I had an incredible time last weekend in Detroit Michigan, presenting a screening at the Detroit Institute of Arts and visiting with Steve Stanchfield. Let me say again that if you can get to Detroit anytime before January 5th, I highly recommend you do so. The current animation exhibit Watch Me Move is a must-see. The weekly film programs of classic animation are expertly curated and guest speakers they have lined up – Leslie Iwerks (Nov. 2nd), Paul Dini and Alan Burnett (Nov. 16th) – are great (I should know, they are all friends of mine).
One of the highlights of my trip was a little tour of Detroit by Steve, along with Mary Dixon (aka “Mary in Ann Arbor” to you Stephanie Miller fans). Of course, for animation fans no trip to Detroit is complete without a “visit to mecca”: the sacred holy land that is the “Jam Handy” building.
Of course, the building today is a shadow of its former self (click thumbnails below to enlarge). The good news is that a local support group, Detroit Soup, has purchased the building and intends to rehabilitate it into a community arts space. They are still calling it “The Jam Handy” so I can only hope the will restore the signage on the building (if you squint you can still see the ghosts of the Jam Handy lettering on the blue marquee).
The building is a shrine to classic cartoon animation – and a landmark location in film history. Who worked there? Max Fleischer, Gene Deitch, Rudy Zamora, Roy Williams, Jim Tyer to name but a few. What films did they make? Usually commercial, industrial and educational shorts – and many for nearby General Motors. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer was one of their few theatricals. Below are several of the Chevrolet/Nicky Nome pictures Handy produced between 1936-1938. Heck, they’re as good as anything Ted Eshbaugh or Amadee Van Beuren were producing just a few years earlier… and most enjoyable in their own right.
So here’s to the historic Jam Handy Building – may you continue to survive, and go on to inspire others with your legacy of excellence.