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Animation Center Vision Gets Glendale's Support

Group has six months to plan how to transform a former bank into a home for cartoon lore.

November 19, 2002|Patricia Ward Biederman | Times Staff Writer

If local animation aficionados have their way, Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Scooby Doo, Shrek and other toons and their creators will one day have an animation center, with museum, in Glendale.

"There's no real animation museum in the country," said Eve Rappoport of the Glendale Arts and Culture Commission.

"And Glendale has this history of being home to several animation studios -- both the big boys and smaller shops -- and a lot of animators. This makes sense for Glendale."

Supporters of the idea saw progress last week when the city's Redevelopment Agency gave Animation Initiative Glendale the go-ahead to develop a plan for turning the former Fidelity Federal Savings and Loan building on Broadway into an animation center. Besides a museum, the facility would include a gallery, library and archive, screening room, lecture hall, classrooms and office space.

Glendale, where both DreamWorks' animation campus and Disney Imagineering are based, has also been the home of Disney animation at various times in the past.

Frank Gladstone, an organizer of the initiative and a DreamWorks SKG employee, said that he and other animation professionals and enthusiasts have been talking about the project for about a year. "The common consensus was that we had to have some grounding, some sort of sticking place -- what it came down to was we needed bricks and mortar."

Glendale had the requisite bricks and mortar in the form of a landmark bank building that the city bought for $1.3 million in 2001. Eight other organizations were in contention for the property, including an Extended Stay America and a real-estate developer who proposed constructing 70 housing units on the site.

Besides the center, the plan by Gladstone's group would include an animation store or other retail operation and a restaurant/coffee shop, which could be money-makers for the facility.

According to the proposal, the center could develop programs with local public schools as well as CalArts and other Southern California colleges and universities. Professional education and retraining could be offered at the center through the Animation Guild, and other animation-support organizations could use the building. It would also be a place for animators to hang out, Rappoport said.

Most recently used as office space, the bank was designed in the mid-1950s by architect W. A. Sarmiento, who was influenced by Brazilian architecture. The once innovative 65,000-square-foot building is structurally sound, but now needs new wiring, ramps and facilities for the disabled.

Glendale has given the Animation Initiative six months to come up with an architectural plan for the building, as well as a business plan and timeline for raising the estimated $3 million to $4 million the center is expected to cost. The city has also asked to see a financial plan for operating the center once it is built, Gladstone said.

The group will need $80,000 to $100,000 to complete the initial plans, he said.

Rappoport is enthusiastic about the project, which she thinks could serve both the animation community and the city as a whole.

"Animation is an important industry in Glendale and this would celebrate it," she said. The center could also "bring people to Glendale and put it on the cultural tourism map."

Jeanne Armstrong, Glendale's director of development, said the city has talked about an animation-related facility for years. She said it could be a good complement to existing facilities. "We've got wonderful office space and great retail, but we don't have many visitor attractions," she said.

"The city was very firm that we don't have money to contribute [to the center] beyond the building," Armstrong said. "The cost of any construction and the cost of ongoing operations would have to be borne by the initiative."

Four members of the development agency endorsed the plan, and one opposed it.

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