There certainly are a lot of weirdos out today. —Quasi at the Quackadero
Animation is a profession wherein childhood influences hold visible sway.
Today’s young animators are likely to cite the formative powers of Spongebob Squarepants, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Ren & Stimpy Show, and the films of Japanese master, Hayao Miyazaki.
As a child of the 50s, Sally Cruikshank, creator of cult favorite Quasi at the Quackadero, above, marinated in Carl Barks’ Donald Duck comics. In The Animators, an early-80’s PBS documentary centered on the San Francisco Bay Area scene, she mused that “the images of the money bin and Donald Duck and the nephews and Uncle Scrooge all sunk into my subconscious and came out later, not really looking like ducks to anyone but me, but in my mind they are ducks—Quasi, Snozzy, and Anita.”
Quasi at the Quackadero places two of those odd ducks, contented loafer Quasi and his controlling, lisping ladyfriend, Anita, in a bizarre amusement park where the attractions include opportunities to “Relive One of the Shining Moments of Your Life” and “See Last Night’s Dreams Today.”
The fun house mirrors in the 3:10 mark’s Hall of Time are a particular treat, contributing to a carnival of sensory overload that’s as old timey as it is trippy.
“You don’t need to take acid to have weird thoughts and imagine weird things,” Cruikshank, whose other favorites, tellingly, include Winsor McCay, Max Fleischer, and Yellow Submarine, replied to an admirer on YouTube.
In 2009, Cruikshank’s demented vision found its way into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, an honor she celebrated with a blog post toasting her late boss, E.E. Gregg Snazelle of Snazelle Films:
The job was to experiment with animation, and do commercials for him when the jobs came in. He also hoped I’d figure out how to solve 3-d without glasses.
Needless to say I didn’t solve 3-d. I didn’t even do very many commercials over ten years, but I showed up at 8:30, took an hour off for lunch and worked till 5:30. I was paid $350 a month, and I could live on that then.
He encouraged me generously without ever paying much attention to me. These days if an opportunity like that even existed, you’d be forced to sign all kinds of rights statements for characters and content created, but this was before “Star Wars” and he just seemed to be happy to have me around. We were never particularly close. It spoiled me for any job after that.
I made all my “Quasi” films while I was working at Snazelle. Unfortunately he’s no longer alive, but here’s to you, Gregg, with a big heart and much thanks.
Cruikshank was indeed lucky to have secured a day job in her chosen field, providing her with access to prohibitively expensive equipment.
Remember that her 1975 short predates personal computers, affordable animation software, and a plethora of free sharing platforms. Cruikshank says that Quasi at the Quackadero required two years of near daily work, likening its animation process to “something from the Middle Ages.”
Of course, 1975 was also a peak year for underground comix, another tradition from which Quasi sprung, right into the arms of a receptive audience. Anita and Quasi also appear in Cruikshank’s one and only comic, Magic Clams. In addition to her work at Snazelle Studios, Cruikshank cocktail waitressed in a hangout for San Francisco’s underground cartoonists, including then-boyfriend Kim Deitch, Quasi’s “Special Art Assistant.” Bob Armstrong and Al Dodge of R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders contributed the short’s score. Other friends from the indie comix scene were enlisted to paint cells at 50 cents per.
Quasi’s inclusion in the National Film Registry not only carries the imprimatur of cultural, historic, and aesthetic significance, it suggests the psychedelic short is a seminal influence in its own right.
We agree with KQED’s Sarah Hotchkiss that “the saturated colors, hard edges, and constant movement of Cruikshank’s animation could be source material for the future realization of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.”
Both deliver us from reality into the limitless possibilities of an anthropomorphic universe.
Explore more of Sally Cruickshank’s animations on her You Tube channel, including her cartoons for Sesame Street. Some of her animation cels, including ones from Quasi at the Quackadero are for sale in her Etsy shop.
Quasi at the Quackadero–voted one of the 50 Greatest Cartoons, in a poll of 1,000 Animation Professionals–will be added to our list of animations, a subset of our collection, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More
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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse. Follow her @AyunHalliday.
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