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Independent Frames: American Experimental Animation in the 1970s and 1980s

Exploded View

Artists discovering animation in the mid-1960s and early 1970s did so in a culture of pop art and psychedelia, and a discursive field strongly shaped by Marshall McLuhan’s media theory. They responded by creating overwhelming works of graphic collage, violent flickering colors and sensory overload.


Post-screening discussion with Frank Mouris.

Total running time: approx. 67 mins.

Film-Makers’ Showcase

Francis Lee/Fred von Bernewitz, 1963, 16mm, 3 min, color, sound


Jungle Madness

Don Duga, 1967, 16mm, 6 min, color, sound


The Pop Show

Fred Mogubgub, 1966, digital, 7 min, color, sound



Stan Vanderbeek, 1968, 16mm, 9 min, color, sound



Paul Glabicki, 1976, 16mm, 3 min, color, sound


America is Waiting

Bruce Conner, 1981, 16mm, 4 min, color, sound



Frank and Caroline Mouris, 1975, 16mm, 5 min, color, sound


Evolution of the Red Star

Adam Beckett, 1973, 16mm, 7 min, color, sound


3D Movie

Paul Sharits, 1975, 16mm (with anaglyph 3D glasses), 8 min, color, sound


Circles of Confusion

Bill Brand, 1974, 16mm, 15 min, color, sound


Frank Mouris is an animator most known for several independent films he made in collaboration with his wife Caroline Ahlfors Mouris between 1973 and 2000. Frank Film, an autobiographical collage film with an innovative stereo soundtrack, won the 1974 Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Animated Films. The film, which has also been named to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry, inaugurated a series of “animated documentaries” the pair made, including Coney (1975), Screentest (1975) and La La, Making it in L.A. (1979) and Frankly Caroline (1999). Frank Mouris’s early student films were recently restored by the Yale Film Archive, and he and Caroline are still producing commissions and independent work today.


Independent Frames is supported by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation and the Cinema Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania

Independent Frames: American Experimental Animation in the 1970s + 1980s


This series examines the work of a group of American artists who approached film through independently-produced, frame-by-frame animations in the 1970s and 80s. Made primarily by artists with no formal animation training, the selection of films in this programme incorporates autobiography, visual fantasy, abstraction, medium specificity and biting satire. Several works were broadcast at the time and others distributed on home video, affording these artists a level of success and reach beyond that which other artist-filmmakers of their era could attain. Building on the work of earlier generations of experimental animators such as Mary Ellen Bute, Standish Lawder, Harry Smith and Stan Vanderbeek – some of whose works are included in these screenings – this new generation of filmmakers elaborated on inherited techniques and proceeded to pioneer their own. Some artists explored cel and hand-drawn animation (Sally Cruikshank, Suzan Pitt, Mary Beams) while others explored new directions in kinetic collage (Frank Mouris, Paul Glabicki). Some used flicker and abstraction (Robert Russett, Adam Beckett, Barry Spinello) and others explored the affective potential of film through psychedelic fantasy (Sky David, Lisa Crafts). Through five screening programmes, Independent Frames: American Experimental Animation in the 1970s + 1980s highlights themes of the body and sexuality, abstraction and psychedelia, structure and composition, autobiographical reflection and the influence of commercial animation. Lending historical context to recent developments in both animation studies and the role of animation in contemporary art, the series is a timely investigation of this era of invention and energy in experimental animation, suggesting a landscape of artists whose work needs to be considered anew.


Independent Frames is curated by Herb Shellenberger.