Today I am presenting an interesting bit of history from the collection of Disney animator, Clair Weeks along with an exciting update since we last featured this topic. Read on for details…
Clair Weeks was born in India, the son of a Methodist missionary- a source of humor for his co-workers at Disney. (See caricature, right.) He spent 16 years at the Disney Studios, working on Snow White, Bambi and Peter Pan. In 1956, Weeks travelled to Bombay, India on the invitation of Information Films of India to set up and train the country’s first animation studio as part of the American Technical Co-Operation Mission. What started as a one year project expanded into almost a decade of service abroad working for the US Agency for International Development. Weeks toured Southeast Asia and headed up a communitactions office in Katmandu, Nepal. He made films and audio-visual programs that aided in the social development and economic growth of third world countries.
I know very little about Weeks’ work in India, but a scrapbook donated to Animation Resources by his family provides some tantilizing clues. I contacted the chapter of ASIFA in India asking if they had any information on Weeks, and the Vice President of ASIFA-India, Prasad responded…
The studio Weeks helped to train some animators for was the Films Division of India (FDI). The stint of Clair’s there apparently lasted for about 18 months, during which they made a film called The Banyan Deer. I spoke to Rammohan, who was one of the students in 1956, and is generally acknowledged as one of the father figures of Indian animation to get these details. Clair apparently also taught in the late sixties or early seventies at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. One of the students at that point, Nina Sabnani heads the Animation Department there now.
Since this article was last posted, my friend Steve Stanchfield has transferred a rare 16mm film showing Weeks at work at FDI in India. It’s fascinating to see behind the scenes in the earliest days of Indian animation.
Here are some scans from Weeks’ Indian scrapbook. If anyone has any information on the film or the people in the photos, let me know in the comments below and I will add it to this post.
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19 April, 1958: Sitting: S.L. Badami (Deputy Chief Producer), Ezra Mir (Chief Producer), Clair Weeks (Key Animator Instructor), Dr. B.V. Keskar (Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting), D.L. Kothari (Controller of Administration). Standing behind: G.K. Maharesh (Production Manager), G.K. Gokhale (Animator), S.M. Junnarkar (Editor), G.H. Saraiya (in dark pants, Director)
19 April, 1958: D.L. Kothari, Clair Weeks, Dr. B.V. Keskar, Ezra Mir. Behind: H.R. Doraiswamy (Camera Assistant), S.S. Varma (Animation Cameraman)
Many thanks to the family of Clair Weeks for sharing this important material with us, and thanks to Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation for transferring the film footage.
This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Animation.