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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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