In the beginning

My connection with Buzzco Associates began more than a decade before it was incorporated. I was an illustration student at the Rhode Island School of Design and one day I climbed up the hill to Brown University to hear Jack Zander give a talk about his New York animation studio. I had never considered animation before his presentation (there weren't many art schools teaching animation back then, including RISD.) But while watching Zander's commercial demo reel, I saw a way to marry my love of drawing with my love of acting and storytelling...without the stage fright. I asked him for a job right then and there and he said I should show him my portfolio when I could come to New York.

Zander didn't have a position to offer me, but he gave me a list of studios. I landed an internship with the newly created Perpetual Motion Pictures, where, after I graduated a few years later, I was hired fulltime. Veteran animator Vincent Cafarelli soon joined the staff and he became my mentor and teacher. Marilyn Kraemer joined about five years later as a bookkeeper.

In 1982, when Perpetual had grown to about 75 people, co-owner/producer Buzz Potamkin (interested in doing more for broadcast TV and the new cable networks) and co-owner/director/designer Hal Silvermintz (interested in the more profitable commercial work) parted ways. The staff was divided--Marilyn, Vinny, myself and others were recruited by Buzz for his studio, "Buzzco Productions" and Hal took the rest of the staff for "Perpetual Animation."

This site is less concerned with marketing for future work, but it is a tribute to Buzzco Associates and the people who worked there. And I wanted to tell the story of Buzzco from a personal perspective. It was the best of times.
Candy Kugel at Rhode Island School circa 1970
Story meeting at Perpetual: (l-r) Candy, Vincent Cafarelli, Buzz Potamkin, Hal SIlvermintz

Buzzco Associates

We continued working for advertising agencies with clients as diverse as MTV, VH-1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, HBO, American Airlines, Burger King, Budget Gourmet, Dr Scholl’s Wart Remover, radio stations, and Horny Goat Weed! We continued to create on-air programming with our existing broadcast and cable network clients.

Still, I loved independent animation. I went to my first animation festival while I was still in school, and I went to as many as I could from then on. I thought that whenever there was a break in our paid work, we’d make our own movies. The first film was inspired by Vinny’s reaction to Buzz saying that his pitch had gotten a warm reception in LA.

One evening, we ran into composer, Lanny Meyers, who had worked on the holiday specials we did for NBC. He heard our idea for a song (Vinny had made up a little ditty “I got a warm reception in LA and the check is on its way”)— and he said he knew the feeling of working on spec. A week later he had us up to his studio and sang us his demo — and so began multi-decades' worth of collaboration, as well as Buzzco’s commitment of making our own shorts.

These shorts ended up being in film festivals, winning prizes, and were acquired by New York’s Museum of Modern Art’s film archive.
Some of Buzzco Associates early commercial work
A still from "A Warm Reception in L.A." 1987
Various Buzzco projects inspired by Warm Reception's innovative design of neon colors over black.
Stills from "Talking About Sex"
Cover of "It's Still Me!" DVD

Educational Work

I believe our most important work is the educational films. It started with our seminal relationship with Children’s Television Workshop: Sesame Street (It’s Hip to Be a Square, Jake the Snake, Animal Elevators, I Eat the Colors of the Rainbow among others), Electric Company, Square One TV.

We were approached by Planned Parenthood Federation of America to make a half hour video explaining puberty and sexuality to 10-14 year olds and their families. It was a daunting effort conditioned by a curriculum of hundreds of pages. We collaborated with writer Jim Thurman, a CTW veteran, an incredible cast, our staff, and Planned Parenthood educators. It generated an enormous reaction from educators — and was highly recommended by librarians, medical associations, even the religious right.

As an animated film, it won the prestigious Annecy Cristal award. It stayed relevant well through the 21st century, in fact, we were asked by various institutions to replace their VHS tapes with DVD’s! Now we are happy to have it streaming here.

Another milestone was a 17-minute DVD “It’s Still Me!- A guide for People with Aphasia and their Loved Ones” originally distributed by The National Aphasia Association. It was inspired by my mother, who had suffered a massive stroke that left her with aphasia, the inability to communicate with words. When people would come to visit her, they would speak only to me. They would ignore my mother, who was perfectly able to follow the conversation. She wanted to be involved. Although I created the DVD after she had passed, I'd imagine her nodding and pointing to the screen to show her friends she could be understood. 

I still get fan letters from people who find the explanations of aphasia and methods for non-verbal communication useful and hopeful. 

We continue to help organizations like TED-Ed, iHeed, the Albuquerque Balloon Museum, Macmillan Cancer Care and others explain complicated subjects through animation.

Death of Vincent Cafarelli

In December 2011 Buzzco faced a major change— the passing of Vincent Cafarelli. 

After spending an entire day at work, Vinny went home, went to bed, and never woke up. I had collaborated with Vinny for 38 years and I didn’t know how I could work without him. He had always been there, just over my left shoulder. 

As we had done with our over a dozen independent shorts, I put my real-life crisis into making a film. By the end of December I had written the lyrics to “The Last Time” which I sent to Lanny Meyers. He composed the song by the end of January. Our last steady employee, Rick Broas, showed me how we could make this movie entirely digitally using a cintiq (a tablet which allowed us to animate drawing directly on a screen) and using ToonBoom software— and we were able to acquire a limited free license and free use of cintiqs for 9 months. A beneficiary of "the kindness of strangers.."

So we had our deadline, and we could transform our mourning into a film. I could never have done that if I hadn’t made the film immediately. I could never have re-invented those feelings.

It also gave Buzzco a means to do animation more affordably-- Rick and I had another 5 years of good work. In 2016 we had a bad year, both financially and with problematic clients, resulting in Rick's decision that it was time to return home to Maine to take care of his aging parents.

With another crisis (the loss of my last employee), I decided I would make my final film, “I, Candy”, a 22-minute animated autobiography, in 2017. 

It deconstructs a drawing I made when I was 6 years old to examine my life and career— touching on family history, politics and social norms of the time, confronting anti-Semitism and activism. How much luck and determination can influence life decisions. 

It had its premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in April 2018, as part of the program “An Evening with Candy Kugel” where it was shown along with highlights of my career and a lovely interview with animation historian and filmmaker, John Canemaker.
Candy and Vinny at the Ottawa International Animation Festival's retrospective of Buzzco in 2002
Candy with the inspiration for "I, Candy" (2018)
Leon Joosen and Candy 2019
Candy on the set of "Miracle on Central Park West" 2019
Image from "A Tale of Two Weddings" 2022
"Wish on the Moon" enjoying its success!

"Daddy's Girl" is making its way with film festivals and winning prizes!

Candy, alone (sort of…)

So without either Rick or Marilyn who had changed careers, I started animating without staff support. And although it was supposed to have been my last work, I found that I enjoyed the "zen" of animating alone. Without the pressures of running a studio, I enjoyed drawing again! There were stories I had to leave out of “I, Candy”— 22 minutes was long enough!— so I started “Miracle on Central Park West”.

Leon Joosen, who became a friend from the AMPAS New York screenings, came to work at Buzzco’s space. There was plenty of room for him to spread out his own work (this space had once held about a dozen employees at its start) and I was glad for the company. I saw that he was excellent in making papier-maché sculptures. Since my script for Miracle on Central Park West required backgrounds on the sidewalks of the NYC’s Upper West Side, I thought it’d be so much fun to create small-scale buildings that, when photographed, would become the backgrounds for my characters. We raided my recycle bin for boxes and cartons which magically became brownstones, apartment buildings and synagogues. 

I went to my cinematographer friend John Donnelly to shoot it. He had a digital camera set-up to shoot my 3-dimensional buildings. I knew the length of each scene from my storyboard but John’s experience with lighting, camera angles and lenses added so much more! So not exactly alone (I had some great voice talent as well), I made another film— doing all the drawings myself!

It was completed in February 2020 at the onset of Covid restrictions stopping in-person screenings or even seeing other people!

I took to the isolation to start another film, A Tale of Two Weddings, another story that didn’t make it into I, Candy. It describes a weekend when I attended two different family events, 72 hours and 6,000 miles apart. Again, I loved having a project to keep me occupied and I finished the drawings at the beginning of 2021.  When I tried booking the final mix, it was scheduled multiple times and cancelled by outbreaks of covid. I finally completed it in March of 2022— and instead of entering it into festivals, it'll be available here!

In the meantime, Lanny’s dear friend, Broadway producer, Jamie DeRoy, asked me to help her make a music video. I thought I’d make a limited animation which should have taken only about a month. When she said she wanted to enter it in film festivals, I decided I’d do it all the way…and it’s gotten into more festivals than my latest personal films! Then, a documentary friend of hers asked me to create an animated introduction and other scenes for a documentary whose subject I found interesting. And Jamie came back with a second music video Daddy's Girl,  finished in August 2022, is making its way through film festivals!

And animation schools still ask me to speak to their classes— and what is clear is that I’m not ready to stop!
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