'Professor Phidus'

Kaj Pindal is one of the major players in Danish animation. He has worked on several projects in his home country, often in collaboration with Ib Steinaa and Mogens Gylling. But like many of his peers, he has worked extensively abroad, most notably for the National Film Board of Canada, for which he created the award-winning short 'Peep and the Big Wide World' (1988), among other things. It was later turned into a TV series on Discovery Kids (2004-2010). In between animation jobs, Pindal created the short-lived newspaper comic strip 'Professor Phidus' (1949).

Early life
Kaj Gøtzsche Pindal was born in 1927 as the son of an artistic father and a mother from a well-off bourgeois family from the Copenhagen area. The boy's childhood was quite eventful. In the Canadian portrait program 'Laugh Lines' in 1979, Pindal remembered that his father refused to send his son to school, and instead took him on a long journey through Europe, where he introduced him to the arts. His mother was strongly opposed to this, and when father and son returned, it came to a heavy showdown between the two spouses. The father fled with his son to Jutland, but he eventually had to hand over his son when he learned they were wanted by the police. Father Pindal never saw his son again, except for a couple of times when he drove by Kaj's school in disguise.

First work in animation
Nevertheless, Kaj Pindal inherited his father's interest in arts and at age 16, he spent his summer holidays participating in the production of 'Fyrtøjet', a feature length film by Allan Johnsen based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale 'The Tinderbox'. It was released in 1946. As he still went to school, Pindal couldn't be fully employed by the Dansk Farve- og Tegnefilm A/S. Instead he was sent home, where he animated the first scenes of a cartoon short with a monkey called Garibaldi and a tiny dog. He eventually joined Bjørn Frank Jensen in his studio, where he also became friends with his future business partner Ib Steinaa.

With the production of the film finished, the team was dissolved. Steinaa managed to get Pindal a job assisting Henning Dahl Mikkelsen on his newspaper strip 'Ferd'nand'. This didn't last long, as Pindal had to go in hiding as he had supplied anti-Nazi drawings to an illegal magazine. A month before the liberation, Pindal returned to school, where he graduated. He found employment with the Bergenholz advertising agency, where he worked on advertising films and slide advertisements for cinemas. With a shortage of animation cells in post-war Denmark, Pindal and his assistant Hanning Bahs were forced to wash and reuse old cells from previous productions. Ib Steinaa was brought along to paint backgrounds. However, animation was relatively costly, and assignments stayed out. Pindal and his team were discharged in 1949.

Professor Phidus
Pindal sought refuge in other artistic fields, and developed the comic strip 'Professor Phidus'. The pantomime strip about a resourceful scientist appeared only for a short time in the newspaper København: from January to August 1949.

Further animation career in Scandinavia
By then, Pindal and Steinaa joined Børge Ring, Bjørn Frank Jensen and Arne Rønde Kristensen in their Copenhagen studio, where they worked on films commissioned by the government and UNICEF, and the ill-fated feature length film adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen tale 'Blockhead Hans'. By 1951 Pindal left the team, after which he worked at the local Disney art studio, which produced art for posters, advertisements, trademarks and illustrations, as well as the translations of the recently launched Anders And & Co. magazine. In the meantime, Pindal worked on a personal cartoon called 'Mr. Pindal's Inkwell Phantasy' (1950), which borrowed heavily from Dave and Max Fleischer's 'Out of the Inkwell' cartoon series, but showcased the animator's capabilities nonetheless.


'Mr. Pindal's Inkwell Phantasy'

With his colleagues Kjeld Simondson and Ib Steinaa, he then headed for Stockholm, Sweden, where they worked in the Aktiebolaget Puck Film studio until both Pindal and Steinaa had to return home to fulfill their military service. They were stationed at the Norwegian Armed Forces Film Service, where they made an instructional film for the military about "night vision". Back in civilian life, the two animators were hired by Ove Sevel at Nordisk Film Junior in late 1954, but turned freelance two years later. One of their main assignments was a 7-minute sequence about the construction and working of B&W's large diesel engines, for which they also hired fellow animator Mogens Gylling. They were however confronted by the revolutionary UPA cartoons from the USA, which made use of so-called "limited animation" instead of the more time consuming "full animation". The two Danes tried to adapt to this new, economical standard while maintaining the best possible artistic and technical quality. Pindal and Gylling furthermore did profitable work for the William Wilkens advertising agency in Hamburg, Germany.

Canadian career
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) had noticed Pindal's film for B&W, and invited the man to come to Montreal and work on a technical film called 'An Introduction To Jet Engines' (1958) for the Royal Canadian Air Force. The board also offered him the opportunity to work on more classically animated TV spots. Pindal and his wife settled in Montréal in September, although they were regularly tempted to return to Europe. And even though he worked with Steinaa and Gylling in Denmark on several occasions in his later career, Canada became Pindal's new homebase. The artist felt he had established a drawing and animation style compatible with "his inner feelings, desires and understanding of the medium" with a short film based on the children's rhyme 'I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly' (1964), directed by Derek Lamb. His NFB credits also include 'The City: Osaka', created for Expo '70 in Osaka, to give Japanese people a glimpse into Canadian life.


Kaj Pindal illustrated front and back cover for the June 1992 ASIFA Canada Magazine with characters from 'I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly'

During the 1970s, Pindal worked for René Jodain of the French Animation Department at the National Film Board on the shorts 'Horsing Around' ('Un cheval a toute vapeur', 1973) and 'Caninabis' (1979). He joined Lamb again in the production of 'The Hottest Show on Earth' (1977). In the mid 1970s he also freelanced on advertising cartoons for Richard Williams in London. Kaj Pindal himself was the subject of a half-hour portrait film 'Laugh Lines: A Profile of Kaj Pindal' (1979), directed by Derek Lamb for the NFB. In 1981, Pindal was invited to participate as an animator on the feature film 'Twice Upon a Time' (1982), produced in San Francisco by George Lucas and directed by John Korty. He returned home to join the animated adaptation by Jakob Stegelmann of Hans Rancke Madsen, Peter Madsen and Henning Kure's comics series 'Valhalla' (1986).


'Peep and the Big Wide World'

Peep and the Big Wide World
By 1986 he was full on board again at the Toronto-office of the NFB for the production of 'Peep and the Big Wide World' (1988). The 35-minute film was based on the earlier NFB short 'The Peeps', and tells the adventures of the small chicken Peep and his friends Chirp and Quack in the Big Wide World. The film, narrated by Peter Ustinov, turned out as one of Pindal's greatest successes, and received film prizes in Ottawa and Chicago. Pindal also served as creative producer and consultant on the eponymous animated TV series (2004-2010), which ran for five seasons on Discovery Kids and a couple of other networks. Pindal was also credited with creating a comic strip based on the short, but it is unknown if and where it was actually published?


Production drawing for 'Goldtooth'

Street Kids International
By 1988 both Pindal and Bjørn Frank Jensen contributed to the educational animated short 'Karate Kids' (1990), which was produced by Derek Lamb for Street Kids International and World Health Organization. It warned children in Third World countries against the dangers of AIDS and sexual abuse. Pindal was also involved in Lamb's sequel, 'Goldtooth' (1996), an half-hour film warning about substance abuse.

Teaching career
From the mid 1980s, Pindal was also an animation teacher at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, a job he maintained until well into his seventies. He also served as a guest teacher at the Danish Film School in Copenhagen on several occasions. With Børge Ring, Bjørn Frank Jensen and Per Lygum, Kaj Pindal is part of a group of Danish animators who have made their mark not only in their home country, but also on an international base.

kajpindal.blogspot.com

Danish Kaj Pindal biography on tegnefilmhistorie.dk

Series and books by Kaj Pindal in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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