Poetry News

Watch James Franco's Narration of the Dreamy Animation Sequence in Howl

By Harriet Staff


Thanks to Open Culture, we can watch the beginning of artist Eric Drooker's animation of Allen Ginsberg's Howl--narrated by one James Franco--which appeared in the 2010 movie of the same name. A bit of backstory on the animation sequence:

Perhaps the most celebrated aspect of the film is its animated version of the poem itself. The sequence was designed by the artist Eric Drooker, a friend of the late Ginsberg who is perhaps best known for his covers for The New Yorker–including the famous October 10, 2011 cover showing a towering statue of a Wall Street bull with glowing red eyes and smokestack horns presiding over the city like the false god in Ginsberg’s poem:

Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smokestacks and antennae crown the cities!

Drooker first met Ginsberg in the summer of 1988, when they both lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It was a time of local unrest, when police on horseback were cracking down on punks and squatters occupying Tompkins Square Park. The young Drooker had been plastering the neighborhood with political action posters, and as he recalls on his Web site, Ginsberg later “admitted that he’d been peeling them off brick walls and lampposts, and collecting them at home.”

The two men went on to collaborate on several projects, including Ginsberg’s final book, Illuminated Poems. So Drooker seemed a natural for Epstein and Friedman’s movie. “When they approached me with the ingenious idea of animating ‘Howl,’” he says, “I thought they were nuts and said ‘sure, let’s animate Dante’s Inferno while we’re at it!’ Then they told me I’d work with a team of studio animators who would bring my pictures to life. . . how could I say no?”

Read the rest of the story here, and watch Part 1 below.


Originally Published: August 22nd, 2012