Swindle and Esopus

SWINDLE and ESOPUS

It’s always exciting to see animated films and animation artists receive recognition in mainstream art publications. Achieving this type of acceptance has been an uphill battle for many years, but it seems that nowadays, art publications are increasingly opening their doors to animation-related stories. For example, SWINDLE MAGAZINE, a top-notch art/culture quarterly with a heavy West Coast bent, has an interview with David Weidman in their latest issue (#4). They call him “one of the friendliest, most jovial 85-year-olds you’ll come across,” and having interviewed Dave for my 1950s animation design book, I can attest to the accuracy of that statement. Animation was an important part of Weidman’s career, but he also spent a lot of time producing his own artwork, including beautiful silk screen prints that can be purchased at WeidmansArt.com. The only downside to the SWINDLE article is that the writer isn’t particularly well versed in animation history so he’s unable to ask Weidman specific questions about his animation career and find out exactly what he did at UPA (and other studios like Storyboard and Hanna Barbera). There’s also some errors, like the chronology of when Weidman worked on the ill-fated John Hubley feature FINIAN’S RAINBOW. Pretty minor stuff. Overall, it’s great to see a classic animation artist receive an 8-page spread (and the back cover) of a classy publication like SWINDLE.

The equally commendable East Coast arts publication, ESOPUS, also has an animation feature in their most current issue (#5). No errors are to be found in this article because it’s written by John Canemaker. In the piece, entitled “Let a Thousand Drawings Bloom,” John examines a scene from “The Nutcracker Suite” sequence in FANTASIA, and discusses the contributions of the scene’s various artists including development artist Elmer Plummer and fx animator Cy Young. The piece, which includes a beautiful color sketch by Plummer and four pages printed on translucent paper to recreate the light table effect, serves as something of an ode to the painstaking, labor-intensive process of creating hand-drawn animation. Though hand-drawn animation is becoming increasingly obsolete at modern studios, Canemaker believes that animation on paper has an effect that today’s digital creations cannot replicate. He writes:

While much is gained using the new technologies, there is a certain sense of loss, too. There’s the touchy-feely aspect of artifacts that represent the solid residue of human imagination; they don’t exist in the digital world as they do in these thought-filled lines on tactile paper. By feeling the paper, holding it in one’s hand, one is able to get a sense of the artist and the artist’s mental processes, not to mention the effort that went into making the sketch.

Props to both SWINDLE and ESOPUS for publishing these stories and treating animation with respect. Hopefully we’ll see more magazines doing these type of animation stories in the future.