New fundraising effort being led by creative executive Eddie Newquist, who is working with a small advisory board on the project, with Burbank a strong candidate for its eventual home turf.
Last week, California senator Anthony Portantino announced that he helped to secure $2.5 million of the 2022-23 state budget to begin development of a virtual and physical animation museum.
Following this first step, Portantino and his fellow proponents of the project are looking to fundraise even more, by way of outreach to studios and such groups as ASIFA-Hollywood - the largest chapter of the International Animated Film Society (ASIFA) - the non-profit that produces the annual Annie Awards for animation.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Eddie Newquist, a creative executive who’s worked on exhibitions and promotional tours built around the Harry Potter and Game of Thrones series, is leading efforts to find a space for the museum, potentially in the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena area. Newquist presides over an advisory board that includes former DreamWorks Animation head Chris DeFaria (Gravity, Ready Player One), Oscar-winning Frozen co-director Chris Buck, and former Disney exec and Iwerks Entertainment co-founder Stan Kinsey.
Newquist told THR that the idea for a museum came during a career day at a local high school about four or five years ago, where he attended as a guest with Portantino, Buck, and DeFaria. “It just came up in conversation -- the fact that, given so much of the history of animation has happened in and around Southern California, it’s tragic that there isn’t a place to celebrate that,” Newquist explains.
Years later, Portantino informed Newquist that California’s budget surplus enabled the state to ramp up its investments in the arts and preservation. Portantino then filed a formal request for the budget to include funding for the approved museum project.
Newquist’s early plans are to host gallery displays and exhibitions as well as events in a physical location, while a virtual component could reach those outside the state. The idea is to explore animation’s history and evolving technology but also offer an educational component for students.
He says that the aim of the museum is “to celebrate [animation] as an industry, but also to open people’s eyes and inspire young people to look at animation as a terrific visualization tool -- whether you want to get into science, video game production, [or] robotics. We want to make sure that this really is looking widely across the scope. I know that’s a tall order right now, but now is our opportunity to aim high and have big dreams.”
ASIFA-Hollywood for years had tried to enlist support for the development of such a museum; it planned to open a small museum at the org’s former Burbank headquarters, but that was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic. ASIFA-Hollywood executive director Frank Gladstone told THR that now that plans are again underway, it intends to add its vast trove of archival materials - from films and concept art to notes and production cels - to the museum’s collection.
Newquist adds that the $2.5 million from California’s budget will go toward hiring personnel to work on fundraising endeavors, and toward recruiting executive management and completing a “top-down review of possibilities.” Portantino says, “it was important for the state to step up early and send that message that we want to do this” -- stressing that these early moves will help build momentum behind the project.