Oscar-Nominated Animator Michael Sporn Dies at 67

Michael Sporn
Michael Sporn

We are sad to report the passing of Oscar-nominated American animator Michael Sporn at the age of 67 from pancreatic cancer. The influential New York-based artist was working on Poe, his 2D-animated feature about Edgar Allan Poe for the past few years.

Sporn, who was a staple of the indie animation scene in New York, was well-regarded for his meticulously crafted 2D-animated specials and shorts which he produced and directed for HBO, PBS (Simple Gifts, and the Emmy-nominated Abel’s Island), Showtime, CBS, Weston Woods and Scholastic. He began his career in the early 1970s, after majoring in fine arts and the New York Institute of Technology and spending five years in the Navy, working as a Russian translator and studying art and animation by mail. His animation career took off after he began working with the likes of John and Faith Hubley and Richard Williams (as assistant animator on the 1977 feature Raggedy Ann & Andy). He formed his own company in 1980 and continued to deliver outstanding short, including the 1984 short, Doctor DeSoto, which received an Oscar nomination.

Among his many other critically acclaimed projects were The Red Shows, The Dancing Frog, Lyle Lyle Crocodile, the Emmy-nominated Whitewash, The Little Match Girl, Ira Sleeps Over, The Country Mouse and the City Mouse, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shove, and The Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas. More recent book adaptations included the Emmy-winning Good Night Moon and Happy To Be Nappy and a Grandma Moses version of The Night Before Christmas.

In 2005, Sporn’s 10-minute short The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (based on Mordicai Gerstein’s book about Philippe Petit’s famous walk between the Twin Towers) also received acclaim at festivals around the world. In 2011, he directed the animation for HBO’s I Can Be President, focusing on the dreams of children who wanted to be the President of the United States.

In a 1987 Los Angeles Times interview with Charles Solomon, Sporn said, “My mother claims I said ‘cartoon’ a special way when I was 4,” he says. “I was drawing an imitation of Popeye at 7. I started my own version of every animated feature I saw, and began filming my animation in 8-millimeter when I was 12.”

The influential New York-based artist was working on Poe, his 2D-animated feature about Edgar Allan Poe for the past few years.Sporn is survived by his wife, actress and director Heidi Stallings.

Thankfully, animations fans can enjoy most of this amazing artist’s socially relevant and fluid adaptations of quality children’s literature on DVD. (See www.michaelspornanimation.com).

Poe

Poe