Doozy: A conversation between Richard Squires and Elroy Simmons

At irregular intervals throughout the production of my debut feature Doozy – a part-animated exploration of the 1960s voice casting of American actor Paul Lynde – I would meet animator Elroy Simmons (see Fig. 1) in an East End London pub, where he would hand over a wad of beautifully drawn frames, wrapped in newspaper, and we’d have a celebratory drink or two. We’ve done this one and off for a number of years. As an artist-filmmaker with a fascination for the animated form but lacking the skills to animate movement like a traditional character animator, I decided years back that I needed a hand with some of the more complex sequences on my Animate Projects film Francis (2007).

Fig. 1 (L-R) Myself, Clovis and Elroy Simmons.

Fig. 1 (L-R) Myself, Clovis and Elroy Simmons.

Fig. 2 - My appearance with Clovis the Rotterdam premiere of  Doozy  in 2019.

Fig. 2 - My appearance with Clovis the Rotterdam premiere of Doozy in 2019.

Most of the films I’ve made since have involved some kind of 2D animated component and Elroy has worked on them all. It’s a collaboration that has produced some unusual results, as my desire to work with animation is partly due to an inclination to simultaneously deconstruct the medium. Doozy has been the most ambitious of these projects: an experimental documentary in which a cartoon avatar named Clovis – whose design references 1960s ‘limited animation’ (Fig. 2) – re-enacts a number of alleged, drunken, semi-criminal episodes in the life of the Hanna-Barbera voice actor Paul Lynde. Lynde was a closeted gay man, known for his distinctive voice, his comedic bit parts on sitcoms like Bewitched (Sol Saks, 1964-1972) and I Dream of Jeannie (Sidney Sheldon, 1965-1970) and for being the regular ‘centre square’ on the US gameshow Hollywood Squares (1966-). As his career faltered, Lynde’s frustrations grew and tales of his alcohol-fuelled night-time escapades emerged in the press. There were stories of arrests for drunk driving, streaking down Santa Monica Boulevard, being verbally abusive on aeroplanes and getting ejected from bars. As an artist and a gay man, I found these stories particularly affecting; they spoke of ambition, rejection, shame, self-destruction, oblivion, and of being on the outside looking in. I decided that – for the animated component of Doozy – my cartoon avatar Clovis would re-enact a number of them. Whilst Clovis, the character, would re-enact Lynde, the actor, I also wanted the film’s animated sequences to expose – and play with – some of the conventions of ‘limited animation’ cartoon villains. So Elroy and I conceived of ways in which characters might have ‘disembodied’ moving parts; sequences could have repetitive, semi-rational narratives and animation cycles would be reused and repeated in ways that might push ‘limited animation’ into new territory.

In July 2019, we met up at the aforementioned East End pub to discuss Doozy, Paul Lynde, Hanna-Barbera, limited animation, whether to root for Penelope or the Hooded Claw, the challenges of animating Clovis – a character who is always drunk – as well as infuriating audiences with extended cycles. The resulting conversation (involving its various tangents!) was recorded, and is presented above.

Doozy screens at Queer Lisboa, Portugal on Sunday 22nd September at 5.00pm local time.

Clovis, Tom and Don are drinking in a bar... until Clovis makes his exit.

Clovis and Jim make their way back to the hotel after a night of heavy drinking.

Biographies

Richard Squires is a London-based visual artist and academic who works predominantly with film, drawing and animation. His work is shown internationally in galleries, broadcast and at film festivals. Past exhibitions include Comics Unmasked: Art & Anarchy in the UK at the British Library (2014), Alternative 23 at IMT Gallery, London (2014) and Backhander at studio1.1, London (2011). Past projects include Programme, a hybrid documentary work about the Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris that premiered at Whitechapel Gallery, London (2007); Francis, an Animate Projects commission for Channel 4 TV (2007) and performance work The Uncle Hans-Peter Party that debuted at the ICA, London (2009). His films are distributed by Light Cone, Paris and have been featured on various compilations including Grey Suit; Bloody Gays and New Contemporaries: Moving Image 1968-2010 (Lux). His published work includes contributions to Art Review; Animation Practice, Process and Production; Performance Research and Chroma Journal. Squires is Joint Course Leader on BA Filmmaking at Kingston University, UK.

As well as producing his own animated films such as A-Z (2012), animator Elroy Simmons’ screen credits include Mansfield 66/67 (2017), Horrid Henry (2015), Hustle (2006), Mister Bean (2002) and The Lampies (2002) alongside commercials for Persil, Golden Nuggets, Levis and Coco Pops. Squires and Simmons have collaborated for over ten years, working together on the feature-length Doozy and Squires’ previous short films Francis (2007), Ontologically Anxious Organism (2010) and Postcolonial Capers(2014).