“No subject matter is off-limits or deemed too ‘difficult’ for the animation imagination of John Canemaker, who has extended the vocabulary of the art form way beyond the ‘safe’ cartoon image. Canemaker is an extraordinarily skillful artist whose distinctive style is nevertheless ultimately defined by the subject matter. Canemaker addresses the core of his subject with compassion and fearlessness – the painterly qualities and the accomplished, energetic line movement expressing his artistic vision.”

Jytte Jensen
Curator, Department of Film and Video
The Museum of Modern Art

Selected Filmography

Click on the frames to view a film excerpt:

The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation (2005)
Academy Award Winner – Best Animated Short 
A powerful animated film that travels the difficult emotional terrain of father/son relationships, as seen through Canemaker’s own turbulent relationship with his father. Featuring the voices of Eli Wallach and John Turturro in the roles of father and son, The Moon and the Son combines memory, fact, conjecture, trial transcripts, audio recordings, home movies, photos and original animation to tell the story of an Italian immigrant’s troubled life and the devastating consequences of his actions on his family. Available for purchase here.


Bridgehampton ( 1998)
An exuberant celebration of the seasons, based on John Canemaker’s watercolor studies of his Bridgehampton garden and the surrounding countryside, set to an original jazz score by Fred Hersch.
Available for purchase here.


Break the Silence: Kids Speak Out
Against Abuse
This Peabody Award-winning documentary combines live-action and animation to illustrate the effects of child abuse, as seen from the child’s perspective and in their own words.  The sensitive animation gives voice and image to the children’s emotional and physical trauma.


Confessions of a Standup (1993)
In this animated exploration of life in show business, a comedian (Dennis Blair) literally takes off the clown’s mask to deconstruct the comic persona.  Available for purchase here.


You Don’t Have to Die (1988)
Academy Award winner – Best Documentary Short
For this Oscar-winning HBO documentary, Canemaker illustrated a young boy’s experience with pediatric cancer.  View the full film here.



John Lennon Sketchbook (1986)
This film, commissioned by Yoko Ono and animated by Canemaker, brings to life the imaginative sketches and doodles of John Lennon, set to Lennon and Ono’s music and words. Click frame to view full film.


Bottom’s Dream (1983)
A multiplicity of animation techniques enlivens this vision of the struggle between Shakespeare’s hapless buffoon and the forces of enchantment, set to the Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by Felix Mendelssohn.  Available for purchase here.


What do Children Think of When They Think of the Bomb? (1983)
Children’s imaginings about the end of the world as a theme park provides the fodder for this animated sequence from a PBS special on young people and nuclear anxiety.  Music by Elizabeth Swados, produced by Mary D. Silverman.  Animation design/direction by John Canemaker.


The World According to Garp (1982)
Director George Roy Hill commissioned Canemaker to design and direct two sequences for the film adaptation of John Irving’s novel.  Designed in the manner of children’s crayon drawings, they express the imaginative life of the child Garp.  The first sequence, a flying fantasy, underscores the young Garp’s emotional bond for the father he never knew, an airman shot down in World War II.  In the second sequence, Garp overhears his mother, a nurse, explaining how he came to be conceived when she took advantage of a dying aviator.  A pencil test of the animation was included in preview screenings but deleted from the final cut because its humor drew attention away from the character of the boy.


The Wizard’s Son (1981)
A musically inclined boy is reluctant to follow in his father’s footsteps, in this contemporary homage to the classic animated short.  Original musical score composed, arranged and conducted by Ross Care.
Available for purchase here.


Confessions of a Stardreamer (1978)
A high-spirited young actress shares her freewheeling thoughts on ambition, career, life and love in a kaleidoscopic animated stream of consciousness.  Available for purchase here.

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