Animation Legends and Facebook Animation Legends and Facebook

Animation Legends and Facebook

I spent some time on Facebook last night compiling data that shows who the most popular classic animation artists are on the social networking site. As a historian, I’m interested in understanding how artists from the early years of animation are remembered within the online community. The results aren’t particularly encouraging. Of the forty-eight artists I managed to find, roughly a quarter of them have attracted over five hundred fans. That’s a small number considering that these are some of the most revered names in our art form. Furthermore, a majority of the artists (nearly 60%) have less than 300 fans.

However, there is a silver lining. Classic artists who have continued to receive exposure in recent years have a disproportionately larger number of fans, which means that people would care about these artists if they were more aware of their accomplishments. Mary Blair, who has had a couple gallery exhibits and books published about her recently is the sixth most popular animation legend on Facebook. Walt Stanchfield, whose instructional handouts were compiled into books last year, is one hundred times more popular than Bill Tytla, who despite his stature, has received scant attention in the past couple decades.

What is most surprising are the omissions. Are Bob McKimson’s cartoons so disliked that he can’t garner even one fan from a pool of 400 million Facebook users? And McKimson is the tip of the iceberg. For starters, where are Ken Anderson, Bobe Cannon, Norm Ferguson, Carlo Vinci, Hawley Pratt, Pete Burness, Dick Lundy, Emery Hawkins, Preston Blair, Rod Scribner, Ray Patterson, Bob Givens, Art Davis, Dave Hilberman, Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising, Dave Tendlar, Grim Natwick, Bob McKimson, Milt Kahl, Sterling Sturtevant, Frank Thomas, Tom Oreb, Eric Larson, Les Clark, Shamus Culhane, Bill Littlejohn, Ken Harris, Art Babbitt, Virgil Ross, Manny Gould, Willard Bowsky, Al Eugster, Joe Grant, Dick Huemer and T. Hee to name but a few. Nobody appreciates any of these artists enough to start a fan page for them on the world’s largest social networking site, and that says a lot when nearly everything else has a fan page or group on Facebook nowadays.

Animation artists have never been ones to hanker for the spotlight, and as a result, there are few celebrities in this art form save for the characters themselves. So while nobody may appreciate the name Bob McKimson anymore, his character the Tasmanian Devil has 82,000 fans on Facebook, and though the name Grim Natwick may draw blank stares, rest assured that his eighty-year-old character Betty Boop has 92,000 fans.

The list of classic artists on Facebook is after the jump. I’m curious to hear what others make of these numbers.

Note: Clicking on an artist’s name will take you to their fan page on Facebook. Certain artists had multiple fan pages and groups. In those instances, I used only the number of fans from their most popular page.

57,800 fans – Walt Disney
11,883 fans – Tex Avery
7258 fans – Chuck Jones
6511 fans – Osamu Tezuka
5078 fans – Ray Harryhausen
2590 fans – Mary Blair
2309 fans – Winsor McCay
1501 fans – Norman McLaren
1197 fans – Richard Williams
807 fans – Ralph Bakshi
758 fans – Max Fleischer
669 fans – Ward Kimball
589 fans – Walt Stanchfield
442 fans – Ub Iwerks
397 fans – Walerian Borowczyk
384 fans – Bob Clampett
344 fans – Marc Davis
328 fans – Lotte Reiniger
324 fans – Eyvind Earle
316 fans – Karel Zeman
279 fans – Ladislas Starevich
237 fans – John and Faith Hubley
232 fans – Jules Engel
231 fans – Friz Freleng
228 fans – Maurice Noble
221 fans – Homer Jonas
221 fans – Jiří­ Trnka
220 fans – Freddie Moore
165 fans – Walter Lantz
143 fans – Bill Peet
142 fans – Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera
133 fans – Paul Grimault
118 fans – George Pal
97 fans – Otto Messmer
89 fans – Art Clokey
88 fans – Jim Tyer
80 fans – Len Lye
77 fans – Jay Ward
65 fans – Frank Tashlin
55 fans – Michael Maltese
55 fans – DuÅ¡an Vukotić
48 fans – Bill Melendez
44 fans – Fyodor Khitruk
43 fans – Ollie Johnston
29 fans – Alexandre Alexeïeff
5 fans – Bill Tytla
1 fan – Woolie Reitherman

  • To be fair, I didn’t even know who Glen Keane was until my second year of college in 2005 (sorry, Glen!), not to mention countless historical individuals who contributed to much of the animation I grew up on.

    Also, I’m a…fan of no…fan-ing (??)…and although I maybe ok’d one or two things like that on Facebook, I forget things like that even exist for artists and celebrities and don’t particularly get into it. I’d say it’s an interesting way to tally statistics for name usage in the social networking sphere, but maybe not necessarily for the whole relativity of an artist within a generation. Names of directors for many live action films hardly get remembered even for fans of them and the general public, save for the few big names or the die-hard trivia junkies.

    At least, that’s my personal take on what I’ve seen. I, for the life of me, can never names on many an occasion, so that also doesn’t help some of us =(.

  • I think the trouble is that I don’t go looking to become fans of anything on facebook. I didn’t even know you could become a fan of Woolie Reitherman for example.

    I usually become a fan when one of the “become a fan of” ads pops up in facebook.

    When I do become a fan of something I usually just go look for their artwork on the internet to look at or I head to a bookstore and try to find a collection of their art.

  • Max Ward

    Maybe animation fans who use facebook don’t really care about creating and joining groups.

  • Thank you, Amid, for bringing these to my attention! Having a great amount of appreciation for many of these artists/animators, it was somewhat difficult to go through the trouble of searching for fanpages or groups on Facebook, let alone that they existed. Thanks for saving me the trouble!

  • i join these things now and then but i don’t really know what they’re for and they don’t really seem utilized much.

    that said, i’d totally join a rod scribner fanpage! if no one starts it up i’ll go for it.

  • The day Facebook becomes a relevant place for animation geeks… there won’t be anything special about the geeking anymore.

  • Ron

    I think most of these artists were anonymous to the general public in their time, as they are now and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of them wanted it that way. I remember a passage from Shamus Cullhane’s book where he talks about attending the premiere of Snow White- a movie he worked on- and being treated like a nobody by the papparazzi and star gawkers as he walked the red- carpet.
    I bet most of these artists wanted their characters to be stars first and themselves second. Screen credit back then had more to do with getting paid, and having a reputation within the biz then becoming famous.
    I only know about these people because I’m an animation history buff. Many artists working in the field today, don’t even know the name “Tex Avery”.
    Even so, I’d be down for joining and even creating a fan page for some of these guys. I’ll do Shamus Cullhane’s page if no one else has already called dibs on it.

  • Amber

    It makes more sense to become a fan of a project which is currently in production (or just released) or a person who is still alive. People are looking for new information to show up in their news feeds, not spam from fangirls and boys.

  • No body reads, no body studies anymore, Amid. I’m always shocked at how many times I’ll mention say, Ken Harris or Mike Maltese and get blank stares. It’s even worse when I talk about old comic strips.
    Who is at fault? It’s hard to say. I think it’s the responsibility of us “old timers” (I’m 41, in this business these days, that’s old) to teach the up and comers about animation history.
    Hey, howsabout your next book be about the unsung heroes of animation?

  • I echo Max – I don’t use Facebook for joining groups…

  • ok there i made a scribner page, i’ll have to update it later when i get time, but it’s there!

  • Funny, I never considered looking up any of the animation legends you mentioned on Facebook. I think of Facebook as a place to connect with friends and family, not to be a fan of “this” or “that”. To be totally honest, I am a fan of a couple of my favorite bands, but that’s because they solicited the fans to join them on Facebook.

    Gee, Bill Tytla only has 5 fans? I think I’m going to have to go join a few fan pages. Harryhausen, Tezuka, Earle, Fleischer and Blair fan pages, here I come!

    BTW, where’s Miyazaki?!

  • 5tephanie

    By virtue of their chosen trade they are behind the scenes, their work is famous-but not perhaps “them”. I find this to be the perfect type of fame!

    I am not sure that Facebook has real relevance in terms of proving that an artist is appreciated, it might even be nothing more than a numbers game. I hit the “like button” even when I don’t, I consider it just being nice in the case of some of the things my friends post (fb breeds insincerity with the “like” button-fair game though-everyone does it, knowingly)…as far as becoming “fans” of particular people/things well after a bad day I might become a fan of “bad days really suck”, but a new day might bring about not feeling that way. It remains to be seen how fb will change the landscape of our culture over the long haul…in the mean time I don’t think anyone should be surprised by a lack of fan pages for animators on fb, nor should anyone have their feelings hurt for not having a fan page started on their behalf…I mean it could be worse, people could just stop viewing and enjoying their works, now THAT that would truly be discouraging…

  • Jeffrey T. McAndrew

    I too have noticed how absent many of the great animators, cartoonists, directors, voice actors, and artists are in the Facebook community. I’m a die-hard fan of Hank Ketcham and a few years ago when I joined Facebook I looked him up and found no results at all. I was surprised, but I figured I would take the initiative to make a fan page and get the ball rolling. Now I’ve managed to get a whopping 25 people including myself to join the group. I’ve done the same thing for a few other artists, with similar results. It just seems that nobody is interested in the rich history behind all of the pop culture we take so much for granted. E.C. Segar has no fans either. Maybe I’ll start a page for him tonight.

    I would think that of all people to want to keep these artists names alive, it would be their familes. I have seen a few very nice pages started for certain artists by their children and grandchildren. The family and friends of Joe Ranft have a nice memorial page set up for him if anyone is interested in that.

  • Smokie

    AWww….. But I like Grim Natwick :( Plus, is there a Milton Knight fan page?

  • As you may have noticed, there are basically two types of Facebook fan pages. There are ones that provide at least occasional posts with useful or interesting information about the subject, and ones that are just places where fans can get together and post about the subject. I’ve generally been shying away from the latter kind. I almost never go back to the page and read it and if the comments are mostly along the lines of “So-and-so rocks!!”, there’s not much point anyways. I don’t know how much it’s going to raise the profile of the artist; if I become a fan of some person my friends have never heard of, there at least as likely to ignore it as go and check it out. But I will take a look at some of these and see if they’re worth at least adding to my site’s fan page.

  • amid

    To clarify, this data is for classic animation artists. There are more fan pages for artists who started working after the mid-1950s, which was my cutoff point.

  • Jeffrey T. McAndrew

    OK, E.C. Segar now has a page. Who wants to join?

  • amid

    Jeffrey McAndrew – Not to spoil the fun, but Segar already has a couple fan pages. Search for Elzie Segar.

  • MJ

    I think the reason most old folks don’t have as many fans on facebook is that most of the people you listed are dead.

    If they were still kicking and were putting themselves out there – I’m sure they’d have more fans.

  • These groups exist because an individual started them. For instance, that’s my George Pal group in the list. If you notice an omission, take initiative and start the group!

  • Brian O.

    Is Facebook THE litmus test for gaging interest and popularity of classic animators?

    I can field the popularity of Oswald the Rabbit based on t-shirt sales at Hot Topic but that only tells part of the story.

  • I just joined the Segar page! Thanks!

  • facebook sucks
    I had a fan club on there with about eighty fans and I’m a complete nob. You know there are fan clubs for stuff like ‘toenails on the bathroom floor’ … it’s a way for idiots to waste their time

  • Obo

    How many kids today even see classic cartoons except on youtube. If it wasn’t for cartoon netowkr shows like the Tex Avery Show, The Chuck Jones Hour, etc etc shows that were around to entertain and educate I wouldn’t know many classic animators either

  • Dock Miles

    “I’m interested in understanding how artists from the early years of animation are remembered within the online community. The results aren’t particularly encouraging.”

    NO!! Say it ain’t so!

    Certain creators enter the Faceless Book Hall of Fame early on.


    Peter Pan


    Even Batman and Superman when you get right down to it — what is the proportion of people who know the character versus those who know the creator?

    Hey, who did create Tony Tiger anyway? The Michelin Man?

  • Ben K.

    Reminds me of all of those joke fan pages that have been popping up lately.

    “Can this pickle get more fans than Amid?”

  • Maybe animation fans who use facebook don’t really care about creating and joining groups.

  • squirrel

    As many said, it isn’t that critical if some artist who used to wonderful work isn’t remember on FB. FB is only one resource out of the all the other ways to get yourself known to the world. And frankly, I am annoyed by the countless clubs that get formed there! They don’t seem to serve a purpose.

  • Sunday

    The presentation of these various pages could be a potential factor in number of fans, me thinks. For instance, I’d join a Bill Tytla group, but I sure as hell wouldn’t join a “Bill Tytla is a God” group.

  • As a totally random reader here, let me just say that I find blogs like this one and others that devote themselves to animation as an art form are far more important when it comes to classic animation and its makers than something like Facebook. I’ve learned tons in the last few years here from actual historians, way more than I’d learn from a fanpage on Facebook. Honestly, keep up the good work here and don’t worry about the masses.

  • Jonah Sidhom

    I actually created the Ub Iwerks page about a year ago. I was surprised at how many people joined with absolutely no publicizing from me, but also saddened he didn’t already have one to begin with.

    But thank you for creating this list. A few months ago I did a quick search on some of the big names of animation but got quickly got tired of no results and gave up. This helps a lot.

  • TJR

    I just went and became a fan for a whole bunch of these guys (and girls)……except for that punk Disney! Heh! heh!

  • Kai

    There is a Nine Old Men fan page, which covers a few of the names you list as missing. Other than that, while you may not realize it, classic animation is very much a niche interest. If you were to look for minor film stars of the golden age, you’d get a similar lack of facebook appreciation. And in a worldwide fb community of, what, 400+ million, the numbers for those fan pages that do exist are minuscule and always will be.

  • “and that says a lot when nearly everything else has a fan page or group on Facebook nowadays.”

    [citation needed]

  • Kyle

    Don’t worry about Facebook fan pages or fan and friend counts. Facebook is a lot of navel gazing and time wasting. It’s sucking the life out of humanity. In Dec 2009 in the U.S. alone, Americans spent the equivalent of (roughly) 97,000 years worth of time on Facebook. Yes, 142 million people spent over 6 hours each on the site during that month. Imagine the good that could have been done had even a small portion of that time been spent volunteering, creating works of art and literature, pursuing scientific innovation, or just spending quality time with family and friends in person.

  • Thanks for posting this list. I had no notion that most of these existed. As a Hubley fan it was disconcerting to note that there was such a page and even more interesting to find that all of the images on the site were culled from my blog. Glad to oblige as long as the Hubleys get the attention, but I wish I’d known it existed.

  • One thing that might be skewing the numbers is the fact that these fan pages are just that, fan pages. I generally, though not without exception, will only “become a fan” if the page is somehow controlled by the person or group it’s about. The exception being if whoever’s administrating the page is doing a good job of posting content. Without having gone to any of these, maybe the newer talent are getting more attention simply because they’re more connected to their pages?

  • Boris

    Glen Keane has about 776 fans
    Pickle = 1,482,442 fans

  • Thomas

    To many cartoonists, their cartoon characters are people as well. The cartoon character is the star where as the cartoonist is their manager/agent. Harrison Ford is famous, but not many people really knows or cares for the agent or manager that got him started.

    Further more, my cartoon characters have just as much life in them as the person who walks passed me on the road. I consider them my friends or enemies or family or random extras…but to me they’re still people. Or maybe I’m just demented?

  • These numbers don’t surprise me. When people try to recall a famous song, they usually get the lyrics or song name, rarely the artist’s name. That applies to here also.

    And you’re right, animators are reclusive in a way. Unfortunately, because they drown themselves in their work, they forget who’s out there.

    And besides, let’s be honest, this industry is small. You’re not gonna get over 500 friends. A cartoon character? For sure.

  • BT

    Also, hip hop lyrics often have references to action movies or Marvel Comics characters, but very few rhymes about Disney legends like Marc Davis or Eyvind Earle. I’d like to see a study of this as well.

  • Keep in mind “pages” (the ones you can become fans of) aren’t supposed to be created by people other than the actual person, or an authorised representative.

    Obviously I know full well they very frequently, even usually, aren’t. But my point is there is an inherent selection bias away from people who are no longer alive or active: they’re not supposed to have pages!

  • Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’m friend-ing like a mad man!

  • I don’t become a fan of anything on Facebook. It just adds clutter.
    I just use Facebook to keep in contact with friends/acquaintances.

    I certainly want to keep animation history alive.
    But we the “appreciators” have to find ways of getting others engaged.

    We really need a web channel run by the Cartoon Brew that plays all the Golden Age cartoons and profiles the artists.

  • The problem with “fan” pages is people join and that’s the end of it. Nothing happens. People forget about it.

    I’m on a fan site for a former employer. No one posts, including ex co-workers, so I haven’t bothered to go back in six months.

    There’s more discussion and more to think about reading forums.

  • LOL XD

    LOL that isnt even the official Betty Boop Page and it has many Fans its just some random fake page xD