PAUL FIERLINGER (Film Director and Animator)

Paul Fierlinger was born March 15th, 1936 in Ashiya Japan where his parents were Czechoslovak career diplomats. He spent the WWII years in the United States and at the age of twelve, while living in a boarding school in Podebrady, Czechoslovakia, Fierlinger created his first animated film by shooting drawings from his flipbook with a 16mm Bolex. In 1955 he graduated from the Bechyne School of Applied Arts. After two years of military service he free-lanced in Prague as a book illustrator and gag cartoonist for cultural periodicals under the pen name Fala.

Fierlinger established himself in 1958 as Czechoslovakia’s first independent producer of animated films, providing 16mm films from his home studio for Prague TV and the 16mm division of Kratky Film. Thus, he created approximately 200 films, ranging from 10-second station breaks to 10-minute theatrical releases and TV children’s shorts.

In 1967 Fierlinger escaped from Czechoslovakia to Holland where he pitched for a number of station breaks for Dutch television in Hilversum. He then went to Paris to work for a short stint as a spot animator for Radio Television France and ended up in Munich for half a year having been offered the job of key animator on a feature film at Linda Films (The Conference of the Animals). In Munich, prior to his departure to the U.S., he married a Czechoslovak compatriot and photographer, Helena Strakova.

He arrived in the United States in 1968 where he first worked for Universal Pictures as a documentary director (Prague, The Summer of Tanks). For a short period the Fierlingers moved to Burlington Vermont to work for a local TV station and there, a first son, Philip was born. In 1969 Fierlinger settled in Philadelphia where he was hired by Concept Films to animate political commercials for Hubert Humphrey and other political candidates. In 1971 Peter, a second son was born.

Fierlinger formed AR&T ASSOCIATES, INC., his own animation house in 1971, initially to produce animated segments for ABC’s Harry Reasoner Specials and PBS’ Sesame Street, including the popularTeeny Little Super Guy series, which runs to this day.

Since 1971, AR&T has produced over 800 films, of which several hundred are television commercials. Many of these films received considerable recognition including an Academy Award nomination forIt’s so Nice to Have a Wolf Around the House. Other awards include Cine Golden Eagles, and Best in Category Awards at festivals in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Annecy, Ottawa, Zagreb, Milan, Melbourne, Prague, London, and many other cities and countries, well over a hundred major film festival awards all together.

And Then I’ll Stop
 . . ., a 1989 film on drug and alcohol abuse has received more awards than any other film of his, including First Prize in Aspen, Colorado and was selected for screening at MOMA’s New Films, New Directors series and the London Royal Film Festival. At that time, Paul and Helena were divorced and their two young adult sons moved to San Francisco to pursue their own careers in computer and multi media productions.

Fierlinger became a steady provider of many TV commercials and sales films for US HEALTHCARE, winning a variety of international awards. At this time he met and married Sandra Schuette, a fine arts painter (the Boston Museum of Art School and Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts.) Together they developed a small series of interstitials for Nickelodeon called Amby & Dexter, a Sesame Street series called Alice Kadeezenberry, and a twenty-minute film of children’s songs for The Children’s Book of the Month Club, called Playtime.

In 1993 Fierlinger received a commission from PBS’ American Playhouse to create a one-hour autobiography, called Drawn from Memory. This was completed and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995 and has since been televised nationally and throughout the world. Drawn from Memory has received several major film festival awards, including a presentation by invitation at INPUT 96 in Guadalajara, Mexico. A year later, ITVS an agency of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, commissioned Fierlinger to create a half-hour PBS special called Still Life with Animated Dogs. This film, about dogs and other things of a divine nature, premiered on national feed March 29th 2001. 

In 1997, Fierlinger received a PEW Fellowship in the Arts award for the body of his work.

At the end of 1999, the production of Still Life with Animated Dogs had to be interrupted for several months so that the Fierlingers could develop and begin the production of an animation series for cable TV’s channel for women, Oxygen. Named Drawn from Life, the two-minute films feature the voices and simple stories of real life women. This series won the Grand Prix of 2000 at the International Festival of Animation in Ottawa, Canada.

Still Life with Animated Dogs won the Golden Gate award in San Francisco and represented the United States at INPUT 2001 in Cape Town, South Africa. This film also went on to win 1st Prize at the International Festival of Animation in Zagreb 2002.

In April of 2002, the Fierlingers received the prestigious Peabody Award for Still Life with Animated Dogs. Later that year their animation was featured in the PBS/ITVS opening program of the weekly program Independent Lens, called Maggie Growls — a biography of Maggie Kuhn, who established the Gray Panther advocacy group in the 1970’s.

In October of 2003 Paul & Sandra completed another ITVS/PBS special, called A Room Nearby, which premiered in November at the Margaret Meade Festival in New York City and was aired on national feed to all PBS stations in March of 2005. The film won the prestigious Grand Prix at the Animation Festival of World Cinema in Ottawa, Canada and also another Peabody award. This film illustrates five very different people who tell personal stories about their bouts with loneliness and how they benefited from the experience. Among the storytellers are people as diverse as the Harlem born writer Lynn Blue and Hollywood film director Milos Forman.

In the fall of 2004 Fierlinger became a part-time lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fine Arts School, PennDesign, teaching an undergraduate and graduate course in 2D animation, called Hand drawn 2D computer Animation, and a honors program seminar, called In Pursuit of Originality. The Fierlingers just began the production of a feature length film, called My Dog Tulip, based on the book of the same title by British author J.R. Ackerley. They also continue to produce TV commercials (United Air, Comcast self promos, and Philadelphia Veteran’s Association.)