Dizzy Gillespie talks nuclear disarmament in 1962 animated short, ‘The Hole’


 
In the mundane setting of a construction site, casual conversation turns into a discussion of freewill, subconscious desires, chaos and the fear of accidental nuclear catastrophe. The animation is muddy, mottled, fluid and shuddering—the product of watercolors on paper, as opposed to the Disney-style of opaque paint on animation cells. The dialogue is improvised—realistically stuttered and stammering, voiced by jazz-great Dizzy Gillespie and George Mathews, a 6’5” actor known most prominently for his roles as tough-guys and heavies. The 15-minute short has the feel of a Jim Jarmusch vignette rather than a kiddie cartoon—a story about a conversation, told with humor, humanity and affection. And the ending is a shock.

If the subject matter feels a little heavy or surprisingly political, it may help to know the context of its creators. The Hole is one of the many gems from animation legends, John and Faith Hubley. Prior to meeting his wife and artistic partner, John Hubley worked for Disney but left during an animators strike. After finding success a second time with another animation company (and creating the character of Mr Magoo), Hubley was fired for refusing to name names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and blacklisted throughout the industry.

In 1955, he married fellow animator Faith Chestman, and they opened up their own animation studio, pledging to make one independent film a year. They later made shorts for Sesame Street to finance their more experimental projects. Their independent films were often explicitly political, tackling subjects like war, urbanization and children’s rights, without condescending to the cutesy artistic sensibilities children are so often assumed to possess. The Hubleys were also notable for using improvised dialogue, children’s voices for children’s characters (sometimes their own children) and a diverse cast that avoided the racial cliches pervading the medium at the time.

The Hole won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 2013.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Brilliant ‘Doonesbury’ TV special from 1977 questions the high-minded ideals of the 1960s

Written by Amber Frost | Discussion
‘Like A Spiritual Orgasm’: Miles Davis plays the Isle of Wight Festival

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When Billy Eckstine came to St. Louis, with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, Miles Davis went to see them play.

Davis was playing trumpet with Eddie Randle’s Rhumboogie Orchestra, and one day, after rehearsal, he went round to the theater to see Gillespie and Parker perform.

Davis arrived with his trumpet slung over his shoulder, dreaming of how one day he might be up there playing along with the likes of his idols Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie or Charlie Parker. Just as he reached the theater, Gillespie appeared, noted Davis’ trumpet and rushed over to the young musician.

‘You play?’ Gillespie asked.

Davis told him he did.

‘We lost our trumpeter, and we need one fast. You got a card?’

Davis nodded ‘Yes’.

‘Then you’re in.’

Davis played with Gillespie and Parker for the next 2 weeks, and this was the start of Mile Davis’ incredible career.

In 1970, Miles Davis played to a 600,000 audience at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was the largest pop festival in history. At the time, many questioned why Davis had agreed to perform at it, as man of his success and talent was middle of the bill, sandwiched between Tiny Tim and Ten Years After.

Davis had just released his double album, Bitches Brew, which proved to be a game-changing moment in Modern Jazz. The album divided critics. Some reviled it, claiming Davis had sold out, and was no longer relevant. But the audience loved it. And Bitches Brew became Davis’ biggest success, going gold within weeks.

In August 1970, Davis decided to play Bitches Brew at the Isle of Wight Festival. It was a myth-making appearance, where Davis improvised much of his performance.

That festival, and Davis’ role in it, are revisited here in Murray Lerner’s documentary Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue, which inter-cuts Miles’ astounding performance together with members of his band and those who knew the great man.
 

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion