It was a time of transition in my young life. Many things had happened during the late sixties including my departure from the Walt Disney Studio after the passing of Walt. My partners and I had launched our own production company and I married a perky young woman named, Belle. Finally, I began work on an amazing new PBS television show that would change things forever.
How did I land this nifty animation gig, you might ask? Well, it wasn’t because I had an animator’s credentials. Remember, I never gained the title of animator at the Disney Studio because a mustachioed old gentleman decided I belonged in the story department instead. Since leaving the Disney Studio I had difficulty getting to animate because I hadn’t earned the coveted title of animator. It was the old catch 22. I wasn’t allowed to animate because I had no experience and I had no experience because I wasn’t allowed to animate. Finally, the answer to my dilemma presented itself. While creating the animated opening titles and end credits for a television show, I decided to hire myself as the animator. Once the animation was beautifully inked and painted I used the sample reel to score myself a job as an animator on a brand new television show. It was a delight to work on the show and unlike my former job at the Disney Studio this project had no house style. The animated segments we created were stylistically all over the place and included every design sensibility. After being confined to a studio house style, this show allowed complete creative freedom and we had a ball doing pretty much whatever we wanted. We had a mission of course. That was to educate children all the while entertaining them. Perhaps you watched this show when you were a kid. It was called “Sesame Street.”
Much to my surprise, there is a current Sesame Street exhibit at the New York Public Library in Lincoln Center. Featured in the exhibit are some of the amazing on camera performers including the wonderful, Jim Henson and his Muppet team. However, one photograph caught me by surprise. Included in the exhibit is a photograph of myself animating some of the Sesame Street segments. The photograph was taken in one of our West Coast studios because this PBS show was in work on both coasts. While all the live-action taping was done in New York, the animation could be created anywhere. Even back then, this innovative new television show looked forward to the way films would be created decades in the future. In so many amazing ways, Sesame Street was a brilliant show, and since the show’s debut in the late sixties, no one has been able to come up with anything remotely superior. We combined learning with entertainment and we did it all effortlessly. Today, many studios continue struggle to create what we did with ease. Even with today’s modern technology, no one has even come close.