Imagine a museum with an animation art collection big enough to create large exhibits on almost any topic... This exists in the form of an extensive private archive. Karl Cohen reports.
I magine a museum with an animation art collection big enough to create large exhibits on almost any topic: Disney, World War II propaganda cartoons, Russian animation art, or...the list continues. Probably the only collection of this kind in existence is not in a museum. It is a remarkable private archive in northern California known as the Glad Family Trust Collection. A Wonderful Collection Mike Glad, the owner of an auto muffler chain, has spent the last 20 years assembling an exceptional collection that covers the entire history of animation. He has been loaning major animation art exhibits to the Cartoon Art Museum in Boca Raton, Florida (formerly in Rye Brook, New York), the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles and other institutions. These have been large shows on a variety of topics including: Disney villains; the Gems of Disney; art from Fantasia; art from Snow White; art from the Fleischer Studio; watercolor studies for Bambi; a Bugs Bunny show; animation art from WW II; and a selection of rare cartoon posters for animated shorts and features. A Dumbo show in Florida featured storyboard art from each scene in the feature. "The Best of Soviet Animation" at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences featured rare items from the 1920s to present. "The Gems of Disney" was a pre-War selection that ranged from 1920s Alice shorts to Dumbo. He is presently working with a museum curator on a show of material from stop-motion productions. The exhibit will contain material from several countries and some will date back to pioneers including George Pal and Lou Bunin. The show will also feature modern masters like Henry Selick. Mike Glad got the collecting bug when he was a kid. He collected stamps, Lincoln head pennies and "a few works by obscure artists." He bought his first cels on a trip from Florida to Disneyland in 1956. He purchased three from the Disney Art Corner that were priced between $2 and $5. He tried to find more of these bargains on his next trip to Disneyland, but they were gone. Glad thought about collecting animation art again around 1980 when he saw several Sleeping Beauty cels in a gallery window in San Diego. He didn't buy any because he couldn't see himself spending $300-400 for a cel, but he did ask his sister-in-law if there were places to buy animation art in Los Angeles. Eventually she introduced him to Collectors Bookstore and an employee named Howard Lowery. Glad's first purchase from their catalog was a cel of Sleepy from Snow White. More importantly, Howard Lowery recommended that Glad read Leonard Maltin's Of Mice and Magic (1980). Glad says he has read the book several times and it and Frank and Ollie's Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life (1981) should be basic reading for anybody thinking about collecting animation art.
Glad's vision of what an animation collection could be came to him in the early 1980s when he purchased almost 100 works from Jerome K. Muller. Muller had organized "The Moving Image," a show of 101 works that toured about 30 museums and art centers from 1980-84. When Glad purchased most of this collection he realized this was the beginnings of an archive from which other exhibits could be organized. He slowly developed his plans for the themes of exhibits and as he learned more about animation, his vision changed and grew. An example of how his approach has matured can be seen in his collection of WW II art. At first this was a general category, but by the time he began to organize the show "Helping Win the War, the Art of Animation During WW II" for the Academy of Motion Pictures Art & Science (1992), he had enough pieces to fill five sub-categories of wartime art. His headings for the show were training films, films made to keep South and Central American countries neutral, home front films, cartoons about the war and educational films. An even closer look gives some idea of the richness of Glad's holdings. The first wartime category includes art from training films made by the military's animation unit at "Fort Roach" in Los Angeles (the former Hal Roach Studio). This part of the collection includes finished drawings and rough sketches for Private Snafu cartoons, two Trigger Joe cel set-ups and art from films that teach how to use the Norton bombsight and other equipment. Work from films made to bolster our friendship with our neighbors south of the border includes images from The Three Caballeros, Saludos Amigos and other films. Art from home front films comes from Andy Panda's Victory Garden, Falling Hare, Red Hot Riding Hood, Rationing, The Spirit of `43 and Der Fuehrer's Face. Cartoons at war includes images from Commando Duck, Pigs on Patrol, Skytroopers, Education for Death, Victory Through Air Power and other shorts. The WW II educational film category includes art from Disney's Water: Friend or Foe and The Winged Scourge. They were films once used to teach health and hygiene.
Much of this rare material would not exist today if it were not for studio employees who saved it from being destroyed. The Disney material was saved by a man told to toss the art out at the end of war. Glad says that much of the MGM Tex Avery art that survives was saved in a similar manner. A man at the MGM studio used to buy it from the trash collectors at the studio. The janitors made a few dollars saving Avery cels that were supposed to be taken to the dump. There have been several individuals besides Jerome K. Muller who have played important roles in building this collection. One was the Hungarian director/producer John Halas whose "Masters of Animation" exhibit featured art from around the world. Halas not only sold Glad much of the collection, he also gave him the names and addresses of many world-class animators so he could continue to buy work in this area. Another major collection Glad purchased was that of Vicktor Doudin from the former USSR. Doudin's archive covered Soviet animation art from the 1920s to the present. Segments of this collection had been exhibited in Eastern Europe and the USSR. Doudin now lives in the USA and works as an animator. David Ehrlich, who has been an ASIFA international board member for many years, attends most of the major animation festivals. He generally brings back a selection of new cels and drawings for Glad to consider buying. Herb Klynn, who was with UPA from the mid-1940s to the late-1950s, spent days talking with Glad about the importance of the studio, John Hubley and the other artists who worked there. Glad's UPA collection begins with color storyboard sketches from Hell Bent for Election (1944). There are also color models from Ragtime Bear (1949), the first Magoo cartoon. Glad has art from the UPA Oscar winners and other important works including the visually stunning Tell Tale Heart (1953). Glad says the art of UPA played a major role in shaping the aesthetics of the 1950s, yet it is undervalued as only a few collectors appreciate it. To better understand his favorite subject Glad has videotaped dozens of interviews with animators. He hopes to include clips of these interviews in future shows along with segments from the films from which the works of art come. He says a show isn't complete unless people see the art of animation in motion. Although Glad feels the golden age of collecting was from 1986 to 1991 when auctions were uncovering major works of art in great numbers, he still enjoys adding to his collection. Each year he tries to obtain art from the animated films nominated for Oscars. He also enjoys searching for works that fill in gaps in his collection. For example, he has yet to find an example of Warner Bros. art from the 1930s that shows the stars Bosko or Buddy. He is also looking for art from early Columbia cartoons.
Advice on Collecting
When asked for advice about collecting, he advises, "Knowledge is your most important asset." He says you must educate yourself about what you are considering buying. A few years ago he made a bargain basement purchase from an auction house in Australia. The work was listed in the catalog as a Felix the Cat image by an unknown artist and from an unknown production. They didn't recognize this as a color Felix from the Van Buren Studio in the 1930s. Glad suggests that people should consider buying inspirational studies, storyboard sketches, model sheets, rough and finished drawings and other works that are currently undervalued. He loves the rich colors of cels, but points out that they are just one part of a production. Trading work with other collectors can be a valuable way to add works to a collection. He usually has a few items in his collection that he is willing to make available in trades. He has obtained some pieces knowing someone else would be happy to trade for them. I know one well-known Oscar nominated animator that traded one of his drawings to Glad for a Tex Avery drawing. Glad does not look for financial gain when he buys works. When asked what advice he would give an investor, he says, "The easier it is to acquire a work, the less likely it will go up in value." He believes that very few works of importance are sold by the dealers that run showrooms that cater to walk-in traffic. He advises, "The best will get better faster than the second best." Proper handling of work should be a major concern for anybody collecting important pieces of animation art. Glad notes, "An original work of art can never be replaced," so be sure everything is handled with archival materials and make sure nothing is exposed to direct or bright sunlight. He warns that some people who have the best intentions do not handle works of animation art properly. Damage can occur. He has had professionals return cels scratched and with torn paint. Once he got back several frames that had grease on them as they were stored near the exhaust of a diesel engine. He says, "Nobody cares about your collection like you do!" Karl Cohen is President of ASIFA-San Francisco. His first book, Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators, is published by McFarland Publishers. He also teaches animation history at San Francisco State University.