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'The Nightmare Before Christmas' Animators Call Milwaukee Home Once Again

Photo by Michelle Maternowski
"The Nightmare Before Christmas" character "Lock" (left) presents a human village boy with an unusual Christmas present.

This week is full of things to do in Milwaukee and Thursday night is particularly jammed. Outside of the many theater shows and a city birthday party taking place, there is an event for all the animation and film enthusiasts.

Tim Burton’s classic film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, is getting a screening at UWM’s Union Theatre. But in addition to seeing the movie, you’ll also have a chance to meet two of the film's original animators.

Husband and wife Owen Klatte and Angie Glocka are from Milwaukee but spent 25 years in California working on films, commercials and TV shows. The list of their credits include: James and the Giant Peach, Toy Story, Night at the Museum 2, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and, of course, The Nightmare Before Christmas. 

Glocka now teaches animation at UWM. She explains that her fascination with animation started when she was a junior in high school and saw Fantasia. She started painting animation cells for a small animation company in Milwaukee, but bigger career options were not easily available in the Midwest. After taking any film class available at the University of Wisconsin, Glocka moved to the west coast where her passion was only reinforced.

"I saw Star Wars and thought that was it, I have to be a part of that. I saw the matte paintings, the sculptures, the construction, the special effects and just thought I have to do it," she says. "I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I just decided I have to be involved in that."

Glocka's husband Owen Klatte came upon animation after studying architecture at UW-Milwaukee. Feeling he wasn't cut out to be an architect, Klatte worked many odd jobs around the city while pursuing his interest in animation. He found a job with the same animation company that Glocka was painting cells at - Pete Loft Animation. They worked together and started dating, forever following one another across the country to pursue their animation careers.

Credit Photo by Michelle Maternowski / WUWM
Lake Effect's Bonnie North interviews some very tiny subjects.

Klatte says his biggest challenge in finding an animation career was his lack of drawing talent. He and Glocka drifted around southern California,finding various jobs that used other special effects such as stop animation and puppetry.

"Special effects have been around since the beginning of film - they're anything that's basically not shot live action with a camera," Glocka explains. "Special effects would be stop motion like in King Kong...and now most of it is done in computer graphics."

The husband and wife turned random animation jobs into careers that utilized their strengths and pushed them into evolving technologies. However, stop animation remains their favorite form.

"Stop motion is tangible, which is one of the reasons we love it. You're actually handling little characters," says Klatte.

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.