(Interview by André Grieder. ©1999 by
Facts. Translation from German
by and ©1999 Steve Mindykowski, with assistance from
Altavista; I apologise in
advance for the trnaslation.)
In the USA the TV series Rugrats is a giant success. Now the clever babies come into Swiss cinemas.
We talked with Gabor Csupo in room 106 of the distinguished London hotel "Dorchester". "I can not pend the animation of Disney, the songs every 5 minutes and the actions aren't always too great..."Briefly before the discussion continues, Arlene Klasky, Csupo's business partner and ex-wife, joked: "what you can say is that it's not always politically correct."
"Exactly", answers Csupo. They take liberties on judgements. In the last 9 years, Klasky and Csupo are the most successful animation producers with their American TV series "Rugrats", which lure 23 million kids to TVs every week and brought in 1.5 billion Swiss Francs for (Nickelodeon's) parent company, Viacom."The Rugrats Movie", the first movie with talking babies Tommy Pickles, Chuckie Finster, Phil & Lil DeVille and Angelica Pickles, is the most harmonious animated film in history, not to come from Walt Disnet Studios. "The Rugrats Movie" Has brought in over 140 million Swiss Francs. Now the film arrives in Switzerland.
The big-screen version of the "Teppich-Ratten" is more popular than Disney's films, though as politically correct as the TV series. Gabor Csupo thinks otherwiise. "I hate political correctness", he says, "in ten years may we won't have anything to say anymore." Csupo, which moved to the US from Hungary in the 1970s, because he assumed it's a better world outside of Hungary, with the factories of the Czechoslovakian animation artist Jan Svankmajer, the Zagreb school and the National Film Board of Canada's film shorts. Csupo made music with Frank Zappa, produces the American records of Holger Czukay, the bassists of the legendary German band Can, and promotes experimental music, which is not heard by everyone; nor do they make alot of money.
1989 is the start of its commercial success history. Arlene Klasky was on maternity leave, as the Nickelodeon children's channel asked Klasky Csupo Inc. for series ideas. Klasky, a former student at the California Institute of Arts, suggested a show with babies, told from the perspective of the babies. Nickelodeon bought the idea, because Klasky and Csupo had proven in the late-1980s with "The Simpsons" that they were able to make intelligent series for intelligent kids. "The Simpsons" wasn't as good as Walt Disney, either. But they were still correct enough, in order to become commercially successful. The "Teppich-Ratten" are raw, but are strong in the details drawn and in the use of bright colors. They're just as psychological as "Peanuts", as are "The Simpsons", among twelve-year-old boys. Tommy is the merry, intelligently leader of adventure. Red-haired Chuckie is cautious and fearful. The twins Phil & Lil are cute. Angelica is their final link to the adult world. She's three years old, one year older than the others. The girl is a terror with the babies and an angel with her parents. She always wants to be the focal point.
Perhaps that comes along that her mother Charlotte has more interest in her career than for Angelica. Also Stu and Didi Pickles, Tommy's parents, are not perfect, thus exactly the same as real fathers and mothers. That has the consequence that parents do not suffer, " if the adults see the film together with the little ones", says Csupo. Many people can identify with the film, which led to the fact that "Rugrats" is almost as popular with adults as with the kids.
In "The Rugrats Movie", there are no songs every five minutes. But there is singing, nevertheless, because the production companies Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon required it. Csupo also mentions that the music is organically merged into the scenes and makes sense. It was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, which has good connections to various artists; he was also a member of the California (sic) cult band DEVO. Beck, Patti Smith, Lenny Kravitz, The B52s, Jakob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, Phife of A Tribe Called Quest and Lisa Loeb were also a smash in "The Rugrats Movie" baby song.
Of course the next Rugrats film is already in the works; in addition, a story by Charles Bukowski. "Somewhat very dark, which will make me very proud", says Csupo," with great design and great songs." Something in the tradition of Ralph Bakshi's legendary "Fritz the Cat" from the 1970s. The draughtsmen of the Klasky Csupo films originate from the Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Belgium, Wales, France, Spain and the Philippines. There are not many Americans, as Csupo mentions: "ninety per cent of them draw directly. Very realistically, very cleanly, without space for creativity. Like Walt Disney even."
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