Three Decades of Animation

Culver City has historical alliance with studio animation art By Brett Callwood

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Photo courtesy of Debbie Weiss ART AND MOVIES—Actress Elizabeth Banks, left, join with Debbie Weiss of Wonder World of Animation, center, and an unidentified woman for a photo opportunity. The WWA has served the Culver City community since the early Millennium. The physical gallery is closed until further notice due to COVID-19, but WWA is available online during regular office hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Visit wwagallery.com for more information.

The Wonderful World of Animation gallery has been in operation for 30 years and in Culver City for about 18 years. Now settled in the building that used to be the Sagebrush Cantina, they have grown with Culver City and offer a real insight into the city’s history of entertainment. “Culver City’s historical ties to MGM (most notably Tom & Jerry) and Sony’s big presence (the Hotel Transylvania franchise), there are certainly strong ties between Culver City and the animation industry,” said Debbie Weiss of the WWA. “We often get animators visiting the gallery and they have the most amazing stories as well as people who have found, inherited, or collected animation art that they are looking to sell.” Visitors to the gallery can view and purchase art, while also learning more about animation. “Our inventory has thousand of pieces of original art from Disney, Simpsons, Peanuts, the Grinch, etc,” Weiss said. “Many dating from the 1930s and 1940s. If you are a fan of animation, you might want to check us out!” Weiss said that the WWA specializes in vintage animation art and procuring rare items.

“I have a lot of favorites, but some that stand out are an original Mary Blair concept piece from Cinderella (1950), an original cel of the Witch from Snow White (1937) leaning over her cauldron, and an original cel of Lady and the Tramp from the spaghetti scene (1955),” she said. “We also have a collection of storyboards from Ichabod that show the film from beginning to end which is something I have never seen before in my 30 years of collecting. I am also happy to have a set of two original drawings of Gertie from Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) by Winsor McCay, which is hailed as one of the very first animated shorts.” Weiss said that she misses the old 2D style when viewing modern, tech-driven animation. “I feel nothing compares to the hand precision skill that created the films that so many generations have grown to love,” she said. “It is still possible to find hand drawn animation production art from this century, but it’s not as prevalent as artwork from the 1930s-2000. That being said, one of the most exciting things is that from time to time, a small collection or box of art will be brought through our doors for us to sell that has never been on the market before, which is always a thrill. Just this past year, we sold a historically significant piece of animation art that was used in an ‘I Like Ike’ commercial (1952) that had never been on the market before. It was unique in that the ‘I Like Ike’ ad was the first ever presidential advertisement to be broadcast on television in the U.S. and it was signed by Walt Disney and nearly 60 Disney animators.” Finally, the Wonderful World of Animation has big plans for 2022. “The animation art collectible market has been the strongest we have seen in over 25 years, and as a result pieces are coming available that have not been available to collectors for decades, or in some cases, ever,” Weiss said. “We are continuing to focus in sourcing these collections and making them available to our collectors. We continue to add art regularly on our website, and we ship all over the world.”

Three Decades of Animation