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An Archive Profile: The John Canemaker Animation Collection at NYU

John Canemaker explains the contents of his extensive newly created archives at NYU.

In 1988, I signed a formal agreement with New York University to house fifteen years worth of my animation research materials. On October 5, 1989, The John Canemaker Animation Collection opened to animation history scholars and students in a special collection known as the Fales Library, which is located within the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library at NYU in New York City.

John Canemaker.

My donation consisted of materials and data I had gathered through the years preparing and writing on animation art, artists and techniques in periodical articles, film reviews, and books, such as The Animated Raggedy Ann & Andy (1977), Treasures of Disney Animation Art (1982), Winsor McCay: His Life and Art (1987). Included were dozens of files containing interview transcripts, correspondence, news clippings and publicity regarding such diverse animators as Tex Avery, Alexander Alexeieff, Claire Parker, Oskar Fischinger, Chuck Jones, Otto Messmer, Winsor McCay, Walt Disney, Kathy Rose, Art Babbitt, Walter Lantz, John Halas, Joy Batchelor, Shamus Culhane, Tissa David, Caroline Leaf, Richard Williams, George Griffin, Suzan Pitt, Michael Sporn, Dennis Pies, Len Lye, and George Dunning, I. Klein, Bruno Bozzetto, Jules Engel, as well as others. Also included were fifty books, several of them out-of-print, over 200 periodicals, and a collection of original animation art, posters, 53 flip books, as well as production folders on my own animation filmprojects, both independently produced (i.e., Confessions Of A Star Dreamer, Bottom's Dream, etc.) and commercially sponsored (i.e., John Lennon Sketchbook , Yoko Ono Prod.; You Don't Have To Die, HBO, Academy Award winning documentary animation sequences; The World According To Garp, Warner Bros.) I also donated fourteen videotapes and over 100 audio tapes containing interviews with artists such as J. R. Bray, Shamus Culhane, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Art Babbitt, Otto Messmer, Terry Gilliam, and Len Lye, among others. This audio/visual material is housed in the Avery Fisher Center for Music and Media which is also part of the Bobst Library. A Growing Resource The Canemaker Animation Collection is a "living archive" in that I continue to contribute materials as I complete book and periodical projects and animated films. For example, in 1993 I donated research and interviews for a March/April 1993 Print magazine article I wrote on John Hubley's unfinished animated feature Finian's Rainbow. Other items I have donated include a complete publicity packet and magazine articles on Douglas Leigh, Broadway's electric sign "king," and publicity, production notes and interview transcripts with animators of Disney's Aladdin for my essay that appeared in Sotheby's 10/9/93 animation art auction catalogue. In 1995, I added to the Collection a file of production information on the CBS-TV Peabody Award-winning documentary, Break The Silence: Kids Against Child Abuse, for which I designed and directed animation sequences; the original unedited manuscript and documentation for my book Felix - The Twisted Tale of the World's Most Famous Cat (Pantheon, 1991); a file of data regarding an exhibit I curated and wrote the catalog essay for, Vladimir Tytla: Master Animator, at the Katonah Museum of Art (September through December, 1994). Again in 1996, I donated a large number of files on my recent books Tex Avery: The MGM Years (Turner, 1996) and Before The Animation Begins: The Art and Lives of Disney Inspirational Sketch Artists (Hyperion, 1996). Files include information on Albert Hurtor, Ferdinand Horvath, Gustaf Tenggren, James Bodrero, Kay Nielsen, Joe Grant, Tyrus Wong, Sylvia Moberly-Holland, Mary and Lee Blair,Eyvind Earle, Bianca Majolie, Ken Anderson, David Hall, as well as others, and interviews with actors and the director of the live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, used for my 11/24/96 New York Times article on the film.

Unusual items in the Canemaker Collection include a copy of Richard Williams' notebook on Art Babbitt's legendary 1973 London animation workshops; years of correspondence between myself and Disney master animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, and letters between myself and Academy Award-winning Danish animator Borge Ring, a knowledgeable fan and scholar of American character animation; transcripts of Disney director David Hand's 1946 animation lectures when he was starting a studio in England; a 1941 unpublished biography of Winsor McCay; Robin Allan's University of Exeter 1993 thesis Walt Disney and Europe; four large files of data on Mary and Lee Blair, including personal correspondence, tax forms, their 1941 South American itinerary and research for Disney's Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros as well as early publicity and interviews.

For An Appointment...

This rich resource of documents, graphic materials and information for the study of international animation art and artists is available to scholars visiting New York City by phoning or writing for an appointment:

Mr. Marvin J. Taylor Fales Librarian Elmer Holmes Bobst Library New York University 70 Washington Square South New York, N.Y. 10012-1091 phone: (212) 998-2596

It was my hope in establishing this unique collection, and now putting information about it on the web, that I could preserve this hard-won information and share my love and enthusiasm of animation to others around the world.

John Canemaker is a filmmaker and animation historian. He heads the animation program at New York University and his books include Before Animation Begins: The Art and Lives of Disney Inspirational Sketch Artists (Hyperion), Tex Avery: The MGM Years (Turner), and Felix: The Twisted Tale of the World's Most Famous Cat (Da Capo).

Animation World Network will publish the complete 21-page Finding Aid of Documentary and Graphic Materials in the John Canemaker Collection at NYU, within the Vault Archive section of AWN. This is now available to the public !

See also an article about John Canemaker in the December 1996 issue of Animation World Magazine,