John Korty

John Korty
Born (1936-07-22) July 22, 1936 (age 82)
OccupationDirector, producer, writer, animator
Years activec. 1957–present
AwardsWho Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids? (Academy Award)
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (Emmy Award)

John Korty (born June 22, 1936) is an American film director and animator, best known for the television film The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and the documentary Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?, as well as the theatrical animated feature Twice Upon a Time. He has won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (for Who Are the DeBolts?) and several other major awards. He is described by the film critic Leonard Maltin as "a principled filmmaker who has worked both outside and within the mainstream, attempting to find projects that support his humanistic beliefs".[1]

Early life and career[]

Born in Lafayette, Indiana, he began making amateur films while still in his teens.[2] He took a liberal arts education at Antioch College in Ohio and obtained work as an animator for television commercials while still in school. He graduated in 1959.[3] In a 1963 article he wrote for the Bolex Reporter[4] he notes that he first took an interest in animation during his second year at Antioch. He developed a cut-out technique and also used various other imaging methods including scratching the film stock, painting, and using objects such as photographs, string, cloth and scissors. He would continue to develop these techniques in projects through his career, culminating in his 1983 animated feature Twice Upon a Time. Using a Bolex H-16 camera, his television commercial work amounted to more than 30 spots, which he made with four other students at Antioch.

His 1964 short Breaking the Habit was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.


While most of his later work has been for television, he actually started in film before moving to the small screen. In 1964, he moved to Stinson Beach in Marin County, north of San Francisco. There he made three feature films in four years. They were successful, low-budget projects.[5] His first was the little-seen drama The Crazy-Quilt (1966), with narration by Burgess Merh. The others were Riverrun[6] and Funnyman, featuring performances by the comedy troupe The Committee Theatre. His barn was his studio (Korty Films), and it would become an inspiration for George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola who also established studios in the San Francisco Bay Area.[5] Korty Films would become part of what was later called the "New Hollywood". Korty actually became a tenant at Coppola's Zoetrope Studios in San Francisco, though he later moved out when Coppola raised the rents.[7] The company finally settled in Point Reyes Station, California.[8][9][10]

Other feature films directed or produced by Korty included such well-known titles as Oliver's Story (1978) and Twice Upon a Time, a George Lucas-produced animated fantasy originally released theatrically by Warner Bros. in August 1983 and later aired as an HBO feature in June 1984.[11][12] The film lost money, and Korty would not return to animated productions for more than twenty years. He also served as a cinematographer for a few films including the Robert Redford feature The Candidate.


His most highly lauded work was in television. He was active in the medium from the early 1970s until the late 1990s. He became known in the field in 1972 as director of The People. The film starred Kim Darby and William Shatner, was produced by Francis Ford Coppola, and was based on the science-fiction novel The Pilgrimage by Zenna Henderson.[13] In 1974, Korty won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and a Directors Guild of America award for his filmed adaptation of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Four years later, the Directors Guild of America gave him an award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary for his documentary feature Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids?. The film had previously won an Academy Award in the documentary category.

Other films included Go Ask Alice (1973); an adaptation of Farewell to Manzanar (1976); and A Christmas Without Snow (1980). He also made the Star Wars spin-off adventure Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984). One of his more recent films was an adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling story of the supernatural called "They", filmed as They Watch.

Sesame Street shorts[]

In the mid-1970s and late-1980s, several Korty animated shorts were featured on the PBS children's programs The Electric Company and Sesame Street. These segments featured moral tales including at least one adaptation of Aesop's Fables. There was a recurring character known as Thelma Thumb, and all of the films (some as short as 18 seconds) used Korty's backlit cut-out technique which he called Lumage (Luminous Image). He tended to use a synthetic fabric called Pellon for the Sesame Street animations, which lent a consistent style to the work. Improv actors often ad-libbed the dialogue, and child performers were sometimes used. Among the children was the sister of David Fincher. David Fincher worked for Korty and would later gain recognition as a director himself. John Korty also produced animated shorts for the first season of Vegetable Soup with the assistance of Drew Takahashi and Gary Gutierrez.


In 2006, inspired by the state of political debate in America at the time, Korty produced two short animated pieces which he posted to the World Wide Web. They feature two characters, Brock & Throck, in discussions about the political landscape. Korty was quoted in a news release, "This summer, I found some sketches from my very first experiments. One in particular was perfect for a dialogue between two characters - a single zigzag line that can function as the profile for either face. I had put it away, waiting for the right subject matter. The wait was fifty years."[14]

Fog City Mavericks[]

He was one of several San Francisco film veterans profiled in the 2007 documentary film, Fog City Mavericks.[15]

Major awards[]



Year Name Director Writer Producer Other Cr Notes
1961 The Language of Faces Yes Yes Documentary shorts
1964 Breaking the Habit Yes Yes
1966 The Crazy-Quilt Yes Yes Yes Yes Cinematographer & or
1967 Funnyman Yes Yes Yes Cinematographer & animator
1970 Riverrun Yes Yes Yes Cinematographer
1972 The Candidate Yes Director of photography: second unit
1974 Silense Yes
1976 Alex & the Gypsy Yes
1977 Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get 19 Kids? Yes Yes Documentary
1978 Oliver's Story Yes Yes
1980 Can't It Be Anyone Else Executive Documentary
1983 Twice Upon a Time Yes Yes Yes Сharacter designer
2009 Miracle in a Box: A Piano Reborn Yes Yes Yes Cinematographer Documentary


Year(s) Name Director Writer Producer Other Cr Notes
1972 The People Yes TV films
1973 Go Ask Alice Yes Yes Script consultant
Class of '63 Yes
1974 The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman Yes
The Music School Yes Yes Yes Cinematographer TV short
1974-1993 Sesame Street Yes Animator & character desingner TV series, 7 episodes
1975-1976 Vegetable Soup Yes Animator TV series
1976 Farewell to Manzanar Yes Yes Yes TV films
1978 Forever Yes
1980 A Christmas Without Snow Yes Yes Yes
Stepping Out: The Debolts Grow Up Executive TV film documentary
1983 The Haunting Passion Yes TV films
1984 Second Sight: A Love Story Yes
Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure Yes Yes Cinematographer
1985 George Burns Comedy Week Yes TV Series, 1 episode
1986 A Deadly Business Yes TV films
Resting Place Yes
1987 Baby Girl Scott Yes
Eye on the Sparrow Yes
1988 Winnie Yes
1989 Cast the First Stone Yes
1990 A Son's Promise Yes
1991 Line of Fire: The Morris Dees Story Yes
Long Road Home Yes
Keeping Secrets Yes
1992 Deadly Matrimony Yes
1993 They Yes
1994 Getting Out Yes
1995 Redwood Curtain Yes
1997 Ms. Scrooge Yes
1998 Oklahoma City: A Survivor's Story Yes
1999 A Gift of Love: The Daniel Huffman Story Yes



  1. ^ Maltin, Leonard (1994). "John Korty".
  2. ^ "Out of the Past". Journal and Courier. Lafayette, Indiana. April 17, 1975. p. 10. Retrieved March 24, 2018 – via (Subscription required (help)).
  3. ^ "Antioch College Noteworthy Alumni". Antioch College. Archived from the original on 2007-04-04.
  4. ^ Korty, John (1963).“Animation Unlimited”. Bolex Reporter. 13 (2). Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  5. ^ a b Pollock, p. 85.
  6. ^ Sragow, Michael (November 24, 1970). "Films riverrun at the Orson Welles". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  7. ^ Pollock, p. 87, 100.
  8. ^ Kearney, John F. (February 14, 1967). "For Film Director: Hollywood Out, Stinson Beach is in". Daily Independent Journal. San Rafael, California. p. 13. Retrieved March 24, 2018 – via Free to read
  9. ^ "Center to Present Three Korty Films". Daily Independent Journal. San Rafael, California. February 15, 1967. p. 14. Retrieved March 24, 2018 – via Free to read
  10. ^ Barbara, Bladen (February 28, 1967). "The Marquee". The Times. San Mateo, California. p. 23. Retrieved March 24, 2018 – via Free to read
  11. ^ Jenkins, Ward (September 9, 2007). "The movie that time forgot". The Ward-O-Matic. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
  12. ^ Jessen, Taylor (June 2004). "Twenty Years Later Twice Upon a Time Still Burns". Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  13. ^ Miller, Ron (April 21, 1995). "Film studios beckon but director John Korty prefers freedom of TV". San Jose Mercury News.
  14. ^ Amidi, Amid (November 7, 2006). "John Korty's Brock & Throck" Archived 2008-12-02 at the Wayback Machine.. Cartoon Brew. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  15. ^ "Fog City Mavericks" Archived 2011-08-16 at the Wayback Machine.. San Francisco Film Society. Retrieved 2012-07-08.


Pollock, Dale (May 31, 1999). Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0306809040.

External links[]