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LACMA showcases UPA

Mr. Magoo studio was influential home of California design

With its colorful, modern graphics, architecture and furniture, the California Design exhibit has been a smash hit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Resnick Pavilion is packed with stylish mid-century products including a single piece of colorful letterhead from UPA, the animation studio that birthed Mr. Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing. LACMA delves deeper into the studio’s legacy on Friday with a tribute to be held at the Bing Theater.

Animation historian Jerry Beck will screen UPA theatrical cartoons, including some Oscar-winning shorts and some in 35mm prints, while Adam Abraham will sign his latest book “When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA.” Sony and Turner Classic Movies recently released a DVD compilation of the hard-to-find shorts, made for theatrical exhibition in the 1950s before the studio moved into television in the 1960s.

UPA’s lively, minimalist animation is the polar opposite of today’s detailed CGI, but it resonates with many of today’s artists.

“Whether younger animators know it or not, UPA’s influence is in every popular TV and theatrical cartoon today,” Beck said. “UPA broke with the perception that animation was simply Disney style. UPA demonstrated that animation could look like Picasso or Thurber. This influenced not only Disney and the other Hollywood studios but the look of animated commercials (and the work of) foreign studios, independent artists and animators all over the world.”

Beck said UPA’s style went on to influence today’s alternative animators such as Pen Ward, creator of Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time.”

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