A Couple Lame Thoughts About John and James Whitney

As an artist and great lover of animation, I'm always digging around, trying to find whatever great new discoveries lay waiting. Through my stubbornness, I've uncovered Hayao Miyazaki, Isao Takahata, and the whole Studio Ghibli realm. I've also digged up the '70s era of psychedelic animation that somehow snuck onto Sesame Street when I was a kid. And now I've found two great pioneers in computer graphics animation.

When we think of computer animation, we'll either think of Pixar, or the early '80s era of Pac-Man and Max Hedroom. It's hard to remember there were computers before microprocessors, back when they were those large, bulky mainframes, filling up entire basements and secretly plotting to kill astronauts. And yet, even in those days, and in earlier days still, great artists like James and John Whitney.

Here, watch these abstract short films. I tried to post them in chronological order from the first post, from 1957 to 1975. Then somebody, please, explain to me how these computer graphics were created.

Animation World Magazine wrote an outstanding article on John Whitney, which you can read here. I'll be scanning through myself, and scanning through the Google realms for more answers. I don't feel quite like offering long commentary just yet. I really don't know more than you will after watching. Other than amazement and wonder, and a sense of "what the heck was that?! And what else you got?"

I am aware that John Whitney's work, as demonstrated on the demo reel Catalog from 1961 (!!), proved a great inspiration for Douglas Trumball's amazing slit-scan effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey (side note: you must see 2001 on a big screen or your life will be a failure). I've also discovered that Arabesque, from 1975, was created with Larry Cuba, who went on to create the computer animation sequence of the Death Star in the original Star Wars. Oooh....trippy.

Does anyone have any stories or wisdom to share? I'd love to hear them from the older animators who visit here. Let's start a Whitney Blog-a-Thon, people!

Until later, then...enjoy these films. They're magnificent.

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