Comic strip from Arcade #3 (Fall 1975)

Sally Cruikshank is most famous for her joyful, colourful, wacky, yet sometimes slightly disturbing animated cartoons, such as the cult classic 'Quasi at the Quackadero' (1975). The picture was a hit in the midnight movie circuit, yet still managed to gain enough mainstream notability to bring her surreal cartoons into other media, like 'Sesame Street' and various big-budget Hollywood pictures. Cruikshank was born in Chatham, New Jersey, in 1949 as daughter of an accountant and a boarding school principal. Her maternal aunt, Bea Cruikshank, was a painter who once made an official portrait of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her sister, Carol, also showed artistic talent but unfortunately passed away in 1992.


Film poster for Quasi at the Quackadero

Cruikshank studied art at Smith College, followed by a film course at the San Francisco Art Institute. She made her first animated shorts at university, which were psychedelic pictures such as 'Fun on Mars' (1971) and 'Chow Fun' (1971). She ranks Carl Barks, Robert Crumb, Winsor McCay, Pat Sullivan, Otto Messmer, Max Fleischer, Bob Clampett and the animated Beatles feature 'Yellow Submarine' (1968) by Heinz Edelmann and George Dunning among her graphic influences. Barks in particular influenced her anthropomorphic duck characters, of which the tall lady Anita and her nerdy boyfriend Quasi can be considered her signature stars. While Cruikshank edited 'Chow Fun' at Snazelle Films - a company specializing in TV commercials - the company boss liked her work enough to promote her as head of their animation department. She made animated advertisements for companies such as Levi's Jeans, The Gap and Connie Shoes. In 1975 she created her first and only comic strip, which starred Anita and Quasi. It was only half a page long, and appeared in the third issue of the comics 'Arcade, The Comics Revue' by The Print Mint.


Ad for Quasi at the Quackadero (original art)

Anita and Quasi returned in Cruikshank's most famous work: the independent animated film 'Quasi at the Quackadero' (1975). The short featured them visiting a sideshow with all kinds of bizarre attractions. Cruikshank's boyfriend, Kim Deitch, did the inking while she provided the voice of Anita. The soundtrack was performed by The Cheap Suit Serenaders, whose frontman was Robert Crumb. The surreal film became an instant cult hit in the midnight movie circuit and received many awards. In 2009 it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library Congress for its "historical, aesthetical and cultural value."


Production art for Sesame Street

Cruikshank made several other animated shorts starring Anita and Quasi, none of which ever gained the same amount of fame. She also made commercials and music videos for the children's TV show 'Sesame Street'. In 1983 she worked on the 'It's A Good Life' segment in John Landis' anthology horror film 'Twilight Zone: The Movie' (1983). Its storyline, based on the eponymous 'Twilight Zone' episode, features a young boy who terrorizes his family members with black magic. In one scene he sends his older sister (played by Nancy Cartwright, who'd later become famous as the voice of Bart Simpson in Matt Groening's 'The Simpsons') off to die in an animated cartoon playing on television, for which Cruikshank made the gruesome designs. The opening credits of pictures like the Zucker Brothers and Abrams comedy 'Top Secret!' (1984) and 'Ruthless People' (1986) were also animated by her. Film composer Danny Elfman, whose band Oingo Boingo played 'Quasi At The Quackadero' as a warm-up to their shows in the 1970s, scored her animated film 'Face Like A Frog' (1987) for free.

Between 2005 and 2015 she had her own blog 'Fun on Mars'. In 2006 Cruikshank created her own YouTube channel. Her work has also been screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Sally Cruikshank

funonmars.blogspot.com

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