Virtual Memories Show 257: Jerry Beck
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“I loved movies and I loved drawing, so animation was the perfect middle ground.”
Animation historian Jerry Beck joins the show to talk about his recent Museum of Modern Art screening, Cartoons You Won’t See on TV (and the ongoing exhibition it accompanies). We get into Jerry’s career arc, starting with his research gig for Leonard Maltin, the importance of curation in the arts, his role in the anime revolution in the US, the uphill battle to preserve and restore old cartoons, the book he’s proudest of, the importance of talking to the old-time inkers and behind-the-scenes artists (and not just the big names), how he teaches animation history to students who grew up watching Rugrats, why What’s Opera, Doc? is the greatest cartoon of all time, what’s going to be in his dream animation festival, and more! Give it a listen!
“Cartoons are to be enjoyed, not to be torn apart and studied. I’m more interested in how they came to be than what they mean.”
“You need a curator. You need someone who’s going to show you what this is, why it is, and why you need to see it, and how we got to where we are today.”
Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!
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About our Guest
Jerry Beck is an animation historian and cartoon producer. His fifteen books on the subject include The Animated Movie Guide, Looney Tunes: The Ultimate Visual Guide and The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals. He is a former studio exec with Nickelodeon and Disney, and is currently a consulting producer to Warner Bros., Universal and Disney for their classic animation DVD compilations. Beck has programmed animation retrospectives and animator tributes for the Annecy and Ottawa Animation Festivals, The Museum of Modern Art and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. He has taught animation history at NYU, SVA, the AFI and UCLA. He is currently teaching Animation History at Cal Arts in Valencia California and Woodbury University in Burbank. Beck started his career in film distribution, working at MGM/UA, Orion Classics, Cannon Films and Expanded Entertainment (Tournee of Animation), before starting his own company, Streamline Pictures in 1989, the first U.S. distributor to import anime features such as Otomo’s Akira and Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky. Beck was instrumental in launching Animation Magazine, and has written for The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. He has also created, written and produced animated films for various clients. Today he edits two blogs, Animation Scoop and Cartoon Research.
Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the NYC apartment of a relative of Mr. Beck’s on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Mr. Beck by me. It’s on my instagram.
One Reply to “Episode 257 – Jerry Beck”
Anime fandom outside of Japan has evolved since the days of Akira and VHS trading. Newer generations are learning more about how 2D Animation evolved in that country and how it continues to retain its status as the world leader in producing hand drawn animation at the commercial level, warts and all. They’ve discovered great pieces of art from both the past and present and celebrate the names of Japanese animation staff like how Mr. Beck and his colleagues talk about American animation from Hollywood’s Golden Age.
As for these art students I doubt they are copying Anime at anything but the surface level such as character design. The faculty is ultimately to be blamed because they are falling back on old prejudices instilled in them from their own instuctors who had zero knowledge of Japanese animation and only see it as inferior. Copying Anime is a good thing if taught properly but unfortunately these students will never recieve that education.