I read my growing list of historic Oregon animators and cartoonists to John Canemaker in New York. There was a long silence. Then he said “You’ve left off two” and gave me more names. Canemaker, an animator and a historian, had no explanation for why Oregon has consistently produced such greatness in these fields. He did affirm that we had a disproportionate number of artists to claim.
Dennis Nyback and I started the Oregon Cartoon Institute to explore that mystery. On Feb. 25, 2010, the Institute had its first public meeting, hosted by Dan Ackerman of Ackerman Films. Dennis Nyback and I served tea, brownies, and rare cartoons to the scholarly group who arrived eager to be divested of their ignorance.
The small but highly wonderful crowd received a brief orientation speech from me, and then a presentation from our artist in residence, composer-musician-sound designer Heather Perkins. Heather described the focus of her work for the institute, and the form her labors will be taking.
The project will be, basically, a musical tribute to Mel Blanc – and since Mel always said that Bugs Bunny is basically him, it will also (really) be a celebration of Bugs Bunny. The attitude, the character, the jazzy inflections of his voice, the casual “What’s Up Doc?” insouciance, the classically American sense of sassy independence. All that. It will be primarily musical in nature, including samples of Mel’s voice as musical elements, but no spoken word per se.
She also took questions.
We then gave a multimedia introduction to the nine animation and cartooning figures who inspired the founding of Oregon Cartoon Institute, and Dennis showed films featuring the work of two: Pinto Colvig and Mel Blanc.
The nine artists are:
Homer Davenport, newspaper cartoonist (Silverton)
Vance DeBar “Pinto” Colvig, animator turned voice artist (Jacksonville)
Carl Barks, animator turned comic book artist/author (Merrill)
Mel Blanc, voice artist (Portland)
Ralph Wright, story board artist and writer (Grants Pass)
Basil Wolverton, comic book cartoonist (Central Point)
Marc Davis, animator (Klamath Falls)
George Bruns, composer (Sandy)
Harry Smith, animator (Portland)
Stunned and humbled by the size of their newly discovered inheritance, most of the new members of the Institute were unable to move for a period of time after the presentations, which condition we took advantage of by asking for some marketing advice. Very useful for us!
The only things that went wrong with the evening were that a) we didn’t have t-shirts to sell, and b) we forgot to ask for email addresses, so now we don’t know who our new friends and members are.
Nevertheless, we consider the event very successful. Among the crowd we spotted S. W. Conser (KBOO’s Words & Pictures), Marc Moscato (Ye New Dill Pickle Club), filmmaker Larry Johnson, and Richard Herzkowitz (Pacific Rim Film Festival ). Very gratifying in the afterglow: Paul Bingman tweeted about us the next day. Thanks, Paul!
Thank you to Dan Ackerman of Ackerman Films for hosting the meeting. A big shout out to Tom Fitzgerald and V for their help.
For more information about the Oregon Cartoon Institute, contact me, Anne Richardson, at mrs.nyback -at – gmail -dot – com.