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Somersaulter-Moats and Somersaulter Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2016-01
Repository
CFA
Extent of collection
16mm films totaling 90,110 ft; 35mm films totaling 1,005 ft; 5 Betacam SP videocassettes, 2 Betacam videocassettes; 1 U-matic videocassette; and 1 1" open-reel videotape.
Inclusive Dates
1973 - 1991
Abstract
The Somersaulter-Moats and Somersaulter collection consists of 16mm films produced by Chicago filmmakers JP Somersaulter and Lillian Somersaulter Moats. The films in this collection are predominantly short, animated films that were written, directed and illustrated by Lillian and JP. These include experimental films for adults as well as adapted and original fairytales for children.
Description
Between 1973 and 1991, JP Somersaulter and Lillian Somersaulter Moats produced over 20 animated short films for children and adults. Working under the name Pajon Arts, the duo developed an idiosyncratic style of image-making — from additive line drawings to stop-motion collages to watercolor celluloid animations. Their subject matter frequently deals with the human mind and creative process, which is reflected in their narrative style. Lillian and JP's stories for adult audiences have been referred to as "Kafkaesque", and, even at their most lighthearted and whimsical, tend to carry a sinister undertone. Their films for children include renditions of classic fairytales and imaginative original stories. Their work is influenced by their shared interests in storytelling, myth, creativity and the logic of thought. Collectively, the films in this collection have received over forty awards at national and international festivals.  
Creators
Somersaulter Moats, Lillian (created by)
Lillian Somersaulter Moats was born Patricia Hewlett, in Detroit, Michigan in 1946. She earned a BFA from the University of Michigan, where she studied painting and creative writing. While in school, Lillian met JP Somersaulter — a fellow creative writing student. The two married the following year. Shortly thereafter, Lillian and JP produced their first films together: five industrial films for JP's father, an engineer from St. Louis who manufactured a line of box-cutting products. 

In 1969, Lillian went back to school — this time for a Masters degree in teaching from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For their joint thesis project, Lillian and JP (who was also in the Masters program) produced an educational film about children's creativity, based on the brainstorming methods of Alex F. Osborn. After finishing the film (titled: "Three Magical Methods"), they attended the Midwest Film Conference. There, they met David Sohn, who became their distributor and agent and encouraged them to work on further film projects. 

Lillian and JP's first independent film, "The Silverfish King", premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival, where it earned a Certificate of Merit. Subsequently, the couple was invited to attend the film's screening at the Second World Animation Festival in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. ("The Silverfish King" traveled to several international festivals with the "Best of Zagreb" tour.) Afterward, the couple was contacted by Films, Incorporated to make six more original animated films, two of which were films for children. 

Lillian and JP divorced in 1977, but continued to make films together. (They have remained creative partners and collaborators throughout their lives. It's a long story!) In 1977, they produced "Spooky Boo's and Room Noodles", a children's film about fear of the dark. Following its success, the two signed a contract with Coronet Films — which was, at the time, the country's largest producer of educational movies. They then began working with Michael Moats, an audio engineer at Zenith / DB Studios who transformed the technical capabilities of Pajon Arts — the corporate name under which Lillian and JP worked.

In 1979, Lillian married Michael. (JP served as the couple's best man.) Lillian then changed her legal name from Patricia Hewlett to Lillian Somersaulter Moats. Three years later, Lillian and Michael had a son, David. Since that time, Lillian has published five books — which include works of prose poetry, memoir, fiction and fantasy (sometimes within the same book), and incorporate themes of memory, mortality, myth and the unconscious mind. 


 
Somersaulter, JP (created by)
JP Somersaulter was born John Allan Sauer, in St. Louis, Missouri in 1946. He earned a BFA from the University of Michigan, where he studied English literature and creative writing. While in school, he met Lillian Somersaulter Moats (Patricia Hewlett) — a fellow creative writing student. The following year, the two married. Shortly thereafter, JP and Lillian produced their first films together: five industrial films for JP's father, an engineer who manufactured a line of box-cutting products. 

In 1969, JP went back to school — this time for a Masters in Teaching degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For their joint thesis project, JP and Lillian (who was also in the Masters program) produced an educational film about children's creativity based on the brainstorming methods of Alex F. Osborn. After finishing the film (titled: "Three Magical Methods"), they attended the Midwest Film Conference. There, they met David Sohn, who became their agent and distributor and encouraged them to work on further film projects. 

JP and Lillian's first independent film, "The Silverfish King", premiered at the Chicago International Film Festival, where it earned a Certificate of Merit. Subsequently, the couple was invited to attend the film's screening at the Second World Animation Festival in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. ("The Silverfish King" traveled to several international festivals with the "Best of Zagreb" tour.) Afterward, the couple was contacted by Films, Incorporated to make six more original animated films, two of which were films for children. 

JP and Lillian divorced in 1977, but continued to make films together. (They have remained creative partners and collaborators throughout their lives. It's a long story!) Around this time, JP changed his legal name from John Sauer to JP Somersaulter, thereby adopting the name of one of his cartoon characters. In 1977, JP and Lillian produced "Spooky Boo's and Room Noodles", a children's film about fear of the dark. Following the film's success, the two signed a contract with Coronet Films — which was, at the time, the country's largest producer of educational movies. JP and Lillian then began working with Michael Moats, an audio engineer at Chicago's Zenith / DB Studios who transformed the technical capabilities of Pajon Arts — the corporate name under which JP and Lillian worked. (In 1979, Michael and Lillian married, with JP serving as their best man.)

JP has also produced two feature films, as well as two documentaries about baseball/ (His first feature, "Donna Rosebud", premiered at the Art Institute of Chicago, screened at the Edinburgh Festival and played for two weeks at the Music Box Theater.)

He currently lives in Paraiba, Brazil, and is working on a book.
Language of Materials
English
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.