As a fellow member of ASIFA/San Francisco and a friend of Karl Cohen's for many years I am thrilled that he has received the 2008 ASIFA Laureate Award. Karl, a true Renaissance Man of animation, is a historian, notable collector of animated films, and author of many authoritative articles published in periodicals throughout the world. He is a professor of animation history at San Francisco State University and the author of Forbidden Animation : Censored Cartoons and Black Listed Animators in America. Last, but not least, he has been the President and guiding light of ASIFA/San Francisco for over over two decades. The ASIFA/San Francisco newsletter, which Karl edits and is the primary writer, is read by animation fans around the world for the wealth of information that he gathers each month.
Despite his busy schedule, our laureate is never too busy to ignore a request for information or to share a new film discovery with friends and colleagues. Bill Dennis, president emeritus of ASIFA India , considers Karl "a friend, colleague, and all-around 'prince of animation'. We all know Karl as a great writer and master of animation history. We know him as a man of principle and a staunch supporter of ASIFA. But, for me, his most enduring attribute is how he values, nurtures, and protects his friendships. What a rare quality!"
In the early 1970's Karl was part of the team of light artists that created mind-blowing visuals for Bill Graham's famous rock concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium. Later in the 70's and 80's he presented a weekly film and animation program at Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco's oldest alternative art space, where such well-known personalities as Father Guido Sarducci and Robin Williams got their start.
Karl combined his love of animation history and keen interest in politics in his 1997 book, Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Black Listed Animators in America, an invaluable reference which TOON IN . . . TO THE WORLD OF ANIMATION BLOG ARCHIVE calls a must for any serious student of animation. He is currently at work on a new book, Animated Propaganda During the Cold War, which will take an in-depth look at the political exploitation of animation on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Tsvika Oren, lecturer at Bezalel University and president of ASIFA/Israel remembers his first visit to Karl's home: "Never have I ever seen such a huge private collection of 16mm prints." He goes on to say, "For anyone addicted to animation, it is most recommended to have Karl Cohen as an animation 'pusher'. For many years now I've been one of the many addicts enjoying the prime stuff Karl generously distributes. Since it's such healthy stuff, I've been passing it on for years."
As much as his film knowledge and writings are appreciated around the world, his most substantial and sustained contribution to the San Francisco animation community is his continuing work as president of ASIFA/San Francisco, one of the oldest and most active chapters in the world, with monthly screenings of professional and student's work. The list of international film community members who have gone out of their way to visit Karl covers the entire world, and Karl never fails to have an ASIFA event to welcome them and share their talents with our members. Of course, this always includes one of our chapter's fabulous parties.
Karl's support of independent animators is legendary and best summed up by award winning New York animator Nina Paley: "There is only one Karl. I wish that we had one in New York! He is animation's best ally. Boundless passion for the art, mixed with intelligence, scholarship, taste, and the discipline to keep putting it in writing year after year. . . Like us independent animators, he is driven by his love of the art, not money. He wants us all to succeed, he wants animation to be seen and loved and respected. In everything he writes, he has only the progress, survival and preservation of our art as his goal. I love that man."
In spite of Karl's many activities, he still finds time to be a true friend to all of us who are lucky enough to know him. He and I have spent many hours talking about everything under the sun, but first and foremost sharing our love of animation. The only regret that I have about moving to Belgium is that I miss my daily phone chats with Karl.
Karl is my mentor, my editor, but first and foremost he will always be my dearest friend. It is very fitting that Karl Cohen join such illustrious names in the world of animation as Karl Zeman, Bob Godfrey, Raoul Servais, and Normand Rogue as an ASIFA Laureate.