‘American Animator’ Exhibit Features Work of El Paso-Born Don Bluth

Take a look inside the Plaza Theatre. The Plaza is home to many shows and the Plaza Classic Film Festival.

Sarah Ann Dueñas/El Paso Times

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For the seventh year in its 10-year existence, the Plaza Classic Film Festival has teamed with the El Paso Museum of Art to showcase the filmmaking industry and behind-the-scenes movie artifacts.

The Plaza Classic Film Festival, organized by the El Paso Community Foundation, will feature more than 90 movies, guest stars, a local filmmaker series and more, from Aug. 3-13 at the Plaza Theatre and other Downtown venues.

But, movie-lovers can already visit an exhibit featuring one of the film festival’s guests of honor, animator Don Bluth, a native El Pasoan.

More: Richard Dreyfuss joins Plaza Classic Film Festival lineup

The exhibit, “An American Animator, Don Bluth,” will be on display through Sept. 7 in the Peter and Margaret DeWetter Gallery at the museum. The exhibit features more than 40 character concept sketches and drawings, animation cels, storyboards, backgrounds and publicity photographs which demonstrate Bluth’s animation style and the animation process.

“An American Animator: Don Bluth” is on display at the El Paso Museum of Art through Sept. 7. The exhibit of animations by the El Paso-born artist run in conjunction with the Plaza Classic Film Festival.

“There’s something interesting about his work as an independent filmmaker,” said Patrick Cable, senior curator at the El Paso Museum of Art. “This exhibit focuses on the start of that (career). There’s a variety of work from throughout his career that are represented and help show the process of animation.”

Bluth was born in El Paso in 1937. His interest in animation was sparked when he saw the 1944 reissue of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in an El Paso movie theater. His family moved to Payson, Utah, when he was 6 years old.

Bluth would go on to work on Disney animated features, including “Sleeping Beauty,” before leaving the company in 1979 along with his partner, fellow animator Gary Goldman and several others, to found Don Bluth Productions. The company later became Sullivan Bluth Studios.

The company’s first feature-length movie was the 1982 hit, “The Secret of NIMH,” a showcase of Bluth and Goldman’s classic hand-drawn style of animation.

“In 1979, when Disney was moving toward computer animation, Bluth appreciated that classic technique,” Cable said. “He really became a leader in animation, He was a major artist at (Disney) studios and he made the choice, at a time of transition, to stick with (his style). He became an example of that classic style.”

A pre-production drawing for the animated film “Thumbelina” by Don Bluth.

The exhibit features several of Bluth’s original drawings of “NIMH” characters, including Mrs. Frisbee. Several of the drawings include character notes on how to draw various body parts, as well as, notes on each character’s personality.

The collaboration between the Plaza Classic Film Festival and the El Paso Museum of Art enhances the movie-going experience, said Doug Pullen, the festival’s artistic director.

“It goes beyond just watching movies,” Pullen said. “Each year, there’s something and build upon what’s in the main event.”

Bluth and Goldman will be interviewed on stage at the Plaza Theatre before a screening of “The Secret of NIMH” at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 12. The duo also will be present for a question-and-answer session during the Plaza Classic Film Festival’s free Filmmaker’s Brunch at 11 a.m. Aug. 13 in the Foundation Room, 333 N. Oregon St.

A pre-production drawing for “All Dogs Go to Heaven” by Don Bluth.

In addition, six of Bluth and Goldman’s films will be screened at the museum during the film festival.

Cable said that the exhibit is a great way for festivalgoers to see how an animated film gets created, from start to finish.

“Whether you’re interested in classic print making or comic book art, or just someone who enjoys (hand-drawn art), people can enjoy the physicality of the process,” Cable said. “I can see why an artist might like to keep that element of the classic hands-on style.”

Dave Acosta may be reached at 546-6138; dacosta@elpasotimes.com; @Chuy_Vuitton on Twitter.

Make plans
What: “An American Animator, Don Bluth,” featuring more than 40 character concept sketches and drawings, animation cels, storyboards and backgrounds by the El Paso native. Part of the 10th Annual Plaza Classic Film Festival.When: Regular museum hours through Sept. 7Where: Peter and Margaret DeWetter Gallery, El Paso Museum of Art, DowntownAdmission: Free
BLUTH & GOLDMAN

Schedule of movies by Bluth and Goldman that to be shown at the El Paso Museum of Art:

Aug. 5: “Rock-a-Doodle” (1991), 1 p.m.; “Thumbelina” (1984), 3 p.m.Aug. 6: “A Troll in Central Park” (1994), 2 p.m.Aug. 12: “The Pebble and the Penguin” (1995), 1 p.m.; “Anastasia” 1997, 3 p.m.Aug. 13: “Titan A.E.” (2000), 2 p.m.

10th Annual Plaza Classic Film Festival

Where: Plaza Theatre and other nearby locations in Downtown El PasoTickets: Prices vary by showing; available at the Plaza Theatre Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at 800-745-3000 and online at ticketmaster.com; $200 Festival Pass and $100 Film Club Pass available at plazaclassic.com/tickets

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