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February 17, 2010 > What's up doc?

What's up doc?

By Lucinda Bender

Nothing titillates our imagination quite as much as our response to animation. The medium has no practical limits on what it can do. Now you have the opportunity to explore the science behind your (and your children's) favorite cartoons. A rare collection of Warner Brothers Animation art will be on display at the Olive Hyde Art Gallery from February 19 through March 20.

"From Hare to Eternity: The Art of Warner Brothers Animation", features the works of several legendary animators including Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett. The objects on view are from WarnerArt.com, the amazing collection of Eric Calande, a passionate "protector of history". You will also have an opportunity to have a caricature drawing done by artist Ronald Strawser with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Olive Hyde Art Gallery.

A brief history of this remarkable collection and Warner Brothers Animation is explained by the collector, Eric Calande.

Which was your first piece and how did you get started?

I began collecting around 1994. I had moved out to California upon graduating the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and found myself working in computer art and animation, an odd place for a fine artist to be. I had always loved the art of animation and more specifically, the Looney Tunes cartoons, so I began seeking out the original works that I was seeing in some of the books in print at the time. This led to an invitation to the Chuck Jones Gallery and an opportunity to meet Mr. Jones himself, a legend in the world of animation. It was an exciting time and an exciting night. I have no idea what I said to Chuck that night but I'm sure I babbled a handful of kind words in complete admiration of his work and creative genius. I walked away that evening with the first piece for my collection, a fine art lithograph created by Mr. Jones spoofing Duchamp's "Nude Descending a staircase", but featuring Daffy Duck.


Can you describe the collection and the history behind it?

Many people are surprised to learn that a great deal of the art used to create the Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons no longer exist. It was destroyed decades ago by Warner Brothers. What survives today are pieces that were kept by the animators and studio employees, pieces given as gifts to studio visitors and pieces that were sold for a short time during the late 1930's, early 1940's. It's taken me 15 years to find and amass enough art to make a show like this possible. So this is a very rare and special showing of the incredible work that the Warner Brothers staff generated during the Golden Age of Animation.

Finding the work and historical artifacts is no easy task; it's a fulltime job in itself in many ways. You have to constantly watch your sources to see if something new turns up, and when it does, you need to hope you're the first to get to it and hope you're able to afford it. But patience pays off and today my collection provides a valuable snapshot of the inner workings at the Warner Brothers and Schlesinger animation studios and the pioneers of animation.


Can you provide a brief history of the work?

In 1919, Leon Schlesinger founded Pacific Title and Art, a company that created title cards for silent movies. Films with sound soon made title cards obsolete so Schlesinger decided to capitalize on the popularity of animated films. By 1927 the first Looney Tunes had been released starring a character named Bosko. In 1931 a second series of cartoons called "Merrie Melodies" (similar to Disney's Silly Symphonies) was created to showcase and promote Warner Brothers ever-growing library of soundtrack music.

As the likes of Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett and other animators came on board; many of the Looney Tunes stars like Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and Bugs Bunny were born. The crew worked in a dilapidated old building on the Warner Brothers lot that they jokingly dubbed "Termite Terrace". Schlesinger took a hands-off approach with the animation units and allowed them to work largely unsupervised, as long as the films were funny and performed well at the box office. Because of this, it must be remembered that these animated cartoons were created by adults, for adults, children were not specifically the intended audience.

The early Looney Tunes cartoons were created entirely in black and white, the first color Looney Tunes short would not be seen until 1942 with the release of "The Hep Cat". In 1944 Schlesinger finally sold his animation studio and related characters to Warner Brothers. The Looney Tunes went on to gain increased popularity when they found a new home on television in 1950, and a new audience with children. The studio continued to produce cartoons with the popular cast of characters up until 1967.


Why do you collect this work?

Animation is an amazing art form. With it, the impossible becomes possible. Even today the principles of animation are still used to create 2D and 3D films as well as video games. Many of the pioneering animators were trained artists themselves, falling into animation during the Great Depression of the 1930's. Looking at the work they generated, their talent is overwhelmingly evident. The work is fun, exciting and inspiring and it seems to strike a chord with all who have grown with the cast of Warner characters.


Does it relate to your own work? If so, what's the relationship?

There is a direct correlation to my collection and the work I do with computers. I work in the game industry as an artist and do a fair share of animation myself. Over the years I have often reflected back on the creative genius of the Looney Tunes shorts for ideas and inspiration within my own work.


Where has your collection shown prior?

A large portion of my collection can be found online for viewing at www.WarnerArt.com I've always believed this art should be shared with the public that loves it and not horded and enjoyed by just a single person. For this reason I've made much of the collection accessible online for animation fans and historians. Works from my collection have been featured in books like "Stepping into the picture", the biography of Maurice Noble, as well as Jerry Beck's upcoming 100 Greatest Looney Tunes Cartoons. In 2008 the San Francisco Airport Museum featured the collection in their International wing to the delight of many weary travelers.


What else do you want the viewer to know about this collection?

I hope the viewers enjoy the familiar characters and the nostalgia of this art but I hope they will also look past that too. Animation has always been viewed as "kids stuff" and yet it's an incredibly complicated and unique art form. Much of the art in this collection is just that... Art... and it should really be enjoyed and appreciated as such.


About you as a collector?

Collecting is a passion. Sometimes people think you're crazy if you're a collector. In my case I feel like I'm a keeper and protector of history. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to share my collection with the public and hope they find as much fun and enjoyment in it as I do.

"From Hare to Eternity: The Art of Warner Brothers Animation" an exhibition for "kids" of all ages, is a unique art exhibit the whole family will surely enjoy....."That's All Folks!"


Looney Tunes and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and (c) Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


What's up doc?
February 19 through March 20

Artist Reception
Friday, February 19
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Olive Hyde Art Gallery
123 Washington Blvd., Fremont
Thursday through Sunday
Noon to 5 p.m.
(510) 494-4228

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