nfb-animationmap nfb-animationmap

Two Incredible Documents: NFB Animation Chart and T. Hee Caricature Notes

A little bit about two incredible documents that have turned up online recently:


NY animation director Michael Sporn shares scans of a 1967 poster designed by André Martin that documents the early history of American animation from 1906-1941. It’s eye-opening to see the diverse strands of American animation organized neatly into a chronological hierarchy. What would be really amazing though is if someone adapted this chart into an app for digital tablets so that a user could click on names of studios, artists and films to see video clips, film stills, and additional documentation.

T Hee Caricature Notes

Canadian animation director Jamie Mason shares a treat he found on eBay: notes from a Disney lecture about caricature presented by T. Hee in April, 1939. The notes are unedited and slightly jumbled, but the information contained within sheds glorious insights into Hee’s approach to caricature. At the end of Jamie’s post, he includes copies of some of Hee’s caricatures, including four drawings that are discussed in the lecture–Bill Tytla, Ben Sharpsteen, Norm Ferguson and Lou “Whitie” Debney.

Hee, a disciple of Miguel Covarrubias, explained in the lecture that he viewed caricature not as drawing but as the “art of observation and study.” The personality of a person influenced how he drew people. For example, in discussing one caricature, he said that, “There is nothing direct – I felt everything should be going off at some angle, because Dick is that way. If you ask him a point blank question, he will evade you with some humorous remark.”

Another part I found interesting is when Hee talked about how he doesn’t like to caricature people in person or with any reference:

“I draw always from memory. I find if you draw [a] portrait or caricature of someone, when they are in the room, you are drawing what your eye sees, and a caricature is a mental image — an impression. Your eye makes no impression at all. Your mind makes the impression so if you want to make shorthand notes and sketches of a person, it is perfectly alright…because you want to put down a nose if it has a peculiar twist like that and maybe the eye to give you the effect of the thing, and then if you put that thing away and don’t look at it, because you went through that action, you will have it in your mind and repeat it again. This is like learning a foreign language — like a piece of music. You should never take any notes, and you should do it all mentally.”

  • You could until perhaps recently obtain these charts through the Ottawa Animation Fest. They originally came with a booklet explaining the chart and how it was assembled. I used this chart as inspiration for the “It All Started Here” NY Animation History exhibition at the Westchester Arts Center ( I’ve yet to find ANY production company NOT listed or eluded to on this marvelous document. Andre Martin evidently traveled extensively to verify and construct this valuable piece ! It was done in conjunction with the EXPO67 World’s Fair in Montreal.

  • The farther T. Hee gets from Covarrubias the better his work becomes.

    There’s a sexiness underlying all of Covarrubias stuff which makes it sing.

    T. Hee, on the other hand, has unparalleled wit. When he assimilates the master’s graphic ideas into his own voice he was the best in the business.

  • “It’s eye-opening to see the diverse strands of American animation organized neatly into a chronological hierarchy. What would be really amazing though is if someone adapted this chart into an app for digital tablets…”

    André Martin’s effort was (and is) admirable for its time: it was put together when very little animation scholarship had been done, so represents a very impressive effort for its era. But unfortunately, in terms of what we know today, it’s a highly error-filled document that includes many now-disproven mistakes and urban legends.

    Martin has conflated Sullivan/Messmer with the earlier Movca studio (producer of the first Chaplin cartoons). He has the Fables Studio becoming Terrytoons, not realizing that Fables was Van Beuren (which he conceives of as an unrelated entity). He has Dick Huemer at Columbia long after Huemer had departed. He gives the 1950s Lantz series “Foolish Fables” as an alternate series name for early 1930s shorts.
    McCay’s GERTIE is misdated 1909, an error that survived into many later references (it should be 1914).

    Numerous film titles are given slightly inaccurately, perhaps due to English being Martin’s second language.

    I could never recommend using Martin’s document as the basis for new research/development, its impressive appearance and historical importance notwithstanding.

  • As awesome as the infamous NFB chart is, shouldn’t it be noted that its now almost 50 years later and we now know that it’s FULL of incorrect information?? Still an amazing effort for 1967. And great to finally see it online!

  • I’d also love to see some sources for various pieces of information here. For instance, it states that the animators on Paul Terry’s 1919-1920 Farmer Alfalfa series for the Paramount screen magazine were Milt Gross, George Rufle, and Louis Glackens! Fascinating information- if it’s true. Terry himself doesn’t specify the animators on that particular series in his 1970 interview (although he does note that he was involved exclusively as a storyman on those films), Gross and Glackens were known to have been working for Paramount rival Bray productions at the time, and none have ever been found, which makes me wonder if Martin obtained that information from a primary source or period article, or if he was simply guessing. The fact that elsewhere he makes such mistakes as crediting Vet Anderson with Bray’s Police Dog series instead of Carl Anderson (the series actual, credited animator) makes me think that it was probably the latter.

  • Sean P

    Is there any way of obtaining the source image for the poster? It’s incredible, but a lot of the smaller text is too low-res to read.

  • Michel Van

    Wat a incredible Map
    i Hope there made one from 1941-1976

  • bob kurtz

    t.hee was my teacher, mentor, writing partner and best of all friend. tee was the most brilliant,talented and giving person i ever known. i still miss him.

    • Jason

      His writing makes him sound a like a great person and scholar.

  • I remember and love the sketch of Lou (Whitie) Debney done by T. (Can you call someone “Whitie” today?)

    Anyway, did you know that Lou’s son, John Debney is film composer? He’s even scored some movies for Disney. Lou should be proud.

  • As has been noted above lovely as that document looks it is NOT to be trusted.

    “They got my dates all wrong,” said Friz Freleng when he saw it in Toronto in 1980 as my guest. Ditto Bob Clampett. Grim Natwick and Shamus Culhane.

    • The Gee

      Then, the solution is to correct the dates.
      I know Amid suggested it should be interactive but it could also be Wiki-fied.

      There’s no reason why those who spot mistakes and can correct them shouldn’t try to set the record straight. It is a historical document, after all.

  • I just got finished recreating this poster in Illustrator, so I could print out a clean and crisp poster for my house.

    I posted it at my blog. I have it as a 48in X 36in, 300 dpi JPEG, and i also have it in PDF.

    I was just reading through the comments, and noticed how many errors people were pointing out, so I could fix those if somebody would point out all of the mistakes. I already put enough time into re-creating it, so I wouldn’t mind putting in a little bit more to have it factually correct.