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Paul Fierlinger (born March 15, 1936 as Pavel Fierlinger) is a creator of animated films and shorts, especially animated documentaries. He is also a part-time lecturer at University of Pennsylvania School of Design.
Paul Fierlinger was born on March 15, 1936 in Ashiya, Japan, the son of Czechoslovakian diplomats. His father, Jan Fierlinger, was a Czechoslovak diplomat, and his uncle Zdeněk Fierlinger was a prominent figure in the Czechoslovak communist regime from 1948 until 1968. He spent the WWII years in the United States. At the age of twelve, while living in a boarding school in Podebrady, Czechoslovakia, Fierlinger created his first animated film by shooting drawings from his flipbook with a 16 mm Bolex camera. His experiences of youth and the difficulties of adapting to life in America and then returning to Czechoslovakia are documented in his biopic animated film Drawn from Memory.
In 1955 he graduated from the Bechyne School of Applied Arts. After two years of military service, he freelanced in Prague, as a book illustrator and gag cartoonist for cultural periodicals under the pen name Fala. Fierlinger established himself in 1958 as Czechoslovakia’s first independent producer of animated films, providing 16 mm films from his home studio for Prague TV and the 16 mm division of Kratky Film. Thus, he created approximately 200 films, ranging from 10-second station breaks to 10-minute theatrical releases and TV children’s shorts.
In 1967, Fierlinger escaped from Czechoslovakia to the Netherlands, where he pitched for a number of station breaks for Dutch television in Hilversum. He then went to Paris to work for a short stint as a spot animator for Radio Television France and ended up in Munich for half a year, having been offered the job of key animator on a feature film at Linda Films, The Conference of the Animals. In Munich, prior to his departure to the United States, he married a Czechoslovak compatriot and photographer, Helena Strakova.
Career in the United States & founding of AR&T
He arrived in the United States in 1968 where he first worked for Universal Pictures as a documentary director of Prague, The Summer of Tanks. For a short period the Fierlingers lived in Burlington, Vermont to work for a local TV station: while in Vermont, their first son, Philip, was born. In 1969, the Fierlingers settled in Philadelphia, where he was hired by Concept Films to animate political commercials for Hubert Humphrey and other political candidates. In 1971, a second son, Peter, was born.
Fierlinger formed AR&T Associates, Inc., his own animation house, in 1971. It produced animated segments for ABC’s Harry Reasoner specials and PBS’ Sesame Street, including the popular Teeny Little Super Guy series, a network ID for Nickelodeon, and more. Since 1971, AR&T has produced over 700 films, of which several hundred are television commercials. Many of these films received considerable recognition, including an Academy Award nomination for It’s so Nice to Have a Wolf Around the House. Other awards include Cine Golden Eagles, and "Best in Category" awards at festivals in many cities and countries. And Then I’ll Stop, a 1989 film on drug and alcohol abuse, has received more awards than any other of his films, including "First Prize" in Aspen, Colorado, and was selected for screening at MOMA’s New Films, New Directors series, and the London Royal Film Festival. At that time, Paul and Helena were divorced, and their two young adult sons moved to San Francisco to pursue their own careers in computer and multimedia productions. From 1986 to 1995, Fierlinger worked with composer and audio producer Paul Messing.
1990s and beyond
Fierlinger became a steady provider of many TV commercials and sales films for US Healthcare (now Aetna), winning a variety of international awards. At this time he met and married Sandra Schuette, a fine arts painter and printmaker at the Boston Museum of Art School and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Together they developed a small series of interstitials for Nickelodeon called Amby & Dexter: The Way of Silent, a Sesame Street series called Alice Kadeezenberry, and a twenty-minute film of children’s songs for The Children’s Book of the Month Club, called Playtime.
In 1993 Fierlinger received a commission from PBS’ American Playhouse to create a one-hour-long autobiography, called Drawn from Memory. This was completed and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995, and has since been televised worldwide. Drawn From Memory has received several major film festival awards, including a presentation by invitation at INPUT 96 in Guadalajara, Mexico.
In 1997, Fierlinger received a PEW Fellowship in the Arts award for the body of his work.
In the late 1990s, ITVS, an agency of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, commissioned Fierlinger to create a half-hour PBS special called Still Life With Animated Dogs. This film, about dogs and other things of a divine nature, premiered on national feed March 29, 2001. The film went on to win "1st Prize" at the 2002 International Festival of Animation in Zagreb, and the Peabody Award in April, 2001.
At the end of 1999, production on Still Life had to be interrupted for several months so that the Fierlingers could develop and begin the production of an animation series for Oxygen Network, Drawn from Life: two-minute films which feature the voices and simple stories of real life women. That series won the "Grand Prix of 2000" at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in Ottawa, Canada. Still Life with Animated Dogs won the Golden Gate Award in San Francisco, and represented the United States at INPUT 2001 in Cape Town, South Africa.
In October 2003, the Fierlingers completed another ITVS/PBS special called A Room Nearby. It premiered in November at the Margaret Meade Festival in New York City, and was aired on PBS in March, 2005. The 27-minute-long film illustrates five very different people, who tell personal stories about their bouts with loneliness and how they benefited from the experience: among the storytellers are Lynn Blue and Miloš Forman. Another Peabody Award in 2005.
In the fall of 2004, Fierlinger became a part-time lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, teaching an undergraduate and graduate course in 2D animation, called "Hand Drawn 2D computer Animation", and a freshman seminar, called "In Pursuit of Originality".
In 2009 Fierlinger created the Teeny Little Super Guy cameo in episode 4196 of Sesame Street.
The Fierlingers have finished their own production of a feature-length film, called My Dog Tulip, based on the book of the same title by British author J. R. Ackerley. The film features the voice talents of Christopher Plummer, the late Lynn Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini.
Paul and Sandra Fierlinger currently live and work out of their Wynnewood, Pennsylvania home and studio.
- Marcovitz, Hal. "Freedom Animated Montco Filmmaker". The Morning Call. Retrieved 22 November 2012.