Quasi at the Quackadero Quasi at the Quackadero

In this ongoing series, we profile the most interesting independent animation filmmakers working today — the artists who, through short films and other projects, change our ideas of what the medium can do.

This week we’re looking at the dynamic, blissfully bizarre, and often unsung work of legendary U.S. animator Sally Cruikshank.

In a paragraph: Vivid, eye-popping graphics fusing fantasy and early cartoon iconography with bizarre stories and characters. Cruikshank’s work is an intersection between early animation, underground comix, and surrealism that explores the full potential of the medium, giving us a world where anything is possible, where conventional borders and boundaries have no place. Many a modern animator could learn from her free-spirited creations.

Where to start: Quasi at the Quackadero (1975). The film that put Cruikshank on the map hasn’t soured with age. A cross between psychedelia, the Fleischers, and Ub Iwerks, Quasi is a bizarro sci-fi-ish tale about two ducks and a robot that go to an offbeat amusement park where they dabble in reincarnation, time-travel, and telepathy.

What to watch next: Make Me Psychic (1978). Another sewing of surrealism and early animation with a sort of hippie/pscyhedelic vibe, this time featuring a duck who buys a psychic device at a novelty store in an alternative universe.

Other key works:  Connie Shoes (1972), Ruthless People opening credits (1986), Face Like a Frog (1987), From Your Head (Sesame Street, 1996)

Influences: Max Fleischer, Winsor McCay, Dr. Seuss

Says: “I think I have a different concept of motion than most other animators. One thing that bothers me about so many contemporary animators is that they’ve learned a language from other animators. You see the same hand movements, the same ‘blink’ ‘blink’ ‘blink’ when a character asks a question. Too many animators don’t try to picture the dynamics of movement, to use it creatively. I’m not that great an animator per se, but I do think I have a sense of motion that makes for an offbeat view of the world.” (“The Short Life of Sally Cruikshank”, Starlog Presents Comics Scene #7, January 1982)

Currently working on: Cruikshank now does gouache paintings which can be seen on her Facebook page and purchased on Etsy. Her last animation work was done for a segment of the Spongebob Squarepants episode “The Legend of Boo-Kini Bottom” (2017).

Pictured at top: Quasi at the Quackadero

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Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson is a writer and Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF). Robinson has authored thirteen books including Between Genius and Utter Illiteracy: A Story of Estonian Animation (2006), Ballad of a Thin Man: In Search of Ryan Larkin (2008), and Japanese Animation: Time Out of Mind (2010). He also wrote the screenplay for the award-winning animation short, Lipsett Diaries.