Chuck Menville

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Chuck Menville
Born Charles David Menville
(1940-04-17)April 17, 1940
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA
Died June 15, 1992(1992-06-15) (aged 52)
Riverside, California, USA
Occupation Television animator and writer
Nationality American
Citizenship American
Period 1967 – 1993
Children Scott Menville, Chad Menville

Charles David "Chuck" Menville (April 17, 1940 – June 15, 1992) was an American animator and writer for television. His credits included Batman: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, The Real Ghostbusters, The Smurfs, Star Trek: The Animated Series, and Tiny Toon Adventures.

Pixilation: career in 1960s and 1970s[edit]

Menville was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but moved to Los Angeles at the age of 19 with aspirations of becoming an animator. There, he got a job with Walt Disney Productions and served as an assistant on the 1967 film The Jungle Book. Unhappy with the climate at Disney, Menville soon branched out into writing, and began a long working partnership with his friend Len Janson.

During the mid 1960s, Menville and Janson co-produced a series of short live-action films, among them the Academy Award-nominated Stop Look and Listen (film), an innovative stop-motion pixilation experiment in which the main characters "drive" down city streets in invisible cars.

Pixilation, the animation of living beings, and object animation, was nothing new to film, having been refined by Norman McLaren and his National Film Board of Canada associates during the 1940s and 1950s, most notably in the Academy Award-winning Neighbours in 1952 and his 1957 short film, "A Chairy Tale".

Disney and other Hollywood studios saw little use for the technique, and so the pixilation technique became largely forgotten after McLaren moved on to using other animation techniques for later films. But Menville and Janson revived the all-but-forgotten technique, introducing it to a new generation.

They followed Stop Look and Listen with their acclaimed 1967 short film, Vicious Cycles a comedy shot in 16 mm, featuring a gang of hard-core bikers intimidating a motor scooter club. Menville played the head of the scooter club. Clips from the film were featured in a 1970 summer television series on the American Broadcasting Company network called The New Communicators and made Menville's pixilation technique famous in the USA.

Gulf Oil (Union 76) soon hired them to do a series of pixilation commercials for its "no-nox" gasoline, which allowed them to increase the production value of their films.

They graduated to 35 mm with their next short film, 1970's Blaze Glory, a spoof of cliche western movies in which heroes and villains rode around the old west, without horses. Menville played the title character. It was an ambitious and elaborate short film, in which a full-scale stagecoach, with no wheels, was physically animated, along with an animated moving camera, frame-by-frame for a complex robbery scene. The film, with its other elaborate animated sight gags, was a hit short film at midnight movies in the early 1970s.

They followed this with two more 35 mm short films, Sergeant Swell (1972), and "Captain Mom" (also 1972), both spoofs of superheroes. The later film was mostly live action with a minimum of their now-trademark pixilation animation technique, and failed to garner a large audience, but by then Menville and Janson had established themselves as a creative force within Hollywood animation production circles.

In the mid-1970s, the team began a stint at Filmation, during which they brought their irreverent style to Star Trek: The Animated Series. (They wrote two episodes for that series titled "Once Upon a Planet" and "The Practical Joker". The "rec room" in the later episode is now seen by many within Star Trek fandom to have been the genesis of the holodeck.)

Later career[edit]

In the 1980s, Menville contributed to a number of Saturday morning series, including The Smurfs, The Real Ghostbusters, and Kissyfur. Among his last projects before his death in 1992 was the episode "Opah" of the live-action Land of the Lost, for which he was nominated for the Humanitas Prize in Live-Action Children's Programming. His final project was writing an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, but Menville died before the episode could be written. Brynne Stephens wrote the teleplay for the 1993 Batman episode "Birds Of A Feather" based on Menville's story, for which he received a story credit on the completed episode.

Menville was the author of The Harlem Globetrotters: Fifty Years of Fun and Games, a history of the famed basketball team. It was published by the D. McKay Company in 1978.

Menville died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Malibu, California in 1992. He was the father of Scott Menville, an American musician and voice artist and Chad Menville, an American writer.

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