‘Janie & Jerome’: Producer Eric Weil’s exercise in Storytelling

Eric Weil is an Emmy-Winning producer and indie kids’ filmmaker who has been teaching Storytelling at the School of Visual Arts for six years now. Select shorts from Weil’s seven-part Sesame Workshop series, ‘Janie & Jerome,’ were featured at festivals like the Tribeca Film Festival and the BAMKids Festival in 2005.

During our chat, Weil explained that the idea for ‘Janie’ came from a dream his younger sister described to him when they were growing up. She described her dreams as “movies coming out of her pillow.” Thus the idea for Janie, a little girl that dreams in movie strip pictures, was born.

‘Janie & Jerome’s’ crayon-drawn style was a distinct choice that Weil made as a storytelling strategy. “It was what was true to that world,” he said. See ‘Janie & Jerome’ short, ‘Rain,’ below:


Q & A: PBS’ Director of Children’s Programming, Linda Simensky, talks Amination
April 17, 2010, 11:47 pm
Filed under: History, Interviews, TV | Tags: , , , ,

Simensky making a cameo on the PBS show, WordGirl. Courtesy of

Last week I posted a list of Linda Simensky’s favorite indie animated shorts. Because I miss old school Nickelodeon so much, here’s a little bit more detail on her time at Nick, her love of Bugs Bunny and some of her future plans. (See the post below for more background on Simensky).

How did you first get interested in animation?

My interest in animation started when I was little. I was a big fan of Bugs Bunny cartoons. Not so much of Disney, but I really loved Bugs Bunny, and I wasn’t necessarily paying attention to how the cartoons where made, or even that they were cartoons, I just knew they were really funny and I thought that was great.

What was the animation industry like when you were growing up?

It was always sort of a throw-away kind of business and nobody ever took it seriously and if you look at the entire history of animation, probably up until the 90’s it was not big business. Even the Disney films, as beautiful as they were and as much as people loved them, they were still seen as being for kids and people were not necessarily willing to give them importance.

What changed from then to now?

The 70’s happened and animation just basically became to sell toys, and the 80’s was more of the same. But then, Roger Rabbit came along, and then the Simpsons came along—and those were probably two of the biggest things that happened. The other thing that was important was the emergence of cable television. And not just that cable existed, but it existed and was doing pretty well. By the late 80’s, places like Nickelodeon had made enough money to afford making animation. And animation used to be more expensive than it is now.

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PBS Executive, Linda Simensky’s Favorite Indie Animated Shorts

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the key women responsible for shaping my childhood, and in effect instigating my long and unwavering love affair with television. Of course, I didn’t tell her all this over the phone. Instead, I opted to give her a meek thank you for her years of work in children’s animation, in efforts to preserve some semblance of professionalism–I don’t think it worked.

Linda Simensky has held distinguished executive positions in the children’s television industry for more than 20 years. First, she worked her way up at Nickelodeon during the 80’s and 90’s, starting in the programming department and eventually moving into animation. During her nine-year tenure at Nick, she was responsible for overseeing the production of shows like ‘Doug‘ (the good, pre-Disney version) ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’ and ‘Hey Arnold.’

Around the time of ‘Hey Arnold,’ Simensky left Nick after being appointed Director of Programming of Cartoon Network. At Cartoon Network she worked on other memorable shows including ‘Dexter’s Laboratory‘ and ‘Powerpuff Girls.‘ Talk about 90’s cartoon royalty.

Since 2003, Simensky has been overseeing popular preschool and elementary, curriculum-based programming like ‘Sid the Science Kid‘ and ‘WordGirl’ as the Senior Director of Children’s Programming at PBS.

During our chat, Simenski highlighted three independent animated short films from the National Film Board of Canada that had a signficant impact on her view of animation:

1. The Cat Came Back (1988)

This hilarious Oscar®-nominated animation is based on the century-old folk song of the same name. Old Mr. Johnson makes increasingly manic attempts to rid himself of a little yellow cat that just won’t stay away… Also won the 1989 Genie Award for best animated short film.

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Discovering the Legend Behind the Book of Kells
April 9, 2010, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Films, GKIDS, History | Tags: , , , , ,

Throughout my continuing research into the world of children’s films and animation, I am happy to report that I have been finding a boatload of positive publicity surrounding one of my key subjects, “The Secret of Kells.” This is, of course, no surprise considering the film’s very recent Academy Award nomination and the almost fairytale story of how it beat out other industry giants for said nomination. The New York Times, LA Times, and a slew of bloggers have all raved on about the film.

After finally getting my eager hands on a copy of ‘Kells’ in preparation for my upcoming interview with Director, Tomm Moore, I have to say, I don’t disagree with all the hype. ‘Kells’ is something truly amazing to look at. Its intoxicating colors and animation style immediately hook the viewer in, and its cast of memorable characters like Aisling, the enchanting part wolf-girl, pixie and the story’s hero, brave young orphan Brendan make the film an easy emotional investment.

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Veteran Artist and Visual Arts Professor, Martin Abrahams Talks History of Amination

Martin Abrahams, a self-proclaimed pioneer of the music video medium and veteran animator, is an enthusiastic advocate of his students at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has been teaching since 1971, but is also an alumni of SVA, having studied painting and fine arts. Soon, as a way to make a living, Abrahams veered off into the world of animation, a very new field at the time.

When I first visited his classroom on Saturday, which was full of advanced graphic design and animation students, I could barely tell him apart from his pupils. Wearing dark skinny jeans, a plaid green button up and Chuck Taylors, at first glance it’s hard to believe he’s had over 30 years of animation experience.

Here are some of the highlights from our hour-long chat together:

What was working on one of ABC’s first educational children’s programs, ‘Make A Wish,’ (1971-76) like?

That particular show was a very unique show. It incorporated these kinds of little quick animation vignettes. It would mix animation with quick cut stock footage.  It was great. It allowed myself as an animator to be able to work independently, and offer what only I could do in my style, my ideas, storyboarding concept based on a script—and because it was cut so fast, you know, it was young kid quality.

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