WEBSTER COLCORD IS A MAN OF MANY mediums. He works in cel, stop motion and clay animation, and he has both a sweet and a sinister style, as you might expect from someone who, on the one hand, worked on the famous California raisins at Will Vinton, and, on the other, had a film in Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Animation Festival about a guy named Howie Hurls-a nervous barfer who has the misfortune of getting a rather severe anal probe during an alien abduction, which leaves his buttocks permanently hanging like a pair of empty saddlebags.
"The Sick & Twisted stuff is really a rebellion against the ultracutesy stuff I was doing at Vinton's at that time," says Colcord. "They kept telling me to make the raisins smile more, they're not happy enough. While I do work in a variety of mediums, I like to think there's something of a consistent style throughout, even in the cutesy stuff I do now, which still has a little bit of a twisted edge."
All thanks to Converse and Boston's Houston Herstek Favat, as it's now known, where Colcord is one of many who've found a cool and committed animation patron. But unlike, say, Danny Antonucci, who's done some Lupo the Butcher spots for Converse, the baby-faced Colcord doesn't mind playing to kids. He's done six Converse spots to date, four clay outings for kids' shoes, and two spots for All Stars, both adapted from his Spike & Mike submissions, the source of many of the edgier animated Converse commercials.
The stop-motion "Mad Doctors of Borneo" finds a skeleton doing a Frankenstein number on a shoe, which results in the spontaneously combustible loss of his skull. The cel-drawn "Mel the Monster," in which big Mel tries to put someone's All Stars on his oversize feet, only to have them rip apart like cheap stockings, is based on a Spike & Mike film called "Bladder Trouble," in which Mel, then known as the Monster From Hell, reduces a hapless little guy to a puddle of pee. A Howie Hurls adaptation for Converse, says Colcord, never made the final cut, rejected by the networks. "They had a problem with the vomiting," he notes. Colcord has also done an anti-smoking PSA for Houston Herstek Favat and the Massachusetts Department of Health that was a '95 Clio finalist. This "scratchy line-drawing style," as he calls it, is his preferred personal mode, but clay is more the order of the day, seen also in his kids' bumpers for Nickelodeon and CBS. The bulk of his Converse clay work is for the Touch EFX line of shoes, which have pressure-sensitive patches on them that change color when fingered. The spots star a friendly blue monster called the EFX Glob, and, no, he doesn't make any kids piddle. "The Converse kids' spots are done in a primary-color style with characters that have really wide mouths and really round heads, as opposed to characters that have that decayed look, like in the 'Borneo' spot, where everything is rusted," explains Colcord. "That kind of looks like what Oregon looks like, with all the rain."
On the features front, Colcord just spent three months doing stop-motion work on the upcoming "James and the Giant Peach," for Disney. Not a bad track record so far, especially for a guy who's only 27.
Colcord, who's from Eugene, Ore., and is now based in Portland, failed to get into Cal Arts after the usual high-school Super 8 forays of the animation addicted, so instead he got his education in Portland at Will Vinton Productions, beginning at age 18. He was there for the raisin years of glory, 1987 to 1990, and he freelanced there another three years before opening his own family business in '93-his wife, Shawna, handles the account side. "There's quite a pool of freelance talent in Portland and in San Francisco that we can draw from," he says, and he insists there's no problem with competing with Vinton, which has turned largely to CGI.
Commercials animation, in fact, has turned largely to CGI, and the success of "Toy Story" will likely only accelerate the trend, but Colcord, in typically mellow Pacific Northwest fashion, is not worried. "Well, CGI is very popular these days, but I think there will always be a market for that really humanistic, handmade quality of clay animation or stop motion," he says. "The CGI rage has narrowed down the field. There aren't that many companies that agencies can go to for stop motion, and there are fewer yet where you can find consistently good work. Stop motion is a performance-oriented field. You can't go back and redo things like you can in cel or CGI."
It comes as no surprise that Colcord, who names the classic stop-motion animation of Ladislas Starevitch as his chief inspiration-"He made his own puppets out of stuffed animals and chicken skeletons"-has his eye on a feature of his own down the road, and he expects it would be a mix of all his styles, possibly even including live action, much like "James and the Giant Peach." But, for the present, he's focused on what may be the pivotal year of '96, about which he maintains an air of casual optimism.
"I think it's going to be a good year," he says. "We just moved into a new studio space, where we can take on more and bigger work. Depending on what happens in the next year, we'll expand, or maybe we'll stay small and I'll keep