Archive Event "Trip the Light Fantastic" Re-unites Special Effects pioneers

Tribute to Robert Abel & Associates' PATHFINDING C.G. work in commercials, videos and feature films

RA&A veterans on stage at the Billy Wilder Theater: Left to right: Chris Blum, Art Director; Con Pederson, Co-Founder; TFT Dean Teri Schwartz, Producer; Tim McGovern, Technical Director; Richard Taylor, Art Director; Kenny Mirman, Director; Sherry McKenna, Vice President and Executive Producer; Richard Edlund, Director; John Nelson, Director; Clark Anderson, Art Director. Photo: Todd Cheney/UCLA Photography.

Posted on December 10th 2012 in Announcement

Staggeringly ambitious, both as a screening event and as a wide-ranging panel discussion, the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s “Trip the Light Fantastic: A Tribute to Robert Abel & Associates," brought ten former stalwarts of the pioneering Hollywood visual effects house to the Billy Wilder Theater on November 10.

Founded in 1971 by two UCLA Arts & Architecture alumni, the late Robert Abel '60, MA '64 -- the producer and co-director of several successful documentaries, including "The Making of the President 1968" (1969) and "Elvis on Tour" (1972) -- and Con Pederson '55, RA&A revolutionized the field of special visual effects in the 1970s and ‘80s, innovating the use of computer generated imagery (CGI).

TFT Dean Teri Schwartz was an award-winning Producer at RA&A during its peak period, winning several coveted CLIO awards for producing groundbreaking Abel commercials that combined live action with CGI. She also founded in partnership with Abel one of the most successful award-winning music video companies at the dawn of MTV and VH1, producing pioneering music videos with artists such as Michael Jackson, Bette Midler, Rod Stewart, Cyndi Lauper and Barbra Streisand. At the Wilder, Schwartz delivered opening remarks and then joined almost a dozen other Abel alumni on stage, including co-founder Pederson, to discuss the company's achievements.

The firm contributed to the effects for several groundbreaking motion pictures and television programs, including "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979) and "TRON" (1982), and the opening credits for the Steven Spielberg-produced series "Amazing Stories" (1985-1986). Perhaps even more significant for its impact on global visual culture was RA&A’s work on "motion graphics" for TV news programs and in hundreds of commercials for 7UP, Levi Strauss, TRW, Benson & Hedges, and many others, including 33 Clio winners.

Robert Abel co-directed, and RA&A created effects for, the 1980 Jackson 5 music video “Can You Feel It,” voted one of the 100 best videos of all time in an MTV poll.

Assembling clips from disparate sources in the Archive’s collection, and arranging the participation of almost a dozen SFX legends, was an epic programming challenge. According to Archive programmer Paul Malcolm, the tribute was far from a one-person undertaking.

"Planning for the evening began with Tony Best," Malcom said, "a graduate of the MIAS program who cataloged much of the Archive’s Abel holdings, and finally came together during a year-long conversation with a number of Abel artists, including Richard Taylor and Kenny Mirman, who provided significant guidance for what to show and how to structure the event to best reflect the company's collaborative culture."

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