the UPA style that Engel layed down.
  • The hydrangea was his favorite flower.
  • The cover of the book, Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics by colleague Maureen Furniss, is a still of Engel's animation work,The Meadow.
  • He was good friends with visual artist June Wayne.
  • He sold the storyboards he had done during Fantasia and Bambi to Steven Spielberg, who is a known collector of such things

Three Little Pigs is an animated short film released on May 27, 1933 by United Artists, produced by Walt Disney and directed by Burton Gillett. ... The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a feature film based on Nickelodeons hit TV show SpongeBob SquarePants. ... Suzan Pitt is an American film animator and painter, whose surreal, psychological animated films and paintings have been acclaimed and exhibited worldwide. ... Firehouse Five Plus Two LP album cover. ... Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom was an educational animated short film released by the Walt Disney Company in 1953. ... Species See text Hydrangea (common names also Hydrangea, in English pronounced IPA , and Hortensia) is a genus of about 70-75 species of flowering plants native to southern and eastern Asia (from Japan to China, the Himalaya and Indonesia) and North and South America. ... Visual artist June Claire Wayne was born on March 7, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois. ... Steven Allan Spielberg (born December 18, 1946)[1] is an American film director and producer. ...


  • "Color can be heard.”
  • "It's not what I give my students. It's what I don't take away."
  • "I have chosen to convey ideas and feelings through movement, visually formed by lines, squares, spots, circles and varieties of colour."
  • "Experimental animation is closer to music, which can move away from any obvious image, and gives us an experience that can only be the property of music.In my work, movement in itself is the expression that gives us both an aesthetic and an emotional experience."
  • “My work is not realized through mathematical formulas or theories. It is gained through visual trial-and-error. It is a process of perception. It is a process of trial-and-error.”
  • “Movement is the content. Don’t merely look at a movement, FEEL it."
  • "Movement emerges, only to disappear.”
  • “The art of filmmaking is timing."
  • "Since the advent of 3-D and CinemaScope, there has been a great deal of talk by film executives about how they are going to 'save the industry.' It's my opinion if there's any saving to be done of a business based on creative talent--it will be done by creative talent--not by the men behind the big, oak desks."
  • “Animation is not a question of drawing, it’s a question of timing”
  • "I have chosen to convey ideas and feelings through movement, visually formed by lines, squares, spots, circles and varieties of colour."
  • "Solve your problems in the storyboard."
  • "Solve your problems small."


  1. ^ Jules Engel video at the Peoples Archive

The Peoples Archive [sic] is a website which has videos of notable persons telling their life stories. ...

External links

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online database of information about movies, actors, television shows, production crew personnel, and video games. ... The Peoples Archive [sic] is a website which has videos of notable persons telling their life stories. ...

Work and Statements by Engel



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