Clair Weeks and the Beginnings of Indian Animation

Clair Weeks with storyboard for The Banyan Deer

The ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archives has recently been posting a slew of wonderful material from their Clair Weeks collection, including this entry on Weeks’ role in jump starting the Indian animation industry. Weeks’ career is a fascinating one, as after 16 years at Disney (where his credits ranged from Snow White to Peter Pan), he went to India as part of the American Technical Co-Operation Mission, where he set up the country’s first animation studio for Information Films of India. The image above shows Weeks at work during the production of the studio’s first effort, The Banyan Deer. The posting also includes a Quicktime version of a silent film showing the studio (and Weeks) at work on the film.

Weeks was born and raised in India the son of missionaries; and because of this he apparently felt more at home there than in the United States.  Given this background, it is probably no surprise that:

What started as a one year project expanded into almost a decade of service abroad working for the US Agency for International Development. Weeks toured Southeast Asia and headed up a [communications] office in Katmandu, Nepal. He made films and audio-visual programs that aided in the social development and economic growth of third world countries.

Author: Harvey Deneroff

Harvey Deneroff is a Los Angeles-based independent animation and film scholar specializing in labor history. He formerly taught at the Savannah College of Art and Design and was editor of Animation Magazine, Animation World Magazine, and Graiffit (published by ASIFA-Hollywood). He is the founder and past president of the Society for Animation Studies.

2 thoughts on “Clair Weeks and the Beginnings of Indian Animation”

  1. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Weeks sometime in the mid 80’s at a community access television studio at Lakewood California. The producers of the show knew that he was a former Disney illustrator and one of the first people who drew Tinkerbell. I didn’t get any info about Weeks up front, but was shocked by his interesting life as I luckily asked some “right” questions. During WWII he was recruited by Bill Donovan to work for the new OSS group. Weeks was integral in “running” the Burma Trail. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a secondary job with the CIA while helping with India’s Animation industry. When I interviewed him he was in his 80’s but could have passed for 65! I wish I had gotten a chance to know him better. At least I was able to “bully” the studio to let us continue taping after our 30 minutes were up!

  2. Clair Weeks was my great great uncle, and I got to meet him once when I was a baby, although don’t remember it at all. I’ve chosen to write my history paper on him, and besides the little notes we have about him, it’s a wonder and a completely different experience to go online, type his name, and be able to learn more about his accomplishments! It makes me proud that he’s a part of my family, and wish that I was able to kind of get to know him. His parents were missionaries from Norway, and nobody in our family knew about his being in the OSS until much much later.

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