Monday, April 14, 2014

Interview with Animation Historian and Author John Canemaker in 'The Mouse Castle Lounge'

John Canemaker
John Canemaker is a tall, soft-spoken gentleman with a passion for animation. His easy-going demeanor belies a rough, post-WWII childhood he spent in the shadow of an abusive father, a relationship John explored with great emotion and pathos in his 2005 Oscar-winning animated short The Moon and the Son: an Imagined Conversation. In the film, John tries to make peace with his late father, an angry and bitter man who ran with the Mob and served time in prison, but who also was a decorated war hero who helped his son acquire his first art supplies. Press John for details about his father now and he's more inclined to let the film speak for itself. For the most part, he said what he needed to say and has moved on.

He's much more comfortable talking about animation, a conversation he has kept going for most of his adult life. For over thirty years, John has taught animation at New York University, where he is a fully-tenured professor. All the while, he's continued to produce animated films and write books about animation history. He has researched all of the greats of the industry: Walt Disney and the Nine Old Men, Winsor McKay, Tex Avery, Mary Blair, Joe Grant and Joe Ranft, and many more. He has regularly appeared in the bonus features of Disney home video releases, offering his commentary and insight on such classics as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Dumbo and Peter Pan.

I spoke to John last month at the Walt Disney Family Museum, where he is curator of the current exhibition, Magic, Color, Flair: The World of Mary Blair. Our time was limited then, so I asked John if he would like to revisit the Lounge to share his fascinating life and career with me in greater detail. He agreed. In our conversation today, John talks about his love of animation, the artists and animators who have inspired him, and yes, the relationship with his father that he says made him who he is today. It's a revealing look at a brilliant and dedicated artist and educator. Enjoy!

John Canemaker and producer Peggy Stern accept
the 2005 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

Related Story: Exploring the World of Mary Blair at the Walt Disney Family Museum

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