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The Celebrification of Animators

The inevitable has happened. Fuck Yeah Animation Bosses is a Tumblr for “anyone and everyone who feels a little bit tingly in their pants when they hear/see/touch a person in the animation community.”

Cartoon Brew has occasionally received flack due to writing about the personal lives of animators, but the people who complain are missing the big picture. The shift toward the celebrification of animators has been rapidly gaining steam for at least a decade. To the younger generation, the animation artist is no longer a private figure who works in anonymity, but rather a public figure who is revered and discussed, scrutinized and worshipped.

Animators themselves feed into the trend by releasing videos of themselves to the public, appearing in fashion magazines and engaging with their fans on platforms like Twitter, Facebook and their personal blogs. In the 1990s, if you enjoyed watching a certain piece of animation, the only way to communicate with its creator was to write and post a fan letter to the artist. Today, if you have something to say about the latest episode of Adventure Time, you can reach out instantly to its creator Pen Ward, not to mention the rest of the show’s crew, on their personal Twitter accounts.

It’s true that historically animation artists have been anonymous figures. It didn’t matter whether you were one of Disney’s Nine Old Men or a lowly inbetweener—you were guaranteed to be a nobody as soon as you left the studio. This became evident to me while I was researching my forthcoming biography of Disney director and animator Ward Kimball and was going through his fanmail from the 1950s and 1960s. Ward received quite a bit of it, but none of it was for his animation work. Ward was only known to the general public for his efforts as a jazz bandleader and operating a railroad in his backyard.

It wasn’t until the late-1970s, after he had already retired from Disney, that the general public started to gain an awareness of his work as an animator. If we had to pinpoint a specific moment when the age of the celebrity animator began, it would have to be the publication of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston’s book The Illusion of Life in 1981. Following that book, we were well on our way to where we’ve ended up today.

The evolving dynamic between animation artists and their fans doesn’t mean that everyone who works in animation has to become a public figure. The choice still lies with the artist. An artist like DreamWorks designer Nico Marlet manages to keep a low-profile despite his huge fanbase. But that is no longer the norm. For artists today, being recognized as a public figure requires far less effort than it does to be private and anonymous. In other words, blogs like Fuck Yeah Animation Bosses are only the beginning.

Frank Thomas and Mary Blair

John Kahrs

Brittney Lee

Lorelay Bove

Mark Henn and Tony Bancroft

Nancy Beiman

Mary Blair

Glen Keane

Eric Goldberg

  • Lauren

    My friends: “Benedict Cumberbatch!”
    Me: “John Lassetter!”

  • Glen might want to consider upgrading his ADT after this.

  • Jonathan

    This has got to be a parody account, it’s just too over the top. It’s like making a creepy fawning fan page for investment bankers.

    • I can confirm that this is a parody account, they fact that it was taken seriously in this article is so weird. Whoever wrote this obviously has little concept of what it was supposed to be about or who the audience are.

      • There are hundreds of other people on Tumblr, DeviantArt, Twitter and elsewhere gushing over and celebrating these artists in a similar manner. So whether this particular Tumblr is a parody or not doesn’t alter the point I’m making. And even if it is a parody Tumblr, it serves the point well: there is so much public recognition of animation artists nowadays that people feel compelled to lampoon them.

        • Roo

          Most of these artists pictured have promoted relentlessly themselves via blogs, or perfect passing of the wand 1970’s timing in the industry. It is funnier than educational because it makes fun of the celebrity status the artists have created for themselves.

        • Jonathan

          Actually Amid, I believe the opposite is true. A parody Tumblr like this is only funny if the animators are obscure and unknown to the general public. I don’t even know who half these people are. If they were truly widely known and worshipped across the net, as you suggest, there would be no humor at all in something silly like this.

  • If anyone here follows the MLP fandom, this is especially true. It’s very easy to interact with the writers and storyboard artists on the show.

  • Holy crap…I’m dumbfounded by this. Of all the stupid time-wasting, insular bullshit on the internet, this is the stupidest and most pathetic.

    • Believe it or not, this is progress. These kids recognize skill and craft, while the average kid fawns over unskilled entertainers like Rihanna and the Biebs.

      • Luke

        At least they haven’t done one for Seth MacFarlane … Yet

      • Toby

        Fawning over anyone (skilled or not) as if they were a god, isn’t progress in my mind. I’m sure kids call Beiber ‘perfect’ so how is suggesting that Mark Henn and Tony Bancroft are ‘Perfect Human beings’ much different?

      • Martin Juneau

        Coeur de Pirate can be also listed as a unskilled performer that no one who actually know their craft can carry on. Artists of today gets know much faster thanks by Internet and socials sites but it don’t mean they understand their own craft.

      • axolotl

        That’s cool and all. The next step is to stop fawning and do your own thing!

      • What progress are you referring to? Animators being worshipped like pop stars? Kids worship pop stars based on hearing the same kind of song played over and over again, just as the dudes who made these memes blindly worship Pixar and Disney, who…lets see…have been telling the same story over and over again in every animated feature for the last 20 years. They don’t recognize this as art. It’s a blind programmed response to what they’ve been fed since childhood about what a cartoon is supposed to be. They’re Otaku for American animation. I respect a lot of these animators posted. But what’s this expectation that they should be worshipped like Jesus or Tom Cruise? It’s a blessing in disguise that some of these master animators/artists live in general obscurity from the general public. Most of the big celebrity guys like Seth MacFarlane, or John Lasseter, or even Brad Bird became major celebrites once they GOT AWAY FROM ANIMATION. People no longer associate Brad Bird with what animated feature he’s going to direct next. The public now wants him to direct fucking Star Wars. How’s that progress for animation? Promoting these animators as gods is bad…it’s a pipe dream…it’s an illusion that will attract fewer artists who actually have something in this medium as opposed to those young artists who desperately want to be Milt Kahl, or Brad Bird, or John Lassater, when they should concentrate more on what they want out of their work and what they want to say about life. Most of these animators worshiped made their mark, but only because they spent their careers working for someone else. God, I love Harryhausens work too, but he’s also worked on a lot of shitty B movies. We can admire and respect these people for their work. But even joke humor like this gets young animators worshipping a golden calf as if working in the animation industry is plagued with fame and riches. Its not. And it shouldn’t be. Just because most animated features are box office smashes doesn’t mean they’re good. The public is only responding to their expectations for what they think an animated film should be, and it’s exactly what the major studios play into to get into people’s wallets. No matter how differently the film is dressed, its almost always the exact same story. Posters like this glorify all the things that are wrong with our field to begin with. So if your a young artist or someone who wants to dedicate their life to animation, John S. is right. These posters are not funny, their a bullshit waste of time. Don’t get sucked in.

        • Nah… I think you’re taking this too seriously. For once people are making stupid jokes about stuff that is worth, not like guys who give out jobs for pointless retarded past refs *ahem*family guy creator*ahem*
          The memes may be obsessive instead of funny, and some are even pointless (you don’t need a meme were Brad Bird is saying “I’m fucking awesome” because I think he’s old enough to say it all by himself) but don’t worry, they’ll get tired of that- they’ll either stop or have to be more creative. There are also some pics I’ve never seen before! Some of the choices are funny so I have my hopes on it– GTFO Eric Goldberg’s expression made me laugh and “All Dons go to heaven” too.. even a few are sweet. Roger + Anita’s rubbing their noses as a reply or the simple pic of Chris Sanders + Dean. They’ll have to be funny at some point, at the level of crazier memes out there. Fry’s squinting expression still cracks me up and I even don’t know why. And I’ll def use Pete Docter’s pic nex time I want to approve something!

          I think this is “just” an animators meme tumblr.
          Animators being treated like celebrities… I agree with you but I think we should discuss that in a different article.

      • Whoa whoa whoa whoa, Amid. Step off the Biebs!


  • If the publicity leads to more clout or money for animation artists, then I’m all for it.

    • Sarah J

      Agreed. Even if one thinks it’s creepy, it’s probably not bad for the industry.

      • Rezz

        I doubt the people who will “give more monay” will ever see this or understand what it means. Oh interweb…you stay classy.

  • Nik

    Like most things on Tumblr:
    Waste of time?
    Collosal waste of time?

    • 4 min in photoshop to stick some impact font on a googled image and 7 seconds for someone else on tumblr to be mildly amused by it and scroll past or click reblog is not exactly ‘collosal’…

  • We’ve had the cult of the Director, why not the animator, too? Who’s up to build a squashy memorial to Jim Tyer?

    • For years I’ve contemplated getting a T-shirt with one of his particularly insane-looking drawings with the slogan “What would Jim Tyer do?”

  • Pedro Nakama

    I still have more respect for someone like Ward Kimball or Ollie Johnston for building railroads in their backyards in their spare time.

  • Spencer

    That’s the scariest picture of Eric Goldberg I’ve ever seen.

  • wever

    Amid …………. posts about ………….. Tumblr ………………… image macros. O _ O

    I admittedly do find these amusing.

    Hey, we have a FORMER age where people saw animators as celebrities! It was called the early 90’s!

  • Marc

    Hey man, not all of us(current generation of students) are crazy! It’s a weird feeling looking at stuff like this – as if they’re just not getting it.
    By all means I look up to great artists, and aspire to work like them, but to treat them the same way as celebrities who are famous-for-being-famous is horrible in a way.

    Though I think “fuck yeah animation bosses” is a parody of the ‘celebrity animator’ thing, given how far they push it.

  • This is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen.

  • Toonio

    For me only those who pass their knowledge onto others deserve all the stardom they can get.

    You should know who I’m talking about as there is one in every family cough, cough, *smoochers* sorry I’m fine now.

    • The person that runs this also made a facebook fan page for Mark Henn some years ago and Mark’s mother and family members were so happy about the page they left comments praising it!

  • Jorge Garrido

    This is amusing, but it’s strange is mostly Disney animators.

    What, no love for Sally Cruikshank?

  • s.w

    Certain parts of the Internet do have a particular over-the-top argot that can make it difficult to seperate parody from sincerity – often the two are intertwined. Whatever this is, I’ll take it as a reminder of the widespread interest in animation, bringing in new fans and future animators from even the most) unexpected quarters.

  • This is the funniest damn thing I’ve seen in a while.

    I have to assume the folks putting this together genuinely appreciate the artists and are merely exaggerating their admiration to ridiculous levels.

    Besides, if you think this is bad, you should see what Tumblr has to say about “Supernatural.” Or better yet, don’t.

    • They people behind this blog do love them genuinely, they inspire them and this is all just a little bit of fun! Only a few people who come across it will know who the images are of anyway.



  • Fuck yeah lighting technicians 1958 – 1976

  • I know the person that runs this blog, they are a professional animator and this is all done in humor taken from places like ONTD.
    This article is taken out of context. Let’s be honest, is there really any demand for animator memes? This is an insular project that a few people sometimes like to glance at, it’s not a major force sweeping the net.
    Secondly, I don’t think anyone here understands the humor behind it, internet memes are complicated and there is a type of humor in them that derives from earlier ones and.. basically you need CONTEXT to get the humor in the first place… otherwise I can understand that it looks a bit weird!

    Lastly, I noticed this post…

    This website enjoys illustrations of Lasseter half naked but frowns upon and takes way too seriously a little blog with animation-themed parodies of internet memes?

    If you don’t want to see images of animators, praised by people that love and are inspired by them, why are you even reading this? Why read articles on any animation website at all if you don’t want the animators behind the scenes to get some recognition, even if it is in a way that you might not understand straight away.

  • Khalid al Dakheel

    I started my own Twitter profile in the beginning of 2012 and almost 2000 followers now. Having said that, I don’t really encourage animators to be on the spot. For me, communicating with the fans on social networks can affect my productivity badly. That’s why I try to make the profiles formal. Who agrees?

  • Matt Sullivan

    I got into animation precisely because I don’t want anyone following me around with a camera. If you want to be famous, be an actor. I think people have forgotten how important privacy and anonymity really is.

  • lola

    It took me 5 pages to get to a picture of Miyazaki squashed between Brad Bird and Lassater? Please

  • DJ Scott

    Am I the only one here that see’s this for what it is? It’s a couple people who obviously know their animators having a little bit of fun making memes. There’s no need to get this worked up over something that’s not intended to be taken seriously.

  • Floyd Norman

    Thank you, DJ Scott. Finally somebody makes sense.

  • We do want animators to get recognition for their work. But not like this. To the naysayers who want us to stop taking these images so seriously…the one thing you may be right about is that these images are taken out of context. And really, if this is supposed to be parody, in what context is it supposed to be taken in and by whom?

    You might want to take a moment and listen to some of the people who are repulsed by this. There are young naive artists out there who will take these images seriously as fan worship. It’s panders to their own insecurities about themselves, putting their idols up on unreachable platforms instead of allowing themselves to bring their idols down to their level and ask…where did those people start? What made them who they are today? How did they find their inspiration, and what can these great artists teach me to find it on my own?

    There are a lot more young animators in the industry coming in through places like trade schools that teach them the tools, but with a very limited understanding of their own artistic voice. They are like a lot of us who grew up as kids on Disney or Pixar with dreams of becoming an animator, but without understanding their calling as artists, they go for the straight path, and are trained at these trade schools to create formula animation (which is part of our current problem with every animated film having characters that move and act exactly the same way). And a lot of these young guys come from backgrounds where the only things they’ve watched are Disney/Pixar films, or whatever Cartoon Network/ Nickelodeon shows they grew up with. They’ve never watched a Frank Capra film or a John Ford/ Billy Wilder movie. They’ve never studied Laurel and Hardy. Most of them couldn’t tell you who Paddy Chayefsky is. These idols/gods they’ve spent their lives worshiping in the images above are all they know about their artform, and they blindly worship them without understanding what really made those people who they are. These young animators are here NOW working in the industry. I’ve met them! They’re all over the place. I get why you and others on here would want to defend this simply as stupid humor. But we have no idea what this is supposed to be satarizing or what the humor is supposed to be. Did the guy making this think these artists have bloated egos? Is he making fun of the current students who worship these artists? Did he expect a lot of us to be repulsed by this?

    Regardless of what the intention, these images will have an effect on someone, a young kid who will look at them and never believe they have any self worth or a unique vision of their own compared to those who came before them.

  • Hmm. I thought many of these images were just supposed to be funny.

    We’re expanding our niches. The number of people who get a joke about Glen Keane is simply much greater than it used to be. Lets celebrate the new levels to which we can share all our fun animation knowledge instead of shaking our heads in disdain.

  • Uh, Tony is FAR from perfect. Just setting the fans straight on that one. (Sorry Tony.) Mark Henn, well, yes he is.

  • iseewhatyoudidthere

    From the looks of it, the tumblr just started and doesn’t seem to have any sort of web presence. If I didn’t know any better, I would say that Amid is *trying* to make it popular by drawing attention to it, just as he drew more attention to “My Little Ponies” than it already had.

  • Viola Eden

    This is a parody blog. It’s just silly memes, nothing that will cause permanent damage. Geesh.