About Paul McCartney’s “Daumier’s Law”
Story behind “Daumier’s Law”
Brian Peterson Nov 26 1993
This article was written by Mark Lewisohn for Club Sandwich in the Summer of 1992. In order to save myself some typing I will excerpt and paraphrase a little bit. Any mistakes are mine.
Paul McCartney is about to surprise us all once again. Over the last 4 years he’s been putting together a short film animating the work of 19th Century artist Honore Daumier, and recording what the public will perceive as some very unMcCartney like music for it.
The film is Daumier’s Law. Brought to you by the team behind Rupert and The Frog Song. Paul, Linda, and director of animation Geoff Dunbar. For too long Honore Daumier has been an unsung hero, a clear but usually overlooked influence over artists such as Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso. Daumier’s Law will ensure that his work finally receives the attention it merits.
Linda was the first to be enthused by Daumier – back in her school days. “I went through all periods of different painters and along the way there were several that grabbed me including Daumier. He was very satirical about the different classes and fantastic at capturing people’s characters.”
In 1988 Paul found himself with the time, while preparing for the Tour, to record some experimental music. It wasn’t meant for the film, that come only after the music was completed. “I wanted to get into some minimalist music so I came to the studio and started trying to think of very simple pieces, based around the theme of injustice. .. I got intrigued by the idea of thinking ‘how few notes couls I use, then?’ You start off thinking of just one note and then you embellish it a bit, trying to keep in the back of your mind to be as minimal as possible. And in the end I think I abondoned the idea of minimalism and just got into this slightly experimental music.”
Soon the two projects came together. “I went through every drawing he ever did and really got involved,” Linda says, “I got every book on Daumier and read all about his life and thought that it would be incredible to do a visual thing for Paul’s music. Daumier worked for a newspaper as a satirical cartoonist and went to prison a few times for his Art. A lot of his work was about injustice and it’s a theme that is so right for our times.”
“I did about 20 minutes of music.” adds Paul, “then Linda and I were looking at some Daumier drawings, so we hooked up the idea of injustice with my musical pieces, came up with the idea for the film and called Geoff.”
“Paul and Linda called and asked if I would like to make a film on Daumier and I said yes,” recalls Geoff Dunbar, “Before Rupert came along I had made a film on Toulouse-Lautrec so the Daumier idea was very exciting.”
“Paul did six pieces of music and they each had a title – Right, Wrong, Justice, Punishment, Payment, and Release. Then we pored through the works of Daumier, got everything that was available, and structured the story from the material. And where we had to link it we invented ‘in the style of’. We hung the story on one character, a man from one drawing by Daumier.”
The injustice theme is skillfully put across during the 15 minute film, with our Mr. Average wrongfully accussed, wrongfully arrested, wrongfully convicted in a particularly powerful courtroom scene(Act 3: Justice), cruelly punished, forced to pay dues and then, at last, expelledby the tyrannical system, free to rediscover artistic beauty in his midst. “It’s all topical stuff ,” comments Dunbar, “It’s a heroic tale I suppose. He goes through the system and comes out in rags, he’s lost all his wordly possessions and his dignity but regains them at the end by finding beauty and music.”
The most visually stunning section occurs in Act 5 (Payment), when Daumier’s remarkable Gargantua, drawn in 1832, is brought to life. Depicting the great pear-head of Louis XIV [should read: Louis-Philippe] and his swallowing up of ordinary people and their riches, it was a drawing for which Daumier was fined and imprisoned by the French government.
The sheer enormity of work in making Daumier’s Law is best explained by some vital statistics: Production began in mid-1989 and the animation took two years to complete. With between 12 and 24 drawings per second the film runs up to 21,000 drawings. Before that they are all done in pencil too, so that make’s 42,000. THe celluloids also have to be shaded or painted before being photographed, plus all the prepatory photos and layouts of the scenes, another 35,000 drawings. “The sequence of the mandolin player (Act 6, Release) along took one artist three months,” comments Geoff, “plus there were scenes, only natural in a film project, that wouldn’t fit in, which were heaved out and confined to the bin.”
It’s a mark of the team’s achievement that no difference between the original work and theirsis discernable to the naked eye. “Doing a film like this has it’s bonuses,” remarks Dunbar, “and one learns so much more than if you just studied it. You’re actually in it, you’ve got to make it move, to create new scenes which will dovetail with the original.”
Paul supplied 20 minutes of instrumental music, of which 15 is used. It may not be minimalist in the true sense of the word, but certainly, in places, it is pretty minimal. And it changes dramatically depending on the Act, from subtle tinkling percussion effects to more strident piano and electric guitar passages and some lovely acoustic work. “The great thing in animation is that they need the music before the film,” comments Paul’ “In animation they follow what you lay down.”
“Paul was inspired by Daumier and I was inspired by the music’” comments Geoff, “And we do have a good sense of what we’re both thinking and saying. With the Daumier music it’s so much a departure for Paul ,such a brave direction to go in, that I had to sit down and listen to it many times over”
“What was especially thrilling was when we did the sound mix and Paul and I are sitting at the bakc of the theatre. There it was again – the strength of the music was still there. WE had been listening to it every day, sections of it repeated again and again, and it had become an object of work. So for the strength to still be there two years later was remarkable.”
Delighted to be “probably the only animator in the world who has a gold disk”, pointing to his award for ‘We All Stand Together’, Dunbar is usually occupied making animated TV commercials and is presently engaged in bringing to the screen another beloved British children’s character, Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit.
As for the musical element, Paul comments, “I’ve also got two other pieces of the same sort of theme and of similar length, so the idea at some point may be to release everything together on record, We’ll see.”
Paul McCartney: “Daumier’s Law”
Some comments collected from the Internet.
Soundtrack to the animated featurette “Daumier’s Law” to recreate the drawings of Daumier. Premiered at Cannes in 1992. His first production, “Daumier’s Law,” won the top prize in 1992 at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.
The commercial 80s kicked off with the promising, eccentric McCartney II (a queer fish abundant with idiosyncratic vocals) and produced lots more hits. Late in 1989 Paul repaired to his studio with the intention, for his own pleasure, of laying down some minimalist music. What transpired was full-blown experimentation, uncontaminated by melody or vocals, fifteen minutes of which was later soundtracked to the animated featurette Daumier’s Law, produced by Paul’s company in a bid to recreate the drawings of French artist Honoré Daumier. With its six atypical McCartney pieces the film premiered at Cannes in 1992. Text copyright © Chris Fox, 2000
First published by Rubberneck, November 2000
Cannes 92: Best short nominee
Paul is named the world’s first recipient of the Swedish Polar Music Award, a Nobel-prize for music. Paul reveals Daumier’s Law, an animated short film entered for the Cannes Film Festival, which he co-produced and composed the score. Paul, Linda and the band – with new drummer Blair Cunningham replacing Chris Whitten – record his first studio album for three years, Off The Ground. Daumier’s Law wins the BAFTA prize for the best short animated film at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards.
But a most successful partnership has flourished on the back of Macca’s efforts. In 1989 McCartney laid down a musical score for a new film project, ‘Daumier’s Law’. Dunbar was commissioned to direct and produce the 15min short which brought the drawings of French artist Honoré Daumier into animated life. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1992 and, like Frog Song eight years earlier, collected a BAFTA for Best Animated Short. In 1998 Macca and Dunbar teamed again on the video to ‘Tropical Island Hum’. And then, last year they premiered their acclaimed new short film ‘Tuesday’. Adapted from the book by David Weisner, this is another amphibian-filled fantasy about frogs on Lilly pads who, on one particular Tuesday evening take a twilight flight into town. The film is narrated by actor Dustin Hoffman and is dedicated to Paul’s late wife Linda. It was shown at the Venice Film Festival and went on to give the Macca/Dunbar partnership their third BAFTA Nomination.
Whilst promoting the project in Italy Macca was very vocal about his passion for animation and commitment to making a full-length feature soon – even giving a hint that it might again feature frogs… Frogs are good, but little bears would be better still, eh?
Nicolette van Gendt (1955) got a solid training in fine art drawing and painting, graphic design, initially working as an illustrator and portrait painter. Living and working in the UK since 1978, she became involved in animation in 1985. After doing storyboards, lay outs and backgrounds, she evolved from trainee inbetweener to assistant animator on Who Framed Roger Rabbit. She was further introduced to the art of animation by Gill Brooks, a well known British art director.
In 1991 she did character design, layouts and animation on Geoff Dunbar’s Daumier’s Law, which in 1992 received a BAFTA award for best animated film. Since she has worked as an animator for various British commercial studio’s, and as lead animator on different large productions.