Windsor, Crockett and Joe

Three brilliant creators from very different eras drew on the same wellspring of inspiration. From the time I was a child, their collective ideas have influenced my own work. Now, in a search for a kind of graceful simplicity, I find myself drawn to those ideas with fresh enthusiasm.

The creators I speak of are Windsor McCay, Crockett Johnson and Joe Harris.

In 1914 McCay picked up his pencil and draw a picture of a dinosaur, who then came to life. Gertie was, in my view, the first truly successful animated character. The minimalism of her appearance was very much part of her charm.


Forty four years later, Crockett Johnson wrote and illustrated a little children’s book called Harold and the Purple Crayon. The idea was delightful in its simplicity: Any time Harold wanted something, he could just pick up his purple crayon and draw it. But it went deeper than that. In a sense, Harold was the creator of his entire world.


About a decade after that, Joe Harris created an animated show for television called “Tennessee Tuxedo and his Tales”. It features a scientist named Phineas J. Whoopee, who drew on his three dimensional blackboard (or “3DBB” as he called it) to create all sorts of wondrous explanations that magically began to move.

As a child I loved all three of these things. Looking back at them now, I realize how much they have in common. No flash and dazzle, fancy special effects, or high polygon count. Just the simple power of drawing something and seeing it come to life.

What could be lovelier?

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