NY Dispatch #1

New York

This past week I’ve been hanging around New York City on a business trip of sorts, though admittedly, business in my case is fairly enjoyable. I’m here to conduct research, interview artists and collect artwork for my upcoming Chronicle book about Fifties animation design. I won’t go into too many details now, since the book won’t be out until sometime in 2006, but it’s been very exciting to see the book come together these past few months and I’m really pleased with all the incredibly rare and beautiful artwork that’s going to be in this book.

Amazingly, I’d never managed to make it out to NYC before so I’ve been spending a few days checking out the city (mostly Manhattan and Brooklyn so far). I’ve read and seen so much about the place over the years that the city felt instantly familiar, an experience I’ve rarely had while traveling. I arrived in Brooklyn on election night and had dinner with the talented artist couple Celia Bullwinkel and Jim Campbell. We commiserated over the election results; fortunately, the food was terrific at the restaurant Lafayette which made Bush’s victory ever so slightly easier to digest. Also last week, I managed to hook up with the amazing Peter de Sève to work on a piece that’ll appear in a forthcoming issue of GRAPHIS. The issue will be out sometime in the first half of next year and will focus on both his illustration and animation work (including designs that didn’t make it into THE ART OF ROBOTS).

A hearty thanks to the prolific animation director Mike Sporn. Because of his generosity, I’m staying in the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg (for LA folks, think something like Silver Lake or Echo Park). He actually lives elsewhere, but his extra pad is packed with all sorts of cool animation books, including more volumes on Russian animation than I ever knew existed and Abe Levitow animation notes: a most excellent place to retire to in the evenings. Sunday afternoon I visited with Billyburg local Mark Newgarden and had a marathon session of viewing cool artwork and films at his studio. He’s been helping me with the Fifties book almost from the moment I thought of it, but until now we’d only communicated through email, so it was great to finally meet him. Be sure to check out his new book, the highly entertaining CHEAP LAFFS: THE ART OF THE NOVELTY ITEM. Mark also tells me that Fantagraphics will be releasing a book of his own art in 2005. Something to look forward to.

Oh, and one final note from NYC. Walking down Broadway this past weekend, I saw one of those stands that sell bootlegs of current movies. Front and center were copies of THE INCREDIBLES. The dealer, who identified himself as Big Tony, gave me the pitch. He explained that his bootlegs were transferred directly from the masters. In other words, if I’m thinking of an illegal movie purchase, he’s the guy I’d want to buy from. And he added, “I’m willing to go to jail to give my customers the best movies.” Even if he did conclude that last sentence by shouting, “Big Tony In Da House,” it was still a nice sentiment. I won’t say whether I personally purchased a copy or not, but the good news for Disney is that in the couple minutes I was standing there, INCREDIBLES was one of Big Tony’s best-selling titles.