Effectively buried for years “Hansel and Gretel” finally resurfaced in 2009, at the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit “Tim Burton.” It’s now at LACMA, running continuously in the galleries. I’m pleased about the new exposure because I edited this film in 1983 (on videotape). It was made for Disney Cable and the powers-that-be decided to air it *once* on Halloween night 1983.
My college friend Henry Selick (best known as director of “Coraline” and “Nightmare Before Christmas”) had worked with Tim as an animator at Disney. Burton had already made his amazing animated short “Vincent” and there was an aura around him. H&G was a budget production, and I believe that everyone pulled together and worked free or cheap. Henry suggested me as an editor. I was based in NYC and ready for adventure in LA, but I didn’t know how to drive. (I was 29 and a real native New Yorker:) I did a crash course and the ink on my driver’s license was still wet when I boarded the flight to L.A.
On arrival I met Tim’s partner and creative collaborator Rick Heinrichs. We went for a seaside walk with Henry (photos below) to get acquainted. The project had a charmed feel and was smoothly run. I guess Henry suggested me because I was young, would probably ‘get’ Tim’s sensibility and most importantly, I was an experienced CMX editor. Experience is a relative thing because in NYC, few knew how to use “trace” software required in sophisticated tape off-line edits in the days when one had to copy parts of edit v1 to make revision 1 and so on. I would come to master trace software in later years but lack of that skill didn’t seem to matter because the film was tightly storyboarded and Tim knew exactly what he wanted. We nailed the edit in one pass and everyone was happy.
This is the most detailed write-up about “Hansel and Gretel” I’ve seen. The reviewer describes it having “weirder-than-Adult Swim sensibility” – cool:)
One happy dividend of my involvement was the fact that H&G was shot in white limbo, which inspired me to shoot a music video that year in black limbo – that was Rap Machine by Whodini. Shooting in limbo is very efficient in a budget production. For that reason it was one of the one few videos I directed that I feel like I really finished shooting: on the others we just ran out of time and had to fudge the edit. Things came full circle when Tim came to NYC on a business trip and I screened the music video for him— he really seemed to enjoy it.
Finally the most fortuitous aspect of “Hansel and Gretel” was that when Pee-wee’s Playhouse (TV series) was looking for an editor, I understand that Tim vouched for me, (thanks pal:) and that cinched my being hired. This was a big break for me.