Two animators I know

Back in the days when I was a graphic design instructor at Pittsburgh Technical Institute, I had a student who was dying to be a Disney animator—Pete Mekis.  Pete lived and breathed Walt Disney.  PTI was designed to turn out graduates ready for entry positions in graphic design, not necessarily for animation careers.  Pete was dead-set on animation, though, so I told him he’d need 2 portfolios when he graduated: one for graphic design and one for animation.

One way I was able to help Pete was through a lucky circumstance.  I had a friend from art school days, Will Finn.  Will and I had attended Art Institute of Pittsburgh ‘way back when and like Pete, Will was into animation.  After graduation Will headed out west where the animation studios are.  Will always was a fantastic drawer and he got a job with Disney.  If you saw Aladdin, you’ve seen Will’s work on the parrot Iago.

Anyway, after I got in touch with Will, he generously took Pete under his wing, doling out plenty of constructive criticism and advice.  Will  gave Pete a tour of Disney Studios when he flew out there.  The crit & advice were given through typewritten letters.  Each one contained enough material for a drawing teacher to work up several lesson plans (which you can bet I did!).  Here’s a sample:

So here’s a fine example of why I love the art business.  There’s a tradition of older experienced guys helping out the newcomers for no other reason than it’s a nice thing to do.  Will continues to be generous with his wisdom over at Small Room.

And Pete wound up animating Dora the Explorer, among other projects.  Life doesn’t always go exactly as planned, but if we’re lucky we find ourselves doing what we love.

Have a hubble bubble Christmas

I just received a book in the mail—a copy of The Year Without a Santa Claus by Phyllis McGinley, with illustrations by Kurt Werth.  The J.B. Lippincott Company published this title in 1956.

This was the poem that inspired the animated TV special from the 1970s.

But what to my wondering eyes should appear—is Santa Claus enjoying a few puffs from his hookah?

Whoa—what heady days the fifties were for kids’ book illustrators! Fat chance something like this would pass muster with an art director nowadays!

Come to think of it, a few years ago I did do a project that called for Santa to smoke a cigar.  I’ll dig around in the attic and unearth those sketches for a future post.