Post Magazine

July/August 2020

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 27 of 35 26 POST JULY/AUG 2020 J. Sedelmaier wanted to be a comic-book artist. After attend- ing the University of Wisconsin, he moved to New York, where he thought he'd realize his dream, but was disap- pointed to find the business to be much less dynamic than he originally had envisioned. He took a job working at an antiques store in The Village, where he would later meet Patrice, a worker at the Greek restaurant next door, who would later become his wife. She encouraged him to show off his portfolio, and after making some contacts, learned about the city's animation business. This July marked the 30 th anniversary of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions (www., the animation studio he founded with Patrice that focuses on commercial animation, while also contributing to legendary shorts for both MTV and Saturday Night Live. Sedelmaier recently took some time to speak with Post about his career and the company's longevity. He got his start at The Ink Tank in New York City, initially as an assistant animator, with the goal of ultimately becoming an animator. There, animator/illustrator and studio founder R.O. Bleckman recognized his talent, and in short time, made him a producer. "Bob's a relatively soft-spoken guy, so we were a really good complement to each other," Sedelmaier recalls. "I didn't want to be a producer. I was just an animator…I wanted to draw. And Patrice would be slapping me and say, 'No, no, no! You want to be [a producer]! The producer is great, because the producer is the one who controls everyone on the show.' So I reluctantly became that." This was around 1985, though in time, Sedelmaier would become The Ink Tank's executive producer. "Then, I was representing the studio," he recalls. "And by the time 1990 had rolled around, I was running a studio." The experience proved valuable on many levels. He learned how to run a project, as well as a studio, and also learned how to deal with artists of vari- ous backgrounds and skill sets. "I feel we all were speaking the same language," he says of the collaboration process. "[The artists] don't have their guard up, because [as producer, I'm] not trying to take advantage of them." Ultimately, he would go on to open his own studio in White Plains, NY, called J.J. Sedelmaier Productions. It was July 12 th of 1990 when he incorporated the business, which set up shop at the top of the Bar Building — a historic com- mercial building designed by architect Benjamin Levitan back in 1926 that is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of their early work included spots for Act mouthwash and an interna- tional campaign for 7Up. "I had done some 7Up international stuff when I was at The Ink Tank and then when they wanted to do more, they came to us," he recalls. "We ended up doing these wonderful international spots using the character Fido Dido. And these were really high-end things…They incorporated not only live action and animation, but motion control. We were shooting the live action at Silver Cup, and these spots showed all over the world, except for the United States. That's when 7Up had the red-dot sunglasses char- acter. In Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia… these were spots you saw. So it was a huge package with a lot of prestige and a lot of attention. And then it just kept building and building and building until Beavis came in at the end of '92." Beavis and Butt-Head was a series of animated shorts by Mike Judge that garnered attention on MTV's Liquid Television and then grew into their own animated series. The show featured two unmotivated teenage headbangers, who spent most of their time sitting on a couch, where they would comment on music videos while giggling uncontrolla- bly. The animated style was much like the boys' humor — crude. That was late 1992. "We ballooned up to 60 people and had to take more space in the building," Sedelmaier recalls. "[MTV] said that they wanted to try to do Beavis as a series. Mike had done two cartoons, and he loved animation. He had done the ani- mation himself. But now they wanted to do it as an actual series. So it was right around this time that I had come into contact with a guy named John Whitney, Jr., whose dad was a pioneer in com- puter animation in the '40s and '50s. His son, John Whitney Jr., was developing this technology for 'paperless animation', they called it." The process involved drawing ani- mation on paper and then scanning the images so that they could be colored and composited in a computer. "This idea seemed perfect for Beavis because Beavis was cell (animation), which meant it was flat. The animation was so crude and naïve — it looked like Beavis and Butt-Head did it, which I found so fascinating. We worked every- thing out and got John and his company USAnimation involved." Since much of the show involved the boys on the couch, they were able to build reusable libraries rather than having to create new animation every week. The show was successful, but was also a learning experience for the studio owner. "We were very fortunate that Beavis came around when it did," Sedelmaier re- calls. "It taught us exactly what we didn't ever want to do again…It was like, 'No, this is not for us really. Commercials were — and really are — so fantastic, because everybody who works in them works in a different capacity for the most part each time. And the work itself is different each time. It's much more stimulating. They're BUSINESS J.J. SEDELMAIER PRODUCTIONS' 30 YEARS IN ANIMATION BY MARC LOFTUS XXXXXX A STEADY STREAM OF COMMERCIALS & POP- CULTURE CLASSICS J. J.J. Sedelmaier

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Post Magazine - July/August 2020