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Animated Cartooning by Mail, 1939


711435665_c33aa9a863_o.jpgBrew reader Billie Towser found this old magazine ad on Flickr. (Click on thumbnail at left for an enlarged version).

Long before Cal Arts, there was “The First School in America exclusively devoted to Animated Cartoon Instruction.” No, not in New York or Hollywood… but in Washington DC – the Washington Studios of Animation. I wonder which Disney artist is the instructor. And remember their motto, “If you can draw a circle, we can teach you animated cartooning!”

  • Yeah but drawing a circle is actually pretty difficult – that’s the trick.

  • The mention of Snow White puts this ad at 1938 or later, yet the art style is very much the style of the early ’30’s. If this artist really did work at Disney, it looks like he didn’t last beyond 1932 or ’33, which would explain why he was in Washington instead of Hollywood or New York.

  • Daniel

    That’s probably why most trade schools that charade as animation schools have changed the motto to, “If you can take out a loan, we can teach you how to push buttons.”

  • Ah, the days when cartoon ducks had bills and not enormous scoops attached to their faces.

  • Michael J. Hayde

    Interesting, too, that the school was located in the RKO-Keith building. Let’s see… the ad’s from 1939… Van Beuren (distributed by RKO) shut down about two years earlier. Presumably Burt Gillette hired some ex-Disney cronies during his tenure. If you’re looking to identify the instructor, I’d start there.

  • That’s great! I wonder how long it lasted and who/how many actually answered the ad and ended up in the industry! When I was in high scool I sent away in the mail for Bob Heath’s “Animation in 12 Hard Lessons”, probably from a similar ad in the back of a comic book. The Preston Blair book was a much better investment.

  • Tom Minton

    The early 1960’s design style of the illustrated examples in “Animation in 12 Hard Lessons” would fit right in with today’s market.

  • Sean D.

    How about a link to the Flickr account? Someone deserves props for posting this.

  • The little guy in the ad with the three-cornered hat is from Alvin Epstein’s “How to Draw Animated Cartoons”, published in 1945 by Greenberg, publisher. The character’s name is “George”. Maybe Alvin was running a school in 1939 and later published his lessons in book form. I don’t know Epstein’s employment history, maybe he worked at Disney.

  • John K.’s course on the Internet (linked at AnimationArchive.Org and his own blog) is absolutely free. And absolutely priceless. I’ve been trying to get Jim Smith to post some of his theories on his blog (JimSmithCartoons.Blogspot.Com) but he’s been too busy doing freelance work. There are other great cartooning resources on the Internet. Of course, that didn’t exist until the 1990s…

  • Can I still send in for it!!!

  • “It’s simple! Just trace over these famous cartoons! Lesson one: the dance scene from Snow White!”

    Many years later…Robin Hood is released by Disney. =)

    I kid, I kid!

  • Hank

    You kid but…just trace over this scene from “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” where the puppy leaps into the back of the open truck, flop it, change the dogs into cats and…”The Aristocats” hits theatres. Oh, and then there’s this “Pinocchio” shot of Figaro dangling from Gepetto’s opening window…flop it, re-style the window, change Figaro into a Dalmatian pup and…oh, you get the idea. It works if nobody notices, and most people don’t, especially when re-use is surrounded by tons of new stuff. Sometimes such repurposing gets too blatant. “The Sword in the Stone” contains boatloads of disguised re-use animation from “Bambi” and “Sleeping Beauty”. This is not new in Hollywood. Stock footage scenes abound in live action films. And why animate it again if it worked well the first time? That is why there are (or used to be) morgues.

  • Dan Jeup

    I beg to differ Hank, that is not why there was an animation morgue at Disney. The morgue’s main purpose was and still is to be a reference library to educate and inspire new and existing talent at the studio. It was also created to archive the studio’s production history. It wasn’t until Woolie Reitherman made some bad decisions to re-hash the animation in the films you’ve mentioned. His ‘cost-cutting’ methods didn’t go unnoticed by top animators nor the public. Milt Kahl, for example, despised Woolie’s pension for re-use because it went completely against the Disney standard of innovation and excellence Walt and the animators strived for over the years. I suggest you look up Milt’s audio-lecture to young animators on the web. He goes into great length about his disgust for re-use and insisted the public noticed.

  • Brad Constantine

    heck, even the Russians noticed.. They did a whole website about it. I wish I could translate their comments.

  • Asymetrical

    “If you can draw a circle, we can teach you animated cartooning!�
    Sounds like something executives at various studios believe today. Who needs experience? Bah! We can hire any ol’ goofy kid off the streets and put him at a desk and get him going. We can pay him a fraction of the amount those seasoned guys get too!
    Hmm. I wonder if that’s in their business proposals?