Today the New York animation community honored one of animation’s finest artists: Tissa David, with a special screening of clips of her sequences, as well as words by speakers who knew her.
Tissa was a woman in a man’s industry, and before passing away on August 21 at age 91, had cemented her spot in animation history.
She worked with Art Babbitt as a fellow master animator on Richard Williams’ Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977). Tissa, who specialized in female characters, was a head animator for Raggedy Ann, while Art, who always specialized in toddling characters, was in charge of the Camel with Wrinkled Knees (original cel courtesy of Jackie and Red Auguston).
Below is Tissa and Art in 1990, at the last great gathering of classic animators: Grim Natwick’s 100th Birthday (Courtesy of Michael Sporn). Tissa was Grim’s animation assistant for many years, and Grim and Art’s collaboration go back to 1930s at Disney and into UPA.
On a personal note, Tissa’s was my very first interview in my professional writing career, for a 1000-word article in Animation Magazine about New York’s women of the animation industry. On December 31, 2005, I had the privilege of sitting in Tissa’s Westside apartment and hearing stories about her career. Although her thick Hungarian accent reminded me of the sweet matriarchs in my family, she was a no-nonsense lady with a youthful vigor about her. We spoke for 45 minutes, but here is her quotation that got me thinking “what if?” [and as an Art Babbitt fan, “what if” is a pretty common thought process]:
“You know, Disney never hired women. Never. All men. And it was a mistake. It was a mistake. Ollie Johnston once said [looking at female character animation], ‘How do you do that?’ I said, ‘I used to be a young girl, at one time.’ Because a man would never ever really animate a female character – a girl – the way a woman animator would. Their mean [villainous] women characters – they were all great. But not the girls. And mostly I thought that the girls in Peter Pan – oh, very terrible with the girls. As girls, not as animation; they were fabulous animators. But as girls…”