Spotlight
The Reigning First Lady of Indie-Studio Animation
Jake Friedman · From fps #7 · March 1, 2006 | Of all the icons of New York's animation community, there are some who are recognized by one well-known piece, some by two. Candy Kugel has dozens. Being one-third of the brains behind the award-winning studio Buzzco Associates, as well as being a New York animation veteran since the male-dominated 1970s, Candy has produced pieces of animation that have built a firm place in popular culture. You might remember the widely-recognized Sesame Street clips (It's Hip to be a Square!), the commercials featuring Underdog and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or the original MTV spots of the moon landing—not to mention her consistent track record of award-winning and critically-acclaimed short films.

"I was never interested in animation to do ink and paint. I was interested in moving my drawings," she says simply, as we sit in the hallway outside her classroom. When she's not running a studio, Candy finds time to teach animation at the School of Visual Arts. I was eager to learn all the gory details of Candy's rise to a studio head.

The essential Candy Kugel: a selected filmography
A Warm Reception in L.A. (1988)
Animated Self-Portraits (1989)
Fast Food Matador (1991)
We Love It! (1992)
Command Z (2004)
Apparently, her determination goes back to her childhood. "I was a third-born kid," she says with a laugh. "I knew that whatever I had to say was valid [to me] and if you didn't believe what I had to say, then screw you. So I got to where I was by having my own path. I was marching to a different drummer." As a teenager, in the '70s, Candy worked in the New York theater community. "I was a substitute 'usherette,' and I have to tell you, with the women's movement and everything, being called an 'usherette' was a sticking point... and I just so loved the theater, but at the same time I knew from the plays that I was in at high school that I had terrible stage fright—I didn't want to look stupid. And when you're an actor, you can't be afraid to look stupid."

Later, as an illustration student at Rhode Island School of Design, she went to a seminar by Jack Zander a one-time assistant to Chuck Jones while at Termite Terrace. "You have to believe," says Candy, "That animation wasn't always as omnipresent as it is now. In the '70s, there was a real dearth of it. It wasn't being done except for kids' cereal, basically. And Saturday morning cartoons were all reruns from the old Warner Bros. and Terrytoons stuff. But [Zander] had a commercial studio and it was very exciting to me. All of a sudden it occurred to me that my drawings could act. What I couldn't do, I could make my drawings do."

Want to read the rest of this spotlight?

You'll find it and many other articles in the March 2006 issue of fps, available for only 99 cents US.
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