2020 Conference/will be rescheduled – stay tuned!

“The animation is live: I work the material, then shoot the frame, I change the painting again, shoot another frame, and so on.” Joan Gratz, writer-director-producer of MONA LISA DESCENDING A STAIRCASE

“Using incomparable technical and artistic skill, MONA LISA DESCENDING THE STAIRCASE creates a explosive display of colors, textures and clues….” Olivier Cotte, Secrets of Oscar Winning Animation

What is the history behind, and the meaning behind, Oregon’s regional strength in creating independent film artists? Where does this longstanding strength fit within the overall intellectual and cultural identity of the Pacific Northwest?

The sixth annual Oregon Film History Conference is small in size, and designed to encourage interdisciplinary engagement, open ended conversation, and professional networking.

Guest curator Ellen Thomas will lead a day of short talks and long discussions on the role played by experimentation and innovation in Oregon animation history. The day will conclude with an appearance by Oscar winning animator Joan Gratz.

The presentations are:


Vance DeBar “Pinto” Colvig (1892-1967) earned his most lasting fame as a voice artist, but before that chapter of his career, he worked as a silent era animator and a creator of animated special effects. You know him as the voice of Goofy.

Ben Truwe is a regional historian focusing on Southern Oregon history and the Rogue River Indian Wars. He gives classes, lectures, and tours at Southern Oregon Historical Society.


David Foster (1925-2003) taught across three departments at UO: film, architecture, and art education. His fearless embrace of the new inspired students to do the same. Foster’s films, and those of his students (CHIPS IN SPACE by Ken O’Connell, pictured above), will be highlighted, using clips.

Kenneth O’Connell co-founded the Pacific Northwest Computer Graphics Conference in 1982. Professor emeritus at UO, he led the Fine & Applied Art Department for twelve years.


Clockwise from upper left: Jim Blashfield’s SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES (1984); Will Vinton & Bob Gardiner’s CLOSED MONDAYS (1974); Frank Hood, Teknifilm Lab; Bob Summers & Brooke Jacobson, Northwest Film Center.

The cultural ecology in Portland led to an incredibly prolific and creative period of art animation in the 70s and 80s. This talk will discuss some of technical resources, schools, showcases and early work which converged to make this such a fertile time. 

Rose Bond creates large scale, site specific animated installations. She is Chair of the Animated Arts department and the Institute Director for Boundary Crossings at PNCA.


Q: Just what is meant by “incredibly prolific”?

A: In 1987, there was YOUR FACE, Bill Plympton; CERRIDWEN’S GIFT, Rose Bond; A CLAYMATION CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION, Will Vinton; BOY IN THE BUBBLE, Jim Blashfield; THE SIMPSONS, Matt Groening. That’s one Oscar nomination, one Northwest Film & Video Festival First Prize, one Primetime Emmy, five MTV Award nominations, one network television debut, in just one year.


Halfway through the day, we take time out for the Elmer Buehler Award For Film Preservation ceremony, which traditionally includes cake for all. As Julia Child said “A party without a cake is just a meeting.”

We take your point, Julia!

Historian James Hillegas-Elting will provide a short introduction to the patron saint of Oregon film preservation. 2017 Elmer Buehler Award winner Michele Kribs will present the 2020 award to Libby Burke. If we’re lucky, 2018 Elmer Buehler Award winner Sheldon Renan and 2019 Elmer Buehler Award winner Heather Petrocelli will be there to help.

“Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky. They are people who say; This is my community, and it’s my responsibility to make it better.” Tom McCall


What Oregon animation innovations of the previous decades are influencing today’s animated feature films, some now being filmed in Portland (Guillermo del Toro & Mark Gustafson”s PINOCCHIO, Henry Selick’s WENDELL & WILD, and the yet-to-be-titled “film six” at Laika)?  This panel discussion with invited Portland animators will dive into the Oregon-bred techniques that are still shaping the industry today.  Think motion control, armatures and more. .

Marilyn Zornado, director, animator, motion-graphics artist, calligrapher and book artist, will moderate the discussion. After a career as Senior Producer at Will Vinton Studios, she now works full-time as an artist.


Joan Gratz will talk about her work, show clips from some of her films, and take questions from the audience.

Joan Gratz first combined animation with painting while an architecture student at the University of Oregon. She shifted to painting in clay at Will Vinton Studios where she worked on a series of films which earned Oscar nominations. In 1987, she founded Gratz Film. In 1993, she won an Oscar.

Olivier Cotte: Do you envision the film in its entirety before you begin?

Joan Gratz: No….it’s the process of discovery which interests me.

Joan will show her most recent film, ONE MINUTE MEMOIR: THE FILMS OF 11 DIRECTORS, which is comprised of animated memoirs from Chris Hinton, Paul Driessen, Dennis Tupicoff, Joan Gratz, Theodore Ushev, Janet Perlman, Marv Newland, Bill Plympton, Jim Blashfield, Diane Obomsawin, and Chel White.

And that’s it!

With the help of guest curator Ellen Thomas (thank you, Ellen!), featured artist Joan Gratz, and speakers Ben Truwe, Ken O’Connell, Rose Bond and Marilyn Zornado, Oregon Cartoon Institute presents the first all day conference devoted to Oregon animation history.

See you there!



The sixth annual Oregon Film History Conference has been postponed. We will reschedule once the threat of the Corona virus has subsided.

Q: What’s the conference like?

A: Here’s 2019, 201820172016, 2015.

Registration is required. Seating is limited. Participants must supply a qualifying affiliation with a non-profit organization (school, museum, historical society, etc.) in order to register. This event is not open to the public.

Contact Anne Richardson, at anne at oregonfilmhistoryconference dot org, if you have questions.


Oregon Cartoon Institute, a 501c3 non-profit organization, began presenting the annual one day Oregon Film History Conference in 2015. More information about OCI can be found here.

Founded in 2007 by Anne Richardson and Dennis Nyback, Oregon Cartoon Institute uses new media, archival film, research, networking, and cross disciplinary discussion to explore Oregon film, animation, and print cartooning history.  It has no brick and mortar presence, and always works in partnership with organizations which do.

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