Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Benjamin Bunny Faces Reality

In the early Eighties while working on a book about reality, I met Randy Hamm and his wife Gypsy Flores who were living in a quaint trailer park called Leprechaun Woods just around the corner from the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot. Our families formed a close bond and Randy and I decided to collaborate on a project that would mix quantum physics and animation. This was in the days before computers, when every frame had to be drawn by hand and separately captured on film. And Randy Hamm was becoming a master of this now-archaic art.

Out of Randy's portfolio of original creations, which included many animated household objects (Randy had learned to draw fire from a retired Disney animator living in Santa Cruz.) and several weird animal and humanoid creatures spawned in Randy's fertile brain, I selected a rabbit character drawn hitch-hiking out of Las Vegas, and we named him "Benjamin Bunny". Randy, inspired by a picture of my eccentric physicist friend Saul-Paul Sirag, then created an Einstein-like character who we cast as Benjamin's mentor--the all-knowing "Professor" who speaks most of the lines in the film. Benjamin never talks; he just listens and reacts non-verbally. Such was Randy's skill that he was able with just a few ink lines to pull a lot of subtle emotions out of this simple-looking rabbit.

Our project was continually being interrupted because Randy, after graduating from UCSC, was being sought after to work on feature-length animation projects. His last movie project was as a senior animator for Plague Dogs based on a novel by the author of Watership Down. One of my last memories of Randy was in my living room in Boulder Creek. Randy was on all fours on my carpet showing me how a dog walks. He had drawn this action hundreds of times and had the motions memorized. It was hilarious. For the sake of his art, Randy had actually learned how to walk like a dog.

Unfortunately for his friends and family, Randy died in an unusual climbing accident shortly after the completion of Plague Dogs.

For the sake of raising money for the completion of our film, Randy & I had cobbled together a kind of story board and sound track which we had turned into a slide show. We put on a few presentations in Santa Cruz to promote the project and I took it to Esalen to show participants in some of the quantum physics seminars led there by myself, by the real Saul-Paul Sirag and by physicist Heinz Pagels.

Recently, while searching for something else in my messy files, I ran across what remained of the Benjamin Bunny project and decided to post it on YouTube. This version of BBFR is dedicated to the memory of Randy Hamm and to everybody Randy touched and taught in his brief and colorful career.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. Randy was a dear friend of mine beginning in high school, and I had lost track of Gypsy after Randy died. What a nice surprise to see his face come up in the video. It is good to know that he is remembered for his work because it meant so much to him.

Anonymous said...

I came across some student pen and ink studies that Randy gave me in the late 60s. They are somewhat yellowed, but still very fine work. If you know anyone who might be interested, please leave me a note.

nick herbert said...

I would keep them--as I keep my own collection of yellowed Randy masterpieces--as little momentos of a promising artist cut down way before his prime.