Rugrats movie has Juneau connection

Posted: Sunday, November 19, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- With a little help from Juneau-born artist John Holmquist, Paris has been invaded by the Rugrats.

The movie ''Rugrats in Paris'' opened Friday in theaters across the country. Holmquist, 35, has a long history with the ''Rugrats'' television series on Nickelodeon and served as a sequence director for the movie.

The Rugrats are an adventurous group of babies, led by imaginative toddler Tommy Pickles.

Drawing them is a dream job for the artist and animator who grew up in Juneau and studied art at Juneau-Douglas High School until he graduated in 1982.

His parents, John and Kathy Holmquist, flew from Juneau to Hollywood earlier this month for the premiere of ''Rugrats in Paris'' at Mann Chinese Theatre. Afterward they spent the afternoon at the premiere party, a kid-oriented outdoor festival attended by Jack Nicholson, Jodie Foster and Eddie Murphy.

Holmquist moved to Hollywood 10 years ago and began working as an animator on the ''Rugrats'' series. Holmquist drew for Klasky Csupo, a studio owned by Gabor Csupo and Arlene Klasky.

The couple had successfully pitched the series to Nickelodeon, and the show ran for three years before it was canceled in the mid-1990s. However, Nickelodeon continued to air ''Rugrats'' reruns and the show's popularity grew.

Meanwhile, Holmquist went to work for Hanna-Barbera, the venerable animation studio that created the Flintstones and Yogi Bear.

A couple of years ago, Nickelodeon released a successful Rugrats film and revived the series. The network ordered new episodes from Klasky Csupo.

Holmquist returned to the studio and began working on the second Rugrats film. The 75-minute animated film contains almost 110,000 separate pictures.

''It took about two years to make the sequel,'' Holmquist said. ''There are 24 frames per second of film. That's 24 drawings per second. Multiply that by 60 by 75 minutes and that's a lot of drawings.''

Holmquist said he does quite a bit of the drawing himself, but his primary responsibility was to direct a 15-minute segment of the film.

''I was staging, overseeing the acting from the animators, the storyboard artists and character layout people,'' Holmquist said.

He said the voice actors, which include Susan Sarandon, Debbie Reynolds and John Lithgow, create the movie's dialogue similar to the way a radio play is recorded. Then he and the other artists listen to a cassette recording as they work on the drawings.

Paramount was involved in the production, and Holmquist said executives from the studio came in periodically to comment on the feature's progress.

''They would say, 'It needs to be 5 percent funnier','' he said with a laugh. ''They'd want us to add more funny business, more funny gags and stuff, or tame down things that might be too scary for little kids.

Holmquist is now working on a new film called ''The Wild Thornberries Movie,'' based on another cartoon series Klasky Csupo produces for Nickelodeon.

''TV series work requires a lot of late hours and you work with less experienced people,'' he said. ''For that reason I prefer movies. Plus, the pay is a little better. I have a family with two little ones and the schedule is a little easier.''

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