San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum

Rod Gilchrist profiles San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum, which is dedicated to conserving and presenting cartoon art, as well as nurturing art appreciation.

Disney's Captain Hook, a `Disney Villain.' Courtesy of Cartoon Art Museum.

The Cartoon Art Museum is a 14 year-old non-profit museum in San Francisco, California, USA. The mission of the museum is to collect, preserve, study and display to the public significant examples of cartoon art. The Cartoon Art Museum is dedicated to supporting the community by showcasing the entertainment found in the awe inspiring wonderland of cartoon art, and the unique educational opportunities that this art presents. Cartoon art reveals our social, economic and cultural history unlike any other illustrative art. It reflects our language and our lives. It shows us what we looked like, what we laughed at, what frightened or outraged us, and how we have, or haven't, changed.Why Cartoons? Cartoons are artful, provocative and educational. Above all else, they are truthful about human beings, life and the human spirit. Over time, generation after generation, they become a collective memory of our civilization as individuals, as cultures, as societies. The Cartoon Art Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving and exhibiting this unique art in all forms, although it focuses primarily on original comic strips, magazine cartoons, comic book illustration and animated film art. The museum exhibits original drawings, paintings and cels (as opposed to reproductions) so that the public can gain a greater appreciation of their rich aesthetic qualities, as well as their historic significance. Currently, the Museum has an archive of roughly 5,000 pieces which are being carefully catologued. Two special exhibitions are on display to the public.

Art from HBO's Spawn by Wild Brain. Courtesy of Cartoon Art Museum.

For young and old alike, the museum fosters an experience that is rewarding to share: the appreciation of cartoon art and its creators. Through evenings of discussion with interesting visiting guests, like anime experts Frederik Schodt and Gilles Poitras, to benefit auctions, exhibit opening receptions, guided exhibit tours, cartooning classes for kiddies and the Sparky Awards, the Cartoon Art Museum is proud to serve the community by conserving and presenting cartoon art, as well as nurturing art appreciation, while helping our community celebrate this vital part of our cultural heritage. This versatile vocabulary of images, ranging from editorial cartoons to comic strips and comic books, magazine illustrations to animation, is enjoyed by hundreds of millions of people everyday in virtually every country of the world.

The Cartoon Art Museum was established to provide an internationally recognized center where scholars, educators, collectors, appraisers, publishers, cartoonists and the public could meet, conduct research and exchange ideas. Of paramount importance is its establishment as a truly accessible resource and one in which the general public feels invited to participate.

A Zap Comics cover by Robert Crumb from one of the museum's past exhibits: `Out of Chaos: The Art of the Brothers Crumb.' Courtesy of Cartoon Art Museum.

Our current exhibits are: 'Disney Villains' and 'WildBrain: The Art of Animation.'

From the collection of Bay Area Disney animation aficionado Mike Glad, 'Disney Villains' features original drawings, sketches, and animation cels of Disney Studio's greatest meanies: scheming Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty; the odious Cruella DeVil from 101 Dalmatians; Snow White's Wicked Queen; menacing Jafar from Alladin, and more. Disney's villains have been among the most potent characters in American popular culture. Beginning with Peg Leg Pete in 1927, Disney's first animated "bad guy," every generation in the 20th century has cheered, booed, or shivered in fright at a Disney villain. But what we see in the movies is just the end result of the long, involved process of creating a successful character. It starts with drawings and sketches from a basic visual idea through successive steps of sophisticated development.

These magnificently expressive drawings stand alone as art. The Disney Studio's stable of artists included some of the finest illustrators of their day. Kay Nielsen, for instance, an important contributor to international graphic design in the 1930s, was part of the team that created the unforgettable Chernobog, the Dark God in 'Night on Bald Mountain' in the legendary Fantastia. The exhibit at The Cartoon Art Museum features a number of extraordinary drawings of Chernobog, as well as the Dinosaurs from 'The Rite of Spring,' and other moments from Fantasia.

One of the museum's upcoming exhibits will feature `The Art of Matt Groening.' Courtesy of Cartoon Art Museum.

'WildBrain: The Art of Animation' spotlights the local animation studio that has created Fern Gully 2: The Magical Rescue, Spawn (HBO), Clio award winning commercials for Nike and Coca-Cola and their latest project, A Dog Cartoon. The exhibit is entertaining, educational and highlights the production development of animation -- from early conceptual sketches and storyboards -- to expansive painted backgrounds and cels -- to the final print and video.Wild Brain's hilarious short film, A Dog Cartoon, received critical acclaim and was selected for screening at several venues including the New York International Children's Film Festival, the National Gallery in Washington D.C. and ASIFA-East, where it garnered a prestigious animation industry award for excellence. A Dog Cartoon is currently being developed into a television series and is a feature of the exhibit.

Contact Us

The Cartoon Art Museum is a 501 (c)(3) not for profit corporation dedicated to enriching the cultural life of San Franciscans and the world. Hours: Tuesday through Friday from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm; Saturday from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and Sunday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Admission: $5 for adults; $3 for students and seniors; $2 for children 6-12; and free for children under 5. Location: 814 Mission Street, Second Floor, San Francisco, California. The museum is available for private functions.Call (415) CARTOON for details, or visit our website.Rod Gilchrist is curator of the Cartoon Art Museum.