Colin Hyde for Amandala

Congratulations to the team that put together Tecuani and the Duende, hailed as the first animated movie in Belize. The first showing was on Friday, so this week we should be getting the reviews. Last week Plus TV had on a couple guys who worked on the script and the animation and they showed a couple scenes. It looked interesting, and Disney-ish. That Disney-ish thing, that’s not a criticism. That could be a good thing. I don’t have the expertise to know, just to like, not like. I liked the clip they showed on Plus TV.

No envy, I could have been the first in the animation business if Stewart Krohn (former owner of Channel Five) gave a daam about my work. I took my favorite piece, Whopper (They Stole Whopper’s Snapper), to his studio, to see if he would be interested in getting an animation team together to produce it, but he wasn’t game. I did get some valuable advice from him, and I also learned a bit about how people who are exposed to the world see the world, so there was profit in my visit.

My eyebrows went up when he told me that Brukdown music wouldn’t go very far in the world because it was, let’s say, rudimentary. That wasn’t the word he used, but that’s kind of what he meant. I suspect my nephew, Mose, and the Mighty JC, would grasp what he was saying. Ah, Mose couldn’t believe that I liked Judy Boucher more than Sade.

I’m far from worldly. In my little world, nothing goes better with my rum than Peetaz and Leela and Lord Rhaburn. The Lord is mostly Calypso, but there’s a lot of Brukdown in his bones. I’ve looked more closely at Boucher and Sade since my chat with Mose, and what I’ve noticed is that Boucher doesn’t mask the pain; she rips out your heart, while Sade soothes your pain, gives you the sense that you’ve got some control. I respect the world, but I’ll take Brukdown, and I’ll take Judy Boucher.

Yes, I wanted to get my Whopper animated. I think Mr. Krohn told me that my stories weren’t, finished. My sister-in-law, Bernadette Freeland Hyde, told me more or less the same thing. Her comment to me was that a book is supposed to be more expansive. She said that I led my reader into a subject and then, before I had fully explored it, I was off on another escapade. Bernadette and her husband, Ronald Hyde, are book worms, so they ought to know.

Former Belize Times editor, Andrew Steinhauer, asked me which writer or writers I drew my style from, and when I told him I didn’t pattern my writing off anyone, he advised that I would be better received if I did. I never thought, consciously, of borrowing anyone else’s style. There’s no escaping the influences in your life. Everything one is, comes from who one is, and the people and things and incidents in one’s life. I appreciated Mr. Steinhauer’s advice, and it has crossed my mind once or twice, but no, I can’t change the way I flow.

I was already two score when I wrote Whopper. Harry Vernon told me he believed that my maternal uncle, the Great B-Lisle, started painting rather late in life. I know that B-Lisle went off to study painting at some art school…. Funny thing, I just Googled B-Lisle’s name, Louis Belisle, to verify what Harry said, and would you believe there is no biography of the great painter? There is a B-lisle Art Gallery, so there is some recognition for his service to Belize, but nada on his life. I didn’t quit, though, and I came up with this precious bit of history from “The Belize Weekly Newsletter”, published in 1966:

“Mr. Louis Belisle, one of our most accomplished Belizean artists, returned home recently following a successful eight-month study of the techniques of his art – painting and sculpture – at the Hornsey College of Fine Arts, London. Mr. Belisle was awarded a British Council scholarship which was later extended for a period of three months…”

B-lisle was born before 1920, so he was closing on fifty when he went abroad for training. He must have been painting for some time before he went abroad, but I guess he became more accomplished after he received expert training. I haven’t received any formal training in writing, but I’ve received some valuable tips along the way.

A part of my motivation for writing was the announcement of the startup of a movie industry in Belize when Said Musa came to power in 1998. I didn’t see myself writing a movie, but I felt I could make a contribution. About that time I also learned that four of my young nephews were involved with visual media and I felt I could produce some copy that they might find interesting.

Bah, neither the movie industry nor my nephews gave enough of a daam about me. I’ve not shed one teardrop over that, though. I have an ego, a big one, but I bring none to this field. It is not impossible that one day they’ll find my work interesting enough to want to bring my favorite little characters to the screen. I think it is fantastic that there are Belizeans who are developing their talent in this area. I love animation.

Brother Paul Morgan, former VIP leader, leader of Belmopan youth football, is an expert at rebuilding computers, and he told me the last one that he sold me could be enhanced so it could do a movie. I told him, ‘just wait, as soon as I raise the money I’ll be calling on you’. The same way I didn’t mind producing books that Belizean authorities don’t respect, same way I don’t mind producing things on screen that they scoff at.

If anyone tells me that I am as bad a poet as the guy the British said was the worst in the world, I’d agree with them. On one Wikipedia page it is said that William McGonagall was “lampooned as the worst poet in British history. The chief criticisms are that he was deaf to poetic metaphor and unable to scan correctly. His only apparent understanding of poetry was his belief that it needed to rhyme … Scholars argue that his inappropriate rhythms, weak vocabulary, and ill-advised imagery combine to make his work amongst the most unintentionally amusing dramatic poetry in the English language.”

My poetry is pretty bad. What the hell is “scan”? If anyone tells me my books are not so good, I wouldn’t be offended. But I’ll defend my lines. If they tell me that my lines are no good, I’ll tell them to go and check themselves.

I love, truly appreciate all the advice I’ve gotten, but there is no change in me. I’m content, in fact blown away by a comment Dr. Silvaana shared with me from one of her students. They had used my Curse of the Hnf in one of her classes, and the students were asked to say what they thought about the book. This student said that he had heard in the hallways of UB that some professors were saying that the Hnf couldn’t make it abroad. The student wrote: “I say to hell with them, this one is for us!”

I like being authentic Belizean. To hell with the world if they don’t like us; we love who we are. I’d encourage any writer to reach for the training, though. If you are serious about writing, developing plots and so forth, study with the best. Me, my concern is only with my lines.

If you haven’t seen copies of Whopper and the Hnf around, that’s because I ate them. When I say “ate”, I mean I collected all of my copies and burned them. After I failed to catch an animator I decided to try and make them (and First Encounter too) a little easier to read. You know that story about Paul Bunyan and his ox, Babe, how he and Babe the Blue Ox straightened out some highways that had too many curves. I haven’t changed any of the substance and barely added anything to the scripts.

I haven’t burned First Encounter because that was published by Image Factory and Yasser. I have my smoothed out Whopper on Amazon. As soon as I have some loose cash I’ll be buying some copies to put on sale in Belize.

Let me say again how glad I am that animation has come to Belize. Respect to those who did it. I look forward to seeing the movie.