New Blog: Animation – Who & Where

Old artists

Joe Campana, a film editor who works in animation, recently started a blog called Animation — Who and Where, and it has already become an indispensable daily read for me. Joe has done an incredible amount of detective work when it comes to biographical research on artists and their families, and now he’s sharing that info with everybody. Right now, he’s writing about the lives of artists who would have been celebrating their 100th birthdays this month if they were still alive. They include Johnny Cannon, Tom McKimson, Tom Johnson and Disney composer Leigh Harline. He also promises to identify the Disney animation artists playing softball in the footage recenly included on the “More Silly Symphoniesâ€? dvd. I can’t wait!

On a sidenote, wouldn’t it be amazing to have this biographical info available someday on a wiki, and to have it cross-referenced with a list of scenes and cartoons that the artists worked on, similar to what Alberto Becattini has started here. There are dozens of people out there, myself included, who have compiled plenty of original research, and if we pooled it together, it would amount to an unprecedented animation reference.

(website found via Hans Perk’s A. Film LA)


  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Esn Esn

    The wiki idea is a very good one. It can’t be done on wikipedia, of course, because no original research is accepted there, but there’s nothing to stop someone from starting a separate wiki project just for animation. Things would still need to be sourced, but the attribution rules could be looser than they are on wikipedia, so that blog posts or informal interviews would be allowed. Hopefully incorrect information would be corrected by people with first-hand contact. There would still need to be some way of guarding against inaccurate info, though – perhaps the condition for contributing would be revealing your real name?

    It could be maintained in several languages, too.

    In Russia, for example, there is a fascinating online animators’ community dedicated to sharing “animation folklore”. Quite a few of Russia’s most well-known animators and directors contribute to it, not to mention other people from various animation-related professions. People such as Konstantin Bronzit, Mikhail Tumelya and Aleksei Kotyonochkin (the son of the director of “Nu, pogodi!”)

    http://community.livejournal.com/anima_folklore/

    Perhaps the wiki should be a collection of chronological “stories” by people who knew or met the person, rather than a collection of encyclopedic biographies. I think that would be far more interesting and more fun to read.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive Biopedia is a public wiki for biographies of cartoonists and illustrators…

    http://www.animationarchive.org/bio/

    For an example of a really good entry, see Carlo Vinci.

  • Bill Field

    WHOA! This is really an amazing blogsite Amid, I hope he keeps the 100th birthday-100yr anniversary of animation combo going, I’m sure there are LOTS of 100 year birthdays on the short term horizon.
    I think Art Davis should be part of that club, albeit 2 years too late. Art was born in 1905, and passed away in 2000, at 95. He co-created Scrappy for Charles Mintz, but he was the most prolific animator of all time-seriously. He has more credits in animation,than anyone-EVER. He had 20 series that he was credited on debut THE SAME WEEK in 1966 AND 1967. Not to mention the 15, 16, 17, 18 series debut years. He worked for HB, but also up to 5 other studios all at once! He was active in the biz til his mid 80′s. Thanks for the great heads up, Amid!

  • tomN!

    I think it would be interesting to also know where animators once lived (as they mention in the Cannon entry) … My house isn’t far from where the original Hyperion Disney studio lot once was, and my house was built in 1929- so, I have often wondered if any animators may have lived around my neighborhood (or even in my house). I think a lot of us in the L.A. area might be interested to know who might’ve been around the corner.

  • amid

    Esn – Great suggestions! I hope if anybody does this, they’ll listen closely to what you have to say. I particularly like the idea of chronological stories. I’m not sure how that would fit into the bigger picture of each page, but it would be a valuable addition.

    tomN! – Somebody could do great work with GoogleMaps if they wanted and pinpoint classic animator homes in LA. That’s why it’s important that this info become available. As recent Internet history has shown, if raw data is publicly accessible, people will make interesting and creative uses of it. The first step though is to just make it available.

    Steve – I’m supportive of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, and Jerry and I both link to it on the Brew whenever we can to help make people aware of your work. But in the spirit of helping it become better, I have to say that the Biopedia is currently one of the weakest parts of the project. While you may call it a wiki by name, it is certainly not the type of wiki that I’m envisioning.

    There are specific software engines and protocols for how wikis work. The ASIFA Biopedia has very little of the structure of a wiki, which is spelled out here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wiki

    Largely, I think that’s part of the reluctance of people to contribute. Historians like Barrier, Campana, Korkis, Canemaker, etc. shouldn’t be expected to contribute their original research to an infrastructure that isn’t fully developed and designed for growth. Their info is valuable and deserves a solidly designed wiki structure where they can edit and add to their contributions from their own end.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    The biopedia is a lot more than a Wiki. The structure of the entries is the way it is because it fits into a much larger offline database. The entries form one third of our database… the other two parts are filmographic information and media files.

    The way it’s set up, you can search for an animator’s name, see the films he worked on, click to the filmographic part of the database and watch a quicktime movie of the film, and then click through to media to see high resolution drawings by that particular artist from that particular cartoon. The information is all cross referenced. Our database already measures in the terabytes, and is much too large to host online. We hope to be able to syndicate it to workstations at museums, libraries and ASIFA chapters all over the world. Stop by the archive sometime and I’ll show you how it works.

    The Archive is a LOT more than the blog. The blog is just the place where we report what we’re working on on any particular day. For each drawing or cartoon you see on the blog, there are dozens and dozens more in the database itself.

    We’ve had a lot of support for the Biopedia from the local colleges. Instructors are assigning names to their students as research projects. I add a dozen or so new names to the list every couple of weeks. Animation history is moving beyond just a few names of people who write books. The internet is allowing people all over the world to contribute. Anyone who wants to contribute listings to the Biopedia are more than welcome to. Just follow the format and post your info to the comments. I’m also looking for folks with a little basic HTML to help format the entries and prepare them for being added to the main archive database.

  • Bill Field

    When the upgrade to the internet occurs in about 18 months, you will be shocked at how much you wiil be able to do with the interembedding of all media forms and formats, that will truly be conducive to what you are suggesting-entries with authorship and author-locks- in all media forms- So there may be more video / author-read or reported entries, accompanied by fair-use amounts of footage for news/hisrorical/archiving data.

    Amid, it sounds more like you crave more intuitive and design driven interactivity, with the level of critiques and historical entries by some of the folks you mentioned with authorshop over their submissions as well as any artwork, video or animation accessible to the user.

    Steve, the Biopedia works for me now and I’m sure it will as you add pertinent blogs and entries from worldwide sources as you’ve begun, and continue partnering with scholars and authorities and animators, like your success with John K. and the 100,000 dollar animation course.
    It’s good to see the critical dialogue that’s needed to evolve our approaches in tandem with technology’s leviathan-like growth.

  • amid

    Bill – The Internet will obviously continue to develop but we’re not waiting for any ‘upgrade.’ The platform already exists to create a fully user-editable public wiki that can be contributed to and built upon by all. An offline historical database is fine to build, but it’s a wildly ineffective use of resources to build one in 2007.

    The success of any database is the quality and quantity of contributions, and private offline databases offer no incentive for historians/researchers to contribute to when instead they could share their materials online and reach hundreds of times more people.

    As much as I like the basic idea of ASIFA-Hollywood’s Animation Archive, they’ve got a backwards notion that you need to go to a specific location to access their information, whether it be their current office or in the future, a school or some other computer terminal that houses their information. That is completely against the grain of how the Internet is developing. Today, information has to be designed to follow the user whereever they are, not for the user to follow the information around. A public, easily accessible and editable TEXT wiki would have been a decent first step to showing they’re serious about building a modern and usable archive. If it was designed right, it would be fully integrated into their offline database so both would grow at the same time.

  • Mike Konczewski

    There already are a lot of articles on animators at Wikipedia. I know, because I’ve been writing them. I admit that, as an animation scholar, I’m not the same league as Jerry Beck or many of the other fine writers mentioned here, but I have made a start. I’ve been using some of the blogs Jerry and Amid mention as sources (that’s how I wrote the articles on Reiko and Okuyama), as well as other website I’ve found.

    Not exactly what Amid is suggesting, but I hope it’s helpful.

  • Bill Field

    Amid,
    Does the Archive have the resources to make your suggestion reality? If they do, your ideas should be considered, as they address current and longrange concerns for media accessiblity. The more chances we have to publicly discuss these issues, the quicker we’ll reach a quorum in the thrust to get this invaluable material in the hands of anyone who seeks it out. Thanks for the healthy dialogue on this most important subject of preservation, archiving, and disemination.

  • http://www.animationarchive.org Stephen Worth

    Two problems with doing everything online… filesize and copyright law.

    The database is going to eventually measure in the tens, if not hundreds of terabytes, with tens of thousands of embedded cartoons and hundreds of thousands of high resolution image files. If we put it all online, it would take servers the size of Google to push it all out to the hoardes of people who would be pulling in content from all over the world.

    ASIFA-Hollywood is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. There are exemptions in the Millenium Copyright Act for non-profit libraries like ours, but they don’t allow for unlimited distribution over the internet. It’s doubtful they ever will, but we’re not letting that limit us.

    Our blog is doing a great job of getting the word out there in bite size chunks that the internet audience prefers. The biopedia allows anyone anywhere in the world to pitch in and contribute. And the database is available free of charge to the general public at our archive facility, and eventually at facilities all over the world. Every day we are open, there are people visiting the archive and stopping by to volunteer. Students are here drawing until we shut the doors at night. The message is getting out and I’m pretty doggone pleased.

    I hope everyone with information will generously share it with the world through our project. No one has a proprietary handle on history. We should all do everything we can to get this important info disseminated as far and wide as possible.

  • Bill Field

    Amen to that–Brother Big Shot–Amen to that.

    Collectively, you, Amid, John K. and Jerry -(that sounds like an old novelty song title) have made inroads that will fuel the next century’s cartoon geniuses, afficianados and mavens. It’s the trickle in every direction theory. You and Amid agree on the most important point- share this passion to watch, create, and collect the unique art in motion known as animation, to some, cartoons, to most, with anyone who wants to…anywhere.

  • gary

    i’d like to make a few points on the need for a physical archive. it’s highly necessary for many reasons. first off, it’s a great place to meet and talk with like minded cartoon fans. if you visit the archive, you have the chance to not only see beautiful animation drawings on display, but original ren and stimpy storyboards, the famous artists manuals, rare books, magazines, etc. you can meet others in the animation community face to face, which you just can’t get in an online environment.
    by using the database, you can search for TONS of hard to find, unreleased, uncensored cartoons, while finding out everything you want to know through the database’s cross links system. everything you’ve wanted to see, and some things you didn’t even know existed will be paraded before you.
    i can’t begin to describe how beneficial the archive has been for me. i’m a volunteer there, and i learn so much just from being around the spectacular artwork i regularly see. not to mention i’ve met the family of carlo vinci, john k. numerous times, along with other cartoonists i’ve idolized for quite some time. on display is les clark’s original animation desk from disney. there’s an original ink and paint girl’s work kit, also from disney. original betty boop model sheets and sketches, the list goes on and on. there’s too many reasons to have a physical presence for the archive. if you ever visit, you’ll instantly see what i’m talking about. this concludes my public service announcement. thank you.

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