Around 1964, I did my very first animation job. It was for CBS and I got to work for the legendary Lou Dorfsman who shaped every aspect of corporate design for CBS in his 40 years there. I was tasked with creating ten, 10 second “teaser” spots which would be used at station breaks on the network.
CBS had just created a break-through technology they called VPA (Vote Profile Analysis) which would hopefully predict the outcome of elections, shortly after voting had begun, with supposedly, a high degree of accuracy. It was top secret. They were going to reveal it when the time was right and the job I had been assigned was to tease the public and build up curiosity until then. We would throw out the letters V P A to the viewers and make everybody wonder what the hell it meant in ten second bits between programs. We also popped the words “Vote Profile Analysis” in small letters in the last few seconds at the bottom of the screen.
So, my first animation experience was to be the manipulation of three simple black type letters into 10 arresting filmic arrangements.
I zoomed a “V” from a tiny dot on the screen to full screenrevolving it upside down while it was joined by “P” which had slid in from the right side. The upside down “V” became an “A” with the addition of the crossbar while the “P” disappeared.
I panned a “V” onto the screen, in another spot, zoomed in to the blackness of the letter and zoomed right back out to reveal that it was now a “P”, then back in and out to reveal the “A”.
I continued on in this fashion, zooming, panning and twirling the letters around through ten variations avoiding the more obvious approach of actually just manipulating the forms into each letter. I kept the letters whole all the time, maintaining their dignity as type forms and not succumbing to “Walt Disney” anthropomorphic transformation or just melding from one letter form to the other.. I felt that it described the “style” of CBS to keep it simple, black and white, elegant movement and transformation.
As simple as it was, and maybe because it was so simple, it became, I think, the most creative endeavor of my short animation career. It’s so compelling to get caught up in the rhythm of a job like that where the ideas just start popping into your brain. It’s good to have a time constraint to work around that forces you to be basic, direct and clean. No time to get “junky” in 10 seconds.
For weeks and weeks before they revealed their proud program that was going to beat all the competition in vote projection, we watched my VPA’s dance around for 10 seconds at every station break.
I haven’t been to the CBS building in many years, so I don’t know what it’s like now, but when I used to go into the building in those days, it wasn’t like going into any other big corporate building; it was carefully designed by Dorfsman (I guess), in every detail. There was the “CBS” typeface that was used everywhere down to the elevator buttons. When you arrived at your floor, there was a spacious waiting area wherein a receptionist sat a plain, clean desk. the décor was of a black and white or subtle grey: floor, rugs, walls, ceiling, etc.. Radiating off this main area there were long corridors going off to the different offices. At the far end of each corridor was the shock of a big square very brightly colored abstract painting. That was the only color. All aspects of the offices were rigidly controlled. Receptionists told me that they couldn’t have even a stray paper clip on their desk. Everything had a place that was design controlled and policed.
When you stepped into that building, you weren’t stepping into a building, you were stepping into a huge, formal piece of graphic design –cool, clean, elegant, black and white.
Down the block sat the NBC building, my next network client, a virtual riot of peacock color.
Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: