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Harry Kleiman

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Like most children who grew up in the Sixties, I watched Saturday morning cartoons and Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color. Beyond simply enjoying them, I was curious as to how they were made and eagerly reached out to Hanna-Barbera Studios and Walt Disney Productions—within weeks I received packages from each including informational booklets and publicity materials. Being an impressionable eleven-year-old boy, I was ecstatic! I wrote to every Studio and animator in Hollywood I was able to find an address for. They all told me about animation and gave me free hand-painted cels and drawings. I was fascinated with the beauty of animation and wanted to learn and collect as much as I could.

In the summer of 1968, when our family moved to Los Angeles, I was able to actually visit the studios to see how animation was made. Nearly everyday after school for the next six years, I visited the animation studios and related companies in the LA area. Everyone was extremely nice to me, and not only did my love for animation grow, my love for the generation of people that made these very special cartoons perhaps surpassed it. I think I had more fun visiting with the people, hearing their stories, and learning from them—even more than getting the free cels and drawings.

My dream was to meet Walt Disney, so I asked every Disney-related person I met, “what was it like to work with him.” I like to think I got to know him pretty well even though I never truly got to meet him. Despite that, I was privileged enough to meet and converse with, just to name a few: Walter Lantz, Bob Clampett, Bill Hanna, Joe Barbera, Bob Singer, Tiger West, Harry Love, Alex Lovy, Norm Prescott, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson Sr., and Jr., Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Les Clark, John Lounsbery, Ward Kimball, Don Foster, June Foray, Ducky Nash, Jay Ward, Andy Engman, Grim Natwick, Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Eyvind Earle, Toby Bluth, Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, several Bill Melendez Studio animators, John Pomeroy and many, many, more—including hundreds of ‘ink and paint’ ladies, story people, camera operators, and film editors.

Read Harry's take on Disney's 'Snow White'

As I grew older, I maintained my relationships with all these incredible people, and enjoyed meeting new people in the industry. Though I went to college, and helped my parents in the family’s "Lady's Clothing" business—I mostly lived, ate, and breathed animation—trading, buying, and selling for the next few years. In 1980, I finished college and started Collectors Paradise Gallery. I worked from home and attended about 30 conventions a year, including setting up at about 30 San Diego Comic Cons, buying, selling, and—my favorite—educating new collectors about animation.

In 1982, I was the first person to approach the Don Bluth Studio about selling the original cels from The Secret of Nimh. I worked out a deal with Gary Goldman and bought hundreds of cels from the Studio and sold them to collectors. Later, I bought and sold the cels from, Dragon's Lair and Space Ace. In 1984, I partnered on Collectors Gallery in Studio City, where I had customers come and meet me from all over the world. I sold cels but, most importantly, had many great conversations with new collectors, and people in the animation industry as my love for animation flourished.

I turned up and discovered many important collections, as I accumulated one on the best animation art collections around, and generously lent my art out to many people writing books and articles on animation. In 1991, I finally got to create and make my own animation cels. I produced two limited edition cels with Walter Lantz & Universal Studios, entitled "Meet my Boss, Walter Lantz" and "Banquet Busters." I gave Lantz a "Meet My Boss" cel for his birthday, and he told me that after all his years in animation, "This was his favorite cel." That made me very happy. I have been learning, studying, buying, and selling animation art nearly my entire life. It's been a lot of fun, and now it's time to accomplish something new to educate the next generation about animation art.

Over many years of collecting and learning about animation, I've seen thousands of almost every kind of art used to create animation and been in almost every animation studio in the Los Angeles area. With my vast animation knowledge and RR Auction’s autograph expertise and 30-year auction experience it was a natural fit for us to collaborate on our Animation Art auctions. I hope that you see the hard work and beauty that I saw in these wonderful works. Almost every one was used in some way to make a cartoon, or animated feature film that we have, and will continue, to enjoy watching for many years.