The Internet animation community is struggling to understand and address a serious issue today: a series of tweets last night by Adventure Time storyboard revision artist Emily Partridge in which she identified artist Skyler Page, the creator of the Cartoon Network series Clarence, as sexually assaulting her. The incident has drawn a swift reaction from Cartoon Network. A spokesperson for the network told Cartoon Brew that, “Skyler Page is no longer an employee at Cartoon Network Studios.”
Partridge had been tweeting about the incident since Sunday, June 29, but did not reveal the name of her alleged attacker at the time.
On Monday, June 30, an illustrator named Maré Odomo, presumably a friend of Partridge’s, revealed that the individual was Page in the following tweet. (Partridge did not respond to a request for comment before publication. After the publication of piece, she wrote that she was unavailable to speak with Cartoon Brew today.)
After Odomo’s reveal of the name, Partridge began using Page’s name in her tweets, too:
Other relations of Partridge have also identified Page on Twitter, including Ryan Pequin, a storyboard artist on Regular Show who describes Partridge as “someone close to me.”
Partridge wrote on Twitter that although she had already spoken to Cartoon Network’s HR department, she decided to go public on Twitter because “discretion does not keep other people safe.”
The situation has involved many of the studio’s biggest creative figures, including Adventure Time creator Pen Ward, who met personally with Partridge last night after she spoke out on Twitter. During their meeting, Ward and Partridge discussed “creating some kind of online safe space for women is [sic] situations like this.” Ward also used a replica of E.T.’s hand to cheer up Partridge:
Skyler Page is not finding much support from his co-workers. Patrick Harpin, a CalArts classmate of Page and the former head of story of Clarence, went onto his Tumblr account today to call Page a “piece of shit,” and further claimed that he and other writers were more responsible for the development of Clarence than Page. Harpin is currently a storyboard artist at Sony Pictures Animation on Hotel Transylvania 2. Here is the full text of Harpin’s Tumblr statement:
“Clarence” Head-of-Story reaction
I was Head of Story on “Clarence” from the beginning.
Obviously Skyler Page sexually assaulted a female artist at CN. Skyler’s a piece of shit, and CN should give him the boot. Emily Partridge is one bad-ass chick for standing up to a guy who a lot of people wanted to cover up for. Skyler’s asshole behavior (though not yet sexual assault) was the main reason I quit the show more than a year ago.
I can’t imagine how fans of the show are feeling right now. But the reason you like Clarence, in spite of it’s creator, is because the “creator” had very little to do with the show. Despite what it says in the credits, Skyler never wrote a single episode of Clarence. It was created by the writers (me and Spencer Rothbell) and the talented board artists (people like Charlie Gavin, Derek & Diana). We took Skyler’s idea of “a fat dumb kid” and made a character out of it. Skyler mostly “kept the couch from floating away”, and read whatever lines we gave him. There’s been enough victims of Skyler Page, don’t punish the talented crew that actually raised Clarence.
– Patrick Harpin
Many industry artists have been speaking out on online forums, especially Twitter. Among them is Katie Rice (Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, Book of Life) who wrote:
Another artist at Cartoon Network, Steven Universe writer and board artist Lamar Abrams, tweeted the following thoughts:
There is no word yet on the future of Clarence as a Cartoon Network series, but the show is currently in production without its creator Page, who also voices the titular character. In light of the recent incident, however, the network will almost certainly have to revise their approach to promoting the series, which has now taken on uncomfortable layers of meaning. There will likely be much closer scrutiny at Cartoon Network’s Atlanta headquarters over the dialogue and behavior of the characters in Clarence so as to avoid uncomfortable parallels with the personal life of its creator.
UPDATE (Thursday, 9:20PM): Jeff Rowe, a personal friend of Skyler Page, has written a piece on Tumblr revealing more details about Page’s state of the mind during the period in which the assault occurred. Here is the full text of Rowe’s statement:
Hey everybody, I’m a close personal friend of Skyler’s, and the inspiration for the Jeff character on Clarence. I lived with Skyler for three years. I took the photo of him at the top of the cartoon brew article. Point being, I feel like I’ve seen a part of this story that not many are privy to. My goal in sharing this is not to discredit anyone, or downplay the seriousness of what happened. Skyler’s actions are abhorrent, and my heart goes out to the victim. As someone who is close to the situation I think it would be useful to present additional information about the incident:
Skyler is currently in the hospital receiving treatment for mental illness. Specifically a form of Bipolar 1 that results in prolonged psychotic episodes, not sleeping for days, and erratic, sometimes frightening behavior that mimics schizophrenia. On the same day the assault happened, Skyler also walked through the streets shirtless screaming at cops. I saw him try to smoke cigarettes through his nose and drink days old olive juice. He popped in and out of different characters, and answered questions with riddles. And the next day, when me and another close friend drove him to the hospital to get him treatment, I sat with him for hours in the Emergency Room as he sat strapped to a bed singing They Might Be Giants songs and talking like a cowboy. I don’t know if he was cognizant enough to see that I was crying. It was one of the saddest things I’d ever seen. Here in front of me, was a guy I had known extremely well, but was obviously “not home”. When I talked to the doctor and learned more about his specific illness, and that he would be coping with it for the rest of his life, it broke my heart. Again, here was someone who was like a brother to me, and I just got told he may never be the same again.
What happened was horrible, but the tone of the online conversation is painting Skyler as a calculating predator. I don’t deny what happened, but based on my experience, his actions were the result of a tragic bipolar (potentially schizophrenic) episode, and don’t reflect the thoughtful, considerate, kind hearted person I’ve always known him to be.
Again, I am not defending or excusing his behavior. I just hope I can provide context to this conversation.
The following Tumblr commentary comes from Adventure Time production coordinator Emily Quinn, who writes that Page’s erratic behavior and mental health issues were well known at the studio:
As someone who has dealt with mental illness both in myself and with members of my family, and as someone who has been watching Skyler continuously dig himself into a hole, I’m glad this is being talked about. I know people will be upset, but the goal of this is not to be stigmatizing for other people with mental illnesses. There are thousands of people with mental illnesses who would never hurt a fly. However, just like you can’t generalize that EVERYONE with a mental illness assaults other people (sexually or otherwise), you also can’t generalize that everyone with mental illnesses do not. Some people do shitty things regardless of a mental illness.
I’m not using his illness as an excuse, I’m not minimizing his actions in any way shape or form. It’s still a despicable thing that Skyler did (both this time and times before). However, people need to know what else has been going on. Skyler was put in a position of having his own show, let the power go to his head, and was completely unable to emotionally handle the pressure. He has had episode after episode, and the studio did not know how to handle it. They eventually took him off most creative aspects of the show, but not entirely. The first time he was hospitalized, hardly anything was changed when he came back. They just assumed that since he was out of the hospital, that it meant he was “cured.” I was LIVID. No mental illness magically gets “cured.” But because there is such a stigma around mental disorders, nobody higher up knew how to deal with it. That’s a problem.
I think it’s terrible that this happened to Emily. Awful. I hate that it took this happening for the studio to fire him. As a woman in animation (hell, just the world), I know what it’s like to not feel safe in your environment. My heart goes out to her and the position she is in right now, so hard.
However, now that information is public about the things that have been happening, Skyler’s mental state needs to be discussed as well. Hearing about this instance has been so difficult for everyone involved on a level outside of this assault. All of Skyler’s other close friends and family, many people who worked on the show, many other people in the studio have all been affected by this for months, years even. It’s important that people know that this has been happening too. This assault instance is the tip of the iceberg of a whole series of incidents over the last few years, and hopefully by talking about it we can raise awareness so things like this don’t happen in the future.
EDITOR’S NOTE:: The photo of Emily Partridge at the top of this post has been removed. While we feel that the use of the photo was merited and ethical under the particular circumstances of this story, we are responding to the wishes of the Cartoon Brew community at large who feel that the use of a photo was not respectful to the victim.