Animation World Magazine, Issue 2.4, July 1997
Phyllis Craig: A Woman of Many Colors (1929-1997)
Phyllis with the Emmy award Film Roman won for
the Garfield special, Babes in Bullets.
Phyllis Craig, was Film Roman's much beloved Color Design Supervisor and Internship Coordinator. She passed away quite suddenly on May 18, 1997 a few days after surgery for a brain tumor. Phyllis was a 45 year veteran of the animation industry. She started in 1952 at Disney as a painter on Peter Pan.. She then moved to the color key department for Sleeping Beauty and worked with the first xerox camera for 101 Dalmatians. Starting in 1964, she took time off to raise her three children, Randy, Brian and Kelly. She then rejoined the animation industry working for Hanna-Barbera, Marvel and lastly Film Roman where she headed the color key department. At Film Roman she worked on Garfield and Friends, The Critic, Bobby's World, The Mask, and many, many other series. In 1993 she was the first color key artist honored with an Annie Award nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in the Field of Animation from ASIFA-Hollywood for her work on the feature Tom & Jerry: The Movie.
Phyllis also created art galleries to showcase fine art by animation professionals. She was an inspiration to many young art students. She managed both Film Roman's and The Television Academy's internship programs, spoke at schools, provided tours and single handedly introduced many, many students to jobs within the industry. A founding member of Women In Animation and an active member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Phyllis was also President of the National Student Film Institute. In 1990, she received the Grimmy Award from the Los Angeles Student Film Institute for her devotion and service to animation education.
A caricature of Phyllis Craig by Mitch Schauer, used in
an actual episode of Film Roman's Garfield and Friends.
In memory of Phyllis Craig, Film Roman is dedicating its in-house art gallery to her memory. The dedication ceremony will take place on July 11 in conjunction with the opening reception for an exhibition of art work by animation legend Bill Justice. This event is open to the public and an RSVP is not required. The Essentials: July 11, 1997, 5:30 p.m. at the Film Roman Studios, 12020 Chandler Blvd in North Hollywood.
Another memorial to Phyllis has also been dedicated in the form of a scholarship. You may contact the below organization for further information or to donate a contribution.
Phyllis Craig Scholarship Fund
Women In Animation, Inc.
P.O. Box 17706
Encino, California 91416-7706
Phone: (818) 759-9596
Following are a collection of thoughts and remembrances from Phyllis' closest friends and colleagues.
"The first time I met Phyllis was in 1987 and I was immediately impressed by her energy and enthusiasm. That was the year she joined Film Roman. I am so pleased that this is the place where she chose to work for the next ten years. I cannot imagine this studio without Phyllis Craig and the influence she had on all of us.
Phyllis' love of and dedication to the animation industry was undaunted as she put her heart and soul into this business for more than 45 years. Her enthusiasm was contagious and as busy as we would often get, Phyllis always had the time to get involved in other worthwhile projects. She always had time for other people, especially 'her kids.' Phyllis is best known for 'her kids,' or the Interns she brought into the studio to help launch their careers. They are her greatest reward and the reason she earned the title "studio Mom". She offered guidance and support to so many young students, and her willingness to listen touched each of their lives on a personal level.
There is no question that Phyllis Craig's energy, her capacity for giving and her constant smile will be sorely missed. The impression she made on all of us at Film Roman will warm our hearts forever."
President and CEO
A newspaper article profiling Phyllis' "Touch of the Orient" art
show at the Film Roman Gallery, now being dedicated as the Phyllis Craig Gallery..
"Phyllis Craig was indefatigable in her dedication to art, whether it was initiating galleries, introducing the talent of young artists, lecturing or even preparing delectable food for receptions. No matter what endeavor, she was always in attendance with an aura of love, enthusiasm and gaiety. A quote from William Wadsworth's 1807 poem comes to mind. `And then my heart with rapture fills and dances with the daffodils.' If anyone could and did dance with the daffodils, it was Phyllis Craig."
Phyllis at work in the color key department at Film Roman.
"What is a Phyllis Craig? To me she was a mentor and a friend. She gave me a chance to learn a new field. She encouraged me to great heights. She was the most kind, considerate and passionate person I knew. Always here and always caring about all her studio "kids".
We went to movies, theater concerts, shared lots of meals, and many glasses of White Zinfandel together. I always looked for anything turquoise to buy her as that was her signature color. I also kept an eye out for her colored knee socks, another Phyllis trademark.
When I introduced her to my crowd, she always corrected me because I would say "This is Phyllis, my boss," and she would say "Hello, I'm Phyllis, Debbie's friend!" I'll always be especially grateful for the kindness she showed me and my family when my father was ill and passed away. There she was, at my mom's house, to comfort me.
If there is a heaven, I'm sure Phyl is there 'dressed to the T' with her favorite pin and matching socks, painting the sky turquoise, while drinking a glass of white Zinfandel and listening to big band music.
There is a big hole left in my heart, for I have lost a dear sweet friend."
Color Key, Film Roman
Phyllis as a little girl.
"It's hard to believe that Phyllis left us so suddenly. Her effervescence, her strength and energy seemed to be everlasting. How lucky I am to have been her friend. We met at the Walt Disney Studios many years ago. Her enthusiasm for the animation industry was apparent from the very beginning. The studio recognized her abilities and trained her in many departments. She was a valued employee and was an asset to a new industry. Phyllis never claimed to be an artist but she knew the art of making friends. She became an art patron, promoting, pushing and prodding artists to greater heights.
When Grim Natwick passed away, Phyl was called upon to evaluate his art collection. It was with the expertise of an old pro that she went through the stacks of his work. I was amazed at how professional this young girl had become.
Phyllis and her husband were ardent sailors, who soon became expert in handling boats and during their vacation times traveled the West Indies and the South Seas. They were always into new ventures whether it was raising a family, buying boats, running a restaurant or maintaining an art gallery they worked together. It was an enviable life.
Phyllis was responsible for promoting art shows at Hanna-Barbara, Hollywood Way, Toluca Lake, and Film Roman Studios, and was always interested in new talent.
It was typical of Phyllis to keep any hardships or sorrows to herself. We would, as friends, love to have protected that smiling, wise-cracking friend from some of the blows of life, but she would have none of that. Oh, we shall miss that gal!"
Truly with sorrow, and love,
"In 1972, Phyllis Craig was working as a final checker for Fred Calvert Productions. The studio was working on a picture and the deadline for which was fast approaching. There were scenes being painted and many more that needed checking.
I had been recommended to Phyllis and was hired to help in finishing the picture. I had done painting at home for years, but all the checking I had done had been inside the studios. Yet, Phyllis gave me about ten scenes to take home as a start.
All of the scenes were marked, but there were some questions about the animation. Phyllis was so helpful and so patient with my questions and each time I brought a batch of scenes back, she always complimented and encouraged me on my work. She took time from her frantic schedule to go over each scene with me.
I only worked with her for a period of two months, but it was one of the best experiences I had in the over 53 years I spent in the animation business.
Over the years that followed, I crossed paths with Phyllis many times. I was not surprised to learn how helpful she had been to many other people, most of them young people wanting to start an animation career.
I am sure that I and everyone who knew and came in contact with Phyllis will miss her greatly."
"The one memory I will always have of Phyllis, or the 'Studio Mom' as we came to call her, is that she was always there when I needed her. She helped bring me into this business, and as an intern I could turn to her with any question. Later, as I established myself in my career, it remained a comfort to know that she was still always around for me. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to know her."
Assistant Director, The Simpsons
"I owe my career to Phyllis. She gave me my professional start and did a lot of good for so many people like myself. She was such a wonderful person. I will be indebted to her forever and will miss her terribly."
Walt Disney Feature Animation
"I know that I'm not alone when I say that Phyllis was not only the single most influential person in my animation career, but also the most generous, kind and supportive mentor a person could ever hope for. Because of Phyllis' big heart, instincts, and open arms, dozens of 'punk kids' like myself were given an opportunity in a business where we otherwise might have never made it through the front door. Even long after getting my dream-job on The Simpsons, she continued to encourage, comfort and support me inside and outside the door of Film Roman.
Phyllis' passing is not only a loss to the existing industry, but also to the many kids who hadn't yet made it to her door. We can only admire and aspire to her generosity and faith in young artists, and remember the woman who made our dreams come true."
Character Layout Artist, The Simpsons
"I was one of the many artists who worked in animation that Phyllis encouraged and promoted in her Craig Gallery in 1985. She featured monthly receptions, always with clever themes that were unique to each artist, and served tasty refreshments to make each show special. My favorite of course was `A Touch of the Orient' - combining the talents of Jake Lee's watercolors, Betty Darwin's Chinese brush paintings, Marceil Ferguson with her Japanese koi paintings and bonsai trees, and my watercolors of China. Both artists and guests complemented Phyllis in her beautiful kimono. It was a real tribute to her ingenuity and enthusiasm! To be her friend for many years is special--to work with her at Film Roman studio the last few years a real joy."
- With Love, Barbara Sandifer Schade
"Phyllis' passion for life and animation inspired thousands. The day I met Phyllis, I was so impressed and inspired by her, I knew I wanted to be a part of the animation industry. She helped me get my first job here at Film Roman and I am forever thankful to her."
Character Layout Artist, The Simpsons
"Phyllis Craig was to the animation world what Florence Nightingale was to the medical one. She'll be remembered in legendary terms by her industry and in saintly terms by her friends and family."
Producer/Director, Universal Cartoon Studios
"Phyllis has been my friend since I was 19, at Disney. She was my mentor before the word was invented, and my social director. She was EVERYONE's mentor, social director and friend. Phyllis was simply wonderful."
Color Key, Film Roman
Phyllis Craig with friend Dave Master.
"I was a friend of Phyllis Craig for 42 years. I have worked in the animation field all these years with Phyllis. For the last 20 years I have been a producer/director at Marvel Studios, Hanna-Barbera, Graz Productions, and Prince Valiant (now Hearst Productions).
We each had three children--two boys and one girl for both of us. As our children were growing up, we spent many happy times together on weekend outings and also vacations.
I've had to sit and think about why I've procrastinated so long in writing this letter. It wasn't until this moment that I knew the answer. It is short. It's because I'm mad! I am angry that Phyllis isn't with us anymore. She was much too vibrant, loving and full of life to be struck down the way she was. She was planning her next vacation which would have been a trip to Greece. I had lunch with Phyl, Libby, and Barbie Schade the week before she collapsed. She was so weak I had to lift her in and out of the chair....and she was still working every day. I don't know how she did it! She said at the time there was something wrong with her brain, that it wasn't working right. We tried to assure her that it was just the shock of having broken both wrists at the same time. [Phyl had broken both wrists when she fell while jitterbugging.] Little did we know, life is so fragile. `In the midst of life, we are in death.' We all miss her terribly."
- Gwen Wetzler
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