Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Wizard Of Speed and Time: Mike Jittlov

I still think that Mike Jittlov was ahead of his time. Above I posted three shorts that he did, Mouse Mania for the Mickey's 50th Birthday show, then his classic Wizard Of Speed and Time and then an earlier short, Animato. I've seen these projected in theatres and the audience went wild. Pretty spectacular I thought.
Back in 1978, Disney aired a special on NBC called, Mickey's 50, where there were clips of the mouse's career, celebrity salutes and some then newly created film segments celebrating all things Mickey. Two of the segments entitled "The Collector" and "Mouse Mania" were created by Mike Jittlov and were the real highlight of the show. Using stop motion animation and animation effects animated on a home made multiplane set up, Jittlov starred as the collector, who slept in mouse pajamas, ate cereal in a mouse bowl and went to work in a volkswagon with giant mouse ears. This fast paced segment was only part one of the story. Part two takes place in a Psychiatrists office, where Jittlov is explaining to his shrink (also Jittlov and entirely in pantomime) how he sees everything through Mickey Mouse coloured glasses, when all of a sudden he sees a stop motion Mickey waving to him. He tries contain his feelings, when the office becomes a virtual motion wonderland of everything Mickey.
Jittlov exits the office leaving the Psychiatrist completely bewildered (The Mouse Mania section of the special is featured on Leonard Maltin's Disney Treasures Mickey Mouse in Color 2). This would be my first introduction to the work of Mike Jittlov and gradually over the years I would see much more of his personal work. Eventually I found out that most, if not all of his animated films were produced in the garage of his house in Los Angeles. They are the most joyous, magical films ever produced.
The most famous is his Wizard Of Speed and Time, which aired on an episode of the old Disney TV show called Major Effects in 1979. Later he got financing (low budget) to make a feature film (also called The Wizard Of Speed and Time) which incorporated most of his short subjects including the original Wizard, which was expanded and refilmed in 35mm.
The theme of the film was about the complications of making a film in Los Angeles, focusing on sleazy producers and impossible union and government restrictions. The film is based on his real life; even in regards to the sleazy producer. Apparently, during post production of the feature, the real producer took off with the books and Jittlov's rights to the movie are tied up in some form of limbo.
As far as the movie goes, it's very cartoonish in nature, with fast editing, lots of special effects, and loads of action. The acting isn't always of professional standard, but the energy of the film more than makes up for it. Voice artist, Will Ryan makes a number of appearances in the film along with Disney Animator, Ward Kimball, who is featured as an IRS agent! Overall it has some funny moments and is well worth checking out. There's a trailer online at jittlov's website but Mike's amazing demo reel (which includes all the Disney segments can be seen here.
Although I recently found a used DVD copy of the film at a local movie store, the film only seems to be available on VHS (used) through Ebay and Amazon. DVD's of the film were never marketed, so I'm not sure where my copy came from. There were however, 1600 laserdiscs pressed in the late 80's and occasionally one of those pop up online or in local used CD stores. I know Jittlov is promising some sort of special edition DVD of Wizard, so we'll have to wait and see. If you've never seen any of Jittlovs work, I urge you to take a peek and let me know what you think.


pJ said...


I too just recently discovered the works of Jittlov from a website about shopping malls which linked his "Swing Shift" short. It was after that I started to hunt down his other work. It's so ahead of its time.


Brian Mitchell said...

Mr. Jittlov is one helluva talented guy that somehow got shoved aside by Hollywood.
There's not a whole lot of people in the world who can recognize talent when they see it....and very few are brave enough to stick their necks out to help nurture it. Sad.....

Whit said...

Jittlov was indeed ahead of his time and regarded as some kind of genius by a few people. Like hordes of other creative people, Hollywood just didn't know what to do with him. It didn't help that "The Wizard of Speed and Time" tanked at the box office.

Christopher M. Sobieniak said...

Here's "The Collector" along with a third film that was kind of the middle portion called "The Rat Race"...

Apart from the LaserDisc release of the movie, there was a later VHS release from "Starmaker Entertainment" that appears to contain an alternate cut of the film featuring shorten or lengthened scenes, different or new dialogue and a couple other things (have that copy).

Brian Mitchell said...

Yes, it was three segments! The first showing Mike getting up, eating breakfast, getting ready for work and driving off in a Volkswagon Beetle with giant mouse ears. Part two was Mike at work with Mickey Mouse stuff everywhere, and part three posted here is of Mike with the Psychologist. If you look carefully, you'll see Mike Jittlovs' and his helper Deven's name in the last segment. I know about the Starmaker video, which at the time could have been purchased for a buck on clearance. If you look for a used one of ebay or amazon, you may have to pay the astronomical price of four bucks to bring it home.