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Disney’s Composer

Alan Menken, composer of scores for Walt Disney animations including The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and Pocahontas (1995), as well as for films and Broadway musicals that include  Little Shop of Horrors (1982 on Broadway, ’86 on film), Newsies (1992), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Hercules (1997), and Sister Act (2009), […]

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February 5: The Sidewalks of New York — and Betty Boop

The animation studio of Dave and Max Fleischer released on this date in 1929 their second cartoon titled “The Sidewalks of New York” (an earlier version came out in 1925) as part of their new “Screen Songs” series with Paramount Pictures. The cartoon marked the studio’s permanent transition to sound cartoons, with seventeen released in […]

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December 21: Jeffrey Katzenberg and DreamWorks

Film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, who in 1994 cofounded DreamWorks with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen and serves as CEO of the company and overseer of its innovative animated films, was born in New York on this date in 1951. Katzenberg is a product of the Ethical Culture movement and has been married to Marilyn Siegel, […]

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November 28: Randy Newman

Songwriter and film composer Randy Newman, the recipient of twenty Academy Award nominations (and two Awards) for his music, was born in Los Angeles on this date in 1943. (Three of his uncles, including Alfred Newman, were noted composers.) Several of his songs, including “Short People” and “Rednecks,” have sparked controversy for being blunt and […]

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September 22: Mad Magazine’s Will Elder

Cartoonist Will Elder (Wolf William Eisenberg), whose uncanny ability to capture and satirize the drawing styles of many other artists resulted in some of Mad magazine’s most memorable satires, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1921. Elder’s best-known cartoons included “Mickey Rodent!” (a takeoff on Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck), “Starchie!” […]

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February 23: The Pop Cultcha Collector

Lester Glassner, an artist who spent much of his seventy years of life amassing pop-culture iconography — including 250,000 movie stills, World War II military posters and anti-Nazi bric-a-brac, wind-up toys, dolls, plastic fruit, Czech art glass, Walt Disney paraphernalia, costume jewelry, magazines, records, sunglasses, and more, especially from the 1940s — was born on this date […]

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January 23: Mengele’s Jewish Portraitist

Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, an artist whom Dr. Josef Mengele spared from death at Auschwitz in order to have her draw Roma inmates in service of his racist theorizing, was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia on this date in 1923. Deported to Auschwitz as a 19-year-old art student, she drew a scene from Disney’s “Snow White and […]

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October 29: Ralph ("Fritz the Cat") Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi, artist, animator, independent filmmaker, and cartoonist whose savage election-year paintings are featured in the current issue of Jewish Currents magazine, was born in Haifa on this date in 1938. Bakshi is best-known for his 1972 film version of R. Crumb’s “Fritz the Cat,” which was the first animated film to receive an X […]

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September 6: Jules Engel, Experimental Animator

Jules Engel, the animator who choreographed the dances of Russian sprites and Chinese mushrooms to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite in Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940), died at 94 on this date in 2003. Born in Hungary in 1909, Engel came to the United States in the 1930s and to Hollywood in ’37. After serving as a filmmaker […]

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