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Eric W. Schwartz: Cartoonist, Animator and Amiga Die Hard

July 1992 Edition, CU Amiga
Featuring Amy the Squirrel.
American Cartoonist, Eric W. Schwartz, (whose unofficial Amiga Icon, Amy the Squirrel, is pictured on the July 92 edition of CU Amiga cover on the right) is my only real animation hero. Sure there are the big names like Disney, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery and even Preston Blair whose influences can all be seen in my own cartoons but Eric did what none of the others could. He showed that really great 2D computer animation was within my reach with little more than an Amiga Computer, a copy of Deluxe Paint and Moviesetter.

This was at a time when computer based animation was in its infancy (outside of computer game animation) and Flash was something that lights did.

There were many great Amiga artists but Eric was really the only one consistently making very funny, traditional style animations. His humor and drawing style is heavily influenced by classic Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons but he managed to build on this, creating something that was recognizably Eric's own style.

I've been wanting to write more about Eric's work since mentioning his influence on me briefly in my Puppy Love post. I also wondered why Eric seemed to have vanished into obscurity after the general demise of the Amiga platform so I did quite a bit of research and was kind of disappointed in the path Eric's art has taken him.

First though, let's look at his art and animation from the height of his fame in the early nineteen nineties.

January 1994, CU Amiga
Featuring Clarissa Cat & Flip the Frog.
Back in the day, before there was such a thing as the internet, we had things like Bulletin Boards and Shareware disks, along with computing magazine cover disks. Which you can imagine makes getting international attention for a few animation shorts all the more difficult and just a little more impressive than in today's internet connected world.

However whenever any of the Amiga Computing magazines of the day did a feature on animation, Eric's work was nearly always there (see the CU Amiga cover above, CU Amiga was a big supporter of Eric's work).

Whilst Eric was most known for his very sexy Amy the Squirrel character and similar characters like Clarissa Cat and Sabrina the Skunk, he also did a considerable number of Aerotoons, Flip the frog toons and a range of one off shorts. These days he's more known for his Amiga Animations paying homage to a brand and operating system that just refuses to die.

You can see a complete library of his animations on the Eric W. Schwartz page at Werner Randelshofer's web site. Whilst you're there you might want to check out some of the other Amiga Artists too.

To begin with I thought I'd show you a couple of classic animations by Eric that both feature plenty of cameos by other characters. Note that these cartoons are low resolution due to the capabilities and limitations of the computers of the day. However the animation is still a joy to watch.

Quality time(below), stars Clarissa the Cat and Flip the Frog, a seemingly mismatched couple and a classic example of a guy 'batting above his average'. No one really knows what Clarissa sees in Flip but he definitely has something special? Flip is a character that Eric 'borrowed' and kind of made his own.

If you're not familiar with Eric's cartoons then be warned this is a little risque but nothing that you'd have to hide from the kids. That was partly the attraction... Eric went just a little more adult than the Warner Bros cartoons that inspired him, without really crossing into the adults only spectrum.



A Walk in the Park (below) features Amy the Squirrel but also pays homage to many of Eric's previous animations with several of the cameo appearances such as the stealth fighter and the exploding lemming. I wish I could find a better quality version of this but I hope the blurriness and compression isn't too distracting.



These days Eric still appears to be working as a freelance artist/illustrator. You can see a few examples of his commercial work over on the AROS Show website (for which he designed the site's mascot/logo) and was interviewed in May 2008.

In terms of personal projects Eric has continued to update his Sabrina Online web cartoon, that first went live back in 1996, on a monthly basis. It's regarded to be one of the longest running web comics online and stars Sabrina the Skunk who lives in the same house as Amy the Squirrel. Obviously the focus is on Sabrina.

In interviews Eric has said that Sabrina shares many of his interests and qualities, hence she has a love of all things Amiga and collects Transformer toys...

I must admit I'd never really read the comic except back in the days when it was published in Amiga Format magazine... and web comics are just not my thing. Which is why I've never started one with any of my own characters. However Sabrina stars in two of Eric's animated shorts both of which show Eric at his best in terms of animated quality and execution.

Plight of the Artist (below), is one lesson that nearly every computer newbie learns the hard way (yes it even happened to me).



Remote Possibilities (below) seems to be Eric's last foray into animating his 'furry' characters. Created in 2003, it's not an original idea but the execution is solid and the homage to different characters is really what makes this a lot of fun.



Eric's art and humor has always been a bit on the edge of adult and politically incorrect humor so it's kind of disappointing to discover Eric has stepped far beyond that line with his own pay Fur Porn Site, Fur After Dark,  featuring his art and characters along with a team of regular artists and their characters too. (Which, BTW, is how Sabrina comes to be working for a porn site in her online web comic. Many of the characters from Fur After Dark appear in Sabrina's comic).

Now I have nothing against Eric running his own porn site featuring his art. It's not really that surprising either given the way he draws his female characters and his sense of humor. However it does mean he doesn't have the time to make the animations that he became known for, that were more suited to main stream audiences. Which is a real shame.

In the last few years the only new animations from Eric have been tributes to the Amiga. A computing platform that could have been a serious competitor to both Apple and PC's had it not been for poor management at Commodore in the system's later years.

Eric's been a strong campaigner for keeping the Amiga alive, not only continuing to use Amiga's himself professionally but also attempting to start a campaign to keep the platform alive through the posting of his Amiga 'Survior' image (above).

Perhaps it's a testament to the Amiga that there are people still trying to keep it and especially its Workbench operating system alive with sites like Amiga Forever where you can emulate the Amiga with software for your PC. I still have my Amiga's (Two A500's and a 600HD) but they went into storage back in 1995 when I bought my first PC because I needed computers that could handle the design work I was doing. Though I did champion Amiga's all through Art School when everyone else was using Macs.

Eric's first Amiga tribute animation, Still Alive (below), really tugs at the heart strings for anyone who owned an Amiga. PC users probably wouldn't understand but Apple owners might. Although Amiga's were very much about the hardware that's not really why we liked them. Like Apple it was all about productivity, creativity and ease of use. Like Apple it was the machine of choice for artists for a very long time.



Eric's final tribute to the Amiga is his Only Amiga, 25th Anniversary Tribute (below) that takes the same characters from Still Alive and features and old Amiga advertising jingle from the late 1980's. The clip is a real nostalgic trip down memory lane and at the same time makes you wish everything that people were saying about Amiga's back then, was still relevant today.



So I guess that's my tour through Eric's career. He seemed like he might go on to greater things with his animations but through the course of my research it seems clear that he's a little like me. Just happy to keep doing his own thing and following the work wherever it happens to turn up.

Unfortunately this has lead to his Wikipedia entry being deleted in a some what insulting discussion by the editors over there who fail to appreciate Eric's significance to the Amiga Community globally.

Personally I just enjoyed his drawing style and bawdy humor. His animations had very little dialogue and mostly relied on visual humor and slap stick with classic comic audio. It was the kind of work I wanted to do and Eric showed us all that it was possible with little more than a home computer and some very affordable software.

If you're a fan of Eric's work you may be interested in an audio interview he did with AmiZed Studios. You may not learn anything particularly new but it was the first time I'd ever heard him speak.

Comments

  1. Long live EWS!

    Great artist, just a shame we see little from him these days.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Replies
    1. No, definitely not dead. He's still drawing Sabrina Online and contributing to his adult Furry sites.

      Delete
  3. Sad he hasn't really done very much with his creations and talent since the old amiga days.

    He could make a ton of money if he swapped to PC and made animated content for youtube.

    ReplyDelete
  4. He had the talent to animation and draw good but he WASTED it just to to inappropriate things to furry I mean he does good job with the comics of Sabrina online cause at least thAt ain't bad but people who do bad this with furrys just make me sick

    ReplyDelete
  5. Amiga wasn't before the internet you know, there's such thing as the internet, and there's such thing as the world wide web, Animated videos back then were on email and it was the only way to share before YouTube, People have uploaded animations on Usenet, people would upload videos on CompuServe, The first viral videos on the internet was the dancing baby. People would upload animations on P2P networks. But, Animated videos still remain being uploaded on email, Eric W. Schwartz's animation were sent directly to email as floppy disks, so that people would buy it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The World Wide Web became mainstream around 1993 after having been invent by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989. Prior to that we used to connect to network server computers via a modem to things called Bulletin Boards where you could upload files etc. Personally I owned a modem and used to connect to a local Bulletin Board from my Commodore 64 computer, then later my Commodore 128D. P2P networks weren't really a thing back in the late 80's early 90's (at least the term P2P wasn't widely used until Napster came on the scene in 1999).

      The Dancing Baby meme didn't appear until 1996, long after the rise and fade of Eric's most popular animations.

      Prior to Bulletin boards, which I didn't actually use that often, I only received Eric's animations from magazine cover disks, and reading about them in the magazines themselves. Without the magazines I would never have discovered his work.

      I'm not sure how you send something directly to email as a floppy disk? Email is an electronic medium that doesn't require physical media (other than the servers and circuits to transmit it). Unless you mean Eric's animations were copied to floppy disks so people would buy them (obviously).

      If you go through the history of computer magazines with cover disks attached, initially they used to have cover floppy disks attached, then they moved to CD ROM Disks, then DVD ROM disks before finally just giving you the links to download all their content yourself from the magazine's website or directly from the source of the content.

      I mean you can try and give me a history lesson but I lived all this right from the first appearance of Atari gaming consoles in the late 1970s.

      Delete

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