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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

About The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Pt 3

ASIFA Cartoons Magazine
Here is the conclusion of Stephanie Sapienza's great article, PROJECTING ANIMATION'S PAST ONTO ITS FUTURE: The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. This article runs in the current issue of ASIFA-International's CARTOONS magazine. -Stephen Worth

Mickey Mouse Poster Design
ASIFA-Hollywood's Animation Archive Database contains many one-of-a-kind treasures from the estates of legendary animators like Les Clark and Grim Natwick.


Mary BlairMary BlairYou might wonder where the funding to accomplish all of the things the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is doing is coming from. "We're very much flying by the seat of our pants." Worth admits. "The Walter Lantz Foundation and Sony Pictures Imageworks have given us grants that take care of the office space. Dreamworks SKG has donated equipment. And luckily, there are a lot of great people who believe in this idea who are willing to support it through individual donations. The student volunteers are enthusiastic too and are willing to roll up their sleeves and make it happen. Everything is on an achievable level and momentum is building to allow us to take on even more in the future."

Future plans include syndicating the archive database to satellite workstations at museums, libraries and universities around the world. "I'd like to see every chapter of ASIFA get a digitization setup so they can contribute their own reference material to the database." Worth says. "That way, animators all over the world could contribute and gain from the accumulated knowledge."

Lotte Reiniger Prince Achmed
ASIFA-Hollywood's Animation Archive contains information on influential women animators like Lotte Reiniger, the creator of the oldest surviving animated feature, and the acclaimed illustrator and designer, Mary Blair.

Eldon DediniEldon DediniRight now, the database is only available at the archive offices in Burbank, California; but the Stephen Worth has also been utilizing the archive's blog to get a massive amount of their fantastic collection online. He dedicates much of his time writing articles on the website to generate interest in the materials and to clearly state how interested parties can become involved in the project. The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Blog, which can be found at, contains thousands of images and streaming videos, along with biographical articles and information on the progress of the project itself. According to Stephen Worth, the blog serves over a quarter of a million articles a month to over 1.5 million unique visitors. "Our web traffic comes from around the world. We've heard from artists as far away as Japan, Kazakhstan and Italy who follow our progress on the internet every day."

Gustaf Tenggren
In the "golden age" of animation, production designers didn't look to other cartoons for inspiration on how their films should look... they looked to classic illustration, like that of Gustaf Tenggren. The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive collection includes hundreds of illustrated children books, each one bursting at the seams with new ideas for how animated films can look.

"The next step for us is to establish a steady stream of revenue to fund the sustained growth of the project," says Worth. "I see in my head a full brick and mortar museum dedicated to animation with satellite facilities all over the world. I'm willing to do whatever I can to make this a reality. There are a lot of other people here who love animation and are happy to help. I don't think it's an unattainable goal."


Ub IwerksUb IwerksThough few would recognize his name, and even fewer his face, nearly every person on earth knows of this man's work. This is Ub Iwerks, the man who created Mickey Mouse.

This self portrait from 1931 was found in a trash can at a local TV cartoon studio. No one knows how the drawing got there and no one at the studio could identify him. At a reunion of animators from the most successful animated feature of recent times, this sketch was shown to a hall full of employees from the studio this man made famous- not a single person recognized him.

Read more about why we need an Animation Archive.


Part of what makes the ASIFA-Hollywood Archive so unique is that they are so progressive and yet so willfully different from other archives. Their unique vision is encapsulated in a remark from Worth, "I'm not a library science person, I'm an animated film-maker, so I don't know what normal is for a facility like this. I do know what animators need and how they need it organized so they can use it. That's what I'm trying to build." Their pro-access and pro-digital approach is refreshing.

Milt Kahl Pinocchio Drawing
A rough animation drawing by the legendary Milt Kahl. The animation of the past is being put back to work, educating and inspiring the animators of the future.

PropagandaPropagandaThe ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is designed by and for animators. This is a group of artists who not only understand the basic elements of form, design, and nuances of character performance, but have to rigorously time and structure the creation of their art down to 1/24th of a second. Certainly the professional world contains a scattered sampling of people as dedicated as ASIFA-Hollywood is to documenting their own profession and educating the newcomers, but it's extremely rare to find such a concentrated few in any one place. As an archivist myself, I think my peers might have a lot to learn from these animators, and in time I think the archiving world will take notice of ASIFA-Hollywood's efforts. It is rapidly becoming the model of what the "21st century archive" must become. -Stephanie Sapienza 2008

Paul Terry's Famer Al Falfa
The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive depends on the support of the people who benefit from it. If you feel that this resource is of value to you, we encourage you to contribute using the PayPal links on this site and become a member of ASIFA-Hollywood. With your contributions, the Archive can grow. Together, we can take the project forward.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

About The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Pt 2

ASIFA Cartoons Magazine
Today we post the second part of Stephanie Sapienza's great article, PROJECTING ANIMATION'S PAST ONTO ITS FUTURE: The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. This article runs in the current issue of ASIFA-International's CARTOONS magazine. I'll be posting the conclusion to this article soon. -Stephen Worth

Tony the Tiger


Animation In BurbankAnimation In BurbankThe archive component of the project exists in both physical and digital form. Artwork and production files donated to ASIFA-Hollywood over the years by individuals and studios is being inventoried and prepared to be made available to the public. The collections of legendary animators like Grim Natwick, Les Clark, Michael Lah, Herb Klynn and John Kricfalusi are already housed among the archive's holdings. And nearly every week, more artists and collectors stop by to lend their personal reference files for digitization.

Animator  Carlo Vinci
The family of legendary animator, Carlo Vinci has been sharing artwork from Vinci's fifty year career in animation. The collection includes a number of class assignments from his studies at the prestigious National Academy of Design, documenting the education of a golden age animator.

Animation historians like John Canemaker, Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck and Mark Kausler have been supporting the project as well by sharing valuable research and helping to acquire rare animated films for digitization. And the archive staff is hard at work assembling digital collections related to influential artists like Milton Caniff, Carlo Vinci, Milt Gross, Gustaf Tenggren and Al Capp.

Milton Caniff in his studio
Milton Caniff at work in his studio in the late 40s. The estate of Caniff, the creator of Steve Canyon and Terry and the Pirates, has shared original artwork and biographical material with the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive.

The Archive DatabaseThe Archive DatabaseThe archive has assembled a digital database consisting of biographical information, images and filmographic data, culled from from a variety of sources. In less than two years, the archive database has grown to contain over 3,000 digitized animated films and over 50,000 high-resolution images. These assets are searchable by keywords, and all of the data is cross-linked. This means that it is possible to search for an artist's name and find his biography and filmography, then click through to watch a digitized movie file of a film he worked on, and one more click reveals animation drawings by that artist from that particular film. "It's a way of organizing information that's never been attempted before," says Worth.

Disney Drawing Exhibit
David Hofmann views an exhibit of early Disney animation drawings at the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive.

Exhibit Grim NatwickExhibit Grim NatwickThe Burbank facility also houses a small exhibition space and library, where it has hosted exhibitions of animation drawings from the collections of Les Clark and Grim Natwick, a show devoted to the art of the storyboard, and an exhibit featuring the work of Mexican caricaturist Ernesto Garcia Cabral.
Film PreservationFilm PreservationFilm Preservation
Plans are underway to assemble a world-class collection of books and periodicals on the subject, under the guidance of ASIFA-Hollywood Board Member Jerry Beck, rounding out the research arm of the project. And Jere Guldin from the prestigious UCLA Film and Television Archive heads up ASIFA-Hollywood's film preservation efforts, rescuing films in danger of being lost to the ravages of time.

Stephen Worth assists artists at the archive.
Katie Rice, Stephen Worth and David Gemmell refer to artwork in the collection of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive. (photo: Lori Shepler)


The idea behind the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive goes back to the early 1980s when voice actor and story man Bill Scott was the president of the organization. "I remember when I was in college, I volunteered for an ASIFA fund raising event, and I got a chance to chat with Bill." Worth remembers. "He asked if I was a student, and when I told him I was attending UCLA, he excitedly told me about his idea for an Animatheque- a museum, library and archive devoted to the art of animation. The resources just weren't there to pull it off back in Bill's tenure as president of ASIFA-Hollywood. But a few years ago, I remembered Bill's idea and realized that computers had made organizing images, text and video much easier. When Bill passed away, his passion for the idea was transferred to me."

Bullwinkle J Moose
Bill Scott, the voice of Bullwinkle J. Moose, came up with the original idea of an archive, museum and library devoted to the art of animation.

rotoscoperotoscopeAfter twenty years as an animation Producer, Stephen Worth decided that it was time to give back to the muse. He went to work full time to try to build support for Bill Scott's concept of the Animateque. "The animation business in Hollywood is in dire need of inspiration and new ideas." Worth explains. "I kept reading in the trades that hand drawn animation was a dying medium, and would soon be replaced by computer animation. But I know from working with innovative filmmakers like Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi that the principles that created Pinocchio and Bugs Bunny are the same ones that will lead new technologies to the same heights."

Storyboard by Louise Zingarelli
Ralph Bakshi, the animator who was responsible for bringing about the modern age of animation has written several inspiring articles for the Archive project blog and has contributed material to the collection. The storyboard section above is from Bakshi's "Cool World" and was drawn by Louise Zingarelli.


Classic Illustration by Edmund DulacClassic Illustration by Edmund DulacIn Hollywood, there is a wide age gap between the current generation of animators and the ones that created the classic cartoons of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. During the golden age, animators were trained on the job as part of apprenticeship systems. They relied on the study of classic illustration for inspiration, and the studios even employed inspirational artists to draw concept art. Between 1955 and 1980, very few new artists came into the business. Studios were downsizing and sending work overseas. This meant that the "old timers" who possessed the accumulated knowledge of decades of experience retired without being able to pass their techniques along to the next generation. A few animators, most notably Eric Larson, Ralph Bakshi and Richard Williams acted as the bridge across that gap, training the animators who are now the leading lights in the business.

Natwick's Assistant Chuck Jones
Studio gag drawing of Grim Natwick at the Ub Iwerks Studio with his "kid assistant" Chuck Jones. Jones would go on to become one of the most influential directors in the history of animation.

Byrnes on SketchingByrnes on SketchingToday, the employment of an animator frequently lasts only for the life of the project, and the ladder for upward mobility is either weak or nonexistent. Art schools have largely shifted towards teaching with trade school pedagogy, focusing on technical skills for programs like Flash and Maya. Typically they are not focusing on fundamental classical arts training. In light of the changing face of technology, where today's hot animation software could be tomorrow's dinosaur, design and illustration concepts are crucial currency for the true animator who seeks to learn his or her craft.

Preston Blair's Animation
The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive hosts an online drawing course led by John Kricfalusi based on Preston Blair's "Advanced Animation".

Chad's Design for TelevisionChad's Design for Television"The Archive is the place for artists to grow through self-study and research." Worth explains. "Everything an animator needs to know to perfect his craft and grow as an artist is in those old films and sketches. It doesn't matter if they animate using a pencil or a computer. All a student of animation today needs is access to the material, a mind for analyzing what makes a scene work, and lots of practice." Art colleges may continue to be dictated by what students want to learn, but in the long term students need an external support mechanism for self-study. The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is trying to bridge these gaps by providing a place for artists to study core art skills, helping artists improve themselves and carry the art form forward.

National Academy of Design in the 20s
Students at the National Academy of Design in the early 1920s. Traditional art studies from the past form the foundation for artists of the future.

Check back for the last installment of this article...

Bill Nolan Cartooning Self Taught
The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive depends on the support of the people who benefit from it. If you feel that this resource is of value to you, we encourage you to contribute using the PayPal links on this site and become a member of ASIFA-Hollywood. With your contributions, the Archive can grow. Together, we can take the project forward.


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Friday, August 08, 2008

About The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Pt 1

ASIFA Cartoons Magazine
Members of ASIFA-International will soon be receiving their copies of CARTOONS magazine in the mail. In it is an article on the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive by Stephanie Sapienza. For those of you who are not yet members of ASIFA, we will be posting the story here on the website in three parts. I'll annotate the article with links to past posts with more info on our project. -Stephen Worth

The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive

By Stephanie Sapienza

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive


A Typical ArchiveA Typical ArchiveI've spent the last two years of my life in a rigorous academic environment, studying moving image archives. This includes the history of the industry, case studies with many different archival repositories, and the administrative and technical issues involved with storage, cataloging, access and preservation. The sticky term in the previous sentence is ACCESS. There has traditionally been a palpable tension between preserving moving image material and providing access to it, and preservation has typically taken precedence in the end.

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive
This is all changing in an era fueled by YouTube and Google, where researchers have come to expect immediate access to material. Archives tend to become overwhelmed by the technical resources and knowledge of copyright laws needed to provide such access, and so they close their doors and say "You come to us. We have a flatbed! Or a rolling cart with a VHS player and headphones!" Luckily, I finally came across an archive that is boldly straddling the realm of digital collections without fear. This archive exists in Burbank, but will be coming soon to a library near you!

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive


A-HAAA-HAAIf an archive can be defined by its users, then the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive is an artist's archive. And although this facility is an animation historian's dream, it doesn't exist primarily to serve them. The ASIFA-Hollywood Archive's primary focus is on serving creative professionals working within the business and students of the art form who want to acquire the necessary skills to become animators. These future animators have a tough road to haul; they are facing an industry where technical knowledge is valued at a level that is equal to, if not more important than, artistic prowess. But if the archive continues to grow and improve at the same exponential pace that is has in its first two years, it will grow to become a significant catalyst for change within the art of animation.

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive
Story artist Eddie Fitzgerald offers storyboarding tips to archive volunteers Michael Fallik, Max Ward and Art Fuentes.

Animation In BurbankAnimation In BurbankThe facilities are supervised by archive Director Stephen Worth and housed in storefront offices in Burbank, California. Burbank is an ideal location due to its proximity to all the major animation and television studios, as well as all the local colleges and universities with prestigious animation programs- most notably CalArts, UCLA, USC, Woodbury University, CalState Northridge and Art Center College of Design.

The ASIFA-Hollywood Archive consists of three projects- an archive, a library and a museum- all of which are now operational and open to the public. This in itself is reason enough that ASIFA-Hollywood is more progressive than most archives. Librarians and museum curators are notorious for being champions of open, free access, so a hybrid repository is a step in the right direction for archives. Archivists are known to take a very careful (and therefore slow) approach to processing collections, establishing elaborate and often restrictive access procedures, and are especially cautious about setting up an infrastructure for digitization. But it took ASIFA-Hollywood a mere two years to complete its proof of concept phase and make its database available to the public. This only accentuates the archive's commitment to open accessibility.

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive
Gary Francis and David Hofmann study one of the over 3,000 animated films in ASIFA-Hollywood's Archive Database.

Animation In BurbankAnimation In BurbankStephen Worth explains, "This isn't an archive OF animation. It's an archive FOR animators. That means that in addition to material related to animated films, our collection covers allied fields... comic books, newspaper cartooning, illustration and art instructional material. The archive is basically the world's largest artist's clip file- children's book illustration by Rackham and Dulac, magazine cartoons by Virgil Partch and Erich Sokol, superhero comics by Jack Kirby and Jack Cole, classic newspaper comics by Cliff Sterrett and Milton Caniff, drawing instruction by Preston Blair and Willy Pogany... a whole world of inspiration."

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive
The animation related material in the collection includes storyboards, animation drawings, production correspondence, exposure sheets, publicity materials, production photos, model sheets, pencil tests, background paintings, and more.

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive
Digitized films in the collection include rare cartoons by the Fleischers, Terry-Toons, Iwerks, Lantz and Columbia studios. "These are primarily films that have never been released to home video. Many of them haven't been broadcast on television since the 50's or 60's. We're specializing in the studios that don't currently have extensive commercial distribution." says Worth.

Check back for the next installment of this article...

Bill Nolan Cartooning Self Taught
The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive depends on the support of the people who benefit from it. If you feel that this resource is of value to you, we encourage you to contribute using the PayPal links on this site and become a member of ASIFA-Hollywood. With your contributions, the Archive can grow. Together, we can take the project forward.


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