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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

A MUSEUM, LIBRARY AND ARCHIVE
DEVOTED TO CARTOONS

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 GENESIS OF THE CONCEPT

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.

FILLING A NEED FOR BEGINNING ANIMATORS

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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