Tom Waits For No One – Academy award winning short film 1979

Tom Waits Fo No One (short)
director: John Lamb

Tom Waits performed in 1978 live at the La Brea stage in Hollywood, photographed and rotoscoped.The original live action was shot with 5 cameras – 2 high, 2 low and one hand held.. shot by Dan O’Dowd and crew..The music from “The One That Got Away” blared in the background as Tom sang the lyrics. Donna Gordon is the dancer performing as the stripper, 6 takes and 13 hours of video footage were edited to make a 5 1/2 minute live action short which we turned into animation.

A total of 5,500 frames were captured, re-drawn, inked and painted by hand onto celluloid acitate to create this film. Produced by Lyon Lamb Video Animation Systems and directed by John Lamb, the film bore some cool new technology and talent ..and was created specifically for a burgeoning video music market that didn’t yet exist and arguably may be the first music video created for the MTV market.

However, a series of unfortunate events prohibited the film from ever being released or sold commercially, consequently catapulting it into obscurity.

In 1979, an Academy Award was presented to Lyon Lamb for the technology used in this short.

In 1977, John Lamb saw Tom Waits live at The Roxy in Los Angeles:

“So Tom is at the Roxy with Leon Redbone and Tom did a provocative number “The One That Got Away ” with a stripper…ahh what a perfect subject for our Rotoscope test! Bruce got in touch with Tom’s management and proposed our concept of turning him into an animated cartoon; they went for it and Tom Waits became part of our project.”
– John Lamb (Tom Waits library)

“I toured Waits’ apartment at “The Tropicana” on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood in the same time period. He had 2 adjoining rooms with the common wall removed to make the joint bigger. Newspapers, manuscripts, ash trays and empties cluttered up the digs about waist to shoulder high throughout. A path literally led from the fridge to the piano… piano to the couch… couch to the bedroom and so on. If it was foliage, you would have needed a machete to hack your way through… the path was just wide enough to maneuver your torso through, sometimes having to turn sideways to navigate a tight turn. “

“Tom also came to our studio in a middle-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Beverly Hills/West L.A…. primary residences to old silent era movie stars and the families of Hollywood entertainment personalities like Allen Carr, Jascha Heifetz, Arthur Freed and the sort. So Tom drives up in his 66’ Bird with “Blue Valentine” spray-painted on the rear quarter panels [late 1978, as shown on the back cover of the album Blue Valentine]. His Bird was stuffed with newspapers, manuscripts and clothing from floor to ceiling, just like his apartment. There was only enough room for the driver behind the wheel, even the passenger seat was stuffed to the roof, his vision was completely obstructed except for his forward view out the windshield, and all these old neighbors are peering out their windows watching this seedy looking character with a wrinkled suit and porkpie Stetson hat meander across the street … pause and head up the stairs to our old Spanish – studio house. One of the old neighbors called after his arrival to see if everything was ok or if we wanted her to call the police.”
– John Lamb (Tom Waits Library)

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6 thoughts on “Tom Waits For No One – Academy award winning short film 1979

  1. Tom Waits is animated in person…the perfect character for John Lambs Rotoscope animation team. Great short!

    1. Yes, and it’s strange to see an animation technique that is almost forgotten due to cgi, but so fitting for mr. Waits as you said.

      Thanks for the feedback.

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