A once renowned animator dubbed by the industry as the “black Walt Disney” is now enjoying a second round of success as a featured artist at an East County art gallery.
As a sensation in the New York animation scene, Jim Simon created the Brown Hornet for the “Fat Albert” cartoon series, as well as several popular animated pieces for Sesame Street, including “Loaf of Bread, Gallon of Milk, Stick of Butter.”
"I didn't see black or white. All I knew was what I felt inside as an artist and that was to take a blank piece of paper and turn it into something that could walk, talk, sing and dance," says Simon, now a San Diego County resident.
Simon spent years in the industry, before enduring several failed projects.
"So that led me to a little depression, a little alcoholism and homelessness with me and my dog sleeping in the car,” Simon remembers. He didn’t pick up a pencil for ten years.
But recently, he met a fellow artist named BJ (who is now a good friend) and says she inspired him to try his hand at art again, first challenging him to try oil pastels.
"And I just made another quick sketch and I said, wow- I think I've got something here, the whole itchy, twitchy animation cartoon feeling is back, it's back!" said Simon.
Simon’s work is now featured as part of a Black History Month celebration at the St. Clair gallery in El Cajon.
The artist has also discovered his original Sesame Street animated short “Loaf of Bread, Gallon of Milk, Stick of Butter” on YouTube. Among the many comments posted, he found one from the little girl who voiced the cartoon character many years ago. She also happens to be Simon’s niece, and they have now reconnected after thirty years.
"And we've vowed never to part again, she's coming out this summer," Simon explained.
Now, the artist is experimenting with several mediums, and says "pencils feel natural in my hand and I think I can make a pencil do anything I want it to do, have that hand and eye coordination thing, but the best is yet to come for me."