Irv Spence.
Irv Spence.

Though the work that animators create is often exhilarating, the actual process of animating, which involves sitting at a desk for hours at a stretch, is not particularly interesting to the general public. In the past, when studio publicity departments were tasked with creating promotional stills of animators, they often posed animators making an expression in front of their mirror while drawing a character with a similar expression.

The mirror, it turns out, was not just useful to the animator’s own process but also to the photographer who wanted to compose a dynamic image of the animator at work.

It never occurred to me what a common motif this was until I collected a few of them on Instagram a few days ago. Looking at more recent publicity shots of 2D animators, especially from the 1980s and ’90s, the animator-making-an-expression-in-a-mirror publicity shot was largely phased out in favor of a more generic pose of an animator drawing at a desk, looking at the camera while drawing and flipping, and the particularly unnatural pose of holding a maquette while drawing.

So here’s a look back at legendary animators, hard at work with their mirrors:

Ollie Johnston.
Ollie Johnston.
Norm Ferguson.
Norm Ferguson.
Ken Harris.
Ken Harris.
Fred Moore.
Fred Moore.
Ward Kimball.
Ward Kimball.
Carlo Vinci.
Carlo Vinci.
Woolie Reitherman.
Woolie Reitherman.
Charles 'Nick' Nichols.
Charles ‘Nick’ Nichols.

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